You’ve all heard about the health benefits of the probiotic bacteria found in yogurt and other similar fermented dairy products such as kefir. This recently published study provides more evidence of yogurt cultures’ actions against serious disease-causing pathogens, such as Fusobacterium nucleatum.
F. nucleatum can cause diseases in the mouth, teeth, brain, pleura, lungs and liver. It induces fetal death in pregnant women and can lead to colon cancer by binding to the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, according to a recent study in the journal, Functional Foods in Health and Disease.
In this study, when yogurt and kefir were added to a petri dish filled with F. nucleatum and incubated for 3 days, there appeared clear zones where the yogurt and kefir were placed. Thus showing inhibition of the growth of F. nucleatum. Interestingly, the plain milk used for the yogurt and kefir did not show an inhibitory effect, but the higher the concentration of the kefir and yogurt probiotic bacteria, the more F. nucleatum’s growth was inhibited.
“Previous studies have indicated that fermented dairy products can cause probiotic effects such as improvement in digestive system health, serum cholesterol reduction, and improvement in lactose tolerance, improved immune function, control of irritable bowel symptoms, as well as anticarcinogenic properties. Kefir is known to have positive effects on health and especially intestinal health. Therefore, these findings are important for showing an inhibition effect of fermented dairy products against a pathogen and possible carcinogen. These results suggest that regular consumption of natural fermented dairy products especially kefirshould be included in a functional diet. The impact of these cultured dairy products could be promising and warrants further investigation with in vivo studies,” according to the authors of the study.
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The “Glycemic Index” may not be so cut-and-dry. What’s healthy for other people may not be healthy for you!
We all have friends who, no matter what they eat, stay skinny. But the opposite is more common: most of us are incredibly frustrated because, it seems, no matter how hard we try, we just cannot lose weight. Now we may understand at least one reason why.
A study published in the journal, Cell, in November, analyzed people’s glycemic (blood glucose) response, or blood sugar’s rise and fall after a meal. Controlling blood sugar is important for preventing and controlling diabetes, maintaining a healthy weight, and general all-around health. What you eat affects your blood sugar, insulin, and health levels, so a healthy diet containing mostly low glycemic index foods has been thought to be one way to control your health.
Some of the study’s results were typical and expected; glucose levels correlated with weight and age. The more overweight or older we are, the higher our blood sugar rises after meals – that is, we become more diabetic-like.
But the scientists also found important differences between individuals. First, and this was predictable: if the same person ate the same meal at different times, their blood sugar level responses remained relatively the same. But – and this was the unpredictable result of the study – different people eating the same meal at the same time produced highly variable results.
Researchers believe the differences might be explained by the quality of the gut microbiome, the understanding of which may revolutionize nutrition and health. It turns out that the bacterial organisms in the digestive tract — about 100 million of them (10 times the number of human cells), collectively called the microbiome — are akin to a fully functioning organ, and can have a positive or negative effect on human health. For instance, a healthy microbiome improves insulin sensitivity – reducing your chances of getting diabetes – and enhances your ability to lose body fat.
This – the quality of your microbiome, for instance – calls into question things like the glycemic index (GI), which assigns a food’s value based on peoples’ average glycemic response to a food. That’s because, if each person’s blood sugar responds differently at different times with different foods, then the GI index would be incorrect for people with different-than-average blood sugar responses, even for foods generally believed to be healthy.
There is some good news, though! The researchers used the data to create an algorithm that predicted the glycemic response of the participants. When they used this data to tailor diets for people, they saw improved blood sugar responses. These findings could be used to develop personalized and individual diets that don’t rely on averages. This just may crack the case for those having difficulty getting fit.
This is why I find it so important to PERSONALIZE your diet. One size doesn’t fit all!
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Yogurt has long been considered a healthy option, as it’s packed with protein, calcium, potassium and other nutrients. It’s a great way to get probiotics, which are important for improving digestive health; but also a vast array of health conditions.
Yogurt consumption has been shown to improve bone health (eating yogurt lead to better bone mineral density) and cardiovascular health (yogurt-eaters were 31% less likely to develop high blood pressure), lower one’s risk of getting Type 2 diabetes, and be a useful tool in weight management.
Many of these benefits come from the probiotics found in yogurt, which are associated with a myriad health improvements. Evidence shows that probiotics could help prevent Type 2 diabetes by preventing insulin resistance and allowing your body to more readily burn body fat. But probiotic benefits may go beyond that. Some studies have even shown that probiotics led to improvements in immune functions in HIV-infected patients.
