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April 28, 2016

Low Fiber Content of Western Diet May Be Leading to Increased Risk of Major Diseases

Filed under: Fiber — Emma @ 9:16 am

A person who eats the typical Western diet consumes half the fiber recommended in many dietary guidelines. A recent commentary piece by researchers from the University of Alberta suggests this fiber gap presents a major problem, as dietary fiber is the primary source of nutrition accessible to gut bacteria in humans. They believe that increasing dietary fiber intake may be the best way to replenish the microbial gut biodiversity that has been damaged by the western diet.

The researchers proposed that the western diet, which is low in many essential nutrients, including fiber, has resulted in a loss of species that rely on fiber as an energy source as well as a reduction of fermentation end-products that are essential for a range of physiological and immunological functions. In other words, the western diet does not provide enough nutrients for us to develop healthy gut microbiota.

They link the depletion of the human gut microbiome to an increase in non-communicable disease (NCDs) such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, allergies, other atopic diseases (including asthma), autism, and autoimmune diseases that has taken place in recent decades.

“The role of the gut microbiome in NCDs is difficult to test in humans, but disease risk is epidemiologically linked to practices that disrupt the establishment of the gut microbiota early in life (such as cesarean sections, antibiotics, formula feeding), and pathologies are often associated with an aberrant microbiome,” the researchers said. “ In fact, comparisons of the gut microbiota in unindustrialized rural human communities from South America, Africa, and Papua New Guinea (which generally have a low prevalence of NCDs) with that of communities in the USA and Europe provide compelling evidence for a substantial decline of gut microbiome diversity through industrialization.”

The researchers suggest that a high-fiber diet may start to reverse the negative effects of the current low-fiber western diet. However they also pointed out that the costs could be prohibitive, as low-fiber, processed foods tend to be cheaper than high-fiber foods. They recommend government subsidies of foods with “established health benefits” and point out that spending money on improved diet is actually cheaper than the healthcare costs of continuing to follow a poor diet, both for the individual and society.

The commentary was published online on April 11, 2016, in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Previous studies have linked fiber consumption with lowering total and LDL cholesterol, and regulating blood sugar for people with diabetes.

There are two type of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber can be found naturally in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium. Insoluble fiber can be found in whole wheat and grains, brown rice, fruit, broccoli, cabbage and dark leafy vegetables.

April 27, 2016

Beta-Alanine May Lengthen Workout Time, Improve Cognitive Function in Mature Adults

Filed under: Exercise — Sarah @ 8:39 am

Both strength and cognitive function naturally decline after age 50, but there are ways to push back against nature. A recent study suggests that taking a daily beta-alanine supplement may help middle aged men and women work out longer and reduce exercise induced cognitive decline.

Participants in the study included six healthy, middle aged people with an average age of 57. They were given either 2.4 grams of beta-alanine or a placebo daily for four weeks. The participants performed at the beginning of the study to measure their time to exhaustion. Cognitive function was assessed using the Stroop Test five minutes before exercise, immediately before and after exercise, and five minutes after fatigue.

At the conclusion of the study, the beta-alanine group increased their average time to exhaustion from 17.3 minutes to 25.2 minutes, or 45%. The control group increased from 22.9 minutes to 23.8 minutes, or 4%. The researchers also found that the placebo group had significantly slower completion times on the Stroop Test five minutes after exercise. No similar declines were noted in the beta-alanine group.

Researchers from the University at Buffalo conducted the study. It was published in the April 2016 issue of The FASEB Journal.

Beta-alanine is an amino acid that previous studies have found may help build lean muscle mass, improve physical function in general, and improve physical function in the elderly. It can primarily be found in meats but the most effective way to consume beta-alanine is in a supplement form.

