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

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)


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.

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.

November News Round-Up


  • 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.


May News Round-Up

In_the_News_May· Potatoes and hypertension
· Antibiotics, depression and phages
· Gluten debate
· Low-carb diets good for diabetes
· Salt does not raise BP (yet again)
· Medical errors – high death toll
· Vitamin D & sunshine
· 50y of changing UK food habits

Potato consumption linked to raised blood pressure

The Guardian (17th May) covered this story as well as any, after a study found that those who ate potatoes four or more times per week had a small, but significant, increased risk of hypertentsion (high blood pressure) compared to those eating them less than once per week. This link applied to boiled, mashed or baked potatoes and chips (aka French fries), but weirdly, not to crisps (aka potato chips in the USA). The study authors, suggest the effect is caused by the high carb content raising blood sugar. Interestingly, they point to trials that show high protein and high fat diets lower blood pressure. (See BMJ paper here).

Grass-Fed Nation: Book Review

The Telegraph (26th May) reviews a new book by Graham Harvey, script writer of The Archer’s agricultural story lines and one of the excellent speakers at our Grass Fed Meat Revolution in 2014.

Unfortunately, British dairy farming is moving in the opposite direction with the creeping introduction of US style mega-dairies (now numbering 100+), where cows are raised permanently indoors. The Telegraph (1st June) reports on this disturbing trend.

Antibiotics, depression and resistance – Phages to the rescue?

The Mail (24th May)  reports on Israeli research showing that just one course of antibiotics is linked to an increased incidence of depression, probably due to changes in gut microbes.

Even more depressing is the news that a woman in the US was found to have a bacterial infection that is resistant to colistin – the antibiotic of last resort (BBC News, 27th May).

The belated fightback by British doctors, however, is starting to bite with The Telegraph (25th May) reporting that GPs have slashed their use of antibiotics in the last 12 months. Was this due to their growing awareness of over-prescription and a public spirited determination to tackle the problem? Or was it because the government brought in financial incentives to encourage them? Oh… the latter. Well I never.


Phages attack a bacteria (Wikimedia)

With few new antibiotics on the horizon, research is turning to alternative means to treat infections, including bacteriophages – viruses that target and kill specific bacteria. The Independent (26th May) reports one such advance, with a phage found in a pond which attacks a type of multi-drug resistant bacteria. Interestingly, phage therapy was widely developed in the former USSR during the cold war, as they did not have access to western antibiotics. Phage therapy is still widely used in Russia, Georgia and Poland. You can read more in this 2014 Nature article.

Gluten controversy

The gluten-free ‘fad’ comes in for criticism with headlines such as “Gluten-Free Diets Are Not Necessarily Healthier, Doctors Warn” (Live Science 25th May, ). Yes indeed, gluten-free bread, biscuits, cakes and other simulacra are often chock-full of additives in an attempt to recreate gluten’s unique glutinousness. Additionally, gluten-free flours (like rice and corn) can be high in heavy metals such as arsenic, which has resulted in at least one recorded case of arsenic poisoning. So, yes, we concur: avoid all grains and don’t go shopping down the gluten free aisle! Eat more fish, meat, fruit, nuts and vegetables, i.e. real food as opposed to ‘products’ or as I like to call them ‘food like substances’.

The Mail (16th May) reports that supermarket gluten free bread is high in fat (shock horror), suggesting that this is a problem. To my mind, it’s not the fat you should worry about (although I wouldn’t reckon on the quality of their industrial oils), it’s the grain and chemical concoctions that are dodgy. My coconut keto-bread recipe is mega-high fat and grain free. Alternatively, my almond bread is versatile, delicious and can be toasted and made into sandwiches. Both are low GI, nutrient dense alternatives, not fake food.

In the same Mail Online article is a video reporting on links between gluten and depressions. Worth a click:


High-fat, low-carb diet takes on the mainstream – round two, ding ding!

The National Obesity Forum came out fighting this month with “Official advice on low-fat diet and cholesterol is wrong, says health charity” the Guardian (23rd May). They argue (as do I), that type 2 diabetes can be better managed on a low-carb diet, rather than the recommended low-fat approach. However, this has lead to a string of pugilistic condemnations from the nutritional orthodoxy. Public Health England weighed in calling the report “irresponsible” while The British Dietetic Association, warned that advising people to eat more saturated fat “could be extremely dangerous”. (The Observer 28th May)

However, we think The Telegraph (31st May) gets in the final knock-out punch with “Low-carb diet helps control diabetes, new study suggests”.

