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The results of a large study adds more evidence to what we have long suspected: eating a Southern-style diet (fried foods and sugary drinks!) increases the risk for sudden cardiac death (up to 46% higher risk), while eating a plant-based or Mediterranean style diet appears to lower that risk.

Sudden cardiac death (SCD) occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating, and death occurs within one hour from the onset of symptoms. Heart disease (coronary artery disease) is the most common underlying cause of SCD (75 to 80% of cases), but it can also have other causes (e.g. heart failure, valve disease). Sudden cardiac death is quite common in the US - about 1 in every 7.5 deaths (or nearly 367,000 deaths in 2016).

Univ. of Alabama researchers looked at 5 dietary patterns that people ate over a 10 year period:  plant-based (Mediterranean), Southern, convenience food, alcohol & salad, and sweets. People generally eat foods from all 5 groups, but what is significant is the primary pattern - what the person mostly eats. The Southern diet is most prevalent in the southeastern US, which is also known as the "Stroke Belt", due to the higher stroke death rate there.

A Southern-style dietary pattern is characterized by fried foods, added fats,  eggs, organ meats (such as liver or giblets), processed meats (e.g. bacon, hotdogs, cold cuts), and sugar-sweetened beverages. A plant-based or Mediterranean dietary pattern is rich in fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, whole grains, legumes (beans), and fish, and low in processed meats, added fats, and fried foods.

The bottom line here is that what you eat has an effect on your health, including heart health. Best is a diet rich in plant-based foods - which also happens to be fiber rich and best for feeding beneficial microbes in the gut. Try to eat at least a minimum of 5 to 6 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, but more (up to 8 or 9 servings) might be even better.

From Science Daily: The Southern diet - fried foods and sugary drinks - may raise risk of sudden cardiac death

Regularly eating a Southern-style diet may increase the risk of sudden cardiac death, while routinely consuming a Mediterranean diet may reduce that risk, according to new research published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association, an open access journal of the American Heart Association.  ...continue reading "A Southern Style Diet Linked to Increased Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death"

The findings of a recent study caught my eye - that eating milk chocolate daily was beneficial for health a number of ways. Consuming a 3.5 oz bar of milk chocolate daily did not cause weight gain, that it actually resulted in reducing hunger and desiring fewer sweets the rest of the day, increased beneficial polyphenols, improved the gut microbiome, and morning consumption decreased fasting glucose (good). Overall, it was best to eat the chocolate in the morning (as compared to the evening before bedtime). Yes!!!

The researchers studied postmenopausal women (48 to 62 years old) in Murcia, Spain who ate milk chocolate daily, or no chocolate for 2 weeks while eating as usual (regular dietary pattern), and then did the opposite for 2 weeks after a one week break. (Thus everyone ate chocolate daily at some point). This meant that the chocolate eaters actually ate slightly more calories during the study than those not eating chocolate.

The researchers state that a 2018 review of chocolate studies (clinical trials) found that overall eating chocolate daily for 2 to 24 weeks (each study lasted a different length) "does not change body weight or body fat distribution". Some studies also find that eating chocolate daily slightly reduces waist size (waist circumference reduction). And this is what they also found in this study.

How much chocolate? The women in this study ate 100 grams per day (3.5 ounces) - a normal sized chocolate bar! Chocolate lovers - rejoice!

From Medical Xpress: Starting the day off with chocolate could have unexpected benefits

A new study of postmenopausal women has found that eating a concentrated amount of chocolate during a narrow window of time in the morning may help the body burn fat and decrease blood sugar levels.  ...continue reading "Milk Chocolate Has Health Benefits"

Some good news. A recent study found that eating just 2 servings (a cup) of fruit per day is associated with a 36% lower risk for type 2 diabetes after 5 years (as compared to those who eat less than 1/2 a serving) . Doesn't sound like so much fruit, but appears to have a big effect.

However, in this Australian study, the association did not hold for fruit juice. Only for eating whole fruits.

