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Another great reason to lose weight if you are really overweight (let's be honest, the term is "obese") is a lower risk of two types of skin cancer: squamous cell carcinoma and melanomaObesity is considered a cancer risk, that is, it increases the risk of cancer, and after bariatric surgery there is a lower risk of cancer.

A long-running study in Sweden (Swedish Obese Subjects study) followed 2 groups of obese individuals for 18 years - 1 group received bariatric surgery (2007 persons) and the other group didn't (2040 persons). They found that the group who had received bariatric surgery, along with a large weight loss, had a significantly lower risk of getting squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma  than the group who received conventional "obesity treatment" (such as advice on losing weight).

How much weight did they lose after the surgery? After 2 years the average weight loss in the surgery group was 63.27 pounds (28.7 kg), which leveled off to 47.62 lbs (47.62 kg) by the 15 year follow-up visit. The weight changes in the non-surgery (control) group was small and never exceeded 6.61 pounds in gains or losses.

The researchers give a number of reasons why a large weight loss may be contributing to reduced risk of skin cancer, including leptin uptake changes, lower chronic systemic inflammation, and changes in gut microbes. In summary, they found a 42% lower risk for both forms of skin cancer combined, and 57% lower risk of malignant melanoma in the surgery group (as compared to the non-surgery group).

BOTTOM LINE: If you are really overweight, then try, try, try to lose a big chunk of weight. Your body will thank you in many ways. Not just lower risk of some cancers (including breast cancer), lower risk of diabetes, increased chance of diabetes reversal, lower risk of dementia, lower chronic systemic inflammation, better sperm quality, and on and on.

The CDC says that a person with a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 30.0 or higher is obese, and being overweight is a BMI of 25 to less than 30. [Body Mass Index table]

From Medical Xpress: Lower risk for malignant melanoma after bariatric surgery   ...continue reading "Bariatric Surgery, Weight loss, and Lower Risk of Skin Cancer"

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 great option for losing weight and better health may be to only eat within a 10 hour window, and then not eat for 14 hours (thus a nightly 14 hour fast). Many may find this easier than traditional dieting (counting calories and restricting eating). Just eat breakfast later, supper earlier, and no snacks in the evening. (But water is OK.)

Researchers from the Univ. Of California and Salk Institute conducted the 10-hour restricted eating study on persons with metabolic syndrome, most of whom were also on high blood pressure (anti-hypertensive) medicine and statins. After 12 weeks the people had lost weight, lost body fat, lowered blood pressure, reduced cholesterol, and decreased the size of their waist.

Since metabolic syndrome raises the risk for diabetes and heart (cardiovascular) disease, then 10-hour restricted eating can be an important tool to improve health. The researchers point out that in animal studies, time-restricted feeding can prevent and reverse aspects of metabolic diseases, and in healthy humans, it reduces the risks of metabolic diseases. Studies also found benefits with 9-hour restricted eating and 12 hour fasts.

From Science Daily: Clinical study finds eating within 10-hour window may help stave off diabetes, heart disease  ...continue reading "Improve Health and Lose Weight By Restricting Eating To A 10 Hour Window"

Once again a study finds an association between a Western diet (lots of processed meat, red meat, fried food, desserts, low fiber, high in refined grains, sugar sweetened beverages, and high-fat dairy) and a poor health outcome - this time a significantly higher incidence of late-stage age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Interestingly though, a Western dietary pattern did not seem to be associated with whether a person developed early AMD - only with whether it would progress to late-stage AMD. And late-stage AMD is the one that results in loss of central vision (in the retina), which means a person will then be unable to drive.

This study followed 1278 people over an 18 year period. Those who ate a Western style diet (considered unhealthy) had a 3 times higher rate of late-stage AMD as compared to those who had a "prudent" (healthy) dietary pattern. Out of 1278 persons - 117 developed early AMD and 27 developed late AMD (20 of them progressed from no AMD to late AMD over the 18 years, and 7 progressed from early AMD to late AMD).

What kinds of foods seemed especially protective? The researchers said that eating the following  foods appeared protective: cruciferous (e.g. broccoli), foods high in carotene (e.g. carrots), dark green leafy and other vegetables, poultry, fresh fruits, legumes, fish and sea foods - what they called part of a "prudent" diet, but can also be thought of as a Mediterranean dietary pattern.

One thing I question is whether "high fat dairy" (which they said was margarine & butter) should have lumped together margarine and butter. After all, margarine is a concoction made with trans fats and linked to health problems, while butter (made from milk/cream) is very different.

