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Massive Study Yields Exciting Findings about Gut Health and the Microbiome

Gut health could be the biggest trend in the health field right now. Everywhere I turn people are discussing the importance of their gut health and how it is linked to their overall health, as well as the benefits of probiotics. And, for good reason: a growing body of research shows that what happens in our gut expands well beyond the gut.

Now new research shows that the health of your gut is significantly influenced by what you eat. A new study assessed 15096 fecal samples provided by 11336 people, published in the journal of the American Society for Microbiology, found some exciting facts about gut health and the microbiome, which is the total of all the microbes in a living being.

We each have a microbiome and no two microbiomes are alike, although there can be some similarities between them. The microbiome is a sort of microbial fingerprint. And, thanks to the new research, we have greater insight into the effect of diet on our microbiome. Here are some of the findings from this exciting study:

1) Plant-based diets produce the most diverse microbiomes. Diverse microbiomes seem to confer health benefits. Consider people who struggle to lose weight: earlier research in the journal Beneficial Microbes shows that they tend to have less diverse strains of beneficial bacteria and a lower ratio of beneficial microbes to harmful ones.

2) Eating more than 30 types of plant foods weekly yields the most diverse microbiome. In other words, it’s important to eat a plant-based diet but also one that has tremendous diversity. So, expand your horizons when it comes to trying new vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and grains. Your microbiome will thank you. And, who knows? You might even discover a new favorite food.

3) There is a lower incidence of bacterial resistance in those who eat the greatest variety of plant foods weekly. This is great news since more and more varieties of harmful bacteria like E. coli and MRSA are, not only becoming more prevalent, they are also becoming resistant to the typical drug treatment: antibiotics. This is an astounding discovery on its own. We tend to assume that all of a certain variety of bacteria have the same level of potency against humans, but the research shows that people who eat a large variety of plant-based foods are less likely to be host to these disease-causing, resistant bacteria. People who ate more than 30 types of plant foods weekly had less resistance to antibiotics.

4) The gut bacteria of people suffering from mental health issues, including: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, depression or bipolar disorder were more similar to others suffering from mental disorders than to those who do not suffer from mental disorders. While the scientists conducting the study did not draw any conclusions, there may be a possible connection between gut health and mental health. Certainly other research suggests that is indeed the case. Research in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology found a link between gut bacteria and increased activity in brain pathways that improve brain health and reduce depression risk.

microbiome

How can you reap the benefits of this exciting research?

There are endless ways to boost the variety of plant-based foods you consume, but the following ones should help you get started:

  1.    Start by replacing meat in your diet with plant-based options. Start with Meatless Mondays but don’t hesitate to go meatless the rest of the week as well
  2.    The next time you pass by that odd-looking fruit or vegetable in the produce section of your grocery store, add it to your cart. It’s easy enough to find recipes for lesser-known foods using a quick Internet search. And, most importantly, add the food to your diet.
  3.    Instead of just snacking on almonds or another nut, branch out to try Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, etc. Choose raw, unsalted varieties.
  4.    Rather than just add a can of kidney beans to your soup, stew, or chili, opt for bean varieties you are less familiar with. That could include: chickpeas, lentils, pinto beans, Romano beans, black beans, navy beans, etc.
  5.    The next time a snack attack strikes, choose a piece of fruit or a bowl of mixed berries.
  6.    When you have a craving for salty foods, choose traditionally-fermented pickles, pickled green beans, pickled beets or other foods with live cultures. Not only will you be getting a wider variety and a greater quantity of plant-based foods, you’ll also help expand the beneficial microbes you consume. Be sure to choose pickled foods that state “live cultures” or “unpasteurized” on the label.

 

Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is the publisher of the free e-newsletter World’s Healthiest News, the Cultured Cook, co-founder of BestPlaceinCanada, and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: The Cultured Cook: Delicious Fermented Foods with Probiotics to Knock Out Inflammation, Boost Gut Health, Lose Weight & Extend Your Life.

By: Michelle Schoffro Cook May 31, 2018
 Follow Michelle at @mschoffrocook
 
source: www.care2.com
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How Does Diet Affect Mental Health? A New Study Shows The Way Age Factors In

What you eat can have a huge impact on your mental health, which many people who deal with mental health conditions have learned firsthand. I have clinical depression and general anxiety disorder, and I feel much more stable when I’m eating regularly and prioritizing fresh foods. Previous research has shown that diet can affect mental health conditions like depression, ADHD, and anxiety. But according to a new study, the foods that impact your mental health change as you age. Researchers at Binghamton University in New York say our diet affects our mental health in different ways as we get older, so millennials and baby boomers should actually eat different diets to support their mood.

