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An interesting study found that high fructose corn syrup promotes the growth of intestinal tumors - in mice. The amount was fairly small - the equivalent of 12 oz of soda (with about 20 g of high fructose corn syrup) per day. The big question now: Is this also true for humans?

A number of studies find an association of soda consumption (which typically has high-fructose corn syrup in it), obesity,  and cancer (e.g. colorectal cancer) in humans, but the question remained whether this was due to obesity (obesity is linked to many types of cancer) or whether the high fructose corn syrup is directly contributing to tumor development or tumor growth. Based on the results of this study, the researchers felt that the high fructose corn syrup "enhances" or "promotes" intestinal tumor growth. Yikes.

From Science Daily: High-fructose corn syrup boosts intestinal tumor growth in mice

Does sugar directly feed cancers, boosting their growth? The answer seems to be 'Yes' at least in mice according to a study led by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Weill Cornell Medicine.  ...continue reading "Time To Stop Drinking Soda?"

Another study found benefits from eating nuts - this time an association between frequently eating nuts and better brain functioning in older adults. The study was done in China and was part of a long-term nutrition and cognitive function study of 4822 adults (aged 55+ years). With aging, it is normal to have some decline in brain functioning, but the researchers said that high nut consumers had much less decline - that the more nuts consumed, the less decline (an inverse relationship).

The article below makes some grand claims ("could improve their cognitive function by up to 60 per cent") for a study that found an association between long-term nut consumption of more than 10 grams (about 1/8 cup) daily and cognitive health, but this doesn't prove it. Perhaps people who eat nuts also eat other foods or do other things that are beneficial for brain functioning. But ... the good news is that eating nuts frequently appears to be beneficial. So eat and enjoy.

By the way, peanuts are not nuts - they are legumes (also beans and peas) - but they have numerous health benefits, and were counted as nuts in this study. Common tree nuts are cashews, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, pine nuts, pistachios, chestnuts, lichee nuts, and Brazil nuts. [See all posts on health benefits of nuts.]

From Science Daily: A nutty solution for improving brain health

Long-term, high nut consumption could be the key to better cognitive health in older people according to new research from the University of South Australia.  ...continue reading "Another Reason To Eat Nuts Frequently"

Researchers have known for a while that human breast milk contains hundreds of species of bacteria that a baby ingests while feeding. This is good! The bacteria is seeding the baby's gut microbiome (microbial community). A recent study of breast milk from different continents found that breast milk from healthy mothers also contains species of fungi - which is the breast milk mycobiome. What was noteworthy was that some  types of fungi in breast milk were found among breast milk samples from all locations (a fungi "core group"), while other types of fungi varied among breast milk from the different locations and even how the baby was delivered (vaginal or C-section birth).

After analyzing the 80 samples of breast milk (20 from each country: Spain, Finland, South Africa, China) it was found that some fungi were the same in breast milk from the different locations: Malassezia, Davidiella, Sistotrema, and Penicillium, while others were different. Fungi from the genus Cryptococcus were higher in breast milk from women who delivered vaginally (as compared to those who had a C-section).  [Note: Genus ranks above species, but below family, and the written name is capitalized.]

This study confirms the importance of breast milk as a source of microbes (along with many nutrients and protective compounds) to the infant and infant gut. From Science Daily:

Breast milk microbiome contains yeast and fungi: Do these benefit the infant?  ...continue reading "It Is Normal For Fungi To Be In Breast Milk"

Is eating vegetables in the Allium family (garlic, onion, leeks, spring onions, garlic stalks) protective in regards to colon cancer? A recent study from China suggests that eating higher amounts of these vegetables is associated with a lower incidence of colorectal cancer in both men and women. Interestingly, the researchers only looked at these 5 vegetables, which are commonly eaten in China, but not other Allium vegetables that are commonly eaten elsewhere in the world - such as chives, scallions, and shallots. All Allium vegetables are rich in flavonols and organosulfur compounds, which have properties that inhibit tumors (anti-tumor) in laboratory studies. High intake of Allium vegetables is thought to be protective for a variety of cancers, e.g. prostate cancer.

The researchers mention that other studies examining this issue had mixed results - with some finding a protective effect of Allium vegetables, but not others. The researchers suggested that the high intake of these vegetables in the groups they studied and also cooking methods (which vary among different regions of China, as well as different countries) could explain the differences. For example, slicing and crushing fresh garlic releases beneficial compounds, but boiling onions leads to an approximately 30% loss of beneficial substances. After reviewing a number of studies that looked at Allium vegetable intake and cancer, it appears that while eating them cooked in any way is good, the most beneficial effects seem to be from raw Allium vegetables.