That study was conducted after an online revolt by patients in which 120,000 people signed up to the “low-carb” diet plan launched by in a backlash against official advice.

By rejecting guidelines and eating a diet low in starchy foods but high in protein and “good” saturated fats, such as olive oil and nuts, more than 80 percent of the patients said that they had lost weight, with 10 percent shedding 9kg or more.

More than 70 per cent of participants experienced improvements of blood glucose, and a fifth said they no longer needed drugs to regulate blood glucose by the end of the ten-week plan. (my emphasis)

KERPOW! Take that British Dietetic Association. WHAM! Stick that in your low-fat pipe National Health England.

U turn on salt recommendations? Probably not…

Further challenges to the orthodoxy were found in Mail Online (20th May) reporting on a study published in the lancet, in which “a global study found that, contrary to past belief, low-salt diets may not be beneficial. Rather, they can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and death, compared with average salt consumption.”

Of course this led to the usual condemnatory remarks from WHO representatives who labelled the study as ‘bad science’.

My view is that lowering salt may be beneficial for some individuals with hypertension, especially those with genetic SNPs for salt metabolism, but for most of the population their is little evidence of benefit. You can see the numerous conflicting studies linked to salt here, and read our post on salt here.

Iatrogenic deaths

Medical errors have been identified as the third leading cause of deaths in the US, causing over 251,000 deaths annually, after heart disease and cancer, respectively, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. (Care2, 5th May, BMJ, 3rd May)

According to the study, “Medical error has been defined as an unintended act (either of omission or commission) or one that does not achieve its intended outcome, the failure of a planned action to be completed as intended (an error of execution), the use of a wrong plan to achieve an aim (an error of planning), or a deviation from the process of care that may or may not cause harm to the patient.” Amazingly, no form of medical error ever appears as a cause of death on a death certificate.

The situation is no less rosy on this side of the pond, with the Mail Online (10th May) reporting “Thousands of heart victims killed by poor care: More than 33,000 people died needlessly over the past few years because of shocking flaws in NHS treatment”. I don’t need telling about the hundreds of patients that have come to me over the years after being so poorly served by an incompetent NHS, indeed my own mother died from heart surgery that ‘went wrong’. Her surgeon humbly admitted to me personally that if he hadn’t done the operation she would still be alive. For all that, he still absconded from the hospital presumably back to Egypt, and I have not pursued that story further!

Vitamin D and Sunshine

Well, we had a handful of sunny days in May, so I suppose we can’t complain…

Our related post: Human photosynthesis – Beyond vitamin-D

Info-graphic of the month: Changes in British food shopping, 1974-2014


The above graph, courtesy of The Mail (4th May), shows changing UK food habits over the last half century. Interesting! What do you think?

Tweet of the month



April News Round-Up

In_the_News_AprilVitamin D

With the arrival of D-Day in the UK, we can all begin to manufacture this essential vitamin by getting outdoors and baring our skin to the sunshine close to mid-day.

The Telegraph (5th April 2016) reporting on the latest research tells us that a ‘Daily dose of vitamin D can improve function in damaged hearts’. On a similar theme, NHS choices (27th April 2016)  reports that ‘Vitamin D, fish oil and folates may enhance antidepressants’. Meanwhile Science Daily (6th April 2016) reports that ‘Higher levels of vitamin D correspond to lower cancer risk’. Medscape (8th April 2016) reports that ‘Low Vitamin D Levels [are] Linked to Macular Degeneration Risk’. Read our in-depth post to make sure you are doing it right and maximising your vitamin D synthesis.

The sun's angle above the horizon (zenith angle) needs to be above 50º before there is sufficient UVB to produce vitamin D in the skin. In the south of the UK this limits vitamin D production to between April 21st and August 21st, in a narrow window either side of mid day. Data source: Solar Topo

The sun’s angle above the horizon (zenith angle) needs to be above 50º before there is sufficient UVB to produce vitamin D in the skin. In the south of the UK this limits vitamin D production to between April 21st and August 21st, in a narrow window either side of mid day. Data source: Solar Topo

‘Paleo’ Diet May Help Older Women’s Hearts, Waistlines

U.S.News (4th April 2016) reports on a recent study where 35 obese postmenopausal women followed a Paleo diet for two years. Despite having no limit on calories these women lost weight and had improved metabolic markers. Medpage Today (7th April 2016) also covered the study.