The research is clear: yogurt is a great addition to any diet, particularly if you want to improve your immune response and powers of healing, bone, heart, gastrointestinal health or improve your weight. Pick some up today! I believe any type will do… as long as you eat at least one or two cups per day.
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Over the years, I’ve noticed that clients who added a certain item to their diet seemed more likely to lose weight. And this happened even when their calorie intake remained the same. What is this superfood? It’s nothing weird, it’s not a supplement, it’s cheap and found everywhere — And it’s a product that may go back to Neolithic times: yogurt.
For years, I’ve wondered why this versatile food worked so well, and now, new scientific research is backing my observations. It turns out that the bacterial organisms in the digestive tract — about 100 million of them (10 times the number of human cells), collectively called the microbiome — are akin to a fully functioning organ, and can have a positive or negative effect on human health.
At a National Institutes of Health conference entitled “The Human Microbiome: Implications for Nutrition and Clinical Practice,” held in March in Bethesda, Md., Cindy Davis of the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health, shared some findings. “The microbiome is influenced by several dietary components,” she said. One of which is yogurt.
Probiotics plus prebiotics
Why is this? Yogurt contains a class of bacteria called probiotics that “remain alive during processing and shelf life, survive digestion and then cause health benefits,” said Jo Ann Hattner, a registered dietitian, consultant at the Stanford University School of Medicine and co-author of “Gut Insight.” She added that together with certain foods known as prebiotics, probiotics create a symbiotic relationship that profoundly benefit your microbiome and your health.
“Prebiotics are nondigestible, fermentable carbohydrates that stimulate and promote activity of beneficial gut bacteria,” Hattner co-wrote in a recent issue of San Francisco Medicine, a publication of the San Francisco Medical Society. “Prebiotics are the booster substance for probiotics. As the beneficial gut microbes increase in number, pathogenic bacteria — such as Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli — decrease.””Ingesting prebiotics is a practical way of manipulating the microbiota, since they support and increase the beneficial bacteria population in the gut,” Hattner added. “Together, probiotics and prebiotics are an important duo. In addition, prebiotic fibers are components of the healthiest foods on the planet — natural plant foods.”
To achieve maximum benefit, you need both kinds of food: probiotics and prebiotics, and new research is finding the health benefits may be vast.
“These bacteria protect us by preventing infection and enhancing immunity, and that makes gastrointestinal health critical to overall health,” Hattner said.
More benefits of the microbiome
In addition, research is finding that a healthy microbiome may play a role in reducing inflammation, a risk factor involved in illnesses ranging from colds to cancer, heart disease, arthritis and cognitive decline.
These bacteria may also help burn body fat and reduce insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes, according to a recent study published in the journal Nutrients. Interestingly, “Mother’s milk contains both pre[biotics] and probiotics,” said Hattner. So it transfers the health benefits to the baby. This may explain studies that show people who were not breastfed are more likely to be overweight.
Prebiotics are important because they nourish the probiotics, increasing their effectiveness — and prebiotics are in a host of foods.
Still, nutritionists are in the initial phases of human research, and there is much to be learned. In the meantime, the message is clear: Eat a plant-based diet and plenty of yogurt!
1. Eat probiotics like yogurt, kefir and soy yogurt
2. Eat prebiotics (from Hattner’s article) such as:
– fruits like apples, bananas, berries, raisins and kiwifruit
– greens, onions, garlic and leeks
– lentils, chickpeas and beans
– brown rice, corn, buckwheat, flaxseed, whole wheat, whole rye, barley
– green tea
3. Use artificial sweeteners with caution. (A preliminary study found that artificial sweeteners may effect the microbiome negatively, increasing body fat and insulin resistance.)
5. Breastfeed your baby.
6. Don’t count on probiotic pills or supplements to improve your microbiome, as there isn’t one that has passed the tests needed for a health claim. (This was also a point made by scientists at the NIH conference.)
The importance of your digestive system’s microbiome should not be underestimated. It affects every organ in the body, bringing about sickness or health. Many experts believe this research is bringing about a revolution in health care.
Interestingly, the recommendations registered dietitians and nutritionists have been making for decades is being proven correct: “Eat a plant-based diet!” Just be sure to include fermented foods, such as yogurt!
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Encore: “It Does A Body Bad?”
The Daily Show’s Ed Helms (“The Office”) Investigates Weapons of Mass Destruction you may be harboring in YOUR OWN HOME!
Watch Helms interview Katherine on Comedy Central…
Watch on Comedy Central…
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Individual foods are more important than calories when it comes to long term weight gains or losses, according to the study. Specifically, potatoes are associated with weight gain, along with sugar-sweetened beverages and meats, while foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and yogurt, are associated with weight loss, according to the study.
