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Well, well, well... finally the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is finally proposing banning a food additive that has long been banned in other countries, including the European Union, Japan, and India. The ingredient is brominated vegetable oil, which was added to many fruit flavored sodas to keep the ingredients from separating.

Brominated vegetable oil has been used as an emulsifying agent since the 1920s. The big name brands of Gatorade, Fresca and Mountain Dew have been slowly phasing it out in the last decade. But smaller brands, such as Sun Drop, still contain the ingredient. California already passed legislation banning the ingredient last month (it'll go into effect in 2027).

Studies find that brominated vegetable oil is toxic to the thyroid, and that it can be harmful to the liver, heart, and cause neurological problems. It builds up in human tissues. By the way, to make  brominated vegetable oil - bromine, an element used in fire retardants, is added to vegetable oil.

In other words, it has been known for years that the additive is harmful, yet the FDA wasn't "convinced" till recently. Yikes!

Excerpts from NPR: The FDA proposes banning a food additive that's been used for a century

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering banning brominated vegetable oil, a food additive that was recently deemed unlawful to use in California because of its potentially harmful effects on human health. ...continue reading "The FDA Is Finally Proposing Banning Brominated Vegetable Oil"

Over the years I've received many questions about vegan versus kimchi that contains seafood. Are the microbes in the kimchi the same?

One reason this is an important question is because at certain stages of kimchi fermentation the beneficial bacteria Lactobacillus sakei (which treat sinusitis in many people) appears for a time. And during that time when L.sakei is present, dabbing a little kimchi juice in the nostrils helps and treats many individuals with sinusitis. Amazing, yes?

Many people prefer to treat sinusitis with vegan kimchi - which is also my personal preference. I don't want to worry about what is in the seafood used in kimchi. Therefore, it's vegan kimchi for me.

Earlier studies have suggested that even though kimchi is made with cabbage, the L. sakei grows from the surface of raw garlic used in making  the kimchi. From the M.A. Zabat et al (2018) study:

"Because kimchi is made without the use of a starter culture, the raw ingredients play a key role in establishing the bacterial community that is responsible for fermenting kimchi (Jung et al., 2011; Lee et al., 2015)".

"Large amounts of garlic are associated with more kimchi-associated LAB [lactic acid bacteria] in the final product (Lee et al., 2015)." [Note: L. sakei is one of the lactic acid bacteria in kimchi]

This is why the 2018 study, which I just read, is so interesting. The researchers found that both vegan (no seafood)and kimchi made with seafood (e.g., fish sauce) contain the same microbes after fermentation. They may have started out with different populations of microbes, but during fermentation the microbes become similar.

"We found that, despite initial differences in microbial composition between vegan and non-vegan kimchi, there was no notable difference in the final products. Ultimately, the microbial community of both vegan and non-vegan kimchi is dominated by Lactobacillaceae and Leuconostocaceae, and lacks the Enterobacteriaceae found in the fish sauce or miso paste."

Well... that's a relief. What kimchi you choose to eat and use as a sinusitis treatment is personal preference. It's all good. And yes, fermented foods such as kimchi are great for the gut microbiome. They increase gut microbial diversity (good!) and reduce inflammation.

From Physics News: Vegan and traditional kimchi have same microbes, study finds

Good news, vegans: A new study finds that kimchi made without fish products has the same type of bacteria as more traditionally made kimchi. That finding suggests that any "probiotic" benefits associated with traditional kimchi could be present in vegan versions as well. ...continue reading "Kimchi Made With Seafood and Vegan Kimchi Contain the Same Microbes"

Children eating Credit: USDA

Something important for parents to know about: Milks marketed to parents as "toddler milks" are unnecessary, are unregulated, don't offer any benefits over regular milk, and are nutritionally lacking . This statement is from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) report, which was issued Oct. 20, 2023.

The "toddler milks" are found everywhere, frequently next to infant formulas on grocery shelves. They generally come in powdered form and are marketed as being for toddlers and children up to the age of 3. They are nutritionally incomplete and also contain too much salt and sugar.

The AAP says that children 1 years and older should be given a balanced diet of solid foods, breast milk (optional), and  pasteurized cow's milk. That's it. No need for so-called toddler milks.

By the way, infant formulas have to meet federal guidelines, but NOT these so-called "toddler milks". One researcher pointed out that they are just "gateway sugary drinks", and nutritionally inferior to ordinary milk and a balanced diet.

Bottom line: The manufacturers make unproven claims that are not true. They just want your money. $$$ Ignore them!

From Medical Xpress: So-called toddler milks are unregulated and unnecessary, a major pediatrician group says

Powdered drink mixes that are widely promoted as "toddler milks" for older babies and children up to age 3 are unregulated, unnecessary and "nutritionally incomplete," the American Academy of Pediatrics warned Friday. ...continue reading "Pediatricians Say to Avoid Giving Toddler Milks to Young Children"

Many consumers don't realize it, but some (many?) of the countries that flood the US market with "organic" foods are actually committing fraud. The so-called organic foods are not organic, but are conventionally grown and the documents saying they are organic have been purchased for a price.

