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Every month there is more evidence of the importance of the human microbiome or microbiota - the community of microbes that live in and on us. Trillions of microbes! When we eat food, we eat all the microbes that are in the food, and this has effects on the microbes living in the gut (intestines).

How many microbes do we eat daily? An interesting study was published in 2014 that tried to answer this question. The researchers found that the average American adult ingests between 1 million to over 1 billion microbes every day! It depended on food choices.

Another study just published looked at more than 9000 foods in the US health and dietary database (from 74,466 persons). The researchers estimated the number of live microbes present in all the foods. From that they estimated that the intakes of foods with live microbes were pretty low (about 85 grams/day for children and 127 grams/day for adults). Their results were similar to the earlier 2014 study mentioned above.

They found that around 20% of children and 26% of adults consumed foods with high levels of live microorganisms in their diet. Also, American children and adults have steadily increased their consumption of foods with live microbes over an 18 year period of time - but it still didn't meet guidelines.

The researchers found that fruits, vegetables, and fermented dairy foods were the main sources of microbes, as well as 3 important nutrients which Americans generally do not get enough of: calcium, fiber, and potassium. They also mention that fruits and vegetables have more diverse microbes than fermented dairy foods (yogurts have mainly lactic acid bacteria).

Bottom line: Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and live fermented foods (e.g., yogurt, kefir, fermented pickles, and kimchi) are good ways to increase the number and variety of microbes in your diet. This study did not mention organic foods, but some studies have found more beneficial bacteria in organic produce (e.g., apples).

From Medical Xpress: Quantifying the live microbes on your plate

Many have hypothesized that bacteria and other "friendly" live microorganisms consumed through the diet can play an important role in health. Reduction in dietary microbe consumption has likely contributed to an "impoverished" gut microbiota, which may lead to improper immune system development and an increase in chronic diseases, among other negative health outcomes. ...continue reading "The Foods We Eat Contain Live Microbes"

Credit: Wikipedia

Athletes, exercise enthusiasts, trainers, and coaches have long supported the use of compression garments (compression workout clothes) during exercise, feeling that it helps recovery after the exercise. Stores market and sell such garments, and exercise bloggers promote their use.

Compression garments are form-fitted elastic garments that compress the body and muscles. However, their use has been "controversial" , with most studies not finding a beneficial effect on "immediate or performance recovery, or on delayed onset of muscle soreness".

A recent Japanese review and analysis of studies (published in Sports Medicine) had a similar finding: "Compression garments during or after training does not seem to facilitate the recovery of muscle strength following physical exercise. Practitioners, athletes, coaches, and trainers should reconsider the use of compression garments as a tool to reduce the effects of physical exercise on muscle strength."

From Science Daily: Do compression garments facilitate muscle recovery after exercise?

Compression garments are an elastic cloth fitting that people wear on their arms, legs, or hips during or after physical exercise. Their use has gained popularity over the last few decades because they are thought to enhance muscle recovery following exercise. ...continue reading "Compression Garments Not Needed During Exercise"

There has been much concern with the persistence and lack of good treatments for persons with long COVID. This is when symptoms persist long-term (for months or years!) after the initial COVID-19 infection, even if the infection seemed pretty mild at the time. The symptoms can be quite severe, even with multiorgan effects, and result in disability.

This is why the possibility of those with long COVID getting the COVID vaccine and showing quick improvement in their symptoms is great news. However, there is debate over how many people with long COVID are actually helped - a review of studies looking at this suggest under 20%. However, the good news is that most people with long COVID slowly improve over time, even without any post COVID vaccines.

Please note: Vaccines reduce the chance of developing long COVID by about half among people who are vaccinated before they develop covid-19.

Excerpts from Medical Xpress: Vaccines may lessen long COVID for some, but more study is needed

Vaccination after infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, is associated with a decrease in the likelihood of long COVID symptoms, finds a large study of U.K. adults published today by the BMJ . ...continue reading "Vaccines May Help With Long COVID"

Blueberries. Credit: Wikipedia

We have known for a while that frequently eating berries has health benefits. A recent study found that overweight middle-aged persons eating blueberries daily for 12 weeks resulted in both metabolic and memory improvements.

The researchers stated that the results suggest that frequently eating blueberries could be protective against cognitive decline and lower the risk of dementia later on in life.

The study involved thirty-three overweight prediabetic middle-aged adults who already felt that their memory was not as good as in years past. They were randomly assigned to either the blueberry (whole freeze-dried blueberry powder) group or the placebo group (a similar looking powder that did not contain blueberries). The blueberry powder was equivalent to 1/2 cup whole blueberries and was eaten once a day for 12 weeks. The benefits of blueberries are thought to be from micronutrients and anthocyanins, which are antioxidants.

By the way, all berries (raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, etc.) are slightly different in micronutrients and are viewed as beneficial to health and lowering the risk of chronic diseases, including the risk of dementia. As are colorful fruits and vegetables. Don't focus on just one type of berry - eat them all!

