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How to Make Sublime Superfood Smoothies

Smoothies provide a fast, easy, and delicious way to squeeze a bunch of nutrients into your diet. They are also a great way to get even the pickiest of eaters to consume “yucky” foods like kale and spinach.

4 Neat New Things You Need to Know About Gut Health

Over two thousand years ago, Hippocrates said “All disease begins in the gut.”

The father of modern medicine was way ahead of his time. While gut health is not linked to every disease (as far as we currently know), continuing research into the gut microbiota is revealing just how important the communities of bacteria that reside there are to our overall health.

Bacteria coexist with us – and some do things that help us (like make vitamins, break down waste, aid in digestion, and help plants absorb nitrogen from soil). Yes, there are bacteria that are dangerous (like the ones that cause tuberculosis, cholera, and Lyme disease), but most of the bacteria in your body is rendered harmless by your immune system.

You have trillions of cells in your body – and it is estimated that you have about the same amount of (some estimates say 10x more) microorganisms in your gut!

Research suggests that the relationship between gut flora and humans is a mutualistic, symbiotic relationship. This means that it is a mutually beneficial relationship – the microbes need us, and we need them.

Microbiome 101: Understanding Gut Microbiota explains just how important these microbes are:

The communities in our microbiome carry out a variety of functions which are vital to not only our health and well-being but our very survival.

Starting with our immune system, our microbiome establishes the parameters in which our bodies judge whether or not something is friend or foe. It maintains harmony, balance, and order amongst its own communities, ensuring that opportunistic pathogens are kept to a minimum, while also keeping the host system from attacking itself.

It is our first, second and third line of defense – starting with our skin, then our mucus membranes, and finally our gut, providing a living barrier that is able to be modified and transformed to suit individual needs and unique environments.

Our gut microbiota is fundamental to the breakdown and absorption of nutrients. Without it, the majority of our food intake would not only be indigestible, but we would not be capable of extracting the critical nutritional compounds needed to function. Our symbiotic cohorts not only provide this service, but also secrete beneficial chemicals as a natural part of their metabolic cycle.

As you can see, research into what the microbiota does for us, and how we can keep it healthy, is of utmost importance. There are so many studies being published on a regular basis that it’s hard to keep up.

Here are summaries of some recent research findings.

Common Antimicrobial Agent Rapidly Disrupts Gut Bacteria

This study’s findings suggest that triclosan, an antimicrobial and antifungal agent found in many consumer products ranging from hand soaps to toys and even toothpaste, can rapidly disrupt bacterial communities found in the gut.

The researchers found that triclosan exposure caused rapid changes in both the diversity and composition of the microbiome in the laboratory animals. It’s not yet clear what the implications may be for human health, but scientists believe that compromising of the bacteria in the intestinal tract may contribute to the development or severity of disease.

Christopher Gaulke, lead author on the study and a postdoctoral microbiology researcher in the OSU College of Science, explains:

Clearly there may be situations where antibacterial agents are needed.

However, scientists now have evidence that intestinal bacteria may have metabolic, cardiovascular, autoimmune and neurological impacts, and concerns about overuse of these agents are valid. Cumulative impacts are also possible. We need to do significantly more evaluation of their effects, some of which might be dramatic and long lasting.

Immune System Uses Gut Bacteria to Control Glucose Metabolism

Researchers at Oregon State University and other institutions have discovered an important link between the immune system, gut bacteria and glucose metabolism – a “cross-talk” and interaction that can lead to type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome when not functioning correctly.

The researchers say a better understanding of these systems may lead to new probiotic approaches to diabetes and other diseases. The findings also show the  general importance of proper bacterial functions in the gut and the role of one bacteria in particular – Akkermansia muciniphila – in helping to regulate glucose metabolism.

This bacteria’s function is so important, scientists say, that it has been conserved through millions of years of evolution to perform a similar function in both mice and humans.

There’s probably more than one bacteria involved in this process of communication and metabolic control, researchers said. The gut harbors literally thousands of microbes that appear to function almost as a metabolically active organ, emphasizing the critical importance of gut bacterial health.

Dr. Natalia Shulzhenko, an assistant professor in the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine and one of the corresponding authors on this study, said of the findings:

It’s being made clear by a number of studies that our immune system, in particular, is closely linked to other metabolic functions in ways we never realized. This is still unconventional thinking, and it’s being described as a new field called immunometabolism. Through the process of evolution, mammals, including humans, have developed functional systems that communicate with each other, and microbes are an essential part of that process.

High-Fiber Diet Keeps Gut Microbes From Eating the Colon’s Lining, Protects Against Infection, Animal Study Shows

When microbes inside the digestive system don’t get the natural fiber that they rely on for food, they will rely on the natural layer of mucus that lines the gut instead – eroding it to the point where dangerous invading bacteria can infect the colon wall. Yikes!

