Gluten-free diet MAY be unhealthy and MAY increase risk of heart attack (or not)

OK, so I made up the quote above, but it captures a certain zeitgeist that’s in the air right now. The media is all too keen to uncritically give gluten-free and clean diets a kicking at the moment, wagging fingers at all those ‘silly people’ who fell for the anti-gluten message even though they don’t have coeliac disease – what fools!

Except, as we have explained in multiple articles on this site, gluten has a far greater reach than that 1% who have classic coeliac disease. Non coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is a recognised and studied condition, with an estimated prevalence of up to 6% of the population.

And even a cursory look behind these dismissive headlines shows that the studies they are based on add almost nothing to our understanding of gluten pathology, and indeed contradict themselves. Continue reading

April News Round-up

This month: Great British Beef Week Ketogenic diet in diabetes Low fat foods cause weight gain MUFA’s may extend life Olive oil helps reverse insulin resistance Fewer arterial plaques with Med diet BMJ article triggers saturates fat spat The perfect cuppa Conventional thinking on salt challenged again Health benefits of cheese


St George’s Day and Great British Beef Week

I held a St George’s Day party on Sunday 23rd (which is also, rather appropriately, Shakespeare’s birthday), and I served a traditional roast beef joint with parsnips and carrots. Turns out, without knowing it at the time, I was right on the money as April 23rd was the start of the Great British Beef week!

According to the Grimsby Telegraph (April 30th) this year was the seventh annual Great British Beef Week, run by The Ladies in Beef, an organisation of female beef farmers who care passionately about British beef. It’s purpose is to support the hard working British beef farmers, which is exactly what I did by purchasing a 3.5 kg organic beef joint from Goodwood – our local producer.

My St Goerge’s day roast beef looked like the one above (but without the Yorkie puds (wheat) and taties (American originally). Interestingly, the Goodwood butcher suggested that I do not season the joint – “Let the flavour of the meat speak for itself” he said, and it certainly did! The unseasoned joint was placed on a bed of thickly sliced onions rings and popped in an oven that had been pre-heated to its highest temperature. Once in, it was turned down to 140°C for 1hr 25 minutes. My guests were full of praise … very gratifying.

If you missed out during this year’s Great British Beef Week, don’t worry, you can cook it all year round!  The Telegraph (April 26th) has a range of British Beef recipes to inspire you (just avoid the ones that use gluten)

Ketogenic diet valuable in diabetes

Diabetes.co.uk (Mar 28th) reports on a trial, conducted by Stephen Phinney and Jeff Volek who placed 262 overweight participants with type 2 diabetes on a ketogenic diet for 10 weeks (carb intake < 30g per day, increase fat, and modest protein). Key findings:

  • HbA1C levels dropped an average of 20%, with half returning to normal (non-diabetic) levels by the end of the study
  • 7.2% weight loss; 20% reduction in triglycerides
  • 60% had one or more medications reduced in number and dosage or, in some cases, discontinued altogether

A two year trial is in the pipeline.

Volek and Phinney have been working in this field for a couple of decades and have an excellent track record in low carb high fat science. They have at least two books on the subject, so please look at their work online.

Low fat foods can cause weight gain and lead to fatty liver disease

Low fat yogurt packaged as heart healthy, but it contains nearly 5 teaspoons of sugar per serving (see chart of sugar in other low fat foods)

In 2014 The Telegraph undertook a study which found that many low fat diet foods contained high levels of sugars. In one case a “low fat” meal contained almost six times the sugar levels of its “full fat” equivalent dish. Many people have suggested that the sugar may be less healthy than the fat it replaces, and now a new study reported in Medical Daily (April 26th) confirms this.

In the study mice that were fed a high-sugar, low-fat diet had an increase in liver fat, body weight, and body fat, despite consuming the same amount of calories as the control mice. Compared to mice fed a high fat diet, sugar calories were found to cause twice as much fat accumulation as the fat calories they replaced.

“Most so-called diet products containing low or no fat have an increased amount of sugar and are camouflaged under fancy names, giving the impression that they are healthy, but the reality is that those foods may damage the liver and lead to obesity as well,” said the study’s lead investigator, Krzysztof Czaja

Monounsaturated fats extend life in animal study

Eureka Alert (April 5th) reports on an intriguing study from Stanford University published in Nature, of longevity in roundworms which found that feeding them monounsaturated fat increased lifespan in a similar way to calorie restriction, despite the fact that they put on weight.