The investigative group Organic Eye that monitors the organic industry, including looking for fraud, has filed a lawsuit about this issue.

Many organic imported foods from places like China, Brazil, and Turkey are actually not organic, and this is why their "organic" foods are so inexpensive compared to foods grown by legitimate organic farmers here in the US. The Washington Post and others have written about the fraud. Buyer beware!

Yes, buy organic foods as much as possible, but try to buy organic foods grown and produced in the US, Canada, the European Union - and also from local farmers.

Excerpts from Organic Eye: Lawsuit Alleges Violation of Federal Law and a Green Light for Fraud - US Family Farmers Competitively Damaged, Consumers Deceived

Eugene, Ore. — When Oregon organic hazelnut grower Bruce Kaser started looking into why organic hazelnut imports from Turkey were priced so low, close to conventional hazelnuts, he found he was pulling on a thread that had the USDA certification of foreign commodities unraveling. His research exposed a systemic, conflict-ridden scandal, and led to the filing of a federal lawsuit on October 17 against the USDA, alleging a breach in the intent of Congress’ Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). ...continue reading "Organic Foods From Other Countries May Not Be Organic"

There is tremendous interest in how to live a long and healthy life. This means trying to avoid getting diseases that so many suffer from as they age, such as diabetes, heart disease, and dementia. What diets are best? What kind of lifestyle?

NPR published a recent article about 7 daily habits linked to living a longer, healthier life, using information from Dan Buettner's work on blue zones. Scientific research supports the importance of these habits, especially good nutrition (for example, the Mediterranean diet) and physical activity.

The blue zones are communities throughout the world in which there are a lot of centenarians (people living to 100 years or more). What is important is that the people in these communities are aging with good health, and leading active and fulfilling lives - without dementia, and not in nursing homes.

The diets vary from place to place, but all avoid fast foods and highly processed foods. Instead, a lot of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes (beans), and nuts are eaten. Little meat. Food is cooked at home. By the way, this type of diet is associated with a good gut microbiome, and generally a good gut microbiome goes with good health.

Unfortunately, these blue zone areas are now fading, due to changes in lifestyles  - fast food, etc. But a few other places are stepping up, trying to make living spaces healthier and incorporating what has been learned about health and longevity - for example, Singapore.

Bottom line: Research shows a diet rich in plant-based foods (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes), plenty of sleep, lots of movement (physical activity), and a sense of purpose in life are all important in aging well.

Excerpts from correspondent Allison Aubrey article at NPR: 7 habits to live a healthier life, inspired by the world's longest-lived communities

At a time when life expectancy in the U.S. has dipped and diet-related disease is a leading cause of death, it's no wonder that Dan Buettner's decades-long exploration of centenarians who thrive in the longest-lived communities on Earth is attracting lots of attention. ...continue reading "Some Habits For Living A Longer and Healthier Life"

There has been tremendous interest in the past decade over the best diet and lifestyle for aging well and living to a ripe old age. Author Dan Buettner has spent much of the past decade visiting communities around the world where there are many residents who live to 100 years or more, and in good health. He calls these communities blue zones.

Dan Buettner now has a good National Geographic documentary on Netflix called Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones. This documents him visiting Blue Zones (Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Loma Linda, Calif.; and Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica) looking at the lifestyles and diets in this communities.

He found that while the diets vary, overall the people in these communities have a lot of plant based whole foods (especially whole grains, vegetables, beans, and tubers, such as sweet potatoes), and they avoid fast-food and highly processed foods. They do not take dietary supplements. They have a lot of physical activity in their daily activities, are committed to their families, take time to de-stress, and they have social networks with healthy behaviors.

He also recently published a book called The Blue Zones Secrets for Living Longer: Lessons From the Healthiest Places On Earth.

Thyme Credit: Wikipedia

It turns out that even making minor adjustments to your usual diet can improve the gut microbiome (the community of bacteria, fungi, viruses living in the gut) within a few weeks. Two separate studies found that eating some peanuts daily or adding some herbs or spices to the  foods you eat can improve the numbers of beneficial bacteria living in the gut.

In the peanut study - eating or not eating peanuts didn't change the diversity or main types of bacteria living in the gut. But eating peanuts did increase the numbers of several beneficial species --Roseburia and Ruminococcaceae, which are butyrate producing bacteria (good!). The peanut group ate 28 grams of peanuts (1 ounce or about 33 peanuts) as a night-time snack for 6 weeks.

