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Evidence is building that caffeine should be avoided during pregnancy because it harms the developing baby. A recent study found when caffeine (coffee!) is consumed during pregnancy, then structural changes occur in the brain of the developing baby. These changes can be seen years later in brain scans, and these appear to result in behavioral changes in the children. The minimal, but noticeable behavioral changes were behavioral issues, attention difficulties, and hyperactivity.

The Univ. of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry researchers  found subtle changes in brain pathways ("alteration of the microstructure of critical fiber tracts") between brain regions that could be seen in the children at age 9 to 10 years. They analyzed brain scans (from MRIs) of 9157 children, of which 4,135 had mothers that reported consuming caffeine more than once a week.

Other studies find that health problems associated with caffeine (coffee) intake during pregnancy are miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight and/or small for gestational age, and childhood leukemia. There is a dose-response effect - the more caffeine is ingested, the more negative health effects.

Other human studies looking at this issue are observational, but negative health effects are supported by animal research going back more than four decades. Caffeine crosses the placenta and goes to the baby. Negative health effects occur because the fetus can not clear the caffeine well because it lacks an enzyme that metabolizes caffeine.

Unfortunately, medical guidelines in both the US and Europe are that moderate (up to 200 mg) ingestion of caffeine during pregnancy is OK, which means about 2 cups of regular coffee a day. Since studies show it's not OK, it's time to revise the guidelines!

From Science Daily: Brain changed by caffeine in utero

New research finds caffeine consumed during pregnancy can change important brain pathways that could lead to behavioral problems later in life. Researchers in the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) analyzed thousands of brain scans of nine and ten-year-olds, and revealed changes in the brain structure in children who were exposed to caffeine in utero.  ...continue reading "Avoid Caffeine During Pregnancy"

Breastfeeding
Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ Anton Nosik

For years it has been known that breast milk transfers hundreds of microbial species to the baby -  which is very important and beneficial for the baby's microbiome (community of fungi, viruses, bacteria, and other microbes) and health. A recent study found that the bacteria in breast milk varies over time, which is a good reason to breastfeed for at least 6 months - the baby ingests all these beneficial species in the breast milk.

Breast milk samples were collected from 76 breastfeeding (lactating) mothers living in 8 villages in the remote Western Highlands of Guatemala during "early lactation" (6–46 days postpartum) or after months of breastfeeding or "late lactation" (109 to184 days postpartum). Modern technologies (genetic sequencing) were used to analyze the breast milk.

The researchers found a bacterial or microbiome shift from Staphylococcus and several Streptococcus species in early lactation to Sphingobium and Pseudomonas species in late lactation, along with other bacterial shifts. The changing bacterial species have different roles in the body. There were even species never before reported in breast milk, such as: Janthinobacterium agaricidamnosum, Novosphingobium clariflavumm, Ottowia beijingensis, and Flavobacterium cucumis.

Of course much is still unknown about the breastmilk microbiome, and even what is a "core" breast milk microbiome - that is, what species are the core species in all breast milk. But it's clear what the baby gets from the breast milk changes over time.  It's still early days in this research!

Note that all these hundreds of species are not those found in probiotic supplements or formula - a baby must breastfeed to get them. Unfortunately, it is estimated that only 26% of North American mothers breastfeed their babies for at least 6 months (Unicef data).

From Futurity: Breast Milk Offers Different Bacteria Over Time

This bacterial cocktail could act like a daily booster shot for infant immunity and metabolism. ...continue reading "The Bacteria In Breast Milk Change Over Time"

Once again a study found health benefits from eating a diet rich in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, beans, nuts, and seeds This time the health benefit was a lower incidence of stroke.

Researchers from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health looked at the data from two large studies and found that a diet high in quality plant-based foods may reduce the risk of having a stroke by about 10%. The lower risk was for ischemic stroke, in which a blood clot blocks artery to brain. There was no difference in risk for hemorrhagic stroke.

Interestingly, researchers found no association between a vegetarian diet and risk of stroke, but the number of cases was small.