Zonulin implicated in coeliac, gluten sensitivity and Inflammatory bowel disease

This is a bit technical, but important. Gastroenterology and Endoscopy News (19th April 2016) – not a news site you often read I imagine! – reports on a study that finds gut permeability molecule zonulin is raised in many GI diseases. This extends some of the research in our post Why no one should eat grains. Part 3: Ten more reasons to avoid wheat, where we report that gluten increases gut permeability in everyone.

High Fructose Diets

Much of the metabolic damage done by sugar is laid at the door of fructose which makes up 50% of normal table sugar (sucrose). High fructose corn syrup may have closer to 55% fructose, so has attracted even greater criticism. For more detail the Daily Mail (September 2015) had an excellent science piece on the metabolic effects of fructose compared to glucose. This month, however, two studies appeared in the press, but chances are you didn’t see them.

First, Science Daily (April 20th) reported on a study where female rats were fed water sweetened with 10% fructose throughout pregnancy. Their offspring were fed normally, but by rat middle age “both female and male offspring in the fructose group had higher peak glucose levels and higher blood pressure. Female offspring of the fructose group also were heavier and had higher percentages of abdominal fat tissue, liver fat and insulin resistance as well as lower concentrations of leptin compared with their water group counterparts.” The paper title says it all: High-fructose diet in pregnancy leads to fetal programming of hypertension, insulin resistance, and obesity in adult offspring. Put down those fizzy drinks ladies and step away from the cakes.

Second, a study from the University of California Los Angeles appeared on many news websites but has not yet made it into the mainstream UK press (UCLA press release 21st April 2016). It showed that fructose led to the switching on of genes in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD and other brain diseases. Remarkably, the addition of omega 3 fish oils (DHA in this report) completely reversed these epigenetic changes.

Mis-shapen fruit and veg are more healthy

In our post The chemical warfare on your plate we examined how the natural toxins in fruit and veg explain their health benefits through the process of hormesis. NPR’s The Salt (26th April 2016) has a nice article looking at the health benefits of eating mis-shapen or ‘ugly’ produce, as these ‘stressed’ veggies contain higher levels of these valuable secondary metabolites. Home grown or wild foods, of course, would be even better, but it is a reminder that simple shopping choices can make a real difference – don’t put back the blemished apple!

Bone broth in the news


Bones, meat offcuts and wonky veg going into my pressure cooker to make collagen-rich bone broth.

The Mail Online (27th April 2016) gives us the TOP FIVE PANTRY STAPLES, according to TV chef Scott Gooding, which includes some great culinary/medicinal herbs too:

  1. Bone broth
  2. Hemp seeds
  3. Chili
  4. Blueberries
  5. Tumeric

Gut microbe diversity increases with consumption of tea, coffee, wine and yoghurt

One of our first public talks focussed on fermented foods and gut health. In it we pointed out that gut health is improved by consuming probiotics (foods containing live gut bacteria such as live yoghurt), prebiotics (foods containing fibre or other nutrients that feed your good bacteria) but also non-live fermented foods as it seems many gut microbes feed off the fermentation products of other microbes.

Time magazine (29th April 2016) reports on a study published in Science that tea, coffee, wine and yoghurt consumption are associated with a higher bacterial diversity (generally an indication of good gut health), whilst sugar consumption and smoking were associated with a lower diversity.

Pasture fed beef and dairy in the news

The Guardian (17th April 2016) has a good article, explaining why pasture fed livestock is the ‘new organic’. Forbes (29th April 2016) has its own take if you want another angle. On a related note, I recently came across a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition (August 2014) which found that mice fed cream from pastured cows compared to standard cream, had lower inflammation, triglycerides and adipose fat, which they suggest may be due to the higher levels of omega-3 fats in pastured cream.

Quote of the Month

The Chancellor George Osborne, who apparently uses the 5:2 diet to help with weight control jokes in the Times (29th April 2016):

In two out of every five budgets I eat my words

Pedantic of me I know, but if George is skipping food two out of every five days he will get very hungry (The five:two diet is supposed to be fasting two out of every seven days!)


The Telegraph (1st May) has a barrow load of great salad recipes under the theme ‘the world’s best salads’ (if only the British sun can stay out long enough to make us want to eat cold food!). They are grain free, look delicious, but perhaps a little too fussy? Let me know if you try them!

March News Round-Up

Organic-Natural-Egg-Dyes-1024x791(Click on the picture to learn how to dye your organic eggs with natural dyes)

Organic eggs are healthier

With Easter falling in March this year, it seems appropriate to start with news on eggs. The Canadian news channel CBC News (March 11th) undertook a study of eggs from caged hens compared to organic free-range flocks. They discovered considerable differences, with the organic eggs containing higher levels of vitamin A, E and D and omega-3 fats. These are in keeping with previous studies of grass-fed beef, dairy and lamb.

