Grape consumption benefits gut microbiome and cholesterol metabolism
University of California at Los Angeles, November 11, 2021
A new clinical study published in the scientific journal Nutrients found that consuming grapes significantly increased the diversity of bacteria in the gut which is considered essential to good health overall. Additionally, consuming grapes significantly decreased cholesterol levels, as well as bile acids which play an integral role in cholesterol metabolism. The findings suggest a promising new role for grapes in gut health and reinforce the benefits of grapes on heart health.
In the intervention study], healthy subjects consumed the equivalent of 1.5 cups of grapes per day – for four weeks. The subjects consumed a low fiber/low polyphenol diet throughout the study. After four weeks of grape consumption there was an increase in microbial diversity as measured by the Shannon index, a commonly used tool for measuring diversity of species.
Among the beneficial bacteria that increased was Akkermansia, a bacteria of keen interest for its beneficial effect on glucose and lipid metabolism, as well as on the integrity of the intestinal lining. Additionally, a decrease in blood cholesterols was observed including total cholesterol by 6.1% and LDL cholesterol by 5.9%. Bile acids, which are linked to cholesterol metabolism, were decreased by 40.9%.
Vitamin D supplementation associated with lower risk of heart attack or death during follow-up
Kansas City VA Medical Center, November 8 2021.
The October 2021 issue of the Journal of the Endocrine Society published findings from a retrospective study of US veterans that uncovered an association between supplementing with vitamin D and a lower risk of heart attack and mortality from any cause during up to 14 years of follow-up.
The study included men and women treated at the Kansas City VA Medical Center from 1999-2018 who had low 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels of 20 ng/mL or less. Among 11,119 patients who were not treated with vitamin D supplements, follow-up vitamin D levels remained at 20 ng/mL or lower. For those who received the vitamin, levels improved to 21-29 ng/mL among 5,623 patients and to at least 30 ng/mL among 3,277 patients at follow-up.
Men and women whose vitamin D levels improved to at least 30 ng/mL had a risk of heart attack that was 35% lower than patients whose levels improved to 21-29 ng/mL and 27% lower than the untreated group. The difference in risk between untreated individuals and those whose levels improved to 21-29 ng/mL was not determined to be significant. Patients whose vitamin D levels improved the most also experienced significantly greater heart attack-free survival during follow-up than the remainder of the patients.
When mortality from any cause during follow-up was examined, men and women whose vitamin D levels improved to 21-29 ng/mL had a 41% lower risk, and those whose levels improved to 30 ng/mL or more had a 39% lower risk than the untreated group.
“These results suggest that targeting 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels above 30 ng/mL might improve prognosis in the primary prevention setting among individuals with vitamin D deficiency,” authors Prakash Acharya of the University of Kansas Medical Center and colleagues wrote.
Meditative practice and spiritual wellbeing may preserve cognitive function in aging
Alzheimer's Research and Prevention Foundation and Thomas Jefferson University, November 12, 2021
It is projected that up to 152 million people worldwide will be living with Alzheimer's disease (AD) by 2050. To date there are no drugs that have a substantial positive impact on either the prevention or reversal of cognitive decline. A growing body of evidence finds that targeting lifestyle and vascular risk factors have a beneficial effect on overall cognitive performance. A new review in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, published by IOS Press, examines research that finds spiritual fitness, a new concept in medicine that centers on psychological and spiritual wellbeing may reduce multiple risk factors for AD.
Research reveals that religious and spiritual involvement can preserve cognitive function as we age. Significantly, individuals who have a high score on a "purpose in life" (PIL) measure, a component of psychological wellbeing, were 2.4 times more likely to remain free of AD than individuals with low PIL. In another study, participants who reported higher levels of PIL exhibited better cognitive function, and further, PIL protected those with already existing pathological conditions, thus slowing their decline.
Radiotherapy may explain why childhood cancer survivors often develop metabolic disease
Rockefeller University, November 9, 2021
Decades after battling childhood cancer, survivors often face a new challenge: cardiometabolic disease. A spectrum of conditions that includes coronary heart disease and diabetes, cardiometabolic disease typically impacts people who are obese, elderly, or insulin resistant. For reasons yet unknown, young, seemingly healthy adults who survived childhood cancer are also at risk.
Radiation therapy may be to blame. A new study finds that childhood cancer patients who were treated with abdominal or total body irradiation grow up to display abnormalities in their adipose (fat) tissue, similar to those found in obese individuals with cardiometabolic disease.