From Medical Xpress: Diet high in healthful plant-based food may reduce risk of stroke by 10%

Eating a healthy, plant-based diet that includes foods like vegetables, whole grains and beans, and decreasing intakes of less healthy foods like refined grains or added sugars may reduce your risk of having a stroke by up to 10%, according to a study published in the March 10, 2021, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study found a diet high in quality plant-based foods may reduce your risk of having an ischemic stroke.  ...continue reading "Diet Rich In Plant-based Foods Associated With a Lower Risk of Stroke"

This is now the 9th year of successfully using only probiotics to treat sinusitis - both chronic sinusitis and regular sinus infections. This means no antibiotics or any other antibacterial has been used in more than 8 years! This is amazing – ten years ago I didn't believe this to be possible.

We (myself and family members) have accomplished this by using the amazing probiotic (beneficial bacteria) Lactobacillus sakei. This bacteria occurs naturally (in tiny amounts) in healthy sinuses, but is depleted or missing in those with sinusitis. I started using kimchi back in 2013 after reading research. The last few years I've used the refrigerated product Lanto Sinus, which contains a kimchi-derived strain of Lactobacillus sakei. 

I have heard from hundreds of people since the blog started, and the majority agree - Lactobacillus sakei works great as a sinusitis treatment! (Other probiotic species just don't work.) [See Best Probiotics For Sinusitis for details on results and products used.]

What I've learned about Lactobacillus sakei:

  1. Only use it when needed, when there are some sinus symptoms or you're sliding towards sinusitis. Just like with antibiotics, you shouldn't take it daily and routinely.
  2. Swishing a product like Lanto Sinus in the mouth alone is a gentle and cautious way to use the product. Using it in the nostrils is a stronger way to use the product.
  3. Don't overdo it. Using a little bit in the nostrils (as described in Sinusitis Treatment Summary) is sufficient. Let the little buggers travel on their own throughout the sinuses!
  4. Use for a few days and evaluate whether you can stop. Frequently the sinuses keep improving even after stopping Lactoabcillus sakei. One can always use more if needed.
  5. If Lactobacillus sakei works for a person, it can feel miraculous as sinusitis symptoms disappear, frequently within a few days. Others have slower improvement. Unfortunately, it doesn't work for everyone and only self-experimentation determines whether it does - after all, everyone's sinus microbiome is different.
  6. Lactobacillus sakei alone is enough to treat sinusitis. Don't need fancy concoctions or fancy protocols when using it. Using it should take under 1 minute a day!
  7. The sinus microbiome slowly improves, so we are using less and less of Lanto Sinus over time. There have been improvements in the sinuses – for example, this past year my snot is like it used to be decades ago before sinus problems. We are also getting fewer upper respiratory infections.
  8. My sense is that Lactobacillus sakei is colonizing in the sinuses, at least in the short term (weeks or months).

Hopefully this offers hope to sinus infection sufferers.

I also want to mention that I'm a consultant for Lanto Health, but that's because I really like the product and use it whenever needed.

Good health!

Another study has been published finding that higher consumption of fruits and vegetables (5 servings a day) is associated with a longer life.

Researchers from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health looked at the data from several large studies. They found that about 5 servings per day of fruit and vegetables was associated with the lowest mortality (death from any cause), and from deaths that can be attributed to cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease. Specifically 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruits.

Eating fruits and vegetables above that level (5 servings per day) didn't seem to make a difference. Another finding: eating starchy vegetables (corn, peas, potatoes) and fruit juices were not associated with a lower risk of mortality.

However, keep in mind that the results were based on answers to Food Frequency Questionnaires (FFQ), where people answered questions about foods that they ate in the past year. Can you remember how frequently (daily, weekly, or monthly) you ate specific foods? Would you admit, in writing, that you eat lots of junk food or foods that you know are not so good for you?

As you can imagine, there is debate over how valid and reliable these questionnaires are. For example: Is It Time to Abandon the Food Frequency Questionnaire? in 2005, in 2015, and in 2018. FFQs are used because they are the cheapest option.

Some criticisms of FFQs: People don't accurately remember, and they may lie (they want to look better) by underreporting or overreporting foods. Also, the lists are premade - so if the foods you eat aren't on the lists, then it's not counted. Frequent omissions: onions, cucumbers, celery, quinoa, garlic, herbs.

