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It seems that every so often another study finds that daily coffee consumption is healthy for a person. A recent large study found that daily drinking of 2 to 3 cups coffee is associated with a lower risk of early death (from any cause) and lower risk of cardiovascular  disease, when compared to non-coffee drinkers.

The University of Melbourne researchers also found that drinking ground and instant coffee, but not decaffeinated coffee, was associated with a reduction in arrhythmias including atrial fibrillation. In this study cardiovascular disease included heart disease, congestive heart failure, and ischemic stroke.

More good news - it applied to all types of coffee (ground, decaffeinated, and instant). However, when looking at the study results, ground coffee appears to be more beneficial than decaf or instant coffee. Two to three cups of coffee per day appeared to be the most beneficial.

The researchers point out that coffee contains more than 100 biologically active components, which are contributing to its health effects.[Other coffee studies] They also said that mild to moderate coffee consumption should be considered part of a heart healthy lifestyle. Great news!

From Science Daily: Coffee drinking is associated with increased longevity

Drinking two to three cups of coffee a day is linked with a longer lifespan and lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared with avoiding coffee, according to research published today in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the ESC.1 The findings applied to ground, instant and decaffeinated varieties. ...continue reading "Coffee Drinking Linked to Longer Life and Lower Risk of Heart Disease"

Another recent study found that consuming artificial sweeteners do harm. In August a study found that artificial sweeteners alter both the oral and gut microbiomes in a negative way. Other earlier studies found an association with high blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, vascular dysfunction, and increased risk of cancer.

Now, a large study found that high consumption of artificial sweeteners is associated with increased risk of heart disease (cardiovascular disease), including heart attacks and strokes (cerebrovascular events).

What is high consumption of artificial sweetener? One individual packet of artificial sweetener or a 100 mL of diet soda is about 42.46 mg/day, while in this study high sweetener consumption is about 77.62 mg/day. So high consumption is not even 2 diet sodas or packets per day.

Bottom line: Artificial sweeteners are NOT a healthy or good alternative to sugar (or maple syrup or honey). Also, avoid high fructose corn syrup - that has its own problems. Artificial sweeteners are found in highly processed foods - try to also avoid those for your health.

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide. Avoiding sugar and instead consuming artificial sweeteners is not going to help you achieve health. But improving your overall diet will, such as eating a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, legumes (beans).

From Medical Xpress: Study suggests possible link between artificial sweeteners and heart disease

A large study of French adults published by The BMJ today suggests a potential direct association between higher artificial sweetener consumption and increased cardiovascular disease risk, including heart attack and stroke. ...continue reading "Health Harms Associated With Artificial Sweeteners"

Once again, bad news about ultra-processed foods. American adults eat so much ultra-processed food that it's now about 57% of their daily calories. It's because these foods are convenient, durable, available everywhere, taste good, and frequently are less expensive than whole foods.

A large study found that eating lots of ultra-processed foods (e.g., prepackaged foods, fast foods) is associated with a higher risk of colon cancer in men. Specifically, a 29% higher risk when compared to men who ate the least ultra-processed foods.

This association was not found in women.

However, when the researchers looked at specific kinds or categories of ultra-processed foods that were eaten, they found differences in colorectal cancer risk. Higher consumption of meat/poultry/seafood based ready-to-eat-products and sugar sweetened beverages (soda!) was associated with a higher colorectal cancer risk in men. Higher consumption of ready-to-eat/heat mixed dishes was associated with colorectal cancer in women.

But interestingly, eating yogurt and dairy based desserts were negatively associated with colorectal cancer risk in women - it's as if they were protective. Perhaps the beneficial microbes in the dairy foods?

Ultra-processed foods are ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat foods made of little or no whole foods. Instead, they are mostly made of substances derived from foods. They typically have many added ingredients such as additives, artificial colors, preservatives, stabilizers, sugars, artificial sweeteners, salt, flavorings, and hydrogenated fats.

Examples are frozen meals, soft drinks, hot dogs, cold cuts, fast food, packaged foods (including cookies and cake), candies, instant soups, and sweet or savory packaged snacks.