Monounsaturated fats are found in high levels in olive oil, rape seed and avocado oils, and also in beef fat and lard. Whilst mentioning olive oil a recent study has also shown that…

Olive oil helps reverse insulin resistance

The Express (April 11th) reports on a mouse study that showed a compound found in olive oil (hydroxytyrosol) can reverse insulin resistance and fatty liver induced by an obesogenic diet. This adds to research published in December 2016 that showed this compound also reduced oxidative damage in cells and may contribute to explaining some of the benefits of a Mediterranean diet…

Fewer arterial plaques with real-world adherence to Mediterranean Diet

Adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet showed a dose-dependent protective association with the presence, number, and thickness of atherosclerotic plaques independent of other risk factors, in a new study (Medscape, April 26th).

BMJ article triggers saturated fat spat

The Guardian (April 25th) gives a good account of the controversy taking place amongst scientists over recent claims and counterclaims over the health credentials surrounding saturated fat. Worth a read: Good for a laugh.

The Perfect Cuppa

The Mail Online (April 18th) reports on a study that found the beneficial compounds in tea are most available when the tea has been brewed for longer. The study author also found that adding milk does not reduce the availability of these compounds. He recommends drinking three cups per day.

Conventional thinking on salt challenged again… and again.

We have written several posts challenging conventional thinking on the supposed harms of salt (see here and here). So we were interested to read in The Independent (April 17th) that a study investigating a simulated mission to mars which kept 10 men sealed in living quarters and given a strictly controlled diet for a period of 205 days. Unexpectedly, when given a high salt diet the participants drank less but were also hungrier. The results were confirmed in mice too. It appears that although salty food leads to an initial thirst (hence salted peanuts in the pub) over the long term the total intake of water is less.

More news on salt front came in on April 26th, in The Express, with an article on a recent study looking at blood pressure and sodium intake. The researchers found the participants who consumed less than 2,500 milligrams of sodium a day – about the equivalent of 6g of salt, had higher blood pressure than participants who consumed higher amounts of sodium.

“We saw no evidence that a diet lower in sodium had any long-term beneficial effects on blood pressure. Our findings add to growing evidence that current recommendations for sodium intake may be misguided.”

Salt – good or bad?
Seems that worrying about it is more likely to raise your blood pressure than eating it!

Health Benefits of Cheese

Wow. April 2017 was quite the month for cheese news. Goggle (April 28th) celebrated the 256th birthday of Marie Harel, the creator of Camembert in 1791, with a Google Doodle which provided a slideshow showing the steps involved in making this famous cheese (take a look here). As an aside, I think Brie and Camembert are the same thing, just in different shapes. Any comments anyone…?

Meanwhile, yet another study showing the benefits of cheese made the headlines with The Mail (April 24th) claiming “Eating cheese could prevent you from getting liver cancer – and it may even help you to reach 100!” – weirdly due to it containing spermidine (?!?)

Spurred on by the spermidine The Telegraph (April 25th) went further, pushing out the cheese boat with ‘5 surprising health benefits of cheese’. Here are their headings to tempt you to read more…

  1. Boosts your immune system
  2. The secret to longer life?
  3. Prevents tooth decay
  4. Helps with weight loss
  5. Makes you smarter

Finally, The Huff Post UK (April 25th) went just a bit too far with “7 Perfectly Valid Reasons To Eat More Cheese”. But really, that’s just showing off. Lets just gaze at a picture of lots of lovely cheeses…

An important and often overlooked benefit of cheeses, is that many – especially aged varieties – contain the precious vitamin K2, also known as menaquinone 7. This is not the same as vitamin K which is found in green vegetables, but is bacterially produced in cheeses during fermentation, and is particularly high in Brie and Gouda.

In the body K2 functions to guide calcium to the skeletal tissue, and prevent it being deposited, or rather, dumped, in soft tissues such as the aorta and other blood vessels where it contributes to atherosclerosis (sclerosis means hardening)Calcium in the wrong place leads to ‘calcification’ and having enough K2 to prevent this is one of the reasons for cheeses being a ‘top food’ in my reckoning.

Although some people are allergic to cows milk, many find they can tolerate goat and sheep milk cheeses which are increasingly available. The true unfortunates are those that cannot even tolerate these dairy products and they will need a regular K2 supplementation. Without sufficient K2 osteoporosis and calcification will occur. Clearly not a good state of affairs, so bring on the cheese trolley!

March News Round-Up

Happy Easter!

Ten reasons why you should eat chocolate

Lets start off with some good news! The Mail Online (Mar 25th) makes the case for eating chocolate. We have covered most of their points before, but it doesn’t hurt to remind yourself of the health benefits. Our message: for the greatest benefit make sure its dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids or higher). Oh, and if you suffer with acne, then you might be better making your Lent abstinence permanent.

Continue reading

February News Round-Up

It’s the 2nd anniversary of our News Round-Ups!

