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For several years I've noticed that in a number of studies there appear to be beneficial health effects from consumption of dairy products, especially whole milk or full-fat products, and also fermented dairy products (e.g. yogurt, cheese). A recent international study (21 countries on 5 continents) found similar results: higher intake of dairy foods, especially full-fat dairy, is associated with lower incidence of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), and metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and early death. Risk factors include increased blood pressure, excess body fat around the waist, elevated triglycerides and cholesterol levels, and elevated blood glucose.  Diet plays a role in whether one develops metabolic syndrome and diabetes. [Being overweight and being inactive are also important risk factors.]

What was the higher intake of dairy products that was associated with health benefits? At least 2 servings per day. The study did not look into what kind of dairy people drank and ate - whether cow, sheep, camel, or goat milk dairy. The assumption is: dairy is dairy!

While it was an observational study, it was significant, especially because the 131,481 participants (aged 35 to 70 years) were from world regions not typically studied in dairy consumption studies. They were tracked for about 9 years.

Excerpts from Science Daily: Dairy-rich diet linked to lower risks of diabetes and high blood pressure

Eating at least two daily servings of dairy is linked to lower risks of diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as the cluster of factors that heighten cardiovascular disease risk (metabolic syndrome), finds a large international study published online in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care.  ...continue reading "Dairy Products, Hypertension, Diabetes, and Metabolic Syndrome"

Can tomatoes be refrigerated or does that destroy their taste? This seems to be a pressing issue that is much discussed while people are at home during the pandemic. The advice I generally see is to NOT refrigerate them - to leave them out at room temperature until they are eaten.

Well... a German study examined that particular question and according to the researchers - the taste of the tomatoes is the same whether refrigerated or kept at room temperature for 4 days. Instead, the variety of tomato is most important for the flavor (taste).

Of course! Every variety of tomato has a different taste. One thing I question is the refrigerator temperature of 44.6°F (7°C) that was used, which seems a bit warm. Refrigerators in the US are normally kept cooler, between 33 and 39 degrees.

From Science Daily: Should tomatoes go in the fridge?

There is much debate about the correct storage of tomatoes. There are two main options available to consumers: storage in the refrigerator or at room temperature. A research team from the University of Göttingen has now investigated whether there are differences in the flavour of ripe tomatoes depending on how they are stored and taking into account the chain of harvesting from farm to fork. No perceptible difference was found: the variety of tomato is much more important. The results have been published in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science.  ...continue reading "Should Ripe Tomatoes Be Refrigerated Or Kept At Room Temperature?"

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More good news for coffee lovers. A study that looked at a large sample of adults in the US found that there is a dose-response association for daily coffee consumption and body fat (adiposity). Higher coffee intake (both regular and decaf) was associated with lower body fat in women, but not men.

The biggest effects were seen in women aged 20 to 44 years (who drank 2 to 3 cups/day), and in 45 to 69 year old women who drank 4 or more cups of coffee per day - that is, they had lower total body fat and trunk body fat when compared to those who didn't drink coffee.

Coffee has over 1000 bioactive compounds in it, such as caffeine, chlorogenic acids, and diterpenes. Recent studies found that moderate coffee intake (3 to 4 cups/day) lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, (early) death, lower risk of some cancers, and has a beneficial effect on metabolism (increases it) and inflammation. [Note: chronic inflammation is linked to a number of diseases, so want to lower it.]

The researchers suggest that there are compounds in coffee (other than caffeine) that regulate weight and act as "antiobesity compounds". Perhaps view drinking coffee as a healthy diet strategy for women!

Excerpts from Science Daily: Coffee linked to lower body fat in women

Women who drink two or three cups of coffee a day have been found to have lower total body and abdominal fat than those who drink less, according to a new study published in The Journal of Nutrition ...continue reading "Drinking Coffee Associated With Lower Body Fat in Women"

Worried about the effects of persistent pesticides, flame retardants, and the chemicals used in non-stick pans (e.g.Teflon) on human health? An interesting small study from researchers at New York University looked at whether there is a link between having higher levels of these chemicals and celiac disease (a digestive disorder in which there is an abnormal response to foods with gluten). And yes, they found one.

Certain pesticides, flame retardants (PBDEs), and nonstick chemicals (PFASs) are known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs). They are known to be endocrine disruptors (meaning they disrupt the hormonal system). The researchers think that because there is an interplay between endocrine and immune systems, then perhaps these chemicals may contribute to the development of celiac disease in people who are genetically susceptible to it.

Thirty children and young adults newly diagnosed with celiac disease were compared to 58 individuals without the disease.  Higher levels of these chemicals were found in the blood in those with celiac disease, when compared to those without celiac disease.

More reasons to avoid non-stick pots and pans, avoid flame retardants, avoid using pesticides on lawns, and to eat organically raised foods.