Studies also show that ultra-processed foods cause negative or harmful changes in the gut microbiome (microbial community of bacteria, viruses, fungi). Higher consumption is associated with a higher risk of a number of chronic diseases and cancer.

From Science Daily - New study links ultra-processed foods and colorectal cancer in men

For many Americans, the convenience of pre-cooked and instant meals may make it easy to overlook the less-than-ideal nutritional information, but a team led by researchers at Tufts University and Harvard University hope that will change after recently discovering a link between the high consumption of ultra-processed foods and an increased risk of colorectal cancer. ...continue reading "Ultra-Processed Foods and Risk of Colorectal Cancer"

All of us want to have a healthy gut microbiome (the microbial community of viruses, fungi, and bacteria). For health reasons many people try to lower their intake of sugars. However, ingesting artificial or non-nutritive sweeteners such as stevia, sucralose, aspartame, or saccharin may also have an effect on the body.

A recent study in both humans and mice found that these sugar substitutes cause gut microbiome changes and had an effect on a person's glycemic response (blood sugar levels). Saccharin and sucralose significantly impaired glucose tolerance in healthy adults - it impacted their glycemic response even at doses below FDA allowances (average daily intake or ADI).

The non-nutritive sweeteners also had an effect on the oral (mouth) microbiome. Each sweetener had a different and distinct effect on both oral and gut microbiomes. And the effects varied in each person, due to everyone having a different (unique) microbiome.

Earlier studies found negative health effects from sugar substitutes (e.g., higher incidence of diabetes, higher risk of cancer, gut microbiome changes). So be cautious until more is known. One of this study's researchers suggested drinking only water.

From Medical Xpress: Non-nutritive sweeteners affect human microbiomes and can alter glycemic responses

Since the late 1800s non-nutritive sweeteners have promised to deliver all the sweetness of sugar with none of the calories. They have long been believed to have no effect on the human body, but researchers publishing in the journal Cell on August 19 challenge this notion by finding that these sugar substitutes are not inert, and, in fact, some can alter human consumers' microbiomes in a way that can change their blood sugar levels. ...continue reading "Sugar Substitutes Alter Gut Microbiome"

Vegetarian diets have many health benefits, but there may be one downside - weaker hip bones. A recent study conducted in the UK found that women following a vegetarian diet had a higher risk of hip fractures (compared to women who ate meat regularly - 5 or more times a week).

In other words, meat eaters were at a lower risk for a hip fracture. Occasional meat-eaters (less than 5 servings a week) or pescatarians (ate fish, but not meat) were also at a lower risk of hip fracture. Meat products appear to be important for bone health. Other studies also find more hip fractures among persons following a vegan or vegetarian diet.

The researchers point out that vegetarian diets have a lower intake of nutrients important for bones (bone mineral density), and which are more abundant in animal products than in plants (e.g., protein, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, certain fatty acids).

From Medical Xpress: Vegetarian women are at a higher risk of hip fracture

A study of over 26,000 middle-aged UK women reveals those with a vegetarian diet had a 33% higher risk of hip fracture compared to regular meat-eaters. ...continue reading "Vegetarian Diets and a Higher Hip Fracture Risk"

It is very exciting whenever a study has good results in preventing cancer, especially if this is from simply eating certain foods. This recently occurred in a large study of people with a high hereditary susceptibility to certain cancers, called Lynch syndrome.

The study found that just eating some resistant starch (e.g., the amount in a green tipped banana) daily was enough to cut the incidence of upper GI cancers (e.g., pancreatic, bile duct, stomach, and duodenal cancers) by 60% over the next ten years. These are fabulous results.

However, it did not have an effect on the incidence of colorectal cancer and endometrial cancer.