Researchers surveyed people between 18 and 29 years old and people who were 30 years old and older. They asked them to fill out an anonymous questionnaire about their diet and foods that are linked to changes in mood. After analyzing the data, researchers found that young adults reported benefitting benefited from frequent meat consumption, which can improve brain function. But the story was different for older adults, who need food that increases the antioxidants in your system (antioxidants can help avoid cell damage) for optimal mental health. People over 30 also reported feeling better when they avoided coffee and skipping breakfast, according to the research. What you eat can affect mental health, but if you’re looking for resources to help improve mental health issues, it’s always best to talk to a medical professional.

Lead author Lina Begdache, who is an assistant professor of health and wellness studies at Binghamton University, said in a press release that one of the study’s biggest takeaways is that diet choices will affect people differently depending on how old they are.

“One of the major findings of this paper is that diet and dietary practices differentially affect mental health in young adults versus mature adults,” Begdache said. “Young adult mood appears to be sensitive to build-up of brain chemicals. Regular consumption of meat leads to build-up of two brain chemicals (serotonin and dopamine) known to promote mood.”

The most effective way to handle mental distress is talking to a doctor or therapist who can help you figure out your options. But if you’re looking to adjust your eating habits to support your mood and you’re under 29 years old, exercise and meat consumption may be the way to go.  The researchers found that people who were sedentary and ate meat less than three times a week “showed a significant mental distress.” If you’re not a meat eater, you can try foods like nuts, avocados and dark chocolate to get a dopamine release. For people over 30, antioxidants are a major key. It’s never a bad idea to consume antioxidants, but the effect is more profound as you age. As you get older, your body produces oxidants that can cause disturbances in your brain chemistry, so eating foods with antioxidant qualities can help avoid unnecessary mental distress. The next time you’re at the grocery store, pick up some grapes, blueberries, sweet potatoes, and green vegetables like kale and broccoli, which can all help improve mental health.

The study tells people over 30 to stay away from foods that trigger the sympathetic nervous system, like coffee. It can feel impossible to stay away from the sweet taste of caffeine, but it increases activity in your sympathetic nervous system, which can lead to stress. According to Begdache, “our ability to regulate stress decreases” as we age, so if you’re looking to adjust your diet for mood support, know that carbohydrates can also potentially trigger the sympathetic nervous system.

The study shows that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to diet and mental health. Your brain changes as you get older, so it makes sense that you may need to make adjustments to your diet as you age if you choose to include foods that support your mood. It’s not always realistic to eat healthy foods, especially because eating regular meals and keeping a balanced diet is a hard adjustment to make for people who are mentally healthy, let alone those who already deal with mental illness. Healthy foods can also be inaccessible to people who can’t afford them, or who live in food deserts. But if you are looking for ways to change up your food routine with an eye toward your mental health, this study is something to keep in mind. I have a few years left before I need to avoid coffee, so I’m going to enjoy it while I can.

By AYANA LAGE     December 12, 2018


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This Nutrient Balance Reverses Brain Aging

The right balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids may help promote healthy cognitive aging, new research finds.

While we are used to hearing about the benefits of the fatty acids in fish and fish oils, that is only half the story.

Omega-6 fatty acids can come from nuts, seeds and other oils.

Typically, Western diets have too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3.

Together, a balance of these fatty acids may help to reduce age-related decline and maintain the integrity of cortical structures.

Ms Marta Zamroziewicz, who led the research, said:

“We studied a primary network of the brain — the frontoparietal network — that plays an important role in fluid intelligence and also declines early, even in healthy aging.
In a separate study, we examined the white matter structure of the fornix, a group of nerve fibers at the center of the brain that is important for memory.”

The researchers examined the levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids in adults aged 65 to 75, along with their brain structure.

The best balance of fatty acids for brain health.

Ms Zamroziewicz explained that it takes more than just fish and fish oils to keep the brain healthy with age:

“A lot of research tells us that people need to be eating fish and fish oil to get neuroprotective effects from these particular fats, but this new finding suggests that even the fats that we get from nuts, seeds and oils can also make a difference in the brain.”

