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OK, this study was done in mice, but it's the kind of study results that everyone hopes (and thinks) is also true for humans. So drink a nice cuppa black tea and think about how you're increasing bacteria in the gut associated with weight loss.

Black tea (as well as green tea) has polyphenols that stimulate the growth of gut bacterium and the formation of short-chain fatty acids. By the way, the mice were given decaffeinated tea extracts, so theoretically both decaf and caffeinated tea should have benefits. The big question though is - will drinking black tea daily actually result in weight loss? From Medical Xpress:

Black tea may help with weight loss, too

UCLA researchers have demonstrated for the first time that black tea may promote weight loss and other health benefits by changing bacteria in the gut. In a study of mice, the scientists showed that black tea alters energy metabolism in the liver by changing gut metabolites. The research is published in the European Journal of Nutrition. The study found that both black and green tea changed the ratio of intestinal bacteria in the animals: The percentage of bacteria associated with obesity decreased, while bacteria associated with lean body mass increased.

Previous studies indicated that chemicals in green tea called polyphenols are absorbed and alter the energy metabolism in the liver. The new findings show that black tea polyphenols, which are too large to be absorbed in the small intestine, stimulate the growth of gut bacterium and the formation of short-chain fatty acids, a type of bacterial metabolites that has been shown to alter the energy metabolism in the liver.

The researchers also collected samples from the mice's large intestines (to measure bacteria content) and liver tissues (to measure fat deposits). In the mice that consumed either type of tea extract, there was less of the type of bacteria associated with obesity and more of the bacteria associated with lean body mass. However, only the mice that consumed black tea extract had an increase in a type of bacteria called Pseudobutyrivibrio, which could help explain the difference between how black tea and green tea change energy metabolism.

The new study also concluded that both green tea and black tea have different effects on liver metabolism. According to Henning, the molecules in green tea are smaller and can more readily be absorbed into the body and reach the liver directly, while black tea molecules are larger and stay in the intestine rather than being absorbed. When black tea molecules stay in the intestinal tract, they enhance the growth of beneficial bacteria and the formation of microbial metabolites involved in the regulation of energy metabolism. [Original study.]

 As we know, chronic inflammation is linked to cancer and other diseases. It is long-term persistent low-grade inflammation, and it has a "wear and tear" effect on the body. What causes chronic inflammation? Being overweight or obese, sedentary lifestyle, Western (low fiber, high processed foods and meat) diet, chronic illnesses, viruses or bacteria (e.g., gum disease), smoking, air pollution, stress, excessive alcohol intake. It often does not have symptoms, but doctors can test for C-reactive protein levels (CRP), which increase when the body is inflamed. So you absolutely want to lower chronic inflammation if you can.

High dietary intake of fruits and vegetables, which are rich in polyphenols, has been linked through many studies with reduced risk for diseases that are associated with chronic inflammation, such as cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. Polyphenols are a class of chemicals or micronutrients found in many foods, especially fruits and vegetables.

New research looked at 31 polyphenols (alone and in some mixtures) to see which lowered inflammation the most. They found that some mixtures of polyphenols actually had more than an additive effect - that it's more than a sum of the individual polyphenols. They found that the polyphenols resveratrol, isorhamnetin, and curcumin were the most anti-inflammatory. Isorhamnetin is a flavonol that occurs in apples, onions and green tea; curcumin is from the Indian spice turmeric; and resveratrol is present in the skin of red, purple and black grapes, and in especially high concentrations in Itadori tea (from Japanese knotweed). Another important anti-inflammatory polyphenol is vanillic acid, which is found in vanilla, wine, whole wheat, and berries.

Just remember that it is better to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables rather than taking supplements. Foods are more than just one or 2 isolated ingredients, but consist of many micronutrients, microbes, etc , and when eating a varied diet, a person typically has mixtures of many polyphenols in their system at once. The research finds that these polyphenol mixtures interact with one another. Studies  typically find real foods to be superior to supplements in beneficial health effects. From Science Daily:

What foods can help fight the risk of chronic inflammation?

A new study by the University of Liverpool's Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease has identified food stuffs that can help prevent chronic inflammation that contributes to many leading causes of death. Inflammation occurs naturally in the body but when it goes wrong or goes on too long, it can trigger disease processes. Uncontrolled inflammation plays a role in many major diseases, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease.

Diets rich in fruits and vegetables, which contain polyphenols, protect against age-related inflammation and chronic diseasesPolyphenols are abundant micronutrients in our diet, and evidence for their role in the prevention of degenerative diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases is already emerging. The health effects of polyphenols depend on the amount consumed and on their bioavailability.

T-cells, or T-lymphocytes, are a type of white blood cell that circulate around our bodies, scanning for cellular abnormalities and infections. They contribute to cell signalling molecules (cytokines) that aid cell-to-cell communication in immune responses and stimulate the movement of cells towards sites of inflammation, infection and trauma. Cytokines are modulated by fruit and vegetable intake.

