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The results of a large study adds more evidence to what we have long suspected: eating a Southern-style diet (fried foods and sugary drinks!) increases the risk for sudden cardiac death (up to 46% higher risk), while eating a plant-based or Mediterranean style diet appears to lower that risk.

Sudden cardiac death (SCD) occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating, and death occurs within one hour from the onset of symptoms. Heart disease (coronary artery disease) is the most common underlying cause of SCD (75 to 80% of cases), but it can also have other causes (e.g. heart failure, valve disease). Sudden cardiac death is quite common in the US - about 1 in every 7.5 deaths (or nearly 367,000 deaths in 2016).

Univ. of Alabama researchers looked at 5 dietary patterns that people ate over a 10 year period:  plant-based (Mediterranean), Southern, convenience food, alcohol & salad, and sweets. People generally eat foods from all 5 groups, but what is significant is the primary pattern - what the person mostly eats. The Southern diet is most prevalent in the southeastern US, which is also known as the "Stroke Belt", due to the higher stroke death rate there.

A Southern-style dietary pattern is characterized by fried foods, added fats,  eggs, organ meats (such as liver or giblets), processed meats (e.g. bacon, hotdogs, cold cuts), and sugar-sweetened beverages. A plant-based or Mediterranean dietary pattern is rich in fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, whole grains, legumes (beans), and fish, and low in processed meats, added fats, and fried foods.

The bottom line here is that what you eat has an effect on your health, including heart health. Best is a diet rich in plant-based foods - which also happens to be fiber rich and best for feeding beneficial microbes in the gut. Try to eat at least a minimum of 5 to 6 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, but more (up to 8 or 9 servings) might be even better.

From Science Daily: The Southern diet - fried foods and sugary drinks - may raise risk of sudden cardiac death

Regularly eating a Southern-style diet may increase the risk of sudden cardiac death, while routinely consuming a Mediterranean diet may reduce that risk, according to new research published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association, an open access journal of the American Heart Association.  ...continue reading "A Southern Style Diet Linked to Increased Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death"

Some good news. A recent study found that eating just 2 servings (a cup) of fruit per day is associated with a 36% lower risk for type 2 diabetes after 5 years (as compared to those who eat less than 1/2 a serving) . Doesn't sound like so much fruit, but appears to have a big effect.

However, in this Australian study, the association did not hold for fruit juice. Only for eating whole fruits.

From Science Daily: People who eat a healthy diet including whole fruits may be less likely to develop diabetes

A new study finds people who consume two servings of fruit per day have 36 percent lower odds of developing type 2 diabetes than those who consume less than half a serving. The research was published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.  ...continue reading "Eating Fruit Linked To Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes"

It has long been known that eating oily fish (e.g. salmon, sardines) has health benefits for the heart. But it also looks like regularly eating sardines may be a good way to lower the risk of getting type 2 diabetes, as well as improving heart health.

In a study (conducted in Spain) 152 persons at risk for developing type 2 diabetes ("pre-diabetes") were randomly assigned to one of 2 groups for 1 year: Group 1 regularly ate sardines +  followed a diabetes preventive diet, or Group 2 ate the same diabetes preventive diet, but without sardines. All participants were 65 years or older.

They found that after 1 year, the sardine group had greater health improvements than the non-sardine group. Fewer in the sardine group were still in the prediabetes group, and fewer had developed type 2 diabetes. The sardine group also had decreased triglycerides (good), greater increases in healthy HDL cholesterol, reduced insulin resistance, and lower blood pressure, as compared to the non-sardine group.

The sardine group also had higher taurine levels in the blood, as well as increases in nutrients linked to health benefits, including omega-3 EPA and DHA, vitamin D, and fluorine. Taurine has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

What was their weekly consumption of sardines? They consumed 200 g of canned sardines in olive oil per week - eaten as 100 g servings twice per week. Which is a little less than eating two of the little 125 g cans of sardines in olive oil available at the grocery store. It was recommended that they eat the entire sardine, including bones, due to their rich content of calcium and vitamin D. [By the way, while the researchers don't discuss this - increased extra virgin olive oil consumption also has health benefits.]

