Skip to content

A recent study gives support to eating a diet with real unprocessed foods and avoiding foods with additives as much as possible. The study found that the commonly used food additive known as xanthan gum (E415 in Europe) can cause disruptions to our gut microbiome.

The gut microbiome or microbiota is the community of microbes living in our intestines, and which are critical to good health. The international team of researchers found that the gut microbes changed when exposed to the additive, so as to be able to digest the xanthan gum.

Xanthan gum is used as a thickener or stabilizer in many foods, including ice cream, sweets, chocolate milk, baked goods, ready-made sauces and dressings. [Note: If present, it is listed in the ingredients on food labels.]

Bottom line: Rather than being harmless and not having any effects, food additives may have effects on or disrupt our gut microbes. Food additive effects may be minimal or can actually cause harm. For example, some emulsifiers (e.g., soy lecithin, carrageenan, polysorbate-80) can promote gut inflammation and alter the gut microbiome in a negative or harmful way

From Medical Xpress: Widely used food additive affects the human gut microbiota

Have you heard about the food additive E415? It is also known as xanthan gum. Most likely, you eat it several times a week. Xanthan gum is used in everyday foods such as baked goods, ice cream and salad dressings. The additive is also widely used as a substitute for gluten in gluten-free foods.  ...continue reading "Some Food Additives May Alter Our Gut Microbes"

Some good news. A recent large study found that a healthy diet rich in plant-based foods can lower your risk of getting type 2 diabetes.

Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that a healthy diet rich in plant-based foods (fruits, vegetable, legumes, nuts, whole grains, coffee) resulted in plasma metabolite profiles that were associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

In other words, differences in the chemical make-up of foods means that what a person eats is reflected in their metabolite profile. The 200+ plasma metabolites include lipids, cholesterol, glycerides, phospholipids, fatty acids, inflammation, amino acids, and these give a metabolic profile.

Bottom line: A diet rich in plant-based foods is good for your health in many  ways, including lowering your risk of type 2 diabetes. One such example of a good way to eat (dietary pattern) is a Mediterranean style diet (rich in whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish, and olive oil).

From Medical Xpress: New study reveals that healthy plant-based diets are associated with a lower risk of developing diabetes

New research published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes [EASD]) finds that the consumption of healthy plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, coffee, and legumes, is associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D) in generally healthy people and support their role in diabetes prevention.

...continue reading "Plant-based Diets and Lower Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes"

A large recent study found that commonly used erectile dysfunction drugs (e.g. Viagra, Cialis, Levitra, and Stendra) are associated with an increased risk for 3 types of vision problems: serious retinal detachment (SRD), retinal vascular occlusion (RVO), and ischemic optic neuropathy (ION).

Keep in mind that these are rare vison problems and the risk of developing these problems was elevated in regular users of erectile dysfunction (ED) medications. These ED drugs are phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors (PDE5Is). Those who developed these eye problems were also more likely to have hypertension, diabetes, coronary artery disease, and sleep apnea.

Bottom line: Regular users of erectile dysfunction medications should contact their eye care provider if they develop unusual eye symptoms.

From Medical Xpress: US insurance claims show strong link between erectile dysfunction medications and vision problems

The risk of developing one of three serious eye conditions increases by 85 percent for regular users of common erectile dysfunction (ED) medications such as Viagra, Cialis, Levitra and Stendra, new UBC research has found.

Two of the three conditions had previously been linked to ED medications only by anecdotal case studies. Those links are now confirmed for the first time by a large, epidemiological study, published today in JAMA Ophthalmology.  ...continue reading "Erectile Dysfunction Medications and Increased Risk of Some Eye Problems"

Human lungs. Credit: Wikipedia

More news about microplastics (tiny plastic particles) and where they are showing up in humans. Yesterday's post was about microplastics showing up in human blood, and today's post is about a study finding microplastics deep in the lungs of living people.

Yes, not only do we ingest microplastics in our food and water (especially from water bottles), but we also inhale microplastics in the air. This is worrisome because microplastics accumulate in the body, and at this point long term effects are unknown.