From Medical Xpress: Regular blueberry consumption may reduce risk of dementia, study finds

Researchers led by UC's Robert Krikorian, Ph.D., found that adding blueberries to the daily diets of certain middle-aged populations may lower the chances of developing late-life dementia. ...continue reading "Eating Blueberries Has Health Benefits"

Any moment now there will be officially 1 million deaths from COVID-19 in the United States. A horrible, horrible number. And while the majority of COVID-19 deaths has been in the elderly, nearly 250,000 has been in persons younger than 65, and around 61,000 of these deaths were in people under the age of 50.

COVID-19 was the leading cause of death among US adults between the ages of 45 to 54 years - 30,361 deaths in 2021! (The  data still isn't in for the last 2 months) More than cancer, heart disease, accidents, etc. Yikes!

There were half a million deaths before the vaccines, and since vaccines - another half a million deaths, primarily in those who were unvaccinated. Actually, it is generally accepted that the number of actual COVID-19 deaths is higher than a million - these are just the known deaths.

Bottom line: Get vaccinated and boosted!

Excerpts from Dr. Jeremy Faust's article at Inside Bulletin, authored by Dr. Jeremy Faust: The million US Covid dead are younger than you think.

One million people have now died of Covid-19 in the United States. As awful as this milestone is on its own terms, it is more painful because so many deaths were preventable. And more of these deaths occurred in younger people than is commonly realized.  ...continue reading "One Million Deaths And Counting"

The usual medical advice to take non-prescription anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g., Advil, Aleve, aspirin) or steroids for pain and inflammation from an injury may actually backfire down the line. A recent study found that blocking inflammation from an injury actually causes an increase in pain and inflammation 3 months later (may become chronic pain), and which is harder to treat.

The McGill University researchers found that drugs that inhibit inflammation interfere with the natural recovery process, thus increasing the odds for chronic pain.  They found that neutrophils (a type of white blood cell that helps the body fight infection) play a key role in resolving pain.

"Neutrophils dominate the early stages of inflammation and set the stage for repair of tissue damage. Inflammation occurs for a reason, and it looks like it's dangerous to interfere with it," said Professor Mogil, one of the researchers.

The researchers looked at lower back pain and temporomandibular disorder (TMD) and found that the results appeared to hold for both mice and humans.

Bottom line: After an injury such as lower back pain, non-prescription medicines that only block pain are OK to take, for example, Tylenol (Acetaminophen) . It's the anti-inflammatory medicines that could lead to persistent (chronic) pain three months later. View inflammation as part of the healing process - don't want to interfere with that.

Excerpts from Medical Xpress: Discovery reveals blocking inflammation may lead to chronic pain

Using anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids to relieve pain could increase the chances of developing chronic pain, according to researchers from McGill University and colleagues in Italy. Their research puts into question conventional practices used to alleviate pain. Normal recovery from a painful injury involves inflammation and blocking that inflammation with drugs could lead to harder-to-treat pain. ...continue reading "Blocking Inflammation After An Injury Can Result In Persistent Pain"

Waterproof jacket Credit: Wikipedia

Uh-oh... A recent study found that even if a water- or stain-resistant children's product is labeled as "green" and "non-toxic", that label may be false. Silent Spring Institute researchers found that odds are good that the product contains persistent harmful PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). Precisely the opposite of what the "green" or "non-toxic" label promises.

PFAS are a group of toxic chemicals used in many consumer and industrial products. They are known to be endocrine (hormone) disruptors, and exposure to these chemicals has been linked to health problems such as certain types of cancer, reproductive harm (e.g., poorer semen quality), and birth defects, lowered sex and growth hormones in children, thyroid disease, immune effects, and liver and kidney damage.

Almost all of us have PFAS in our bodies (at varying levels). It's very hard to avoid them totally, but you should try to minimize exposure. They are found in a variety of consumer products such as firefighting foam, non-stick cookware, cosmetics, and materials that protect against grease, oil, and water (e.g., stain-resistant carpeting and fabrics, food packaging, and water-repellent clothing).

What can you do? If possible, avoid products that are water and stain proof or leak-proof, especially if children will be using the product. (For ex., can look for physical barriers instead of a chemical coating). Also, avoid products labeled with a trademark for water or stain resistance. PFAS don't have to be mentioned on labels, so it's buyer beware.

From Environmental Health News: “Green” children's products not always PFAS-free, warns new study

PFAS are finding their way into “green” and “nontoxic” products, especially waterproof products marketed toward children and adolescents, according to new research.

The researchers tested 93 items marketed to or often used by children and adolescents, including clothing, face masks, mattress protectors, rugs, sheets, and upholstery. They detected fluorine, a PFAS indicator, in 54 of the 93 products. The 54 products shown to contain fluorine were then tested for specific PFAS chemicals. ...continue reading "Waterproof “Green” Children’s Products May Contain Harmful PFAS"

Many studies show that antibiotics disrupt the gut microbiome (intestinal microbial community of bacteria, viruses, fungi) in adults, but what about infants? A recent study found alterations in the gut microbes of young babies from a single course of antibiotics, with an increase in fungal species. And 6 weeks later the gut microbial community still wasn't back to normal. Yikes.

