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Intermittent fasting has generated much excitement over its potential  as a simple method to lose weight and improve health. It involves eating normally  during limited hours each day (e.g. 8 hours), and then abstaining from food the other hours (e.g. 16 hours). However, a recent study found that people following intermittent fasting for 12 weeks did not really lose weight or improve key metabolic markers. Bummer.

University of California researchers randomly assigned 116 adults, who were overweight or obese, to either an intermittent fasting group (16 hours fasting/8 hours allowed to eat ) or a group that ate 3 regular meals at set times each day (breakfast, lunch, dinner). The intermittent fasting group lost 2 pounds over the 12 weeks, which is not significantly different from the group that ate their meals at structured times - they lost 1 1/2 pounds. Same with metabolic markers (e.g.insulin levels, fasting glucose levels, cholesterol levels) - no real differences between the groups after 12 weeks.

Of course this was just 1 study, so we'll see what other human studies find. In contrast, other small human studies, as well as mice studies, have found health benefits from intermittent fasting, also called time restricted eating.

From Medical Xpress: Intermittent fasting is popular—but it doesn't work for weight loss

The currently popular diet of intermittent fasting that restricts eating to eight hours per day, separated by 16 hours of fasting, is not effective on its own as a means of either losing weight or for improving key metabolic health markers, according to a new study led by researchers at UC San Francisco.  ...continue reading "Intermittent Fasting Study Didn’t Find Expected Health Benefits"

Weetabix biscuits Credit: Wikipedia

Exciting research from the UK suggests that to prevent celiac disease in children, the answer may be to feed the child gluten in early childhood (starting at 4 months of age). Early exposure!

Celiac disease, which occurs in about 1 in 100 people, is a lifelong condition caused by an abnormal reaction to gluten - a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Eating gluten results in the body mounting an immune response that attacks and damages the small intestine, so that nutrients cannot be absorbed properly into the body. The only treatment for celiac disease is to strictly adhere to a gluten free diet.

The study included one group of children that had early exposure to high doses of gluten starting at 4 months (4 grams of wheat protein per week in the form of 2 Weetabix biscuits - wheat biscuits produced in the UK). They were compared to children who did not have gluten exposure until 6 months (standard dietary recommendations of breast milk only). At three years of age none of the early gluten group (0 out of 488 children) had celiac disease, while 1.4% (7 of 516 children) of the delayed gluten exposure had celiac disease.

This finding is along the lines of research suggesting that to prevent peanut allergies from developing feed small amounts of pureed peanut products (such as peanut butter or peanut puffs) to a child in the first year of life, starting as early as 4 months of age.

Another bit of interesting celiac disease research from 2019 found a link with higher fiber intake by the mother during pregnancy, especially of fruits and vegetables, and a lower incidence of celiac disease in the children. Also, gluten intake (high or low) by the pregnant woman had no effect on whether her child would later develop celiac disease.

From Science Daily: Early introduction of gluten may prevent celiac disease in children, study finds

Introducing high doses of gluten from four months of age into infants' diets could prevent them from developing celiac disease, a study has found. 
...continue reading "Introducing Gluten At 4 Months Of Age May Prevent Celiac Disease In Children"

Several studies are now suggesting that low vitamin D levels are linked to increased risk of getting COVID-19. And if you get COVID-19, low vitamin D levels are linked to a higher risk of developing serious symptoms requiring admission to intensive care,  and also not surviving. These studies are observational and don't prove that vitamin D levels are the cause, but a number of studies from countries worldwide and several lines of research are suggesting the same thing.

The best source of vitamin D is sunlight, but if taking supplements - then take vitamin D3. Researchers, doctors, and medical organizations vary in their recommended dosages, but many (such as Mayo Clinic) suggest 1000 to 2000 IU per day. The minimum daily requirement is 600 IU.

