Oct 31, 2014

Eating organic apples is a healthy, natural way to stimulate weight loss

An apple a day... you know the rest. This old adage has seen its day but is now becoming appropriate again. Several studies are re-examining the health values of bioactive compounds in apples over time. Now, non-bioactive compounds are being discovered to help balance bowel microbiota as prebiotics.

A study performed by Washington State University's Department of Food Sciences observed that apples contain indigestable compounds that created fecal microbial balances in obese mice that duplicated the microbial balance of thinner, healthier mice.

All apples contain these indigestable compounds that pass through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract intact and are not metabolized by the body, allowing them to go into the bowels intact to finally become fermented and help create more probiotic bacteria in the colon. The association to obesity versus normality was obvious.

Several types of apples were used with the mice to determine if there were differences in the influences of indigestable compounds on their colon -- bowel microbial balance. The varieties of apples researched: Braeburn, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, McIntosh, Granny Smith and Red Delicious.

Granny Smith apples won this colon/fecal microbial balance contest. Though the obesity issue was addressed directly, related preventions against and potential solutions for diabetes and inflammation, the root cause of many autoimmune disorders, are what the researchers wish to "further study" for medical ramifications.

But since most of us already know apples may help reduce inflammation, we don't have to wait. There is only one caveat.

Apples must be organic

Non-organic apples are among the most heavily sprayed produce out there. They made it into the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen. If you know a local apple orchid owner who doesn't spray his trees or put herbicides into the soil but isn't "USDA certified" organic, you may get a better deal through the local source. But will that source provide Granny Smith apples?

You may have read or heard that organic apple orchids are sprayed with antibiotics to resist an airborne bacterium that causes "fire blight," which lives up to its name by spreading rapidly and leaving trees looking scorched within days, as though there had been a fire.

It's argued that antibiotic spraying occurs during apple blossom time, before apples appear. The amount of residue on apples, if any, is extremely negligible, according to the EPA. Oh well, take that with a grain of salt. So are trace amounts of fluoride in drinking water.

Since 2002, the USDA has allowed the use of tetracycline and streptomycin by organic growers to combat the bacteria that cause fire blight. Not all apple growers use antibiotics. According to The Cornucopia Institute, an organic consumer watchdog, 56 percent don't, mostly to enable exporting to areas that ban the use of antibiotics on produce.

Organic apple/pear growers spray less antibiotics than conventional growers. And some organic growers claim that they'll not bother with organic certification and resort to normal commercial standards if they're prohibited from using antibiotics to protect against fire blight.

Nevertheless, there are a few biological controls cited by the USDA to prevent fire blight. Some farmers claim that they do not work. Others say they do work but require diligence and are more costly. But apparently, Canadian and European apple orchids are managing without using antibiotics to prevent fire blight.

As a result of a huge petition initiated by the Organic Consumers Association and Cornucopia and sent to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) in early 2013, the NOSB didn't muster enough votes to get the 2/3 majority necessary to allow fire blight antibiotic use during 2013-14.

Oct 24, 2014

Researchers reveal hidden benefits of healthy eating, exercise during pregnancy

It might not be obvious on the scales, but healthy eating and increased physical activity from walking during pregnancy is directly associated with a range of improved outcomes at birth, according to researchers from the University of Adelaide.

Results of the world's biggest study of its kind – offering healthy eating and exercise advice to pregnant women who are overweight or obese.

"While it might have been expected that healthier eating and increased physical activity during pregnancy would be associated with differences in weight gain, our findings highlight that weight gain in pregnancy is not an ideal measure of pregnancy health," says study leader Professor Jodie Dodd, from the University of Adelaide's Robinson Research Institute and the Women's and Children's Hospital.

"Importantly, however, these changes in diet and physical activity were directly associated with significant improvements in outcomes for babies.

"Women who received dietary and lifestyle advice increased the number of servings they consumed per day of fruits and vegetables, while reducing the percentage of energy in their diet derived from saturated fats.

"Women were also successful in increasing their physical activity, with about 15-20 minutes of brisk walking on most days of the week," Professor Dodd says.

Study leaders have previously reported a significant reduction in the number of babies born over 4kg to women who received the diet and lifestyle advice during pregnancy. The researchers can now report a range of other benefits for these babies, including a reduced chance of moderate to severe respiratory distress syndrome and reduced length of stay in hospital.

"Approximately 50% of women are overweight or obese during pregnancy. Until this study was conducted, there had been little evidence about the overall benefits of dietary and lifestyle interventions on this group of women," says study co-author Dr Rosalie Grivell from the University's Robinson Research Institute.

"Our hope is that by following some simple, practical and achievable lifestyle advice, pregnant women can improve their health and the outcomes for their babies. We would, of course, recommend that these lifestyle changes be adopted as much as possible before women become pregnant," Dr Grivell says.

Oct 17, 2014

Hypertensive patients who have psoriasis may need stricter blood pressure control

People with hypertension who also have psoriasis may benefit from tighter blood pressure control, say researchers, particularly if their psoriasis is moderate or severe.

According to a new study psoriasis is independently associated with poorly controlled blood pressure and those with moderate to severe disease are at the greatest risk of uncontrolled hypertension.

Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin disease and cardiovascular risk factors are known to be more prevalent among people who have the condition. Although previous studies have suggested that psoriasis increases the risk of cardiovascular events, how it affects hypertension control remains unclear.

For the current study, Junk Takeshita (University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia) and colleagues examined the relationship between psoriasis and blood pressure control among 1,322 hypertensive patients who had psoriasis and 11,977 age-matched controls who had hypertension but no psoriasis. Data were drawn from The Health Improvement Network (THIN), an electronic database of medical records that is broadly representative of the UK’s general population.

