FOOD, FACTS and FADS

Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health


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Are Probiotics Ready for Prime Time?

 

A Bacterial Superbug

The microbiome is all over the nutrition news with studies pouring in on how just about every aspect of our physiology or pathophysiology is dependent on some degree on the kinds of bacteria that make up our collective species found there. As with any supplement, there are pros and cons.

A lot of these studies are done with animals or small samples in human studies.Even though this research shows promise, there are always precautions when taking any supplement since they are not regulated by the FDA. The following article was updated in 2014 and after checking more recent research, I found the same problems exist – inconsistent results, small sample sizes, study flaws, etc. etc. common in nutrition research.

The most common species of bacteria used in probiotics (among a potential 3,000 or more) are species of Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium.  You’ll want a product that explicitly states a “sell-by” date. Once you have identified the right strain or strains (which at this point seems next to impossible), it’s important to find a product that is labeled correctly in terms of the number of bacteria in each dose. Tests from ConsumerLab.com found that some probiotic supplements did not contain the amount of organisms claimed on the label. The organisms must survive stomach acid and therefore should contain an enteric coating to enhance their survival.

The best advice is to talk to your  doctor before taking probiotics as well as any supplement. People who have an immune deficiency or cancer should not use probiotics without a doctor’s okay.

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Are Fish Oil Supplements Helpful?

 

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Since the 1980’s, the benefits of fish oil has been a hot nutrition topic. I was a graduate student at the time and my research involved the hypothesis that omega-3 fatty acids (as menhaden oil) would suppress breast cancer tumors when compared to omega-6 fatty acids (as corn oil) in rats. Previous research had suggested that there was enough evidence to warrant the study. Bottom Line: There were no significant differences in tumor formation even when rats were fed high or low menhaden or corn oil diets. This was a surprising finding at the time; therefore, the study was replicated the next year and results were the same. At the present time, further research has shown some promising results in breast cancer research, but some studies with omega-3 fats in humans have been inconclusive.

Since then fish oil (omega-3) fats have been extensively studied in a wide range of afflictions to see if any beneficial effects occurred. This interest was a boon for the supplement industry due to the sale of fish oil capsules that still continues to this day. How effective have fish oil supplements been in supporting some of the health claims that have been made?

First of all, it is important to know the article does not pertain to eating fatty fish high in omega-3 fats. The picture becomes very complicated when it come to fish oil capsules. The news is both good and bad; the research is both positive and negative. The best takeaway is to be careful of the quality of fish oil capsules you choose. The article suggests that fish oil be of pharmaceutical grade so read labels carefully. However, this term is not regulated or clearly defined so it may be meaningless according to ConsumerLab.com.  If you take fish oil capsules, this article is a must read. Then talk it over with your doctor as to whether fish oil supplementation is for you.

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Is Soy Safe? Or Not?

Soy foods have been the subject of such controversey in the past decades, it is almost impossible to sort out the sense from the nonsense. The latest article I could find explains the confusion. The article is a long read, but well worth it if you are a tofu, soy, edamame lover  or eat any type of vegan diet and rely on soy foods for your protein source.

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Change Your Microbiome?

Spherical bacteria

Recent attention to the microbiome has supported the premise that we depend on a vast army of microbes to  protect us against germs, help us digest and assimilate food,  release energy, and produce vitamins. Can we change it to further give us additional health benefits?

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Turmeric: The Facts

Turmeric originated in India or nearby Southeast Asia For 400,000 years it has had a wide range of medicinal, religious and culinary applications especially in South Asian cultures. Medically it has been used as an antiseptic or antibacterial agent. Turmeric contains iron, vitamin B6, fiber (1.4 g), and potassium. It also contains the polyphenol, curcumin.

The claims may be exaggerated  but what actually are the health benefits of this often talked about spice?

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Does Exercise Increase Weight Loss?

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This study tells us that there is a limit on the amount of exercise that will increase energy expenditure. However, it offers some good information on what else exercise can do for us physiologically.  Therefore, eat less and move more may not be the whole solution for  weight loss, but it is still good advice for a healthy lifestyle.

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