From Science Daily: People who eat a healthy diet including whole fruits may be less likely to develop diabetes

A new study finds people who consume two servings of fruit per day have 36 percent lower odds of developing type 2 diabetes than those who consume less than half a serving. The research was published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.  ...continue reading "Eating Fruit Linked To Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes"

Uh oh... Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide (plant-killer) in the world, and its pervasive use may be harming our gut microbiomes. Glyphosate (which is in Roundup) is used not only as a weed-killer, but also applied to glyphosate resistant genetically engineered (GE) crops such as soy, canola, corn, and also right before harvest (preharvest) on many grain crops. Thus we find glyphosate and glyphosate residues all around us, including in the foods we eat.

Researchers at the University of Turku  in Finland developed a bioinformatics tool to examine glyphosate effects on gut bacteria. They found that glyphosate kills many bacterial species found in the human gut, including such important keystone bacteria as Faecalibacterium prausnitzii. Their words: "54% of species in the core gut microbiome are sensitive to glyphosate". (A nice way of saying it kills them.) They summarize:

"A large proportion of bacteria in the gut microbiome (Qin et al., 2010) are susceptible to glyphosate (class I); thus, the intake of glyphosate may severely affect the composition of the human gut microbiome. "

Glyphosate has already been linked to a number of health problems (e.g. cancer, endocrine disruption). The gut microbiome or microbiota is the millions of microbes living in our intestines, and they are very important to our health. Imbalance or disruptions to our gut microbiome result in inflammation, chronic conditions, and diseases.

What to do? Try to eat as many organic foods, especially grains, soy, and corn, as possible. Organic farmers are not allowed to use glyphosate. Try to avoid using glyphosate-based herbicides on your property.  Unfortunately, our government agencies are not protecting us with regards to glyphosate, and the US allows higher glyphosate residues in food than in the European Union.

From Science Daily: Glyphosate may affect human gut microbiota

Glyphosate is the most commonly used broad-spectrum herbicide. Researchers from the University of Turku in Finland have developed a new bioinformatics tool to predict if a microbe, e.g. a human gut bacterium, is sensitive to glyphosate.  ...continue reading "Glyphosate May Be Having a Harmful Effect On Our Gut Microbiome"

Iodine is an essential mineral for health, especially during pregnancy, because it is needed for intellectual development and thyroid functioning. For years people bought iodized table salt at the grocery store in order to make sure that they have enough iodine in the diet. However, the use of other salts (e.g. Himalayan salt) that don't have added iodine, and following a vegan or vegetarian diet can increase the risk of iodine deficiency.

A small study by Australian researchers looked at iodine levels in 2 groups of pregnant women, who were either vegan/plant-based diet participants or omnivores (eating both meat and plants). Both groups had urine with iodine levels below the World Health Organization recommended 100 µg per liter, but the vegan/plant-based group was far lower at 44 µg per liter. Those eating Himalayan salt had severely deficient levels: 23 µg per liter. The study did not look at the intellectual functioning of the infants after they were born.

How to get enough iodine in the diet? Foods containing iodine are seafood, seaweed, bread fortified with iodine, iodized salt, eggs, and dairy foods. Also, iodine supplements. Research indicates that adequate iodine intake before conception is necessary to ensure optimal maternal thyroid function during pregnancy, which is required for fetal intellectual development.

Medical Xpress: Poor iodine levels in pregnancy poses risks to fetal intellectual development

A growing number of young Australian women are at increased risk of having children born with impaired neurological conditions, due to poor iodine intake.  ...continue reading "Low Iodine Levels During Pregnancy Poses Risk to the Baby"

Nowadays many people apply antibiotic ointments on any and all skin wounds, no matter how minor. This is recommended by doctors in an effort to prevent the wound from becoming infected and to promote wound healing. However, surprising results from a recent small study found that applying an antibiotic ointment on skin wounds actually slows down healing.

The John Hopkins Univ. School of Medicine researchers found that our skin microbes (microbiome), including bacteria thought of as pathogenic, are involved in skin wound healing. The skin wound healing was faster in both humans and mice when antibiotic ointments were not applied.