April 26, 2016

Omega-3s Plus B Vitamins May Help Lower Homocysteine Levels

Filed under: Omega-3 — Emma @ 8:48 am

Higher levels of the amino acid homocysteine have been linked to lower bone mineral density in women and a higher risk of cardiovascular and neurological disease. A recent study suggests that taking omega-3 supplements may help lower homocysteine levels, and that adding folic acid, vitamin B6, and B12 may enhance omega-3s homocysteine-lowering effects.

For this study, researchers examined data from 13 trials with omega-3 supplementation and 8 trials with omega-3s and B vitamins. The 21 trials had a total of 3,267 participants. They found that supplementation with 0.2 to 6 grams per day of omega-3s was associated with an 8.5% change in homocysteine from the average baseline. They also found that supplementation with omega-3’s plus folic acid and B-group vitamins had a greater effect than omega-3s alone.

The researchers noted that previous studies have shown that the omega-3 fatty acid DHA may promote pathways involved in homocysteine degradation. Additionally, tissue and plasma concentrations of homocysteine have been found to be effected by vitamin B status, as they play a role in homocysteine metabolism.

Researchers from Deakin University conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on April 1, 2016, in Nutrition Research.

Omega-3s have been linked to a number of health benefits, including better moods, improved joint mobility, helping with age related macular degeneration, and aiding your immune system. Because omega-3 fatty-acids are not found naturally in the human body, it is especially important to make sure that they are a part of your daily diet. Oily, dark fish such as tuna and salmon are high in omega-3s.

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is essential to the proper function of the brain, nervous system and formation of blood. Deficiencies in vitamin B12 can lead to fatigue, depression and memory lapses. Previous studies have found a link between vitamin B6 and reductions in the risk of stroke, birth defects and hearing loss. B6 also plays an important role in many essential functions in the human body ranging from nervous system function to red blood cell formation.

Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, a water-soluble B vitamin. Folate plays an essential role in many of the necessary functions of the human body. It has been associated with nervous system function, red blood cell formation, and hormone function. Previous studies have also found a potential link between this vitamin and reductions in hearing loss and birth defects.

Our bodies do not naturally synthesize B vitamins. However, it is easy to increase your intake by eating more vitamin B- rich foods, such as liver, eggs, beans, sunflower seeds, asparagus, leafy green vegetables, oranges, strawberries, cantaloupes, and other melons. Additionally, food sources of vitamin B12 include liver, turkey giblets, oysters, clams, king crab and whole milk. If your diet is not rich in these products, you should consider supplementing with a high quality multivitamin or vitamin B supplement.

April 25, 2016

Low Selenium Levels May be Linked to Risk of High Grade Prostate Cancer

Filed under: Lifestyle — Sarah @ 9:00 am

Prostate cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer for men. A recent study suggests that low blood levels of selenium may be associated with a higher risk of prostate cancer.

Participants in the study included 27,179 men who took part in the “Diet, Cancer and Health” study conducted by the Danish Cancer Society Research Center in 2007. Of those men, 784 had prostate cancer.

Of that study group, 525 men (or two thirds of the total) had advanced prostate cancer at the time of diagnose and 170 of that two thirds had a higher-grade of cancer. During the follow-up period that ran through 2012, 305 men died; 212 from prostate cancer.

After examining the data and comparing to controls, the researchers found an association between higher levels of selenium and a lower risk of higher grade prostate cancer. They did not find an association between selenium levels and risk of total and advanced prostate cancer.

Researchers from the Danish Cancer Society Research Center conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on March 14, 2016, in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Selenium is an essential mineral that works as an antioxidant. Selenium is also the only mineral the FDA has approved for a qualified health claim for general cancer reduction incidence. Previous studies have shown that maintaining sufficient levels of selenium is important for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and immune dysfunction.

Some foods rich in selenium are Brazil nuts, broccoli, mushrooms, garlic, sunflower seeds, walnuts, raisins, pork and fish.

April 22, 2016

Study Finds Link Between Tooth Loss and Cognitive Function

Filed under: Lifestyle — Emma @ 9:02 am

A recent study examined the association between tooth loss and lower cognitive function, and found that the risk for cognitive impairment and dementia increases with loss of teeth.

