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Uh oh... Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide (plant-killer) in the world, and its pervasive use may be harming our gut microbiomes. Glyphosate (which is in Roundup) is used not only as a weed-killer, but also applied to glyphosate resistant genetically engineered (GE) crops such as soy, canola, corn, and also right before harvest (preharvest) on many grain crops. Thus we find glyphosate and glyphosate residues all around us, including in the foods we eat.

Researchers at the University of Turku  in Finland developed a bioinformatics tool to examine glyphosate effects on gut bacteria. They found that glyphosate kills many bacterial species found in the human gut, including such important keystone bacteria as Faecalibacterium prausnitzii. Their words: "54% of species in the core gut microbiome are sensitive to glyphosate". (A nice way of saying it kills them.) They summarize:

"A large proportion of bacteria in the gut microbiome (Qin et al., 2010) are susceptible to glyphosate (class I); thus, the intake of glyphosate may severely affect the composition of the human gut microbiome. "

Glyphosate has already been linked to a number of health problems (e.g. cancer, endocrine disruption). The gut microbiome or microbiota is the millions of microbes living in our intestines, and they are very important to our health. Imbalance or disruptions to our gut microbiome result in inflammation, chronic conditions, and diseases.

What to do? Try to eat as many organic foods, especially grains, soy, and corn, as possible. Organic farmers are not allowed to use glyphosate. Try to avoid using glyphosate-based herbicides on your property.  Unfortunately, our government agencies are not protecting us with regards to glyphosate, and the US allows higher glyphosate residues in food than in the European Union.

From Science Daily: Glyphosate may affect human gut microbiota

Glyphosate is the most commonly used broad-spectrum herbicide. Researchers from the University of Turku in Finland have developed a new bioinformatics tool to predict if a microbe, e.g. a human gut bacterium, is sensitive to glyphosate.  ...continue reading "Glyphosate May Be Having a Harmful Effect On Our Gut Microbiome"

Iodine is an essential mineral for health, especially during pregnancy, because it is needed for intellectual development and thyroid functioning. For years people bought iodized table salt at the grocery store in order to make sure that they have enough iodine in the diet. However, the use of other salts (e.g. Himalayan salt) that don't have added iodine, and following a vegan or vegetarian diet can increase the risk of iodine deficiency.

A small study by Australian researchers looked at iodine levels in 2 groups of pregnant women, who were either vegan/plant-based diet participants or omnivores (eating both meat and plants). Both groups had urine with iodine levels below the World Health Organization recommended 100 µg per liter, but the vegan/plant-based group was far lower at 44 µg per liter. Those eating Himalayan salt had severely deficient levels: 23 µg per liter. The study did not look at the intellectual functioning of the infants after they were born.

How to get enough iodine in the diet? Foods containing iodine are seafood, seaweed, bread fortified with iodine, iodized salt, eggs, and dairy foods. Also, iodine supplements. Research indicates that adequate iodine intake before conception is necessary to ensure optimal maternal thyroid function during pregnancy, which is required for fetal intellectual development.

Medical Xpress: Poor iodine levels in pregnancy poses risks to fetal intellectual development

A growing number of young Australian women are at increased risk of having children born with impaired neurological conditions, due to poor iodine intake.  ...continue reading "Low Iodine Levels During Pregnancy Poses Risk to the Baby"

Well, the following findings make total sense. A recent study found that organic meat (beef, pork, chicken, turkey) is less likely to be contaminated by harmful bacteria, including multidrug resistant bacteria. These findings hold even if it is processed in a place that also processes non-organic (conventional) meat. But the best results are if organic meat is processed at a processing facility that only handles organic meat.

One interesting finding was that the type of meat processing facility also mattered. Conventional meat that is processed by a "split-processing" facility (processes both organic and conventional meat) had lower rates of multidrug resistant bacteria contamination than processing facilities that only handle conventional meat. This could be because disinfection has to take place in-between processing of organic and conventional meat batches.

This antibiotic use and resistant bacteria association has been known for years for both humans and animals. If antibiotics and other antimicrobials are avoided whenever possible, then bacteria are less likely to mutate, and there is a lower incidence of multidrug resistant microbes.