Our bodies are not filtering and getting rid of many of the plastic microparticles that we ingest or breathe in (yes, some also get excreted in our feces). No one thinks this is good, and some early study results are showing harm. Some concerns include inflammation, increased risk of cancer, alterations of the microbiome, endocrine disrupting effects from the chemicals in the microplastics.

The 13 people in the study were undergoing surgery (that's a good time to take samples of lung tissue) in the UK. Samples from 11 people found microplastics, with the most common being polypropylene (in plastic packaging and pipes) and PET (in bottles). The images of microparticles in the lung tissue samples are actually horrifying because it is clear they do not belong there!

By the way, some earlier studies also found microplastics in human lungs. Microplastics are a result of plastic breaking down or shedding tiny particles.

Excerpts from The Guardian: Microplastics found deep in lungs of living people for first time

Microplastic pollution has been discovered lodged deep in the lungs of living people for the first time. The particles were found in almost all the samples analysed.  ...continue reading "Microplastics Found Deep In the Lungs of People"

Tiny particles of plastic, called microplastics, have now been detected in human blood. Yikes! We all know that plastic pollution is a serious problem in the environment, but recent research has been finding it in our food, in the air, in water, in rain, our organs (including our lungs and brain), human placentas, and now in our blood.

The most widely found microplastic particles in the blood were polyethylene terephthalate (PET) (commonly used in disposable water bottles), and polystyrene (PS), which is used for food packaging and polystyrene foam.

The big question is: What are microplastics doing to us, if anything?

The first studies are finding that microplastics are causing inflammation and damage to cells (not good), and are building up in us, but we don't really know much at all. Will it increase the risk of cancer? Scientists are also concerned over the chemicals in the microplastics. For example, if there are endocrine disrupting chemicals in the microplastics, then what effect (if any) are they having on us?

But... plastic production is increasing every year, so we can expect to be exposed to more plastic over time, which means more will get into us and the environment. And the particles will build up.

You may wonder why there are so many little plastic particles out there - it's because plastic breaks apart over time. Even when we do laundry - there are little plastic particles released into the drain water from synthetic fabrics. When we drink from plastic water bottles, little plastic particles released from the bottles are ingested by us. And yes, water bottles are a big source of microplastics ingested by us - up to an additional 90,000 microplastics per year!

Bottom line: try to cut back on your use of plastic, which means buying less of plastic goods - for example, in beverage containers (opt for glass bottles instead), in furniture and toys, in our homes (wood or tile instead of vinyl as much as possible). Avoid drinking from plastic water bottles.

From Smithsonian: Microplastics Detected in Human Blood in New Study

Microplastics, or tiny plastic particles, are ubiquitous pollutants found almost everywhere on earth. Scientists have detected microplastics near the peak of Mount Everest, in the Mariana Trench and even in baby poop. But researchers have now found a new vessel for microplastics: human blood. ...continue reading "Microplastics Are Found In Human Blood"

While very popular in many foods and beverages, some artificial sweeteners may increase the risk of developing cancer. The results of a large study found that ingesting some artificial sweeteners (especially aspartame and acesulfame-K) are associated with an increased risk of cancer.

The study, conducted in France, followed more than 102,000 adults for an average of 8 years. The researchers found an increased risk overall of cancer, as well as breast cancer and obesity related cancers, in people who reported intake of artificial sweeteners (as compared to people who did not consume artificial sweeteners). The breast cancer and obesity related cancer risk was linked to aspartame use.

By the way, some other studies, including animal studies and in vitro studies, have suggested that artificial sweeteners, especially aspartame, have a role in cancer development, as well as other health issues and changes in the gut microbiome.

Excerpts from Science Daily: Study suggests association between consuming artificial sweeteners and increased cancer risk

Artificial sweeteners reduce added sugar content and corresponding calories while maintaining sweetness. A study publishing March 24 in PLOS Medicine by Charlotte Debras and Mathilde Touvier at the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research (Inserm) and Sorbonne Paris Nord University, France and colleagues suggests that some artificial sweeteners are associated with increased cancer risk. ...continue reading "Artificial Sweeteners Linked to Increased Risk of Cancer"

Pregnancy should last 9 months, but sometimes it doesn't. With medical advances some babies born as early as 22 or 23 weeks can now survive. Truly miraculous! But how are these extremely preterm babies doing long-term?