For two years we have put together a monthly distillation of the health and nutrition articles in the media. In the era of Fake News and with the declining power of traditional print media it is interesting to note that more and more of the stories are found on non-mainstream sites. Perhaps it’s time to change our header image…  

Organic Food Sales Soar

Demand for organic food is at its highest for more than a decade. The Guardian (Feb 19th). Yay!

Vitamin D

This month the vit-D story focused on the research indicating that supplements can help beat acute respiratory infections aka cold and flu’ (Sky News, Feb 16th). The identified effect was, unsurprisingly, more pronounced in people who had low levels initially.

Exercise less important than diet for avoiding weight gain

Newsweek (Feb 12th) reports on a study that found:

Exercise-focused weight loss regimens yield low success rates… This suggests calorie expenditure doesn’t really count for much.

Alzheimers linked to high blood sugar

For years I have heard researchers referring to Alzheimer’s disease as ‘type 3 diabetes’, so I was initially unsurprised by an article in Medical News Today (Feb 24th) claiming that the condition has been linked to high blood sugar. However, on closer inspection I realised this article is a bit different reporting on a study identifying a direct causal link in which glucose damages an enzyme in the pre-clinical stage. Another reminder, perhaps, why you want to avoid a high carb diet, especially refined carbs, like breakfast cereals, cake, biscuits, sweets etc.

Eating chocolate regularly linked to improved cardio metabolic health

Good news: In a study reported in Knowledge (Feb 17th) people that ate more chocolate had better liver enzymes and reduced insulin resistance than those who ate less.

Bad News: This association may be due to other associated lifestyle factors, such as higher socioeconomic status. However, the authors conclude:

Given the growing body of evidence, including our own study, cocoa-based products may represent an additional dietary recommendation to improve cardio-metabolic health.

Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) linked to ‘silent’ kidney damage

News Medical (Feb 22nd) reports on a study that followed 125,000 new users of PPIs for 5 years. In this time nearly 10% developed chronic kidney disease or end stage renal disease. In most cases there were no early signs of kidney damage. These dangerous drugs are handed out like smarties by GPs all over the UK and USA, and elsewhere, no doubt. Acid reflux (or silent reflux as it is sometimes called, when all the patient has is a cough!) is all it takes end up with a PPI in your pocket. The main reason for acid reflux is, however, the eating of cereal grains. The solution is obvious. Cereal grains, especially wheat, can also cause kidney disease, so removing cereal grains from the diet and not taking PPIs could save many a person from real suffering and further unnecessary drugs, with their attendant side effects.

Coeliac without gut symptoms

DailyMail (February 10th) has a story about a boy who left doctors baffled after repeatedly suffering broken bones. Although he did not have the typical gut symptoms, he was eventually diagnosed with coeliac disease and placed on a gluten free diet. His bone mineral density improved, and he suffered no further breaks in the four year follow up. His older brother, who had no symptoms, was also found to have coeliac disease. The authors of the case report said: ‘It is essential to diagnose celiac disease as early as possible in order to minimise the compromise in bone health and prevent other complications of the disease. First-degree relatives should always be screened for the disease, even asymptomatic ones.’ (BMJ report here). I couldn’t agree more.

Gluten-free products may be high in heavy metals

If you read our posts on the gluten-free diet you will know that we strongly advocate replacing gluten-containing products with real foods, not ‘free-from’ versions made from other grains or unpronounceable ingredients. Science Daily (Feb 13th) reports on a study that found that people eating a gluten-free diet had arsenic levels almost twice as high for people eating a normal diet, whilst mercury levels were 70 percent higher! These toxic minerals are suspected of coming from alternative grains – especially rice – used in gluten-free biscuits, cakes, bread etc. Just eat real food, please, i.e. things without an ingredients list.

Gluten-free products like those shown on the left are promoted by coeliac charities and the NHS, but contribute to sub-standard nutrition [ref]. Real foods that are naturally free of gluten are a better choice and can lead to an overall improvement in dietary quality.

Gluten-free products like those shown on the left are promoted by coeliac charities and the NHS, but contribute to sub-standard nutrition [ref]. Real foods that are naturally free of gluten are a better choice and can lead to an overall improvement in dietary quality.

Sleep health

A Norwegian longitudinal population-based study found that over an eleven year period adults with chronic symptoms of insomnia were up to three times as likely to be diagnosed with asthma than those without sleep issues. (MedPageToday, Feb 2nd). Critics point out that the association may be either way as both conditions have multifactorial causes.

A second sleep-related study was reported in the Mail Online (Feb 9th), in which researchers found that women undergoing IVF are more likely to have a miscarriage if they have it during the spring or autumn. They believe it is due to the slight changes in the circadian rhythm – the body’s internal clock – caused by the clocks going forwards or back. The one-hour difference has previously been reported to increase the risk of heart attacks, but this study was the first of its kind to assess its impact on successful pregnancy.

