Review – 2/5/19

1. Gardening could be just as important in living longer as diet, exercise, and social connection. Researchers found that gardening is a common theme amongst centurions living in blue zones (areas of the world with the highest number of people over 100 years of age), and that those in their 60’s who garden regularly have a 32% lower risk of dementia. Scientists hypothesize that the longevity effects of gardening are due to a myriad of factors – ample exposure to green spaces and dirt, both proven to have healing effects on mental and physical health; a social connectedness to the broader community through farmers markets; and a healthier diet through the consumption of fruits, vegetables, and herbs produced in a local garden. BBC

→Takeaway: If you’re looking for a new hobby in 2019, gardening should be at the top of your list. Whether you have a green thumb or not, giving it a go and spending more time outdoors with your hands in the dirt is worth it – especially if you’re interested in living longer!

2. The gut microbiome in the first 2 years of life strongly correlates with body mass index (BMI) at age 12. A Norwegian study analyzed the gut microbiota at days 4, 10, 30, 120, 365, and 730 and the association with BMI at age 12 in 165 study participants. The researchers also looked at how BMI related to maternal weight/obesity and excessive gestational weight gain. The study results found that the microbiota composition at days 10 and 730 were significantly associated with childhood BMI, and gut bacteria at age 2 explained over 50% of the variations in BMI. mBio

→Takeaway: The health of the gut microbiome very early on (as little as 10 days old) has a significant impact on whether or not a child will become obese. This study is important for 2 reasons. One, it illustrates the vital need for microbial optimization in both mother (well before conception, since the mother’s microbiome is passed along to the child) and baby. And two, researchers who conducted the study hope these preliminary findings (and future ones) will help identify those children who are at risk for obesity and open the door for targeted, early prevention strategies.

3. Are cholesterol-lowering drugs necessary? Essential oils may be just as effective. A recent study fed rats a high fat diet for 6 weeks that resulted in high cholesterol. Over the subsequent 6 weeks the rats maintained their high fat diets but were given oral doses of ginger and rosemary oils, alone and in combination. Oil administration of ginger and rosemary together resulted in weight loss, lower triglyceride and glucose levels, and liver structure preservation. African Journal of Traditional Complimentary Alternative Medicine

→Takeaway: Statins (or cholesterol-lowering drugs) come with a long list of side effects including headaches, difficulty sleeping, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and much more. While human studies are needed to justify replacing cholesterol-lowering medications with essential oils, this study is a reminder of how powerful natural methods for healing the body can be – and minus the side effects!

There is a strong link between heart health and the gut microbiome. If you struggle with high cholesterol, at Gutbliss we first and foremost recommend transforming your diet to one that promotes the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Check out Dr. Chutkan’s book, The Microbiome Solution for your complete guide to microbe-friendly eating.

4. The tongue microbiome could help identify patients with early stage pancreatic cancerWhile previous research shows a strong connection between gut microbial alterations and pancreatic cancer, this study is the first to show changes in the tongue microbiome. 30 patients with early-stage pancreatic cancer and 25 healthy individuals participated in the study. Analysis of the tongue microbiome in all 55 subjects showed remarkably different bacteria between the two groups. Researchers identified 4 types of bacteria that distinguished those with pancreatic cancer from healthy individuals: low levels of Haemophilus and Porphyromonas and high levels of Leptrichia and Fusobacterium. Journal of Oral Microbiology

→Takeaway: Pancreatic cancer is highly aggressive with a 1-year survival rate of 20% and a 5-year survival rate of 7%. Researchers who conducted the study believe that if these findings are replicated in larger studies, it could result in a much-needed microbiome-based early diagnostic/prevention tool for pancreatic cancer.

5. A low sugar diet is an effective treatment in boys with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The study included 40 boys with NAFLD between the ages of 11 and 16. Half of the boys adopted a low sugar diet (added sugars making up less than 3% of total calorie intake) for 8 weeks, while the other half ate as usual. Liver fat was measured at baseline and after the 8-week intervention. Results showed that boys in the low sugar group had a 31% average reduction in liver fat as well as a significant reduction in liver inflammation measured in the blood, while the boys who remained on their usual diets showed no improvement. JAMA

→Takeaway: Over 5 million children have NAFLD, and while a healthy diet is recommended, few studies quantify the incredible positive impact a healthy diet can have on the disease. Researchers noted that one of the main ways they lowered sugar in the boys’ diets was to eliminate sweetened beverages such as sodas and juices.

Sugar is everywhere, and even those children who don’t suffer from NAFLD can benefit from a dietary analysis and a lowering of added sugars in the diet. If you’re a parent, I encourage you to keep a journal for just 1 day, add up all the added sugar your child consumes, and then work to reduce this number by introducing more whole food, plant-based options. Food is powerful medicine.

By: Leslie Ann Berg, MSPH