From Science Daily: Poor diet linked to age-related macular degeneration  ...continue reading "A Person’s Diet And Age-Related Macular Degeneration"

Americans are eating so much ultra-processed food that it's now more than 50% of their daily calories. And why shouldn't they eat these foods? They're easy to get (fast foods, prepackaged foods, take out foods), they taste good, and they're great for people pressed for time. That's why they're called "convenience foods" and include fast foods, prepackaged foods, many frozen meals, take out foods, soda, packaged snacks, and many cakes, candies, and cookies.

But... there's a dark side to highly processed food. It is linked to all sorts of harmful health effects (cancer, Alzheimer's disease, etc), to chronic inflammation, and now to worse heart health. Even our beneficial gut microbes don't like highly processed foods. Instead, they like real whole foods, especially plant based foods high in fiber, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes.

There are all sorts of ingredients in ultra-processed foods that are laboratory concoctions, from artificial and natural flavors, colors, additives, preservatives, etc. Read the ingredient lists!

The results of a new study by researchers at the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) found that  for every 5% increase in calories from ultra-processed foods a person ate, there was a corresponding decrease in overall cardiovascular (heart) health.

From Science Daily: Too much ultra-processed food linked to lower heart health  ...continue reading "Highly Processed Foods and Heart Health"

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Researchers are starting to raise concerns about routine daily intake of probiotics for "gut health". Much is still unknown, but problems are starting to appear. A healthy gut contains hundreds of species (bacteria, fungi, viruses), and taking megadoses of a few species (a probiotic supplement) can overwhelm the normal gut microbial community. A healthy gut is one with a greater diversity of species, not just some species.

For example, one study found that daily probiotic ingestion can result in overgrowth of some bacterial species in the intestines, resulting in such symptoms as brain fogginess, bloating, and gas. Successful treatment was antibiotics and stopping the use of probiotics.   Another recent study found that after using antibiotics, those who took probiotics (thinking it would help microbial recolonization of the gut microbes) actually had slower recovery of the gut microbiome (microbial community).  The best recovery was in those who took nothing, no supplements at all, or those who received a fecal microbial transplant (where an entire microbial community is transplanted).

The evidence is showing that for gut microbial health, the best thing to do is eat a variety of real whole foods (and not highly processed foods) that have lots of fiber, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and legumes (beans). In other words, feed the beneficial bacteria. A Mediterranean style diet is good.

A recent article in Medscape (the medical site) highlights these same concerns. [See below.] A study that looked at the gut microbiome of people who were about to undergo treatment for melanoma found that those who were taking probiotics actually had worse gut microbial diversity. [Remember, gut microbial diversity is considered an indicator of gut health.] And the cancer treatment (immunotherapy) did not work as well on them.

Bottom line: The evidence is showing that for gut microbial health, the best thing to do is eat a variety of real whole foods (and not highly processed foods) that have lots of fiber, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and legumes (beans). In other words, feed the beneficial bacteria. A Mediterranean style diet is good. Don't take routine daily supplements or probiotics for  "gut health" - they won't help. Instead, if you want - only take probiotics for a short while for a specific symptom or problem.

Dr. Lorenzo Cohen wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal laying out those same points. Some excerpts from: Those Probiotics May Actually Be Hurting Your ‘Gut Health’  ...continue reading "Daily Use of Probiotics Can Hurt Gut Health"

Food is all important for health. A recent study (that analyzed data from 10 large studies in the US, Europe, and Asia) found an association between high fiber intake from foods and also frequent eating of yogurt with a lower incidence of lung cancer. Persons with the highest yogurt and fiber consumption had a 33% reduced risk of lung cancer (when compared to the group who did not consume yogurt and consumed the least amount of fiber).

Think of it this way: The fiber in foods feeds the beneficial bacteria in the gut. High fiber foods that feed microbes in the gut are known as prebiotics. It is good to eat a variety of foods, because they provide a variety of fibers. High fiber foods are whole grains, fruits, vegetables, seed, nuts, and legumes (beans).

Gut microbes use fiber to generate short-chain fatty acids, and these are anti-inflammatory. Evidence suggests that the beneficial effects are not restricted to the gut, but reach organs throughout the body, including the lungs. The researchers suggest that both fiber and yogurt have anti-inflammatory effects, and the combination of fiber and yogurt is stronger against lung cancer than either alone. They also thought that the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species in yogurt somehow help improve the gut microbial system.