In the well-done study (conducted in England, Wales, and Finland), people were randomly assigned to either a group that ate 30 grams of resistant starch daily or a placebo daily for up to 4 years. Then they were all followed for up to a further 10 years, and a portion up to 20 years. [Note: the researchers said the 30 g daily was equivalent to one slightly green banana]

Resistant starch is a type of dietary fiber found in foods such as slightly green bananas, potatoes, whole grains, beans, chickpeas, lentils, and seeds. Resistant starch is not digested in the small intestine, but is fermented by gut microbes to produce beneficial short-chain fatty acids, such as butyrate, in the colon (large bowel).

Bottom line: Eat a variety of fiber rich foods (whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts) daily, including foods that provide resistant starch. Your gut microbes and health will thank you!

From Science Daily: Cancer study: Major preventive effect from resistant starch in people with Lynch syndrome

A trial in people with high hereditary risk of a wide range of cancers has shown a major preventive effect from resistant starch, found in a wide range of foods such as oats, breakfast cereal, cooked and cooled pasta or rice, peas and beans and slightly green bananas.
...continue reading "Preventing Cancers By Eating Foods Containing Resistant Starch"

Jarlsberg cheese Credit: Wikipedia

Good news for cheese lovers. A recent well-done study found that eating a little Jarlsberg cheese every day is good for the bones as well as for metabolic markers in the blood, such as total cholesterol levels. A little bit of Camembert cheese just didn't have those beneficial effects.

Jarlsberg cheese is a Norwegian cow's milk cheese. The beneficial effects of the cheese are thought to be because it naturally contains vitamin K2 and 1.4-dihydroxy-2naphtoic acid (DHNA) - both necessary for bone health. Studies find that low intake of vitamin K2 is linked with increased risk of bone fractures. Jarlsberg contains the bacteria Proprionebacterium freudenreichii, which produces vitamin K and DHNA.

An earlier study by the Norwegian researchers found that eating 57 grams of Jarlsberg cheese (about 2 ounces) daily was optimal. Camembert was chosen because it is a cheese without vitamin K, but with similar fat and protein content. Women participated in this study, but it is thought that the results also apply to men.

Bottom line: Eat a little Jarlsberg cheese frequently for your health. Enjoy!

From Medical Xpress: Small daily portion of Jarlsberg cheese may help to stave off bone thinning

A small (57 g) daily portion of Jarlsberg cheese may help to stave off bone thinning (osteopenia/osteoporosis) without boosting harmful low density cholesterol, suggest the results of a small comparative clinical trial, published in the open access journal BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health. ...continue reading "Jarlsberg Cheese Has Beneficial Health Effects"

Kidney stones Credit: Wikipedia

Kidney stones are not only incredibly painful, but are also associated with chronic kidney disease, osteoporosis, and heart disease. New research suggests a good way to prevent a recurrence of kidney stones is to increase consumption of calcium and potassium rich foods. Very simple!

The Mayo Clinic researchers also found certain dietary factors associated with a higher risk of getting kidney stones for the first time. They are: lower consumption of calcium, potassium, caffeine (e.g., coffee, tea), and phytate in the diet. As well as a lower daily fluid intake. Foods matter!

Some foods to eat to lower the risk of kidney stones:

Calcium rich foods: dairy products (e.g., cheese, milk, yogurt), dark green leafy vegetables (e.g., spinach, collard greens, broccoli, kale), and sardines. [Note: Calcium supplements are associated with kidney stones, while eating calcium rich foods is protective.]

Potassium rich foods: include legumes (beans and lentils), potatoes (with skins), tomatoes, some fruits (e.g., bananas, kiwi, orange juice, melons), dairy foods, some seafood (e.g., salmon, halibut, tuna, shad, clams), leafy greens (e.g., spinach), yam, squash.

Phytate rich foods: include beans, legumes, unprocessed cereal grains (e.g., oats), nuts, seeds, and potatoes.  Some people have referred to phytate rich foods as "anti-nutrients" and say to avoid them (because they may slow down absorption of certain minerals). However, recent research finds that the health benefits of eating phytate rich foods (e.g., they are antioxidants, anti-inflammatory) and other plant foods outweighs any concerns.