Some studies also suggest that having adequate magnesium is needed for vitamin D to be metabolized well. Good food sources of magnesium are nuts, seeds (especially pumpkin seeds), peanut butter, whole grains, beans, leafy vegetables, some fatty fish (halibut, salmon, mackerel), milk, yogurt, dark chocolate, legumes (beans), quinoa, tofu, and bananas. Daily magnesium requirements are 420 mg for men, 320 mg for women. Food is generally considered a better source than supplements.

However, some researchers point out that having a disease (e.g. diabetes) or chronic inflammation results in lowering of vitamin D levels (and not that low vitamin D levels causes disease). We need good double-blind studies (people randomly assigned to groups, and no one knows who is getting what) to understand if it really is vitamin D that's causing beneficial health effects.

Excerpts from Medscape: Low Vitamin D in COVID-19 Predicts ICU Admission, Poor Survival

Having low serum vitamin D levels was an independent risk factor for having symptomatic COVID-19 with respiratory distress requiring admission to intensive care — as opposed to having mild COVID-19 — and for not surviving, in a new study from Italy. ...continue reading "Vitamin D and COVID-19"

A recent study found that eating higher levels of foods with flavonoids (e.g. berries, apples, and tea) may lower the risk of later development of Alzheimer's disease and other age-related dementias.

Since currently there are no effective drugs that prevent or actual medical treatments for dementia, it is great that what a person eats (the dietary pattern) long-term may be protective. Something we can do to lower our risk for Alzheimer's disease and other dementias!

Tufts University researchers followed 2801 persons (50 years and older) for 20 years and found that those with the lowest intake of flavonoid rich foods (especially 3 flavonoid classes: flavonols, anthocyanins, and flavonoid polymers) had a 20 to 40% higher chance of developing Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, when compared to those eating the most flavonoid rich foods. [Note: The lowest intake group averaged  about 1 1/2 apples, but no berries or tea per month.]

Flavonoids are naturally occurring bioactive pigments, of which there are 7 types, that are found in plant-based foods. Some good sources of different types of flavonoids include berries & red wine (anthocyanin rich), onions & apples, pears (flavonol rich), citrus fruits and juices, teas, dark chocolate, parsley, celery,and soy products.

Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables appears to be best for health benefits. There is no one super-food. Other studies also find that the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fruits and vegetables (thus flavonoid rich), may reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.

Why are flavonoid containing foods protective, specifically "neuroprotective"? Studies suggest that they do the following: antioxidant effects, protect neurons from neurotoxins and combat neuroinflammation, and favorable changes in brain blood flow,

Excerpts from Science Daily: More berries, apples and tea may have protective benefits against Alzheimer's

Older adults who consumed small amounts of flavonoid-rich foods, such as berries, apples and tea, were two to four times more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease and related dementias over 20 years compared with people whose intake was higher, according to a new study led by scientists at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (USDA HNRCA) at Tufts University.  ...continue reading "Eating More Fruits and Berries Lowers Risk of Dementia"

Pregnant women receive all sorts of advice on what to do or not do during pregnancy. For years medical guidelines in both the US and Europe have been that moderate (up to 200 mg) ingestion of caffeine during pregnancy is OK, which means about 2 cups of regular coffee a day.

However, a recent review of studies by Reykjavik University Professor Jack E. James found that ingesting caffeine during pregnancy is linked to health problems and that there is no safe level during pregnancy. In other words,  caffeine and caffeinated beverages should be avoided during pregnancy and when trying to conceive.

Health problems associated with caffeine intake during pregnancy are miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight and/or small for gestational age, childhood leukemia, and childhood overweight and obesity. Studies typically found a dose-response effect - the more caffeine is ingested, the more negative health effects.

Human studies looking at this issue are observational, but negative health effects are supported by animal research going back more than four decades. Caffeine crosses the placenta and goes to the baby. Negative health effects occur because the fetus can not clear the caffeine well because it lacks an enzyme that metabolizes caffeine.

