AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: Nutrition

Fermented and Fabulous: The Key to Gut Health

Fermented foods are truly underestimated. Yes, I’m talking kombucha, kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, etc. You might be thinking, how much can consuming a bitter tasting food really do for me? The truth is, a lot. Fermented foods may just be the answer to combating the rise in chronic inflammatory diseases. This is due to the fact that a diet with an abundance of fermented foods enhances gut microbe diversity. Gut microbiota, the human body’s largest population of microorganisms set in the intestine, are essential to the multifaceted nature of human health because they have impacts on immune, metabolic, and neurobehavioral traits.

Improving Human Intestinal Health

 In a trial run by Stanford School of Medicine, 36 healthy adults were assigned to a 10 week diet of either fermented or high-fiber foods to test the effects on gut microbiome and the immune system as a whole. The study discovered that those who consumed a diet rich in fermented foods had an increase in microbial diversity, four types of immune cells showed less activation, and the levels of 19 inflammatory proteins measured in blood samples decreased. Proteins, as we learned in AP Bio, have many different functions and structures and just one changed amino acid in the structure can cause diseases or viruses because its characteristics (hydrophobic vs. hydrophilic, non-polar vs. polar) are altered. One of these inflammatory proteins decreased by fermented food consumption, interleukin 6, has been linked to conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, Type 2 diabetes and chronic stress. The success and promise that these results provided were immeasurable, for gut microbes have the potential to defend against harmful microorganisms, digest certain foods, produce important molecules like short-chain fatty acids, facilitate the absorption of dietary minerals, synthesize essential vitamins and amino acids, and even shape mood/behavior. Along with that, research suggests that low microbiome diversity has been linked to obesity, diabetes, arthritis, eczema, and even types of cancer, so any chance to increase microbial diversity is an opportunity to leap to. 

On the contrary, in the study, those adults assigned to a high-fiber diet saw no inflammatory protein decrease and the diversity of their gut microbes remained on average the same. Through a final step of analyzing blood and stool samples collected throughout the trial, the scientists confirmed that short term dietary changes involving a diet rich in fermented foods/drinks can rapidly increase microbial diversity, resulting in a series of health benefits that ultimately aid in protection against serious health issues and in general just keep you healthy and happy! 

So next time you’re at the grocery store, pick up that bottle of kombucha. It may look questionable, but tastes pretty good and has so many health benefits!

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.

Head Start is the way to “Start”


Eat healthily, sleep well, breathe deeply, move harmoniously,” said Jean-Pierre Barral*

The good health and well-being of Americans is something that matters to me.

Head Start is a United States Department of Health and Human Services program that helps low income families achieve the goal of living a healthy lifestyle. This program occurs during the transition from preschool to elementary school. Its mission is to foster stable family relationships, enhance children’s physical and emotional well-being, and establish an environment to develop strong cognitive skills.

According to an article by Kathryn Doyle, “Obese kids in Head Start get healthier during the year.” This conclusion was determined through a study by Reuters Health on pre-schoolers in Michigan. From the study, they concluded that the kids who were underweight or overweight at the start of the program were healthier than the other kids in their community when they all entered kindergarten.

In the article, Dr. Julie C. Lumeng of the Center for Human Growth and Development at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor states that she was “watching their weight get better.”  The researchers involved in the study used children’s height and weight data, which was provided by Michigan Head Start programs for 19,000 kids to calculate their BMIs. They compared these BMIs to what would be considered the average for other children of the same age in Michigan. It was found that within the first academic year, the overweight kids who started Head Start lost weight and the underweight kids gained weight.

Mary Cunningham Deluca, director of children services at Community Action Agency in Jackson, Michigan, believes nutrition is the most important part and I could not agree more. I chose this article because I like to be extremely health conscious. I try to fuel my body with the best food for me and maintain an active lifestyle. Personally, I have found that  living a healthy lifestyle builds confidence, opens your mind, and teaches you to break through boundaries and overcome obstacles you never thought possible. It opens up opportunities and that is exactly what we need to do for children; It’s time to give them a “head start!”


