The Mind-Gut Connection

A new developing science states: The connection between the mind and gut is bidirectional; the gut talks to the brain and the brain talks to the gut. Major health problems can appear when this system is disturbed; One way to minimize this is to keep your microbial “self” happy and working properly. The connection can affect mood and overall health.

HOW TO FEED YOUR GUT MICROBES

Try to maintain a variety of diverse gut microbes by maximizing your consumption of naturally fermented food and probiotics (these foods “feed” your own intestinal microbes.)

For reduction of gut inflammation, try these:

Cut down on animal fat in your diet.

Avoid when possible, mass-produced ultra-processed foods.

Reduce stress and practice mindfulness of what you’re eating..

Avoid eating when you are stressed, angry or sad.

Enjoy foods and eat with family and friends.

Listen to your gut feelings and signals.

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Obesity and Covid

“Obesity is an extremely complex, multifactorial disease, with many of its most harmful effects arising from hormonal stimulation. Adipose tissue is an endocrine organ, and more than a hundred different hormones are produced by fat cells. As the cells expand with weight gain, production increases. Some of these hormones cause inflammation or trigger blood-clotting mechanisms, while others raise blood pressure or lead to insulin resistance, for example. Obesity affects virtually every body system and is associated with more than 200 medical conditions.”

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The Japanese Diet: Deconstructed

The Japanese diet is one of the world’s lowest in fat. Other attributes include fish as a mainstay and soy foods. The Japanese also care about appearance and think of food as an art – resulting in more appetizing and satisfying foods. Do these characteristics contribute to the Japanese record of low rates of major chronic diseases and the fact that they boast the world’s highest life expectancy – age 76 for men and 82 for women?

In contrast, in 1980, 30 percent of U .S. adult population were affected by at least one chronic condition. Today it’s 60 percent. The percentage of those affected by two or more chronic diseases has grown from 16 percent to 42 percent. What and how do the Japanese eat? Often, it is Interesting to study lifestyles, in particular what and how other cultures eat to gain some insights as to what exactly is a healthy diet. No one expects the typical American to start munching on seaweed but the study indicates that what and how we eat can affect our overall health and longevity.

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What are healthy habits? A new study

Americans don’t live as long as people in most other high-income countries. We hear so much about how healthy habits are the recommendations of the medical community, but often they come across as vague and not specific enough. How many times has your doctor said, “watch your diet” as you leave his/her office. Here are the highlights of a study that actually investigated the adherence of these habits and how they related to longevity rates.

Researchers found that people who maintained five healthy lifestyle factors lived more than a decade longer than those who didn’t maintain any of the five.

A Study led by Frank Hu at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health analyzed data from more than 78,000 women and 44,000 men who participated in two nationwide surveys (Nurses Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study.)

The study was funded by NIH National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and National Cancer Institute and published in Circulation on April 30, 2018.

Data identified five different low-risk lifestyle factors and compared health outcomes for those who adopted all five with those who didn’t adopt any.

The Factors:

1. Maintaining a healthy eating pattern (like the Mediterranean Diet) The DASH Diet or the MIND Diet are also healthy choices. You can find details on Amazon Books.

  • Recommended daily amounts of vegetables fruit, nuts, whole grains, polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids.  
  • Limiting red and processed meats, moderately.
  • Limiting beverages with added sugar, trans fats, and sodium

2. Moderate drinking (2 glasses for men and 1 glass for women) daily.

3.  Not smoking

4.  Getting at least 3.5 hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week 

5. Maintaining a normal weight (18.5 to 24.9) BMI

Each participant’s medical history: heart disease, cancer, diabetes, age at death (when applicable).

Results:

At age 50, women who did not adopt any of the five healthy habits were estimated to live on average until they were 79 years old and men until they were 75.5 years.

 In contrast, women who adopted all five healthy habits lived to 91.1 years and men lived to 87.6 years.

From the medical histories, Independently, each healthy lifestyle factor significantly lowered the risk of total death, death from cancer, and death from heart disease.

