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For a few years I've been noticing that studies of vitamin D have had mixed results for a number of medical conditions. A number of times initial studies found an association with low levels of vitamin D and a number of medical conditions, but follow up well-designed studies are just not finding the same results with vitamin D supplementation - or results have been mixed. Also, in some studies, what initially looked like vitamin D being protective for some cancers and multiple sclerosis, now looks like it's sunlight that is giving the protective results. In some cases, vitamin D levels are a proxy for sunlight exposure (the more sunlight exposure, the higher the vitamin D levels in the person). The following 6 studies recently published highlight this same trend of mixed results.

While vitamin D levels increased from high dose vitamin D, there was no change in bone bone mineral density (BMD) in older adults during the 12 months of the study. No adverse effects form the vitamin D supplementation was reported [the older adults received 12,000 international units (IU), 24,000 IU, or 48,000 IU once a month]. From Science Daily: Vitamin D supplements are of no benefit to the over 70s

There is little benefit for those over 70 taking higher dose vitamin D supplements to improve their bone strength and reduce the risk of falls, new research has revealed.

High doses of vitamin D (4000 international units) appeared more beneficial than low dose vitamin D (400 international units) supplements in advanced colorectal cancer patients. From Medical Xpess: High-dose vitamin D shows benefit in patients with advanced colorectal cancer

...continue reading "Recent Vitamin D Studies Have Mixed Results"

A recent study examined whether consuming sugary products (including sugary drinks) causes an improvement of mood and alertness - a "sugar rush" - and found that to be a total myth. After reviewing 31 studies (in which 1259 individuals participated), the researchers found that people do not get a "sugar rush" with an improvement in mood from consuming sugary products - instead it makes people feel less alert and more tired within an hour of ingestion

From Science Daily: No such thing as 'sugar rush'! Sugar worsens mood rather than improving it

Sugar does not improve mood and it can make people less alert and more tired after its consumption -- according to a new study by the University of Warwick, Humboldt University of Berlin, and Lancaster University.  ...continue reading "No Such Thing As A Sugar Rush"

A diagnosis of a lifelong progressive disease such as multiple sclerosis is one that everyone wants to avoid. So there is much speculation and research looking at what causes it and possible ways to avoid getting it. Some earlier research suggested that zinc  and iron may play a role (e.g., finding that zinc levels are lower in those with multiple sclerosis). Thus the results of this long-running study of more than 170,000 female nurses (Nurses' Health Study and Nurses' Health Study II) was informative.

The researchers found no association with intake of any of the following minerals (potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, manganese, copper) and multiple sclerosis risk. As the researchers Concluded: "Our findings suggest that mineral intake is not an important determinant of MS risk.

In case you're wondering about what is protective - a number of studies have shown that people who get more sun exposure have a lower risk of MS.

From Science Daily: Do minerals play a role in development of multiple sclerosis?

Some studies have suggested that minerals such as zinc and iron may play a role in how multiple sclerosis (MS) progresses, once people have been diagnosed with it. But little was known about whether zinc, iron and other minerals play a role in the development of the disease. A new study shows no link between dietary intake of several minerals and whether people later develop MS.  ...continue reading "Mineral Supplements and Multiple Sclerosis"

Are all foods contaminated by the herbicide glyphosate? The weed-killer glyphosate, which is in Roundup, keeps turning up in foods - basically in every food studied. Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world, and its use keeps increasing - which means we are increasingly exposed to more glyphosate residues in foods. What does this mean for our health? Along with other health effects (e.g. endocrine disruption, reproductive effects, alters the gut microbiome), there is increasing evidence that glyphosate herbicides are carcinogenic (cancer causing) - especially linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Studies detect glyphosate in most adults in the US, including pregnant women. Since glyphosate herbicides are so widely and heavily used by farmers (greater than 88.6 pounds per square mile in the US midwest!!, according to the USGS), then it is difficult to avoid glyphosate residue in foods. The US government is not helping the situation - they have been refusing to test for glyphosate in foods for years, and they have twice raised the allowable glyphosate residue levels in foods when asked to do so by Monsanto (the manufacturer of Roundup). The only way to avoid glyphosate is to eat organic foods - it is not allowed in organic food production. 

A recent Canadian government study looked at whether glyphosate was found in 200 honey samples from western Canada. Glyphosate was detected in 197 of the 200 samples! Even though beekeepers do not use glyphosate in beekeeping, the bees were picking it up in their search for nectar and bringing it back to the hives. Which means whenever one eats the honey, that person is also getting some glyphosate residues. A little here, a little there... we're getting  some everywhere...