From Science Daily: Diets higher in calcium and potassium may help prevent recurrent symptomatic kidney stones

Kidney stones can cause not only excruciating pain but also are associated with chronic kidney disease, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. If you've experienced a kidney stone once, you have a 30% chance of having another kidney stone within five years.  ...continue reading "Certain Foods Lower the Risk of Kidney Stones"

Well, it looks like the medical advice for avoiding food allergies in children has come full circle. For decades health professionals said for babies to avoid eating problem foods (e.g., eggs, dairy, peanuts) if parents have food allergies. But..it turned out that following this advice did not prevent food allergies.

Results of studies in the past decade changed medical views regarding food allergies. Now the advice is: Early exposure (in the first year of life) to foods such as eggs, milk, peanut butter, and wheat is preventive - don't avoid.

A recent well done Scandinavian study confirmed that this advice is good for all young children, not just those with a family history of food allergies. Starting at 3 months of age, infants who regularly ate tiny amounts of foods (wheat, eggs, cow's milk, peanuts) had a lower chance of food allergies by 3 years of age.

Only .9% of these children developed food allergies, while 2.3% to 3% of children not getting early exposure to foods developed egg, dairy, or peanut allergies.

Also, in this study some infants had their skin rubbed with skin emollients, bath additives and facial cream from 2 weeks to 8 months, 4 times per week, and more of them developed food allergies - whether also avoiding foods or not. [My comment: Why would anyone think that would help with food allergies? It sounds irritating! And it perhaps/probably messed with their skin microbiome.]

New advice: Infants should have early exposure to potentially problem foods, starting as early as 3 months, to lower their risk of developing food allergies. Delaying the introduction of these foods actually increases the risk of food allergies. (By the way, the same advice also holds true for avoiding pet allergies - exposure to furry pets in the first year of life is important.)

From Medical Xpress: Early food introduction can reduce risk of food allergy in children

Infants who were given a taste of peanut, milk, wheat and egg from the age of three months had a lower risk of developing a food allergy at the age of three years than controls, reports a study by researchers from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and the University of Oslo in Norway published in The Lancet. ...continue reading "Early Exposure to Foods Reduces Risk of Developing Food Allergies"

There is growing evidence that the presence of certain species of bacteria in the gut microbiome are associated with a higher stroke risk, while other bacteria are associated with a lower risk and health. Two recent studies went further and found that the presence (or higher levels) of certain bacteria are associated with severe ischemic strokes and a poorer recovery.

Ischemic strokes are the most common type of stroke. They occur when a clot or other blockage blocks the blood supply to the brain.

Both study researchers presented their findings at the European Stroke Organisation Conference (May 2022). They found that 26 species of bacteria were linked to strokes (in other words, you want less of the bacteria that increase stroke risk in your gut microbiome). Some examples of bacteria associated with strokes or poorer outcome included: bacteria of the genus Ruminococcus, species Prevotella copri, and Paraprevotella xylaniphila.

What does this mean for you? The researchers felt that changing your community of gut microbes (the gut microbiota or microbiome) could be a potential way to decrease stroke risk or stroke severity. A main way to accomplish this is by nutritional changes.

One of the researchers (Cyprien Rivier) said about the results:  "This suggests a delicate balance in the gut microbiota which can change the risk of stroke when altered."

To improve your gut microbes and lower stroke risk: most important is to improve your diet (eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, some fermented foods, and try to avoid highly processed foods). Also, good for gut microbes: increase your physical activity or amounts of exercise, don't smoke, and try to maintain a healthy weight. Another option is getting a fecal microbial transplant.

By the way, the beneficial microbes are NOT in dietary supplements. Must eat real food! Interestingly, an earlier study found that people who have ischemic strokes tend to have lower amounts ("depletion") of Lactobacillus sakei in the gut than healthy people.

Excerpts from Medscape: Gut Bacteria Linked to Stroke Severity, Risk

Two new studies identifying strains of gut microbiota associated with more severe strokes and worse post-stroke recovery point to a possible role for the gut microbiome in preventing stroke and improving outcomes. ...continue reading "Certain Gut Bacteria Are Linked to Strokes"