How much of the Allium vegetables did they eat? The healthy (non-colorectal cancer) group ate about 2 ounces or 1/4 cup of Allium vegetables per day (or 47 pounds annually), versus the colorectal cancer group ate about 1.5 ounces per day (or 15.92 kg or 35 lbs annually). Other differences between the groups were that the colorectal cancer group had higher intakes of alcohol and red meat, but less milk, other vegetables, and fruit (as compared to the healthy group). But both groups had the same intake of fiber. Bottom line: eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, including Allium vegetables (onions, garlic, leeks, spring onions, chives, scallions, shallots).

From Science Daily: Consuming garlic and onions may lower colorectal cancer risk   ...continue reading "Eating Garlic, Onions, and Leeks Linked to Lower Risk of Cancer"

Once again a study finds that eating berries (this time blueberries) is associated with health benefits - that the blueberries improved both blood vessel functioning and blood pressure. This multi-part European study was conducted on both humans and mice. The researchers specifically looked at what component of blueberries had the beneficial effects on blood pressure and came to the conclusion that it was the anthocyanins in the blueberries.  Anthocyanins are the blue, violet, or red flavonoid pigments found in berries and other plants.

How much did the researchers find to be beneficial in the study? 2 cups or 200 g blueberries daily for one month. The study participants drank blueberry juice, but the assumption is that eating whole blueberries has the same beneficial effect.The researchers found that the lowering of blood pressure (5 mmHg) is similar to what is commonly observed with blood pressure lowering medication (e.g. ACE inhibitors) in patients.

By the way, research finds health benefits from eating a variety of berry types and richly colored fruits and vegetables (e.g. better brain functioning, lower blood pressure, lowering of cholesterol levels). Not only are the micronutrients different, but also the microbial species which we ingest (this is good!). So don't eat just one kind of berry - eat them all!

From a press release published by King's College London: The 'blue' in blueberries can help lower blood pressure  ...continue reading "Blueberries and Blood Pressure"

Did you know that some other countries have stricter laws on food additives, drugs, and pesticides than the US? This is especially true with the European countries. It is especially aggravating to read that manufacturers sell foods with one set of ingredients in the US and a better set of ingredients in Europe. (Could it be because the FDA has such nice cozy relationships with Big Ag and lobbyists representing big chemical companies?) So... what can the ordinary person do? Read labels carefully. And try to buy as much organic food as possible, or buy from local farmers where you can find out how they are growing crops or raising animals.

Avoid the following if possible for the next 2 years until companies can no longer have them as ingredients: benzophenone, ethyl acrylate, eugenyl methy ether (methyl eugenol), myrcene, pulegone, and pyridine. The following NY Times article lists some ingredients allowed in the US, but not the European Union: potassium bromate, azodicarbonamide (or ADA), BHA and BHT , brominated vegetable oil (BVO), various food dyes (yellow dye #5 and 6, red dye #40), and certain farm animal drugs - the synthetic hormones  rBGH and  rBST, as well as ractopamine. Not mentioned in the article is that the European Union also bans the use of arsenic in chicken feed and formaldehyde (both allowed in US), and olestra or olean (a fat substitute). Unfortunately this is just a partial list.

One way to avoid problematic ingredients is to read labels and avoid foods with names that aren't real foods and that you don't know what they are. By the way, "natural flavors" are also laboratory concoctions - they're so pervasive in foods nowadays that they're tough to avoid, but one can try. From the "Ask Well" column by R.C. Rabin in the NY Times: What Foods Are Banned in Europe but Not Banned in the U.S.?

Q. What foods are banned in Europe that are not banned in the United States, and what are the implications of eating those foods?

A. The European Union prohibits or severely restricts many food additives that have been linked to cancer that are still used in American-made bread, cookies, soft drinks and other processed foods. Europe also bars the use of several drugs that are used in farm animals in the United States, and many European countries limit the cultivation and import of genetically modified foods.  ...continue reading "Food Ingredients Banned in Europe But Not USA"

New research is published every day, but only some studies are big research stories or game-changers. The following are what I consider some of the most memorable studies of 2018 – some in a good way, but some of the others have left me with a sense of horror. I think there will be follow-up research, so keep an eye out for more on these important topics.

Are we heading toward a time in the not so distant future when all men are infertile? (Due to exposure to all the endocrine disruptors around us.) Will All Men Eventually Be Infertile? This was posted September 5, 2018.

