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Americans spend enormous amounts of money on vitamins and mineral supplements in an effort to stay healthy or to improve their health. Unfortunately, unless a person has an actual vitamin or mineral deficiency, studies are just not finding health benefits. Sometimes there are even harms.

Physicians at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine weighed in on this issue. Their view: For most non-pregnant healthy Americans vitamin and mineral supplements are a "waste of money". There is no "magic set of pills to keep you healthy". Instead, a healthy diet and exercise are key.

However, they also say a pregnant women should consider taking a prenatal vitamin, especially folic acid. There are health benefits to folic acid supplements during pregnancy.

Basic conclusions: For non-pregnant persons without vitamin or mineral deficiencies, there is no evidence supporting the consumption of vitamin and mineral supplements in preventing cancer or cardiovascular (heart) health. Avoid beta carotene supplements (health harms) and vitamin E supplements.

What to do to maintain or improve health? Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans), seeds, and nuts. Get enough exercise or physical activity. Don't smoke. Maintain a healthy weight.

Doing these things will also improve the gut microbiome (the community of microbes living in the gut), which is so important for good health.

From Science Daily: Vitamins, supplements are a 'waste of money' for most Americans

Drawn to the allure of multivitamins and dietary supplements filling nutritional gaps in their diet, people in the U.S. in 2021 spent close to $50 billion on vitamins and dietary supplements. ...continue reading "Focus On Eating Healthy Food, Not Vitamin Supplements"

Some good news for coffee drinkers - daily consumption of coffee is linked to a lower risk of acute kidney injury.

John Hopkins Medicine researchers found that daily consumption of coffee (at least 1 cup of coffee per day) lowered the risk of acute kidney injury (AKI) by 15%. But those who drank 2 to 3 cups of coffee each day had a 22% to 23% lower risk (compared to non-drinkers)

The researchers pointed out in their paper that the risk of chronic kidney disease and other diseases is also lower in daily coffee drinkers.

"Habitual coffee consumption is associated with the prevention of chronic and degenerative diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and liver disease.

 ARIC, a large population study of 14,207 participants aged 45 to 64 years, revealed that higher self-reported daily coffee consumption was associated with a lower risk of incident chronic kidney disease after adjustments were made for demographic, clinical, and dietary factors. Thus, habitual coffee consumption has a strong potential for reducing the risk of progressive kidney disease."

From Science Daily: Coffee consumption link to reduced risk of acute kidney injury, study finds

If you need another reason to start the day drinking a cup of joe, a recent study by Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers has revealed that consuming at least one cup of coffee a day may reduce the risk of acute kidney injury (AKI) when compared to those who do not drink coffee. ...continue reading "Coffee and the Kidneys"

Summer is when many of us indulge ourselves at barbecues or other social gatherings. Fabulous grilled foods, fresh fruits, pies, whipped cream! You may wonder what gorging yourself until you absolutely can't eat one bite more at one meal does to your body. It turns out it's OK!

A study of young men who either ate pizza till "comfortably full" or "maximal eating" (eating so much that they couldn't eat one more bite) found that the bodies of the men coped very well. Just note, these were normal weight men who normally did not overeat like this (about twice as much food as "comfortably full").

Their metabolism adjusted to overeating the meal, levels of nutrients stayed within normal range, but there was an increase in "prolonged lethargy" and sleepiness several hours after the meal. Yup, many of us know the feeling - just want to take a nap while we digest.

Unfortunately it is unknown how the bodies of women, overweight, and older persons would handle maximal eating of 1 meal (that study not done). But hey! - it's summer, and we can just pretend the study results apply to all of us. Just don't do it all the time...

From Medical Xpress: Pizza study shows body copes surprisingly well with one-off calorie indulgence

A new study, which involved participants eating pizza well after feeling 'full' in order to test what immediate effects this had on the body, finds that our metabolism is surprisingly good at coping with over-indulgence. ...continue reading "Body Copes Well With One Time Overeating"

Credit: Wikipedia

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"

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"

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"

The studies are coming fast and furious about how all daily physical activity has health benefits. Ordinary daily activities that cause a person to move, such as housework, vacuuming, washing dishes, gardening, walking, cooking, even showering - all count. (On the other hand, reading and computer use do not.)

A recent study by University of California researchers found a higher rate of heart disease, stroke, and death in older women who have less than 2 hours each day of "daily life movement" (daily physical activities) compared to those who have more than 4 hours per day. At the start of the study 5416 women (63 years or older, and without heart disease) wore an accelerometer to measure their daily movements for 1 week, and then their health was followed for more than 6 years.

