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How many times have you heard to eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes (beans), and seeds? Study after study finds that eating a diet rich in these foods is linked to all sorts of health benefits. A big reason is that they have lots of fiber - which feeds beneficial microbes in our gut. A recently published review of studies in the prestigious journal Lancet examined studies done over the past 40 years and found numerous health benefits.

The researchers found that people consuming high levels of dietary fiber and whole grains have a lower risk of death from heart disease (cardiovascular mortality) and death from any cause. They also have a lower incidence of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer (as compared to those eating less fiber). There was a dose-response effect - in other words, the more fiber eaten daily, the lower the incidence of these diseases and deaths. They also found that a high fiber diet is also linked to lower cholesterol levels, lower weight, and lower blood pressure.

This study viewed 25 to 29 grams per day as a high fiber diet, but said the findings suggest that higher levels of fiber would be even more protective. Which means put down that delicious white bread and sugary cereal and start eating whole grain foods! Nowadays the average person eats less than 20 grams of fiber per day, but guidelines say to eat at least 30 grams per day. The researchers pointed out that getting fiber from real food is best.

From Science Daily: High intake of dietary fiber and whole grains associated with reduced risk of non-communicable diseases

People who eat higher levels of dietary fiber and whole grains have lower rates of non-communicable diseases compared with people who eat lesser amounts, while links for low glycaemic load and low glycaemic index diets are less clear. Observational studies and clinical trials conducted over nearly 40 years reveal the health benefits of eating at least 25g to 29g or more of dietary fiber a day, according to a series of systematic reviews and meta-analyses published in The Lancet.  ...continue reading "Eating Lots of Fiber Has Health Benefits"

New research is published every day, but only some studies are big research stories or game-changers. The following are what I consider some of the most memorable studies of 2018 – some in a good way, but some of the others have left me with a sense of horror. I think there will be follow-up research, so keep an eye out for more on these important topics.

Are we heading toward a time in the not so distant future when all men are infertile? (Due to exposure to all the endocrine disruptors around us.) Will All Men Eventually Be Infertile? This was posted September 5, 2018.

Researchers are now seriously investigating and finding evidence that microbes may be causing Alzheimer’s disease. This approach is rapidly finding support in the medical field, and may lead to possible ways to treat or prevent the disease. Possible Herpes Virus Link to Alzheimer’s Disease was posted July 13, 2018, and Herpes Viruses and Alzheimer's Disease on  June 22, 2018.

Type 2 Diabetes May Be Reversed With Weight Loss was posted August 10, 2018. This study and an earlier similar study from 2016 found that losing over 30 pounds over a short period can reverse type 2 diabetes - 46% in the 2018 study and 60% (in people who had it less than 10 years) in the earlier study.

More and more evidence is accumulating that certain diets are anti-inflammatory. Especially beneficial are diets rich in fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, legumes (beans), and whole grains - which also have a lot of fiber. This is exciting research because chronic low-grade inflammation is linked to a number of chronic diseases (heart disease, cancer, etc.). Fruits, Vegetables, and Whole Grains Lower Inflammation – posted August 1, 2018.

[Related to this last topic is one of the most eye-opening studies I have ever read on how what one eats has a quick effect on gut microbes and health of the gut (including inflammation of the colon): Changing Diet Has Big Effect On Colon Cancer Risk – posted April 28, 2015.]

Dental floss coated with a "non-stick coating" has long been a concern of mine. Do the Teflon-like chemicals get into the person when a person is flossing teeth? These chemical compounds (called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFASs) are linked to health problems (e.g. kidney and testicular cancer, semen quality, thyroid disease, immune system effects, and lowered sex and growth hormones in children) - so you want to avoid them if possible. Well, it turns out these chemicals are shed into the person's mouth when flossing and can be measured in a person's blood. Bottom line: avoid non-stick smooth dental floss such as Oral-B Glide dental floss (or when the dental floss label brags that it is similar to Glide dental floss). Use plain waxed or unwaxed floss instead.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) are a group of chemicals used in a wide variety of consumer products because they have water- and grease-resistant properties. They are used in nonstick cookware, in food packaging (especially the paper wrappers and cardboard containers) , stain-resistant carpets, furniture, floor waxes, textiles, water-proof and stain-resistant clothing (such as Gore-tex fabric), and performance gear. How do they get into us? Some ways: the chemicals can migrate out of food packaging into food, or can be released into the air and dust from carpets and upholstery treated with stain-resistant coatings. PFASs have been detected in water, soil, and in the bodies of almost all Americans!

