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Great news for men who eat a Mediterranean style diet! A study found that after a diagnosis of prostate cancer, those men who ate a Mediterranean style diet had less progression of the cancer over the next three years.

These were men who were diagnosed when the cancer was still localized and who were doing "active surveillance", that is, just actively watching the cancer  and not having cancer treatments.

A Mediterranean style diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, legumes, nuts, fish, and extra virgin olive oil. It is a diet high in fiber, and low in processed meats, fats, sugar, and highly processed foods.

The Mediterranean diet is associated with health in a number of ways, such as lowered risk of death and a number of diseases (e.g. heart disease), and also lowered levels of chronic inflammation. It also has a beneficial effect on gut microbes, resulting in an increase in beneficial microbes that are associated with health and lower levels of chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is linked to cancers and a number of diseases - thus the goal is to keep inflammation levels down.

The Univ. of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center researchers said that the findings support the idea that a Mediterranean diet can affect prostate cancer progression through lowering of systemic inflammation. The researchers write: "The Mediterranean diet may be beneficial for men with localized prostate cancer on active surveillance  because of its anti‐inflammatory, antilipidemic, and chemopreventive properties." [chemopreventive means it "prevents or slows the development of cancer"; antilipidemic is something that "reduces lipid levels in the blood"]

From Science Daily: Mediterranean diet may decrease risk of prostate cancer progression

In a study to examine a Mediterranean diet in relation to prostate cancer progression in men on active surveillance, researchers from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center found that men with localized prostate cancer who reported a baseline dietary pattern that more closely follows the key principles of a Mediterranean-style diet fared better over the course of their disease.   ...continue reading "Mediterranean Diet May Lower the Risk of Prostate Cancer Progression"

Vegan diets may be popular, but there is concern whether someone following a vegan diet can get all necessary nutrients from the diet and whether this impacts health in a negative way. This is because a person following a vegan diet avoids all animal foods - which means no dairy, no meat, no eggs, no honey, no fish, no shellfish, and no insects. This can mean difficulties in getting enough protein and some nutrients, for example choline (necessary for the brain), vitamin B-12, and calcium.

A recent study by University of Oxford researchers examined this issue by following about 55,000 people for 18 years: meat eaters, vegans, vegetarians (avoid meat, but eat dairy and /or eggs), and pescatarians (a vegetarian diet, but also eats fish). They found that when compared to meat eaters, vegans had a higher risk of fractures in their bodies (number of total fractures), and especially hip, leg, and vertebral fractures. Vegetarians and pescatarians also had a higher risk of hip fractures when compared to meat eaters, but a lower risk than vegans.

Other studies have shown that vegetarians have lower bone mineral density (BMD) than non-vegetarians, and that both calcium and protein intakes are linked to bone health. In this study and other studies, vegans had substantially lower intakes of calcium than the other dietary groups (since they do not consume dairy), and both vegetarians and vegans had lower protein intakes than meat and fish-eating groups.

Bottom line: Research finds diets rich in whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, some fish, meat, eggs, and dairy (similar to the Mediterranean diet) as healthy and providing all nutrients. Pregnancy and childhood are times when one should be especially careful about getting all needed nutrients.

From Science Daily - Vegans, vegetarians and pescetarians may be at higher risk of bone fractures

Compared with people who ate meat, vegans with lower calcium and protein intakes on average, had a 43% higher risk of fractures anywhere in the body (total fractures), as well as higher risks of site-specific fractures of the hips, legs and vertebrae, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Medicine.  ...continue reading "Vegan Diets and Increased Risk of Bone Fractures"

Every study I've seen in the past decade finds that eating berries has health benefits. A recent study from Finland adds to this by finding that eating some blackcurrants after a meal has beneficial effects on blood glucose levels. This beneficial effect occurred even though the blackcurrants were eaten as a puree with a little sugar (because they are sour berries).

The study found that one didn't have to eat a lot of the blackcurrants - 75 grams or 2/3 cup, which was eaten as a puree. Since this study was done with 26 young healthy volunteers, they did not find an effect on inflammatory markers - which were good to start with.