Their recommendation: “...perhaps people may need to reconsider their use of these products (antibiotic ointments)". Of course more research needs to be done to see if the results from the small study (six adults) hold up. Perhaps a good approach would be to let small skin wounds heal on their own, and only apply an antibiotic ointment if the wound looks infected.

From Medical Xpress: Study examines why skin lacerations may be slow to heal, even with topical antibiotics

When you get a cut, scrape or other minor skin laceration, doctors recommend that you take measures to ensure that the wound doesn't get infected and heals properly. Many people opt to use over-the-counter medications, such as topical antibiotic ointments and liquids, to aid the repair process—and as commonly believed, promote healthy skin healing.  ...continue reading "Small Skin wounds May Heal Faster Without the Use of an Antibiotic Cream"

Once again a study finds that taking supplements can be problematic. This time it's fish oil supplements for heart health. Researchers found that taking routine daily fish oil supplements was linked to an increased risk of atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm disorder. Atrial fibrillation is linked to higher risk of stroke and death.

The international research team analyzed five studies in which people with high blood lipids (elevated plasma triglycerides) took fish oil supplements hoping that it would improve their heart health. The studies were well done, with people randomly assigned to different groups But the results turned out that instead of helping, fish oil supplements appeared to cause a problem - increased risk of atrial fibrillation.

What to do for heart health? Focus on eating a healthy diet with lots of "real" foods, similar to a Mediterranean diet. That is, a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes (beans), seeds, nuts, and fish. Avoid fast foods and highly processed foods. Get exercise (at least 2 1/2 hours per week - brisk walks count), and try to lose weight if overweight.

From Science Daily: Fish oil supplements and heart rhythm disorder: New analysis

Omega-3 supplements are associated with an increased likelihood of developing atrial fibrillation in people with high blood lipids. That's the finding of a study published today in European Heart Journal -- Cardiovascular Pharmacotherapy, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).  ...continue reading "Fish oil Supplements and Increased Risk of Atrial Fibrillation"

Another reason to get more active - a new study finds that being physically inactive (a couch potato) is associated with a higher risk of severe COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and ICU admission for COVID-19, and death from COVID-19. The researchers concluded that being consistently inactive should be viewed as a risk factor for severe COVID-19 outcomes, and that it is a "stronger risk factor than any of the underlying medical conditions and risk factors identified by the CDC except for age and a history of organ transplant". Yikes!

On the other hand, being physically active at least 150 minutes per week, and this includes brisk walking, is linked to lower rates of all of the above. Some activity (but under 150 minutes per week) is also better than none, but 150 minutes or more is better. The researchers state that besides vaccinations, social distancing, and mask wearing - being physically active is the single most important action individuals can take to prevent severe COVID-19 and its complications, including death.

The 150 minutes (2 1/2 hours) of physical activity per week are the recommended US Physical Activity Guidelines for adults, and include moderate and vigorous physical activity. It includes brisk walking. This can be achieved in less than 1/2 hour per day!

The researchers point out that health benefits of regular physical activity include: improved immune function, lower incidence of viral infections, as well as lower intensity and cases of death from viral infections, lowers the risk of chronic inflammation, improves cardiovascular health, increases lung capacity, muscle strength, and improves mental health. Which is why it is not surprising that persons getting a good amount of physical activity each week also generally have fewer problems with COVID-19 infections.

From CNN: Reduce risk of severe Covid with regular activity, study says. Here's how to get in 22 minutes of exercise daily

Some excerpts from the study at British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM): Physical inactivity is associated with a higher risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes: a study in 48,440 adult patients

Abstract: Objectives To compare hospitalisation rates, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions and mortality for patients with COVID-19 who were consistently inactive, doing some activity or consistently meeting physical activity guidelines.  ...continue reading "Reduce Your Risk of Severe COVID-19 Infection By Being Physically Active"

Another study has confirmed that if a person wants to have beneficial gut microbes that are associated with lower rates of chronic inflammation and many health conditions and diseases, then you need to eat a diet that nourishes the beneficial gut microbes. And once again, research finds that it is a plant based diet that does this.

