Skip to content

Whether a developing baby (the fetus) has a microbiome or whether it is sterile during pregnancy and only gets "seeded" by microbes from the mother during birth is still being hotly debated. For years it was thought that the fetus and placenta were sterile (no microbes), but then several studies said there is evidence for the fetus and placenta having a microbiome (community of microbes).

Recently an international group of researchers stated that NO, there is no fetal microbiome. They reviewed current evidence, and according to their opinion - a healthy fetus is sterile. Instead, they suggest that the  microbes some researchers found were due to contamination when the samples were taken or during analysis.

We'll see how this all develops. Science is always evolving, with new findings, and lots of debate and controversy.

From Medical Xpress: Expert analysis refutes claims that humans are colonized by bacteria before birth

Scientific claims that babies harbor live bacteria while still in the womb are inaccurate, and may have impeded research progress, according to University College Cork (UCC) researchers at APC Microbiome Ireland, a world-leading Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Center, which led a perspective published today in the journal Nature. ...continue reading "Group of Researchers Claim That the Fetus Does Not Have A Microbiome"

Another study was just published with results that may motivate us to go outside more. A small study with college students found that taking a walk outside in nature results in more mental health benefits (improved brain functioning) than taking the same length walk inside.

The walks were short - only 15 minutes long, and yet there were differences in health benefits. This was seen in the brain EEGs done during tasks before and after the walks. One health result which benefited more from outdoor walks is in how the brain functions, which the researchers call cognitive function.

Keep in mind: All exercise has health benefits, including for the brain - whether the exercise/physical activity is done indoors or outdoors. Exercise or physical activity is always better than no exercise or physical activity.

Other studies also show that exercising outdoors in natural environments produces more benefits to the brain than exercising indoors. Outdoor exercise enhances "executive functions" of the brain (such as attention, memory, and control of inhibitions) more than indoor exercise.

Bottom line: Get out and take a walk, even if only for a brief time. It's good for you!

From Medical Xpress: Going for a walk outside found to have more mental health benefits than walking indoors

A team of researchers at the University of Victoria, working with a colleague from York University, both in Canada, has found that going for a short walk outdoors provides people with more mental health benefits than going for a same-length walk inside. In their study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, the group asked volunteers to walk indoors or outdoors and tested them before and after their walk. ...continue reading "Outside Walks May Have More Brain Health Benefits Than Inside Walks"

Some study results seem totally obvious, leading one to say; "well, duh...". One such recent study found that listening to music during times of stress can lead to lowering of stress and an improved mood. Of course it does!

The study was done during the recent COVID-19 lockdowns in the spring of 2020 in Austria and Italy with 711 young(er) adults - median age 27 years.

The Univ. of Vienna researchers found that happy or uplifting music was especially good in lowering stress and improving the mood. Also, people reported feeling more awake and energized after listening to more energizing music than was usual for them. The opposite was reported after listening to calming music.

Betcha many (most?) of us have favorite songs we listen to during stressful times.

From Medical Xpress: Study shows that listening to music during stressful times can boost your mood and reduce stress

A team of researchers at the University of Vienna has found evidence showing that listening to music when stressed can boost a person's mood and help them relax. In their paper published on the JAMA Network Open site, the group describes an experiment they conducted with volunteers under stress caused by living under the rules of the lockdown during the early days of the global pandemic. ...continue reading "Study Finds Listening to Music Can Lower Stress and Improve Mood"

scale, weightThere has been a debate going on for a while about what is better for weight loss: intermittent fasting (eating only during designated time periods, without calorie counting) or actually cutting back calories. One recent study examined this issue and found that...drum roll.... the frequency of meals (and calories) a person eats every day is more important for weight loss than intermittent fasting.

Main finding: Large or moderately sized meals (no matter when eaten) were associated with weight gain over the 6 year period of the study, while eating fewer, small meals were associated with weight loss. In other words, the number of meals eaten each day and meal sizes (calories), and not their timing, was most important in determining weight gain or loss.

The results did not support intermittent fasting (time-restricted eating) as a weight loss strategy. Instead, focus on calorie intake. Bummer... You didn't think it would be easy, did you?

