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Americans spend enormous amounts of money on vitamins and mineral supplements in an effort to stay healthy or to improve their health. Unfortunately, unless a person has an actual vitamin or mineral deficiency, studies are just not finding health benefits. Sometimes there are even harms.

Physicians at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine weighed in on this issue. Their view: For most non-pregnant healthy Americans vitamin and mineral supplements are a "waste of money". There is no "magic set of pills to keep you healthy". Instead, a healthy diet and exercise are key.

However, they also say a pregnant women should consider taking a prenatal vitamin, especially folic acid. There are health benefits to folic acid supplements during pregnancy.

Basic conclusions: For non-pregnant persons without vitamin or mineral deficiencies, there is no evidence supporting the consumption of vitamin and mineral supplements in preventing cancer or cardiovascular (heart) health. Avoid beta carotene supplements (health harms) and vitamin E supplements.

What to do to maintain or improve health? Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans), seeds, and nuts. Get enough exercise or physical activity. Don't smoke. Maintain a healthy weight.

Doing these things will also improve the gut microbiome (the community of microbes living in the gut), which is so important for good health.

From Science Daily: Vitamins, supplements are a 'waste of money' for most Americans

Drawn to the allure of multivitamins and dietary supplements filling nutritional gaps in their diet, people in the U.S. in 2021 spent close to $50 billion on vitamins and dietary supplements. ...continue reading "Focus On Eating Healthy Food, Not Vitamin Supplements"

Well, these were surprising study results, given that so many studies find that eating fish has such beneficial health effects. A recent large study of US adults found that higher fish consumption was associated with melanoma (when compared to persons who hardly eat fish).

Brown School of Health researchers found that a higher intake of fish (all kinds), tuna, and non-fried fish were all associated with a higher risk  of both malignant melanoma and melanoma in situ (stage 0). Interestingly, fried fish intake was inversely associated with risk of malignant melanoma - that is, the more fried fish is eaten, the lower the risk of melanoma.

The group with the highest fish intake ate about 10 ounces per week or 3 servings, and had about 22% higher rate of melanoma.

They speculate that this cancer association could be due to the contaminants in fish, such as PCBs, dioxins, arsenic, and mercury. Other research has found that higher fish intake is associated with higher levels of these contaminants in the body, and that there are associations between these contaminants and a higher risk of skin cancer.

But the researchers also said people should keep eating fish for all their other health benefits (e.g., for heart health). In other words, don't panic. There are other known risk factors for melanoma such as repeated sunburns in childhood.

From Science Daily: Higher fish consumption may be associated with increased melanoma risk

Eating higher levels of fish, including tuna and non-fried fish, appears to be associated with a greater risk of malignant melanoma, suggests a large study of US adults published in Cancer Causes & Control. ...continue reading "High Fish Intake and Melanoma"

Some good news for coffee drinkers - daily consumption of coffee is linked to a lower risk of acute kidney injury.

John Hopkins Medicine researchers found that daily consumption of coffee (at least 1 cup of coffee per day) lowered the risk of acute kidney injury (AKI) by 15%. But those who drank 2 to 3 cups of coffee each day had a 22% to 23% lower risk (compared to non-drinkers)

The researchers pointed out in their paper that the risk of chronic kidney disease and other diseases is also lower in daily coffee drinkers.

"Habitual coffee consumption is associated with the prevention of chronic and degenerative diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and liver disease.

 ARIC, a large population study of 14,207 participants aged 45 to 64 years, revealed that higher self-reported daily coffee consumption was associated with a lower risk of incident chronic kidney disease after adjustments were made for demographic, clinical, and dietary factors. Thus, habitual coffee consumption has a strong potential for reducing the risk of progressive kidney disease."

From Science Daily: Coffee consumption link to reduced risk of acute kidney injury, study finds

If you need another reason to start the day drinking a cup of joe, a recent study by Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers has revealed that consuming at least one cup of coffee a day may reduce the risk of acute kidney injury (AKI) when compared to those who do not drink coffee. ...continue reading "Coffee and the Kidneys"

Eating berries frequently or daily has all sorts of health benefits. Two recent studies have focused on daily consumption of cranberries and found them to be beneficial for memory and neural functioning, and also for heart health.

Both studies had persons ingest whole cranberry powder (equivalent to 100 grams or 1 cup of whole cranberries) daily for 12 weeks (memory study) or 1 month (heart study).

While studies usually focus on just one type of berry to try to figure out how and what health benefits are occurring, there is no one berry a person should eat. Eat them all! Studies show they all offer something a little different, and all also have lots of fiber (very important for health!).

Also, eat real foods, not supplements. Again: studies do not find that there is one food or supplement that will prevent health problems or dementia. Eat more fruits, berries, vegetables, and cut back on ultra-processed foods. [See Medscape article below.]