*”Jean-Pierre Barral is an Osteopath and Registered Physical Therapist, who serves as Director and Faculty of the Department of Osteopathic Manipulation at the University of Paris School of Medicine in Paris, France. He earned his diploma in Osteopathic Medicine in 1974 from the European School of Osteopathy in Maidstone, England, and went on to teach spinal biomechanics at the institution from 1975-1982.”


Dieting: Weight Loss Tool or Social Trend?

In today’s society, it is easy for us to assume that “going on a diet” is the cure for weight gain and can make you look and feel better. However, this is not necessarily the case.

Researchers have begun to counteract the common conception of diets, and how these beliefs are most likely misconceptions. Dr. David Katz, director of Yale Griffin Preventative Research Center is certain of the failure of diets, stating “Frankly, everyone falls off the wagon at 12 months, to say nothing of 24 months, and are gaining the weight back.”

In order to further evaluate this generalization, Dr. Mark Eisenberg of Jewish General Hospital/McGill University in Montreal, Canada conducted a study with his colleagues. He did this by studying the results of the four most advertised and popular diets, Atkins, South Beach, Weight Watchers, and the Zone.

Image by Pixabay

Image by Pixabay

This study involved the interpretation of data collected from populations that successfully initiated the diet. Those on the Weight Watchers diet lost an average of 6.6 pounds, those on the Atkins diet lost an average of 4.6 to 10.3 pounds, and those on the Zone diet lost an average of 3.5 to 7 pounds. Similarly, people with nutritional guidance or counseling lost about 4.85 pounds. However, in all four situations, the population gained back much of the weight between one and 5 years after beginning the diet.

In addition, these types of ways of life didn’t necessarily improve ones health, showing constant rates of cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels across the board. Inventors of diets such as the Zone and Weight Watchers defend their products as a “way of life” that people must stick with. However, additional opinions, including that of Linda Van Horn, an American Heart Association spokesperson, believe in the power of advertisements and social popularity that promotes the diets, not the promised results.

This article is interesting because is defies the commonly accepted myth of dieting, and how it can regress ones progress. Instead, it teaches us that moderation and healthy choices are key, rather than limiting oneself.




Additional Sources:

Eat Your Breakfast!!!

Credit: meglet127 Flickr

I was always told that Breakfast was the most important meal of the day, and I thought that was because breakfast gave me the brain food I needed to be able to function in school. While this is a big reason to eat breakfast, The New York Times has just posted an article describing another reason to eat breakfast. Lowering your risk for Type 2 Diabetes !

Diabetes is a disorder concerning metabolism. More specifically, Diabetes refers to a “malfunction” in the way that our cells react to insulin produced by the pancreas. Type 2 Diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, and occurs when the pancreas is either not producing enough insulin, or our cells aren’t reacting correctly to the insulin our pancreas is producing.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition conducted a study in which 29,000 men were followed for 16 years, with their eating habits being closely watched. Over the course of this study, about 2,000 of these men developed type 2 diabetes. The researchers concluded that those who skipped breakfast had a 21% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than the others.

There are two theories as to why this may be. First, some scientists believe that a morning meal helps stabilize blood sugar levels throughout the day. Another theory claims that by skipping breakfast, people partake in increased snacking throughout the day, and their intake of sugary snack food dramatically increases.

So think about it! How many of you have skipped breakfast, only to run to the college office scourging for any food you can find? Rather than eat tons of junk throughout the day to compensate for all the real meals you’ve been skipping, try starting your day just a little earlier to fit in a healthy breakfast. You’ll notice the benefits immediately!

For More information on Healthy Breakfasts, Check out this link:

Dieting: Where Did We Go Wrong?




Dieting is like Apple technology: the faster you discover the newest edition, it immediately becomes obsolete and a more efficient and useful model is hot on the market. However, unlike technology, an improper diet can cause long-term repercussions, such as disease and obesity. But, with so many different diets and foods available to us, how do we know which one to try?