Evolutionary medicine

The paleo diet is one response to the presumed mismatch between our evolved physiology and the modern world. The Independent (Feb 21st) explores a number of these ‘paleo deficits’, in an interesting article titled ‘Mismatch between the way our senses evolved and modern world is making us ill, experts warn’

Grass-fed, pasture-raised, ancestral knowledge

The Creswell Chronical (Feb 17th) has a nice interview with a researcher and author on the benefits of grass-fed meat for health. Meanwhile, the McGill Reporter (Feb 7th) has a fascinating article about the traditional animal foods of First Nations people. The article is stimulated by a pioneering encyclopedia of more than 500 animal species that form the traditional diet of First Nations has just been published online (Traditional Animal Foods of Indigenous Peoples of North America).

“The food and biodiversity knowledge of Indigenous Peoples is incredible in its depth and its breadth. Even though this publication is big, we have only scratched the surface of this knowledge,”

This remarkable work follows on from an earlier publication Traditional Plant Foods of Canadian Indigenous Peoples also available free online.

Restoring the Palaeolithic megafauna?

cave-painting
(Cave paintings of wild horse, bison and mammoth, Pech Merle cave, France. 20 thousand years old)

Are we on the way to restoring the Palaeolithic megafauna? Last month we reported on attempts to breed a wild bovine to replace the recently extinct European auroch. This month the BBCs Discover Wildlife magazine (Feb 14th) tells us that bison are being reintroduced to Banff National Park, Canada. Meanwhile, The Guardian (Feb 16th) explains how scientists are on the verge of bringing back the woolly mammoth. Crikey!

Of MICE and MUMS

mice-mum

Three pieces of health and nutrition news for mums this month… although all three studies were actually carried out on mice not women!

Adverse effects of antibiotics in (mouse) pregnancy

The Mail (Feb 9th) reports on a study that found pregnant mice who were given antibiotics had offspring who were more susceptible to pneumonia. The researchers called for a change in practice to the routine administration of antibiotics during caesarians. I could not agree more with the quote below from the study author Dr Hitesh Deshmukh who said:

It is time to begin pushing back on practices that were established decades ago, when our level of understanding was different. To prevent infection in one infant, we are exposing 200 infants to the unwanted effects of antibiotics. A more balanced, more nuanced approach is possible.

Unhealthy maternal (mouse) diet affects three generations of offspring

pregnancy-cartoonIt has been known for a number of years now that maternal diet can influence later generations via epigenetic changes.

Knowledge (Feb 17th) reports on new research which suggests that mothers who eat obesogenic diets even before becoming pregnant can predispose multiple generations to metabolic problems, even if their offspring consume healthy diets.

The researchers showed that the changes took place in ovaries prior to fertilisation and were inherited through changes to the mitochondrial DNA which is passed through the female blood line.

Our data are the first to show that pregnant mouse mothers with metabolic syndrome can transmit dysfunctional mitochondria through the female bloodline to three generations. Importantly, our study indicates oocytes – or mothers’ eggs – may carry information that programs mitochondrial dysfunction throughout the entire organism.

Pregnant (mice) should avoid drinking from plastic bottles

The Mail (Feb 7th) claims ‘pregnant women who drink from plastic bottles are more likely to have obese children’. The study they were reporting on was actually carried out in pregnant mice who were exposed to low levels of Bisphenol A (BPA) which is found in rigid polycarbonate plastics. Their offspring had reduced sensitivity to leptin

Our findings show that bisphenol A can promote obesity in mice by altering the hypothalamic circuits in the brain that regulate feeding behavior and energy balance.

Low level prenatal exposure to BPA delays a surge of leptin after birth that allows mice to develop the proper response to the hormone. BPA exposure permanently alters the neurobiology in the affected mice, making them prone to obesity as adults.

It should be pointed out that most drinks bottles are made of PET not polycarbonate, and are therefore not sources of BPA (I’ve made a table of common sources of BPA below) . PET bottles do, however, contain phthalates, but that is another story.

Sources  of BPA*
Canned foods Many cans are coated inside with BPA-containing epoxy films which can leach BPA into the food
Polycarbonate water bottles and food containers Rigid polycarbonate containers leach BPA into food and drink. Glass containers are a safer oftion.
Drinks cans As with food cans, drinks cans leach BPA, although usually at lower levels than in food cans.
Fast food Fizzy drinks and burgers from fast food outlets have been identified as significant sources of BPA
Cash register receipts Typical cash register receipts contain BPA which can be absorbed into the skin. Shop workers are at particular risk.

