Thanks for visiting! My goal here is to discuss the latest scientific research to separate the good from all that "guff" in nutritional sciences and all aspects of human health. Because the more you Know, well...the more you Know!

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Calcium & Vitamin D Linked to Kidney Stones -- More Reason for Vitamin K?

While this new study didn't look at vitamin K status, I take it as another study that shows what a lack of vitamin K can do (the assumption here is that most people are deficient in vitamin K, which has been shown to be the case in other studies).

According to the findings, daily supplements of calcium (1000 mg/day) plus vitamin D (400 IU/day) for seven years increased the risk of urinary tract stones by 17%, compared with placebo.

However, as many of you reading this would know, one of my favourite vitamins currently is vitamin K. What's interesting is that we have numerous vitamin K-dependant proteins in the body. You may remember me discussing the whole "calcium causes heart attacks" thing (and another post on vitamin K being needed to activate osteocalcin to pull calcium into the bones, and activating MGP that keeps calcium out of soft tissues like the arteries).

Well, nephrocalcin is a vitamin K-dependant protein present in the kidneys and urinary tract, which (when activated by vitamin K) inhibits calcium oxalate crystal growth.

So as long as you're getting enough vitamin K (ideally K2), there's no need to panic about this new study on the negative effects of calcium.

If you're not taking a vitamin K supplement yet...what are you waiting for?

Hope my Canadian and American readers have a great Canada Day or Independance Day long weekend. Come back with a refreshed brain, 'cause I'll throw some more goodies at you next week.

Source: Urinary tract stone occurrence in the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) randomized clinical trial of calcium and vitamin D supplements

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Low-Calorie Diet REVERSES Type 2 Diabetes

This is really amazing news! This new study has single-handedly altered our understanding of type 2 diabetes, which has been thought to be a life-long, irreversible condition. The researchers of this study report that a diet providing only 600 Calories (kcal) daily for eight weeks reversed the condition in 100% of the eleven people selected to be a part of this clinical trial.

What's more is that seven of these subjects (64%) remained diabetes-free three months after the end of dietary intervention.

This is how it went down... under close supervision of a medical team, eleven people who had developed diabetes later in life were put on an extreme diet of just 600 Cal/day. This consisted of liquid diet drinks and non-starchy vegetables.

After just one week, the researchers saw that pre-breakfast (fasting) blood sugar levels had normalized, and scans of the pancreas revealed that fat content had dropped from an elevated level of 8%, to the healthy, normal level of 6%.

Perhaps as a consequence of the reduction in fat content, the pancreas was found to regain its normal ability to produce insulin. As a result, blood sugar levels after meals began to improve steadily.

The authors said, “We believe this shows that Type 2 diabetes is all about energy balance in the body...if you are eating more than you burn, then the excess is stored in the liver and pancreas as fat which can lead to Type 2 diabetes in some people.”

So this gives immeasurable hope to those with the condition. Of course, the results of this pilot study need to be replicated in a much larger clinical trial, but this is extremely promising.

The bottom-line message is... eat a healthy diet. And if you don't know what I mean by "healthy," consult your Naturopathic Doctor and Nutritionist.

Source: Reversal of type 2 diabetes: normalisation of beta cell function in association with decreased pancreas and liver triacylglycerol (link to full-text pdf)

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More Evidence for Lutein's Eye Protection Effects

Over the years, lutein has shown some excellent results in scientific studies on eye health, particularly in preventing age-related macular degeneration (AMD, the leading cause of blindness). This new study shows how lutein may protect the DNA of photoreceptive cells (cells that detect light) in the retina from the harmful effects of strong light.

Lutein, an antioxidant carotenoid, is a nutrient found in various foods including green leafy vegetables and egg yolks. Essentially, it acts as "internal sunglasses" that protect your eyes from light (especially blue light, which is more harmful to the eyes) and ultraviolet rays.

While this new study was conducted on mice, we would expect the same type of results in humans. Results indicated that lutein supplementation reduced a range of detrimental effects associated with light exposure, including visual impairment, and a thinning of the layer of photoreceptor cells.

The researchers also note that a marker of DNA damage was up-regulated in the control group, but this was suppressed in the lutein-fed mice.