A second study found a link between a balanced amount of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and greater memory preservation in older adults.

Ms Zamroziewicz explained:

“These findings have important implications for the Western diet, which tends to be misbalanced with high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids and low amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.”

Professor Aron Barbey, who co-authored the study, said:

“These two studies highlight the importance of investigating the effects of groups of nutrients together, rather than focusing on one at a time.
They suggest that different patterns of polyunsaturated fats promote specific aspects of cognition by strengthening the underlying neural circuits that are vulnerable to disease and age-related decline.”

The study was published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience (Zamroziewicz et al., 2017).

source: PsyBlog


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If You’re Looking For A Healthy Heart, Go Nuts!

Eating 28 g of peanuts or tree nuts at least twice a week reduced the risk of heart attack or stroke by 15 per cent and 23 per cent, respectively

If you’re looking for foods to keep your heart in tip-top shape, add nuts to your smart-snacking list.

According to a new study from Harvard University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, eating nuts regularly can help prevent heart attack and stroke, and lower the odds of dying from cardiovascular disease.

What’s more, it seems that some types of nuts deliver stronger heart benefits than others.

For the study, researchers followed 289,000 healthy men and women for up to 32 years. They analyzed participants’ diets every two years and reviewed medical records for a diagnosis of heart attack or stroke and identified cardiovascular deaths.

Compared with people who never or almost never ate nuts (any type of nut, including peanuts), participants who ate one serving (28 g) at least five times a week were 20 per cent less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke, either fatal or nonfatal. (Peanuts are classified as legumes, not tree nuts.)

After analyzing specific types of nuts, it was found that eating 28 g of peanuts or tree nuts at least twice a week reduced the risk of heart attack or stroke by 15 per cent and 23 per cent, respectively. (Tree nuts include almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pistachios and walnuts).

Walnuts, though, delivered a stronger protective punch. Participants who ate a 28 g serving just once a week had a 21 per cent lower risk of coronary heart disease. When stroke risk was considered separately, only walnuts and peanuts were found to offer significant protection.

This research was observational (e.g., it followed the habits of participants over years and associated them with health outcomes), so it doesn’t prove that eating nuts prevented heart attack or stroke.

However, a recent randomized trial – the gold standard for establishing cause and effect – revealed that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with 30 g of nuts lowered the risk of heart attack, stroke or death from cardiovascular disease by 30 per cent.

How nuts protect your heart
Nuts are high in heart-healthy unsaturated fats, plant protein, fibre and many nutrients (e.g., B vitamins, vitamin E, potassium, magnesium) and phytochemicals believed to benefit the heart.

A regular intake of nuts has been shown to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and blood pressure, dampen inflammation, enhance blood vessel function and improve how the body uses insulin.

Nuts also contain flavonoids, phytochemicals that are metabolized by gut bacteria and, in so doing, may contribute cardiovascular benefits.

 



What about the calories?
Nuts are high in calories, mostly from fat. Yet, there’s no scientific evidence that eating nuts on a regular basis causes weight gain.

Rather, studies suggest that nut eaters experience less weight gain and have a lower risk of obesity than people who don’t eat them, likely because eating them increases satiety.

Even so, I don’t recommend you eat more than a small handful or two each day.

One cup of peanuts, for instance, delivers 857 calories, half a day’s worth for some people.

Limit your serving of raw or dry roasted nuts to 28 grams (one ounce).

Notable nutrients in nuts (per 28 g serving)

Almonds. Per 28 g (22 nuts): 170 calories, 6 g protein, 15 g fat, 3 g fibre

Notable: 7 mg vitamin E, nearly half a day’s worth for adults

Brazil nuts. Per 28 g (6 nuts): 187 calories, 4 g protein, 19 g fat, 2 g fibre

Notable: 107 mg magnesium (25 per cent of a day’s worth) and nearly 10 times the daily requirement for selenium, needed for antioxidant protection and thyroid function

Cashews. Per 28 g (18 nuts): 163 calories, 4 g protein, 13 g fat, 1 g fibre

Notable: 74 mg magnesium (adults need 400 mg a day)

Hazelnuts: Per 28 g (18 nuts): 183 calories, 4 g protein, 18 g fat, 3 g fibre

Notable: 4.3 mg vitamin E (adults need 15 mg a day)