A plant based diet is one rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans), nuts, and seeds, thus containing lots of fiber - and these nourish beneficial gut microbes. In this group is also oily fish. This is an anti-inflammatory diet. It feeds short-chain fatty acid (SCFA)-producing microbes (this is good). A great example of plant foods also containing bacteria, as well as nutrients and fiber: one raw apple has about 10 million bacteria!

On the other hand, a diet rich in processed foods and lots of meat (an animal derived diet), is associated with microbes linked to intestinal inflammation - thus an inflammatory diet . Also includes foods with high amounts of sugar and alcohol. This type of diet is low fiber and considered a Western diet.

To arrive at these conclusions, researchers in the Netherlands looked at the gut microbiome of 1425 persons in 4 groups - those with Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and the general healthy population. They found 38 associations between dietary patterns and microbial clusters, as well as 61 individual foods and nutrients with 61 bacterial species. They found that specific foods and nutrients were associated with species known to give mucosal protection and have anti-inflammatory effects.

These beneficial bacterial species are NOT found in probiotics or supplements. You must eat the foods on a daily basis. [Another study with similar findings.] Studies show changes will occur very quickly - within two weeks, both in microbes and effects on the intestines.  Think of the saying: You are what you eat. Yes!

From Medical Xpress: Diet rich in animal foods, alcohol and sugar linked to 'inflammatory' gut microbiome

A high dietary intake of animal products, processed foods, alcohol and sugar is linked to a gut microbiome that encourages inflammation, finds research published online in the journal Gut.  ...continue reading "What You Eat Determines The Type Of Bacteria Living In Your Gut"

Many people complain of frequent colds and upper respiratory infections. Perhaps even every month. This is an especially big problem for those suffering from chronic sinusitis, because every cold and sore throat also leads to a sinus infection. So a goal is to try to reduce the number of infections, and daily vitamin D supplements may be the answer.

Many studies have looked at vitamin D supplementation, at all sorts of doses, for all sorts of health conditions, including cancer. Unfortunately, when properly done studies with people randomly assigned to different groups are done, then all sorts of correlations don't hold up, or mixed results. Right now it appears that the main positive benefit of vitamin D supplements is lowering the incidence of upper respiratory illnesses that a person gets. Another study just confirmed this finding.

An international team of researchers reviewed data from 43 studies (48,488 participants), and found a small but significant protective effect of vitamin D supplementation in lowering the risk of getting a respiratory infection (when compared with a placebo). The studies revealed that the protective benefits of vitamin D supplements were strongest in 1 to 16 year olds who took between 400 to 1000 IU daily for up to 12 months.

Interestingly, and this may really bother high dose vitamin D advocates, the researchers found that lower doses (400 to 1000 IU daily) had a positive health effect, but NOT larger daily doses. They found that data from 4 recent good studies (with persons randomly assigned to different groups) in which vitamin D was given at daily dose equivalents of 2000 IU/day or more for 2 to 5 years had NO EFFECT. In other words: null data.

These differing findings suggest that frequency (daily is better then weekly or monthly), dose, and duration (no more than 12 months) of vitamin D supplementation are key to its protective effects against respiratory illnesses. It is unclear why higher doses are NOT protective, while smaller doses are protective. It's like the saying: Less is more.

Excerpts from Medical Xpress, which actually is misleading in how the conclusions of the study are described: New research on vitamin D and respiratory infections important for risk groups

Studies have shown that supplementary vitamin D seems to provide a certain degree of protection against respiratory infections. A new study involving researchers from Karolinska Institute has now made the most comprehensive synthesis to date of this connection. The study, which is published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, confirms that vitamin D protects against respiratory infections, a result that can have significance for the healthcare services. [NOTE: Protective effect was seen in the 1 to 16 year old age groups, and not other age groups.] ...continue reading "Fewer Respiratory Infections With Vitamin D Supplements"