BioQuakes

AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: diet (Page 1 of 2)

Can eating less save your life????

Nutrition and calories have been a topic of much discussion over the past few years.  In a recent study by Yale University, results show that a diet with less calories than the recommended amount can increase longevity.

In this study, researchers at Yale asked participants to eat a diet with a certain amount of calories that is recommended to them based on their weight. They then asked a few people to lower their calorie intake by 14% . The results were extremely positive. The immune system is fueled by the thymus gland. In this gland  T-Cells are produced, which are an essential part of the immune system;  the body will die without them. One of the main issues that come with the human body with age is fat buildup in the thymus gland. This fat buildup happens fast, and the thymus becomes almost fully deactivated when filled up with fat. This means that less T-Cells will be produced.

T-Cells are vital to the body’s function. There are two types, Cytotoxic T-Cells and Helper T-Cells. The Cytotoxic T-Cells kill infected cells and certain types confer future immunity to antigens, and the Helper cells activate other immune system cells. When these pieces are removed, the whole system falls apart, and the body can get infected easier. This is why any change to one’s life that can increase the activity lifespan of the thymus is very important.

T-dependent B cell activation

This all is connected to the PLA2G7 protein in the body, which is created by macrophages, another important type of cell in the immune system. Inhibition of the protein targets inflammation that causes the fat buildup which stops the thymus from working. This is done through calorie restriction, which alters the gene for this protein.  Even now, inhibiting PLA2G7 is being talked about as a potential prostate cancer drug.

Overall, this study shows that there is hope. This protein’s effects may change the way people eat and live. While decreasing calories has positive effects, as long as one consumes a healthy diet, there will be plenty of health benefits. It is important to go at a dieting pace that fits every body differently.

You Are What You Eat: Health Benefits of Fasting and Necessity of Proper Calorie Intake

Fasting is a key aspect of many religions and diets, yet the question of how healthy it is for one’s body remains a contested one. Intermittent fasting is a trendy new diet, and based on a new study from The University of Wisconsin-Madison, the trend has scientific validity unlike many other popular food trends in the last decade.

Scientists tested different diets on four different groups of mice. One ate a full amount but fasted, one ate as much as they wanted, and two others were underfed. The most healthy mice were the ones who fasted, as they got the right amount of calories, and saw benefits such as longer life, and better blood sugar control.

Why is this? One of the main reasons for this is autophagy, which is the process of moving cell waste. When one is fasting, there is more time in the body for cells to carry out the process. In this process, organelles which have been harmed are removed; they are often brought to the lysosomes. When there is more time to do this, the cell can focus on its normal function more efficiently, while still getting the appropriate calories for function.

The Process of Autophagy

Dudley Lamming, head researcher for this study, saw similar results for both male and female mice. He noted that medical research should look at how fasting can be imitated by drugs and treatment as a means of healing, due to its health benefits.

Personally, an aspect of this experiment that I do not love is the mistreatment of animals, being the rats in this case. While there are valid reasons for their use, such as biological similarities to humans, I dislike how some rats are underfed and are harmed. Nonetheless, this is a study that helps prove the benefits of fasting, which can lead to big medical findings in the future regarding human health.

A Sweet Post About Sourdough!

When Covid-19 hit the US, some of the biggest quarantine coping mechanisms all revolved around a fan favorite carbohydrate: bread. With the copious amount of time on people’s hands, baking sourdough bread was the perfect activity.

Unlike any other bread, it’s hard to get the perfect tasting sourdough. Research has found that there are biological reasons behind sourdough bread and its taste, but before doing so, it’s important to learn what sourdough bread is made up of, and how it’s made. To help learn more about the process of making sourdough bread from scratch, I got a mini crash course from Little Spoon Farm. The starter (initial mixture) contains flour and water and sometimes salt, which will eventually grow into a diverse selection of microbes (these are tiny living organisms, which in this case are bacteria). The starter has to sit for 7-14 days, and within that time, the starter grows through the flour by eating the sugars within itself. With that growth comes bacteria/microbes and lactic acid, which eventually will allow the bread to be able to leaven in the oven.

Recent studies have shown that each starter is made up of different microbes. One study had 18 professional bakers from all around the globe make their sourdough, and send it to a lab in Belgium, where DNA sequencing was used to identify the microbes in the different starters. Although there were common yeasts and acids found like Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Lactobacillus, the strands and amount of each differed according to the starter. Another study done by Elizabeth Landis, at Tufts University, looked at 560 different starters submitted from all around the world. Through doing so, she found recurring microbe groups within these different sequences. There is still no definitive reason behind the microbe groupings, and why exactly they differ for each starter, but Landis mentioned that certain yeasts “specialize in feeding on distinct sugars,” due to the fact that they are made of different sugar mixtures. Some yeast also lack certain enzymes, which as we learned in class, help break down molecules. In this specific situation, the enzymes within different yeasts feed on and break down sugars. Differing yeasts could also be a reason why sourdough bread has different flavors. (Keep in mind that Landis’ findings are still under review, so there are still limited details on this experiment and not definitive reasoning).