Professor James points out that the industry established and funded the group ILSI (International Life Sciences Institute) which successfully fought any FDA warnings about caffeine and pregnancy, and which attacked any research suggesting it could be harmful to pregnancy or the fetus. [Why am I not surprised about the success of the industry group? And that they published their own "research" showing caffeine was benign in response to scientific research showing negative health effects.]

Excerpts from Science Daily: No safe level of caffeine consumption for pregnant women and would-be mothers

Women who are pregnant or trying to conceive should be advised to avoid caffeine because the evidence suggests that maternal caffeine consumption is associated with negative pregnancy outcomes and that there is no safe level of consumption, finds an analysis of observational studies published in BMJ Evidence Based Medicine.   ...continue reading "Avoid Consuming Caffeine During Pregnancy"

A recent study found that giving daily vitamin D supplements to children with severe asthma and low vitamin D levels did not prevent severe asthma attacks, reduce the time to an asthmatic attack, or enable the children to reduce the maintenance dose of an inhaled corticosteroid. Very disappointing!

As of 2018, it is estimated that 5.5 million children in the US have asthma, and that asthma led to more than 546,000 emergency department visits and 80,000 hospitalizations. So the researchers started the study hoping that vitamin D3 supplements could help with asthma attacks.

The well-done year long study recruited children (6 to 16 years old) from 7 US medical centers. They were assigned randomly to different groups (vitamin D or placebo), and with no one knowing who got vitamin D and who didn't. The children took 4000 IU/day of vitamin D3 or a placebo for 48 weeks, and all were maintained with a low-dose of inhaled corticosteroid (fluticasone propionate).

The findings contrast with earlier observational studies (basically a snap-shot of  groups of people) that found a link with severe asthma and lower vitamin D levels. Meanwhile, other well-done studies (women assigned randomly to different groups, etc) have found no protective effect from vitamin D3 supplementation during pregnancy - that is, it did not protect children up to the age of 6 from asthma.

Excerpts from Science Daily: Compared to placebo, vitamin D has no benefit for severe asthma attacks, study finds

Contrary to earlier results, vitamin D supplements do not prevent severe asthma attacks in at-risk children, according to the first placebo-controlled clinical trial to test this relationship.  ...continue reading "Children With Severe Asthma Not Helped By Vitamin D Supplements"

organic grains, oatsAchieve dramatically lower pesticide levels in your body in a few days! No need for "colonics" or "detox regimens". All one has to do is eat organic food to lower pesticide levels! And the more organic food in the diet, the better.

We ingest small amounts of pesticides when we eat and drink conventionally grown foods, and these pesticides can be measured in our urine and blood. Studies have found that switching to an organic diet lowers the amounts of pesticides (e.g. chlorpyrifos, 2,4-D) in the body, and now glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) can be added to the list. This is because glyphosate is used to grow conventional foods, but it is not allowed to be used on organic crops or in organic food production.

A recent study found that eating an all organic diet lowered glyphosate and AMPA (glyphosate metabolite) levels, in both adults and children, more than 70% in 6 days. The study measured glyphosate and its metabolites (in the urine) in members of 4 families who typically did not eat organic food, and who lived in different parts of the US. During the organic phase lasting 6 days, all the food the 16 people ate was organic - it was provided to them.

Before the organic phase of the study, both glyphosate and AMPA (glyphosate metabolite) were detected in more than 93.5% of urine samples in the study participants. Glyphosate and AMPA levels were substantially higher in children than in their parents, and this was true in both the conventional and the organic diet phases of the study, even after levels went down. The researchers thought that perhaps children were getting more environmental exposures (parks and school grounds), or perhaps they metabolize the pesticide slower than adults. (It's unknown why.)

