September 2017 News Round-Up

In_the_News_SepPoor diet is a factor in one in 5 deaths (The Guardian, Sep 14th)

What a cheery place to start. Let’s see if there are any tips out there this month to help us make our diets more healthy and happy…

Foods that help you feel fuller may prevent overeating

A new study found that amino acids arginine and lysine found in pork shoulder, beef sirloin steak, chicken, mackerel, plums, apricots, avocados, lentils and almonds (see graphic below) trigger newly identified cells in the brain to signal satiety (fullness).

Well that’s interesting as these are some of my favourite foods! The Telegraph (Sep 28th) and DailyMail (Sep 27th) both covered this.

Note the absence of wheat or other grains in that list: grains are deficient in lysine.

Diet determines if alcohol damages liver

We have written about this before, but here is another study finding that alcohol does not damage the liver in and of itself, but depends on the dietary components it is consumed with. News Medical (Sep 25th) reports that mice fed a high saturated fat diet along with chronic alcohol had protection from alcoholic liver damage.

All of this is great news for those who like a drink with their low-carb meals. To warm the cockles of your slightly sozzled hearts a little more, check out the Unexpected benefits of Red Wine (Telegraph Sep 13th), or if you need further convincing check out this post by our friend Dr Kendrick who unpacks the research around moderate alcohol consumption.

Keto-diet may reduce age related degeneration via newly discovered detox pathway

Wow. Like Wow! It appears that a high fat, very low carb (ketogenic) diet actually removes toxic byproducts of sugar metabolism from the blood by a recently discovered (!) non-enzymatic detoxification process. These products are associated with the damage observed in age-related diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cancer. Again WOW.  We love it when entirely new human biological entities are discovered (News Medical, Sep 18th)

In an unrelated study, a ketogenic diet was found to increase the healthy lifespan of mice and prevent memory loss. (Medical Express, Sep 5th) Zero-carb mice diets are getting many researchers excited, leading The Guardian (Sep 5th) to ask “could a drug that mimics a zero carb diet help us live longer?”

For an in-depth look at the ketogenic diet check out this Mercola article.

Sleep wake rhythm crucial for fat cell function

Evidence is emerging that fat burning is upregulated by good sleep habits via the expression of NFIL3 (a ‘fat burning protein’). This goes someway to explaining the increased risk of obesity among shift workers and suggests we could all benefit from good sleep hygiene. (DailyMail Sep 1st)

“sleep-deprived people – those who get less than five and a half hours a night – consumed an average of 385 calories per day more than those who had more than seven hours.” – according to researchers from King’s College London

A good night’s sleep – worth it’s weight in gold?


▲ Infographic to help get this complex scientific data across in a happy way.

Underscoring the importance of a good kip, The Telegraph (Sep 19th) reports on research that found well rested people scored 15 points higher on a happiness index questionnaire than those who had poor sleep. Whereas the same survey found only a two point happiness increment when household income rose from £12,500 to £50,000. So put down the lottery card and go to bed.

In a similarly dodgy recent survey, researchers found that Brits would rather give up sex for a year than reduce their sugar intake. (!?) I decided not to create a witty infographic for this one. (DailyMail, Sep 15th)

On a more serious note: eating in sync with your body clock may be beneficial for maintaining a healthy weight (Medical Express, Sep 8th). This can be done by shifting major calorie intake earlier in the day, and avoiding a high calorie meal close to bed time.

Mediterranean low-carb diet reduced heart fat more than low-fat diet plan

Plus a shed load of other benefits seen in this recent head to head study. (DailyMail Sep 18th) Also see Diabetes Daily (Sep 17th)

Good fats, Bad fats – the Express goes to war on excess weight

“Three cheers for the Express”

A quick search of the Express’ diet section might leave you wondering if the majority of their readership is obese and/or gullible. Amongst the dozens of ‘lose-fat-fast’ articles were a few half decent pieces this month, which deserve three cheers, so here goes: First up they tackle Omega 6:3 ratio head on, giving sunflower oil a good kicking (hooray!) Whilst in another article they sing the praises of coconut oil (hooray!) Neatly rounding off their ‘fat blasting’ theme they champion egg based breakfasts for fighting the flab (hooray!)

‘No way to prevent Coeliac disease’ according to short sighted experts

Although the prevalence of coeliac disease is recognised as 1% worldwide, among first degree relatives that risk rises to 5 – 10%. If you are a worried parent of a child who falls into this group The Mayo clinic has issued advice on what you can do to prevent it. And that advice is: nothing. They declare that there is nothing that can be done. (Medical Express, Sep 22nd)…

…(speechless).

I know, it beggars belief. The OBVIOUS thing to do is adopt a gluten-free diet. You can not get coeliac disease if you don’t eat gluten. Period. Sorry, but the emperor has no clothes. Sorry to be the one pointing it out. I know you’re not supposed to say it, so sorry again. But there it is. If you can’t see it Mayo Clinic experts then take an eye test…

 

 

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Low fat (but not full fat) dairy associated with increased risk of Parkinson’s disease

Read time: 4.5 minutes (850 words)

Intro

MedPage Today [full article here] drew my attention to a recent Harvard study published in the journal Neurology [abstract herewhich took a closer look at previously identified associations between dairy products and Parkinsons Disease. Their analyses were based on data from two large prospective cohort studies, the Nurses’ Health Study (n = 80,736) and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (n = 48,610), with a total of 26 and 24 years of follow-up, respectively. An previous study (see below) found an increased risk of Parkinson’s with higher levels of dairy protein consumption.

