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Tag: nutrition

Stroke & Dementia Risk Grows with Intake of Artificial Sweeteners

Diet sodas are gaining negative attention yet again, and for good reason. A recent study found that consuming a daily can of sugar-free soda is associated with higher risks of suffering a stroke or developing dementia. Heavily sugared drinks already had a bad rap for causing a myriad of health issues such as weight gain, liver damage, kidney stones, diabetes, and heart disease. This study has refreshed the concern for disease risk in those that believe diet soda is a suitable replacement.

Researchers found that drinking one diet soda a day is associated with a 2.96 times more likely chance of suffering an ischaemic stroke and a 2.89 times higher chance of developing Alzheimer’s. While it would be irresponsible to imply that artificial sweeteners actually cause stroke or dementia (proving causation is very difficult in health studies) it is important to acknowledge the study’s warning. There is a correlation between artificial sweeteners and the increased risk of dementia and stroke that’s very concerning. It’s certainly an added consideration that keeps me far away from diet sodas.

Artificial sweeteners have also been associated with health concerns besides stroke and dementia. A 2009 study found that people who consumed diet drinks daily had a 67 percent higher risk for type 2 diabetes and a 36 percent higher risk of metabolic syndrome.

It has been found that artificial sweeteners can dangerously impact your gut microbiome. One study suggests that artificial sweeteners favor bacteria that pull energy from food and convert it into fat. Meaning, If you are consuming zero calorie sweeteners specifically to cut down on weight gain, you aren’t doing yourself any favors. Additionally, studies suggest that fake sugar can induce glucose intolerance, which can be a precursor of increased risk for liver and heart disease.

It has also been shown that artificial sweeteners can have a more potent taste and flood your sugar receptors. Meaning if you are regularly using artificial sweeteners you may find naturally sweet foods less appealing making it more difficult to satisfy your sweet craving. It can also contribute to making bitter foods such as vegetables taste downright disgusting. This can contribute to a vicious cycle of increased sugar intake, which can cause a cascading effect on your overall health.

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The Benefits of a Vegan Diet

While there are a multitude of promises available regarding specific diets that will help individuals lose weight and/or mitigate cardiovascular risks factors, clinical research indicates that within a few weeks of eating a whole-food, plant-based diet, many people will have improved insulin sensitivity and lowered levels of cholesterol.


Dr. Thomas M. Campbell, Medical Director of the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and clinical director of the University of Rochester Program for Nutrition Medicine, also refers to the high probability of improved bowel movements, enhanced sleep hygiene and increased energy, and improved skin quality.

Extensive scientific literature and research demonstrates that dietary cholesterol and saturated fat are linked to a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease. Meat and fish have saturated fat, while a vegan diet is devoid of any cholesterol, and low in terms of saturated fat. When people begin to eat a plant-based diet, therefore, their cholesterol levels decline; and ultimately, their risk of cardiovascular disease decreases. This all happens within a few weeks, as blood vessel walls become healthier due to the increase of nitric oxide in arterial walls, which reduces the risk for heart attacks and strokes. Moreover, without heavy saturated fats from animal products, blood is less viscous and begins to pump more easily at lower pressures.

The American Diabetes association confirms that among individuals with type 2 diabetes, those who eat a vegan diet have considerably improved glycemic control, in addition to lessened cardiovascular risk factors. The diet can even reverse the disease altogether, in some patients. According to Dr. Michael Klaper, an internationally-recognized authority on the link between diet and health, “A person with uncontrolled diabetes, on insulin, can see demonstrable improvements in medication usage and efficacy in 24 hours.” Conversely, another study also published by the American Diabetes Association indicates that those who eat high amounts of animal protein are 22 percent more likely to develop diabetes.

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Biomarkers Could Predict Best Diets

A new study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, has indicated two biomarkers that can predict the efficacy of certain diets for weight loss: specifically, for people with prediabetes or diabetes.

Through an analysis of over 1,200 adults, researchers discovered that a person’s fasting blood glucose levels, fasting insulin levels, or both, could pinpoint which diets would most likely lead to weight loss. These biomarkers were particularly effective in determining which diets were best for people with pre-diabetes and diabetes.

Each year, millions of us go on diets in an attempt to lose weight, but not all of us succeed. A new study has uncovered two biomarkers that could predict how effective certain diets will be for weight loss, particularly for people with prediabetes or diabetes.

Statistics from the American Diabetes Association indicate that approximately 29.1 million people in the Untied States have diabetes; estimates show that around 75 million people have pre-diabetes, yet almost 90% remain unaware. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the condition: the body is unable to effectively use the hormone insulin, which causes high blood glucose levels. For people with prediabetes, blood glucose levels remain higher than normal—yet not high enough to lead to a diagnosis of diabetes.