Microbial ecologist, Erin McKenny, further elaborates on how “each microbial community can produce its own unique flavor profile.” For example, when more acetic acid is present in the starter, the bread will have a more sharp and vinegary taste. When the starter produces more lactic acid, it has a more sour and yogurt like taste. Metabolic byproducts within the starter could also potentially add to the complexity of the sourdoughs’ taste. In addition to each microbial community, scientists have identified other features that influence the taste of the bread like temperature. When lactic acid ferments in a warmer area, the bread has a more sour taste, and when it ferments in a colder area, the bread has a more fruity taste.

After looking at multiple articles showing how bakers get their sourdough to have a certain taste, I have learned how important the specifics are when it comes down to making sourdough. One article that gave tips on how to manipulate the taste of sourdough reinforces everything that the main article helped explain, and talks about the importance of keeping a warmer, dry climate to ensure that the bread tastes sour. It turns out that a quarantine treat may be a bit more complex than it appears. It’s interesting to see how biology plays a key role in one of the most prominent foods, and next time you consider making sourdough or get a bread basket from the Cheesecake Factory, you’ll now know the biology behind it.

The Most Superior Drink Sweetener?

When you order your iced tea at a restaurant, you might be familiar with the packets of Sweet’N Low, Equal, or Splenda. But have you heard of Stevia? Stevia, or Stevia rebaudiana, is native to both Brazil and Paraguay, and is a member of the sunflower family. Despite being discovered by the Europeans in the early 1800s, local populations in South America have always used stevia as a sweetener. It took a long time for Western nations to access Stevia, because the main ingredient, Rebaudioside, is extremely expensive. This condensed extract is vital because it is considered safe by every governing body, whereas the entire stevia leaf was not put on the FDA’s Safe List due to low blood pressure concerns.

Stevia is extremely powerful. It is 200x sweeter than sugar! In the $14 billion market industry of sweeteners, Stevia’s global net worth is a whopping $336 million! Moreover, besides contributing greatly to the global sweetener economy, Stevia contributes greatly to pro-environmental efforts. In 2008, the FDA placed Stevia on the GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) List. Stevia is sustainable, and is grown by farmers on small farms in tropical landscapes. The ingredients that are harvested, both Rebaudioside A and Rebaudioside M, are much sweeter and less bitter than the traditional products used in other sweeteners, like Truvia. However, Stevia produces very small quantities of Rebaudioside A and Rebaudioside M, which makes its value skyrocket even higher. Stevia has no calories, which makes it a great alternative to the many calories in sugar. If you were to replace sugar with Stevia in your daily eating routine (without eating more food), you would consume less calories, and Stevia would ultimately yield weight loss! Before you start flooding your kitchen with Stevia and throw out all of your sugar, it’s important to note that the FDA says Stevia can be harmful at “poison dose levels.” Just don’t eat Stevia at poison dose levels and you can go enjoy this incredible, sustainable sweetener!

 

How our day-to-day food intake shapes our gut microbiota

Our diet is a significant modulator of changes in our gut microbiota structure, particularly at an individual level. The concept that what we eat is related to health is not a new idea. With new studies and experiments on the human gut microbiota, scientists are finally beginning to truly understand how exactly food impacts our health. The commonly heard phrase “you are what you eat” has been proven true. If you were to et a strawberry or hamburger, the food enters your digestive system and comes across the intestinal microbes. The way your body processes the food is influenced by the microbes that are living in your gut.

This is an image of food items that would help to create a balanced healthy diet.

Other than only being related to diet, levels of physical activity and sleep patterns can also affect the human gut microbiota. In a recent study, “for 17 consecutive days, 34 healthy participants were asked to self-record their food consumption using a food report.” From the results, the researches concluded that the variation in the daily microbiome is related to food choices, and not to standard nutrients.

For example, a vegetable such as spinach, which is rich in iron and also contains many other nutrients, such as fiber, minerals, and carbohydrates. All of these nutrients help to strengthen spinach’s relationship with the gut microbiome. Therefore, “nutritional advice should focus more on recommending people combine fruit and vegetables in their daily diet instead of prioritizing specific fibers.”

To conclude, a varied diet helps to maintain a well-balanced microbiome while also at the same time also giving your body the nutrients it needs in order to stay healthy.

Is it Time For a Raw Food Diet?