*Source: University Health News Daily

2017 January News Round-Up

I’ve been a bit tardy with getting this post out on time, but that lets me sneak in an article from February, which sums up so much of what natural medicine is all about… so lets go!

Plastic chopping boards much LESS hygienic than wooden ones

“Study found that bacteria thrived on plastic boards overnight but died on wood” (Mail Online, Feb 3rd)

Do you remember a few years back the authorities in the UK attempted to ban wooden chopping boards in restaurants, insisting plastic ones were more hygenic? After all, those grooves in the wood must surely harbour many more bugs than a smooth, inert surface of a plastic board, no? Well no. It turns out that there are natural antiseptics in wood that actually make them excellent for food preparation, whereas plastics have no such built in protection.

A similar over-reaction by the authorities in the USA nearly prevented cheese manufacturers from ripening their wares on traditional wooden shelving (Guardian, Jun 2014) Thank goodness that ordinary people put the authorities in their place!

FSA gives cooked carbs a kicking… (try saying that with a mouthful of roast tatties)

“Eating crisps, well-browned roast potatoes and toast that is more than lightly grilled can increase the risk of cancer”  according to a public health campaign by the Food Standards Agency.

When starches are overcooked a potentially cancer-causing acrylamide is produced. I looked into this five years ago, but didn’t write about it, as the science seemed to say that there was no evidence it actually raised cancer risks in humans at the quantities people consumed them. It would have been easy to use it for a bit of carb bashing, but I resisted the urge. Can’t quite believe the FSA has suddenly taken up the cudgel! (The Guardian, Jan 23rd)

acrylamide-intake

Eggs don’t scramble brains

‘Having eggs for breakfast does not increase risk of dementia’ – OK. glad to hear it.

‘…egg intake was associated with better performance on neuro-psychological tests of the frontal lobe and executive functioning.’ Even more gladder to hear it! (Mail Online, Jan 11th)

american-egg-brainSkipping breakfast linked with heart disease and obesity.
Hold it Fido, hold it! They said ‘linked’ not ’caused’…

The Telegraph (Jan 31st) discusses research that found that people that skipped breakfast were more likely to have raised cholesterol and blood pressure. We have written about the topic of meal timing before (see here), and think that breakfast is, generally, a good thing (no!… put down the cereal packet!). However, the science is not unanimous as reverse-causality confounds the picture (i.e. overweight people probably avoid breakfast more often).

Indeed the researchers found that people who skip breakfast tend to eat more snacks, underlining that it is as much about what you eat as when you eat it. The most significant part of the article IMHO is the idea that eating late in the evening or night disrupts body clocks. Screw with your circadian rhythm(s) at your peril.

The article finishes with eight breakfast egg recipes. (Just watch out – they are not all gluten free). Alternatively, here is our ever popular post Ten Low Carb Breakfast Ideas

Paleo diet improves symptoms in Multiple Sclerosis study finds

A small study of patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis—RRMS— randomly assigned eight to follow the paleo diet, while the remaining nine ate as usual and acted as the control group.

Those on the diet experienced “reduced fatigue, increasing mental and physical quality of life, increasing exercise capacity, and improving hand and leg function.” (Bel Marra Health, Jan 20th)

Microplastics getting to us via seafoods

As the world wakes up to the environmental disaster of half a century of dumping plastic left right and centre, it looks like those microscopic fragments that affect the bottom of the marine food chain are passing up and into us.

“Now we’ve established that they do enter our body and can stay there for quite a while, we do need to know the fate of the plastics,” (Telegraph, Jan 24th)

Old drug being considered for fighting brain cancer by starving it to death.

Knowridge (Jan 11th) covers the possible use of flavopiridol to fight glioblastomas. Why are we interested in this pharmaceutical drug? Because it’s putative mode of operation is by starving cancer cells of glucose – a route which may well be open to a dietary approach . (We are closely following the trialing of the ketogenic diet in cancer treatment, see our post here)

Bring back the Auroch!

You probably wouldn’t want to bump into this fellow when walking in the woods, but that’s just what they are planning in Central Europe!

The Mirror (Jan 10th) has a nice article about a breeding programme attempting to bring back the original wild European bovines from which domestic cattle were reared. This is a real paleo-project as the aurochs, which only became extinct a few hundred years ago, have featured in European mythology since prehistory appearing in early cave paintings as well as Greek and Roman pottery. They are considered a linchpin of ecosystem health.

For a more modest English approach to rewinding, see our article Rewilding our Food about the Knepp Rewilding Project here in Sussex.

Take statins even if you are healthy, say experts (Telegraph Jan 18th)

Really? I mean really?