The researchers in the study believe that a person’s fasting blood glucose and insulin levels could be utilized to help identify the most effective diet for weight loss, after analyzing the data of three dietary clinical trials: the Diet, Obesity, and Genes trial, the OPUS Supermarket intervention (SHOPUS), and the Nutrient-gene interactions in human obesity (NUGENOB) trial. The subjects were all overweight; the researchers evaluated and assessed their fasting blood glucose levels, and fasting insulin levels, in order to determine whether the levels were associated with weight loss in response to certain diets.

These results symbolize a kind of breakthrough in personalized nutrition: among adults with prediabetes, the team found that a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, and fruits was the most effective for weight loss. For example, in the SHOPUS trial, adults with prediabetes who followed a diet high in the aforementioned foods lost more weight than those who followed a controlled diet. For people with type 2 diabetes, the researchers found that a diet rich in plant-based, “healthy” fats, and low in carbohydrates, was most effective for weight loss.

The team reported that adding participants’ fasting insulin levels to the analysis further strengthened the identified correlations between diet and weight loss, confirming the hypothesis that fasting blood glucose and fasting insulin levels may be biomarkers for weight loss.

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The Benefits of Mindful Eating

Recent studies indicate that meal timing and frequency may impact cardiovascular health, and disease risks. While eating patterns vary from person to person, research indicates that effective management of cardiometabolic health should focus on ‘intentional eating’–paying attention to standardize eating times, meal sizes, and food content.

One of the primary critical factors in evaluating the effect of meal frequency and timing on cardiovascular health was what constituted a meal that potentially impacted metabolism. Data shows that distributing calories over a defined period of the day, coupled with maintaining a consistent overnight fast period, could ultimately yield positive benefits surrounding cardiometabolic health–in addition to eating a larger portion of one’s daily caloric intake earlier in the day.

Skipping meals and snacking, which have become increasingly prevalent, have various effects on cardiometabolic health markers: namely obesity, lipid profile, insulin resistance, and blood pressure. Because irregular eating patterns do not lead to a healthy cardiometabolic profile, intentional eating–with mindful attention to the timing and frequency of eating occasions–will lead to a healthier lifestyle. Most importantly, planning each meal with a variety of healthy foods, and timing meals, can help manage hunger, achieve desired portion control, and improve nutrition quality.

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Coconut Oil: Not So Healthy?

 A recent new advisory report from the American Heart Association advises against the use of coconut oil, a popular trend in the health and wellness industry.

The Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease, after viewing existing data on saturated fats, has demonstrated that coconut oil specifically increased LDL—known as ‘bad’ cholesterol—in seven out of seven controlled oils. 82% of the fat in coconut oil is saturated, according to data: exceeding butter, beef fat, and pork lard.

The advisory stated: “Because coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, a cause of cardiovascular disease, and has no known offsetting favorable effects, we advise against the use of coconut oil.” Marie-Pierre St-Onge, associate professor of nutritional medicine at Cornell University Medical School, believes that coconut oil is so popular for weight loss due to her research on medium-chain triglycerides. Because coconut oil has a higher proportion of medium-chain triglycerides than most other fats or oils, and her research indicated that medium-chain triglycerides may increase the rate of metabolism, many now believe that coconut oil can be responsible for weight loss.

However, St-Onge’s research used a ‘designer oil’ that was full of 100% medium-chain triglycerides; traditional coconut oil only contains about 13-15%. Moreover, another study published by St-Onge reveals that smaller doses of medium-chain triglycerides does not help with weight loss in overweight adolescents.

“You can put it on your body, but don’t put it in your body,” said Frank Sacks, lead author on the report.

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1/3 of World = Overweight

A new study reports that more than two billion adults and children across the globe are overweight or obese, and suffer from related health problems. Spurred by poor nutrition and low levels of physical activity, this number equates to one-third of the world’s population.

While 2.2 billion people can be classified as overweight or obese, more than 710 million are obese: 5% of all children, and 12% of all adults, can be categorized in this segment. The United States has the greatest percentage of obese or overweight children and young adults, at 13%.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, states that a growing number of people across the globe are dying from poor health, and problems linked to being overweight. “People who shrug off weight gain do so at their own risk–risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and other life-threatening conditions,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and evaluation at the University of Washington, who worked on the study.

Researchers analyzed data collected between 1980 and 2015 from 68.5 billion people, and revealed that the number of people affected by obesity has doubled since 1980 in 73 countries, and continued to rise across most other countries in the analysis. Although the percentages of obese children were lower than adults, that rate at which their numbers have increased was greater–indicating greater future risk if nothing is done to alleviate and curb the growing problem.

“This raises the alarm that we may be facing a wave of obesity in the coming years across high and low income countries,” states Goodarz Danaei, assistant professor of global health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Because obesity levels have risen in all countries, irrespective of income levels, the issue does not simply boil down to wealth. The paper reads: “Changes in the food environment and food systems are probably major drivers.”

