A Stanford Medicine study that dug into two types of common digestive fiber supplements showed stark differences in how we react to them, and it’s not always good.
The study also revealed insights into how one type of fiber reduces cholesterol — a mystery scientists have been chasing for years.
“We all know that high-fiber diets are good for us, but published reports of their effects can be highly contradictory,” said Michael Snyder, PhD, professor and chair of genetics and the senior author of the study, which was published April 28 in Cell Host & Microbe.
Snyder, the Stanford W. Ascherman, MD, FACS, Professor in Genetics, and his colleagues monitored thousands of molecules involved in metabolism and the microbiome, tracking the ebb and flow of the molecules as healthy volunteers ingested different amounts of two common dietary fibers — inulin and arabinoxylan.
The results showed that while arabinoxylan was overall a boon for reducing “bad” cholesterol, high doses of inulin caused a spike in inflammation in some people. There was, however, one volunteer whose body reacted well to high doses of inulin but not arabinoxylan. “Overall, this study revealed the effects of common fibers on human health and suggests strategies for personalized dietary interventions,” Snyder said.
According to folklore, silver bullets kill werewolves, but in the real world, researchers want to harness this metal to fight another deadly foe: bacteria. Recently, scientists have tried to develop a silver coating for implantable medical devices to protect against infection, but they’ve had limited success. In a study in ACS Central Science, one team describes a new, long-acting silver-ion releasing coating that, in rats, prevents bacteria from adhering to implants and then kills them.
Sometimes medical care requires surgeons to implant a device, such as a tube to drain a wound or the bladder, or to deliver medication directly into the blood. However, bacteria can attach to and collect on the surfaces of these devices, creating a risk for dangerous infections. Researchers have been working to develop bacteria-repelling coatings, including those containing silver, which is known to kill microbes. However, their efforts have faced numerous challenges: Silver can also be toxic to human cells, and it’s difficult to make a coating that continually releases small amounts of the metal over long periods, for example. Dirk Lange and Jayachandran Kizhakkedathu wanted to identify a formula that could overcome these and other difficulties.
A new study adds to the questions surrounding the safety of calcium supplements.
Previous research has suggested this widely used dietary supplement may increase the risk of heart attack, and now data is linking calcium supplements to dementia in women who have had a stroke or who have white matter disease.
“This relationship was focused on women with a history of stroke or white matter disease, which is an indicator of some vascular disease in the brain, those women were at an increased risk of having dementia,” said Irene Katzan, M.D., a neurologist at Cleveland Clinic.
Researchers studied 700 dementia-free women between the ages of 70 and 92. The women were followed for 5 years and calcium supplement use and dementia diagnosis were observed throughout the study.
Results show that women with a history of stroke who took calcium supplements had nearly seven-times the increased risk of developing dementia.
Women who took calcium supplements and had white matter disease were three-times as likely to develop dementia.
However, women without a history of stroke or white matter disease had no increased dementia risk when taking calcium supplements, according to the research.
Talk to a provider
Dr. Katzan said more research is needed and this study alone shouldn’t cause anyone to immediately stop taking their calcium supplements, but it should prompt a discussion with your healthcare provider.
“This is a good time to talk to your doctor about what supplements you should be taking, what is best in my specific instance, given my risk factors and my medical history,” said Dr. Katzan.
People battling with their weight who are unable to do aerobic exercise can hit the gym instead and still see positive results.
Despite the commonly held belief aerobic exercise is essential for weight loss, an Edith Cowan University (ECU) study conducted at the Exercise Medicine Research Institute (EMRI) has found resistance training can also have positive results – in conjunction with reducing calorie intake.
Lead researcher and PhD student Pedro Lopez said the findings showed resistance training can have a significant effect on fat mass, muscle mass and weight loss.
As regular readers know, I lost Gabi, my little canine companion of the past 16 years, at the end of March. While I have by no means fully recovered from the grief of her loss. I do feel well enough to have adopted a new dog.
Meet Boots, a three-year-old mix breed with a lovely brindle coat. Boots comes from the PAWS (Pets Are Worth Saving) no-kill pet rescue in Chicago. He weighs 18 pounds, about double Gabi’s final weight.
Driving Boots home from the shelter was the first step in our adventure together. He was nervous in my car. Or course, I have no idea how much experience he has had in cars and he had clearly never ridden in mine, so I understood his nervousness. For the record, I drive a MINI Cooper hardtop, stick shift. That is relevant as Boots in his agitation, was walking back and forth across my lap as I drove us the four miles home. I love driving stick and it was even more exciting with the dog getting between me and the shift lever on our first ride together. Needless to say, we made it.
Which vascular risk factors are associated with the risk of developing dementia may vary with age. A new study shows that among people around age 55, the risk of developing dementia over the next 10 years was increased in those with diabetes and high blood pressure.
For people around 65 years old, the risk was higher in those with heart disease, and for those in their 70s, diabetes and stroke. For 80-year-olds, the risk of developing dementia was increased in those with diabetes and a history of stroke, while taking blood pressure medications decreased the risk.
Since we are entering the warmer weather, I thought it would be worthwhile to consider perspiring, or sweating. We are all going to be doing it. What does it mean to the body?
It is important to stay hydrated and avoid excessive heat during the hot summer months because we lose a lot of body fluid through sweat. But does this mean you should avoid sweating at all costs? Not at all.
People sweat for many reasons such as hot weather, nervousness, a fever, exercise, and being in a sauna. Sweating can dehydrate us, stress us out, or remind us our body is fighting an illness. In contrast, it may invigorate us on a hike or when working out in a gym. Besides, isn’t sweating what you are supposed to do in a sauna anyhow?
An analysis of data from multiple observational studies suggests 30 minutes of exercise a day may help you live longer, even if you’re otherwise sedentary, Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter said.
In the study, published recently in the British Journal of Medicine, researchers looked at data from activity trackers worn by 44,000 men and women (average age around 66 years) in the U.S., Norway, and Sweden. Most participants were sedentary eight-and-a-half to 10.5 hours a day and engaged in moderate or vigorous activity eight to 35 minutes a day. More sedentary time combined with less active time was associated with higher risk of death. About 30 to 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a day seemed to be enough to attenuate the association between sedentary time and risk of premature death.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend adults get 150 to 300 minutes a week (an average of 30 minutes a day) of moderate-intensity activity (such as taking a brisk walk or raking the yard) or 75 to 150 minutes a week (an average of 15 minutes a day) of vigorous-intensity activity (like jogging or swimming). While moving more and sitting less—in this study and many others—is associated with the best health outcomes, fitting 30 minutes of movement into an otherwise sedentary day may help you live longer.
Eat less, move more, live longer and have a functioning brain thewhole time, as I have written here numerous times.
Intermittent fasting is a popular eating strategy being studied in labs and practiced in kitchens across America. And it’s more than a fad. Restricting your calories or mealtimes may have the potential for many benefits, such as weight loss and reduced risk of various diseases. We don’t have much evidence, however, about intermittent fasting’s effect on the health of older adults, according to Harvard Medical School.
Intermittent fasting restricts when or how much you eat — and sometimes both. There are several approaches.
In alternate-day fasting, you eat normally every other day. On days in between, you eat just 25% of your daily calorie needs, in one meal. So if you consume 1,800 calories on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, you’d eat a 450-calorie meal (and nothing else) on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
Studies have shown that exercise helps protect brain cells. A new study looking at the mechanisms involved in this relationship suggests that the role exercise plays in maintaining insulin and body mass index levels may help protect brain volume and thus help stave off dementia. The research is published in the April 13, 2022, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
“These results may help us to understand how physical activity affects brain health, which may guide us in developing strategies to prevent or delay age-related decline in memory and thinking skills,” said study author Géraldine Poisnel, PhD, of Inserm Research Center in Caen, France. “Older adults who are physically active gain cardiovascular benefits, which may result in greater structural brain integrity.”
In contrast, researchers found that the relationship between exercise and the metabolism of glucose in the brain was not affected by insulin or body mass index (BMI) levels. Reduced glucose metabolism in the brain can been seen in people with dementia.
Many people with heart failure also have diabetes or high blood pressure. But new research suggests those conditions, even when treated, aren’t well controlled, placing people at risk for worsening heart problems, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
“We know that controlling hypertension and diabetes is critical for people with heart failure,” said Dr. Madeline Sterling, a primary care physician at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City. “But few studies have been able to ascertain how well those risk factors have been controlled. This study really takes a big step forward in doing that.”
Sterling wrote an editorial accompanying the study that appeared in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation: Heart Failure.
Heart failure occurs when the heart can’t pump as well as it should and fails to deliver enough oxygen to the body, making it harder for people to perform everyday tasks. Hypertension, another name for high blood pressure, and diabetes are major risk factors for heart failure, which affects more than 6 million people in the U.S., especially those who have other heart problems or who have had heart attacks.
In the new study, researchers analyzed 18 years of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a series of federal studies assessing the prevalence of major diseases and their risk factors among U.S. adults.
While just 8% of 1,423 people diagnosed with heart failure had poor glycemic control, defined in the study as a hemoglobin A1C level of 8% or higher, 21% of those being treated for diabetes failed to meet blood glucose goals. This did not vary by race or ethnicity.
Researchers also found 48% of people with heart failure had uncontrolled hypertension, which the researchers defined as a systolic blood pressure, the top number in a reading, of at least 130. Among people prescribed blood pressure-lowering medication, poor control was even higher, at 51%. Black adults had higher uncontrolled rates than their white peers, at 53% compared to 47%.
That higher rate of poor blood pressure control among Black adults with heart failure was not surprising since it mirrors racial disparities in blood pressure control in the general population, said Dr. Sadiya Khan, senior author of the study, funded in part by the AHA.
“This speaks to a larger problem, which is a systemic failing to control the leading risk factors that account for the greatest number of non-communicable deaths worldwide,” said Khan, an assistant professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
“The reasons for these disparities are manifold,” said Dr. Leah Rethy, a resident physician at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and lead author of the study. They include the history of structural racism in the U.S., which is largely responsible for disparities in access to health care, proximity to green spaces where people can safely meet exercise goals and “all sorts of things that influence somebody’s life course up until the time they get heart failure,” she said.
While the vast majority of people in the study had insurance, they also reported incomes below the poverty line, which could affect their access to quality care or the ability to pay for medications, said Sterling, who was not involved in the research. The study also did not track whether people being treated for high blood pressure and diabetes were actually taking the medications prescribed to them.
The study documented only the prevalence of uncontrolled blood pressure and poor glycemic control, not why those risk factors were uncontrolled, Rethy said.
“We think there’s probably a number of reasons that include a lack of understanding or focus from providers about the importance of blood pressure control, but also perhaps a lack of accessibility to consistent and affordable primary and specialty care for adults with heart failure,” she said, “particularly those under age 65 who don’t qualify for Medicare.”
Sterling added that “it’s actually quite hard to control these risk factors. It’s not just a matter of giving people medications. This study is shedding light on this.”
Many people who have heart failure are older, frail and may have cognitive issues, so it may be difficult for them to perform the extensive self-monitoring needed to manage their health, she said. “A lot is put on patients to manage this at home, and it’s a challenge.”
But that doesn’t mean it’s an insurmountable one, Rethy said. The key is finding ways to help health care professionals and patients put into practice what researchers know about how to get blood pressure and blood glucose levels under control.
“There are many good medications and lifestyle interventions that we know work,” she said. “We shouldn’t think of it as too lofty to achieve. We have access to lots of tools to help fix it.”
Millions of older people with poor vision are at risk of being misdiagnosed with mild cognitive impairments, according to a new study by the University of South Australia.
Cognitive tests that rely on vision-dependent tasks could be skewing results in up to a quarter of people aged over 50 who have undiagnosed visual problems such as cataracts or age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Age-related macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss for older people. It doesn’t cause complete vision loss, but severely impacts people’s ability to read, drive, cook, and even recognise faces. It has no bearing on cognition.
Feeling blue on Friday the 13th? Perhaps you are triskaidecaphobic, which is to say, fearful of Friday the 13th.
Wikipedia says, “Triskaidekaphobia (from Greektris meaning “3”, kai meaning “and”, deka meaning “10” and phobos meaning “fear” or “morbid fear”) is fear of the number 13 and avoidance to use it; it is a superstition and related to the specific fear of the 13th person at the Last Supper being Judas, who was said to have stabbed Jesus Christ in the back (metaphorically). It is also a reason for the fear of Friday the 13th.”
The publication Environmental Nutrition offers the following 5 foods that are super nutritious and might bring you good luck at least in terms of your general health.
Amazing avocados, is their first offering. “Ounce for ounce, they contain more blood-pressure lowering potassium than bananas. Avocados are rich in good-for-you monounsaturated fats, and cholesterole-lowering beta-sitosterol and cancer-protective glutathione, along with Vitamin E, folate, vitamin B6 and fiber.”
Brain-boosting blueberries come in second. “These little blue marvels are the antioxidant leaders, plump and nearly 4 grams of fiber per cup and a good dose of vitamin C. They also have cancer-protective ellagic acid, and may boost your brain health and vision.”
Anti-cancer Brazil nuts come in third. “This hearty tree nut is a ‘trigger food’ that may cause cancer cells to self-destruct. It’s a super source of selenium, a promising anti-cancer trace mineral that also promotes DNA repair and boosts immunity. Just two medium nuts contain enough selenium to perhaps reduce the incidence of prostate, colon and lung cancers.”
Good old Broccoli is number four. “Here’s an easy way to get two cancer-blockers that modify natural estrogens into less damaging forms and increase the activity of enzymes that fight carcinogens. Aim for three servings a week of broccoli or its cruciferous cousins.”
Number five is Butternut Squash. “This tasty fruit (yes, fruit) is an exceptional source of beta-carotene, the antiooxidant tyour body converts to vitamin A. But it’s also an overlooked source of bone-building calcium.”
So, look on the bright side and focus on the great nutritional benefits you can derive from these five super foods and forget about the fact that today is Friday the 13th. Just don’t walk under any ladders.