Other studies have found similar beneficial blood sugar level effects from eating other kinds of berries. Berries are rich in polyphenolic compounds, and dark colored berries are especially rich in anthocyanins. The blackcurrants (Ribes nigrum) were chosen for this study because blackcurrants are native to Finland, and both grow in the wild and are cultivated there. Cassis liquor is made from blackcurrants.

From Science Daily: Blackcurrants are favorable for glucose metabolism

Blackcurrants have a beneficial effect on post-meal glucose response, and the required portion size is much smaller than previously thought, a new study from the University of Eastern Finland shows.  ...continue reading "Benefits Of Eating Blackcurrants For Dessert"

Many people wonder whether eating organic foods has health benefits. Yes - studies have found some benefits, such as lower pesticide residue levels in the body in children and adults, and that eating organic foods is linked to a lower risk of cancer. A recent study conducted in France found that one benefit of eating organic foods may be a lower incidence of type 2 diabetes.

University of Paris researchers found that the more a person ate organic foods, especially plant-based organic foods, the lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. For each 5% increase in the proportion of organic foods in the diet, the risk of type 2 diabetes decreased by 3%. Those eating the highest amount of organic foods had a 35% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, when compared to those eating the least.

They point out that their findings are similar to a recent US study which found that persons reporting purchasing organic foods had a 20% lower prevalence of diabetes (when compared to people not purchasing organic foods). Animal studies find that exposure to several types of pesticides can increase the risk of diabetes. Some types of pesticides, such as pyrethroids, organophosphates, and organochlorides are endocrine disruptors and can result in metabolic disorders such as diabetes.

A nice discussion of the study, from Beyond Pesticides: Food For Thought: Eating Organic Reduces Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

The study. From the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (IJBNPA): Prospective association between organic food consumption and the risk of type 2 diabetes: findings from the NutriNet-Santé cohort study

As women age, they may try all sorts of things to reduce or prevent facial wrinkles. A recent study from the University of California researchers suggests that eating 1/2 cup (85 g) mangoes four times a week may reduce facial wrinkles in older fair-skinned women. Unexpectedly however, 1.5 cups (250 g) four times a week for 16 weeks had the opposite effect - it increased facial wrinkles!

Why would it have that effect? The researchers thought that probably the carotenoids, flavonoids, and antioxidants in the Ataulfo mangoes had the beneficial skin effect in the 1/2 cup group. [Note: Other fruits also contain these.] But that perhaps the high levels of sugar in the 1.5 cup mango group had a negative effect on the skin ("increased sugar intake may have led to glycation of collagen fibers, thereby disrupting the collagen structure" of the skin).

However, cardiovascular measures were better in the higher mango intake group, such as lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure. Keep in mind though, that only 36 postmenopausal women (between the ages of 50 and 70) participated - so all the results can only be considered "preliminary".

Bottom line: Eat a variety of fruits - they are healthy for you! Research suggests that fruit, in general, is good for the skin. But perhaps eat mangoes in moderation.

From Futurity: Can eating mangoes reduce women's facial wrinkles?

Mangoes, like other orange fruits and vegetables, are rich in beta-carotene and provide antioxidants that may delay cell damage. A new study from researchers at the University of California, Davis, finds eating Ataulfo mangoes, also known as honey or Champagne mangoes, may have another benefit—reducing facial wrinkles in older women with fairer skin. The study was published in the journal Nutrients.

Postmenopausal women who ate a half cup of Ataulfo mangoes four times a week saw a 23 percent decrease in deep wrinkles after two months and a 20 percent decrease after four months.  ...continue reading "Eating Some Mangoes May Help With Facial Wrinkles"

Being overweight increases the risk of developing diabetes. So a British study finding that modest lifestyle changes could lower the incidence (by over 40%) of developing type 2 diabetes is very encouraging. These were persons who had been diagnosed with prediabetes, thus they were at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

What are the beneficial lifestyle changes? Losing a modest amount of weight (4 1/2 to 7 pounds) and increasing the amount of exercise to 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise.