From Medical Xpress:  High fiber, yogurt diet associated with lower lung cancer risk  ...continue reading "High Fiber Foods, Yogurt, and Lung Cancer"

Reading the following study, I thought to myself - OK, once again someone is testing a supplement, but generally studies find that supplements don't do as well as real, actual foods in whatever is being tested. In this case, a supplement containing lycopene, which is found in tomatoes, was tested by researchers in the UK to see if it would help with sperm quality in men. Other studies have found dietary lycopene to have health benefits (e.g. lower incidence of lethal prostate cancer), which is among the reasons the researchers focused on testing it for semen quality.

The study design was nice - with 60 young healthy men randomly assigned to one of 2 groups - the supplement group and the placebo group, and no one knew who was assigned to which group (double blind). They took either the lycopene supplement (14 mg/d of lactolycopene, equivalent to 2 kg of cooked tomatoes)  or a placebo for 12 weeks. They found changes in sperm quality after the 12 weeks, with significant improvement in the proportion of "fast progressive sperm" and normally shaped sperm (morphology). However, "motile sperm concentration" (the number of moving sperm) did not improve - and this is considered the main measure associated with chance of conception. So it is unknown how the 2 things that improved would affect fertility.

Bottom line: Studies find numerous health benefits from diets rich in fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes and other red foods, such as watermelon, papaya, and pink grapefruit. And yes - ketchup is a good source. Apparently more lycopene is bioavailable when tomatoes are cooked or processed, especially when cooked in oil (as compared to raw tomatoes). And when eating fruits and vegetables, try to eat as many that are organically grown, because eating fruits and vegetables with high levels of pesticide residues has a negative effect on sperm quality.

From Science Daily: Dietary supplement from tomatoes discovered to boost sperm quality  ...continue reading "Lycopene In Tomatoes and Sperm Quality"

Once again a study finds health problems from supplements. This time, researchers found that several bodies of evidence (the long-running American Nurses' Study and two studies in Norway) found a higher risk of hip fracture in postmenopausal women who took high doses of both vitamin B6  and B12. Interestingly, B12 alone seemed to not be associated with problems. And only getting the vitamins from foods was totally fine.

Yes, taking supplements is highly popular, but many studies are finding adverse effects. As the researchers point out in the journal article: "Both insufficient and excess intakes of a nutrient may be harmful. According to randomized clinical trials (RCTs), high-dose vitamin supplementation may lead to unexpected adverse effects."

The researchers also point out that studies find that vitamin B supplementation has not had a preventive effect on cardiovascular diseases (heart disease) and cancer. Also, taking high doses of vitamin B12 and folic acid supplements has not shown a fracture-preventing effect in studies. And now this finding of a combination of high dose vitamin B-6 and B-12  is associated with an almost 50% higher risk of hip fracture in postmenopausal women. Uh-oh.

So instead of taking supplements, focus on a good diet with a wide variety of foods. Only take (high dose) supplements if there is a known deficiency, and not "just in case".

Excerpts from Medical Xpress:  Too much vitamin B can cause hip fracture  ...continue reading "High Dose Vitamin B Supplements and Hip Fractures"

Two recent studies point out the dangers of air pollution to the developing fetus. The first study found an association with high levels of air pollution during pregnancy and lower IQ years later when the children were between the ages of 4 to 6 (as compared to women exposed to less traffic-related air pollution during pregnancy).

The second study found that soot (tiny carbon particles) from air pollution  (e.g. vehicle exhaust) are breathed in by the pregnant woman, and then make it to her placenta during pregnancy and cross over to the baby's side of the placenta. (The placentas were collected and examined after delivery.) The fact that these tiny particles found in polluted air are breathed in by the pregnant woman and reach the baby's side of the placenta and accumulate, suggests to the researchers how air pollution causes harm to the fetus. They also found that the more particles the pregnant woman was exposed to throughout pregnancy, the more particles were detected on the baby's side of the placenta ("placental load").

The placenta used to be viewed as a barrier to toxins, but NOPE - it's not. (As we already know with alcohol and drugs, etc.)

But now some good news: In the first study, pregnant women who had higher levels of folate in their blood - meaning they had better nutrition and higher intake of folic acid during pregnancy, appeared to have a protective effect on the developing baby. As the researchers said: "Maternal folate levels may modify the impact of prenatal air pollution exposure on child cognition." In those with the lowest folate levels during pregnancy, the negative effects of air pollution during pregnancy on the developing fetus appeared to be the strongest (6.8 points lower IQ). Folate is naturally occurring in many fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, and nuts, and is in the form of folic acid in vitamin supplements. Best is a good diet.

From Medical Xpress: Offspring of pregnant women exposed to high level of pollutants may have lower IQs   ...continue reading "Air Pollution Has Harmful Effects During Pregnancy"