The latest study looked more carefully at the different types of dairy product. They found that among those who ate 3 or more portions of low fat dairy per day (skimmed milk, low fat cheese and yogurt etc) 4 in 1000 went on to develop Parkinson’s disease, whereas among those who ate no portions of low fat dairy only 3 in 1000 developed the disease.

Comparing the two groups that equates to a roughly 33% increased relative risk. Of course that is only a rather piffling 0.1% absolute risk increase – hardly anything to worry about in the grand scheme of things. What makes this study interesting, however, is that the association did not exist for full fat dairy products only low fat ones.

Uric acid and Parkinson’s disease

The study’s authors speculate that the increased risk seen in the low fat milk group may be due to the ability of milk protein (casein and lactalbumin) to reduce uric acid levels. Parkinson’s disease and uric acid? I wasn’t aware of this link, so started digging into the research…

A particularly helpful review in Practical Neurology [Uric Acid’s Relationship with Stroke and Parkinson’s Disease: A Review] filled me in on the background.

It turns out that there is a growing body of evidence demonstrating an association between low uric acid levels and incidence of Parkinson’s disease. Not only do Parkinson’s sufferers tend to have have low levels of uric acid, but those with higher levels have slower and less aggressive progression of the disease. Importantly, some studies have identified that low uric acid levels four years prior to the onset of Parkinson’s symptoms has a stronger association than levels at onset of symptoms, suggesting that uric acid is linked to the  pathogenesis of Parkinson’s.

Uric acid BTW is an intriguing endogenous antioxidant which although primarily synthesised by the body is also influenced by diet. Excess levels can lead to the formation of crystals which is the basis of the painful condition gout, but can also contribute to kidney stones and kidney damage. Foods containing purines, such as shellfish, offal, meat and beer, can raise uric acid levels, as can alcohol and fructose, so should be avoided if you suffer from gout or kidney stones. The idea that such foods may be protective against Parkinson’s is interesting (although clearly one would not want to go as far as to cause gout!) On the other hand, dairy, cherries and vitamin C are associated with lower risk of gout and are classed as hypouricemic foods as they reduce uric acid levels.

It is believed that uric acid may exert a neuro-protective effect through it’s antioxidant action:

It has been hypothesized that uric acid reduces oxidative stress on neurons. This may have a significant bearing on therapeutic management of disease, as many neurological disorders are believed to result from oxidative stress. As a potentially modifiable risk factor, the prospect for uric acid and its derivatives to play a role in disease modification or prevention has great potential. – Pello et al, 2009

Studies looking at dietary associations with Parkinson’s disease have identified that uric acid lowering foods (e.g. dairy) are always associated with an increased risk of Parkinson’s, except for one. Vitamin C is the only uric acid lowering nutrient associated with reduced Parkinson’s risk: possibly because it is a powerful anti-oxidant itself.

Results from an earlier analysis of the Health Professionals Follow-up Study found clear trends indicating reduced incidence of Parkinson’s disease with increasing consumption of fructose and alcohol (uric acid raising foods) and an increased risk with higher levels of dairy protein consumption (a uric acid lowering food) Adapted from Xiang Gao et al, 2008

Full fat dairy

In the new study the increased risk for Parkinson’s disease was only associated with low fat dairy, not full fat. Why wasn’t full fat dairy associated with an increased risk of Parkinson’s?

For now there is no clear answer, but according to MedPage Today the authors of the study say “The lack of association with full-fat dairy products could be due to a countervailing effect of saturated fats. I think more research is needed to better understand the mechanisms involved in this association,”

The benefits of dairy fats have come up time and again, yet I still know many people who avoid full fat milk, cream, cheese and butter. See our posts:

Bottom Line

The size of the increased absolute risk of Parkinson’s disease associated with consuming low fat dairy products (0.1%) is too small to make it a reason in and of itself to avoid low fat dairy – unless of course, you have a family history of the disease in which case every bit of risk reduction helps.

For all of us, however, this study adds to the evidence of the benefits of full fat over low-fat dairy.

References

  • Intake of dairy foods and risk of Parkinson diseaseKatherine C. Hughes et al, Neurology, June 2017 [Abstract]
  • Low-Fat Dairy Linked to Small Increased Risk for PDKate Kneisel, Contributing Writer, MedPage Today, June 2017 [Full article]
  • Uric Acid’s Relationship with Stroke and Parkinson’s Disease: A Review Scott Pello et al, Practical neurology, Jul/Aug 2009 [Full article]
  • Diet, Urate, and Parkinson’s Disease Risk in Men, Xiang Gao et al, American journal of epidemiology, 2008 [PMC full text]

In the News

  • Why you’re better off eating FULL fat dairy: Consuming three or more portions of the low fat variety of yoghurt, milk or cheese raises the risk of Parkinson’s disease, Daily Mail [Online Article]
  • Low-fat milk linked to Parkinson’s risk, The Times [Online Article]

Milk & Alcohol – was the good Doctor on to something?

In 1978 when Nick Lowe and John Mayo penned the lyrics to Dr Feelgood’s “Milk & Alcohol” I doubt they had any inkling of the nutritional significance of these two Neolithic beverages, or the dramatic effect that their adoption had on the course of human evolution. Recent research, however, indicates that in some ways they have quite opposite effects on our health… Continue reading