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Leslie Ann Berg, MSPH

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As we’re hunkered down at home, some of us have seen an influx of processed foods creeping into our kitchens… and mouths! Well, here’s some incentive to get the COVID junk out of the house once and for all. Researchers at the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain found that ultra-processed foods (think pastries, processed meats, and ice cream) accelerate the aging process. The scientists involved in the study conducted a cross-sectional study in 866 individuals, aged 57 to 91 years, and looked at the relationship between diet and telomere length, a marker for aging. Telomeres are short nucleotide sequences found on the end of chromosomes that protect genetic information. They shorten with each cell division, which creates the process of aging. So shorter telomere length means increased aging, and this shortening (aka aging) can be accelerated with environmental factors, including the daily consumption of ultra-processed foods. Processed food intake…

Could quarantining put you at a higher risk for disease? Studies and data analysis show that the best way to protect yourself and others from coronavirus is isolation. But could the practices of self-isolation, quarantining, and extreme social distancing put you at a higher risk for health conditions over the long term? The surprising answer is it may. Not only has the pandemic increased our over-sanitization, the very thing that, over the last century, has so dramatically (and negatively) affected the beneficial microbes that are essential to our health, but it has also brought on a complete change of lifestyle for most of us – less exercise, more unhealthy foods, added stress and the anxiety of juggling dwindling finances, job loss, homeschooling, and a lack of childcare, as well as inadequate sleep quality and quantity. All of these factors create a perfect storm for weight gain, increased disease risk, and…

Raw milk, by definition, is milk from grass-fed cows that is both unpasteurized and un-homogenized (the pasteurization process is a high heat treatment that kills any bacteria and potential pathogens in the milk, while the homogenization process is a mechanical process that distributes the fat particles evenly throughout the milk so that it’s blended uniformly). And because it doesn’t go through these nutrient-degrading processes before human consumption, it’s marketed as containing all of the “healthy” stuff that are destroyed in conventional milks during the pasteurization and homogenization processes, such as natural enzymes, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and beneficial bacteria for the gut. Yet, a recent study found that raw milk might not be the super food some health circles believe it is. The study, published this summer in Microbiome Journal, looked at 2,304 pasteurized and unpasteurized milk samples across 5 states. Results showed that raw milk contains little to no…

C-section births significantly increase the risk of adulthood obesity and type 2 diabetes in female offspring. Researchers conducted a prospective study analyzing data in 33,226 mothers born between 1946 and 1954. Out of those analyzed, 1,089 women were born via C-section. In the cohort 36.6% of children born were found to have obesity and 6.1% were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in adulthood. Results found that adult women had a 46% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and an 11% higher risk of developing obesity when compared to adult women born vaginally. Adjusting for breastfeeding did not change the correlation of risk for obesity or diabetes. JAMA Network Open Takeaway: Scientists who conducted the research conclude that if these findings are replicated in subsequent studies, they point to an incredible need to decrease C-section birth rates. In the United States, the average C-section rate is approximately 30% – a…

If you’re like many of us, grasping for ways to protect yourself and your family during this vulnerable time has become a daily commitment. In doing so, you may have stumbled upon recommendations to take a vitamin D supplement for COVID-19 prevention. Many information outlets are promoting vitamin D as a lifesaving supplement during this time, and we’d like to present you with the facts and take a deep dive into this issue. First, we know that vitamin D plays a key role in our immunity by boosting the function of immune cells, both T-cells and macrophages, and by regulating our immune response in preventing an excessive release of cytokines. In the case of COVID-19, too many cytokines, referred to as a “cytokine storm”, can lead to excessive inflammation in the lungs and sometimes death. Studies have shown that insufficient vitamin D levels are associated with an increased risk of…

Weight gain during the coronavirus pandemic has become a thing and is jokingly referred to as “the Covid 19” – a play on “the freshman 15”; the 15 pounds many college freshmen gain when left to their own devices for the first time. If you find yourself turning to food to de-stress and can’t seem to break the cycle of overeating, oversnacking, or eating unhealthy foods that are easy on the palate but hard on the gut and waistline, the answer may not lie in the food itself, but instead, in the lifestyle practices surrounding the food. Here are our top 5 tips to adhering to a healthy diet during quarantine, and while some of them may not seem food-related, if you follow these tips, you’ll find yourself making better choices in the kitchen that may even lead to a few pounds lost. Tip 1: Sleep – Sleep is strongly…

The pandemic has brought forth challenges for many people dealing with autoimmune diseases and other chronic illnesses. This is also true for those with celiac disease. Many patients are wondering if having celiac disease puts them at a greater risk of coronavirus infection and complications. According to the National Celiac Foundation, in general, those with celiac disease experience the same risk as the general population. But there are some exceptions: Individuals who experience celiac symptoms more often or who experience more severe symptoms are more likely at a higher risk for COVID-19.Those on immunosuppressive drugs such as steroids or biologics are also at a greater risk due to the immune suppressing nature of their medications. If this is you, check out Dr. Chutkan’s discussion with Our Health Talks as well as our webinar on medications during the pandemic, where different classes of medications are addressed, as well as important questions…