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Most Cardiologists Lack Nutrition Education

A recent study has found that the majority of cardiologists lack current, up-to-date education surrounding nutrition and diet. A report published by the American Journal of Medicine, authored by a dozen healthcare professionals in the United States and Spain, titled “A Deficiency of Nutrition Education and Practice in Cardiology” details that less than a third of cardiologists describe their nutrition knowledge as “mostly up to date” or better.

Although the leading cause of premature death and disability in the United States is heart disease, most cardiologists report inadequate training in nutrition. “Using nutrition as medicine is probably one of the most cost effective ways to treat disease but is incredibly underutilized by healthcare providers,” explained Andrew Freeman, M.D., a cardiologist at National Jewish Health in Denver, and one of the study’s co-authors. “If we could empower healthcare providers with information on how to implement this in daily practice, we could transform healthcare rapidly, prevent healthcare cost explosions, and reduce morbidity and mortality.”

Ninety percent of cardiologists surveyed reported receiving no or minimal nutrition education during cardiovascular fellowship training; 59 percent reported no nutrition education during international medicine training; 31 percent reported no nutrition education throughout medical school. Almost two-thirds of all surveyed cardiologists reported spending three minutes or less per visit discussing nutrition with their patients.

The report further noted that the total annual cost related to heart and vascular diseases in the United States is $315 billion, much of which could be lessened with proper nutritional training and implementation.

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Calling All Cheese Lovers

A large-scale analysis indicates that cheese, and other dairy products, do not lead to an increased risk of death from heart disease or stroke.

A study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology involving scientists at the Institute for Food, Nutrition, and Health at the University of Reading, England analyzed 29 studies that collectively represented almost 1 million people and 93,000 instances of death.

Within the studies, the team focused on diet—specifically, whether or not participants consumed large amounts of dairy products—and the rates of CVD, coronary heart disease, and death.

The conclusions and findings showed no correlation or association between a diet high in dairy and risk of heart disease, combining data from 29 prospective cohort studies.

One of the study’s authors, Jing Guo, stated that this latest analysis provides “further evidence that a diet high in dairy foods is not necessarily damaging to health.” The evidence supports previous findings that demonstrate the health benefits of dairy foods in an integrated, well-balanced diet.

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Pass the Butter!

A new editorial published by a group of cardiologists in the British Journal of Sports Medicine argues that saturated fats, found in foods like butter, cheese, and meats, does not clog arteries and ultimately lead to cardiovascular disease. The doctors report that a Mediterranean-style diet, coupled with minimal stress and daily exercise, should be the primary focus for the prevention of heart disease.

The authors cite systematic reviews and observational studies that show no correlation or association between consumption of saturated fat and increased risk of heart disease. British cardiologist Dr. Aseem Malhotra, of Lister Hospital, argues that even reducing saturated fat intake in people with pre-established heart disease does not minimize the risk of heart attacks. Yet for decades, researchers, doctors, and scientists believed that cutting out saturated fat would lower cardiovascular disease—despite firmly solid evidence.

While some people have transitioned to diets of carbohydrates, these also play a role in the gradual development of cardiovascular disease. Malhotra states that eating too much pasta, bread, and potatoes will rapidly spike blood glucose levels; our bodies respond to carbs by over-producing insulin. When insulin levels are consistently and constantly too high, the hormone is unable to deliver glucose to cells, in order to provide energy. Ultimately, an inflammatory response occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin, which Malhotra and his colleagues believe is the true culprit.

The editorial sheds light upon the critical importance of diet, as a dietary imbalance of nutrients can ultimately damage arteries; the lipid, soft fat plaque that is more prone to rupturing is the ultimate cause of a sudden heart attack. The combination of a healthful diet, regular exercise, and stress reduction is considered to be the optimal way to reduce cardiovascular disease, and most other chronic diseases.

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Running Reigns Supreme

A recent review of evidence published in the journal Progress in Cardiovascular Disease indicates that runners live three years longer than no-runners, solidifying the hypothesis that longevity can be increased by exercise—to a substantial degree.

The research states that not only does running significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and premature death, but also demonstrates benefits even if other aspects of health are sub-par. Someone who drinks and smokes can still reduce early mortality by running: between 25% and 40%.

Running 5-10 minutes per day was found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, in addition to death from any and all causes. The review’s authors state that there is no other exercise that yields such a significant impact; statistically, an hour of running will increase one’s life expectancy by seven hours—and prolong life more than other types of exercise including cycling, swimming, or walking.

The authors also confirm that even a jog counts as moderately vigorous exercise. Runners primarily have enhanced levels of aerobic fitness and lower levels of body fat, and enjoy an array of health and wellness benefits. Moreover, in terms of time, it takes 105 minutes of walking to produce the same benefits as a 25-minute run.

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