From Futurity: CELIAC DIAGNOSIS MORE LIKELY WITH HIGHER BLOOD LEVELS OF PESTICIDES

Children and young adults with high blood levels of pesticides—and with high levels of pesticide-related chemicals called dichlorodiphenyldichlorethylenes—were twice as likely to receive a new diagnosis of celiac disease than those without high levels, report researchers.  ...continue reading "Certain Chemicals Linked to Celiac Disease"

Once again, a study found that the foods we eat are associated with our risk for breast cancer. Results from a long-running European study found that certain foods (alcohol, wine, beer) are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, while other foods (foods high in fiber, certain fruits such as apples and pears, and higher carbohydrate intake) are associated with a lower risk of breast cancer.

This study used data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study, which enrolled 272,098 women (between 1992 and 2000) from 10 European countries. Women filled out an extensive nutritional questionnaire (to assess intake of 92 foods and nutrients) at the beginning, and then they were followed for about 15 years.

It has long been known that higher alcohol intake raises breast cancer risk, especially risk of postmenopausal breast cancer, and this study supports that. Fruits (esp. apples and pears) were associated with a lower risk of breast cancer - and they were also a main source of fiber foods, as well as carbohydrates.

What was not discussed in the study was that along with having many nutrients and high amounts of fiber, produce also contains multitudes of microbes. A recent study found that one apple alone has millions of bacteria! When we eat fresh fruits and vegetables, we are introducing microbes into the gut, as well as feeding beneficial gut microbes (and ultimately lowering chronic inflammation).

Unfortunately they only asked the women about foods one time at the beginning of the study. The women could have changed their dietary patterns over the next 15 years, especially since so many new foods have become popular and widely available. Also, looking at the food list - there was no mention of olive oil, which researchers view as anti-inflammatory, and lowering the risk of breast cancer.

Study by A.K.Heath et al. (in Breast Cancer Research). Excerpts from Medscape: Nutrient-Wide Association Study of 92 Foods and Nutrients and Breast Cancer Risk

Six foods and nutrients were identified as associated with risk of breast cancer in the EPIC study (10,979 cases). Higher intake of alcohol overall was associated with a higher risk of breast cancer, as was beer/cider intake and wine intake, whereas higher intakes of fiber, apple/pear, and carbohydrates were associated with a lower risk of breast cancer.   ...continue reading "The Foods We Eat and Breast Cancer"

The Scandinavians really love to drink coffee, and of course researchers study the health effects of all that coffee drinking. Two recent studies both found health benefits from drinking filtered coffee (such as drip coffee), but not unfiltered coffee.

A study conducted in Norway found that over a 20 year period drinking filtered coffee daily was associated with lower death rates, when compared to those who did not drink coffee or drank unfiltered coffee. The best health effects (lowest mortality rate) were associated with drinking 1 to 4 cups per day of filtered coffee, and the unhealthiest (highest mortality rate) was drinking 9 or more cups per day of unfiltered coffee.

The researchers thought that unfiltered coffee raised the cholesterol levels, because of the lipid-raising components of coffee - the diterpenes kahweol and cafestol, which are filtered out by coffee filters. This could explain the association between unfiltered coffee and higher death rates from heart disease. Other studies have found that higher consumption of filtered coffee results in lower levels of markers of inflammation.

As was discussed in an earlier post, a recent study from Sweden found 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 researchers put it nicely, that habitually drinking filtered coffee has a "protective role" on type 2 diabetes development.

On the other hand, other popular ways of preparing coffee don't use filters - French press, espresso, percolator, and coffee pods, and so may have similar not-so-great health effects to boiled coffee. But still unknown at this time - studies are needed.

From Science Daily: How to make the healthiest coffee

Today scientists announce the healthiest way to make a brew ...continue reading "Drinking Filtered Coffee Is Healthier Than Unfiltered Coffee"

Peanut allergies can be life-altering and life-threatening. But in the past year there have been welcome developments in both preventing peanut allergies and in treatment of peanut allergies in children.

The latest medical advice to prevent peanut allergy is to regularly feed tiny amounts of pureed peanut products to babies before their first birthday. Even as early as the 4th month! This is the total opposite of the old advice for preventing peanut allergies, which was to avoid, avoid, avoid giving peanut products to babies.  Oops.

Experts say this method of early introduction, and frequent feeding of small amounts of the food to babies, works best for preventing the development of peanut and egg allergies. [But even with this method, some will eventually develop the food allergies.]

What is a "small amount" of peanuts that should be fed the baby? Guidelines are: "Eight grams of peanut butter (1 heaped teaspoon or 1.5 regular teaspoon) or 17 g of peanut puffs should be consumed at least twice weekly to protect against peanut allergy." However, note that this intervention does not treat peanut allergy. Instead, it is a way to try to prevent a peanut allergy from developing in young children.

But what about older children who already have peanut allergies? What can be done? The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the first ever oral immunotherapy to treat peanut allergies in children between the ages of 4 to 17 years. However, the goal of the therapy is to make children less sensitive and to decrease their allergic reactions. They are still allergic, but less so. For example, after 1 year of treatment - about 2/3 of the kids were able to tolerate 600 mg of peanut protein. Unfortunately, the other third could not.