Source:

Tianna Hicklin, PhD. Healthy habits can lengthen life. National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Extra Virgin Olive Oil Benefits

Large Human Trial Demonstrates Extra Virgin Olive Oil Reduces Cardiovascular and Breast Cancer Risks

Results of a large clinical trial published in two prestigious medical journals JAMA an the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrate that a diet supplemented with extra Virgin olive oil provides health benefits.

The PREDIMED study enrolled adults age 55 to 80 who are considered at high risk for cardiovascular disease based on various factors.

Participant participants were assigned to a Mediterranean diet, one with supplemental extra virgin olive oil at least 4 tablespoons and the other supplemented with mixed nuts. The third group was assigned to a control, low fat diet.

Over almost five years of follow-up, cardiovascular outcomes including heart attack, stroke, and death from any cardiovascular cause, were noted. The Mediterranean diet groups had a significantly lower rate of negative cardiovascular outcomes. This association was particularly strong for the supplemental extra virgin olive oil group, which had a 31 percent reduction in risk for cardiovascular disease outcomes compared to the control diet group.

The researchers also observed data of new breast cancer in the women enrolled. Here too, the diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil was most protective, reducing rates of breast cancer by nearly 70% compared to the control diet. Interesting, the group that supplemented with mixed nuts did not show a significant benefit in terms of breast cancer risk. The study’s authors report that this was the first human trial to find a beneficial effect of a dietary intervention on breast cancer risk. Together, these results suggest that a Mediterranean diet with supplemental extra virgin olive oil is protective against both cardiovascular disease and breast cancer in older adults with existing risk factors

The First Dietary Guidelines 1980

The Old, The New, The Truth

Soon, The Dietary Guidelines for 2020  are due to be released.  As usual, there will be a flurry of discussions, debates, praise and criticisms somewhat dependent on what sections of the food industry are happy and those who are not.  The Dietary Guidelines, in my opinion, reflect who won the battle for the food industry’s interests this time around, to make sure their profit margins are kept intact. Little else new is gained from them and little attention is paid to them after their endlessly repeated advice based on lobbyists and politics. Who will win out this time?  In the past few decades, the advice has lacked conviction, e.g. what is moderation,  and has been so diluted, it plays little role in how our food supply affects our health.  Enjoy a little history of past advice and forgive me for the cynicism.

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The Nutritional State of the Nation: Does it Affect Covid-19?

A number of diseases and disorders share common risk factors of low intakes of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, excess calorie intake, body fat, and high animal fat intake. These risk factors are associated with the development of chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, conditions that are strongly related to the development of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and other chronic diseases that include stroke, osteoporosis, and obesity.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of at least three of five conditions: hypertension, high blood sugar, obesity, high triglycerides, and low HDL cholesterol that increase the risk for cardiovascular disease. These diseases are all related to our diets and other lifestyle factors – namely exercise and smoking habits.

A new study in the journal Diabetes Care is the first to look at the impact of metabolic syndrome on outcomes for Covid-19 patients. “Together, obesity, diabetes and prediabetes, high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels are all predictors of higher incidences of death in these patients and were more than three times more likely to die from the disease.

“The more of these diagnoses that you have, the worse the outcomes”, says lead author Joshua Denson , assistant professor of medicine and pulmonary and critical care medicine physician at Tulane University of Medicine.

“The underlying inflammation that is seen with metabolic syndrome may be the driver that is leading to these more severe cases.” Dr. Denson adds.  In this study, the most common conditions were hypertension (80%), obesity (65%), diabetes (54%), and low HDL (39%.)

Dr. Denson would advise anyone who meets the criteria for metabolic syndrome to be vigilant in taking measures to reduce risk or exposure to the coronavirus.  “It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, we took that into account” he says.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Is DNA Your Destiny?

Thinking of getting one of those DNA testing kits?  Aside from the Ancestry tests, the tests for your future health risks may be questionable and at this point you may want to save your money. Here is why.

A new outlook on genetics is called epigenetics  and involves the concept of environmental factors (including diet) affecting how genes are expressed or inhibited. Thanks to this relatively new science, we now know that experiences of previous generations may show up in your health and well-being. Many of the risks for chronic diseases – including obesity, diabetes type 2, high blood pressure, heart disease and dementia can be traced back to your biological roots and the experiences your parent and even grandpaents had. Similarly, the food you eat may affect your children and grandchildren.