“The lesson we’re learning from studying the interaction of fiber, gut microbes and the intestinal barrier system is that if you don’t feed them, they can eat you,” Eric Martens, Ph.D, one of the study’s lead researchers, explained.

“To make it simple, the ‘holes’ created by our microbiota while eroding the mucus serve as wide open doors for pathogenic micro-organisms to invade,” said Mahesh Desai, Ph.D, who led the research with Martens.

Martens provided a bit of advice based on the findings:

While this work was in mice, the take-home message from this work for humans amplifies everything that doctors and nutritionists have been telling us for decades: Eat a lot of fiber from diverse natural sources. Your diet directly influences your microbiota, and from there it may influence the status of your gut’s mucus layer and tendency toward disease. But it’s an open question of whether we can cure our cultural lack of fiber with something more purified and easy to ingest than a lot of broccoli.

Gut Bacteria Affect Our Metabolism

Our gut microbiota has been linked to obesity in many studies. Mice that receive gut bacteria transplants from overweight humans are known to gain more weight than mice transplanted with gut bacteria from normal weight subjects, even when the mice are fed the same diet.

A new, larger study conducted by the National Food Institute confirmed those findings, and the researchers also investigated how the spread of bacteria between individual mice affects their digestion/metabolism.

Professor Tine Rask Licht explains:

The bacterial community in the intestine of mice with the smallest weight gain has been less capable of converting dietary fibre in the feed, which partly explains the difference in weight between the animals.

In addition, the study shows that the gut bacterial composition affects a number of other measurements, which have to do with the ability of the mice to convert carbohydrates and fats, and which affect the development of diseases such as type 2 diabetes (e.g. levels of insulin and tryglycerides). The researchers caution that it cannot be concluded that bacterial communities from the overweight children affects the mice in a specific direction in relation to the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Gut Microbes Contribute to Recurrent ‘Yo-Yo’ Obesity

Following a successful diet, many people regain the weight lost – an all-too-common phenomenon known as “recurrent” or “yo-yo” obesity. The vast majority of recurrently obese individuals not only rebound to their pre-dieting weight but also gain more weight with each dieting cycle. During each round of dieting-and-weight-regain, their proportion of body fat increases, and so does the risk of developing the manifestations of metabolic syndrome, including adult-onset diabetes, fatty liver, and other obesity-related diseases.

Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science found that the gut microbiome plays an important role in post-dieting weight gain, and that by altering the composition or function of the microbiome this common phenomenon may prevented or treated.

The study was performed by research teams headed by Dr. Eran Elinav of the Immunology Department and Prof. Eran Segal of the Computer Science and Applied Mathematics Department. The researchers found that after a cycle of gaining and losing weight, all the mice’s body systems fully reverted to normal – except the microbiome. For about six months after losing weight, post-obese mice retained an abnormal “obese” microbiome.

“We’ve shown in obese mice that following successful dieting and weight loss, the microbiome retains a ‘memory’ of previous obesity,” says Elinav. “This persistent microbiome accelerated the regaining of weight when the mice were put back on a high-calorie diet or ate regular food in excessive amounts.” Segal elaborates: “By conducting a detailed functional analysis of the microbiome, we’ve developed potential therapeutic approaches to alleviating its impact on weight regain.”

The findings of this study are fascinating and promising. I highly recommend reading the entire press release here.

Related Articles

What is Going on in Your Gut? Your Second Brain, Bacteria, and Your Health

Your Lifestyle Impacts Your Gut Bacteria – and Ultimately, Your Overall Health

Can Gluten Cause Depression?

Depression Cause May Be Physical, Not Mental

Additional Reading

Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ

Eat Dirt: Why Leaky Gut May Be the Root Cause of Your Health Problems and 5 Surprising Steps to Cure It

Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain–for Life

The Microbiome Solution: A Radical New Way to Heal Your Body from the Inside Out

Disclaimer

Nutritional Anarchy is owned and operated by Lisa Egan and may contain advertisements, sponsored content, paid insertions, affiliate links or other forms of monetization.

Nutritional Anarchy abides by word-of-mouth marketing standards. We believe in honesty of relationship, opinion, and identity. The compensation received may influence the advertising content, topics, or posts made in this blog. That content, advertising space, or post will be clearly identified as paid or sponsored content.

Nutritional Anarchy is never directly compensated to provide opinion on products, services, websites, and various other topics. The views and opinions expressed on this website are purely those of the authors. If we claim or appear to be experts on a certain topic or product or service area, we will only endorse products or services that we believe, based on our expertise, are worthy of such endorsement. Any product claim, statistic, quote, or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.

This site does not contain any content which might present a conflict of interest.

Nutritional Anarchy makes no representations, warranties, or assurances as to the accuracy, currency, or completeness of the content contain on this website or any sites linked to or from this site.

