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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 number of people who have Crohn's disease has been rising steadily over the years. Crohn's disease is a debilitating intestinal bowel disease (IBD) which causes severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, and fatigue. A number of studies have focused on gut bacteria in those with Crohn's disease and found dysbiosis (microbial community out of whack), but there is disagreement over the cause of Crohn's and the dysbiosis.

Up to this point no treatments (drugs, surgery, diet, etc.) have had long-term success, and so patients have to take medications throughout life. This is why a small study (10 patients) finding long-term remissions (3 to 23 years) with medicines no longer required is exciting.

According to the Australian researchers success was achieved by having the individuals take a variety of antibiotics over a long period (about 3 years!), and for some also a fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) in the form of a "crap" or "poop" pill  (freeze-dried donor fecal microbiota).

The researchers felt that Crohn's disease is caused by an infection, perhaps  Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP), and they chose courses of various antibiotics that they thought would work against MAP.

Symptoms of Crohn's disease totally cleared up, intestines (including fistulas) healed, and patients discontinued all medications and treatments. The authors called it a "prolonged remission" in the study. But they did point out that this group was special, and that others treated that same way also achieved remission, but were unable to totally go off all medications.

So we'll see. It needs to be duplicated in more people first.

Excerpts from Medical Xpress: Study: Antibiotic and 'crapsule' therapy eliminate need for further treatment of Crohn's disease

The Centre for Digestive Disease (CDD) headed by Professor Thomas Borody has cured Crohn's disease as reported today by Dr. Gaurav Agrawal in Gut Pathogens.  ...continue reading "Successful Treatment for Crohn’s Disease?"

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"

The possibility that rising carbon dioxide levels could eventually result in harmful effects on people's thinking (cognition) is scary. Currently levels are above 400 ppm and rising steadily each year. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that outdoor CO2 levels could climb to 930 ppm by 2100, which means urban and indoor levels would be even higher.

Studies suggest that at high levels of carbon dioxide our thinking gets worse. A University of Colorado study reports that a growing body of evidence finds that as CO2 levels increase, there are effects on thinking (cognitive functioning), including decision making, planning, and complex strategic thinking. As carbon dioxide levels rise to 945 ppm and higher, the effects are even more significant, especially with mentally demanding tasks.

Think of the air in stuffy conference rooms or offices, which studies show has a negative effect on different aspects of our thought processes. The stuffy air is from higher levels of CO2. What if in the future this is our regular "fresh air", with no possibility of escape? The best case scenario is that we do not allow carbon dioxide levels to get that high by reducing fossil fuel emissions. Starting now.

From Science Daily: Rising carbon dioxide causes more than a climate crisis -- it may directly harm our ability to think

As the 21st century progresses, rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations will cause urban and indoor levels of the gas to increase, and that may significantly reduce our basic decision-making ability and complex strategic thinking, according to a new CU Boulder-led study. By the end of the century, people could be exposed to indoor CO2 levels up to 1400 parts per million -- more than three times today's outdoor levels, and well beyond what humans have ever experienced.  ...continue reading "Rising Carbon Dioxide Levels May Harm Our Thought Processes"

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day!

The very first Earth Day was a nationwide rally held back in April 22, 1970 to raise awareness of threats to the environment. Later that year the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established, and soon after that important environmental laws were passed, such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

And here we are 50 years later. With many environmental laws being dismantled. The crisis of climate change. And the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

This is our earth. Our only earth. Let's treasure it and take care of it.

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"

Two big risk factors are emerging over who will develop severe COVID-19 infections that lead to hospitalizations and needing intensive care. A number of studies throughout the world are reporting that the main risk factor in persons under 60 years is being significantly overweight, especially obesity, and the other risk factor is being over 65 years of age.

What is significantly overweight? A body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more is considered obese - probably 40 pounds or more overweight. For example, a 5 ft 5 inch person weighing 181 pounds or more, or a 5 ft 10 inch person 210 pounds or more. [see BMI chart]

Two studies of New York City hospital patients had similar findings. Doctors at NYU Langone Health (Lighter et al) found that overweight patients who were under age 60 were twice as likely to be hospitalized as their thinner peers, while those who were obese were three times as likely to need intensive care, the study found. And this is in patients who didn't have any other diseases or conditions - they were healthy, but overweight. The medical thinking is that this may because obesity is a state of chronic inflammation.

The scary part is that the US has a very high obesity rate - with the NYU researcher Jennifer Lighter pointing out that nearly 40% of adults in the US are obese with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more!