When Michael Gove said during the Brexit Campaign that people have had enough of experts many laughed. But Brexit then Trump proved that the public no longer accept ‘facts’ sold to us on the basis of appeals to faceless authority. Those days have gone. Citizen journalism is the new kid on the block, speaking truth to power. So here goes…

  • The clinic trial data for statins has never been released. You can’t look at it. Only one ‘expert’ can and his name is Professor Rory Collins FRS. You have to trust him.
  • In trials comparing the efficacy of one brand of statin to another, surprise, surprise, the statin belonging to the company running the trial usually comes out best.
  • Patients, their families and often their doctors witness adverse reactions to statins which disappear when they stop taking them. Experts, however, say there are very few side effects, but for those of you whiners they have a second drug that counteracts the side effects of the first. Eat up your pills like good little health consumers.
  • Experts say that the benefits of statins are “unequivocal”. The British Medical Association, however, begs to differ. The deputy chairman, Dr Chand, himself a victim of statin side effects, warned that giving the drugs to low-risk patients was “a commercialisation device” and not in their interests. Clearly he is no expert ignore him.
  • Last August, a Mediterranean diet was shown to be more effective than statin therapy. But you can’t patent and monetize the Mediterranean diet, so ignore that too.
med-diet-v-statins

An Italian study finds cardiovascular disease patients who consumed this diet were 37 percent less likely to die than patients who didn’t. This effect trounces into the dust the 18 percent supposed reduced risk of death attributed to statins by a 2013 review. read more

“Statins might alter what is written on your death certificate but they are extremely unlikely to change the date.” (Express, Mar 2014)

Vitamin D supplements reduces respiratory infections

In people over the age of 65, acute respiratory infections – such as the common cold, influenza, or pneumonia – can lead to potentially life-threatening complications. In a recent study, participants in long-term care facilities placed on monthly high dose vitamin D supplement had 40% fewer repiratory infections requiring hospital attention than those given placebo. (News Medical, Jan 5th)

Vitamin D supplementation improves metabolic syndrome in mice

Metabolic syndrome can be induced in rodents fed a high fat or high carb diet. However, a new study has shown that the risk is significantly modified by vitamin D supplementation. In a new study (NewsMedical, Dec 22nd) mice given vitamin D at levels equivalent to human dietary recommendations had a reduction in metabolic syndrome.

The beneficial action appears to be via gut bacteria which utilise vitamin D for production of defensins – anti-microbial molecules that help the good bacteria maintain dominance.

“Remarkably, an insufficient supply of vitamin D aggravates the imbalance in gut flora, contributing to full-scale fatty liver and metabolic syndrome.”

That’s all this month folks. Spring is in the air and snowdrops are peeping over the cold ground. UVB 311nm (the light wavelength needed for skin to produce vitamin D) is still a few months off though, so hang tight for a bit.

December News Round-Up

Just by chance, much of the nutrition news this month fits in with the theme of Christmas dinner.

What Christmas dinner looks like around the world

I shared my traditional (grain-free) Christmas dinner this year in a recent post, but this article looks at the traditional festive fare in other countries. For example, the Puerto Rican national dish is the roast suckling pig known as lechón. And my roast turkey seems quite unadventurous compared to the Norwegian sheep’s head!  (Independent 25th Dec)

Organic animal produce contains more omega 3

christmas-dinner-turkey

My Christmas turkey and vegetables were all organic as were most of the dairy products I used. So I was pleased to see on Knowridge (12th Dec) that ‘in the largest study of its kind, an international team of experts led by Newcastle University, UK, has shown that both organic milk and meat contain around 50% more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids than conventionally produced products.’

And organic veggies are higher in salvestrols, but that’s another story ;-)

If you overdid the goose fat, cream and butter this Christmas, or ate more than your share of that juicy beef or pork joint, take heart from the following cheering news!

Eating more than the recommended quantity of red meat does not affect heart risk says analysis

beef-joint

The Mail Online (20th Dec) reports on a study analysing the effects of eating more red meat than is commonly recommended and its effect on heart disease parameters. The study authors conclude ‘During the last 20 years, there have been recommendations to eat less red meat as part of a healthier diet, but our research supports that red meat can be incorporated into a healthier diet,’

Saturated fat may not increase heart disease risk after all

christmas-pudding4Milk (in the tea), cream and butter (in my Christmas pudding). Full fat dairy products – but not reduced fat versions – are increasingly being shown to be healthy. 

Medical Health Today (27th Dec) A Norwegian study placed 38 men on a very high fat, low carb diet for 12 weeks. Cardiovascular risk markers improved. The lead author concludes: “that most healthy people probably tolerate a high intake of saturated fat well, as long as the fat quality is good and total energy intake is not too high. It may even be healthy.”

Knowridge (11th Dec) A longitudinal study of 15,000 Brazilian adults found that “for each additional serving of full-fat dairy products people consumed, their risk for having metabolic syndrome decreased by 13%.” The researchers concluded that dietary recommendations to avoid full-fat dairy intake are not supported by their findings.