Bottom line: try to eat organically grown meat whenever possible. It's better environmentally and better for health.

From Science Daily: Organic meat less likely to be contaminated with multidrug-resistant bacteria

Meat that is certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is less likely to be contaminated with bacteria that can sicken people, including dangerous, multidrug-resistant organisms, compared to conventionally produced meat, according to a study from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  ...continue reading "Organic Meat Less Likely To Be Contaminated By Harmful Bacteria"

Everyone has millions of microbes living in complex communities in their sinuses. All these hundreds of species of bacteria, fungi, and viruses are the sinus microbiome or sinus microbiota. In addition, some (many?) people also have tiny organisms called archaea living in their sinuses.

What are archaea? Archaea are single-celled organisms that lack cell nuclei, and have a unique cell wall membrane. Very little is known about them, what their role is in the sinuses (that is, what are they doing there?), how do they interact with the host (the person), and whether their presence is beneficial or not.

There are only a few studies looking at archaea in humans, and while very little is known, the current view is that there are no known harmful archaea ("archaeal pathogens or parasites").

In a 2019 study, French researchers found archaea in the sinuses of 9 of their patients with chronic sinusitis - and therefore thought they were linked to disease. But unfortunately they didn't look to see if archaea are also found in the sinuses of healthy persons, thus there wasn't a comparison group. They found methanogenic archaea (the only microorganisms able to produce methane) in these nine patients, and they thought that the archaea were contributing to or causing the chronic sinusitis.

The Methanobrevibacter species they found were  M. smithii, M. oralis, and M. massiliense, of which 2 have been found in dental plaque and periodontitis lesions, and one is a gut methanogen. [Note: This means it is found in the gut and is methane producing - but that doesn't mean it is harmful.]

Finally, a more recent and comprehensive study looked at archaea and bacteria in the sinuses of both healthy persons and those with chronic sinusitis. University of Auckland researchers found that only 6 out of 70 persons (both healthy and with sinusitis) had archaea in the sinuses, and they were very low in numbers and in diversity. In those with archaea, there was a lot of variation between people. They did not see any archaea associated with chronic sinusitis.

Archaea found were from Euryarchaeota, Thaumarchaeota, and Methanobrevibacteriaceae phyla.

One can only wonder what the archaea are doing in the sinuses in those with them. Especially, as the researchers point out that archaea are characterized by a unique cell wall membrane that "assists survival in extreme conditions such as hydrothermal vents, salt lakes, anoxic and highly acidic or alkaline environments". Also, that recent studies suggest that the human immune system recognizes and can be "activated" by archaea.

Archaea. Credit: Wikipedia

Finally, studies also mention that archaea are resistant to many antibiotics (because of lack of peptidoglycan in their cell wall). It is unknown how this influences their role (if any) in human health and disease.

As you can see, much is unknown right now. Even how many people have archaea in their sinuses, and what kinds of archaea. Stay tuned.

Article by B.W. Mackenzie et al in Frontiers in Cellular Infection and Microbiology: A Novel Description of the Human Sinus Archaeome During Health and Chronic Rhinosinusitis

There is another great reason to try to lose weight if you are overweight or obese - being overweight or obese lowers blood flow to the brain in older adults. Yikes! However, one bit of good news from a study of 495 adults (average age 69) was that increased physical activity (brisk walks count!) can reduce or eliminate this association.

This could help explain why obesity increases the risk for a number of conditions as a person gets older, such as heart disease, dementia, and Alzheimer's disease.

The study was part of the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing. The average BMI (body mass index) was 28, which is considered overweight. One finding was that each 1 cm increase in waist circumference was associated with the same reduction of brain (cerebral) blood flow as 1 year of advancing age. (Yes, brain volume and blood flow typically diminish with age in older adults. So you want to prevent it as much as possible.)

The study found that higher levels of physical activity can reduce or remove this association of overweight & obesity and reduced brain blood flow. So if it's not possible to lose weight - then get really physically active!