For this analysis, the researchers searched for eligible studies in the MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycoINFO, and Cochrane Library databases. They included 10 of the 1,251 identified potential articles in the systemic review and eight in the meta-analysis.

After examining the data in those studies, the researchers concluded that people with less than 20 teeth had a 20% higher risk of developing cognitive decline and dementia than people with 20 or more teeth.

The study was conducted by researchers from Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, McGill University in Montreal, the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, the University of Montreal, and Queen’s University. It published in the April 2016 issue of JDR Clinical & Translational Research.

Previous studies have found that oral health plays an important role in a person’s overall health. The mouth contains a host of bacteria, and normally good oral health care is able to keep them under control. However, without proper oral care, these bacteria can reach high levels and eventually lead to oral infections. These infections may play in role in some diseases, including cardiovascular disease, endocarditis and diabetes.

April 21, 2016

Soccer May Improve Health Profiles of Mature Men

Filed under: Exercise — Sarah @ 9:22 am

A recent study suggests that participating in long-term recreational soccer training may result in in a better health profile for men between the ages of 63 and 75.

Participants in the study included 25 men in their late sixties who either took part in 52 weeks of soccer training, resistance training or did not do any training at all. The researchers assessed muscle function and body composition before and after 16 and 52 weeks.

At the 16-week mark, the soccer training group had a 15% improvement in cardiovascular fitness scores, a 43% improvement in interval work capacity, and a 30% improvement in functional capacity. The researchers also noted a 1.5% reduction in BMI at the 16-week mark and 3.0% reduction at the 52-week mark. The resistance training group had no change in BMI, while the control group had a 2% increase.

They also noted an increased ability to handle harmful oxygen radicals and control blood sugar in the soccer group. Similar changes were not seen in the other two groups. Finally, both the soccer and the resistance training groups had improvements in muscle mass, with no similar improvements noted in the control group.

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen conducted the study. It was published on February 17, 2016, in PLOS One.

Regular exercise such as soccer training or resistance training is important for maintaining good health as you age. Previous clinical studies suggest that even moderate exercise can reduce your risk of dying prematurely, help with blood sugar control, reduce body weight, improve heart health and improve respiratory health.

April 20, 2016

Stress Management May Reduce Risk of Second Heart Incident in Recovering Patients

Filed under: Lifestyle — Emma @ 8:38 am

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. A recent study suggests that people recovering from heart attack or other heart problems could reduce the risk of having another heart incident by half if they include stress management in their treatment.

Participants in the study included 151 outpatients between the ages of 36 and 84 with coronary heart disease who were enrolled in cardiac rehabilitation as a result of heart blockages, chest pain, heart attacks, or bypass surgery. Stress levels were determined via self-reporting of the participants on their levels of depression, anxiety, anger, and perceived stress.

Half of the participants took part in a three-month traditional cardiac rehabilitation program — which included exercise, a heart-healthy diet, and drugs to manage cholesterol and high blood pressure. The other half underwent the same rehab program but also had weekly 90-minute stress management groups that included support, cognitive behavior therapy, muscle relaxation, and other stress reduction techniques. Additionally, a matched sample of cardiac rehabilitation eligible patients who did not receive any cardiac rehabilitation were used as a comparison group. The researchers followed all of the patients for an average of three years after their rehab period.

At the conclusion of the study, 33% of the rehab-only group had another cardiovascular event. However, only 18% of the rehab plus stress management group experienced another cardiovascular event. Finally, 47% of the heart patients who chose not to attend any rehab at all had another cardiovascular event or died.

Researchers from Duke Healthy conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on March 21, 2016, in Circulation.

The long-term activation of the stress-response system — and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones — can disrupt almost all your body’s processes. This puts you at increased risk of numerous health problems, including anxiety, depression, heart disease, digestive problems, sleep problems and weight gain. Methods to lower your stress levels include meditation, yoga, and lifestyle changes.