A recent article details a study by scientists at UC San Francisco details the effects of cooked food versus raw food on the gut microbiomes of mice. By feeding some mice raw potato and others cooked potato, scientists discovered that in mice, raw food damages certain microbes. Scientists discovered that raw foods contain antimicrobial compounds that damaged microbes in mice. Surprisingly, differences between the mice were due to chemicals found in plants. Turnbaugh’s is currently analyzing the specific chemical changes that occur after cooking in order to further understand how cooked food impacts the mice microbiomes.

 

Another interesting effect of the raw food on mice was weight loss. The researchers were curious as to whether the weight loss was due to the altered microbiomes. They were ultimately not due to the microbiomes, because when the altered microbiomes were put into mice eating a normal diet, those mice put on fat. The researchers are currently unsure of why this happens.

Interested in the possible ramifications of his discovery on human diets, Turnbaugh  conducted a second experiment using human test subjects. The raw food diets altered the microbiomes of the human test subjects, an exciting find for the researchers. The effects of these altered microbiomes are still unclear and is being further researched. For now, raw food diets don’t seem to have massive benefits and in cases of contaminated meat can be harmful to humans, but only further research will tell.

Should We Be Carbo-loading? The Effects of Resistant Starches on the Gut Microbiome.

What is Starch?

By definition starch is a polysaccharide composed of a chain of glucose molecules held together by glycosidic bonds. Starch is common in nearly all green plants and is used for short term energy storage.

Different Types of Starches

Starch can come in two distinct forms: amylopectin a compound with a complex system of branching glucoses, and amylose a simple straight chain of glucose molecules. Because of amylopectin’s larger and more complicated nature it has a much larger surface area than amylose making it significantly easier to digest. The amylose cannot effectively be broken down by the enzymes of the digestive system. Instead it is left to be dealt with by the human gut microbiome. For this reason it is commonly referred to as a resistant starch.

How are Resistant Starches Beneficial?

An international research article including authors from Harvard Medical School suggests that resistant starches have a myriad of benefits. Some resistant starches which thwart digestion in the stomach and small intestine, make their way all the way down to the large intestine where they are subject to fermentation by the microscopic bacteria of the human gut. The fermentation process can metabolize a multitude of different useful products. For example some significant and common place output of gut fermentation are simple fatty acids. One key short chain fatty acid created during this process is Butyrate, the preferred fuel oof the cells lining the colon. In addition to Butyrate there exist many other short chain fatty acids that help maintain and fuel the body. These fatty acids can be used for many different purposes, all beneficial to both the gut microbiome and the host. The benefits may range from weight loss to curbing the progression of chronic kidney disease.

In addition to their ability to be changed into more useful forms, resistant starches also serve to enhance the effectiveness of the gut microbiome. Constant ingestion of resistant starches can stimulate an increase in the size and health of gut microbiomes in addition to raising host metabolism.

Common Uses For Resistant Starches

Resistant starches are often used in weight reducing diets in order to encourage an increase in metabolic rates. Although results of these diets are often compelling, a diet must consist of all types of food groups and should contain a variety of vitamins and minerals. Eating only amylose and other resistant polysaccharides will not on its own help you achieve weight loss. It should be paired with exercise and an otherwise healthy diet.

Should resistant starches be used in dieting or do they promote malnutrition? There are many benefits to a diet high in resistant starches, including building up a healthy gut microbiome. However you cannot survive solely on carbohydrates. This is a complex question, and I would be interested in hearing your opinions in the comments.

 

 

 

Can your diet’s effect on gut bacteria play a role in reducing Alzheimer’s risk?

Could following a certain type of diet affect the gut microbiome in ways that decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease? According to researchers at Wake Forest School of Medicine, that is a possibility.

In a small study, researchers were able to identify several distinct gut microbiome signatures in study participants with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), but not in the other participants with normal cognition. Researchers found that these bacterial signatures correlated with higher levels of markers of Alzheimer’s disease in the cerebrospinal fluid of the participants with MCI. Additionally, through cross-group dietary intervention, the study also revealed that a modified Mediterranean-ketogenic diet resulted in changes in the gut microbiome and its metabolites that correlated with reduced levels of Alzheimer’s markers in the members of both study groups.

“The relationship of the gut microbiome and diet to neurodegenerative diseases has recently received considerable attention, and this study suggests that Alzheimer’s disease is associated with specific changes in gut bacteria and that a type of ketogenic Mediterranean diet can affect the microbiome in ways that could impact the development of dementia,” said Hariom Yadav, Ph.D., assistant professor of molecular medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine.