Psoriasis severity was assessed according to the surface area of the body affected, with psoriasis classed as moderate or severe when it affected 3% or more of the body area. Uncontrolled blood pressure was defined as a systolic blood pressure of 140 mm Hg or higher or a diastolic blood pressure of 90 mm Hg or higher.

The researchers discovered a significant positive dose-dependent relationship between psoriasis severity and uncontrolled hypertension. Compared with hypertensive patients who did not have psoriasis, those with mild psoriasis were 3% less likely to have uncontrolled hypertension, while those with moderate or severe disease were 20% and 48% more likely (respectively) to have uncontrolled hypertension. These results were obtained after adjustment for age, gender, body mass index, comorbidity, smoking status, alcohol status and the use of blood pressure medications and anti-inflammatory drugs.

The team also found that the patients with psoriasis were no more likely to be receiving any antihypertensive medication than patients without the skin condition and that the likelihood of such treatment being received did not differ according to psoriasis severity.

Oct 10, 2014

An apple a day could keep obesity away

Nondigestible compounds in apples -- specifically, Granny Smith apples -- may help prevent disorders associated with obesity, scientists have concluded. "We know that, in general, apples are a good source of these nondigestible compounds but there are differences in varieties," said the study's lead researcher. "Results from this study will help consumers to discriminate between apple varieties that can aid in the fight against obesity."

"We know that, in general, apples are a good source of these nondigestible compounds but there are differences in varieties," said food scientist Giuliana Noratto, the study's lead researcher. "Results from this study will help consumers to discriminate between apple varieties that can aid in the fight against obesity."

The tart green Granny Smith apples benefit the growth of friendly bacteria in the colon due to their high content of non-digestible compounds, including dietary fiber and polyphenols, and low content of available carbohydrates. Despite being subjected to chewing, stomach acid and digestive enzymes, these compounds remain intact when they reach the colon. Once there, they are fermented by bacteria in the colon, which benefits the growth of friendly bacteria in the gut.

The study showed that Granny Smith apples surpass Braeburn, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, McIntosh and Red Delicious in the amount of nondigestible compounds they contain.

"The nondigestible compounds in the Granny Smith apples actually changed the proportions of fecal bacteria from obese mice to be similar to that of lean mice," Noratto said.

The discovery could help prevent some of the disorders associated with obesity such as low-grade, chronic inflammation that can lead to diabetes. The balance of bacterial communities in the colon of obese people is disturbed. This results in microbial byproducts that lead to inflammation and influence metabolic disorders associated with obesity, Noratto said.

"What determines the balance of bacteria in our colon is the food we consume," she said. Re-establishing a healthy balance of bacteria in the colon stabilizes metabolic processes that influence inflammation and the sensation of feeling satisfied, or satiety, she said.

Oct 3, 2014

Vitamin E, critical for brain health, is lacking in 90% of adults

The complexity of the human body is vast, consisting of trillions of cells working simultaneously to ensure that we take our next breath. While the processes are complex, the method by which they perform is quite simple. In order for our cells to do their job, they need vitamins. Researchers believe that the body requires at least 13 different vitamins to be healthy.

Maintaining the recommended daily intake of all 13 vitamins can be challenging, with some falling lower on the priority list than others. A recent study by the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University found that nearly everyone is suffering from vitamin E deficiency, with the exception of those who work diligently to meet the recommended daily intake levels.

At least 90 percent of men and 96 percent of women fail to consume their recommended daily amount of vitamin E, according to a broad survey. This deficiency is particularly harmful for children and women who are nursing, pregnant or may become pregnant.

Vitamin E crucial during early fetal development; beneficial for the mom too

Research suggests that vitamin E is incredibly crucial during the first 1,000 days of an infant's life, contributing to important neural growth during fetal development that cannot be replaced later in life.

A study which analyzed the effects of vitamin E on experimental animals during early development showed the nutrient's ability to protect the function of omega-3-fatty acids, which play an important role in brain development.

"It's important all of your life, but the most compelling evidence about vitamin E is about a 1000-day window that begins at conception," said Maret Traber, the study's author.

"Vitamin E is critical to neurologic and brain development that can only happen during that period. It's not something you can make up for later."

Researchers believe that vitamin E intake is especially important for young children up to two years old. Higher vitamin E levels and improved cognitive function share a correlation, according to Traber's study.

Children with inadequate vitamin E levels can experience neurological disorders, muscle deterioration, cardiomyopathy, stunted growth, infection and anemia, according to a review of multiple studies. Adequate vitamin E intake is equally important for mothers, with proper concentrations helping slow the progression of diseases such as Alzheimer's and dementia.

Scientists recommend adults eat 15 milligrams of vitamin E per day

Foods containing high levels of vitamin E aren't exactly at the top of our list of most beloved foods, although some are quite tasty. Sunflower seeds are both low in calories and high in vitamin E. You can also obtain the nutrient's antioxidant properties from pumpkin and sesame seeds by eating a little under one-third a cup a day to meet recommended daily levels.

Almonds are another great source of vitamin E, with just an ounce offering 7.5 milligrams. Swiss chard and mustard greens are great sources of vitamin E; consuming one cup of either gets you 14 to 17 percent of your daily recommended intake.

Also, turnip greens, kale, hazelnuts, pine nuts, avocado, broccoli, parsley, papaya and olives are excellent, healthy sources of vitamin E. For recommended individual serving amounts, click here.

You can obtain vitamin E through some plant oils such as sunflower oil when cooking. Wheat germ oil is believed to be the best source for vitamin E, with just one tablespoon offering 100 percent of the recommended level. Hempseed oil, coconut oil, olive oil and safflower oil are all vitamin-E-rich oils. Unrefined and organic oils are always the best.