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Study: Sustainable eating is cheaper and healthier
Oxford University, November 11, 2021
Oxford University research has today revealed that, in countries such as the US, the UK, Australia and across Western Europe, adopting a vegan, vegetarian, or flexitarian diet could slash your food bill by up to one-third.
The study, which compared the cost of seven sustainable diets to the current typical diet in 150 countries, using food prices from the World Bank’s International Comparison Program, was published in The Lancet Planetary Health.
It found that in high-income countries:
- Vegan diets were the most affordable and reduced food costs by up to one third.
- Vegetarian diets were a close second.
- Flexitarian diets with low amounts of meat and dairy reduced costs by 14%.
- By contrast, pescatarian diets increased costs by up to 2%.
“We think the fact that vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian diets can save you a lot of money is going to surprise people,” says Dr. Marco Springmann, researcher on the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food.
“When scientists like me advocate for healthy and environmentally-friendly eating, it’s often said we’re sitting in our ivory towers promoting something financially out of reach for most people. This study shows it’s quite the opposite. These diets could be better for your bank balance as well as for your health and…the planet.”
Miguel Barclay, author of the bestselling “One Pound Meals” series of cookbooks, says, “I definitely agree that cutting down your meat, or cutting it out completely, will save you money. I’ve written seven budget cookbooks and have costed up hundreds of recipes, and without doubt vegan and vegetarian meals consistently come in at a much lower price than recipes with meat.”
The study focused on whole foods and did not include highly-processed meat replacements or eating at restaurants or takeaways.
The study also found that in lower income countries, such as on the Indian subcontinent and in sub-Saharan Africa, eating a healthy and sustainable diet would be up to a quarter cheaper than a typical Western diet, but at least a third more expensive than current diets.
To analyze what options could improve affordability and reduce diet costs, the study looked at several policy options. It found that making healthy and sustainable diets affordable everywhere is possible within the next 10 years when economic development, especially in lower income countries, is paired with reductions in food waste and a climate and health-friendly pricing of foods.
“Affording to eat a healthy and sustainable diet is possible everywhere, but requires political will,” according to Dr. Springmann. “Current low-income diets tend to contain large amounts of starchy foods and not enough of the foods we know are healthy. And the western-style diets, often seen as aspirational, are not only unhealthy, but also vastly unsustainable and unaffordable in low-income countries. Any of the healthy and sustainable dietary patterns we looked at are a better option for health, the environment, and financially, but development support and progressive food policies are needed to make them both affordable and desirable everywhere.”
The study, “The global and regional costs of healthy and sustainable dietary patterns: a modeling study,” is published in The Lancet Planetary Health on 10 November 2021. Country-level results are available here.
Green One Pound Meals by Miguel Barclay is published on 30 December. It features planet-friendly recipes and includes tips and ideas for shopping smart and avoiding food waste.
Meta-analysis concludes resveratrol beneficially modulates glycemic control in diabetics
Zagazig University and Suez Canal University (Egypt), October 29 2021.
Findings from a meta-analysis of clinical trials published on October 16, 2021 in Medicina Clinica (Barcelona) revealed an association between supplementing with resveratrol and improvements in glycemic control.
“Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is a progressive meta-inflammatory disorder, which induces micro and macrovascular complications,” Ibrahim A. Abdelhaleem and colleagues wrote. “Resveratrol is a nutraceutical known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.”
“This systematic review and meta-analysis is the first to consider resveratrol’s efficacy on glycemic and cardiometabolic parameters in patients with T2DM.”
Sixteen randomized trials that included a total of 871 diabetic men and women were selected for the meta-analysis. The trials compared resveratrol to a placebo with or without concurrent antidiabetic medications or other drug treatment.
Resveratrol doses of 500 milligrams or more were associated with lower fasting blood glucose, fasting serum insulin, insulin resistance, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and diastolic blood pressure in comparison with a placebo. Resveratrol was associated with a greater reduction in hemoglobin A1c (a marker of long-term glucose control) compared to a placebo in trials of three months duration. When HDL cholesterol levels were analyzed, resveratrol was superior to a placebo in trials of less than two months duration. Resveratrol was also associated with a reduction in systolic blood pressure compared to measurements obtained in the placebo group. Furthermore, triglycerides were lower in association with resveratrol in trials that lasted six to twelve months.
“We concluded that resveratrol appropriately improved insulin sensitivity by decreasing insulin resistance, fasting blood glucose, fasting serum insulin, and hemoglobin A1c,” the authors concluded. “In addition, it improved other cardiometabolic parameters, including triglycerides, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The most appropriate glycemic control effect was fulfilled when consumed for at least one month with doses of 500 mg or more.”
Exercise linked to better mental health
Kaiser Permanente Research, November 11, 2021
Kaiser Permanente research published on November 11 in Preventive Medicine showed people who exercised more during the initial lockdown period of the COVID-19 pandemic experienced less anxiety and depression than those who didn’t exercise. It also showed that people who spent more time outdoors typically experienced lower levels of anxiety and depression than those who stayed inside.