The randomized, double-blind, single-site study involved 17 older adults, 11 diagnosed with MCI and six with normal cognition. These participants were randomly assigned to follow either the low-carbohydrate modified Mediterranean-ketogenic diet or a low-fat, higher carbohydrate diet for six weeks then, after a six week “washout” period, to switch to the other diet. Gut microbiome, fecal short chain fatty acids, and markers of Alzheimer’s in the cerebrospinal fluid were measured before and after each dieting period.

The limitations of the study included the subject’s group size, which also accountns for the lack of diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity, and age.

“Our findings provide important information that future interventional and clinical studies can be based on,” Yadav said. “Determining the specific role these gut microbiome signatures have in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease could lead to novel nutritional and therapeutic approaches that would be effective against the disease.”

Each human contains trillions of organisms that influence our metabolism, immune function, weight, and even cognitive health. It is so fascinating to examine the role of gut microbiomes in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. I believe diets can be very controversial, and I find it interesting to see researchers in this study show how the Mediterranean-ketogenic diet may be effective against Alzheimer’s. However, I am so intrigued to see where these findings may take us with approaches that may be effective against Alzheimer’s, whether they be nutritional or therapeutic approaches.

Food For Thought!

 

A small fence separates densely populated Tijuana, Mexico, right, from the United States in the Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector. Construction is underway to extend a secondary fence over the top of this hill and eventually to the Pacific Ocean.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is some food for thought, what defines American Culture? Democracy? Freedom? As a matter of fact, for many immigrants, food is a defining factor of moving to the United States of America. Immigrants are fascinated by the combination of a wide variety and convenience of food. By the same token, the typical “American” diet is loaded with saturated fats, complex sugars and harmful chemicals. According to a recent Study from National Public Radio (N.P.R.), when immigrating to the United States of America, the typical “American” diet causes a completely new gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is the natural bacteria found in the digestive system that assist the body in a wide variety of tasks.

In order for N.P.R. to test this hypothesis, they gathered 500 ethnically Hmong & Karen women, residing in either Thailand or the United States of America. Of these women, they were either a first or second generation immigrant. After recording their findings, N.P.R. moved back to the United States of America, solely. When observing the gut microbiomes of the of caucasian Americans, the researchers concluded that the presence of Bacteroides leads to the decreased function of the gut microbiome. Next, 19 of the 500 women from Thailand moved to the United States of America. After many observation hours and careful logging of food consumed, the gut microbiomes of the immigrants began to diverge from their natural affinity. When reviewing the food logbooks, the scientists/researchers concluded/discovered that the typical “American” diet leads to the disruption of the gut microbiome because of its lack of fiber and over use of sugars.

Although this is not an urgent issue, this is an issue that must be addressed in the near future; this article exploits a greater issue for the United States of America. The United States of America is in desperate need to change its diet, consisting rich in fats and sugars, the population is facing serious medical issues such as obesity, cancer, high blood pressure and more.  This article demonstrates the effects of the typical “American” diet has on the United States of America. The United States of America must work quickly to collaborate with citizens and the private sector in order to make healthy alternatives to food, cheaper and more convenient, in order to mitigate health issues as well as promote preventive medicine.

Thank you!

From your favorite bacteria,

     SAMonella

 

 

 

Whole-Grain Bread: The Healthy Choice…or is it?

Contrary to popular belief, whole-grain bread might not be healthier for everyone. A new study has determined that whether white bread or whole-grain bread is healthier for you depends on the microbes in your gut. After studying 20 people for one week each, researchers found that some people’s blood sugar levels raised after eating standard white bread while others did not. Similarly, they found that some people’s blood sugar rose when eating standard whole grain bread. The researchers, Eran Elinav and Eran Segal, studied the mix of microbes in the stool samples as well as their genetic makeup.

This study is part of a growing group of studies that support personalized nutrition that is customized to your genetic makeup rather than a plan for everyone. The same group has also done other research in the nutrition field in Israel, where they studied how people respond to eating certain foods.

Ladies…Put Down the Cheese and Pick up the Yogurt!

Diet has been known to play a key role in breast cancer risk. A study done by Karin B. Michels, professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the Fielding School of Public Health at UCLA, at Medical News Today links a poor pro-inflammatory diet during adolescence, to a greater risk of developing breast cancer. A pro-inflammatory diet consists of foods such as red meats, butter, cheese, etc.  Because breast estrogenic hormones are found in these kinds of foods, researchers hypothesize that these compounds fuel breast cancer cell growth.

Photo taken by “kaboompics”: Karolina Grabowska

A case-control study, comparing breast cancer patients to women unaffected by the disease, by Roswell Park Cancer Institute also shows that there may be an association between types of dairy foods, specifically yogurt and cheese, consumed and breast cancer development.  Susan McCann, Professor of Oncology in the Department of Cancer Prevention and Control at Roswell Park, says “dairy foods are complex mixtures of nutrients and non-nutrient substances that could be negatively and positively associated with breast cancer risk”. 