Lutein is becoming an increasingly popular supplement as the general population ages. It also provides a number of other benefits, including:
  • helps eyes see fine details in low light conditions and distinguish between different object
  • increases the ability to tolerate and recover more quickly from glaring bright light, such as head-on car headlights at night (this is called photostress recovery)
  • improves quality of breastmilk (higher lutein content in breastmilk to benefit infants)
  • improves skin health (hydration, elasticity, reduction in oxidative damage, and increased skin lipids)
For humans, it looks like the minimum dose needed is about 10 mg daily, but more certainly would help.

Well, that's it for the week. Hope you all have an amazing weekend!

Source: Biological role of lutein in the light-induced retinal degeneration

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Probiotics Improve Nutrient Absorption from Food

What does this picture have to do with probiotics,
nutrients, or obesity? Absolutely nothing. But I
came across this and wanted to share it as an
example of the subliminal messages Disney has
been known to throw into their work.
Here's another study that links the bacteria in the gut to body composition and weight. I covered a similar study recently (click HERE to read that post), and this just adds to our understanding of this young field of study.

Studies in mice have indicated that gut microbes influence both sides of the energy-balance equation by contributing to nutrient absorption and regulating host genes that affect amount of fat a person carries. However, it remains uncertain as to what extent gut microbiota has as a regulator of nutrient absorption in humans. So this is what the researchers aimed to determine.

What they found was bacterial populations changed as a function of the calories consumed, and these changes occurred within a relatively short period of time. Changes were observed in two of the dominant bacteria families in the gut – Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes. Previous studies have revealed that weight loss is associated with an increase in Bacteroidetes and a decrease in Firmicutes.

The researchers conclude, "these results show that the nutrient load is a key variable that can influence the gut (and fecal) bacterial community structure over short time scales. Furthermore, the observed associations between gut microbes and nutrient absorption indicate a possible role of the human gut microbiota in the regulation of the nutrient harvest."

I hope I'm not the only one who thinks this stuff is fascinating...

Source: Energy-balance studies reveal associations between gut microbes, caloric load, and nutrient absorption in humans

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Olive Oil Reduces Risk of Stroke

Ok, so this week I'm in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley area in to deliver a series of talks. I've set up a couple posts to be published automatically while I'm away, starting with this one...so I'm going to keep this short and sweet...

This new study adds to the list of studies that have shown that olive oil offers multiple health benefits. Due to its high concentration of phenolic compounds, olive oil has been linked to protective effects against many cardiovascular risk factors including anti-diabetic, anti-atherosclerotic (anti-plaque) and anti-inflammatory properties.

In this study, what the researchers found was that those who consumed the highest amount of olive oil had a 41% reduced risk of stroke compared to those who didn't consume olive oil.

Source: Olive oil consumption, plasma oleic acid, and stroke incidence

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B Vitamins Reduce Homocysteine, Lipoprotein(a), and Heart Attack Risk

I got a refund on this burger since
they forgot the bottom half of
the bun. Did they really think
I just wanted the meat?
Homocysteine is an amino acid that is produced by the body, usually as a byproduct of consuming meat. Elevated levels in the blood may be associated with atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries) as well as an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, blood clot formation, and maybe even Alzheimer's disease.

Homocysteine is broken down into methionine and cysteine (other amino acids) with the help of folic acid, vitamin B12, and vitamin B6. Therefore, insufficient amounts of these vitamins can hamper the natural breakdown of homocysteine, causing it to accumulate in the blood.

However, it is noteworthy that so far there is no compelling data to support that lowering homocysteine in those with cardiovascular disease results in an improved outlook. I believe more research needs to be done to clarify the picture, and this new study adds a little more information to the knowledge base.

This study used the typical B vitamins (B6, B12, and folic acid) in a group of patients that had just experienced a heart attack. Two months of relatively high doses of B12 and folic acid, and moderate doses of B6, was found to be associated with significant reductions in serum total homocysteine and Lp(a) (a.k.a. lipoprotein (a), which is known as the "deadly" cholesterol).

