Review – 5/28/18

1. Weight gain and metabolic dysfunction in adulthood could be linked to maternal omega-3 fatty acid intake during gestation and lactation. A recent mouse study found that maternal PUFA (polyunsaturated fatty acid) production during pregnancy and nursing significantly reduced weight gain and markers for metabolic dysfunction in male offspring fed a high fat diet. The study states that the fatty acid profile in maternal tissue has a profound influence on offspring gut microbiome composition and function, which is long lasting through adulthood. Interestingly, no correlation was found between maternal PUFA profiles and female offspring weight gain. The study also found that maternal fatty acid status influenced offspring metabolism and microbial composition more profoundly during lactation than in utero. Microbiome Journal

→Takeaway: For those who are nursing, pregnant or wanting to get pregnant, omega-3 fatty acid intake is important. To be sure you’re consuming enough omega-3’s in your diet, focus on a plant-based diet rich in variety. Plant foods highest in omega-3 fatty acids include walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseed, hemp seed, beans, legumes, and leafy greens.

2. Oral antibiotics may raise the risk of kidney stones, and for children the risk is significantly higher. A recent study tracked antibiotic exposure 3 to 12 months before diagnosis in about 26,000 people with kidney stones. Results showed that oral exposure to any of the 5 classes of antibiotics significantly raised the risk of kidney stones. While the mechanism behind the association is unknown, researchers hypothesize that the effects of antibiotics on the gut and/or urinary microbiome is to blame. Journal of the American Society of Nephrology

→Takeaway: This association reiterates the risk-benefit analysis that must take place when deciding to take an antibiotic. For a list of questions to ask your doctor when being prescribed an antibiotic, as well as what to do if you are taking an antibiotic, read The Microbiome Solution.

3. A ketogenic diet (KD) improves neurovascular pathways that play key roles in brain function and beneficially alters the gut microbiome.  The study included a 16-week ketogenic diet and was conducted in young, healthy mice aged 12 to 14 weeks. In addition to improved neurovascular function, a KD reduced blood glucose levels and body weight and showed markers of microbial alterations. Researchers conclude that when started early, a ketogenic diet may enhance brain vascular function, increase beneficial gut bacteria, improve metabolic function, and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Scientific Reports

→Takeaway: Should we begin our children (or ourselves) on a ketogenic diet as a preventative measure for disease? Probably not! While ketogenic studies have uncovered some impressive findings – such as rapid weight loss, improved cardiovascular health markers, and efficacy for some diseases like epilepsy and MS – a long-term ketogenic diet can be problematic, if not detrimental. Adherence to the diet is extremely challenging and can encourage yo-yo dieting. In addition, the diet itself has been associated with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and elevated markers for accelerated aging due to its focus on high protein and fat intake. To reap some of the benefits of a ketogenic diet, we recommend fasting at least 12 hour between dinner and breakfast and in between meals, or consider adopting a fasting mimicking diet.

4. Gut bacteria play a leading role in how well cancer drugs work. Certain gut bacteria (Bifidobacterium specifically) boost people’s response to cancer treatment while others can make immunotherapy ineffective. In addition, previous studies show that those with antibiotic exposure are more likely to have a poor response rate to immunotherapy. Researchers are now testing how to manipulate gut bacteria in immunotherapy “non-responders”- using methods such as fecal microbiota transplantation, robust oral probiotics, and other medications based on the interplay between gut bacteria and the immune system. While manipulating the intestinal microbiome to treat cancer is an exciting proposition, some scientists are wary. Altering the gut microbiome can lead to harmful side effects, including other health problems. Some scientists also feel that it’s too early – we just don’t know enough about the microbiome: “A lot of findings [in microbiome research] have proven to either not stand up or be considerably more complicated than they first appeared.” Nature

→Takeaway: The gut microbiome is an important player in both preventing cancer and improving the success rate of cancer treatment. The more balanced your gut microbiome, the better your chances! .

By: Leslie Ann Berg, MSPH