Quote of the month

“The alleged health risks of eating good-quality fats have been greatly exaggerated. It may be more important for public health to encourage reductions in processed flour-based products, highly processed fats, and foods with added sugar,” FATFUNC study author Simon Dankel.

[my emphases]

If you had a low-fat Christmas and after reading the above studies are now regretting it, the following advice should help get you back on track. Self Magazine (27th Dec) has a pretty good article 19 healthy fats you should be eating. Also, this article, 7 tips on low-carb Mediterranean-Style eating, is worth a look (Tips On Love & Life, 27th Dec)

Nuts are for life, not just for Christmas!

It’s a tradition to have bowls of nuts at Christmas, but there are good reasons to include nuts in your diet all year round. Observer (12th Dec) discusses the health benefits of all kinds of nuts. (Personally I don’t touch peanuts)

Don’t hold back on the seasoning this season

I seasoned my turkey with plenty of salt and pepper. As we have discussed previously on this blog, salt should not be demonised. An article on Knowridge (12th Dec) made the point clearly this month:

A large worldwide study has found that, contrary to popular thought, low-salt diets may not be beneficial and may actually increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and death compared to average salt eating.

In fact, the study suggests that the only people who need to worry about reducing sodium in their diet are those with hypertension (high blood pressure) and have high salt consumption.

The Microbiome and Circadian rhythms
or how overindulging and late nights play havoc with your liver

I just wanted an excuse to include this beautiful graphic. But, no, really, this is a very good article – top notch science writing! As the title says it’s about the interplay between the microbiome and the body clock – especially the liver. If you have given your liver a hard time over the festive season – dodgy food, eating times and late nights – you should probably read this article (The Conversation, 1st Dec)

OK, I can’t think of a seasonal connection for these last few items…
No, wait, how about…

Three odd presents you find at the bottom of your Christmas stocking:

Time magazine (28th Dec) has an unusually clear article on the science behind the ketogenic diet, including quotes from several key researchers. Worth a read.

The Mirror Online (2nd Dec) reports on a case of herbal poisoning. A woman nearly died after making tea from what she thought was comfrey leaves, but is suspected of being foxglove (digitalis). Writing in BMJ Case Reports Dr Mathew Kurian Vithayathil said “This case illustrates how limited knowledge of plants can be potentially fatal.”

The Telegraph (28th Dec) tells of 6 people who fell ill after drinking raw milk in Cumbria which was infected with Campylobacter bacteria. This is, to my knowledge, the first case in the UK in many, many years. To get some perspective on the risks of raw milk see our post on the subject here.

Result! A thoroughly festive news round up!

HAPPY NEW YEAR
and good eating and health in 2017!
~ Afifah and Keir

 

Featured news site: NewsMedical.Net

nm-logo-4I recently came across this medical news website and I found it has a lot of well written articles but without the appaling spin that major newspapers seem to need to put on every story.

They cover all aspects of the health sciences but they have a comprehensive A-Z index allowing you to filter out just news on ‘nutrition’, ‘gluten’ or even specific conditions. One downside is that some of the stories are sponsored by commercial firms, but this is declared so you can make your own mind up. Continue reading

November News Round-Up

In_the_News_November

  • Fizzy drinks can’t claim to be part of a balanced diet
  • Aged cheese and longevity?
  • Parkinson’s disease may start in the gut (VIDEO)
  • How your calf muscle affects weight loss (!)
  • High-fat diet fuels long distance runner
  • Coffee reduces risk of dementia
  • Aspartame may be to blame for weight gain from sugar-free drinks
  • Vitamin D – do supplements work?
  • How cooking made us human

Read time: 6 minutes (1200 words)

Fizzy drinks cannot be part of a balanced diet

UK children sugar consumption

One of the tricks of purveyors of manufactured foods is to claim that their products can be consumed as ‘part of a balanced diet’, whilst failing to define the word ‘balanced’.

However, The Telegraph (15th November) tells us that researchers are now calling into question the validity of such claims after testing 169 types of fizzy drinks sold by major supermarkets in 2014 and finding that over 55% of exceeded the recommended limit of 30g of sugar per day (based on 330ml can serving size). One of the things that jumped out at me from this article is that of the 1.3 million employees in the NHS, 700,000 are overweight or obese! Yup, I think that’s about right, and yet I remember at some point in my childhood being struck by how slender nurses were and how their belts accentuated their waists. Not any more I fear! And we all know that there is a correlation between being a lower IQ and waist circumference. Just sayin’…

‘Eating cheese could be the key to a longer life’

…So went the headline of an article in that most highbrow of journals The Metro (15th November), who in their typically classy style go on to inform us “That’s right. Cheese is what you need to live forever.”