The authors state, "These results indicated that total homocysteine and Lp(a) levels were possibly atherogenic risk factors independent of conventional risk factors. Since both total homocysteine and Lp(a) levels responded in a similar fashion, a common point of the metabolic and pathogenetic pathways of homocysteine and Lp(a) may be influenced by the vitamins supplementation."

However, treating the problem once you've got it is not the answer...and as I said, the data on this is sketchy at best. It's much better to prevent homocysteine levels from getting too high in the first place, so make sure you eat a healthy diet, and take at least a good quality multi-vitamin/mineral.

Source: Serum total homocysteine and lipoprotein (a) levels in acute myocardial infarction and their response to treatment with vitamins

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Magnesium Supplements for Menopausal Hot Flashes

Hot flashes (ok, a bit of a stretch with this
picture, but hey...it's cool isn't it?)
My favourite mineral is at it again...

For women with (or a history of) breast cancer, many traditional medicines (especially those botanicals with phyto-estrogenic properties) are not typically advised due to an increased theoretical risk of promoting tumour growth (specifically for estrogen receptor positive breast cancers). So this small study looks like it could provide some relief.

In this trial, magnesium supplements were studied to see if it could reduce menopausal hot flashes in breast cancer patients. The researchers report that magnesium oxide at 400 mg per day for 4 weeks decreased the frequency of hot flashes by 41.4% and reduced intensity by 50%.

That's pretty good, but since there was no placebo group to compare to, I wonder how much of the therapeutic effect was the mind creating reality. (But really, who cares? Placebo is one of the most powerful, yet under-rated medicines readily available to everyone. Having said that, I'd still like to see a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial sooner than later.)

Source: A pilot phase II trial of magnesium supplements to reduce menopausal hot flashes in breast cancer patients

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Antibiotics May Increase Risk for Childhood Asthma

Yes, it's been a slow week for finding new research to talk about... but finally, I've got something worth discussing. This study (a systemicatic review) was published a few weeks ago in the journal Pediatrics and looked at whether antibiotic exposure prenatally or in early childhood may would increase the risk for asthma later in childhood.

Since the beneficial bacteria that colonize the intestines have a major role in the developing immune system of infants and children, and considering that asthma (and eczema, which is related to asthma) are considered immune-related conditions, it would make sense that destroying the good guys in the gut would predispose children to a host of immune-related health conditions later in life.

Well, this is exactly what the results of this study showed. Antibiotic exposure in the first year of life increased the risk of asthma for 3 to 18-year olds by up to 52%.

What I would suggest for any kid exposed to antibiotics -- at any point in their lives -- is to take probiotics during and after the treatment. This will help counter the negative effects of antibiotics, which is necessary at times, but definitely WAY over-prescribed.

Source: Prenatal or Early-Life Exposure to Antibiotics and Risk of Childhood Asthma: A Systematic Review

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Chocolate may Improve Cholesterol Levels (& Organic Spies)

A friend sent me the link to the video below, and I thought I'd share it with my readers. It's an eye-opening 12-minute documentary into how and why genetically-modified/engineered foods don't need to be labelled as such in the US.

I recently read a news headline that went something like "The Case for Genetically-Modified Organic Foods" ...huh?! That was such an oxymoron (emphasis on "moron") that I didn't even read it.

It's really interesting how these huge biotechnology corporations spin things in the name of profit and attempt the sway the opinion of those who may not be entirely educated on the issue (such as research suggesting organic foods don't provide any more nutrition than conventional foods... that's never been the issue -- it's about sustainable agriculture, environmental responsibility, and reducing our exposure to toxins).

Well, thank goodness cocoa isn't genetically-modified. I previously reported that dark chocolate or its polyphenols were able to lower blood pressure, and now here is another study to suggest it can lower LDL and raise HDL cholesterol.

Epidemiological studies suggest that regular consumption of cocoa-containing products may confer cardiovascular protection, reducing the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). However, clinical intervention studies would help solidify cocoa as a healthfood. Therefore, the aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of chronic cocoa consumption on lipid profile, oxidized LDL particles and plasma antioxidant vitamin concentrations in high-risk patients.