More than 20,000 people participated in the survey-based study from 6 regions served by Kaiser Permanente across the United States, which included Hawaii, Colorado, Georgia, and the mid-Atlantic states, as well as Southern and Northern California.
“What these study findings tell us is that even during an active pandemic or other public health crisis, people should be encouraged to be physically active to help maintain their physical and mental health,” said the study’s lead author Deborah Rohm Young, PhD, the director of the Division of Behavioral Research for the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation. “Parks and other nature areas should remain open during public health emergencies to encourage outdoor physical activity.”
In March 2020, COVID-19 developed into a worldwide pandemic. With no known treatment, public health officials attempted to reduce its spread by limiting human interactions through stay-at-home policies. Businesses temporarily closed or changed their practices to prevent the spread of the virus, affecting the economy and many people’s jobs. These stressful factors, along with fewer opportunities to socialize with friends and family, increased symptoms of depression and anxiety for many people.
Since it is known that physical activity and time spent in nature are associated with improved mental health, researchers at Kaiser Permanente in Southern California sought to determine how exercise and time outdoors was associated with people’s mental health during the height of the pandemic.
In April 2020, researchers sent a series of COVID-19 surveys to more than 250,000 participants in the Kaiser Permanente Research Bank — a collection of lifestyle surveys, electronic health record data, and biospecimens, which Kaiser Permanente members volunteered. People who reported COVID-19 symptoms were not included in this analysis, resulting in 20,012 respondents. They each completed at least 4 surveys between April and July 2020.
White women older than 50 accounted for a high proportion of the respondents. Most respondents said they were retired and generally adhered to the “safer-at-home” orders during the period of the survey. The study found that:
- Reports of anxiety and depression decreased over time
- Anxiety and depression scores were higher for females and younger people, and lower for Asian and Black people compared with white respondents
- Participants who reported no physical activity reported the highest depression and anxiety compared to people who had exercised
- Spending less time outdoors was associated with higher depression and anxiety scores
- People who had increased their time outdoors the most reported the highest anxiety scores, but the research could not explain the finding
“What we learned from these findings is that during future emergencies it will be important to carefully weigh the decisions to close parks and outdoor areas against the negative impact those closures may have on people’s mental health,” said Dr. Young.
Bedtime linked with heart health
University of Exeter (UK), November 9, 2021
Going to sleep between 10:00 and 11:00 pm is associated with a lower risk of developing heart disease compared to earlier or later bedtimes, according to a study published today in European Heart Journal—Digital Health, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).
“The body has a 24-hour internal clock, called circadian rhythm, that helps regulate physical and mental functioning,” said study author Dr. David Plans of the University of Exeter, UK. “While we cannot conclude causation from our study, the results suggest that early or late bedtimes may be more likely to disrupt the body clock, with adverse consequences for cardiovascular health.”
While numerous analyses have investigated the link between sleep duration and cardiovascular disease, the relationship between sleep timing and heart disease is underexplored. This study examined the association between objectively measured, rather than self-reported, sleep onset in a large sample of adults.
The study included 88,026 individuals in the UK Biobank recruited between 2006 and 2010. The average age was 61 years (range 43 to 79 years) and 58% were women. Data on sleep onset and waking up time were collected over seven days using a wrist-worn accelerometer. Participants completed demographic, lifestyle, health and physical assessments and questionnaires. They were then followed up for a new diagnosis of cardiovascular disease, which was defined as a heart attack, heart failure, chronic ischaemic heart disease, stroke, and transient ischaemic attack.
During an average follow-up of 5.7 years, 3,172 participants (3.6%) developed cardiovascular disease. Incidence was highest in those with sleep times at midnight or later and lowest in those with sleep onset from 10:00 to 10:59 pm.
The researchers analyzed the association between sleep onset and cardiovascular events after adjusting for age, sex, sleep duration, sleep irregularity (defined as varied times of going to sleep and waking up), self-reported chronotype (early bird or night owl), smoking status, body mass index, diabetes, blood pressure, blood cholesterol and socioeconomic status.
Compared to sleep onset from 10:00 to 10:59 pm, there was a 25% higher risk of cardiovascular disease with a sleep onset at midnight or later, a 12% greater risk for 11:00 to 11:59 pm, and a 24% raised risk for falling asleep before 10:00 pm. In a further analysis by sex, the association with increased cardiovascular risk was stronger in women, with only sleep onset before 10:00 pm remaining significant for men.
Dr. Plans said: “Our study indicates that the optimum time to go to sleep is at a specific point in the body’s 24-hour cycle and deviations may be detrimental to health. The riskiest time was after midnight, potentially because it may reduce the likelihood of seeing morning light, which resets the body clock.”
Dr. Plans noted that the reasons for the observed stronger association between sleep onset and cardiovascular disease in women is unclear. He said: “It may be that there is a sex difference in how the endocrine system responds to a disruption in circadian rhythm. Alternatively, the older age of study participants could be a confounding factor since women’s cardiovascular risk increases post-menopause—meaning there may be no difference in the strength of the association between women and men.”