Behind the silly headline is a very interesting research paper which found that increasing intake of spermidine – a compound originally isolated from sperm, but present in all cells and found in high doses in foods including aged cheeses – extended the lifespan of mice. Please ignore the nonsense towards the end of this short article that crashes into the debunked theory about fat. Clearly cheese, fat content and all, made a positive difference in the study cited, so the fat cannot possibly be doing harm. The article did not consider the presence of vitamin K2 in cheese, but that glorious subject is for another time…

Parkinson’s disease may start in the gut

Read the article here: New Scientist (30 Nov) and remember, the gut has been called ‘the second brain’ for many years. It now looks more and more appropriate to call the gut ‘the first brain’. In other words, mess with your gut at your peril.

Astonishing new insights into what one of your leg muscles does (which will blow your socks off!)

soleus-muscleThe Mail online (25th Nov), has a fascinating article looking at how dieting reduces resting metabolic activity via – get this -the soleus muscles of the calves. (That’s it in the diagram opposite).

Apparently, these muscles are referred to as our ‘secondary hearts’ as they are responsible for pumping fluid back to the heart. ‘Sol‘ means sun, and the solar plexus is where the heart resides, and the sun is the source of life here on earth, so there seems to be a sun/life origin to these organs, recognised by the names the anatomists, in their wisdom, gave them, unless I am mistaken.

Dieting reduces their efficiency, reducing heart output and thus resting metabolic energy expenditure. This must be part of the explanation for the all round positive effects of walking (as opposed to running, which has all sorts of drawbacks).

The author emphasises the importance of keeping these muscles fit through long duration low intensity exercise. Well done Mail Online health reporters for finding this gem!

High-fat diet fuels long distance runner

The Business Insider UK (29th Nov) has a nice personal story “Why a guy who runs 100-mile races eats a high fat diet while training”

Anyone still doubtful of the work of Volek and Phinney, or Prof Tim Noakes, or even good old Robert Atkins, or any of the others who have been demonstrating the superiority of fuelling the body with fat, rather than carbohydrates, will appreciate this article.

Coffee reduces risk of dementia

The Express (30th Nov) reports on a study indicating that regularly drinking three cups of coffee per day reduces the relative risk of dementia by 27%.

“Moderate coffee consumption could play a significant role in reducing cognitive decline which would impact health outcomes and healthcare spending across Europe.“

The findings were presented at the European Union Geriatric Medicine Society’s 2016 Congress in Lisbon.

Aspartame may be to blame for weight gain from sugar-free drinks

New Scientist (24th Nov) reports on studies indicating that the artificial sweetener aspartame can lead to higher blood sugar levels and weight gain in mice by changing gut microbe composition and suppressing intestinal alkaline phosphatase which works by neutralising lipopolysaccharides, bacterial toxins that can irritate the gut lining.

Note in this article the voices of those in the soft drinks industry. Not too good on the actual science huh; more weighted to the emotional argument eh? Typical.

Vitamin D – do supplements work?

Low levels of vitamin D have now been associated with hundreds of different diseases. This month, for example, Science Daily reports on a study that found low levels of vitamin D in newborns is linked to a higher risk of multiple sclerosis later in life. What is not clear in many such associations is whether vitamin D plays a causative or contributory role, or whether is is just a marker for some other factor.

Trials using supplements have many times failed to show benefits, leading many to question the value of vitamin D supplementation. A headline in The Express (24th Nov) says it all: “Are YOU taking Vitamin D? It’s a waste of time and doesn’t prevent disease, scientists say”. If you are interested in the research behind this headline I would recommend NHS choices (24th Nov) who bring some clarity to the story!

There are however, many examples of where vitamin D supplementation has shown benefit, including reduction in asthma severity (see our October News roundup last month) and this month News Medical (21st Nov) report on a trial that found improvement of autism symptoms.

“Autism symptoms—such as hyperactivity, social withdrawal, and others—improved significantly following vitamin D3 supplementation but not after receiving placebo,” said Dr. Khaled Saad, lead author of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry study.

 

Vitamin D blood levels are largely a marker of sun exposure, rising in the summer and falling in winter. A recent paper looking at the benefits of sunlight shows that these extend well beyond vitamin D production, News Medical (21 November) reports: “Vitamin D supplements have not been shown to be an adequate substitute for sun exposure. Risks of insufficient sun exposure include increased risk of many types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease/dementia, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, myopia and macular degeneration.”

The importance of cooking in human evolution

New Scientist (2nd Nov) – A really nice article about the importance of cooking in human evolution and it’s health implications. I am sure you will enjoy reading it.