Is Your DNA Your Destiny?

Gene Expression: the process by which a cell converts the genetic code into RNA and protein

Epigenetics: the study of heritable changes in gene function that occur without a change in the DNA sequence itself

DNA Methylation: A chemical reaction that occurs in a cell when a methyl group attaches to DNA, changing the expression of the gene to which it is attached.

Methyl Group: A type of molecular structure that occurs in many compounds, CH3, for example.

Methyl Donor: Nutrients, like folate and vitamin B12 that when metabolized can donate methyl groups during the process.

To fully illustrate the epigenetic process, one must tell the story of the agouti gene.

The Result of Methylation

Methylation Effects in the DNA

Both these mice have the gene called the agouti gene that tends to produce fat, yellow pups, so we want to silence the expression of the gene if possible. There is a way.  The mom of the brown mouse was fed B vitamins which silenced the gene. This produced brown pups with normal appetites resulting in a thin, healthy mouse.

Without altering the genomic structure, agouti moms were then able to produce healthy brown pups of normal weight and less prone to diseases. Even more surprising, when the offspring become mothers themselves, their babies can also be healthy, even without further vitamin supplementation. The yellow variant had been silenced, and that muted effect was inherited by the offspring. 

How did this occur?  Some nutrients silence genes by providing methylation (adding a methyl group (CH3); others activate genes by inhibiting methylation. It’s like throwing a wrench into the DNA to stop the expression of a gene or removing the wrench to allow the expression of the gene. The B vitamins acted as methyl donors that caused methyl groups to attach more frequently to the agouti gene in utero, inhibiting its expression. (See the black dots in the diagram above).   Silence or inhibiting depends on what the gene does: e.g., silencing a gene that stimulates cancer growth is beneficial; silencing a gene that suppresses cancer growth would be harmful.

In any case, your lifestyle choices may play a role in your future health status.

It must be remembered that with any new concept, doubts and skepticism will occur. It must be recognized that we are not mice or lab rats, but the same effect has been shown by studying human interactions and is needed for more research to examine this interesting hypothesis. The   implications are enormous in that we may be able to improve our health status by choosing healthy habits and lifestyles such as diet, exercise, stopping smoking, for example.

“The packaging of the gene may be as important as, or even more important than, the gene itself, and these epigenetic changes are predominantly influenced by environmental factors.” The Cancer Code, A Revolutionary New Understanding of a Medical Mystery Dr. Jason Fung, 2020.

Why Do Americans Eat So Much Beef?

 

A typical beef feedlot

January 22, 2013 by foodworksblog 3 Comments

Even though it has been reported that meat consumption has declined recently, in the past, Americans have been consuming about 150 pounds of “red meat” per capita/year. The percentages are startling: 60% beef, 39% pork, with only 1% for lamb and mutton. The percentage of goat is too small to even mention.

Pork had been the meat of choice since Colonial Days in the Plymouth Colony (circa 1623). The dense American forests were ideal for raising pigs. They were allowed to remain “wild” and roam freely most of the year with only penning them in the winter.    They were “finished” on corn that made the flesh firm and they gained weight quickly. Pigs were more efficient than cattle for meat, so cattle were more used for milk, butter, cheese and plowing.  Other food animals that were available were goats, sheep and chickens.

Goat meat was the first to be abandoned which virtually disappeared.  Goat meat was occasionally consumed in the South by low-income groups as well as some Hispanics.  Goat meat is still served in some Mexican restaurants.

Sheep migrated into British cookery as a by-product of wool production, especially in Scotland and Ireland.  Lamb eventually became more popular associated with the wool industry in New England, but did not catch on in the South due to the influence of the cotton industry.  Later, dairying replaced sheep herding in New England.

The Great Plains became the ideal location for raising cattle. When the corn production moved west, the pig and cattle industry followed.  Then, they had to be “walked” back over the mountains to the Eastern seaboards by “drovers”.  Cincinnati became known as “Porkopolis”.  By the time of the Civil War, Americans were “hooked on pork and had become “the staff of life”, primarily in the South and Midwest.

