September 29, 2014

287 Diet & Our Microbiome [29 Sept 2014]

A lecture by gastroenterologist Dr. Robynne Chutkan on described the inter-relationship between what we eat and our gut flora. I have previously written about antibiotic overuse and its unintended impact on our microbiome [#281 18 August 2014].

Our microbiome – the bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa that live in or on the human body – is composed of some 10,000 species totaling 10 trillion cells (10 times more than our body cells). We are finally realizing that the majority of these species are not only beneficial but essential for our health. Besides keeping pathogens (disease causing microbes) in check, they aid in the digestion of, and processing of nutrients from, our food.

Chutkan refers to several recent studies which clearly show how our diet affects our microbiome.

A 2009 study from Australia discovered that plant fiber is converted by bacteria in the gut to short chain fatty acids which are known to alleviate colitis and may explain how changes in diet improves symptoms of asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and other inflammatory diseases.

A 2010 study by Dr Paolo Lionetti compared the fecal microbes of children from Florence Italy eating a typical sugar & fat-laden western diet with those of children from a rural East African village with a mostly plant-based fiber-rich diet. The African children had bacteria that promoted leanness and the production of anti-inflammatory short chain fatty acids, while the Italian kids had more species associated with diarrhea, allergies and obesity.

A 2013 Harvard study found that bacteria in the gut changed quickly, beginning the first day, when the subjects were switched from an animal-based to a plant-based diet (and vice-versa). Not only do the species of bacteria change but different genes were switched on or off, all of which affect our health.

Chutkan then describes how our microbiome also affects our diet. From the same food, gut bacteria in obese mice extract fewer nutrients but more calories than the bacteria in lean mice. This explains why, even on a healthy diet, people who are overweight can gain more weight and still be deficient in certain nutrients. Life just isn’t fair!

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

September 22, 2014

286 Maybe it’s not Gluten [22 Sept 2014]

We all know someone with gluten sensitivity (or have it ourselves) but it wasn’t that long ago that this condition was rare or at least not well recognized. Why the sudden increase? Aicacia Young, a registered dietitian writing for the MindBodyGreen e-newsletter asks if gluten is really the culprit and proposes two possible alternatives.

It is known that people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) improve on a gluten free diet. A double-blind crossover study in 2013 tested 37 adults with NCGS to determine if gluten was in fact the culprit. The participants were placed on three different diets: low gluten, high gluten, or whey (as a control). The diets didn’t make a significant difference in their digestive symptoms and fatigue – they were about the same with all three. Interestingly though, when they were put on a special diet in preparation for the study, all 37 improved significantly. This special diet is low in fermentable, oligo-, di-, monosaccharides and polyols called FODMAPS. A low FODMAPS diet eliminates: dairy, wheat, apples, pears, watermelon, garlic, onions, legumes, avocados, honey and sugar alcohols. Young suggests that while gluten-free diets, which eliminate wheat, will reduce some of the symptoms of NCGS, temporarily going on a low FODMAPS diet could do even more.

The other possible cause of symptoms attributed to gluten is the herbicide glyphosate. I have previously discussed [#265 April 28, 2014] how glyphosate accumulates in our food crops and appears in human tissue in North America where it wreaks havoc with our gut flora. The resulting dysbiosis leads to intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut) which is linked to inflammation and food allergies. Even though “Roundup-ready” wheat has not been approved for production, glyphosate is used on some wheat fields as a desiccant so wheat can still have traces. Other crops sprayed with glyphosate would be canola, soybeans, corn and sugar beets. Shopping organic for these foods or avoiding them altogether (and replenishing your gut biome with probiotics) should reduce symptoms caused by glyphosate.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

September 15, 2014

285 Breakfast – the Most Important Meal? [15 Sept 2014]

Some natural health advocates are promoting skipping breakfast as a way to improve your health. Dr. Joseph Mercola in a recent article claims several benefits of what he calls intermittent fasting of which skipping breakfast can be a part: more efficient fat burning; normalizing insulin, leptin & ghrelin sensitivity; lowering triglyceride levels; and increasing growth hormone (HGH) production.

The medical staff of the company that developed the weight loss program I use in my clinic strongly disagree. During the weight loss phases of the program breakfast is essential and mandatory. During the lifetime maintenance phase, they have found that skipping breakfast can cause people to regain weight faster. By this time the dieter has eliminated insulin resistance and “reset” the pancreas to produce the appropriate amount of insulin for whatever meal has been eaten.

A healthy breakfast includes all three macronutrient groups – protein, healthy fats & oils, and a healthy carb. Three healthy between-meal snacks are also encouraged. The theory is that as long as the meals are regular the calories will be burned for energy but if one is missed the body goes into “famine mode” and the next meal will be stored as fat instead.

A recent study with school children in the UK discovered another important benefit of breakfast – a reduced risk of developing diabetes. Over 4,000 ethnically-diverse 9 to 10 year old children from 200 schools in England participated in the study. About 74% reported eating breakfast daily; 6% rarely, and the rest either most or some days. The infrequent breakfast eaters had higher fasting insulin levels and higher insulin resistance, both risk markers for Type 2 Diabetes. Those who ate a high fiber breakfast had even lower insulin resistance than those eating a breakfast of more simple carbs. The correlation of diabetes risk factors and eating breakfast remained after allowances for socioeconomic status, physical activity, and amount of body fat.

