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For several years I've noticed that in a number of studies there appear to be beneficial health effects from consumption of dairy products, especially whole milk or full-fat products, and also fermented dairy products (e.g. yogurt, cheese). A recent international study (21 countries on 5 continents) found similar results: higher intake of dairy foods, especially full-fat dairy, is associated with lower incidence of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), and metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and early death. Risk factors include increased blood pressure, excess body fat around the waist, elevated triglycerides and cholesterol levels, and elevated blood glucose.  Diet plays a role in whether one develops metabolic syndrome and diabetes. [Being overweight and being inactive are also important risk factors.]

What was the higher intake of dairy products that was associated with health benefits? At least 2 servings per day. The study did not look into what kind of dairy people drank and ate - whether cow, sheep, camel, or goat milk dairy. The assumption is: dairy is dairy!

While it was an observational study, it was significant, especially because the 131,481 participants (aged 35 to 70 years) were from world regions not typically studied in dairy consumption studies. They were tracked for about 9 years.

Excerpts from Science Daily: Dairy-rich diet linked to lower risks of diabetes and high blood pressure

Eating at least two daily servings of dairy is linked to lower risks of diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as the cluster of factors that heighten cardiovascular disease risk (metabolic syndrome), finds a large international study published online in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care.  ...continue reading "Dairy Products, Hypertension, Diabetes, and Metabolic Syndrome"

The Scandinavians really love to drink coffee, and of course researchers study the health effects of all that coffee drinking. Two recent studies both found health benefits from drinking filtered coffee (such as drip coffee), but not unfiltered coffee.

A study conducted in Norway found that over a 20 year period drinking filtered coffee daily was associated with lower death rates, when compared to those who did not drink coffee or drank unfiltered coffee. The best health effects (lowest mortality rate) were associated with drinking 1 to 4 cups per day of filtered coffee, and the unhealthiest (highest mortality rate) was drinking 9 or more cups per day of unfiltered coffee.

The researchers thought that unfiltered coffee raised the cholesterol levels, because of the lipid-raising components of coffee - the diterpenes kahweol and cafestol, which are filtered out by coffee filters. This could explain the association between unfiltered coffee and higher death rates from heart disease. Other studies have found that higher consumption of filtered coffee results in lower levels of markers of inflammation.

As was discussed in an earlier post, a recent study from Sweden found that drinking 2 to 3 cups of drip coffee (using a filter) daily lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes, while drinking boiled coffee has no health effect. The researchers put it nicely, that habitually drinking filtered coffee has a "protective role" on type 2 diabetes development.

On the other hand, other popular ways of preparing coffee don't use filters - French press, espresso, percolator, and coffee pods, and so may have similar not-so-great health effects to boiled coffee. But still unknown at this time - studies are needed.

From Science Daily: How to make the healthiest coffee

Today scientists announce the healthiest way to make a brew ...continue reading "Drinking Filtered Coffee Is Healthier Than Unfiltered Coffee"

Drinking drip coffee is healthier than boiled coffee? A study conducted in Sweden suggests that drinking 2 to 3 cups of drip coffee (using a filter) daily lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes, while drinking boiled coffee has no health effect.

The 60% lower rate of type 2 diabetes in drip coffee drinkers (as compared to boiled coffee drinkers) could be due to coffee filters capturing diterpenes - a molecule that is linked to health problems. But the filters still allow beneficial molecules, such as phenolic substances, to pass into the coffee. In other words, preparing the coffee 2 different ways results in coffee with different chemical compositions and properties.

The researchers were able to separate out the 2 types of coffee drinkers simply by analyzing the metabolites in the blood - there were differences in the metabolites (substances made when the body breaks down coffee) of boiled coffee vs drip coffee drinkers.

As a daily coffee drinker, who only uses a drip coffee maker, I am pleased with the results. [Many studies find health benefits from coffee consumption.] But as the researchers note, we need to also look at coffee prepared other popular ways, all of which don't use filters, and so are (maybe) similar to boiled coffee: French press, espresso, percolator, and coffee pods. Will they also have the same effect as drinking boiled coffee?