Antibiotics can be life-saving, but they must be used carefully - only when needed. As research shows, when some microbes are killed off by antibiotics, then other microbes (e.g. fungi such as Candida) that are resistant to the antibiotics increase (multiply) and move into the vacated spaces. There are no empty spaces in the gut.

Babies normally have a variety of fungal species in the gut already at a very young age - and this community of fungi is called the gut mycobiota or mycobiome. The Univ. of Helsinki researchers concluded that normally bacteria control fungi numbers in the gut - there is balance of all sorts of microbes (bacteria, viruses, fungi). But if you kill off bacteria (with antibiotics), then fungi numbers increase - an example of an imbalance in the gut microbial community or dysbiosis.

From Science Daily: A single course of antibiotics affects the gut microbiota of infants

A study recently completed at the University of Helsinki revealed that the fungal microbiota in the gut is more abundant and diverse in children treated with antibiotics compared with the control group even six weeks following the start of the antibiotic course. In light of the findings, a reduction in the number of gut bacteria as a result of antibiotic therapy reduces competition for space and leaves more room for fungi to multiply. ...continue reading "Antibiotics Alter Gut Microbes In Young Infants"

For years people have searched for ways to prevent cancer, which occurs significantly more with age. A recent study conducted in 5 European countries offers hope that some simple steps could reduce the incidence of invasive cancer up to 61 % in older adults (over 70 years of age).

The 3 year long study tested individual and combinations of vitamin D3, marine omega-3, and a simple home strength exercise program and found that the combination of all 3 (vitamin D3 + marine omega-3 supplements + exercise) reduced the incidence of invasive cancer by 61 percent. In other words, it prevented cancer.

What they took: Persons in the double-blind (no one knew who was in what group) study were randomly assigned to one of 8 groups with the intervention alone or combined: daily supplements of 2000 IU of vitamin D3, and/or daily 1 g of marine omega-3s, and/or a simple home strength exercise program compared to a placebo/control group. NOTE: The marine omega-3s supplements used were algae-based (EPA + DHA ratio: 1:2), and not fish oil.

Even though there were over 2000 participants in the study, the numbers were too low to see if there were effects on certain types of cancers. Can only say there was a reduction in invasive cancers when all 3 interventions were combined. Looking at the study report, it is unclear how frequently and how many of the home-strengthening exercises were done each week.

Other studies: As the researchers note - other studies have had mixed results on vitamin D3 and omega-3 supplements, which are typically fish oil. A major review in 2020 of 27 studies using fish oil supplements (for a total of 113,557 participants) found little or no benefit regarding cancer or cancer death, and a 2021 review of 5 studies found increased risk of atrial fibrillation. So once again, we'll see... Three years (the length of this study) is a short time regarding cancer.

Bottom line: While vitamin D3 and fish oil supplements are being debated over their health effects, all studies find health benefits from exercise and eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, some fish, and olive oil. Also, vitamin D3 is superior to vitamin D2, and that taking it daily is better than a mega-dose occasionally (e.g., once a month). Getting some sunlight (vitamin D) is also recommended.

From Medical Xpress: A combination of three simple treatments may reduce invasive cancer risk by 61% among adults aged 70+

A new study published in Frontiers in Aging found that a combination of high-dose vitamin D, omega-3s, and a simple home strength exercise program (SHEP) showed a cumulative reduction by 61% in cancer risk in healthy adults aged 70 or older.  ...continue reading "Study Suggests Simple Steps To Reduce Cancer Risk In Older Adults"

Plastic bags Credit: Wikimedia Commons

This is a good time to reflect on the state of the Earth. One huge problem is the amount of plastic garbage being generated every year, including single use plastic bags. This has led to the problem of plastics and tiny plastic particles (from plastics degrading) now found everywhere in the environment - including the air, water, our food, and in us. Microplastics are even in our lungs and blood

Some facts to consider:

  1. Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year, which require 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture.3
  2. Americans use an average of 365 plastic bags per person per year. People in Denmark use an average of four plastic bags per year.4
  3. It only takes about 14 plastic bags for the equivalent of the gas required to drive one mile. [Full list from Center for Biological Diversity]

It turns out that just twenty companies are the source of more than 50% of single use plastic items (bottles, bags, food packages) that are thrown away. Globally.  Number 1 is ExxonMobil, and Dow is number 3. The full list of companies is published by the Plastic Waste Makers Index.

The list is of the top 100 companies in the plastic supply chain. They manufacture polymers - known as the building block of plastics. These 100 companies are responsible for over 90% of single-use plastics generated globally. Single-use plastics are made almost exclusively from fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas).

The future: More states are passing single-use plastic bag bans, which apply to grocery stores (e.g., California, NY, NJ). Expect to see this policy spread to other states. Expect bans to eventually occur globally.

From CNBC.com, originally published May, 2021: Just 20 companies are responsible for over half of ‘throwaway’ plastic waste, study says

KEY POINTS :

...continue reading "Are Particles of Single Use Plastic Bags In Your Body?"