A University of Gothenburg study examined this issue by following up on all 383 Swedish children born before 24 weeks (most at 23 weeks) between 2007 to 2018 and who survived. At follow-up the children were between 2 to 13 years of age. The researchers found that almost all of the children had serious long-term problems, whether health or developmental problems.

75% of children born before 24 weeks of gestation had neurodevelopmental disorders, including intellectual disabilities (40%), autism (24%), and 55% required habilitation services. 88% of the group had other physical problems - for example, 63% had asthma and 39% failed to thrive and/or were short for their age. Boys were more likely to have intellectual disabilities and visual impairment than girls.

Looking at the results in the study (see Table 1), it is clear that babies born at 23 weeks had significantly fewer serious problems than at 22 weeks. Every extra week is important!

From Science Daily: Wide-ranging problems in children born before 24 weeks gestation

In a study of children born after a pregnancy of less than 24 weeks, nearly all (96 percent) proved to have any of the diagnoses studied. According to the study, lead from the University of Gothenburg, neuropsychiatric and somatic diagnoses are prevalent as these extremely preterm infants grow into adulthood. ...continue reading "Babies Born Much Too Early May Have Long-term Problems"

Parents of babies overwhelmingly want to do the right thing for their babies. When formula makers make medical claims about the formulas they sell - parents believe them. For years companies such as Danone and Nestle marketed certain formulas as reducing milk allergies and eczema in babies. But the claims were (are) not true!

A recent British Medical Journal article reported how the science behind those marketing claims has been fraudulent or flawed. Scientific evidence does not support the allergy and eczema claims regarding formula milk called hydrolysed formula.

The article said that over time formula makers were forced to stop marketing them as preventing or reducing allergies in the US, Canada, and Europe, but... they still continue to make the baseless claims elsewhere, such as China and Russia. There consumers are still being persuaded to buy expensive formulas that have little evidence of benefits for healthy infants. It's all about $$$. [Note: still find these false claims if you do an internet search on hydrolysed formula]

By the way, scientific research shows living with furry pets (e.g., dogs and cats)  in the first year of life reduces allergy development. And research supports babies eating foods that could cause allergies (e.g., peanuts, eggs, dairy) to reduce the risk of food allergies. Again in the first year - to train the immune system.

From Medical Xpress: Formula milk companies continue to push allergy products despite flawed evidence

Many countries, including the UK, have toughened their approach to formula milk products that claim to reduce allergy risks. But elsewhere, consumers are still being persuaded to buy products that make health claims without high quality evidence, reports journalist Melanie Newman in The BMJ today. ...continue reading "Formula Companies Are Still Making Claims They Shouldn’t"

There is a growing concern about what everyday exposures to phthalates in consumer products is doing to our health. For example, they're in plastic toys, plastic food containers, personal care products, and vinyl floors. The biggest concern is what these chemicals are doing to the most vulnerable among us - developing babies during pregnancy (gestational exposure), and children (childhood exposure).

A newly published study finds a link between phthalate exposure during childhood (but not pregnancy) and higher risk of specific childhood cancers. Childhood phthalate exposure was linked to a 20% increase in childhood cancers, specifically osteosarcoma (a bone cancer) and lymphoma. The study followed 1,278,685 live births in Denmark for years.

While phthalates are in many consumer products (they make plastics soft or increase durability and consistency), they are in especially high levels in certain medications. Phthalates disrupt normal endocrine signaling and are associated with reproductive problems (e.g. negative effects on sperm, miscarriages), effects on thyroid function, and an increase in some cancers.

Studies like this show that we need to move away from phthalates in consumer products. The list of phthalate health harms is increasing annually.

From Science Daily: Exposure to phthalates -- the 'everywhere chemical' -- may increase children's cancer risk

In a first-of-its-kind study, research from the University of Vermont Cancer Center has linked phthalates, commonly called the "everywhere chemical," to higher incidence of specific childhood cancers.  ...continue reading "Childhood Exposure to Phthalates in Medications and Cancer"