How much exercise is beneficial? The researchers recommend at least 1.5 to 2 hours per day of "being active", that is, doing activities that require "moderate" effort - this means breathing somewhat harder than normal (e.g. brisk walking, cycling at a regular pace, carrying light loads). Equally beneficial is to get some "vigorous activity" which results in breathing much higher than normal (e.g., digging, aerobics, fast cycling, carrying heavy loads). But any and all movement is good!

Medical Xpress: Researchers find obesity linked to reduced blood flow to the brain

A new study from scientists at The Irish Longitudinal Study on Aging (TILDA) at Trinity College Dublin reveals important findings, indicating that being overweight or obese significantly reduces blood flow in the brain. The study also shows that increased physical activity can positively modify, or even negate, this reduction in brain blood flow. ...continue reading "Overweight and Obesity Is Associated With Reduced Blood Flow In the Brain"

Nowadays many people apply antibiotic ointments on any and all skin wounds, no matter how minor. This is recommended by doctors in an effort to prevent the wound from becoming infected and to promote wound healing. However, surprising results from a recent small study found that applying an antibiotic ointment on skin wounds actually slows down healing.

The John Hopkins Univ. School of Medicine researchers found that our skin microbes (microbiome), including bacteria thought of as pathogenic, are involved in skin wound healing. The skin wound healing was faster in both humans and mice when antibiotic ointments were not applied.

Their recommendation: “...perhaps people may need to reconsider their use of these products (antibiotic ointments)". Of course more research needs to be done to see if the results from the small study (six adults) hold up. Perhaps a good approach would be to let small skin wounds heal on their own, and only apply an antibiotic ointment if the wound looks infected.

From Medical Xpress: Study examines why skin lacerations may be slow to heal, even with topical antibiotics

When you get a cut, scrape or other minor skin laceration, doctors recommend that you take measures to ensure that the wound doesn't get infected and heals properly. Many people opt to use over-the-counter medications, such as topical antibiotic ointments and liquids, to aid the repair process—and as commonly believed, promote healthy skin healing.  ...continue reading "Small Skin wounds May Heal Faster Without the Use of an Antibiotic Cream"

Once again a study finds that taking supplements can be problematic. This time it's fish oil supplements for heart health. Researchers found that taking routine daily fish oil supplements was linked to an increased risk of atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm disorder. Atrial fibrillation is linked to higher risk of stroke and death.

The international research team analyzed five studies in which people with high blood lipids (elevated plasma triglycerides) took fish oil supplements hoping that it would improve their heart health. The studies were well done, with people randomly assigned to different groups But the results turned out that instead of helping, fish oil supplements appeared to cause a problem - increased risk of atrial fibrillation.

What to do for heart health? Focus on eating a healthy diet with lots of "real" foods, similar to a Mediterranean diet. That is, a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes (beans), seeds, nuts, and fish. Avoid fast foods and highly processed foods. Get exercise (at least 2 1/2 hours per week - brisk walks count), and try to lose weight if overweight.

From Science Daily: Fish oil supplements and heart rhythm disorder: New analysis

Omega-3 supplements are associated with an increased likelihood of developing atrial fibrillation in people with high blood lipids. That's the finding of a study published today in European Heart Journal -- Cardiovascular Pharmacotherapy, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).  ...continue reading "Fish oil Supplements and Increased Risk of Atrial Fibrillation"

Eating mushrooms has always been considered part of a healthy diet. A group of researchers, after reviewing many studies, concluded that eating mushrooms frequently is associated with a lower risk of cancer, especially breast cancer. Thus consuming mushrooms may be protective against cancer.

The Penn State College of Medicine researchers reviewed 17 studies (from 1966 to Oct 2020), all of them observational, so it doesn't prove that mushrooms are protective, but it looks promising... They think the beneficial effect is from the ergothioneine in mushrooms, an antioxidant and cellular protector, and found in a variety of mushrooms.

In 2020 the same group also published similar/almost the same review of 17 studies from 1966 to 2019. At the time they stated that the mushroom-cancer association was only observed in studies from non-western regions. Perhaps mushrooms were a bigger part of the diet in those cultures? They also said when looking at the dose and response, can see that  a "10/gram per day increase in mushroom intake was associated with a 17% lower risk of cancer", especially breast cancer.