The study, conducted by Sian Richardson and Dr Chris Ford from the University's Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease, examined the different potencies of the polyphenols. Sian Richardson, said: "The results of our study suggest that (poly)phenols derived from onions, turmeric, red grapes, green tea and açai berries may help reduce the release of pro-inflammatory mediators in people at risk of chronic inflammation. "Older people are more susceptible to chronic inflammation and as such they may benefit from supplementing their diets with isorhamnetin, resveratrol, curcumin and vanillic acid or with food sources that yield these bioactive molecules."

Image result for dark chocolate  Another yes to daily chocolate consumption -  a 3.5 oz. chocolate bar a day! This study looked at 1,153 people aged 18-69 years old and found an inverse relationship between daily chocolate consumption and levels of insulin and liver enzymes. This suggests that chocolate consumption may improve liver enzymes and protect against insulin resistance (risk factors for cardiometabolic disorders such as diabetes, heart disease, or stroke). From Science Daily:

Eating chocolate each day could reduce heart disease, diabetes risk

A new study published in the British Journal of Nutrition appears to back up the adage that a little of what you fancy does you good. Including a small amount of chocolate each day could help prevent diabetes and insulin resistance. That's one of the research findings from the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH), the University of Warwick Medical School, the University of South Australia and the University of Maine.

Data of 1,153 people aged 18-69 years old who were part of the Observation of Cardiovascular Risk in Luxembourg (ORISCAV-LUX) study were analysed. It was found that those who ate 100 g of chocolate a day -- equivalent to a bar -- had reduced insulin resistance and improved liver enzymes. Insulin sensitivity is a well-established risk factor to cardiovascular disease.

The academics hypothesised that chocolate consumption may have a beneficial effect on insulin sensitivity and liver enzymes and therefore decided to analyse a national sample of adults, taking into account lifestyle and dietary factors, including the simultaneous consumption of tea and coffee. This is because both drinks can be high in polyphenol, the substance which may provide chocolate with its beneficial cardiometabolic effects.

More than 80% of participants claimed to eat an average of 24.8 g of chocolate a day. The study also found that those who claimed to eat chocolate were younger, more physically active and had higher levels of education than those who claimed not to eat chocolate on a daily basis. Dr Ala'a Alkerwi, the Principal Investigator of the study at LIH said: "It is also possible that chocolate consumption may represent an overall marker for a cluster of favourable socio-demographic profiles, healthier lifestyle behaviours and better health status. This could explain, at least in part, the observed inverse associations with insulin and liver biomarkers."

Great news for coffee lovers, especially for those drinking 3 to 5 cups daily! From Medical Daily:

Drinking Coffee Can Lower Alzheimer's Risk By 20%, All It Takes Is 3 Cups A Day

As if you weren’t already drinking a lot of coffee, a review of several studies has found drinking three to five cups a day could reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 20 percent.

The research was presented at the 2014 Alzheimer Europe Annual Congress, and found that people who drank coffee regularly — all you lifers out there — were less likely to develop the debilitating disease. Alzheimer’s, perhaps the worst type of dementia, is a progressive disease that works slowly, first making it difficult to remember newly learned things, and later on making it difficult to remember early memories and family member’s faces, while also causing hallucinations. The biggest risk factor for the disease is being over 65 years old.

Roughly 83 percent of American adults drink coffee, according to the National Coffee Association. What many of these Americans don’t know, however, is that inside that cup of Joe is a wealth of polyphenols, which you probably know as antioxidants. These antioxidants — researchers said they’re the same ones found in the Mediterranean diet — prevent the formation of a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease known as amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, the study found. They also reduce inflammation and deterioration of brain cells, particularly in the areas of the brain (the hippocampus and cortex) responsible for memory.

Along with prevention of Alzheimer’s, coffee has been linked to a reduced risk of liver cancer and other liver conditions, a lower risk of type 2 diabetes; it prevents eye damage and Parkinson’s disease; and even boosts endurance. But even then, drinking too much isn’t good, either. As the researchers noted, three to five cups is optimal; anything over that, and you might find yourself with some problems.

Improving gut bacteria is a good reason to eat apples. Take note that this study was done with mice, but the researchers think it also applies to humans. From Medical News Today:

Could an apple a day protect against obesity?

An apple a day may keep obesity away, particularly if it is of the Granny Smith variety, according to a new study from Washington State University.

Apples have many health benefits, according to previous research. Last year, Medical News Today reported on a study suggesting that eating an apple a day may be just as beneficial as daily statin use for preventing vascular mortality. A 2011 study also claimed that apples and pears may reduce the risk of stroke by more than 50%.

But according to the team involved in this latest research, very few studies have looked at how the bioactive compounds in apples that are not absorbed during digestion - such as polyphenols (a type of antioxidant) and dietary fiber - affect the friendly gut bacteria that boost immunity and aid weight maintenance.

With this in mind, Noratto and her team analyzed how the bioactive compounds of seven different varieties of apples - Granny Smith, Braeburn, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, McIntosh and Red Delicious - affected the good gut bacteria of diet-induced obese mice. The researchers found that, compared with all other apple varieties, Granny Smiths appeared to have the most beneficial effect on good gut bacteria.