Excerpts from Science Daily: A few kilograms weight loss nearly halves the risk of diabetes

Losing a few kilograms in weight almost halves people's risk of developing Type 2 diabetes -- according to a large scale research study led by the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and the University of East Anglia. ...continue reading "Modest Lifestyle Changes Can Lower the Risk of Developing Diabetes"

Pregnancy is a time when one should try to eat as well as possible, especially for the health of the developing baby. Included in this is the baby's brain development and later intellectual functioning (neurocognitive development). A recent study found that a mother's vitamin D levels during pregnancy are associated with the IQ of the child - that is, higher levels of vitamin D during the second trimester  of pregnancy were associated with higher IQs at age 4 to 6 in the child.

Just keep in mind that it's an association - it does not mean that lower vitamin D levels cause lower IQ. Vitamin D levels go hand in hand with other things - for example, vitamin D levels are lower when a person has chronic inflammation or an underlying health condition. Other studies have had mixed results - some had similar findings of effects on intellectual development, but others did not. Black women are at higher risk of vitamin D deficiencies due to their skin melanin content (harder to get enough vitamin D from the sun).

However, these results do add support for trying to correct vitamin D deficiencies and keeping vitamin D levels higher during pregnancy - by taking supplements and getting sunlight. Note that it's very hard to get enough vitamin D through food. The researchers said that prenatal supplements typically contain 400–600 IU vitamin D, but this is probably insufficient to correct vitamin D deficiencies, in which case they recommend daily supplementation of 800 to 1000 IU vitamin D.

From Medical Xpress: Vitamin D levels during pregnancy linked with child IQ

Vitamin D is a critical nutrient and has many important functions in the body. A mother's vitamin D supply is passed to her baby in utero and helps regulate processes including brain development. A study published today in The Journal of Nutrition showed that mothers' vitamin D levels during pregnancy were associated with their children's IQ, suggesting that higher vitamin D levels in pregnancy may lead to greater childhood IQ scores. The study also identified significantly lower levels of vitamin D levels among Black pregnant women. ...continue reading "Vitamin D Levels During Pregnancy Associated With A Child’s IQ"

It turns out that plastic baby bottles shed millions of tiny plastic particles (microplastics) into the breast milk, formula, or water in them. At this point we don't really know what ingesting multitudes of microplastics every day does to a person, but assume that it is not beneficial and we should try to lower how much we ingest. (Microplastics are turning up in foods and water, especially bottled water - we are ingesting them, excreting them, and there is some concerning health research.)

Trinity College researchers found that the greatest number of microplastics are shed into the baby bottle contents when polypropylene bottles are heated, especially during bottle sterilization. The research team estimated that current guidelines for infant bottle sterilization and formula preparation result in an average daily ingestion by European and American babies of more than 2 million microplastics every day! Yikes!

What to do? Absolute best would be to use glass baby bottles - no plastic there. But if plastic baby bottles are used: 1) first sterilize the bottles. 2) Then rinse the sterilized bottles 3 times in water that has been sterilized (boiled and cooled) in a stainless steel or glass pot. 3) Same with the formula - heat in a non-plastic container (glass or stainless steel) and then pour it into the plastic baby bottle.

Also: do not heat formula in plastic containers or microwave ovens. Do not vigorously shake the formula in the bottle at any time. Do not use sonication to clean plastic baby bottles.

Shedding of microplastics is a property of plastic polypropylene bottles, and the hotter the bottle - the more is shed. Shaking also releases microplastics. The only way to avoid the problem of microplastics in the formula or other liquid is to use glass baby bottles.

From The Scientist: Baby Bottles Can Shed Millions of Microplastic Particles: Study

Plastic has long been a major source of pollution in landfills and in oceans, especially as it degrades into pieces smaller than 5 millimeters, termed “microplastics.” Experimental studies have shown that these particles and the cocktail of chemicals they carry can wreak havoc on physiology, reproduction, development, and behavior in a number of nonhuman species.  ...continue reading "Plastic Baby Bottles Shed Tiny Plastic Particles"

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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"