In the case-control study, scholars examined the association between the types of dairy food consumed among 1,941 women diagnosed with breast cancer between the years 2003-2014. Taking into account factors such as demographics, menopausal status, energy intake, and family history researchers found that women who consumed high amounts of yogurt were found to have a 39% lower risk of cancer development while women who consumed high amounts of cheese, particularly cheddar and cream cheese, had the opposite effect with a 53% increased risk of breast cancer. 

Connecting this case-control study to the study done with Medical News Today the results support the idea that a pro-inflammatory diet may cause a greater risk of developing breast cancer. Cheese is known to be part of the pro-inflammatory diet while yogurt is part of an anti-inflammatory diet.

Although more information is needed to definitely confirm these variables as a cause and effect, the correlation found provides us with more information about the possible causes of cancer. “This study of the differences among women and their consumption of dairy products offers significant new understanding into the potential risk factors associated with breast cancer. While diet is thought to be responsible for 30 percent of all cancers, we hope that further research will help us to more fully understand which food products are most valuable in terms of reducing risk for this disease.” (Senior author Christine Ambrosone: chair of the Department of Cancer Prevention and Control). 

As someone who has seen the impacts of breast cancer first hand, knowing all different correlational factors that may lead to the development of breast cancer is extremely important.

 

Hunter-Gatherer to Westernized Human Gut Biomes

Somewhere between the time of early hunter-gatherer humans, and the present-day humans living in modernized Western societies, the human gut biome lost much of its diversity. New research has contributed another clue as to the evolution of the human gut biome.

An international team of scientists studied the fecal samples of an intermediary group between hunter-gatherers and Westernized humans. The Bantu community in Africa is a traditional, agricultural population that has incorporated some available Western practices, including the use of antibiotics and therapeutic drugs.

 

Bantu people; Steve Evans,  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Bantu#/media/File:Mozambique001.jpg

The scientists compared the Bantu gut biomes to those of the BaAka pygmy population, who resemble early hunter-gatherer populations and have no Western influences, and to the gut biomes of humans living in modern, Westernized societies.

By analyzing the sequence data of the three human biomes, the scientists placed the Bantu’s biome composition in between the BaAka’s and Westernized humans’. The Bantu shared similar bacterial species as the BaAka, but lacked many of the traditional bacteria that the BaAka possessed. In fact, the BaAka had such a different biome composition that their gut more closely resembled wild primate biomes!

 

Based on the functions of the variable bacterial groups between the three populations, the team hypothesizes that the boosted carbohydrate-processing pathways in Bantu and American biomes is a result of the sugars in our diet, whereas the BaAka do not have much access to such foods and thus do not have such bacterial populations.

Ultimately, the scientists have accepted that our diet contributes significantly to our gut biome composition.

The Microbiome’s Role in the Success of a Diet

Just in time for the many New Years resolutions where people promise to go on a diet to lose weight or get healthier, a new study covered by Huffingtonpost has found that the bacteria in your gut can affect the success of your diet.  This new research has demonstrated that all the diet alterations in the world, whether you give up pizza or ice cream, may do nothing if your intestinal bacteria are out of whack from a life of eating poorly.

Originally published in the journal Cell Host and Microbe, these new findings tell us that switching to a healthier diet may not help much, at least in the beginning, if you still have unhealthy bacteria left over from your non-diet days.

However, according to Dr. Jeffrey Gordon, a biologist at Wash U in St. Louis and senior author of the paper, the scientific community has found a way to “mine the gut microbial communities of different humans to identify the organisms  that help promote the effects of a particular diet in ways that might be beneficial.” In simpler words, research has shown that short-term dietary changes can alter the gut microbial community.

In order to demonstrate these findings, the researchers examined two groups: one that ate the standard, high-calorie American diet and one that ate a more plant-based, lower calorie diet. As expected, they found that those with the standard American diet had less diverse microbiota and that people with a plant-based diet had a more diverse, and healthier, microbiome. Diversity in the gut is important because it aids digestion, nutrient absorption, and immune system function; on the flip side, an unhealthy microbiome can contribute to inflammation, anxiety, depression, poor digestion and even autoimmune diseases.

Link to Image

The next step in the experiment involved analyzing the microbiome set-up in mice who had been colonized with bacteria from the human subject. These mice were either fed the native diet of their human donor (American or healthy), or the opposite diet. Analysis of the results revealed that all mice saw a change in their bacteria in response to the diet, but the bacteria of the American diet showed a weaker response to being changed to a plant-based diet ― their microbial communities didn’t increase and diversify as much as the mice colonized with the bacteria of the humans who ate a plant-based diet.