Continue reading

February News Round-Up

It’s our news-round-up anniversary!

We first started blogging about nutrition in the news 12 months ago and have kept it up every month since. Something we really are proud of! It is interesting to look back at the topics we have covered – they have been very diverse indeed. And this month’s round-up is no exception…

Kicking off with New Scientist magazine (Feb 24th) which had a two page article looking at the use of a low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet in cancer. We have previously blogged about this approach – see here.

Again in New Scientist (Feb 19th) – an opinion piece arguing for a sugar tax of between 20% to 50% on fizzy drinks. Susan Jebb, professor of diet and population health at the University of Oxford, says a sugar tax is a “no brainer”.

Linked to concerns about sugar came the revelation that many high street coffee shops’ are serving hot drinks laced with the stuff. The Guardian (Feb 17th) provides a good set of data, showing that some options have 10 to 20 teaspoons of sugar. Have a read and you can avoid the worst offenders.

Carriers of the APOE4 gene – a fat metabolism gene that is included in the genetic testing I offer – are known to be at an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. There has been some debate about what diet may best suit carriers of this gene. So it is good to see MedPage Today (Feb 2nd) report on an study that found seafood protective against Alzheimers disease, but only for people carrying the APOE4 gene.

In a recent trial, Vitamin-D supplementation reduced prostate cancer aggressiveness. MedPage Today (Feb 25th) provides good coverage.

boiled egg and keto-bread soldiers

Boiled eggs with keto-bread soldiers (recipe here)

Eggs got a lot of attention this month, with pregnant UK mums being told it is safe to eat runny egg yolks after all (TV3 Feb 1st). The diet doctor twins tell us ‘Here’s why the data don’t back those trying to vilify eggs’ (MedPage Today, 8th Feb). If you really want to try something different the Mail Online (14th Feb) tells us that Wiatrose is now selling Emu eggs for £23 per pop (ouch!). The emu eggs are bright blue, take 90 minutes to boil, and are each as large as a dozen hens eggs. Not sure I’ll be rushing out to buy them, but I do get duck eggs now and then, and goose eggs once or twice a year.

Finally, Crossbush farm shop (nr Arundel) is now offering gluten-free scotch eggs (of the hen not emu variety) – drop in and give them a try. We found them very satisfying as a travelling lunch when we went away recently. Not fully grain free – but they only use rice and potato flour which, once in a blue moon, won’t bust the physiology of most people.

November News Round-Up


  • Gluten free diets benefit otherwise healthy people
  • Pasture fed meat – Dexter cattle and Dartmoor ponies
  • Ketogenic diet for better brain function, weight loss and endurance sports
  • A plethora of Vitamin D studies
  • ‘False alarm’ over red meat and cancer
  • Chocolate prices to soar

New UK study vindicates gluten-free diets in otherwise healthy people

Just creeping into this month’s round up – The Daily Mail (30th November) reports on the ‘Going Gluten Free’ study organised by Aberdeen University’s Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health.

It found that 3 weeks on a gluten free diet reduced bloating, flatulence and fatigue in otherwise healthy participants. Dr Alexandra Johnstone, of the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, said: ‘It was interesting to discover that a gluten-free diet improves feelings of fatigue, with participants reporting much higher energy levels during the gluten-free period of the study.

‘The fact that they were able to start tasks quicker, concentrate better and think clearer during this time, and felt the need to rest less, all point towards the idea that sensitivity to gluten does exist for some individuals who don’t have coeliac disease.

Gluten free diets have been linked with poor dietary habits as individuals head for the gluten-free aisles, but recent promotion of real foods may have paid off: in this study participants overall dietary quality improved with consumption of more fruit and vegetables and an increased fibre consumption! I’ve highlighted that as we have been arguing on this blog that a proper gluten-free diet should improve the overall diet and lead to increased fibre intake.

Just a pity it was part-funded by a gluten-free food manufacturer.

Pasture-fed meat #1: Cattle help preserve rare South Downs grassland

The role of large herbivores in the landscape is increasingly being recognised for their environmental benefits. The meat from such animals is also considered healthier – higher in omega-3 fats, vitamin A and E. So it was pleasing to read in The West Sussex Gazette (31st October) of the recent introduction of Dexter cattle – a short stocky breed – to maintain endangered South Downs grassland at Steyning, West Sussex. What is more, the meat from these animals is available from Garlic Wood Farm butchers.