From Science Daily: Filtered coffee helps prevent type 2 diabetes, show biomarkers in blood samples  ...continue reading "Drip Coffee, But Not Boiled Coffee, Lowers The Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes"

Another study finds beneficial health effects from eating real foods - this time eating Montmorency tart cherries reduces blood pressure and insulin levels up to 5 hours after ingestion. Of course. It was a small study done in the United Kingdom, with only 11 middle-aged participants, all with metabolic syndrome (increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels). It is estimated that about a third of U.S. adults have metabolic syndrome, which significantly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

It was a nicely designed study, and the Montmorency tart cherries were taken in either juice form or capsules which contained freeze-dried Montmorency tart cherry powder. Drinking the juice had slightly better health effects than the freeze dried capsules. It would have been nice if they had also looked at a group of people eating fresh Montmorency tart cherries, rather than just juice or freeze dried cherries.

Keep in mind that this study found positive health effects from real food. However, in contrast, studies find that taking supplements and vitamins generally don't result in health benefits (e.g. calcium, omega-3, niacin, antioxidants), and can even cause harm - unless one has a nutritional deficiency. Studies also don't find that there are "superfoods" - instead, what is beneficial or not is the overall dietary pattern. Studies show that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes has many health benefits (something along the line of the Mediterranean dietary pattern). Try to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables - each has different micronutrients, and even different microbes (good!). Eating that way also results in a high fiber intake, which has many health benefits.

From EurekAlert!: Montmorency tart cherries may provide benefits for adults with metabolic syndrome

Montmorency tart cherries reduced systolic blood pressure, insulin levels and insulin concentrations in adults with metabolic syndrome participating in a small pilot study published in the Journal of Functional Foods.  ...continue reading "Add Cherries To Your Diet"

There has been a lot of excitement over intermittent fasting and eating only during restricted time periods each day in order to lose weight and improve health. But does it really improve health? A recent study adds support to health benefits from eating only during a 9 hour restricted time period, so as to extend the "fasting" time to 15 hours each day. The researchers found that 18 overweight men at high risk for type 2 diabetes had improved glycemic control and glucose responses to a meal after 1 week of time restricted feeding (TRF).

They also lost a little weight and had a reduction in triglycerides. Which are great results, especially because the men ate normally during the 9 hour eating time. Improve health while eating all meals!

From Medical Xpress: Time-restricted eating shows benefits for blood glucose

By restricting the time period during which they could eat, researchers have seen promising results for controlling blood glucose levels in men at risk of type 2 diabetes ...continue reading "Time Restricted Eating Improves Blood Glucose Levels"

For a few years I've been noticing that studies of vitamin D have had mixed results for a number of medical conditions. A number of times initial studies found an association with low levels of vitamin D and a number of medical conditions, but follow up well-designed studies are just not finding the same results with vitamin D supplementation - or results have been mixed. Also, in some studies, what initially looked like vitamin D being protective for some cancers and multiple sclerosis, now looks like it's sunlight that is giving the protective results. In some cases, vitamin D levels are a proxy for sunlight exposure (the more sunlight exposure, the higher the vitamin D levels in the person). The following 6 studies recently published highlight this same trend of mixed results.

While vitamin D levels increased from high dose vitamin D, there was no change in bone bone mineral density (BMD) in older adults during the 12 months of the study. No adverse effects form the vitamin D supplementation was reported [the older adults received 12,000 international units (IU), 24,000 IU, or 48,000 IU once a month]. From Science Daily: Vitamin D supplements are of no benefit to the over 70s

There is little benefit for those over 70 taking higher dose vitamin D supplements to improve their bone strength and reduce the risk of falls, new research has revealed.

High doses of vitamin D (4000 international units) appeared more beneficial than low dose vitamin D (400 international units) supplements in advanced colorectal cancer patients. From Medical Xpess: High-dose vitamin D shows benefit in patients with advanced colorectal cancer

...continue reading "Recent Vitamin D Studies Have Mixed Results"

Did you know that the issue of prediabetes and what it actually means for health is controversial among some physicians and medical groups? Elevated blood sugar was once considered a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, but now it has been elevated into a pre-disease called prediabetes. We are now told that 1 out of 3 Americans are pre-diabetic and 90 percent of us don’t even know it. The main issues are: What does a prediabetes diagnosis mean? Does prediabetes lead to diabetes? How frequently does this occur? Should one treat it with medications? When one thinks about risk factors - then they can usually be modified (e.g. diet, weight loss, exercise), but when something is called a pre-disease - then one thinks treatment (e.g. medicines).