Food dishes that contain many ingredients (such as many Asian dishes) can not be dealt with in FFQs that look at individual foods only. Canned foods are considered equivalent to fresh vegetables and fruits - yet they are not in many ways. No mention of organic vs non-organic foods (studies find nutritional differences, and a cancer link). Eh...

While filling out a sample online FFQ (from the National Cancer Institute) I realized that if I were part of a study - I would definitely answer so that my eating habits look better (!!), plus after answering for a while there was an urge to just get it over with (it took too long). Mutter to myself: "that sounds good, eh, who can remember..". Also, there was no way I would have admitted to any junk food binges.

From Science Daily:The right '5-a-day' mix is 2 fruit and 3 vegetable servings for longer life

Studies representing nearly 2 million adults worldwide show that eating about five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, in which 2 are fruits and 3 are vegetables, is likely the optimal amount for a longer life, according to new research published today in the American Heart Association's flagship journal Circulation.  ...continue reading "Eat At Least 5 Servings A Day of Fruits and Vegetables"

Once again a study finds that more exercise and less sitting improves glucose metabolism and so reduces the risk of diabetes. Is anyone surprised anymore by the health benefits of physical activity?

A study conducted in Finland found that in 660 adults 67 to 69 years of age, those who were most active throughout the day had the fewest glucose metabolism disorders (e.g. impaired glucose tolerance) and their insulin sensitivity was better - when compared to less active adults, especially sedentary couch potatoes. The best is to be active and move around a lot during the day, and not just be physically active during a short period.

Other studies find that the prevalence of type 2 diabetes is about twice as common in sedentary adults compared to active older adults. Study after study finds that increasing physical activity (as compared to being sedentary or less active) improves a person's health numerous ways and lowers the risk of all sorts of diseases.

From Medical Xpress: Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and less sitting reduce the risk of diabetes in older adults

According to a recent study, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and less sedentary time improve glucose metabolism and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes in older adults. Based on the results, it is important to encourage older adults to avoid sedentary time and increase moderate-to-vigorous physical activity to improve their glucose metabolism. 

...continue reading "Increase Physical Activity to Lower Risk of Diabetes"

Many people don't realize that the plastic toys our children play with may contain harmful chemicals. Children get exposed to these chemicals by touching the toy (absorption through the skin), or ingesting chemicals (e.g. when a baby mouths the toy, or child ingests dust from the toy), but also from breathing in chemicals leaching out of all the plastic toys in the room into the air. This has been known a long time, yet here we are...

An international team of researchers looked at 419 chemicals and found 126 chemicals of concern (chemicals known to be harmful) in plastic toys - chemicals that they felt should no longer be used in children's toys. Many are endocrine disruptors, while others are linked to cancer. In this group were 31 plasticizer chemicals (including phthalates and BPA [bisphenol]), 18 flame retardants, and 8 fragrances. These chemicals can be measured in the urine. [Note: they did not look at some chemicals, such as lead, cadmium, arsenic, etc.]

The researchers conclude: "Nowadays, existing regulations mainly prioritize a small set of chemicals, and regulators struggle to keep up with the thousands of new chemicals entering the market every year." They stress that we need to avoid "regrettable substitution" (substituting a dangerous chemical with another equally dangerous related chemical - such as replacing BPA with BPS). We need to identify safer substances that can be used in toys.

The more plastic toys in a room, the more exposure. They are outgassing all the time - even if you can't smell it. Soft plastic toys emit (outgas) the most chemicals. Children are especially vulnerable to these chemicals. Currently there is no international agreement over which chemicals to ban or regulate, and not enough chemicals are regulated or banned in toys and children's products.

There is no way right now to know which plastic toys contain dangerous chemicals and which don't. Toy manufacturers do not tell us what chemicals are in the toys. So... yes, we absolutely need (global) regulations to totally ban the use of certain chemicals in plastic toys, especially because so many toys are produced in countries with weak environmental regulations. We need to use safer chemical alternatives in plastic toys.