“My aim was to establish an efficient and sustainable farming system, producing a quality product raised solely on pasture that would benefit both the environment and human health.” – Frances Sedgwick, Cattle Breeder


Pasture-fed meat #2: Dartmoor Ponies

Also looking at the intersection of conservation and food was Radio 4’s Hardeep’s Sunday Lunch (29th November) which addressed a controversial topic: the proposal that we should encourage the use of Dartmoor hill ponies for meat.

Dartmoor and Exmoor have semi-wild pony populations that helped create those iconic landscapes, but economics mean that their numbers are dwindling. One proposal to keep this ancient form of land management viable is to encourage eating of pony meat. You can listen again until 28th December to this thoughtful and heart felt radio documentary.

Closer to home, the Knepp rewilding project also has herds of Exmoor ponies that look for all the world like the 17,000 year old cave paintings from Lascaux in France. Knepp too is facing the thorny question of whether it is right that these magnificent animals should go to waste when their population needs culling, rather than sold as prime pasture-fed meat. I’m sure the cave painters wouldn’t have any doubts.


Ketogenic diet: Caproic acid

New Scientist (25th November – you need to register to read it) has an article on the ketogenic diet for epilepsy, but also touches on its uses in other brain disorders and cancer. It’s worth a look as it provides a reasonable overview of some of the basics of the diet. However, the news bit is that researchers recently found (in rats at least) that the saturated fatty acid known as decanoic or caproic acid suppressed epileptic brain activity rather than the ketones.

Caproic acid is present in coconut oil (10%) and butter (2%), both of which can be used in the ketogenic diet. Unfortunately, neither the paper, nor New Scientist point out that in humans seizure control has be achieved without the use of this medium chain triglyceride, indicating that there is more to the ketogenic diet than caproic acid. Both ketones and low-glucose/insulin levels induced by the diet have been shown to have multiple protective effects on the brain.

Meanwhile the ketogenic diet for weight loss featured in The Express (23rd November) with typically tabloid panache: ‘Woman shed a THIRD of her bodyweight eating MORE bacon and butter’.

The ketogenic diet is increasingly being used in endurance sport as reported in Men’s Fitness (17th November), based on a study by world expert Jeff Volek, in which the fat burning levels of athletes on the ketogenic diet was found to be twice that of carb loading athletes.

Vitamin D

It’s been a big month for vitamin D research with a host of stories making the newspapers:

In previous posts we have advocated maximising vitamin D levels from midday sun exposure short of burning (Why April 15th is D-Day in the south of England) so as to gain the highest UVB:UVA ratio. So it is gratifying to see researchers from the University of Oslo come to the same conclusion in a paper published this month:

The best way to obtain a given dose of vitamin D with minimal carcinogenic risk is through a non-burning exposure in the middle of the day, rather than in the afternoon or morning. Grigalavicius et al, International journal of dermatology (Nov, 2015)


Here at Rosemary Cottage Clinic patients avail themselves of the wall mounted UVB 311nm narrowband light box on a weekly basis throughout the autumn and winter months to ensure they retain healthy levels of vitamin D to keep them well.

For those who wish to check their vitamin D levels I now have sealed test kits in stock at just £28 each, supplied by a specialist vitamin D test centre. So if you want to do a ‘before and after’ test get in contact to arrange it.

A false alarm on red meat and cancer

Following last month’s panic when the WHO classified red meat as a possible carcinogen the UK saw double digit falls in sales for three weeks. So it’s nice to see The Financial Times (24th November) taking a critical look at the quality of the data, like we did, and concluding that it was a ‘false alarm’.

Gordon Guyatt, an epidemiologist and professor of medicine at Hamilton’s McMaster University said “Two large trials have tested for evidence and the WHO ignored both of them.” He claims the WHO evidence is “very modest” and might easily be attributable to other confounding factors observational studies can’t fully adjust for (The National Post, 29th October).

It has also come to light that one of the leading advisors to the WHO is a lifelong vegetarian who has voiced moral and environmental objections to meat eating – how objective is that?

As if to make up for damage done, The Daily Mail (2nd November) had a pretty good article reviewing many of the health benefits associated with meat.

Chocolate prices to soar

Sorry to end on a bad note but forecasters are predicting chocolate prices will rise next year thanks to poor harvests in West Africa and strong winds caused by the El Nino weather system. If you can bear to read more, The Telegraph (30th November) give the full gory details.