Excerpts from an article by journalist Carey Gillam for Environmental Health News:

Weed killer residues found in 98 percent of Canadian honey samples

Study is the latest evidence that glyphosate herbicides are so pervasive that residues can be found in foods not produced by farmers using glyphosate. As U.S. regulators continue to dance around the issue of testing foods for residues of glyphosate weed killers, government scientists in Canada have found the pesticide in 197 of 200 samples of honey they examined.

The authors of the study, all of whom work for Agri-Food Laboratories at the Alberta Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, said the prevalence of glyphosate residues in honey samples - 98.5 percent - was higher than what was reported in several similar studies done over the last five years in other countries.  ...continue reading "Pesticide Residues In Honey"

A very interesting, but very preliminary study just came out about breast cancer and walnuts. Could follow up research really show this to be true - that eating walnuts has an anti-breast cancer effect?? Animal studies find that multiple ingredients in walnuts (e.g.alpha linolenic acid, beta-sitosterol, a number of antioxidants such as ellagic acid) reduce the risk of cancer or slow its growth, or even increase tumor cell death. Researchers think this is true for human breast cancer also, and so a study was done looking at "gene expression" of breast cancer tumors. The question asked by the Marshall University (West Virginia) researchers was: Would eating 2 oz (14 halves) of walnuts daily for 2 to 3 weeks have an effect on the breast cancer tumors?

10 post-menopausal women had diagnostic breast cancer tumor biopsies done and then were randomly divided into 2 groups: 1) 5 of the women ate 2 oz of walnuts daily for the 2 to 3 weeks until breast cancer surgery, and 2) the other 5 avoided eating walnuts in the 2 to 3 weeks prior to breast cancer surgery. Otherwise the women ate their normal diets - a Western style diet.

The researchers noted that in the walnut eating group: "gene expression in the tumor was modified in ways expected to slow proliferation, reduce inflammation, reduce metastasis and to increase cancer cell death". The researchers also felt that consuming walnuts would decrease risk for cancer recurrence, and that there may be benefit from walnuts against many cancer types.

The researchers point out that another study published in 2016 (which was a review and analysis of 20 studies) concluded that "nut consumption, including peanuts, was associated with reduced risk of cancer and reduced all-cause mortality" (meaning death from any cause) - which agrees with the results of this study. In the 2016 study the beneficial health effect was for at least 28 grams (1 serving) of nuts per day. Bottom line: Enjoy consuming some nuts daily!

From Medical Xpress: Scientists tie walnuts to gene expressions related to breast cancer

New research from Marshall University links walnut consumption as a contributing factor that could suppress growth and survival of breast cancers.  ...continue reading "Walnuts Have An Effect On Breast Cancer Tumors"

An interesting study found that high fructose corn syrup promotes the growth of intestinal tumors - in mice. The amount was fairly small - the equivalent of 12 oz of soda (with about 20 g of high fructose corn syrup) per day. The big question now: Is this also true for humans?

A number of studies find an association of soda consumption (which typically has high-fructose corn syrup in it), obesity,  and cancer (e.g. colorectal cancer) in humans, but the question remained whether this was due to obesity (obesity is linked to many types of cancer) or whether the high fructose corn syrup is directly contributing to tumor development or tumor growth. Based on the results of this study, the researchers felt that the high fructose corn syrup "enhances" or "promotes" intestinal tumor growth. Yikes.

From Science Daily: High-fructose corn syrup boosts intestinal tumor growth in mice

Does sugar directly feed cancers, boosting their growth? The answer seems to be 'Yes' at least in mice according to a study led by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Weill Cornell Medicine.  ...continue reading "Time To Stop Drinking Soda?"

Another study found benefits from eating nuts - this time an association between frequently eating nuts and better brain functioning in older adults. The study was done in China and was part of a long-term nutrition and cognitive function study of 4822 adults (aged 55+ years). With aging, it is normal to have some decline in brain functioning, but the researchers said that high nut consumers had much less decline - that the more nuts consumed, the less decline (an inverse relationship).

The article below makes some grand claims ("could improve their cognitive function by up to 60 per cent") for a study that found an association between long-term nut consumption of more than 10 grams (about 1/8 cup) daily and cognitive health, but this doesn't prove it. Perhaps people who eat nuts also eat other foods or do other things that are beneficial for brain functioning. But ... the good news is that eating nuts frequently appears to be beneficial. So eat and enjoy.

By the way, peanuts are not nuts - they are legumes (also beans and peas) - but they have numerous health benefits, and were counted as nuts in this study. Common tree nuts are cashews, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, pine nuts, pistachios, chestnuts, lichee nuts, and Brazil nuts. [See all posts on health benefits of nuts.]