Yes, we all agree that type 2 diabetes is a very serious health problem. But what about prediabetes? What is alarming to some researchers is that the definition of prediabetes has been broadened over the years to include millions more Americans. Also, what is considered prediabetes in the US may not be considered prediabetes in other countries. Keep in mind that the people most involved with promoting a broadening definition of prediabetes and promoting drugs to treat it, have a number of conflicts of interest (financial and scientific).

The site Health News Review covered the topic of prediabetes in Jan. 2017 in a post by Dr. Michael Joyce: BMJ:Can we trust the numbers that define pre-diabetes? Some quotes from that post: "...meta-analysis of the progression rates of pre-diabetes shows the majority of people did NOT go on to develop diabetes a decade later."  "...in an article published in the BMJ, the accuracy of screening for pre-diabetes with fasting blood sugar and glycated hemoglobin is brought into question." ... “Our research looked at both these tests for pre-diabetes and found that neither of them was accurate,” says lead researcher Dr. Trisha Greenhalgh .... "In short, both our ability to predict diabetes with blood tests alone, and do so accurately in people with borderline elevated blood sugars, is questionable. Nonetheless, results from these tests – sometimes interpreted without clinical context – are being used to medicalize a risk factor and create a new medical condition."  Yikes!

This past week another thought-provoking article discussed the topic of prediabetes. Note that some experts call the focus on aggressively treating prediabetes as "scaremongering", especially because those promoting aggressive treatment the most are those with conflicts of interest. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data show that progression from prediabetes to diabetes is actually less than 10% in 5 years, and other studies show even slower (lower) rates. And a comprehensive 2018 Cochrane review of studies found that "up to 59% of prediabetes patients returned to normal glycemic values over 1 to 11 years with no treatment whatsoever". (see below) Wow! Excerpts from the article by Charles Piller in the journal Science:

Dubious Diagnosis

A war on "prediabetes" has created millions of new patients and a tempting opportunity for pharma. But how real is the condition?

The most common chronic disease after obesity, afflicting 84 million Americans and more than 1 billion people worldwide, was born as a public relations catchphrase. In 2001, the PR chief of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) approached Richard Kahn, then the group's chief scientific and medical officer, for help with a vexing problem, Kahn recalls. ADA needed a pitch to persuade complacent doctors and the public to take seriously a slight elevation in blood glucose, which might signal a heightened risk of type 2 diabetes. Raising the alarm wasn't easy, given the condition's abstruse name, impaired glucose tolerance, and lack of symptoms ...continue reading "Controversies With the Prediabetes Diagnosis"

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.]

A recent study adds to the list of health reasons to try to avoid type 2 diabetes if at all possible, such as making lifestyle changes (e.g. lose weight if overweight, improve diet,  exercise). Earlier studies found that the brain atrophies (decreases in volume) with type 2 diabetes, and that the presence of type 2 diabetes doubles the risk of dementia in older age. Yikes!

Similarly, Australian researchers in the recent study found that type 2 diabetes in older individuals is associated with decline in verbal memory and verbal fluency over a five year period, but the findings suggest that this may start in midlife.  This is because at the start of the study those with type 2 diabetes already showed signs of greater brain atrophy than those without type 2 diabetes. The type 2 diabetes group had "poorer cognitive function" at the start of the study, and then they continued to decline over the 5 year study time, but not at any greater rate than individuals without diabetes. In contrast to the decline in verbal fluency over the 5 year period in the diabetes group, the non-diabetes group actually showed an slight increase in verbal fluency each year.

Of the 705 persons in the study, the average age of the type 2 diabetes group was 68.2 years, while the non-diabetes group was 72.5 years - so can see that the diabetes group was generally younger. [Note that the brain shrinks a little as we age, and it's a normal part of aging, but you want to minimize it. The more "youthful" the brain, the better for cognitive functioning.

From Science Daily: In older people, type 2 diabetes is associated with a decline in brain function over 5 years, study shows

New research published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes [EASD]) shows that in older people living in the community, type 2 diabetes (T2D) is associated with a decline in verbal memory and fluency over 5 years ...continue reading "Type 2 Diabetes and the Brain"