April 19, 2016

Probiotic BLIS M18 May Reduce the Risk of Dental Caries in Children

Filed under: Probiotics — Sarah @ 8:47 am

Dental caries are the decay and crumbling of a tooth or bone, also known as cavities. A recent study suggests that taking tablets containing the probiotic BLIS M18 may lower dental caries-related risk factors by 30% in children at high risk for dental caries.

BLIS M18 is a specific strain of Streptococcus salivarius, which secretes powerful antimicrobial molecules called BLIS: Bacteriocin-Like-Inhibitory Substances. BLIS M18 works through multiple mechanisms to inhibit the growth of bacteria such as S. mutans, which is involved in the development of dental caries.

Participants in the study included 76 children between the ages of 6 and 17 who were at high-risk of developing dental caries. Over the course of 90 days, they were assigned either slowly dissolving oral tablets containing no fewer than 1 billion colony-forming units of BLIS M18 or no intervention.

At the conclusion of the study, the BLIS M18 group had a 30% reduction in the global Cariogram outcome, including a 50% reduction in the amount of dental plaque the children had. The group also had a 75% reduction in mutans strepococci, which is a bacterial species that has been linked to the development of caries.

Researchers from Velleja Research conducted the study. It was published on October 3, 2015, in Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dentistry.

Probiotics are most commonly known for improving digestion and gut health, but they have also been linked to other health benefits including weight loss, a stronger immune system, and a reduced risk of chronic disease. Previous studies have linked Streptococcus salivarius to protection against halitosis, dental caries and otitis media.

April 18, 2016

Elderberry Extract May Reduce Severity of Illness Following Air Travel

Filed under: Lifestyle — Emma @ 8:44 am

The close proximity of passengers on airplanes increases the risk of illness transmission. A recent study suggests that taking an elderberry extract supplement before and after air travel may reduce the duration and symptoms of the common cold.

Participants in the study included 312 economy class passengers who were traveling from Australia to a location overseas. They were given either a placebo or 600 mg of elderberry supplement daily for 10 days before the flight until two days before the flight and then 900 mg per day from one day before the flight to four days after the flight.

At the conclusion of the study, the placebo group had more colds than the elderberry group, but the researchers noted that the difference was not statistically significant — there were 17 episodes in the placebo group and 12 in the elderberry group.

However, they did note a statistically significant difference between the two groups for duration and severity of cold symptoms. The placebo group had cold symptoms for a collective 117 days, while the elderberry group had symptoms for 57 days. Additionally, the average symptom score was 583 in the placebo group and 247 in the elderberry group.

Researchers from Griffith University in Australia led the study. It was published on March 24, 2016, in the journal Nutrients.

Elderberry should not be consumed unless cooked, and is best consumed as an extract. Previous studies suggest that it may help lower cholesterol, improve vision, and improve heart health.

April 15, 2016

Vitamin C May Protect Against Cataracts

Filed under: Vitamin C — Sarah @ 8:58 am

Cataracts are a clouding of the lens in the eye that lead to a decrease in vision. A recent study suggests that vitamin C may help protect against the progression of cataracts.

Participants in the study included 324 pairs of female twins. Photographs were taken of all of the women’s eyes in order to show the opacity of the lens. Vitamin C intake was measured via a food frequency questionnaire. There was a mean follow-up of 9.4 years between the initial examination and follow-up examination.

After examining the data and taking lifestyle factors into account, the researchers found that those with the greatest dietary vitamin C intake had a 33% reduction in the risk of cataract progression compared to those with the lowest intake.

Researchers from Kings College in London led the study. It was published online ahead of print on March 23, 2016, in the journal Ophthalmology.

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that has been linked to numerous other health benefits including heart health, brain health, eye health and improved mood. It can be found in high levels in citrus fruits and dark leafy greens such as cantaloupe, oranges, kiwis, and papaya, and in dark leafy greens such as broccoli and kale.

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