“Modest changes in specific foods and beverages, physical activity, TV-watching, and sleep duration were strongly linked with long-term weight gain. Changes in diet, in particular, had the strongest associations with differences in weight gain… The idea that there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods is a myth that needs to be debunked,” said a researcher in a press release. The study appears in the June 23, 2011, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
When I was contacted by USA Today reporter, Oliver St. John, to comment on the Harvard Study, this gave me an opportunity to look over the study so that I could offer an analysis which would help not only “USA Today” readers, but me and my clients better understand it.
I found some of the claims made regarding the study incomplete.
While this is an interesting study and confirms much of what we know about healthy and unhealthy foods, I’m concerned about the sweeping conclusions for the following reasons:
The Harvard study is epidemiological, the kind of study which analyzes large populations and their health outcomes. Because the facts cannot be precisely measured, as it would be in a clinical study -nobody is weighing and measuring the foods people are eating, their body weights, or their lifestyle patterns – the conclusions which can be made are limited. This is true for many reasons. First, there are no “controls” in the study; making it difficult to tease out confounding variables having an effect beyond the particular foods being studied. What I mean is: eating certain foods is associated with specific behavior patterns, so it’s impossible to determine if the effect (weight loss/gain) is due to the food or the behavior pattern. For instance, studies of whole-grain eating find it is a “marker” for engaging in many healthy behaviors. People who eat whole grains are more likely to exercise and eat more vegetables. SO when epidemiological studies find whole grain- eaters are healthier, one must ask: is the effect due to eating whole grains or the lifestyle associated with eating whole grains? The only way to answer this question is, once the epidemiological data is observed, to take the observations into a lab and do a controlled clinical study. The clinical study would need to control for everything – exercise, diet, body weight, etc – and change only whether people are eating refined or whole grains, to determine if the health effect is due to the whole grain eating or the lifestyle.
The Harvard study found potato-eating associated with weight gain. The researchers warned against eating potatoes, attributing the weight gain to the rise in blood sugar caused by potatoes.
I am not quite convinced. Why?
First, many foods cause rises in blood sugar – including whole wheat bread and whole grain cold cereals. But they aren’t associated with weight gain, in fact, quite the opposite.
Second, in America, most potatoes are eaten as french fries or potato chips, and these are very fattening versions of potatoes. So, the way potatoes are cooked – not the potato itself – may be why Harvard’s epidemiological study found potato-eating is associated with weight gain. This argument points to excess calories as a factor.
Also, and this may be an important factor explaining why potatoes are associated with weight gain. When people eat french fries, they are usually eating hamburgers and hot dogs alongside. Not only that, the beverage they’re drinking is SODA (a known contributor to obesity in adults and children). Therefore, instead of the potatoes causing the problem, could it be the meal pattern or high calorie lifestyle associated with people who eat french fried potatoes? In the United States, french fries are eaten together with fattening, unhealthy foods, known to be correlated with increased weight, diabetes, heart disease, you name it. Same with potato chips. People who regularly eat french fries, potato chips, and sodas also eat other fattening and unhealthy foods. In fact, studies show soda-drinking, for instance, is another “marker” but this time, for engaging in unhealthy behaviors like smoking and being sedentary. These confounding variables could influence the study’s results.
This brings me to the last piece of evidence – and what convinces me the most – that potatoes do not a cause weight gain: SWEDEN
In Sweden, people are no fatter than Americans, in fact, they’re slimmer. But, they eat potatoes every day, and often more than once a day. But when Swedes eat potatoes (and I’m sure of this as I am a Swede and visit often), they eat them in small portions, they’re boiled, topped with a little butter (oops), alongside FISH. Not burgers, not fried fish, just grilled, steamed, cured, smoked, or sauteed FISH.
So, if eating potatoes in Sweden is not associated with weight gain, could it be because the potatoes are cooked in a healthier way than in the United States and the meal pattern is a healthier one? 1) the potatoes are boiled, not fried, 2) the potatoes are eaten in smaller, more reasonable portions, and 3) the potatoes are more often eaten together with other healthy foods, such as fish – not burgers and sodas.
And, how do you explain all those poor, skinny Irish and Russians – heck, anyone living in the northern parts of the world – people who subsisted on and depended on potatoes as their only vegetable for centuries. Why didn’t the potatoes make them fat?
Do I believe potatoes are a wonder food? No. But I also do not believe potatoes are “POISON,” as some commentators have stated.
Should you be eating larger portions of watery vegetables and smaller portions of starchy vegetables, such as potatoes? Yes.
Do I occasionally enjoy French Fries and Potato Chips, known to be fattening, unhealthy foods? Yes I do.
Do I eat French Fries and Potato Chips on a regular basis? No, I do not. Do I wish I could?
Yes I do, but I’d rather be healthy and slim.
People eating nuts were more likely to have lower body weights, according to the Harvard Study. Their explanation is that nuts are satiating; they make us feel full, inferring that they lead to eating fewer calories overall. Clinical studies have found years ago that adding nuts to meals, especially breakfast, decreased overall calorie intake, making weight loss easier. This is one reason why I have been encouraging nut-eating for many years. Also, we’ve known for quite a while that nut-eaters around the world have fewer heart attacks and are healthier in other ways.
Does this mean you cannot gain weight eating too many nuts? No. Plenty of people eat too many nuts and can become overweight because of it. Nuts are healthy, but fattening little morsels. One ounce, or a small handful, contains about 180 calories. This is why I recommend most people eat one ounce per day. But if weight is not an issue, two ounces a day – or more, if you can afford the calories, is fine – and is even heart healthy. When I work with people wanting to gain weight healthfully, I advise snacking on nuts!
Are certain nuts better than others? I’m not convinced of this. Every time a new study comes out about a nut – any nut – it’s positive news. Certain nuts, though, are more commonly eaten, have a bigger consumer base, and more money to fund scientific studies. This may be why you hear about some nuts over others. It is also a very expensive and time-consuming process for a food to be approved for a health claim on a food label. So, only certain nut growers can afford to put health claims on their labels, and educate you about their health benefits.
While you already know each nut has a different look and flavor, each nut also has its own unique nutritional characteristics. For instance, almonds are the highest in protein and Vitamin E, and the lowest in artery-clogging saturated fat. Walnuts are the only nut with omega-3-fatty acids. Pecans have the highest antioxidant content. Pistachios contain lutein, a compound which may significantly improve eye health.
Bottom Line: Eat nuts every day.
They’re good for you and may help you eat fewer overall calories because they’re so satiating!
Yes, calories matter: So, stick with just one or two ounces, if weight is an issue. If not, eat more.
The study found yogurt-eating associated with lower body weights. Whole civilizations have known about yogurt’s health benefits for thousands of years.
When my mother was recovering from hip replacement surgery I advised her to live on yogurt, fruits and vegetables for healing AND to prevent weight gain from being immobile. It worked. She healed very quickly and lost a little weight at the same time. She was thrilled. I’ve repeated the same advice to my clients, when appropriate, and they’ve been thrilled with the results, too.
Yogurt has many positive qualities. I’m convinced: Yogurt is a Superfood; it may be one of the best overall foods you can eat. Yogurt creates a natural way to boost your immune system by providing probiotics which increase the healthy bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract, according to my friend and colleague, Jo Ann Hattner, MPH, RD, in her book, “Gut Insight.”
Probiotics are live bacteria that promote digestive health. As we age, it is thought that bacterial populations in our gut change – resulting in increased harmful, disease-causing bacteria and fewer protective bacteria. When you add probiotics you repopulate the gut with beneficial bacteria that protect against infection-causing toxins.
You also improve colon health by lowering pH of the colon, so it’s receptive to the beneficial bacteria and detrimental to the disease-causing bacteria, you protect the intestinal lining, and strengthen immunity. Exciting research is evolving on the health benefits of probiotics.
But correlating yogurt with lower body weights is complicated. Do you believe people who regularly eat french fries, potato chips, burgers and sodas eat much yogurt? I don’t think so. This is another case where lifestyle probably plays a huge role and why Harvard’s epidemiological study found yogurt was associated with lower body weights.
While it may be true that yogurt has health benefits causing leanness, this hasn’t been proven conclusively in clinical studies yet. There have been studies showing dairy foods are very satiating… That is, when you eat yogurt, you feel full in relation to the calories. And when you feel extra satiated by something, such as yogurt or nuts, it helps you eat fewer overall calories for the day. There is some evidence that the protein in yogurt may be especially high quality, spare lean muscle (and bone), and increase metabolism, thereby making weight loss a little easier. Diary products may also contain other bioactive compounds contributing to leanness. The Harvard researchers speculated the probiotics in yogurt may be responsible for the weight benefit. All of these reasons could be significant. But, the most significant factor probably is: Yogurt-eaters are more likely to live a healthy lifestyle, exercise, and eat other healthy foods.
My clients, family and friends have known this for years. Why? I love keeping up with the science and keep myself and them informed.