A French study found that a key finding was that those with a BMI of greater than 35 had more than sevenfold increased risk of requiring mechanical ventilation (compared to those with a BMI of less than 25). Studies are also finding that disease severity increased with increasing BMI.

Interestingly, obesity wasn't a predictor of severe disease leading to hospital admission or the ICU (intensive care unit) in those over the age of 60 years. But in those younger than 60 years, it was.

Excerpts from Medscape: Obesity Link to Severe COVID-19, Especially in the Under 60s

It is becoming increasingly clear that obesity is one of the biggest risk factors for severe COVID-19 disease, particularly among younger patients ...continue reading "Being Overweight Is Higher Risk For Severe Coronavirus Infections"

Is male hair loss a risk factor for having a severe infection with COVID-19? An international group of researchers (in a joint letter in Dermatologic Therapy) hypothesize that the reason some people have severe infections of COVID-19 and others only mild symptoms, may be related to the male hormones (androgens) linked to hair loss.

"Male pattern baldness" is considered androgen-dependent hair loss and is known as androgenetic alopecia. Androgens increase in boys at puberty.

As support for their hypothesis of androgen involvement, the researchers point out that a greater proportion of men get severe COVID-19 and also die from it. They propose this possibility as an additional risk factor to consider besides the known ones of older age (over 60) and underlying conditions.

And of course they say that research is now needed to look into this possibility. In a nutshell, their hypothesis is "...the scientific evidence gives us reason to believe that beardy, bald men may be more vulnerable to COVID-19 than other individuals." At this point, who knows?

From Futurity: Hypothesis: Is COVID-19 Severity Tied to Hair Loss?

Researchers hypothesize that the same male hormones that cause hair loss may be linked to the vulnerability of patients to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.  ...continue reading "Is There A Link Between Severe COVID-19 and Male Hair Loss?"

Infected with COVID-19 during pregnancy and worried about the pregnancy and baby? A national registry has just been established that is tracking the effects of coronavirus COVID-19 on the pregnancy and on newborns. This is because the virus is so new that we don't know what, if any, effects it has on pregnancy and on the baby. Does it harm the developing baby during the first 2 trimesters or cause problems during pregnancy? We just don't know.

Normally something like this takes a long time to set up and implement, but this has just started and already over 400 pregnant women have signed up. Women can sign up through their health care provider or on their own at the registry website. The registry is called the Pregnancy Coronavirus Outcomes Registry (PRIORITY).

So far the one small study out of China that was done was reassuring, but it only looked at the last trimester of pregnancy. So please consider signing up for the national PRIORITY registry. The more women sign up, the more we will learn.

On a related note, people are pushing back at the  CDC guidelines suggesting that newborns born to women with COVID-19 infections should be removed and put into isolation. And if breastfeeding, to pump the breast milk and have a healthy caregiver feed the baby. That guideline is absolutely NOT supported by evidence. Also, the virus has not been detected in breastmilk.

An excerpt from Medscape (the medical professional site) on the CDC guidelines: "Some experts say the recommendation to separate mothers with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 from their infants after delivery is not supported by evidence and could cause lasting harm."  Absolutely.

From Medscape: COVID-19 Registry Tracks Pregnant Women, Newborns

A multidisciplinary team of researchers has created a national registry to study how COVID-19 affects pregnant women and their newborns.  ...continue reading "Sign Up For Registry Tracking Effects of COVID-19 On Pregnancy and Newborns"

There has been a debate for years over whether surgery plus traditional medical therapy (medications +  lifestyle changes) is better than just medications and lifestyle changes for treating blocked arteries (ischemia) and preventing heart attacks and death. A recent study looked at this issue and found that there is no advantage to initially doing invasive procedures such as bypass surgery and stents for stable heart disease and moderately and severely blocked arteries. The surgical approach did not reduce the number of heart attacks and deaths. Sooo... it looks like medications and lifestyle changes alone may be the way to start treatment.

A large international study followed patients with stable heart disease and moderate or severe blocked arteries up to 5 years (median 3.2 years), and looked at rates of heart attacks and death. Researchers found that a conservative approach (lifestyle changes and medications) had the same results as an invasive intervention approach (invasive medical procedures such as bypass surgery and stents, followed by medications and lifestyle advice) in the patients. At the end of the study, both groups had similar death and heart attack rates.

From Medical Xpress: Studies show stents and surgery no better than medication, lifestyle changes at reducing the risk for heart attack  ...continue reading "Surgery or Just Medications and Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Heart Attack and Death Risk?"