In conclusion, your gut would definitely benefit from a diet more heavily based on plants and vegetables, but if you have been eating a very unhealthy diet thus far, it may take a little longer to see results, as the makeup of your internal microbiome has to change.

Why Microbiota Will Ruin Your New Years Resolution:

This year, people across America will make New Years Resolutions about eating better, losing weight, and being healthier. Unfortunately, microbiota, those pesky little gut bacteria in charge of digestion, will be trying to foil your plans.

Microbiota is the term used to describe the entire population of trillions of microbes living in our intestines. Every person has a unique set of individual microbiota, based both on genetics and environmental factors such as diet. It is crucial in the digestive and immune systems, and in producing some vitamins.

A new study has shown that humans living an unrestricted American diet develop certain gut microbiota, that aren’t so easy to get rid of, and once a person switches to a nutritious, plant based diet, that microbiota interferes, counteracting the effects of the diet. In an experiment at the Center for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology at Washington University in St. Louis, scientists took the microbiota of human samples, half who followed calorie restricted plant-rich diets, and half who had un-restricted diets, and implanted them into test mice. They then switched all the mice to a healthy, plant-rich diet. Although both groups responded to the diet, those with the unrestricted diet had a much weaker and delayed reaction. Scientists then started co-housing the groups of mice. The healthy diet microbiota slowly migrated to the unhealthy mice, accelerating their reaction to the diet, symbolizing hope for future strategies for improving the effectiveness of diets using this data.

Photo:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mus#/media/File:House_mouse.jpg

As a US government publication, this picture is in the public domain

What’s Causing Your Migraine? The Answer May Be Inside Your Mouth.

photo by user "taennit" on on deviantart.com

photo by user taennit on on deviantart.com

Have you ever been going about your day and suddenly you’re hit with the feeling of needles ricocheting against the walls of your skull? Frustration grows inside you as you ponder what could’ve possibly triggered your migraine this time. Millions of Americans are struck with similar pain and turmoil every day, which makes the cause of migraines an in-depth and on-going research topic. Though the cause of migraines remains a bit blurry, it is believed that neurotransmitters, like serotonin, are involved in the development of a migraine. Known triggers of this hindering head pain are hormonal changes, stress, and our diets. Author Tim Newman’s article Could Migraines Be Caused by the Bacteria in Our Mouths?, published on MedicalNewsToday.com, suggests that migraines can be caused by the nitrate-filled foods millions of people consume on a daily basis.

Though you may resort to a glass of wine or piece of chocolate for relaxation after a hectic day, these two things can ultimately make your day into an all but relaxing evening. Both chocolate and wine possess high nitrate levels, as do processed meats and leafy, green vegetables. When nitrate is consumed through food, bacteria in the mouth converts nitrate into nitrite. Nitrites then enter the body and can be formed into nitric oxide which is helpful in reducing blood pressure and boosting cardiovascular health as a whole. Because of the benefits these forms of nitrate can have on the body, many people are given drugs containing nitrate in order to help with their health problems. Author Antonio Gonzales and programmer analyst Rob Knight found that four in five of the people that take these drugs also experience extreme headaches or migraines as a side effect. With this information, both Gonzales and Knight used information collected by the American Gut Project to further inspect the links between oral bacteria, diets, and migraines.

When someone takes drugs filled with nitrate or eat nitrate-sufficient food, their body must produce the necessary amount of bacteria or enzymes to break up the nitrate and turn it into nitrite or nitric oxide. Both Gonzales and Knight noted that people with migraines tend to have a significantly higher amount of nitrate-related bacteria located in the mouth, thus increasing the chance that the amount of nitrate-related bacteria in the mouth may correlate with the increased occurrence of intense headaches and/or migraines.

That all being said, the world of migraines is still a bit fuzzy to all of us and all we can do is continue to research the mysteries of this painful phenomenon. I won’t say that the results of these studies should be totally cast aside, but what I will say is that until nitrate-filled food and the presence of oral bacteria are a blatant cause of migraines, you shouldn’t flush those leafy, green vegetables, throw away the chocolate, or pour all the wine down the drain just quite yet.

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2016/10/20/migraines-bacteria-mouth_n_12573852.html

http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/healthy-living/wellbeing/news/a27149/bacteria-in-mouth-cause-of-migraine-study/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Junk Food Encourages Disease

According to a recent discovery posted in Science News, a typical American diet, consisting of poorly nutritional foods, leaves one prone to getting sick by weakening their immune system. Interestingly enough, this issue is rooted in cells that are not your own. In your gut microbiome, there are countless varieties and numbers of bacteria, all working away at the food that passes through your gut. Now, these bacteria are actually quite manipulative, and besides from feeding off of the food that you eat, teach your immune system what to attack, like an instructor or tutor for your immune system, albeit a biased one. These bacteria have colonized your body. They’re not just going to let some pathogen get in the way of their free meal ticket.