From Science Daily: A nutty solution for improving brain health

Long-term, high nut consumption could be the key to better cognitive health in older people according to new research from the University of South Australia.  ...continue reading "Another Reason To Eat Nuts Frequently"

Researchers have known for a while that human breast milk contains hundreds of species of bacteria that a baby ingests while feeding. This is good! The bacteria is seeding the baby's gut microbiome (microbial community). A recent study of breast milk from different continents found that breast milk from healthy mothers also contains species of fungi - which is the breast milk mycobiome. What was noteworthy was that some  types of fungi in breast milk were found among breast milk samples from all locations (a fungi "core group"), while other types of fungi varied among breast milk from the different locations and even how the baby was delivered (vaginal or C-section birth).

After analyzing the 80 samples of breast milk (20 from each country: Spain, Finland, South Africa, China) it was found that some fungi were the same in breast milk from the different locations: Malassezia, Davidiella, Sistotrema, and Penicillium, while others were different. Fungi from the genus Cryptococcus were higher in breast milk from women who delivered vaginally (as compared to those who had a C-section).  [Note: Genus ranks above species, but below family, and the written name is capitalized.]

This study confirms the importance of breast milk as a source of microbes (along with many nutrients and protective compounds) to the infant and infant gut. From Science Daily:

Breast milk microbiome contains yeast and fungi: Do these benefit the infant?  ...continue reading "It Is Normal For Fungi To Be In Breast Milk"

Is eating vegetables in the Allium family (garlic, onion, leeks, spring onions, garlic stalks) protective in regards to colon cancer? A recent study from China suggests that eating higher amounts of these vegetables is associated with a lower incidence of colorectal cancer in both men and women. Interestingly, the researchers only looked at these 5 vegetables, which are commonly eaten in China, but not other Allium vegetables that are commonly eaten elsewhere in the world - such as chives, scallions, and shallots. All Allium vegetables are rich in flavonols and organosulfur compounds, which have properties that inhibit tumors (anti-tumor) in laboratory studies. High intake of Allium vegetables is thought to be protective for a variety of cancers, e.g. prostate cancer.

The researchers mention that other studies examining this issue had mixed results - with some finding a protective effect of Allium vegetables, but not others. The researchers suggested that the high intake of these vegetables in the groups they studied and also cooking methods (which vary among different regions of China, as well as different countries) could explain the differences. For example, slicing and crushing fresh garlic releases beneficial compounds, but boiling onions leads to an approximately 30% loss of beneficial substances. After reviewing a number of studies that looked at Allium vegetable intake and cancer, it appears that while eating them cooked in any way is good, the most beneficial effects seem to be from raw Allium vegetables.

How much of the Allium vegetables did they eat? The healthy (non-colorectal cancer) group ate about 2 ounces or 1/4 cup of Allium vegetables per day (or 47 pounds annually), versus the colorectal cancer group ate about 1.5 ounces per day (or 15.92 kg or 35 lbs annually). Other differences between the groups were that the colorectal cancer group had higher intakes of alcohol and red meat, but less milk, other vegetables, and fruit (as compared to the healthy group). But both groups had the same intake of fiber. Bottom line: eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, including Allium vegetables (onions, garlic, leeks, spring onions, chives, scallions, shallots).

From Science Daily: Consuming garlic and onions may lower colorectal cancer risk   ...continue reading "Eating Garlic, Onions, and Leeks Linked to Lower Risk of Cancer"

Once again a study finds that eating berries (this time blueberries) is associated with health benefits - that the blueberries improved both blood vessel functioning and blood pressure. This multi-part European study was conducted on both humans and mice. The researchers specifically looked at what component of blueberries had the beneficial effects on blood pressure and came to the conclusion that it was the anthocyanins in the blueberries.  Anthocyanins are the blue, violet, or red flavonoid pigments found in berries and other plants.

How much did the researchers find to be beneficial in the study? 2 cups or 200 g blueberries daily for one month. The study participants drank blueberry juice, but the assumption is that eating whole blueberries has the same beneficial effect.The researchers found that the lowering of blood pressure (5 mmHg) is similar to what is commonly observed with blood pressure lowering medication (e.g. ACE inhibitors) in patients.

By the way, research finds health benefits from eating a variety of berry types and richly colored fruits and vegetables (e.g. better brain functioning, lower blood pressure, lowering of cholesterol levels). Not only are the micronutrients different, but also the microbial species which we ingest (this is good!). So don't eat just one kind of berry - eat them all!

From a press release published by King's College London: The 'blue' in blueberries can help lower blood pressure  ...continue reading "Blueberries and Blood Pressure"