Glyphosate has been linked to cancer, to effects on the kidneys and liver, endocrine disruption, and alteration of the gut microbiome. The overwhelming majority of people have glyphosate or its metabolites in their bodies. We get pesticides into our bodies through inhalation, absorption through the skin, and we ingest them in foods and beverages. As more and more glyphosate is used each year on crops, the levels in our bodies have been increasing. ...continue reading "Lower Your Pesticide Levels By Eating Organic Foods"

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Disappointing results from a large study of more than 18,000 adults that looked at whether daily vitamin D supplements for 5 years helps prevent depressionThe Harvard Medical School researchers found that vitamin D didn't prevent depression or improve mood.

The study was large (more than 18,000 adults over the age of 50), double-blind (no one knew who was getting what to prevent bias), had people assigned randomly to either getting vitamin D3 (2000 IU/d of cholecalciferol) or a placebo, and lasted 5 years. The researchers summary of findings: "These findings do not support the use of vitamin D3 in adults to prevent depression."

By the way, the results of this well-done study (which was designed to see cause and effect) are in contrast to observational studies that suggested that a person's vitamin D levels and vitamin D supplements are correlated with the risk of depression and depressive symptoms. Once again a well-done vitamin D study did not provide the health benefits that people were hoping for.

From Medical Xpress: Large study confirms vitamin D does not reduce risk of depression in adults

Vitamin D supplementation does not protect against depression in middle-age or older adulthood according results from one of the largest ever studies of its kind. This is a longstanding question that has likely encouraged some people to take the vitamin.  ...continue reading "Study Finds That Vitamin D Supplements Don’t Prevent Depression"

Want to lose weight without counting calories?  According to a recent study, weight loss occurs easily in people only eating during a time-restricted time (a limited time each day). Eat all you want, but only during a 4 or 6 hour time period, and then no food the rest of the day. Drink plenty of water, and during fasting hours can also drink zero calorie beverages (black coffee, tea, diet soda).

The study found that two groups of obese adults who only ate within a 4 or 6 hour period each day had a similar weight loss over a 2 month period, similar reductions in insulin resistance and oxidative stress, and resulted in similar body fat loss. Eating within this short time (either 4 or 6 hours) actually resulted in consuming about 550 fewer calories per day.

On average, participants were 47 years old, weighed about 220 pounds (100 kg) and with a body mass index (BMI) of 37 at the start of the study. Most were women (90%) and about 66% were Black. After 8 weeks, persons in both the 4 and 6 hour eating period lost about 3.2% of their initial weight, while those in the control group (who continued eating normally) lost 0.1% of their starting weight.

Can you do it? One example - only eat lunch and dinner every day, say between noon and 6 pm, and watch those pounds melt off! It'll be tough to not eat at other times, but hey! - it's eat what you want (even though you'll ultimately eat less each day), no calorie counting, and still lose weight!

Excerpts from Medscape: Time-Restricted Feeding a 'Viable Option' to Lose Weight

Adults with obesity had similar weight loss and improvements in some cardiometabolic markers after restricting their eating to 4 or 6 hours a day for 2 months, in a new study. ...continue reading "How to Lose Lose Weight Without Counting Calories"

What you eat is all important for health. A recent study found that eating higher amounts of protein, whether animal or plant protein,  were associated with lower rates of death (from any cause). Eating a diet high in plant protein appeared to be especially beneficial, and was associated with both a lower risk of death (all cause mortality) and deaths from cardiovascular disease. Higher protein intakes, whether animal, plant or combined, were not associated with rates of death from cancer.

The research, which was an analysis of 32 studies, found there was a dose-response association between intake of plant protein and risk of death (from any cause) - the more plant protein in the diet, the lower the risk of death.

What foods are high in plant protein? Legumes (beans,lentils, peas ), whole grains, and nuts. Bottom line: Eat more protein, especially plant protein, for your health. [And this means real foods, not supplements!]

From Science Daily: Diets high in protein, particularly plant protein, linked to lower risk of death

Diets high in protein, particularly plant protein, are associated with a lower risk of death from any cause, finds an analysis of the latest evidence published by The BMJ today.  ...continue reading "Diets High In Protein Are Beneficial For Health"