From Medical Xpress: Higher mushroom consumption is associated with a lower risk of cancer

Next time you make a salad, you might want to consider adding mushrooms to it. That's because higher mushroom consumption is associated with a lower risk of cancer, according to a new Penn State study, published on March 16 in Advances in Nutrition.  ...continue reading "Eating Mushrooms Associated With A Lower Risk of Cancer"

Earth. Credit: Wikipedia

Today is Earth Day, a good day to reflect on the state of the Earth. Our home. Think about the tremendous amount of air pollution in the air we breathe, of which two pollutants of concern are ozone and fine particulate matter.

The American Lung Association released its annual State of the Air 2021 report. Unfortunately, it reports that more than 40% of American (over 135 million people) are living in places with unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution.

Air pollution has all sorts of negative health effects (e.g. effects on brain, heart disease, premature death) The report also points out that the burden of living with the unhealthiest air is not shared equally by everyone. A report finding: “People of color are over three times more likely to be breathing the most polluted air than white people.”

On the other hand, things would be even worse without the fifty year old Clean Air Act (passed in 1970, signed into law by President Nixon). The air quality data used in the report is collected at official monitoring sites across the United States by the federal, state, local and tribal governments. Note that wildfires added to levels of air pollution. It's not just industry, power plants, and vehicles.

Which cities in the US have the worst forms of air pollution? Los Angeles remains the city with the worst ozone pollution in the nation. Fairbanks, Alaska is currently the metropolitan area with the worst short-term particle pollution for the first time. And Bakersfield, California returned as the most polluted for year-round particle pollution (for a second year in a row).

Are you wondering about the ozone and particle pollution in X, Y, or Z locations? Go check out the report. Just keep in mind that it is NOT looking at specific chemical emissions in the air, but only 2 things: ozone and fine particulates.

Short summary, from The Hill: Shocking new study finds 4 out of every 10 Americans live in areas with unhealthy air pollution

Easy to read, with lots of links. From the American Lung Association: State of the Air 2021

The report's 25 most polluted cities for ozone and particulate matter: Most Polluted Places to Live

Human lungs Credit: Wikipedia

We have millions of all sorts of microbes living throughout our respiratory tract (nose, sinuses, mouth, lungs, etc.). A recent study looked at the microbes in the lungs and found that fungi normally live in healthy lungs, including fungi that are usually thought of as harmful. Surprisingly, the fungi found in lungs of people with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) are basically similar to those in healthy people.

The fungi living in different parts of the body is the mycobiome. The lung (pulmonary) microbiome is unique, meaning it is different than in other parts of the respiratory tract, such as the mouth. It used to be thought that the lungs were sterile (unless there was an infection). But now we know that is not true - we normally have fungi, bacteria, and viruses living in our lungs.

University of Bergen researchers analyzed both the oral (mouth) mycobiome and lung mycobiome of 93 persons with COPD and 100 healthy persons (the control group). Surprisingly, both the oral and lung mycobiomes of both healthy and COPD groups were dominated by Candida fungi, with more Candida in the mouth, than in the lungs for both groups. Finding that Candida resides in the lungs of heathy individuals was surprising because it can be a "fungal pathogen" (thus harmful and invasive) in different parts of the body.

One piece of good news - using inhaled steroids didn't seem to affect the lung mycobiome.

Keep in mind that fungi are all around us, both indoors and outdoors, and we are constantly breathing in fungal spores. Our bodies have evolved to handle normal amounts just fine. As the researchers wrote: "Healthy airways possess effective removal of such spores". It's when a person is immunocompromised or has COPD that problems can develop.

From Medical Xpress: Fungi are present in your lungs

The lungs were for a long time considered to be sterile in health, while in diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) failure in immune mechanisms were thought to allow microorganisms to proliferate and persist. New sequencing techniques have shown that several microorganisms reside in the lungs of healthy individuals, as well. Few studies have examined the fungal community in COPD and compared it to healthy controls using such techniques. ...continue reading "Fungi Are Living In Your Lungs"