In the September 2011 Special Nutrition Issue of Time Magazine, Dr. Oz cuts through all the food hype by comparing and contrasting food choices, diets and other crazy ways American people try to lose weight. Stating the classic phrase, “everything in moderation,”  Dr. Oz takes us through a journey beginning in a time before manufacturers learned that putting the words “fat free” on the side of a cookie box could make them into billionaires and where all natural was the way to go. Dr. Oz explains that whole milk, salt, fat, nuts, wine, chocolate and coffee are the way to go to lose weight and live longer. Right now, I bet you are all thinking the same thing I did when I began reading this article: we have been taught to shun foods that are high in fat, calories, sodium and cholesterol, so how can these foods possibly be good for you? Well, let’s break these delicious foods down while remembering that overindulging in them can be as problematic as you’ve always been led to believe!




Before reading further, just think to yourself, “Have I ever not ordered, made or ate something, no matter how healthy it is supposed to be, because it is known to contain a lot of fat?” Most likely, the answer is YES! I have too; it’s how our generation is being raised. We are scared of the lipid monster! However, fats are by no means universally bad. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (mono meaning one, poly meaning many, and unsaturated referring to the fact that the carbon backbone is double bonded, making it so less hydrogen molecules bond with the lipid) are actually recommended for good health. Dr. Oz gives specific examples, such as canola oil and olive oil, which have been found to lower LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) and raise HDL cholesterol (the good kind), thus reducing the risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease. The fats we should be watching out for are saturated fats (found in animal products) and trans fats (found in hydrogenated products such as peanut butter). Don’t let this scare you, for even this general grouping can be misleading due to recent findings that some saturated fats may actually be good for you and that dietary cholesterol may not affect blood cholesterol as much as past generations thought.


Now, about the egg…


I have grown up eating strictly egg whites because high cholesterol runs in my family. Even when I was little and my parents would take us out to breakfast, egg whites were my go-to food. But, Dr. Oz, a practicing heart surgeon, explains that most physicians recommend one egg with the yolk per day as an “inexpensive source of high-quality protein” .  So, parents, as well as children, let’s try to stop criticizing and breaking apart the most wholesome animal product available to mankind and enjoy every last bit of it!

A healthy breakfast option!




Don’t dial that number quite yet! Salt is another example of a demonized compound. Repeating his opening statement about moderation, Dr. Oz does point out that too much sodium can increase blood pressure to dangerous levels, increase our appetite (causing us to gain weight), and overindulgence can cause us to lose five years of our lives. But, our hearts cannot, and will not, beat without it! Just remember that a little sodium goes a long way and everything will be a-okay!


A new and true fad that has come around recently is the allowance of red wine and chocolate in our diets. Why the sudden change in heart? Well, Dr. Oz says that both red wine and chocolate are sources of antioxidants, which reduce the impact of bad cholesterol, which in turn reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. But, it seems to be coffee in the lead for the number one antioxidant in the Western world and in some studies has been associated with lower incidences of dementia, Parkinson’s disease and Type 2 diabetes. So, that cup of coffee in the morning isn’t just waking you up, but also lowers your risk of disease.




Nowadays, there are programs that take large chunks or whole food groups out of our diets in order to lose weight (Atkins takes out all carbohydrates, the Grapefruit diet only allows grapefruit…). These fads do get dieters results, and fast ones too. But, Dr. Oz points out the ultimate issue: once you reach the weight or healthy place you want to maintain and stop whatever one-food-group diet you have been on, all the weight can and will come back. All those weeks of torturing yourself by not having a little bit of chocolate or a scoop of ice cream are worthless if the minute you decide to indulge all your hard work disappears. So, when dieting or when trying to create a healthier lifestyle, remember Dr. Oz’s motto: “The key in life is moderation.” With this advice, nothing can go wrong!

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