(What it looks like in there)

What happens when you eat certain foods, like junk foods, is that your gut microbiome changes. Different bacteria thrive on the fatty or sugary foods while other bacteria that survive off of more complex starches and carbs fade away, changing the demographic of your gut microbiome. This limited variety also limits the amount of invaders your immune system knows as hostile, or understands how to deal with, and therefore, you are more susceptible to disease, or medical complications.

(Actual photo of a biofilm found in the gut)

This was proven by taking samples from fit and obese humans and inserting them in otherwise sterile mice. Their resulting microbiomes grew, and the mice with the obese implant suffered more medical problems than the mice with the fit implant. This is because there were not enough “trainer” bacteria in the first mice’s gut to help train it to fend off disease, and thus it got sick more easily. So don’t go blaming your immune system the next time you get sick. It may be your fault for avoiding real, nutritional food (not just salad), and not taking care of it.

The moral of the story is to eat your vegetables and serve the bacterial overlords that have taken host in your body.

They’re good for you.

Trust me.

 

Stress and your Gut Microbiota

Stress. It’s something all people deal with- whether in large or small amounts- we all know what it feels like. Stress doesn’t always mean staying up to pull an all-nighter and barely making the deadline for a paper, it can be just the anxiousness of flying and getting all your things packed before a trip. In general, stress messes with our immune systems in a lot of different ways. There’s a lot of research on the different ways that stress can affect our bodies ranging from our brains to our hearts. New research has shown another way that stress affects our immune systems: through our gut microbiota. What is our gut microbiota? Formally called gut flora, our gut microbiota is the microbe population living in our intestine. Research has revealed that this microbe population is extremely sensitive to any change in our lifestyles, stress included.

The number one thing that affects our gut flora is our diet. Our bodies are very sensitive to what we eat and how active we are. Problems in giving our bodies proper nutrition and exercise can result in mental health problems, diabetes, obesity, or cancer. Stress, however, has been shown to have a very big impact on our gut. An article reported in Medical Daily described a study done on wild squirrels. The researchers examined squirrel microbiomes and their stress hormone levels. They found that the more stressed a squirrel was, the less variety of bacteria in their gut. They concluded that a healthier squirrel would have more diverse gut bacteria. They assume the same is true for humans, but will have to test to verify. On a side note, they also conducted a test where they found that pregnant women under stress were found to transfer negative effects of stress to their children through vaginal microbiota.

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Here is a possibly stressed squirrel  (although he seems happy eating the nuts).

Yet another study was conducted and published through The Atlantic on gut microbiota- specifically on “traveler’s constipation.” You might be wondering why I’m mentioning this because, let’s face it- who wouldn’t want to be traveling on a flight to the Bahamas right about now? For our gut, however, this can pose a lot of stresses we wouldn’t think about. About 40% of people say they suffer from travelers constipation, so let’s find out what this is all about. Firstly, on vacation our eating habits change. Whether this means coming home for the holidays and binge eating cookies, or eating a lot less than you normally eat, your gut is sensitive to both. Another, more surprising effect is the change of scenery- your gut is extremely sensitive to change of setting. Anytime you leave your general habitat, in fact, it throws your gut flora off balance- especially if the time zone changes because it messes up routine. For some, the mere thought of traveling can cause difficulty with their bowel movements. Sitting on planes or in a car for long periods of time can also really mess with your gut because part of what helps us “go” is moving around. This is why exercise can actually help you to go to the bathroom. All of these things are things we might not really think about because we don’t understand why it happens or we might not even realize it’s happening sometimes.

Our gut is often called the “second brain”, because millions of neurons line the intestines so it really does play a role in your mental state. Diet and exercise are extremely important in maintaining a healthy gut. Doctors and researchers have have recommended sleep, a lot of water, yogurt, probiotics or other fermented foods, foods high in fiber and meditation and mindfulness. These two might be surprising, but it makes sense. If our gut really is our “second brain” we should take really good care of our mental health through meditation, being mindful, and even therapy.

The Real Scoop on Artificial Food Coloring

Although artificial colors and dyes have been used in foods since the early 1900’s, the FDA has banned many of them due to health concerns. Thirty-seven artificial colors still remain approved for general food use in the USA, many of which are now prohibited in some European countries. Many of these chemicals have been researched and found to have harmful side effects, but they are still used in popular candies, soft drinks, cereals, and other processed foods.