The researchers found that higher amounts of daily life movement or "being up and about" were associated with a lower risk of major cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, stroke, and cardiovascular death in older women. In other words - all movement (and not just exercise) counts towards cardiovascular disease prevention.

From Science Daily: Daily activities like washing dishes reduced heart disease risk in senior women

Seniors take note, running or brisk walking is not the only way to reduce the risk of heart disease. Simply being "up and about" performing routine activities, referred to as daily life movement, including housework, gardening, cooking and self-care activities like showering can significantly benefit cardiovascular health. ...continue reading "Ordinary Daily Activities Can Have Health Benefits"

Yesterday's post was about how several well-done large studies did not find the health benefits from vitamin D supplements that the researchers had hoped for. In one of the studies (the VITAL trial) discussed yesterday, Vitamin D supplements did not prevent cancer or cardiovascular events (e.g., stroke, heart attack), which was the focus of the study.

But... one positive finding (in a separate analysis of the study results) did come out of the study: vitamin D supplements reduced the incidence of autoimmune disease by 22% over the 5+ years of the VITAL trial. This included rheumatoid arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatica, autoimmune thyroid disease, and psoriasis.

The more than 25,000 participants (all older than 50 years) took vitamin D 2000 IUs daily or 1 g marine omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) daily,  or both, or none for more than 5 years. Only the vitamin D supplementation (whether taken alone or with fish oil) had a statistically significant health effect.

From Medical Xpress: Study finds vitamin D supplements with or without Omega-3s decreased risk of autoimmune diseases

Autoimmune diseases (AD) such as rheumatoid arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatica, autoimmune thyroid disease and psoriasis, are a leading cause of morbidity and mortality as people age. Few effective treatments are available for AD, but some preclinical studies have hinted that supplements, including vitamin D and omega-3 (or n-3) fatty acids, may have beneficial effects. In a new study published in BMJ, investigators from Brigham and Women's Hospital evaluated whether taking vitamin D and/or omega fatty acid supplements could affect rates of AD.  ...continue reading "Vitamin D Supplements and Autoimmune Disease"

An easy-peasy way to lower your risk for type 2 diabetes may be to not eat late dinners. Research conducted in Spain found that eating a meal an hour before bedtime decreases insulin secretion, impairs and decreases glucose tolerance, and so increases type 2 diabetes risk.

Lead author Marta Garaulet, PhD said: "We found that late eating disturbed blood sugar control in the whole group." The study had 845 participants, none with diabetes, all living in Spain. Melatonin levels (which rise naturally in the 2 hours before bedtime) were involved - so researchers say don't eat a meal then. Those with a certain gene variant had more disturbed blood sugar control than those without the gene.

Bottom line: Don't eat a meal in the 2 hours before bedtime. 

From Medscape: Eating Dinner Late Ups Diabetes Risk; Melatonin Involved

Eating dinner close to bedtime when endogenous melatonin levels are high is associated with decreased insulin secretion and decreased glucose tolerance, which increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. ...continue reading "Dining Early Is Healthier Than Close to Bedtime"

The CDC (Centers for Disease ) recently released another bit of gloomy news about Americans - that 25% of adults report being physically inactive. Being physically inactive means that they don't do any physical activities outside of work. This means no walking for exercise, no gardening, no bicycling, nothing.

There were differences according to where a person lives - from a low of physical inactivity of 17.7% of people in Colorado to a high of 49.4% in Puerto Rico. There were regional variations with the South reporting 27.5% of adults being physically inactive and with the West the least (21.0%).

There were also differences in physical inactivity levels by race and ethnicity. Overall, Hispanic adults (32.1%) reported the most physical inactivity outside of work, and non-Hispanic Asian adults the least (20.1%). The results were from large-scale health-related telephone surveys (called Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System or BRFSS), with more than 400,000 adults interviewed each year.

Why the concern with physical activity? Numerous studies find that physical activity results in better health, for example in lower risk of diabetes, better brain health, and lower risk of heart disease. Some researchers call exercise or physical activity a "magical bullet" in warding off heart disease.

Dr. Ruth Peterson, Director of CDC's Division of Nutrition, stated that:

“Getting enough physical activity could prevent 1 in 10 premature deaths. Too many people are missing out on the health benefits of physical activity such as improved sleep, reduced blood pressure and anxiety, lowered risk for heart disease, several cancers, and dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease)."

How much physical activity is best? CDC guidelines state that adults should have at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) to 300 minutes of moderate intensity workouts each week. This includes brisk walking! All physical activity counts, for example, bicycling, gardening, fast dancing, exercise classes.

Jan. 20, 2022 CDC news release: CDC Releases Updated Maps of America’s High Levels of Inactivity