From Medscape: A Cup of Cranberries a Day Tied to Better Memory

For healthy middle-aged and older adults, adding cranberries to the diet may help improve memory and brain function, in addition to lowering LDL cholesterol, new research suggests. ...continue reading "Good Reasons to Eat Cranberries"

Summer is when many of us indulge ourselves at barbecues or other social gatherings. Fabulous grilled foods, fresh fruits, pies, whipped cream! You may wonder what gorging yourself until you absolutely can't eat one bite more at one meal does to your body. It turns out it's OK!

A study of young men who either ate pizza till "comfortably full" or "maximal eating" (eating so much that they couldn't eat one more bite) found that the bodies of the men coped very well. Just note, these were normal weight men who normally did not overeat like this (about twice as much food as "comfortably full").

Their metabolism adjusted to overeating the meal, levels of nutrients stayed within normal range, but there was an increase in "prolonged lethargy" and sleepiness several hours after the meal. Yup, many of us know the feeling - just want to take a nap while we digest.

Unfortunately it is unknown how the bodies of women, overweight, and older persons would handle maximal eating of 1 meal (that study not done). But hey! - it's summer, and we can just pretend the study results apply to all of us. Just don't do it all the time...

From Medical Xpress: Pizza study shows body copes surprisingly well with one-off calorie indulgence

A new study, which involved participants eating pizza well after feeling 'full' in order to test what immediate effects this had on the body, finds that our metabolism is surprisingly good at coping with over-indulgence. ...continue reading "Body Copes Well With One Time Overeating"

Credit: Wikipedia

Every month there is more evidence of the importance of the human microbiome or microbiota - the community of microbes that live in and on us. Trillions of microbes! When we eat food, we eat all the microbes that are in the food, and this has effects on the microbes living in the gut (intestines).

How many microbes do we eat daily? An interesting study was published in 2014 that tried to answer this question. The researchers found that the average American adult ingests between 1 million to over 1 billion microbes every day! It depended on food choices.

Another study just published looked at more than 9000 foods in the US health and dietary database (from 74,466 persons). The researchers estimated the number of live microbes present in all the foods. From that they estimated that the intakes of foods with live microbes were pretty low (about 85 grams/day for children and 127 grams/day for adults). Their results were similar to the earlier 2014 study mentioned above.

They found that around 20% of children and 26% of adults consumed foods with high levels of live microorganisms in their diet. Also, American children and adults have steadily increased their consumption of foods with live microbes over an 18 year period of time - but it still didn't meet guidelines.

The researchers found that fruits, vegetables, and fermented dairy foods were the main sources of microbes, as well as 3 important nutrients which Americans generally do not get enough of: calcium, fiber, and potassium. They also mention that fruits and vegetables have more diverse microbes than fermented dairy foods (yogurts have mainly lactic acid bacteria).

Bottom line: Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and live fermented foods (e.g., yogurt, kefir, fermented pickles, and kimchi) are good ways to increase the number and variety of microbes in your diet. This study did not mention organic foods, but some studies have found more beneficial bacteria in organic produce (e.g., apples).

From Medical Xpress: Quantifying the live microbes on your plate

Many have hypothesized that bacteria and other "friendly" live microorganisms consumed through the diet can play an important role in health. Reduction in dietary microbe consumption has likely contributed to an "impoverished" gut microbiota, which may lead to improper immune system development and an increase in chronic diseases, among other negative health outcomes. ...continue reading "The Foods We Eat Contain Live Microbes"

Blueberries. Credit: Wikipedia

We have known for a while that frequently eating berries has health benefits. A recent study found that overweight middle-aged persons eating blueberries daily for 12 weeks resulted in both metabolic and memory improvements.

The researchers stated that the results suggest that frequently eating blueberries could be protective against cognitive decline and lower the risk of dementia later on in life.

The study involved thirty-three overweight prediabetic middle-aged adults who already felt that their memory was not as good as in years past. They were randomly assigned to either the blueberry (whole freeze-dried blueberry powder) group or the placebo group (a similar looking powder that did not contain blueberries). The blueberry powder was equivalent to 1/2 cup whole blueberries and was eaten once a day for 12 weeks. The benefits of blueberries are thought to be from micronutrients and anthocyanins, which are antioxidants.

By the way, all berries (raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, etc.) are slightly different in micronutrients and are viewed as beneficial to health and lowering the risk of chronic diseases, including the risk of dementia. As are colorful fruits and vegetables. Don't focus on just one type of berry - eat them all!