Excerpts from Science Daily: Reducing total calories may be more effective for weight loss than intermittent fasting

The frequency and size of meals was a stronger determinant of weight loss or gain than the time between first and last meal, according to new research published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association, an open access, peer-reviewed journal of the American Heart Association. ...continue reading "Study Finds Calorie Intake More Important Than Timing of Meals For Weight Gain or Loss"

Some research studies are funny. Really funny, as in WTF - did they actually do this? I recently read an entertaining article about one such study (done a few years ago) by six physicians who conducted the study on themselves. Each swallowed a small plastic Lego head and then checked their feces (poo!) to see how long it took to be excreted!

They found that the Lego heads actually passed through the gastrointestinal system quite rapidly and without any problems. (But one never found the Lego piece because he didn't thoroughly check!) The researchers (all pediatric health care professionals in either the UK or Australia) had wonderful descriptions of their results - using such terms as Stool Hardness and Transit (SHAT) and the Found and Retrieved Time (FART).

And yes, it actually has real life relevance. The results were reassuring because children swallow small plastic objects all the time, and the study showed they can pass through the system quickly. In this study the average was less than 2 days (1.7 days) for the Lego head to be excreted.

[NOTE: These results do not apply to children swallowing small (button & lithium coin) batteries - that is an emergency situation requiring immediate medical help!]

The writer Sabrina Imbler at the site Defector wrote an entertaining account of the researchers and their study. Excerpt from the article: An Oral History Of The Time Six Doctors Swallowed Lego Heads To See How Long They’d Take To Poo

In 2018, a question burned in the minds of six pediatric healthcare professionals: How long does it take for a small ingested object to pass through a child's digestive system? Unwilling to ask actual children to experimentally swallow a foreign object, these skilled workers volunteered their own gastrointestinal tracts for science, and published a paper detailing their experiment in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, which went viral in a way that papers published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health usually do not. ...continue reading "Six Physicians Swallowed Lego Heads Study"

Choline appears to be a neglected nutrient. It is essential for healthy brain functioning, yet researchers of a recent study say the great majority of us do not get the recommended daily intake of choline in our diet. They suggest that this could be causing harm to our health, including the brain.

They also pointed out that since eggs and meat are the best dietary source, people on restricted or vegan diets are especially at risk of a choline deficiency. It is not found in most multivitamins.

The  Arizona State Univ. researchers found that choline deficiency is involved with multiple health problems throughout the body (e.g., inflammation, insulin production, cardiovascular disease, brain function) and even Alzheimer's disease. Their study was conducted on mice, but they felt similar processes occurred in humans.

Good dietary sources of choline: eggs, meat, dairy products, poultry, and fish. Lower amounts are in nuts, beans, potatoes, and cruciferous vegetables (e.g., broccoli).

Related to all this is that one should also try to lower intake of anti-cholinergic medications, if possible. Studies find that their use is linked to cognitive decline and dementia - they block the action of the brain neurotransmitter acetylcholine (which is produced by choline).

Excerpts from Science Daily: Study explores effects of dietary choline deficiency on neurologic and system-wide health

Choline, an essential nutrient produced in small amounts in the liver and found in foods including eggs, broccoli, beans, meat and poultry, is a vital ingredient for human health. A new study explores deficiency in dietary choline adversely affects the body and may be a missing piece in the puzzle of Alzheimer's disease.  ...continue reading "The Nutrient Choline Is Necessary For Brain Health"

A very interesting study found that some chemicals found in cosmetics and hygiene products are strongly associated with preterm birth. Specifically, when these chemicals are found in a pregnant woman's vagina during the second trimester - then there is a higher risk of preterm birth.

The study identified these chemicals (DEA, ethyl glucoside, tartrate, and EDTA), but did not pinpoint the exact products they came from. They are all ingredients in hygiene and cosmetic products. Tartrate and EDTA are also used as food additives.

It is unfortunate that the researchers did not identify exactly which products the pregnant women had used/were exposed to with these chemicals. They did find that the black women in the study were exposed to more of these chemicals. When the cosmetics and hygiene products are identified, then women need to be warned to avoid them to lower their odds of a premature birth.

Note: the researchers referred to these chemicals as xenobiotics, which means "substances that are foreign to the body". Yup, they definitely are.

From Medical Xpress: Preterm birth linked to chemicals found in the vagina

Chemicals that accumulate in the vagina, potentially originating from personal care products, may contribute to spontaneous preterm birth, according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. ...continue reading "Some Cosmetic and Hygiene Product Ingredients Linked to Preterm Birth"

The results from well done studies on vitamin D supplements have frequently been disappointing due to lack of health benefits. However, a recent study found that the risk of melanoma (a skin cancer) was significantly reduced in persons taking vitamin D supplements.

The Univ. of Eastern Finland researchers also found no link between vitamin D supplementation and facial photoaging, actinic keratoses, nevus count, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

Just keep in mind that the people were not randomly selected  - these were self-selected groups, and thus this is a correlation study. There could be a reason other than vitamin D for the different outcomes.

From Science Daily: Fewer cases of melanoma among people taking vitamin D supplements

Fewer cases of melanoma were observed among regular users of vitamin D supplements than among non-users, a new study finds. People taking vitamin D supplements regularly also had a considerably lower risk of skin cancer, according to estimates by experienced dermatologists. The study, conducted in collaboration between the University of Eastern Finland and Kuopio University Hospital and published in Melanoma Research, included nearly 500 people with an increased risk of skin cancer. ...continue reading "Study Finds Vitamin D Supplements are Linked to Lower Risk of Melanoma"

Fast food Credit: Wikipedia

The results of a recent study may give extra motivation to those trying to cut back on the amount of fast food that they eat. The study found that consumption of fast food is linked to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

The researchers found moderate increases in liver fat in everyone consuming  20% or more of daily calories from fast food (about 1 meal a day). They also found that obese individuals or people with diabetes who consume 20% or more of their daily calories from fast food had severely elevated levels of fat in their liver.

We already know that fast foods are associated with a greater risk of diabetes and heart disease, and now NAFLD can be added. It is thought that NAFLD affects 30% of the U.S. population!

According to the US National Institute of Health: "Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition in which fat builds up in your liver. Nonalcoholic fatty liver (NAFL) and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) are types of NAFLD. If you have NASH, you have inflammation and liver damage, along with fat in your liver."

What to do about this abnormal build up of fat in the liver? The only treatment is changing your diet and losing weight. A healthy diet is one rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, seeds, and nuts. For example, a Mediterranean style diet.

From Science Daily: Consumption of fast food linked to liver disease

A study from Keck Medicine of USC published today in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology gives people extra motivation to reduce fast-food consumption. ...continue reading "Fast Food and Liver Disease"

Some good news for those finding it hard to find time or motivation for lengthy exercise sessions. It turns out that frequent little bursts of exercise about 1 to 2 minutes long also have tremendous health benefits, even if you spend most of the day sitting. Think of them as "exercise snacks".

An exercise or activity snack is a "brief snippet of exercise, usually lasting a minute or two, and done frequently during the day". There are studies (exercise snacking research!) finding it a good way to improve fitness, especially cardiorespiratory fitness and cardiometabolic health. The benefits of exercise snacking can be comparable to lengthier traditional workouts.

Some examples of exercise or activity snacks: walking quickly up and down a staircase, walking quickly around a room, rising and lowering 15 times from a chair, and jumping up and down. Ideally anything that'll raise your heart rate and breathing briefly. Sounds easier than going to a gym, doesn't it?

The Washington Post has a nice article about exercise snacking. Below that is an example of recent exercise snack research.

From The Washington Post - These 2-minute exercise bursts may be better than your regular workout

Here’s an easy and effective way to add physical activity to your daily routine during the new year: turn your exercise into a snack.

New research shows exercise “snacks,” which consist of brief spurts of exertion spread throughout the day, can improve metabolic health, raise endurance and stave off some of the undesirable changes in our muscles that otherwise occur when we sit too long.

...continue reading "Exercise Snacks Can Be An Easy Way To Improve Fitness"