Bottom line: Try to have fewer plastic toys, especially soft plastic toys. Try to ventilate rooms frequently (every day) by opening windows, even if only for a short while.

From Science Daily: Potentially harmful chemicals found in plastic toys

It has long been known that several chemicals used in plastic toys in different parts of the world can be harmful to human health. However, it is difficult for parents to figure out how to avoid plastic toys containing chemicals that may cause possible health risks to their children.   ...continue reading "Plastic Toys May Contain Harmful Chemicals"

It's official! The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says there is no evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted by food or packaging. This means that the last holdouts can stop washing and disinfecting their food (remember those scary instructional videos last spring?). Whew!

This opinion has international consensus. For example: the International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Foods (ICMSF)External Link Disclaimer, stated: “Despite the billions of meals and food packages handled since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, to date there has not been any evidence that food, food packaging or food handling is a source or important transmission route for SARS-CoV-2 resulting in COVID-19."

The FDA stresses that COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that is spread from person to person through the air - through droplets or aerosol transmission.

From the medical site Medscape: FDA: COVID-19 Not Transmitted by Food or Packaging

There is no evidence you can catch coronavirus through food or food packaging, the FDA and other government agencies said Thursday.  ...continue reading "COVID-19 Is Not Transmitted By Food Or Packaging"

There is much debate over whether pregnant women should get a COVID-19 vaccine. This is because studies of pregnant women receiving vaccinations have not been done, and so risks and possible harms (if any) are unknown. But what is known is that pregnant women are at higher risk for pregnancy complications if they get COVID-19 (e.g. increased risk of preterm labor and stillbirth).

Pregnant women getting the vaccine are essentially part of an experiment looking at the vaccine's safety for both the pregnancy and the developing baby. But finally a case study (one woman!) has been published.

The good news is that results look promising. Antibodies from the vaccinated mother crossed the placenta and reached the baby. The pregnant woman had received the Moderna vaccine at 36 weeks, she delivered the healthy baby at 39 weeks, and antibodies against the virus were found in the umbilical cord blood - which meant they had been transferred from the mother to the baby.

A related study (see below) also gives hope that it may be beneficial for pregnant women to get vaccinated - at least 17 days before the birth so that antibodies can build up.

Excerpts from The Scientist: COVID-19 Vaccines for Pregnant Moms May Protect Newborns

Pregnant women with COVID-19 are at an increased risk for severe illness and death compared to people with COVID-19 who are not pregnant, and they experience preterm birth and pregnancy loss more frequently than do expecting moms who don’t catch the virus. In spite of these risks, there is no clear guidance available yet for vaccinating pregnant women against COVID-19. But there is now some evidence that immunization could protect their newborns. For the first time, doctors report that SARS-CoV-2 antibodies from a vaccinated mother can cross the placenta, pointing to a likely benefit for her fetus.  ...continue reading "Pregnant Women and COVID-19 Vaccines"

Breastfeeding
Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ Anton Nosik

Finally some good news for pregnant women who develop a COVID-19 infection during pregnancy (a high-risk situation). According to a recent study, it turns out that in women who had a COVID-19 infection during pregnancy and recovered, their breast milk contains antibodies against the virus. Which get transmitted to the baby during nursing.

This means that the mothers are passing "viral immunity" to their babies, and so the babies are protected from COVID-19.  Yay!

Yes, it was a small study of only 15 women, but a second similar study had similar results. As the researchers point out, this discovery has potential benefits to more than the nursing babies. The antibodies in the breastmilk could benefit others.

By the way, so far there is no evidence that a mother can transmit the virus to her baby through breastmilk. The researchers and others have tested breastmilk and have not found any live virus. All these results suggest that donor breastmilk is safe for babies to consume.

Excerpts from The Scientist: Breastmilk Harbors Antibodies to SARS-CoV-2

Milk from lactating moms may hold potent antibodies to counter SARS-CoV-2 infections, according to a new study of 15 women. All of the samples from women who had recovered from COVID-19 and who were breastfeeding babies at the time had antibodies reactive to the virus’s spike protein, researchers report in the November issue of iScience ...continue reading "After COVID-19 During Pregnancy, Breast Milk Has Antibodies Against The Virus"