1. Patterned hair loss could be due to gut bacteria imbalance. Antibiotic-induced dysbiosis, characterized by an overgrowth of Lactobacillus murinus (a gut bacteria strain that depletes biotin – vitamin B7, a nutrient associated with hair growth), in mice fed a biotin deficient diet altered gut metabolic function and resulted in alopecia (or hair loss). When consuming a biotin supplement, alopecia symptoms were reversed. Cell Reports
→Takeaway: This study tells us that there may be a microbial component to patterned hair loss. Yet re-establishing hair growth by restoring the microbiome can be extremely difficult for some. If you’re looking to increase the amount of bioavailable biotin in your diet focus on dietary sources first, such as nuts, sunflower seeds legumes, cauliflower, bananas, oats, and avocados. Looking for tips on how to balance your gut bacteria? Check out The Microbiome Solution for Dr. Chutkan’s Live Dirty, Eat Clean plan.
2. Unintended weight loss is the second highest predictor for ten types of cancer – prostate, colorectal, lung, gastro-esophageal, pancreatic, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, ovarian, myeloma, renal tract and biliary tree. Researchers analyzed 25 studies including data from over 11.5 million patients. In women over the age of 60, cancer was associated with 6.7% of cases of unintended weight loss, and in men over 60, the association was as high as 14.2%. British Journal of General Practice
→Takeaway: Researchers conclude that unintended weight loss is highly predictive of cancer. More research is needed to identify the most appropriate testing and follow-up necessary in older individuals experiencing unintended weight loss.
3. Common medications, when used for 1 year or more, increase the risk of dementia by 30% in a recent study looking at dementia onset in 350,000 older adults (aged 65 to 99). These medications include anticholinergic drugs – which block the effects of acetylcholine, a chemical used by nerve cells to send signals to other nerve cells and muscles – used for depression, Parkinson’s disease, and urinary incontinence. Anticholinergic drugs prescribed for asthma and gastrointestinal issues did not increase the dementia risk when compared to controls. BMJ
→Takeaway: Anticholinergic medications are prescribed to as many as 50% of older populations in the U.S. and U.K. In addition to the 2018 BMJ study described above, a 2017 study found that long-term use of anticholinergic drugs, including first-class antihistamines (Benadryl) and tricyclic antidepressants, is associated with a significant increased risk of dementia. These findings highlight the importance of embarking on a risk-benefit analysis before taking medication.
4. Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) increase the risk of pneumonia in older adults (60+ years). Researchers analyzed data from over 75,000 adults who used PPIs for 1 or more years. They then looked at the incidents of pneumonia in year 2 of treatment and compared these rates to a control group (age and sex-matched) not taking PPIs. The study found that for every 420 people treated with a proton pump inhibitor, there was 1 additional case of pneumonia. Journal of The American Geriatrics Society
→Takeaway: The detrimental effects PPIs have on the gut microbiome could be to blame for the increased risk of pneumonia. Approximately 40% of older adults are prescribed PPIs, yet a 2013 study found that roughly 85% of them might not need them. In Dr. Chutkan’s practice, The Digestive Center for Wellness, she is finding that proton pump inhibitors may have an even more negative impact on the gut microbiome and overall health than antibiotics. In addition, many patients taking PPIs turn out to have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), not acid reflux. For information on how to taper off your PPI, click here.
5. Relax! It may be just what the doctor ordered. While studies find that mind-body practices (yoga, meditation, etc.) that induce the relaxation response (RR) reduce blood pressure, the molecular pathways that lead to this association remain unknown. A recent study analyzed RR’s effects on gene pathways over an 8-week RR-based intervention in 58 patients diagnosed with hypertension. The intervention consisted of 20 minutes per day of diaphragmatic breathing, mantra repetition, and mindfulness meditation. Blood samples were taken for RNA analysis and results found that RR regulates 1771 genes in the following categories: immune regulatory pathways and metabolism, glucose metabolism, cardiovascular system development, and circadian rhythm. This is the first study to uncover the molecular mechanisms that support mind-body practices as an effective treatment for hypertension. The Journal of Alternative & Complimentary Medicine Society
→Takeaway: While the science behind integrative treatment methods (nutrition, meditation, exercise, etc.) is oftentimes lacking, this study illustrates the profound effects a simple mind-body exercise (just 20 minutes a day!) can have on the body. As life gets hectic, remember that small lifestyle changes can yield life-changing results!
By: Leslie Ann Berg, MSPH