Medscape article: Sardines Linked to Reduced Type 2 Diabetes Risk

Excerpts from Medical Xpress: Eating sardines regularly helps prevent type 2 diabetes

The health benefits of sardines and oily fish are widely known: their high levels of unsaturated fats help to regulate cholesterol levels and prevent the onset of cardiovascular diseases. However, the benefits don't end there.  ...continue reading "Eating Sardines Linked to Lower Diabetes Risk"

Iodine is an essential mineral for health, especially during pregnancy, because it is needed for intellectual development and thyroid functioning. For years people bought iodized table salt at the grocery store in order to make sure that they have enough iodine in the diet. However, the use of other salts (e.g. Himalayan salt) that don't have added iodine, and following a vegan or vegetarian diet can increase the risk of iodine deficiency.

A small study by Australian researchers looked at iodine levels in 2 groups of pregnant women, who were either vegan/plant-based diet participants or omnivores (eating both meat and plants). Both groups had urine with iodine levels below the World Health Organization recommended 100 µg per liter, but the vegan/plant-based group was far lower at 44 µg per liter. Those eating Himalayan salt had severely deficient levels: 23 µg per liter. The study did not look at the intellectual functioning of the infants after they were born.

How to get enough iodine in the diet? Foods containing iodine are seafood, seaweed, bread fortified with iodine, iodized salt, eggs, and dairy foods. Also, iodine supplements. Research indicates that adequate iodine intake before conception is necessary to ensure optimal maternal thyroid function during pregnancy, which is required for fetal intellectual development.

Medical Xpress: Poor iodine levels in pregnancy poses risks to fetal intellectual development

A growing number of young Australian women are at increased risk of having children born with impaired neurological conditions, due to poor iodine intake.  ...continue reading "Low Iodine Levels During Pregnancy Poses Risk to the Baby"

Well, the following findings make total sense. A recent study found that organic meat (beef, pork, chicken, turkey) is less likely to be contaminated by harmful bacteria, including multidrug resistant bacteria. These findings hold even if it is processed in a place that also processes non-organic (conventional) meat. But the best results are if organic meat is processed at a processing facility that only handles organic meat.

One interesting finding was that the type of meat processing facility also mattered. Conventional meat that is processed by a "split-processing" facility (processes both organic and conventional meat) had lower rates of multidrug resistant bacteria contamination than processing facilities that only handle conventional meat. This could be because disinfection has to take place in-between processing of organic and conventional meat batches.

This antibiotic use and resistant bacteria association has been known for years for both humans and animals. If antibiotics and other antimicrobials are avoided whenever possible, then bacteria are less likely to mutate, and there is a lower incidence of multidrug resistant microbes.

Bottom line: try to eat organically grown meat whenever possible. It's better environmentally and better for health.

From Science Daily: Organic meat less likely to be contaminated with multidrug-resistant bacteria

Meat that is certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is less likely to be contaminated with bacteria that can sicken people, including dangerous, multidrug-resistant organisms, compared to conventionally produced meat, according to a study from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  ...continue reading "Organic Meat Less Likely To Be Contaminated By Harmful Bacteria"

Once again a study finds that taking supplements can be problematic. This time it's fish oil supplements for heart health. Researchers found that taking routine daily fish oil supplements was linked to an increased risk of atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm disorder. Atrial fibrillation is linked to higher risk of stroke and death.

The international research team analyzed five studies in which people with high blood lipids (elevated plasma triglycerides) took fish oil supplements hoping that it would improve their heart health. The studies were well done, with people randomly assigned to different groups But the results turned out that instead of helping, fish oil supplements appeared to cause a problem - increased risk of atrial fibrillation.