This study (and others)  found that higher levels of  these chemicals in the body occur with the following: frequent consumption of prepared food in coated cardboard containers, having stain-resistant carpets or furniture, using Oral-B Glide dental floss, and living in a city served by a PFAS-contaminated water supply. It may not be possible to totally avoid all PFASs, but one can lower exposure to them (for example, don't have stain-resistant carpets in the house or apartment, and try to eat less fast-food). From Medical Xpress:

Dental flossing and other behaviors linked with higher levels of toxic chemicals in the body        ...continue reading "Some Types of Dental Floss Should Be Avoided"

Something to think about: a group of international researchers found a correlation in Brazil between colon cancer and pesticides. Brazil is one of the largest pesticide users in the world, and annual pesticide use is still increasing - along with increases in colon cancer and colon cancer deaths, especially in agricultural areas. While the study was correlational (didn't prove that pesticides caused the cancer) - what supports the findings is that some other studies in both humans and rodents found that pesticides increase the risk of colon cancer. Many pesticides are considered carcinogenic (cancer-causing).

The researchers pointed out that pesticides are contaminating water and food in Brazil, pesticide residues have been found in breast milk, pesticide residues in cow's milk exceed safety standards in some regions of Brazil, and 20% of food samples analyzed by one government agency between 2013 and 2015 were found to be unsafe for humans to eat due to high pesticide residue levels. One reason for recent  big increases in pesticide used is from genetically modified crops - so that they are resistant to pesticides (herbicides) applied.

Does all this sound familiar? It should - many of the same problems are occurring in the US, with pesticides found in water and food samples, in house dust, with steep increases in certain pesticides used due to their use on crops that are genetically modified to be resistant to pesticides (esp. glyphosate, 2,4-D), and pesticides are found in people (can be measured in blood, urine) - with levels of certain pesticides increasing (e.g. glyphosate). Think of how casually people use pesticides - on their lawns, gardens, and in their homes. The bottom line is: what are we doing to ourselves with chronic low-level pesticide exposures? And it's not just one pesticide, it's many (so we're actually exposed to mixtures). [See posts on pesticides.]

Excerpts from Beyond Pesticides: Brazilian Researchers Link Rise In Colon Cancer To Increase In Pesticide Use    ...continue reading "Pesticides and Colon Cancer?"

A recently published study was good news for those who eat organic foods. The large French study (about 69,000 people) found a  significantly lower risk of getting cancer (25% lower) in people who ate a lot of organic food - when compared to people who rarely or never ate organic food. The participants in the study were followed for an average of 4.6 years. Cancers with the greatest decreased risk were breast cancer (especially in postmenopausal women) and all lymphomas, especially non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The researchers summarized the findings as:  "In a population-based cohort study of 68 ,946 French adults, a significant reduction in the risk of cancer was observed among high consumers of organic food." and "...if the findings are confirmed, promoting organic food consumption in the general population could be a promising preventive strategy against cancer." This could be an easy way to cut cancer risk! (Other organic food benefits.)

Of course the pesticide and conventional agriculture industry went nuts attacking the study - this finding goes against their message that pesticides are fine and necessary, don't worry about pesticide residues in food, and that antibiotics and other medicines are safe when given routinely to animals. Unfortunately, research finds that a number of pesticides used in conventional farming are considered carcinogenic (cancer causing), and pesticide residues are found in conventionally grown foods. Eating conventional foods every day results in chronic low-dose pesticide residue exposure. The researchers suspect the pesticide residues in foods is the reason for the higher cancer risk. [Note: those pesticides are not allowed to be used in organic farming.]

What foods did the researchers ask about? They asked people about the consumption of 16 types of labeled organic food products: fruits; vegetables; soy-based products; dairy products; meat and fish; eggs; grains and legumes; bread and cereals; flour; vegetable oils and condiments; ready-to-eat meals; coffee, tea, and herbal tea; wine; biscuits, chocolate, sugar, and marmalade; other foods; and dietary supplements. In other words, all the foods we eat daily.

But what I found really interesting was a review of the study by Dr. Charles Benbrook (Visiting Scholar in the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, and a Visiting Professor at the Univ. of Newcastle in the UK). He correctly points out that the results are big news and a big deal. Excerpts from Environmental Health News:

Charles Benbrook: New study showing organic diets cut cancer risk is a big deal. Let’s treat it that way.      ...continue reading "Lower Cancer Risk By Eating Organic Food?"

Taller people have increased rates of cancer. Why? A study from a Univ. of California researcher found a link between height and cancer risk, and support for it being due to taller people having a greater number of cells. The more cells, the more mutations - which increases the risk of getting cancer. The study pooled data from 4 large studies (from the UK, the US, Norway, Sweden and Austria, and Korea). The researcher found that the increase in height and increased cancer relationship held for most cancers in both men and women. 18 out of 23 cancers (when combining male and female data) showed a "height effect".

The average heights for women  were 162 cm (64 inches) and 175 cm (69 inches) for men - and beyond that for every 10 cm (4 inches) increase in height, there was a 10% increase in cancer risk. The cancers that did not show a height effect were pancreas, esophagus, stomach, mouth/pharynx, as well as cervical cancer in women. From Medical Xpress:

Study finds taller people more likely to get certain cancers due to cell numbers

A researcher at the University of California's Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology has found evidence that taller people are more prone to getting cancer due to their larger number of cells. In his paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Leonard Nunney describes his study, involving comparing height with cancer risk and factoring in the total number of cells in the body. 