In the spice and herb study, adding a combination of spices and herbs to the diet for 4 weeks increased microbial diversity in the gut (good!), and also increased beneficial Ruminococcaceae numbers (good!) in persons at risk for heart disease. Faecalibacterium and Agathobacter  numbers also increased (good!). A variety of dried spices and herbs (1/8 tsp, 3/4 tsp. or 1/1/2 tsp) were added to foods in the daily diet, and not taken as a capsule.

Dried spices added to foods in the spice and herb study included coriander, cumin, allspice, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, onion powder, garlic, ginger, rosemary, thyme, basil, black pepper, paprika, parsley, red pepper, etc. - 24 in all!

Bottom line: These studies agree with other research finding that eating peanuts (and all sorts of nuts, legumes), as well as adding spices and herbs to your foods is beneficial to the gut microbiome. They feed beneficial microbes in your gut, have all sorts of micronutrients, and they also have multitudes of microbes. A win-win.

From Science Daily: Peanuts and herbs and spices may positively impact gut microbiome

Adding a daily ounce of peanuts or about a teaspoon of herbs and spices to your diet may affect the composition of gut bacteria, an indicator of overall health, according to new research from Penn State. In two separate studies, nutritional scientists studied the effects of small changes to the average American diet and found improvements to the gut microbiome. ...continue reading "Adding Herbs and Spices To Your Foods Improves Gut Microbiome"

There is nothing so refreshing as some cold ice cream on a hot summer day. But rather than viewing it as a guilty pleasure, research actually finds that it has health benefits!

Studies find that ice cream eaters have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This is the same level of protection as eating yogurt.

What? Yup, studies found this health benefit, but it doesn't fit the prevailing dietary view of ice cream being an unhealthy food that should be avoided. So... the  researchers of the studies didn't discuss the findings, and instead the results were hidden away. In other words, a case of bias.

By the way, cheese has had the same kind of bias against it for years (all that fat!), but finally the research finding health benefits is being discussed in the media (Consumer Reports).

Excerpts from The Atlantic: NUTRITION SCIENCE’S MOST PREPOSTEROUS RESULT Studies show a mysterious health benefit to ice cream. Scientists don’t want to talk about it.

Back in 2018, a Harvard doctoral student named Andres Ardisson Korat was presenting his research on the relationship between dairy foods and chronic disease to his thesis committee. One of his studies had led him to an unusual conclusion: Among diabetics, eating half a cup of ice cream a day was associated with a lower risk of heart problems. Needless to say, the idea that a dessert loaded with saturated fat and sugar might actually be good for you raised some eyebrows at the nation’s most influential department of nutrition. ...continue reading "Studies Find That Ice Cream Has Health Benefits"

Once again research finds that drinking sugar sweetened soft drinks or fruit drinks (not juices) is unhealthy. This time a study found that drinking one or more such beverages daily was linked to a higher rate of liver cancer and death from chronic liver diseases, when compared to those drinking 3 or fewer such drinks per month.

This is an important finding because the majority of adults in the US consume one or more sweetened beverages daily! On the other hand, in this study drinking one or more artificially sweetened soda and drinks daily did not have an increased rate of liver cancer or death from chronic liver disease.

By the way, the researchers kept referring to the sweetener as sugar, but in reality the sweetener in (almost) all such beverages is high fructose corn syrup.

Excerpts from Science Daily: Women who consumed sugar sweetened beverage daily had higher risk of developing liver cancer and chronic liver disease

Approximately 65% of adults in the United States consume sugar sweetened beverages daily. Chronic liver disease is a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide and can result in liver cancer and liver disease-related mortality. ...continue reading "Drinking Soda and Fruit Drinks Daily Linked to Risk of Liver Cancer and Death From Chronic Liver Diseases"

Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ Anton Nosik

Breast milk is beneficial a number of ways. For example, it provides some micronutrients to the baby that formula doesn't provide. It also transmits hundreds of microbial species from the mother to the baby - thus important for the baby's microbiome.

Additionally, recent research found that breastfed babies are 33% less likely to die in the first year of life. This is a huge difference! The researchers looked at data for nearly 10 million infants born in 2016 to 2018, and who were then followed for 1 year after birth.

Studies also find that breastfeeding protects against sudden infant death syndrome and necrotizing enterocolitis in preterm infants.

Bottom line: Breastfeeding should be supported and encouraged. As the study researchers point out: "breastfeeding confers a protective benefit during the first year of life".

From Science Daily: Breastfeeding is associated with a 33% reduction in first-year post-perinatal infant mortality

Among nearly 10 million US infants born between 2016 and 2018, breastfed babies were 33% less likely to die during the post-perinatal period (day 7-364) than infants who were not breastfed, reports a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, published by Elsevier. The findings build on previous US research with smaller datasets, which documented the association between the initiation of breastfeeding and the reduction of post-perinatal infant mortality by a range of 19% to 26%. ...continue reading "Large Study Finds That Breastfed Babies Less Likely To Die In Their First Year"