What to do for heart health? Focus on eating a healthy diet with lots of "real" foods, similar to a Mediterranean diet. That is, a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes (beans), seeds, nuts, and fish. Avoid fast foods and highly processed foods. Get exercise (at least 2 1/2 hours per week - brisk walks count), and try to lose weight if overweight.

From Science Daily: Fish oil supplements and heart rhythm disorder: New analysis

Omega-3 supplements are associated with an increased likelihood of developing atrial fibrillation in people with high blood lipids. That's the finding of a study published today in European Heart Journal -- Cardiovascular Pharmacotherapy, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).  ...continue reading "Fish oil Supplements and Increased Risk of Atrial Fibrillation"

Eating mushrooms has always been considered part of a healthy diet. A group of researchers, after reviewing many studies, concluded that eating mushrooms frequently is associated with a lower risk of cancer, especially breast cancer. Thus consuming mushrooms may be protective against cancer.

The Penn State College of Medicine researchers reviewed 17 studies (from 1966 to Oct 2020), all of them observational, so it doesn't prove that mushrooms are protective, but it looks promising... They think the beneficial effect is from the ergothioneine in mushrooms, an antioxidant and cellular protector, and found in a variety of mushrooms.

In 2020 the same group also published similar/almost the same review of 17 studies from 1966 to 2019. At the time they stated that the mushroom-cancer association was only observed in studies from non-western regions. Perhaps mushrooms were a bigger part of the diet in those cultures? They also said when looking at the dose and response, can see that  a "10/gram per day increase in mushroom intake was associated with a 17% lower risk of cancer", especially breast cancer.

From Medical Xpress: Higher mushroom consumption is associated with a lower risk of cancer

Next time you make a salad, you might want to consider adding mushrooms to it. That's because higher mushroom consumption is associated with a lower risk of cancer, according to a new Penn State study, published on March 16 in Advances in Nutrition.  ...continue reading "Eating Mushrooms Associated With A Lower Risk of Cancer"

Another study has confirmed that if a person wants to have beneficial gut microbes that are associated with lower rates of chronic inflammation and many health conditions and diseases, then you need to eat a diet that nourishes the beneficial gut microbes. And once again, research finds that it is a plant based diet that does this.

A plant based diet is one rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans), nuts, and seeds, thus containing lots of fiber - and these nourish beneficial gut microbes. In this group is also oily fish. This is an anti-inflammatory diet. It feeds short-chain fatty acid (SCFA)-producing microbes (this is good). A great example of plant foods also containing bacteria, as well as nutrients and fiber: one raw apple has about 10 million bacteria!

On the other hand, a diet rich in processed foods and lots of meat (an animal derived diet), is associated with microbes linked to intestinal inflammation - thus an inflammatory diet . Also includes foods with high amounts of sugar and alcohol. This type of diet is low fiber and considered a Western diet.

To arrive at these conclusions, researchers in the Netherlands looked at the gut microbiome of 1425 persons in 4 groups - those with Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and the general healthy population. They found 38 associations between dietary patterns and microbial clusters, as well as 61 individual foods and nutrients with 61 bacterial species. They found that specific foods and nutrients were associated with species known to give mucosal protection and have anti-inflammatory effects.

These beneficial bacterial species are NOT found in probiotics or supplements. You must eat the foods on a daily basis. [Another study with similar findings.] Studies show changes will occur very quickly - within two weeks, both in microbes and effects on the intestines.  Think of the saying: You are what you eat. Yes!

From Medical Xpress: Diet rich in animal foods, alcohol and sugar linked to 'inflammatory' gut microbiome

A high dietary intake of animal products, processed foods, alcohol and sugar is linked to a gut microbiome that encourages inflammation, finds research published online in the journal Gut.  ...continue reading "What You Eat Determines The Type Of Bacteria Living In Your Gut"

Many people complain of frequent colds and upper respiratory infections. Perhaps even every month. This is an especially big problem for those suffering from chronic sinusitis, because every cold and sore throat also leads to a sinus infection. So a goal is to try to reduce the number of infections, and daily vitamin D supplements may be the answer.

Many studies have looked at vitamin D supplementation, at all sorts of doses, for all sorts of health conditions, including cancer. Unfortunately, when properly done studies with people randomly assigned to different groups are done, then all sorts of correlations don't hold up, or mixed results. Right now it appears that the main positive benefit of vitamin D supplements is lowering the incidence of upper respiratory illnesses that a person gets. Another study just confirmed this finding.

An international team of researchers reviewed data from 43 studies (48,488 participants), and found a small but significant protective effect of vitamin D supplementation in lowering the risk of getting a respiratory infection (when compared with a placebo). The studies revealed that the protective benefits of vitamin D supplements were strongest in 1 to 16 year olds who took between 400 to 1000 IU daily for up to 12 months.

Interestingly, and this may really bother high dose vitamin D advocates, the researchers found that lower doses (400 to 1000 IU daily) had a positive health effect, but NOT larger daily doses. They found that data from 4 recent good studies (with persons randomly assigned to different groups) in which vitamin D was given at daily dose equivalents of 2000 IU/day or more for 2 to 5 years had NO EFFECT. In other words: null data.

These differing findings suggest that frequency (daily is better then weekly or monthly), dose, and duration (no more than 12 months) of vitamin D supplementation are key to its protective effects against respiratory illnesses. It is unclear why higher doses are NOT protective, while smaller doses are protective. It's like the saying: Less is more.

Excerpts from Medical Xpress, which actually is misleading in how the conclusions of the study are described: New research on vitamin D and respiratory infections important for risk groups

Studies have shown that supplementary vitamin D seems to provide a certain degree of protection against respiratory infections. A new study involving researchers from Karolinska Institute has now made the most comprehensive synthesis to date of this connection. The study, which is published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, confirms that vitamin D protects against respiratory infections, a result that can have significance for the healthcare services. [NOTE: Protective effect was seen in the 1 to 16 year old age groups, and not other age groups.] ...continue reading "Fewer Respiratory Infections With Vitamin D Supplements"

Breastfeeding
Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ Anton Nosik

For years it has been known that breast milk transfers hundreds of microbial species to the baby -  which is very important and beneficial for the baby's microbiome (community of fungi, viruses, bacteria, and other microbes) and health. A recent study found that the bacteria in breast milk varies over time, which is a good reason to breastfeed for at least 6 months - the baby ingests all these beneficial species in the breast milk.

Breast milk samples were collected from 76 breastfeeding (lactating) mothers living in 8 villages in the remote Western Highlands of Guatemala during "early lactation" (6–46 days postpartum) or after months of breastfeeding or "late lactation" (109 to184 days postpartum). Modern technologies (genetic sequencing) were used to analyze the breast milk.

The researchers found a bacterial or microbiome shift from Staphylococcus and several Streptococcus species in early lactation to Sphingobium and Pseudomonas species in late lactation, along with other bacterial shifts. The changing bacterial species have different roles in the body. There were even species never before reported in breast milk, such as: Janthinobacterium agaricidamnosum, Novosphingobium clariflavumm, Ottowia beijingensis, and Flavobacterium cucumis.

Of course much is still unknown about the breastmilk microbiome, and even what is a "core" breast milk microbiome - that is, what species are the core species in all breast milk. But it's clear what the baby gets from the breast milk changes over time.  It's still early days in this research!

Note that all these hundreds of species are not those found in probiotic supplements or formula - a baby must breastfeed to get them. Unfortunately, it is estimated that only 26% of North American mothers breastfeed their babies for at least 6 months (Unicef data).

From Futurity: Breast Milk Offers Different Bacteria Over Time

This bacterial cocktail could act like a daily booster shot for infant immunity and metabolism. ...continue reading "The Bacteria In Breast Milk Change Over Time"