Perhaps if your typical breakfast is high in simple carbs like a Danish pastry, pancakes & syrup, or toast & jam, with sugared coffee or orange juice, you would be better off without it. However I believe that a more substantial breakfast of oatmeal or whole grain cereal, eggs & ham or bacon, cheese or yogurt and an orange or bowl of berries is a great way to start the day and maintain your weight.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

September 8, 2014

284 Low-Fat or Low-Carb?

The debate between low-fat and low-carb diets continues, but low-carb keeps coming out on top. A study published just last week in the Annals of Internal Medicine adds more “weight” (if you’ll pardon the pun) to the low-carb side.

The randomized trial, funded by the National Institutes of Health, divided 148 men and women, with no history of cardiovascular disease, kidney disease or diabetes, into two groups. The low carb group ate less than 40g of carbs per day of carbohydrates; the low fat group had less than 30% of their total calories from fat. Sixty participants in the low-fat group and 59 in the low-carb group completed the 12 month study. Measurements were taken at 3, 6 and 12 months.

After one year the low carb group, on average compared with the low fat group:
• lost 3.5 kg (nearly 8 lbs) more weight
• lost 1.5% more fat mass and gained 1.7% more lean mass
• had a lower ratio of total to HDL cholesterol (this is good)
• had a lower triglyceride level,
• had a greater increase HDL cholesterol (this is also good)
• had a decrease in C-reactive protein levels (a marker for inflammation)
• and, had a significantly lower risk score for coronary heart disease.

A similar trial published in Ann Intern Med in 2004 compared a low-carb ketogenic diet with a low-fat low-cholesterol reduced-calorie diet. The low-carb group lost twice as much weight, had a greater decrease in triglyceride levels, and greater increases in HDL levels. Significantly, only 50% of the weight lost by the low-fat low-calorie group was fat meaning that some muscle mass was burned. In the low-carb group 65% of the weight loss was fat suggesting that little muscle was lost. A weight loss with 75% fat loss is ideal with no muscle loss (the 25% non-fat loss is water and connective tissue associated with the fat cells). This trial however only lasted 24 weeks so the current study is much more significant.

These results should come as no surprise to anyone following the research on low carb diets. As I have explained in previous columns (#35, #65, #82), insulin is the key that prevents your body from burning fat, causing it to be stored in fat cells instead. An enzyme called lipoprotein lipase (LPL) is required to store fat, and insulin is necessary to switch LPL on. The carbs in a meal stimulate the production of insulin ensuring that the fat in that meal will be stored rather than burned. A high insulin level is also a factor in dyslipidemia (unhealthy cholesterol levels) (#83) and inflammation (#85).

After years of eating a high carb diet we can develop a condition called insulin resistance in which our insulin levels remain high no matter what we eat. This is a perfect situation for gaining fat weight, even on a calorie-reduced diet! A temporary ketogenic diet quickly clears insulin resistance and lowers the insulin levels to the point where body fat can begin to be burned.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

September 1, 2014

283 EFAs & Learning Disabilities [1 Sept 2014]

A previous column (#194 Dec 2012) discussed the importance of essential fatty acids (EFAs), and DHA in particular, in brain development during pregnancy and the first 5 years. An earlier column (#28 Sept 2009) discussed EFAs as one of many nutrients important in treating children (and adults) with ADHD.

Efalex ® is an EFA formula containing evening primrose oil and tuna oil which provides 12 mg GLA and 60mg DHA (and several other EFAs). In the following eight studies, children with ADHD or other learning disabilities who took 8 capsules of this formula (or equivalent DHA) daily, compared with placebo, had:

• significant reductions in hyperactivity, improvement in attention and conduct, and reduction in oppositional defiance disorder, all in addition to improvements from standard medications (The Purdue Study, 2003)

• significant reduction in ADHD related symptoms including anxiousness/shyness, hyperactivity and reading problems in children with learning difficulties (The Beechlawn Study, 2002)

• significantly greater improvements in reading speed (70%), visual-motor speed (hand-eye coordination) (81%) and social interaction, in children with difficulties in reading and concentration or a diagnosis of ADHD (The Borlange Study, 2002)

• significantly better progress in reading in dyslexic children, especially for those who also had ADHD or visual symptoms when reading (The Royal Berkshire Hospital, 2002)

• improved motor skills (manual dexterity) and balance, and improved ability to throw and catch a ball, in children with dyspraxia (The Dyspraxia Study, 2000)

• significant improvements in reading speed (60%) and motor perceptual speed (23%) in children with dyslexia (The Falsterbo Study)

• significant reduction in number and severity of incidents and need for restraints, and significant improvements in nearly all Conner’s rating scales (a measure of ADHD), in boys aged 8-16 with severe behavior and emotional problems (The Cotswold Community Study)

• significant improvement of concentration, eye contact, language development and motor skills in children with autism.(The Autistic Open Pilot Study, 2008)

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.