He concluded: “While the findings do not show causality, sleep timing has emerged as a potential cardiac risk factor—independent of other risk factors and sleep characteristics. If our findings are confirmed in other studies, sleep timing and basic sleep hygiene could be a low-cost public health target for lowering risk of heart disease.”
Garlic compounds may boost cardio health indirectly via gut microbiota
National Taiwan University, November 6 2021
Allicin from garlic may prevent the metabolism of unabsorbed L-carnitine or choline into TMAO, a compound linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, says a new study from the National Taiwan University.
TMAO – or trimethylamine N-oxide – has been known to be generated from dietary carnitine through metabolism of gut microbiota, and was recently reported to be an “important gut microbiota-dependent metabolite to cause cardiovascular diseases,” explained Taiwanese researchers in the Journal of Functional Foods .
While antibiotics have been found to inhibit TMAO production, concerns over side effects and resistance have limited their use. This has led researchers to examine the potential of natural alternatives.
New data indicated that carnitine-fed lab mice showed a “remarkable increase in plasma TMAO levels”, compared with lab mice fed a control (no carnitine). However, when allicin supplements were provided with the carnitine diet, TMAO levels were significantly reduced.
“Surprisingly, the plasma TMAO levels in the mice of ‘carnitine diet + allicin’ treatment group were as low as that of chow diet [control] group,” wrote the researchers. “This result indicated that the metabolic capacity of mice gut microbiota to produce TMAO was completely inhibited by allicin supplement even though provided with carnitine-rich environment in the gut.
“It means the functional alteration of gut microbiota induced by carnitine diet can be prevented by addition of another substance with antimicrobial potential derived from food, such as allicin.”
Garlic and heart health
The study adds to the body of scientific literature supporting the potential heart health benefits of garlic and the compounds it contains.
Consumer awareness of the health benefits of garlic, mostly in terms of cardiovascular and immune system health, has benefited the supplements industry, particularly since consumers seek the benefits of garlic without the odors that accompany the fresh bulb.
The benefits have been linked to the compound allicin, which is not found in fresh garlic: It is only formed when garlic is crushed, which breaks down a compound called diallyl sulphide.
“This may offer an opportunity to take advantage of plants’ delicately designed defense system against microorganisms, to protect ourselves by modulating gut microbiota to a healthier status,” wrote the researchers
The Taiwanese researchers divided male C57BL/6(B6) mice into four groups: One group received only the control chow diet; the second group received the carnitine diet (carnitine added to drinking water at a level of 0.02%); the third group received the carnitine diet with supplemental allicin; and the final group received the control diet plus the allicin supplement for six weeks.
Results showed that the second group (carnitine diet) had TMAO levels 4–22 times greater than those observed in the control group. However, these increases were attenuated in the carnitine + allicin group, said the researchers.
“Our study suggests that antimicrobial phytochemicals such as allicin effectively neutralize the metabolic ability of TMAO production of gut microbiota induced by daily intake of L-carnitine,” wrote the researchers. “It may offer an opportunity for us to take advantage of plants’ delicately designed defense system against microorganisms, to protect ourselves by modulating gut microbiota to a healthier status.
“Our research also suggested that allicin and dietary fresh garlic containing allicin might be used as functional foods for the prevention of atherosclerosis,” they concluded.
Drug used to prevent miscarriage increases risk of cancer in offspring
University of Texas Health Science Center, November 9, 2021
Exposure in utero to a drug used to prevent miscarriage can lead to an increased risk of developing cancer, according to researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth Houston).
The study was published today in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
The drug, 17α-hydroxyprogesterone caproate (17-OHPC), is a synthetic progestogen that was frequently used by women in the 1950s and 1960s, and is still prescribed to women today to help prevent preterm birth. Progesterone helps the womb grow during pregnancy and prevents a woman from having early contractions that may lead to miscarriage.
“Children who were born to women who received the drug during pregnancy have double the rate of cancer across their lifetime compared to children born to women who did not take this drug,” said Caitlin C. Murphy, PhD, MPH, lead author on the study and associate professor in the Department of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences at UTHealth School of Public Health in Houston. “We have seen cancers like colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, thyroid cancer, and many others increasing in people born in and after the 1960s, and no one really knows why.”
Researchers reviewed data from the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan on women who received prenatal care between June 1959 and June 1967, and the California Cancer Registry, which traced cancer in offspring through 2019.
Out of more than 18,751 live births, researchers discovered 1,008 cancer diagnoses were made in offspring ages 0 to 58 years. Additionally, a total of 234 offspring were exposed to 17-OHPC during pregnancy. Offspring exposed in the womb had cancer detected in adulthood more than twice as often as offspring not exposed to the drug – 65% of cancers occurred in adults younger than 50.
“Our findings suggest taking this drug during pregnancy can disrupt early development, which may increase risk of cancer decades later,” Murphy said “With this drug, we are seeing the effects of a synthetic hormone. Things that happened to us in the womb, or exposures in utero, are important risk factors for developing cancer many decades after we’re born.”
A new randomized trial shows there is no benefit of taking 17-OHPC, and that it does not reduce the risk of preterm birth, according to Murphy.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed in October 2020 that this particular drug be withdrawn from the market.