While this study only contained 42 subjects, 4 weeks of cocoa administration (40 g daily with 2 cups of skimmed milk), lowered oxidized LDL by 14% and raised HDL by 5%.

So make friends with chocolate...just make sure it's the good, dark stuff, not the "candy bars" that have very little real cocoa.

Source: Regular consumption of cocoa powder with milk increases HDL cholesterol and reduces oxidized LDL levels in subjects at high-risk of cardiovascular disease

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Study Links Severe Magnesium Deficiency to Metabolic Syndrome

I've always wanted to be a commercial critic... there are some really, really stupid commercials that reach the "tube" ...ones that never should have seen the light of day. So I thought maybe I'll take this blog platform as an opportunity to showcase some of the ones I like, and ridicule some of the ones that are just plain dumb. Of course, since I rarely watch any TV, these commercial critiques may be a rare occurrence. However, let's start with the following, which is one I just saw a the other day... this one I liked. I thought it was quite creative and fun to watch. Enjoy.

Now back to business...at the start of March, I covered a study on magnesium and it's benefit to metabolic syndrome...now, here is another one.

This cross-sectional study was conducted on 98 subjects who were newly diagnosed with metabolic syndrome. It was found that severely low blood levels of magnesium (called hypomagnesemia) was associated with elevated concentrations of C-reactive protein (CRP) and TNF-alpha (both markers of inflammation, which aggravates many symptoms), while not-so-severe hypomagnesemia did not have these associations.

The authors conclude, "...in subjects with metabolic syndrome, severe hypomagnesemia, but not [typical] hypomagnesemia, is associated with elevated concentrations of CRP and TNF-alpha."

According to other studies, it shows that most people don't get enough magnesium. Considering that magnesium and calcium complete for absorption, and because of the heavy focus on calcium for osteoporosis prevention, subclinical magnesium deficiency is actually quite common. Magnesium is a mineral I highly recommend for most.

Source: Severe hypomagnesemia and low-grade inflammation in metabolic syndrome

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Food Sources Insufficient for Meeting Canadians' Vitamin D Requirements

Here's another vitamin D study. A new Canadian study has shown that vitamin D-fortified foods are not enough to ensure adequate intake of this essential nutrient, and 25% of Canadians are not meeting the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA).

Researchers from the University of Saskatchewan, Statistics Canada, and the Public Health Agency of Canada published the findings in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Here is a summary:
  • 25% (of the 5,306 participants) had blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (a measure of vitamin D status) below the RDA of 50 nmol/L
  • Currently, in Canada, only milk and margarine have mandatory fortification with vitamin D
  • The researchers say “that current food choices alone are insufficient to maintain [vitamin D] concentrations of 50 nmol/L in many Canadians, especially in winter”
  • While 75% of the participants achieved the RDA, keep in mind that the RDA is just the minimum thought to be needed to prevent a deficiency syndrome -- like rickets or osteomalacia. It's far from the optimal dose that would provide benefits over and above the gut's requirement to absorb calcium...benefits like preventing common cancers, autoimmune diseases, infectious diseases and cardiovascular diseases.
  • 5% of the people studied were outright deficient in vitamin D (defined as blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D of less than 30 nmol/L).
  • Supplement users had significantly higher blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in the blood, and there were no seasonal differences (i.e. their levels of vitamin D did not drop in the winter months).
  • In non-supplement users, the prevalence of 25(OH)D concentrations <50 nmol/L in winter was 37.2% overall and 60.7% in non-whites.
Last year, there was a study published that indicated that inadequate levels of vitamin D may be causing about 37,000 premature deaths in Canada and costing the country $14.4 billion dollars annually.

This is serious stuff! We Canadians complain about the lack of healthcare resources and funding, yet healthcare is the largest expenditure by the Canadian government. Funding, resources, and a lack of doctors are not the problem...maybe if we could move towards being a healthier population in general, the strain on the healthcare system would diminish -- maybe to the point where we can start diverting some money to other social programs...or maybe even less tax. You may say I'm a dreamer...but I'm not the only one...

Source: The vitamin D status of Canadians relative to the 2011 Dietary Reference Intakes: an examination in children and adults with and without supplement use (full-text article available as a pdf through this link)

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