But here too, continued exposure is important. Researchers found that after 1 year, those who could tolerate the peanut protein have to continue ingesting tiny amounts of peanut. If they stop - the children will lose their tolerance within 2 months.

Treating peanut allergies. From March 2, 2020 article in Medscape: Treating Peanut Allergy With Oral Immunotherapy: Insights From an Insider

Preventing peanut allergies. From August 28, 2019 article in Medscape (the medical site): Pureed Peanuts Advised for Infants to Stave Off Allergy

Feeding pureed peanut products regularly to babies before their first birthday could reduce their risk of developing peanut allergies later on, doctors advise.  ...continue reading "Preventing and Treating Peanut Allergies In Children"

Eating a diet high in salt weakens the immune system's ability to fight harmful bacteria, according to a recent study. We all know that a high salt diet can increase blood pressure, but here is another good reason to lower salt intake.

The study by German researchers showed that a high salt diet can impair the antibacterial response of the immune system, both in mice and in humans. This occurs in an indirect way (through an effect on glucocorticoids), which ultimately results in a reduced or impaired ability of the immune system (through the neutrophils) to kill or control bacteria.

These results were interesting since some earlier studies suggested that higher intake of salt may help fight off parasitic skin infections.

What is a high salt diet? The human volunteers in the study ate an extra 6 grams of salt per day for one week, which is the amount in two fast food meals (e.g. two burgers and two portions of French fries). The World Health Organization recommends no more than 5 grams of salt per day, and the US CDC recommends less than 2300 mg per day. Both organizations say that most people eat more salt than recommended, and the CDC points out that the majority of American sodium intake is from processed foods and restaurant meals.

From Medical Xpress: Too much salt weakens the immune system  ...continue reading "Salt and The Immune System"

We all know that lead exposure is harmful, especially to developing babies and children. But what about eating meat (e.g. venison) from an animal that has been shot with lead bullets? Does the lead contaminate the meat? This is an important question because hunters provide game not only for their families, but also donate meat (such as venison) to food pantries.

A number of studies over the years have examined this issue and the finding is that YES - using lead-based bullets contaminates the meat. Bullets can fragment into hundreds of small pieces (many are microscopic fragments only detectable with x-rays or chemical analysis), especially if they hit large bones of the animal. These fragments are still there and detectable after processing.

So yes, people wind up ingesting meat with tiny lead bullet fragments, even if they cut away several inches of meat from the bullet's path in the animal. Tiny bullet fragments travel more than 6" inches away, and even 11" away from the bullet path. Studies find that eating meat from animals shot with lead based ammunition results in a spike in blood lead levels - which gradually goes down over months, but also migrates to the bones where it stays.

In 2013 a group of 30 nationally and internationally recognized scientists with lead and environmental health expertise collaborated to create an evidence-based consensus statement called Health Risks from Lead-Based Ammunition in the Environment—A Consensus Statement of Scientists 2013. Along with listing scientific evidence, they ask for the reduction and elimination of lead-based ammunition, in order to protect human and environmental health.

Unfortunately hunters usually do not know this information. It's not publicized, and doctors don't mention it. But hunters should be informed. One can't imagine anyone wanting to deliberately eat meat containing lead fragments. Or wanting to feed it to children or pregnant women.

What can you do? Don't use any lead-based ammunition. Only eat game shot with non-lead ammunition (e.g.copper). The evidence is there that if lead-based ammo is used to kill the animal, then the person eating the animal will ingest some lead bullet fragments.

Excerpts from Environmental Health News: Lead in hunted meat: Who’s telling hunters and their families?  ...continue reading "Do Lead Bullets Contaminate Hunted Meat?"

The golden skin glow one gets from a healthy diet and lifestyle is real! A number of studies have found that eating a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables increases skin yellowness (due to the carotenoids in the food). And recently a new study found that besides a healthy diet, that lifestyle factors such as getting plenty of exercise (being fit), losing excess weight, getting enough sleep, and not being too stressed all add to the healthy yellow (errr... "golden") skin glow.

Researchers at the Univ. of St. Andrews (in UK) found that in a mere 8 weeks an increase in fitness and decrease in body fat were both associated with an increase in skin yellowness. They also found that a change in stress and sleep were further predictors of skin yellowness. Thus you can say that there is a general relationship between health and skin tone.

And yes, we probably have observed that ourselves. People stressed out, not sleeping well, not fit (overweight and not getting enough exercise) may have a different look to them. We may notice that their skin color doesn't look good, that they may look pale or unwell.

In conclusion, the researchers write: "results suggest that increasing cardiovascular fitness and decreasing fat levels produce a healthier skin color". So eat plenty of brightly colored fruits and vegetables, be active (get some exercise), get enough sleep, and lose weight if needed. But you knew that already, yes?

From Medical Xpress: Healthy living gives skin a golden glow  ...continue reading "Healthy Lifestyle Seen In the Golden Glow of Skin"