"When physicians are planning radiation therapy, they are very conscious of toxicity to major organs. But fat is often not considered," says Rockefeller's Paul Cohen. "Our results imply that the early exposure of fat cells to radiation may cause long-term dysfunction in the adipose tissue that puts childhood cancer survivors at higher risk of cardiometabolic disease."
Researchers discover link between dietary fat (palm oil) and the spread of cancer
Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (Spain), November 10, 2021
The study, published in the journal Nature and part-funded by the UK charity Worldwide Cancer Research, uncovers how palmitic acid alters the cancer genome, increasing the likelihood the cancer will spread. The researchers have started developing therapies that interrupt this process and say a clinical trial could start in the next couple of years.
Newly published findings reveal that one such fatty acid commonly found in palm oil, called palmitic acid, promotes metastasis in oral carcinomas and melanoma skin cancer in mice. Other fatty acids called oleic acid and linoleic acid—omega-9 and omega-6 fats found in foods such as olive oil and flaxseeds—did not show the same effect. Neither of the fatty acids tested increased the risk of developing cancer in the first place.
The research found that when palmitic acid was supplemented into the diet of mice, it not only contributed to metastasis, but also exerts long-term effects on the genome. Cancer cells that had only been exposed to palmitic acid in the diet for a short period of time remained highly metastatic even when the palmitic acid had been removed from the diet. The researchers discovered that this "memory" is caused by epigenetic changes—changes to how our genes function. The epigenetic changes alter the function of metastatic cancer cells and allow them to form a neural network around the tumor to communicate with cells in their immediate environment and to spread more easily. By understanding the nature of this communication, the researchers uncovered a way to block it and are now in the process of planning a clinical trial to stop metastasis in different types of cancer.
Study finds consuming nuts strengthens brainwave function
Loma Linda University, November 15, 2021
A new study has found that eating nuts on a regular basis strengthens brainwave frequencies associated with cognition, healing, learning, memory and other key brain functions.
In the study titled "Nuts and brain: Effects of eating nuts on changing electroencephalograph brainwaves," researchers found that some nuts stimulated some brain frequencies more than others. Pistachios, for instance, produced the greatest gamma wave response, which is critical for enhancing cognitive processing, information retention, learning, perception and rapid eye movement during sleep. Peanuts, which are actually legumes, but were still part of the study, produced the highest delta response, which is associated with healthy immunity, natural healing, and deep sleep.
The study's principal investigator, Lee Berk, DrPH, MPH, associate dean for research at the LLU School of Allied Health Professions, said that while researchers found variances between the six nut varieties tested (almonds, cashews, peanuts, pecans, pistachios and walnuts), all of them were high in beneficial antioxidants, with walnuts containing the highest antioxidant concentrations of all.
Why Nitrates And Nitrites In Processed Meats Are Harmful – But Those In Vegetables Aren’t
University of Hertfordshire (UK), November 11, 2021
While there are many reasons processed meats aren’t great for our health, one reason is because they contain chemicals called nitrates and nitrites. But processed meats aren’t the only foods that contain these chemicals. In fact, many vegetables also contain high amounts – mainly nitrates. And yet research suggests that eating vegetables lowers – not raises – cancer risk. So how can nitrates and nitrites be harmful when added to meat but healthy in vegetables? The answer lies in how nitrates and nitrites in food get converted into other molecules.
Nitrates and nitrites occur attached to sodium or potassium, and belong to a family of chemically related molecules that also includes the gas nitric oxide. Vegetables such as beetroot, spinach and cabbages are particularly good sources of nitrates.
When we eat something containing nitrates or nitrites, they may convert into a related molecular form. For example, nitrate in vegetables and in the pharmaceutical form nitroglycerine (which is used to treat angina), can convert in the body into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide dilates blood vessels, which can reduce blood pressure.
It’s actually sodium nitrite – not nitrate – that’s linked to cancer. But if consuming nitrites alone directly caused cancer, then even eating vegetables would be harmful to us. Given this isn’t the case, it shows us that cancer risk likely comes from when the sodium nitrites react with other molecules in the body. So it isn’t necessarily the nitrates and nitrites themselves that cause health issues – including cancer. Rather, it’s what form they are converted into that can increase risk – and what these converted molecules interact with in our bodies.
The main concern is when sodium nitrite reacts with degraded bits of amino acids – protein fragments our body produces during the digestion of proteins – forming molecules called N-nitroso compounds (NOCs). These NOCs have been shown to cause cancer.