...continue reading "Increased Height Increases Risk of Cancer"

Many people have chronic low-grade inflammation, which is associated with a number of chronic diseases, and increased risk of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and early death. Thus there is a lot of interest in things a person could do to lower the inflammation. A number of studies have found a person's general diet may influence chronic low-grade inflammation - either increase it or decrease it, as well as whether they smoke or not. A recent large Swedish study found that persons who ate an anti-inflammatory diet for at least 16 years had a lower risk of dying early from any cause (all cause mortality), as well as dying from cancer, or dying from heart (cardiovascular) disease.

In the study an anti-inflammatory diet was a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals, whole grain bread, coffee, tea, red wine (low to moderate levels), beer (low to moderate levels), chocolate, nuts, olive and canola oils. These foods are both anti-inflammatory and also rich in anti-oxidants. Pro-inflammatory foods were: red meat, processed red meat, offal, chips, soft drinks. In other studies a pro-inflammatory diet was also one with lots of processed foods, low fiber, and refined grains. From Science Daily:

Anti-inflammatory diet linked to reduced risk of early death

Adhering to an anti-inflammatory diet was associated with lower risks of dying from any cause, dying from cardiovascular causes, and dying from cancer in a recent Journal of Internal Medicine study. ...continue reading "Diet, Inflammation, and Health"

A decades long study (from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health) had results that many women may find reassuring - because there may be something they can do to increase their odds of preventing breast cancer. The study found that women who ate more than 5.5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day had an 11% lower risk of breast cancer than those who ate 2.5 or fewer servings daily.

While the findings support eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, they found that cruciferous (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower) and yellow/orange vegetables (e.g. winter squash) appear to be especially beneficial in reducing the risk of breast cancer, especially those that are more aggressive tumors. The association between amount of fruits and vegetables eaten daily  and breast cancer appeared to be strongest 8 or more years before cancer diagnosis - meaning fruit and vegetable intake now appears to have effects many years later.

By the way, the researchers found in earlier research that a higher fiber intake (especially during adolescence and early adulthood) was also associated with a lower beast cancer risk. Now let's see if these findings hold up over time in other studies. From Science Daily:

High fruit and vegetable consumption may reduce risk of breast cancer

Women who eat a high amount of fruits and vegetables each day may have a lower risk of breast cancer, especially of aggressive tumors, than those who eat fewer fruits and vegetables, according to a new study led by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. In their findings, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, and yellow and orange vegetables, had a particularly significant association with lower breast cancer risk.  ...continue reading "Eating Lots of Fruits and Vegetables Associated With a Lower Breast Cancer Risk Years Later"

Once again, recent studies found that eating real food (fish) is associated with health benefits, but taking a supplement (omega-3) isn't. Similar findings about fish versus omega-3 fatty acid supplements have also been found in other studies. Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids and many other nutrients - more than are found in supplements.

The first study is a Cochrane review of studies already done. The review provides good evidence that taking long-chain omega 3 (fish oil, EPA or DHA) supplements does not benefit heart health or reduce risk of stroke or death from any cause. In other words, people take the supplements believing it helps heart (cardiovascular) health - but the evidence isn't there.

On the other hand, a large study of people living throughout the US and followed for 16 years found an association with higher fish consumption and lower risk of early death, and death from cardiovascular disease. Additionally, in men - those eating the most fish (as compared to those eating the least) had a lower risk of death from cancer, respiratory disease, and liver disease, and in women - lower risk of death from Alzheimer's disease. However, eating fried fish didn't have those health benefits. The group eating the most fish had 8 oz or more fish per week, while the group having the least had less than 2 oz. per week.

From Science Daily:  Omega 3 supplements have little or no heart or vascular health benefit

New evidence published today shows there is little or no effect of omega 3 supplements on our risk of experiencing heart disease, stroke or death.  ...continue reading "Health Benefits Linked to Eating Fish, Not Supplements"

Long-awaited  vitamin D studies are finally appearing this year. A large international study found that higher levels of vitamin D in a person's blood is associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer. Those with the highest vitamin D levels had a 21% lower risk (compared to the lowest group) of colorectal cancer after an average 5.5 years.

But the researchers generally do not recommend vitamin D supplements - saying that most people had adequate levels from foods and sunshine. However, they suggest that the risk for vitamin D deficiency is higher for those with very dark skin; for older adults (their skin may not be as efficient at synthesizing vitamin D); and for those who do not go outside at all - and that these groups may need supplementation (but not beyond 4000 IU per day - because higher levels have negative health effects). From Medical Xpress:

Large international study links blood vitamin D levels to colorectal cancer risk

new study authored by scientists from the American Cancer Society, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the U.S. National Cancer Institute, and more than 20 other medical centers and organizations finds that higher circulating vitamin D concentrations are significantly associated with lower colorectal cancer risk. This study strengthens the evidence, previously considered inconclusive, for a protective relationship. Optimal vitamin D concentrations for colorectal cancer prevention may be higher than the current National Academy of Medicine recommendations, which are based only on bone health ...continue reading "Vitamin D and Colorectal Cancer Risk"