Peanuts. Per 28 g (28 nuts): 166 calories, 7 g protein, 14 g fat, 2.4 g fibre

Notable: 4 mg niacin (one-quarter of a day’s worth); resveratrol, a phytochemical thought to contribute to longevity

Pecans: Per 28 g (20 halves): 201 calories, 2.7 g protein, 21 g fat, 4 g fibre

Notable: 6.7 mg gamma tocopherol, an anti-inflammatory form of vitamin E thought to protect against heart disease and prostate cancer

Pistachios. Per 28 g (49 nuts): 162 calories, 6 g protein, 13 g fat, 2 g fibre

Notable: 6.6 mg gamma tocopherol

Walnuts: Per 28 g (14 halves): 185 calories, 4.3 g protein, 18. 5 g fat, 2 g fibre

Notable: 2.6 g alpha linolenic acid (ALA), a plant omega-3 fat; women need 1.1 g a day and men require 1.6 g. (Walnuts are the only nut that contains ALA.)

LESLIE BECK   NOVEMBER 26, 2017
FOLLOW LESLIE BECK ON TWITTER @LESLIEBECKRD


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The Type of Nuts That Boost Brainwaves

How to strengthen brainwaves related to cognition, learning, memory and even healing.

Eating nuts regularly strengthens brainwaves related to cognition, learning, memory and even healing, new research finds.

Pistachios were particularly good at boosting the brain’s gamma wave response.

Gamma waves are critical for faster cognitive process, learning, memory and even sleep.

Peanuts, meanwhile, enhanced the brain’s delta response.

The delta response is important for deep sleep, healing and healthy immunity.

Because of their antioxidant content, nuts have already been shown to benefit the heart, reduce inflammation and slow the aging process.

Dr Lee Berk, the study’s first author, said:

“This study provides significant beneficial findings by demonstrating that nuts are as good for your brain as they are for the rest of your body.”

For the research, different people ate six different types of nuts: walnuts, pecans, pistachios, peanuts, cashews and almonds.

Their brain waves were measured using EEG recordings.

All the different types of nuts contain antioxidants, with walnuts containing the highest levels.

The study’s authors write:

“Nuts are a major source of flavonoids.
They are potent antioxidants with known mechanisms that provide cardioprotective, anticarcinogenic, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Studies have shown that absorbed flavonoids penetrate and accumulate in brain hippocampal regions involved in learning and memory.”

The study was presented at Experimental Biology 2017  (Berk et al., 2017).

source: PsyBlog


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High Carb – Not Fat – Intake Linked To Greater Early Death Risk: Study

A large Canadian study is challenging conventional wisdom that says a low-fat diet is optimal for cardiovascular health and reduces the risk of premature death.

The McMaster University study of more than 135,000 people in 18 countries found that eating a moderate amount of all types of fat is linked to a reduced risk of early mortality compared to the much-touted low-fat diet — while consuming a high-carbohydrate diet is associated with an increased risk of dying early.

“Contrary to popular belief, increased consumption of dietary fats is associated with a lower risk of death,” said lead author Mahshid Dehghan, a nutrition epidemiologist at the Hamilton university’s Population Health and Research Institute.

“Those with a high-fat intake, about 30 per cent of energy intake, had a 23 per cent lower risk of mortality and an 18 per cent lower risk of stroke, compared to the low-intake group, which had 11 per cent energy from fat,” Dehghan said from Barcelona, where she presented the findings Tuesday to the European Society of Cardiology Congress.

“The association with lower mortality was also seen with all major types of fat, by which I mean saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.”

Saturated fat is found in meat and dairy products, while monounsaturated fat is contained in nuts, avocados, and vegetable and olive oils. Polyunsaturated fat is found in walnuts, sunflower and flax seeds, fish, corn, soybean and safflower oils.

Current global guidelines recommend that 50 to 65 per cent of daily calories come from carbohydrates, and less than 10 per cent from saturated fats. But Dehghan said that advice is mostly based on evidence from studies in North America and Europe.

Cardiovascular disease is a global epidemic, with 80 per cent of the burden of disease in low- and middle-income countries. Diet is a key modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease, experts say.

Dehghan said the healthiest diet would be made up of 50 to 55 per cent carbohydrates and 35 per cent total fat, including both saturated and unsaturated types.

“We found no evidence that below 10 per cent of energy from saturated fat is beneficial — and going below seven per cent is even harmful,” she said, adding that a diet containing 10 to 13 per cent of energy from saturated fat was found to be beneficial.

