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Today a study was published finding health benefits to frequent (daily!) consumption of cocoa - improved walking in older persons with peripheral artery disease (PAD). Another reason to drink cocoa and eat dark chocolate!

The study, conducted in Chicago, Illinois, randomly assigned persons, over the age of 60 years with PAD, to different groups. Those who drank a cocoa beverage for 6 months (3 times a day) were able to walk further in a 6 minute walk at the 6 month follow-up  (when compared to the placebo/no cocoa group).

The researchers also found that the cocoa significantly improved a number of measures of the calf muscle (e.g. capillary density, calf muscle perfusion), which suggested that there is a durable benefit on the calf muscles from the cocoa beverage. In other words - it's not just a quick sugar-cocoa high that boosted their walking.

On the other hand, the placebo (no cocoa) group deteriorated in how far they could walk over the 6 months, which is consistent with peripheral artery disease. Yes, it typically gets worse over time.

PAD (also called peripheral arterial disease) is a common circulatory problem, due to atherosclerosis, in which there is reduced blood flow to the limbs due to narrowed arteries.Typically the legs don't receive enough blood flow and there is pain when walking (which goes away after resting a bit). Treatments include lifestyle changes (e.g. diet, exercise) and medicines.

What is so beneficial about cocoa? Both regular dark chocolate and cocoa contain flavanols, including epicatechin, which have therapeutic properties and may improve walking in people with PAD. Evidence from other studies of people with and without PAD suggests that cocoa may increase "limb perfusion" and "improve skeletal muscle mitochondrial activity and muscle regeneration".

Can you imagine a prescription for dark chocolate and cocoa on a daily basis? Fantastic! From Medical Xpress: Cocoa could bring sweet relief to walking pain for people with peripheral artery disease   ...continue reading "Enjoy Some Cocoa Or Dark Chocolate Daily"

Taller men have a lower rate of dementia? Apparently a number of studies have found a link between height of men and risk of dementia.

The latest is an interesting Danish study that measured the height of more than 666,000 young adult men (at the physical exam for the draft) and then looked at the rates of dementia decades later when they were between 55 to 77 years of age. They found that young men that were above average in height had about a 10% lower rate of dementia more than four decades later.

The researchers thought that the early adulthood height was an indicator of early life environment (such as nutrition and childhood diseases).

What were some of the height differences? "Above average in height" was being at least 1 standard deviation above average height. For example, the researchers found that Danish men born in 1959 who had a mean (average) height of 185.6 cm (73.07") had a 10% lower rate of dementia than men of average height (179.1 cm or 70.5").

From Medical Xpress: Study suggests taller young men may have lower dementia risk

Men who are taller in young adulthood, as an indicator of early-life circumstances, may have a lower risk of dementia in old age, suggests a study published today in eLife.   ...continue reading "Tall Men Have A Lower Rate Of Dementia?"

Will eating certain vegetables prevent or improve fatty liver disease?  Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease goes hand in hand/is a consequence of being overweight or obese, and is characterized by an accumulation of fat in the liver. As the disease progresses, the liver shows damage from inflammation, and can ultimately even lead to cirrhosis (liver failure).

A recent multi-part study raises the possibility that perhaps eating certain foods can prevent or reverse this condition. Gut bacteria produce many compounds , one of which is indole, which has powerful anti-inflammatory effects. Obese people have less indole in their blood, and lean people more. And people with fatty liver disease have less indole in their blood. In the study, giving mice indole actually improved their fatty liver disease.

How can one naturally increase levels of indole? By eating cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, bok choy, collards, and Brussels sprouts.

From Medical Xpress: Natural compound in vegetables helps fight fatty liver disease   ...continue reading "Eat Certain Vegetables To Improve or Prevent Fatty Liver disease?"

Another study finding that eating an egg each day is totally fine for our health. Of course it is! For years nutritionists were obsessed with the cholesterol in eggs, thinking it must translate into being bad for heart health. Remember the advice to only eat egg whites?

An international team of researchers looked at 3 large studies (50 countries on 6 continents) and found that there were no associations between eating about one egg a day and cholesterol levels, death, or strokes and heart attacks. And that this moderate egg intake "does not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease or mortality even if people have a history of cardiovascular disease or diabetes".

Eggs are a good source of essential nutrients and protein, are inexpensive, easy to cook,  and are also an excellent source of choline - which is needed for brain health (for neurological functioning).

From Medical Xpress: An egg a day not tied to risk of heart disease: new study   ...continue reading "Eating An Egg A Day Is Totally Fine"

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The past year has resulted in disappointments for the vitamin and mineral supplement industry as study after study didn't find health benefits from routinely ingesting them. Instead, study after study found health benefits from eating a good diet, specifically one that has as few as possible highly processed foods, but lots of whole foods, and rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes (beans). And in this way, also high in fiber. Think along the lines of a Mediterranean diet.

The following are some of the studies finding no benefits to various vitamin and mineral supplements. Many found the results of the vitamin D studies especially disappointing.

1) From Science Daily - Vast majority of dietary supplements don't improve heart health or put off death, study finds

In a massive new analysis of findings from 277 clinical trials using 24 different interventions, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers say they have found that almost all vitamin, mineral and other nutrient supplements or diets cannot be linked to longer life or protection from heart disease.   ...continue reading "Four Vitamin Studies Have Disappointing Results"

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"