The balance of gut bacteria among obese people is usually impaired. But when comparing the feces of obese mice fed Granny Smiths with the feces of lean mice, the team found that the proportions of bacteria - specifically the presence of Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, Enterococcus, Enterobacteriaceae, Escherichia coli and Bifidobacterium - were very similar.

The researchers explain that Granny Smiths are high in non-digestible dietary fiber and polyphenols, and low in carbohydrates. Even after chewing and exposure to stomach acid and digestive enzymes, the compounds are unscathed when they reach the colon. The bacteria present in the colon then ferment the compounds, producing butyric acid that spurs on the growth of friendly gut bacteria.

An imbalance of gut bacteria - determined by the food we eat - can cause chronic inflammation  that leads to diabetes. But the researchers say that re-establishing the balance of gut bacteria through consumption of Granny Smith apples may reduce such inflammation, as well as promote satiety.

Great reason to add more rosemary and oregano to your diet. From Science Daily:

Rosemary, oregano contain diabetes-fighting compounds

The popular culinary herbs oregano and rosemary are packed with healthful compounds, and now lab tests show they could work in much the same way as prescription anti-diabetic medication, scientists report. In their new study, researchers found that how the herbs are grown makes a difference, and they also identified which compounds contribute the most to this promising trait.

Elvira Gonzalez de Mejia and colleagues point out that in 2012, type-2 diabetes affected more than 8 percent of Americans and cost the country $175 billion. ... Recent research has shown that herbs could provide a natural way to help lower glucose in blood. So Gonzalez de Mejia's team decided to take a closer look.They tested four different herbs, either greenhouse-grown or dried commercial versions, for their ability to interfere with a diabetes-related enzyme, which is also a target of a prescription drug for the disease.

They found that greenhouse herbs contained more polyphenols and flavonoids compared to the equivalent commercial herbs. But this didn't affect the concentration required to inhibit the enzyme. Commercial extracts of Greek oregano, Mexican oregano and rosemary were better inhibitors of the enzyme, required to reduce risk of type-2 diabetes, than greenhouse-grown herbs.

Some good foods to eat for their health benefits. The following articles are from Science Daily:

Almonds reduce the risk of heart disease, research shows

Eating almonds can reduce the risk of heart disease by keeping blood vessels healthy, research has shown. Research found that they significantly increase the amount of antioxidants in the blood stream, reduce blood pressure and improve blood flow. These findings add weight to the theory that Mediterranean diets with lots of nuts have big health benefits... "Our study confirms that almonds are a superfood. Previous studies have shown that they keep your heart healthy, but our research proves that it isn't too late to introduce them into your diet -- adding even a handful (around 50g) every day for a short period can help.

Could grapefruit be good for your kidneys?

A natural product found in grapefruit can prevent kidney cysts from forming, new research indicates. Naringenin, which is also present in other citrus fruits, has been found to successfully block the formation of kidney cysts, an effect that occurs in polycystic kidney disease, by regulating the PKD2 protein responsible for the condition. With few treatments currently available, symptoms include high blood pressure and loss of kidney function, and lead to the need for dialysis.

More evidence that dark chocolate is good for you. From Science Daily:

Polyphenols could yield small benefit for people with PAD

In a small study, people with artery problems in their legs (peripheral artery disease) walked a little longer and farther when they ate dark chocolate -- a food rich in polyphenols.The authors suggest that compounds found in cocoa -- polyphenols -- may reduce oxidative stress and improve blood flow in peripheral arteries....Many other polyphenol-rich foods would offer less added sugar, saturated fats, and calories than dark chocolate, such as cloves, dried peppermint, celery seed, capers, and hazelnuts, to name a few.

 Well, it looks like the researchers devised a nutritional supplement, which they then tested and found beneficial effects on the thinking processes of older adults - so some bias there, but still interesting. What was in the supplement they called NT-020? Extracts of blueberries, green tea, vitamin D3, and amino acids such as carnosine. Science Daily:

Nutritional supplement improves cognitive performance in older adults, study finds

Now a University of South Florida (USF) study reports that a formula of nutrients high in antioxidants and other natural components helped boost the speed at which the brains of older adults processed information.

The USF-developed nutritional supplement, containing extracts from blueberries and green tea combined with vitamin D3 and amino acids, including carnosine, was tested by the USF researchers in a clinical trial enrolling 105 healthy adults, ages 65 to 85. The two-month study evaluated the effects of the formula, called NT-020, on the cognitive performance of these older adults, who had no diagnosed memory disorders.

Those randomized to the group of 52 volunteers receiving NT-020 demonstrated improvements in cognitive processing speed, while the 53 volunteers randomized to receive a placebo did not. Reduced cognitive processing speed, which can slow thinking and learning, has been associated with advancing age, the researchers said. Blueberries, a major ingredient in the NT-020 formula, are rich in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant containing a polyphenolic, or natural phenol substructure.

In several preclinical trials, researchers gave aging laboratory rats NT-020 to see if it boosted memory and other cognitive performance by promoting the health of neurons in the aging brain. Those studies demonstrated that NT-020 promoted the growth of stem cells in the brain, produced an overall rejuvenating effect, benefited animals with simulated stroke, and led to better cognitive performance.