Americans are now consuming more processed foods and drinks than ever before, and therefore more artificial colors and dyes. Many scientists have researched these common chemicals and found shocking results. The most common blue 1 & 2, citrus red 2, green 3, red 3 & 40, and yellow 5 & 6, have been found to cause a wide degree of side effects. Some have been found to cause cancer, ADHD, neurochemical and behavioral effects, allergies and more. Because of link between artificial dyes and the frequently seen side effects of cancer and ADHD, many European countries such as Norway, France, Finland, The U.K., and Sweden have banned a number of these chemicals from their foods.

It is no secret that these additives have harmful side effects, so why do companies still choose to use them? It is a very simple marketing tactic. “You eat with your eyes”, therefore companies will try to make their food look visually appealing to convince you to buy their products. Using artificial dyes and colors is just one method companies use to attract buyers. Artificial dyes like Yellow 5 have more vibrant and concentrated color than natural ones like saffron or turmeric. They are also much cheaper than natural dyes because companies do not need to use much in order to get the color they want. Artificial colors are also easier to use and their results are more reliable because they are much less sensitive to heat than naturally-derived food dyes are.

Silly Rabbit

(A bowl of Trix cereal made with artificial colors and flavors. The new Trix will go on sale later this year, without its blue and green puffs.)

This news may seem very alarming and upsetting to the average consumer, but there is hope. The FDA requires that companies put their ingredients on the food labels, so you know which foods are organic and which ones have artificial coloring. Research on artificial food dyes has led many consumers to cut out harmful processed foods and sodas from their diet and led to more awareness among buyers. And although there are companies such as Coca-Cola that use harmful cancer causing dyes such like 4-MEI, there are brands like General Mills that are promising to soon cut out all artificial dyes from their cereals by 2017. The new direction American consumers are taking now towards organic and health foods is slowly leading the food industry to change their foods in a healthy way. No longer are some food companies looking for the most vibrant look with their presentation, but rather the healthiest.

 

 

Long Term Effects of Bad Diet Linked to Epigenome

Epigenetics has become an increasingly popular topic of scientific study. It is universally understood that DNA carries genes, however the expression of those genes are at the whim of the epigenome. The long-term control of the epigenome over the expression of certain genes is not yet fully understood. Scientist Erik van Kampen of the Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research at Leiden University in The Netherlands studies epigenetics. He was interested in the mystery of how the epigenome is influenced by diet. He explored the idea of how the effects of a poor diet continue to persist even after a better diet is adopted.

In his study, he used mice that naturally had a high susceptibility to getting high blood cholesterol and atherosclerosis. He fed these mice either a high fat, high-cholesterol diet or a normal diet. After time had passed, bone marrow was isolated from both the unhealthy and healthy diet mice. This bone marrow was transplanted into mice that had their bone marrow destroyed. The new mice with borrowed bone marrow were given a healthy, normal diet for several months. After this time had passed, the mice were measured for development of atherosclerosis in the heart. In addition to this, the mice were measured for the number and status of immune cells throughout the body and epigenetic markings on the DNA in the bone marrow.

The results of this study were staggering. Mr. Kampen found that DNA methylation (which inactivates the expression of genes) in the bone marrow was different in both types of mice. The transplants received from the unhealthy diet mice were seen as having a decreased immune system and increased atherosclerosis in comparison to the ones who had healthy donors. This study proves at least somewhat of a correlation between diet and long-term effects on the body and the expression of genes.

The original article can be found at this address: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141103102359.htm

Links Between Human and Mice Obesity

A new study of the genomes and epigenomes of mice and humans is beginning to link the two, especially in regards to obesity.

As Andrew Feinberg, MD states, “It’s well known that most common diseases like diabetes result from a combination of genetic and environmental risk factors. What we haven’t been able to do is figure out how, exactly, the two are connected,”. Therefore, Feinberg began to study epigenetic tags to further understand gene usage.

His project with his team was to study the epigenetics of identical mice that were fed either normal or high-calorie diets. He found that the difference between normal and obese mice was the presence of chemical tags, or methyl groups, that prevent the production of proteins. This is significant because as we have learned, these types of modifications of DNA can be copied and inherited, which is then passed on into the next generation. This revealed that the normal and obese mice did not have the same location sites of their tags, giving them that alteration in their DNA. This is often seen in the alterations of the Agouti gene in mice.

Pictured here is effect of epigenetics on the physical appearances of mice (Agouti gene)

This proves that epigenetic changes are related to the environment and food sources that are around us, creating patterns based on one’s diet (which can create risk if a high-calorie intake is continuous).They also found that epigenetic changes affect genes that are already both linked to diabetes as well as those who aren’t, allowing them to further conclude that genes plays more of a role in diabetes than we previously thought.

This allows hope for future to provide epigenetic tests, which can prevent diabetes in those who are on track to have it later in life.

Article  Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150106130510.htm

 

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