From Medical Xpress: Regular blueberry consumption may reduce risk of dementia, study finds

Researchers led by UC's Robert Krikorian, Ph.D., found that adding blueberries to the daily diets of certain middle-aged populations may lower the chances of developing late-life dementia. ...continue reading "Eating Blueberries Has Health Benefits"

For years people have searched for ways to prevent cancer, which occurs significantly more with age. A recent study conducted in 5 European countries offers hope that some simple steps could reduce the incidence of invasive cancer up to 61 % in older adults (over 70 years of age).

The 3 year long study tested individual and combinations of vitamin D3, marine omega-3, and a simple home strength exercise program and found that the combination of all 3 (vitamin D3 + marine omega-3 supplements + exercise) reduced the incidence of invasive cancer by 61 percent. In other words, it prevented cancer.

What they took: Persons in the double-blind (no one knew who was in what group) study were randomly assigned to one of 8 groups with the intervention alone or combined: daily supplements of 2000 IU of vitamin D3, and/or daily 1 g of marine omega-3s, and/or a simple home strength exercise program compared to a placebo/control group. NOTE: The marine omega-3s supplements used were algae-based (EPA + DHA ratio: 1:2), and not fish oil.

Even though there were over 2000 participants in the study, the numbers were too low to see if there were effects on certain types of cancers. Can only say there was a reduction in invasive cancers when all 3 interventions were combined. Looking at the study report, it is unclear how frequently and how many of the home-strengthening exercises were done each week.

Other studies: As the researchers note - other studies have had mixed results on vitamin D3 and omega-3 supplements, which are typically fish oil. A major review in 2020 of 27 studies using fish oil supplements (for a total of 113,557 participants) found little or no benefit regarding cancer or cancer death, and a 2021 review of 5 studies found increased risk of atrial fibrillation. So once again, we'll see... Three years (the length of this study) is a short time regarding cancer.

Bottom line: While vitamin D3 and fish oil supplements are being debated over their health effects, all studies find health benefits from exercise and eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, some fish, and olive oil. Also, vitamin D3 is superior to vitamin D2, and that taking it daily is better than a mega-dose occasionally (e.g., once a month). Getting some sunlight (vitamin D) is also recommended.

From Medical Xpress: A combination of three simple treatments may reduce invasive cancer risk by 61% among adults aged 70+

A new study published in Frontiers in Aging found that a combination of high-dose vitamin D, omega-3s, and a simple home strength exercise program (SHEP) showed a cumulative reduction by 61% in cancer risk in healthy adults aged 70 or older.  ...continue reading "Study Suggests Simple Steps To Reduce Cancer Risk In Older Adults"

A recent study gives support to eating a diet with real unprocessed foods and avoiding foods with additives as much as possible. The study found that the commonly used food additive known as xanthan gum (E415 in Europe) can cause disruptions to our gut microbiome.

The gut microbiome or microbiota is the community of microbes living in our intestines, and which are critical to good health. The international team of researchers found that the gut microbes changed when exposed to the additive, so as to be able to digest the xanthan gum.

Xanthan gum is used as a thickener or stabilizer in many foods, including ice cream, sweets, chocolate milk, baked goods, ready-made sauces and dressings. [Note: If present, it is listed in the ingredients on food labels.]

Bottom line: Rather than being harmless and not having any effects, food additives may have effects on or disrupt our gut microbes. Food additive effects may be minimal or can actually cause harm. For example, some emulsifiers (e.g., soy lecithin, carrageenan, polysorbate-80) can promote gut inflammation and alter the gut microbiome in a negative or harmful way

From Medical Xpress: Widely used food additive affects the human gut microbiota

Have you heard about the food additive E415? It is also known as xanthan gum. Most likely, you eat it several times a week. Xanthan gum is used in everyday foods such as baked goods, ice cream and salad dressings. The additive is also widely used as a substitute for gluten in gluten-free foods.  ...continue reading "Some Food Additives May Alter Our Gut Microbes"

Some good news. A recent large study found that a healthy diet rich in plant-based foods can lower your risk of getting type 2 diabetes.

Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that a healthy diet rich in plant-based foods (fruits, vegetable, legumes, nuts, whole grains, coffee) resulted in plasma metabolite profiles that were associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

In other words, differences in the chemical make-up of foods means that what a person eats is reflected in their metabolite profile. The 200+ plasma metabolites include lipids, cholesterol, glycerides, phospholipids, fatty acids, inflammation, amino acids, and these give a metabolic profile.

Bottom line: A diet rich in plant-based foods is good for your health in many  ways, including lowering your risk of type 2 diabetes. One such example of a good way to eat (dietary pattern) is a Mediterranean style diet (rich in whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish, and olive oil).

From Medical Xpress: New study reveals that healthy plant-based diets are associated with a lower risk of developing diabetes

New research published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes [EASD]) finds that the consumption of healthy plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, coffee, and legumes, is associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D) in generally healthy people and support their role in diabetes prevention.

...continue reading "Plant-based Diets and Lower Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes"