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Sugar silences a protein necessary for the colonization of beneficial gut bacteria. In a mouse model, Yale researchers found that fructose and glucose (sugars extremely abundant in the Western diet) block Roc, a protein essential for the colonization of Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, a beneficial gut bacteria strain associated with processing fiber rich foods like vegetables. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences →Takeaway: Until recently, scientists believed that sugar was absorbed in the small intestines, never reaching the colon. This study and others confirm that dietary sugars can travel through the small intestines and reach the rest of the gut where they act not as nutrients, but as signaling molecules that can detrimentally impact the microbiome and human health. One more reason to avoid added sugar!

According to the CDC, sleep deprivation is a public health crisis. Studies show that just by going to bed earlier, you can improve your memory, cognitive performance, ability to learn new things and handle problems, mood, ability to lose weight, metabolic function, immunity, and heart disease risk. New York Times →Takeaway: Sleep is literally your magic pill to better health. We are constantly trying to improve areas of our health by eating better, exercising, and managing stress, but seldom do we consider sleep (or lack thereof!). If you want to successfully implement your 2019 New Year’s resolutions, getting more sleep is the best place to start. As Tim Herrera writes, “sleep deprivation is the invisible ceiling to how good life can be”!

A lung disease-causing bacteria, mycobacteria, is prevalent in showerheads. The University of Colorado at Boulder study tested DNA from 656 American and European households. Results found that mycobacteria are more prevalent in households with municipal tap water as opposed to well water. Mycobacteria abundance was also found to be more prevalent in American showerheads, which researchers hypothesize could be due to the fact that mycobacteria is partially resistant to chlorine-based disinfectants used in the U.S. The study mapped out where mycobacteria was most prevalent and found that these locations are also where non-tuberculous mycobacterial lung disease is prevalent (parts of Southern California, Florida, and New York).  Researchers conclude that showerheads may play a role in disease causality. mBio →Takeaway: Scientists will use this information to further investigate and alter our water systems, from disinfectant to plumbing, especially in high mycobacteria areas, in hopes to lessen pathogenic bacteria health risks. While the researchers who conducted the study want to emphasize, “there is definitely no reason…

Could probiotics be a lot of wishful thinking? Extensive reviews of the existing probiotic literature show that probiotics are really effective for just three conditions – infectious diarrhea, post-antibiotic diarrhea in children, and a rare gastrointestinal disease called necrotizing enterocolitis. In addition, studies show probiotics may be ineffective in altering gut bacteria composition or diversity long-term. Nutrition →Takeaway: Does this mean probiotic supplements are completely useless? Not necessarily. What it does mean is that a lot more research and regulation is needed. Your basic probiotic from the drug store is unregulated and oftentimes doesn’t contain what it says it does. In addition, more research is needed to identify specific strains and doses per condition. This will take some time. Lastly, lots of studies don’t take into account what the study subjects are eating. While taking a probiotic supplement, it’s paramount that you also eat foods high in indigestible plant fiber to feed the…

A significant difference exists between the fecal microbiota of hospital-born infants versus home-born infants, and the differences persist well into the first month of life. The study included 35 vaginally born, breast-fed neonates, 14 who were delivered at home and 21 who were delivered in the hospital. Eight maternal and infant feces samples were collected, as well as maternal vaginal swabs, throughout the study over a 28-day period. Hospital-born infants had lower more desirable Lactobacillus, Bacteroides, Bifidobacterium, Streptococcus, and Lactobacillus, and higher less desirable Clostridium and Enterobacteriaceae, than home-born babies. At 1-month of age, hospital-born infants possessed greater pro-inflammatory gene expression in colonic epithelial cells. Scientific Reports →Takeaway: Researchers conclude that hospitalization during birth, whether because of perinatal interventions or the hospital environment, may affect the vaginal microbiome and the initial microbiota colonization of the newborn during labor and delivery. If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, consider making arrangements to deliver in a birthing center or…

Low fiber diets lead to gut bacteria extinction and have lasting effects on gut microbes in current and future generations. Mice studies show that when switching to a low-fiber diet for just 7 weeks, 60% of gut bacteria species dwindle dramatically and remain low even after reintroducing a high-fiber diet. In addition, as generation after generation eats low-fiber diets, the gut bacteria in each subsequent offspring dwindle more and more, leading to species extinction. In fact, when fourth generation low-fiber mice were fed a high-fiber diet, most of the missing microbes did not return. The Atlantic →Takeaway: “If you pass small stools, you have big hospitals,” Denis Burkitt, an Irish missionary-surgeon during WWII, said as he described the differences between Uganda and America. Small stools are indicative of low fiber diets, and as Burkitt pointed out, increased disease. If you do just one thing for your health, do this: Eat. More. Fiber! Women…

What you eat alters your genes and those of your children. A new study reviews maternal diets during pregnancy and how maternal nutrient status and intake can cause epigenetic (environmental effects on gene expression) changes that increase obesity risk and other disease risk in offspring. Frontiers in Genetics →Takeaway: Nutrition is THE most important environmental factor that can influence early fetal development. Through its ability to alter fetal epigenetic profiles, nutrition has “a profound impact on individual susceptibility to certain diseases or disorders in the offspring later in life.” The number one gift you can give your child in the womb is good nutrition. While healthy eating during pregnancy can be challenging, focusing on what you can ADD into your diet, as opposed to what you should CUT OUT, is helpful. Introduce lots of leafy greens daily as well as other fresh raw and cooked vegetables to crowd out undesirable foods. Interestingly, a…

Could your gut bacteria make you smarter (or not so smart)? Recent studies show overwhelming evidence that the microbial communities living within our gut play a central role in brain function and development, behavior, and even cognition, including learning and memory. A recent paper outlines how advances in microbial research can be utilized to understand individual variations in cognition. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences →Takeaway: Cognition begins in the gut! If you are looking to have an intellectual edge and optimize your brainpower, grow a good gut garden. If you feel like your memory, learning, and overall cognitive sharpness is becoming foggy or dull, rewilding could be your answer. Where can you start? Dr. Chutkan recommends consuming lots of leafy greens and indigestible plant fiber daily. Try a daily green smoothie to fertilize your gut garden and “wake up” your brain!

Early life antibiotic exposure shows no association with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). A recent study including all live births in Manitoba, Canada between 1998 and 2016 looked at antibiotic exposure (defined as having filled one or more antibiotic prescriptions in the first year of life) and ASD diagnosis. The study found that antibiotic exposure (both number of treatment courses and cumulative duration of antibiotic exposure) was not associated with ASD, and researchers concluded that the lack of a significant association between antibiotics and ASD “should provide reassurance to concerned prescribers and parents”. International Journal of Epidemiology →Takeaway: While this study aims to answer the question, is exposure to antibiotics in the first year of life a risk factor for developing ASD, it fails to take into account some important factors. First, while the researchers looked at the number of antibiotic prescriptions filled in the first year of life, we all know that a…

Non-nutritive sweeteners, or artificial sweeteners including Stevia, have bacteriostatic effects that prevent gut bacteria from reproducing and increase Firmucutes in mice. PLOS →Takeaway: Eliminating non-nutritive sweeteners from the diet is an important step in improving microbial health. Even Stevia can be problematic, although derived from a natural source. If you feel the need to sweeten a beverage or food, use Manuka honey as your gold standard. With probiotic properties, Manuka honey is not only incredibly tasty, it may even be beneficial for the gut. Keep in mind that Manuka honey is high in sugar and should be consumed sparingly. Limit your daily intake to 1 serving and enjoy the benefits of a probiotic-rich sweetener!