A diet that provides more than 60 per cent of energy from carbohydrates — one common among populations in China and South Asia — was associated with a 28 per cent higher risk of premature death, researchers found.

“The message of our study is moderation as opposed to very low or very high intake in consumption of both fats and carbohydrates.”
“We’re not advocating an extreme diet,” agreed co-author Andrew Mente. “We’re not saying that people should go on a low-carb, very high-fat diet because we didn’t find any benefit with a very low-carb diet either.

“There’s a sweet spot for carbohydrates, which is about 55 per cent of energy intake.”

The PURE (Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology) study was published Tuesday in The Lancet. In a linked commentary in the journal, Drs. Christopher Ramsden and Anthony Domenichiello of the U.S. National Institute on Aging called the research “an impressive undertaking that will contribute to public health for years to come.”
“The relationships between diet, cardiovascular disease and death are topics of major public health importance…. Initial PURE findings challenge conventional diet-disease tenets that are largely based on observational associations in European and North American populations, adding to the uncertainty about what constitutes a healthy diet. This uncertainty is likely to prevail until well-designed randomized controlled trials are done.”

Mente, also a nutrition epidemiologist at the Population Health and Research Institute, was lead author of a second analysis from the PURE study presented Tuesday at the cardiology meeting.

That paper — one of three from PURE published in The Lancet — found that eating three to four servings of fruit, vegetables and legumes per day reduces the risk of premature death.

“And consuming higher amounts, pretty much you have the same level of risk,” Mente said from Barcelona. “There’s no added benefit with consuming more than four servings.
“This is important because existing guidelines recommend that people consume at least five servings per day, which is less affordable in the poorer countries because fruits and vegetables — particularly fruits — are more expensive as a proportion of people’s incomes.”

Lower-income Canadians may also be unable to afford the five to 10 daily servings of fruits and vegetables recommended in the country’s Food Guide.

“So what our study shows is you can achieve maximum benefit through fruits and vegetables and legumes, and it’s also affordable at the same time.”

Mente said the study also showed raw vegetables appear to confer greater health benefits than those that are cooked because of a loss of nutrients from being exposed to heat.

With the federal government in the process of revamping Canada’s Food Guide, the research could be a timely addition to consultations on what Canadians should be eating, Mente suggested.

“We would hope that independent thinkers perhaps reconsider the guidelines and look at our data, and perhaps rather than putting limits on total fat and saturated fat, perhaps we should be putting limits on the amount of carbohydrates that people consume.”

SHERYL UBELACKER     TORONTO    THE CANADIAN PRESS    AUGUST 29, 2017


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Depression: This Tiny Change to Diet Has Protective Effect

This small change to your diet could be enough to reduce the risk of depression.

A Mediterranean diet including fruits, vegetables and legumes can prevent depression, a large new study finds.

People only had to make relatively small changes to see the benefits.

The scientist think that depression could be partly down to a lack of essential nutrients.

The study included 15,093 people who were followed over 10 years.

People who reported eating more nuts, fruits and vegetables were considered to be following the Mediterranean diet more closely.

Those who ate more meats and sweets were considered to be moving away from the healthy diet.

The benefits of the diet are likely related to higher levels of omega 3 and other essential nutrients.

Dr Almudena Sanchez-Villegas, who led the research, said:

“We wanted to understand what role nutrition plays in mental health, as we believe certain dietary patterns could protect our minds.
These diets are all associated with physical health benefits and now we find that they could have a positive effect on our mental health.
The protective role is ascribed to their nutritional properties, where nuts, legumes, fruits and vegetables (sources of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals) could reduce the risk of depression.”

Relatively small dietary changes were enough to reduce depression risk, Dr Sanchez-Villegas explained:

“A threshold effect may exist.
The noticeable difference occurs when participants start to follow a healthier diet.
Even a moderate adherence to these healthy dietary patterns was associated with an important reduction in the risk of developing depression.
However, we saw no extra benefit when participants showed high or very high adherence to the diets.
So, once the threshold is achieved, the reduced risk plateaus even if participants were stricter with their diets and eating more healthily.
This dose-response pattern is compatible with the hypothesis that suboptimal intake of some nutrients (mainly located in low adherence levels) may represent a risk factor for future depression.”

The research was published in the journal BMC Medicine (Sánchez-Villegas et al., 2015).
source: PsyBlog