Researchers are now seriously investigating and finding evidence that microbes may be causing Alzheimer’s disease. This approach is rapidly finding support in the medical field, and may lead to possible ways to treat or prevent the disease. Possible Herpes Virus Link to Alzheimer’s Disease was posted July 13, 2018, and Herpes Viruses and Alzheimer's Disease on  June 22, 2018.

Type 2 Diabetes May Be Reversed With Weight Loss was posted August 10, 2018. This study and an earlier similar study from 2016 found that losing over 30 pounds over a short period can reverse type 2 diabetes - 46% in the 2018 study and 60% (in people who had it less than 10 years) in the earlier study.

More and more evidence is accumulating that certain diets are anti-inflammatory. Especially beneficial are diets rich in fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, legumes (beans), and whole grains - which also have a lot of fiber. This is exciting research because chronic low-grade inflammation is linked to a number of chronic diseases (heart disease, cancer, etc.). Fruits, Vegetables, and Whole Grains Lower Inflammation – posted August 1, 2018.

[Related to this last topic is one of the most eye-opening studies I have ever read on how what one eats has a quick effect on gut microbes and health of the gut (including inflammation of the colon): Changing Diet Has Big Effect On Colon Cancer Risk – posted April 28, 2015.]

The results of a recent study by Vanderbilt University may help explain why some people have difficulty raising their low vitamin D levels - it may be that their magnesium levels are low. It appears that magnesium may regulate vitamin D levels - when vitamin D levels are low, magnesium supplementation raises vitamin D levels, and when vitamin D levels are high, magnesium supplementation lowers them to a normal level.

What are good food sources of magnesium? Magnesium is found in many plant and animal foods and beverages. Good sources of magnesium include green leafy greens, legumes (beans), whole grains, nuts, dark chocolate, and fatty fish such as salmon. Foods containing dietary fiber generally provide magnesium. By the way, dietary surveys of people in the United States consistently show that intakes of magnesium are lower than recommended amounts. From Medical Xpress:

Study shows magnesium optimizes vitamin D status

A randomized trial by Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center researchers indicates that magnesium optimizes vitamin D status, raising it in people with deficient levels and lowering it in people with high levels

...continue reading "Magnesium Regulates Vitamin D Levels In the Body?"

Once again a study finds health benefits from consuming a Mediterranean style diet - a diet rich in fruits , vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes (beans), olive oil, and fish. The US Women's Health Study involved almost 26,000 women who were healthy at the start of the study and were followed for up to 12 years. The researchers found that a higher consumption of a Mediterranean style diet was associated with about a 28% lower risk in cardiovascular disease events (heart attack, stroke, coronary arterial revascularization, cardiovascular death). Based on what they generally ate, they were classified as having a low, middle, or upper intake of a Mediterranean style diet.

From Medical Xpress: Researchers explore what's behind Mediterranean diet and lower cardiovascular risk

A new study by investigators from Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health offers insights from a cohort study of women in the U.S. who reported consuming a Mediterranean-type diet. Researchers found about a 25 percent reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease among study participants who consumed a diet rich in plants and olive oil and low in meats and sweets. The team also explored why and how a Mediterranean diet might mitigate risk of heart disease and stroke by examining a panel of 40 biomarkers, representing new and established biological contributors to heart disease.   

...continue reading "Mediterranean Diet and Heart Disease"

Pregnant women have been advised to keep their consumption of coffee and other caffeinated beverages (tea, sodas, cocoa, energy drinks), and chocolate containing foods to a minimum for decades. Currently the American College of Obstetrics recommends that women consume less than 200 mg of caffeine (from any source) per day during pregnancy. This is less than 2 cups of regular coffee  or 4 cups of regular black tea. But a recent  study's findings suggest that the levels should be kept much lower.

The study of 941 mother/baby pairs in Ireland found that each 100 mg increase of caffeine per day was associated with a lower birth weight, shorter length of pregnancy (gestational age), shorter birth length of the baby, and smaller head circumference of the baby at birth. The strongest associations between those who consumed the most caffeine (when compared to those who consumed the least) was with lower birth weight. The researchers think this occurs because caffeine crosses the placenta easily, but during pregnancy there is a slowed metabolism of caffeine (so it takes longer to get it out of the body). Similar results have been found in other recent studies. [On the other hand, for not pregnant women - coffee and tea are linked to all sorts of health benefits - here, here.]

From Medical Xpress: Caffeinated beverages during pregnancy linked to lower birth weight babies

...continue reading "Keep Caffeine To A Minimum During Pregnancy"