The Northeast became more partial to beef.  New Englanders no longer raised pigs due to the cutting down of the forests for the shipbuilding industry.  Little corn was grown to “finish” the pork.

In the Western plains, the American Indians preferred the buffalo, so the government (U.S. Army) figured out that if they could get rid of the buffalo, they also could rid the area of the Indians.  Cattle ranchers with the help of the railroads began to raise herds of cattle to replace the once prolific buffalo herds.  Progress with the railroads replaced the cattle drives and the Chicago stockyards became the center of cattle slaughter.  In 1882, refrigerated cars became more available for safer transportation;  the West was running out of grazing land that forced more feedlot “finishing” with corn.

Beef became cheap and ranchers were paid to supply the Indian reservations with beef to prevent starvation (after eliminating the buffalo). For a while beef consumption fell again due to losing its price advantage at the turn of the century until about 1940.

In the early 1950s Americans were eating about equal amounts of beef and pork. By the late 1950s, beef consumption in the U.S. surpassed pork for the first time. By the 1960’s Americans were eating 10 times more pounds of beef and by the 1970s, 25 pounds more.

Why is beef king in the U.S?

  • Changes in beef production and marketing at the end of WW II fit the new postwar lifestyles.  Meat had been rationed during WWII.
  • Improved breeds appeared that were given soy, fish meal, corn, sorghum, hormones, antibiotics that allowed faster “finishing” times due to accelerated growth since the cattle ate day and night.
  • Lifestyles began to involve more home ownership in the suburbs, which lead to outdoor grilling. Beef patties were ideal grillers; pork patties fell apart.
  • There were no dangers of trichinosis with beef.
  • Women entered the workplace that resulted in eating outside the home.
  • The fast food industry exploded and the hamburger became the staple at the drive-in.
  • Presently it is estimated that Americans are eating about three hamburgers a week.

American still eat more meat than most cultures in the world, but even here, consumption is declining.  It is estimated the U.S meat consumption may fall by more than 12% from 2007 to 2012.  This computes to about 165.5 pounds per person, or about one-half a pound a day.

 But Why?

  • Health concerns about meat consumption are reaching the public.
  • Campaigns like Meatless Mondays may be having an effect.  People are getting the message to cut down on saturated fat.
  • Some lower income people may attempt to obtain cheaper sources of protein like grains and soy to improve their health while wealthier groups may have some environmental as well as health concerns.
  • All meat production in America requires a great deal of fossil fuel.  Production relies entirely on nonrenewable fossil energy. There are also concerns about adding grain crops to animal feed, water scarcity, and animal welfare.
  • Cost of meats has risen due to animal feed prices.

How do cows negatively affect the environment? Take a look at these statistics from a recent PBS News Hour video. 

  • It takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce one pound of grain-fed beef.
  • We use eight times more land to feed animals in the U.S. than we use to feed humans.
  • The 500 million tons of manure created each year by American cows releases nitrous oxide, a gas that has 300 times the global warming effect of carbon dioxide.
  • The 17 billion pounds of fertilizer used to grow feed for cows flows into rivers and oceans, creating huge algae blooms or dead zones where nothing can survive. In the U.S. we find them in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Oregon, and the Chesapeake Bay.
  • In total, 6.5 pounds of greenhouse gases are released to produce just one quarter-pounder burger.

Americans still value animal protein from meats and dairy with 65% of the U.S. protein coming from animals.  The global average is about 30%; some low-income countries only get about 6-7 % of their protein from animal sources.

Will the U.S. population accept the current trend of plant-based diets as part of their protein source as well as their taste buds? Time will tell – but it will be a hard road ahead.  The current trends for plant-based burgers (aka as the Impossible burger, and Beyond Beef) will be trial balloons to see how accepting the typical American consumer responds. It is now recognized that most healthy cultures globally depend on a more vegan diet approach than what we find so far on the American plate. The environmental benefits of growing plant crops may help to persuade some Americans to accept this diet pattern more readily. (my opinion).