Nutritional Anarchy may offer health, fitness, nutritional, and other such information, but such information is designed for educational and informational purposes only. The information contained on the site does not and is not intended to convey medical advice and does not constitute the practice of medicine. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Nutritional Anarchy is not responsible for any actions or inaction on a user’s part based on the information that is presented on the site.

No, Gluten-Free Diets Do NOT Cause Diabetes: New “Study” Has Serious Flaws

Take a look at some headlines that have been flooding the internet for the last week or so:

Gluten-Free Diets May Be Tied to an Increased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Going Gluten Free May Raise Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Downside to Gluten-Free Diets: Diabetes Risk?

Type 2 Diabetes Linked to Low Gluten Diets

Gluten-Free Diets Could Lead to Deficiencies and Cause Illness

Low-Gluten Diet May Be Linked to Diabetes Risk

Gluten May Be Healthier For You Than You Think

Going Gluten-Free Might Actually Increase Your Risk of Diabetes

What were your first thoughts upon reading those headlines?

Did they make you think that avoiding gluten will increase your risk of developing one of the most dangerous chronic conditions that plagues humanity…and that maybe consuming gluten is actually GOOD for you?

Here’s the source of disinformation those articles used as a reference:

Low Gluten Diets May Be Associated With Higher Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

There are many problems with this claim…first, this isn’t a study that is published…anywhere.

The “study” itself is filled with flaws, but none of the mainstream media outlets seemed to notice. All of them stuck with the narrative that was given. None questioned the veracity of the claims made.

The study comes from Harvard researchers, which may sound impressive, but they don’t always get things right. I’m not saying they are always wrong, but…Harvard “scientists” are largely to blame for the decades-long fear of fat trend that led people to believe that dietary fat causes disease. They also downplayed the role sugar plays in the development of heart disease.

An excerpt from my article Big Sugar Paid Harvard Scientists to Tell Big Fat Lies About Heart Disease summarizes the scandal:

In the 1950s, studies showing a link between coronary heart disease (CHD) and sugar intake started to emerge.

When the sugar industry (which many not-so-affectionately call “Big Sugar”) got wind of this not-so-sweet news, they paid scientists to downplay the link and promote saturated fat as the culprit instead.

Big Sugar paid Harvard scientists the equivalent of about $50,000 in today’s dollars to influence the review, and subsequently spent $600, 000 ($5.3 million in 2016 dollars) to teach “people who had never had a course in biochemistry… that sugar is what keeps every human being alive and with energy to face our daily problems.”

The studies used in the two-part review – which was published in the respected New England Journal of Medicine in 1967 – were handpicked by the sugar group.

Now, let’s define what gluten IS:

Gluten is a complex two-part protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, barley, and spelt. The two different proteins that comprise gluten are called glutelin and gliadin. Breads, cereals, and baked goods are obvious sources of gluten (unless they are labeled gluten-free), but they aren’t the only foods that contain the protein – it can be found in many items, even those you wouldn’t expect.

It is also important to explain a condition related to gluten called Celiac disease, because it is relevant to this story:

People who have celiac disease, a chronic autoimmune/inflammatory disorder, must avoid the consumption of gluten. Celiac disease originates in the gut, but affects the entire body when untreated. In people with celiac disease, the villi of the small intestine are damaged when gluten is consumed. When a person with celiac disease continues to eat gluten, serious health problems can develop, including neurological conditions, osteoporosis, other autoimmune disorders – and depression.

Now, back to this new “study” – let’s take a look at the flaws, and oh boy, there are many.

From the press release:

The researchers estimated daily gluten intake for 199,794 participants in three long-term health studies — 69,276 from the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS), 88,610 from the Nurses’ Health Study II (NHSII) and 41,908 from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS) — from food-frequency questionnaires completed by participants every two to four years. The average daily gluten intake in grams was 5.8 g/d for NHS, 6.8 g/d for NHSII, and 7.1 g/d for HPFS, and major dietary sources were pastas, cereals, pizza, muffins, pretzels, and bread.

Over the course of the study, which included 4.24 million person-years of follow-up from 1984-1990 to 2010-2013, 15,947 cases of Type 2 diabetes were confirmed.

I hope you noticed a few red flags in that passage.

First, the researchers based their study on dietary recall questionnaires that were completed by participants. Those kinds of questionnaires are notoriously unreliable. The researchers “estimated” gluten intake based on those self-reported assessments.

This is casually mentioned in the press release:

Study participants reported their gluten consumption and the study was observational, therefore findings warrant confirmation by other investigations.

While their study size was massive -199,794 people is a lot – it still did not establish a cause-effect relationship.

At best, this kind of review can only suggest a potential association, but this particular study didn’t even achieve that (I’ll explain why later in the article).

In the Popular Science article Gluten-Free Diets Are Not Actually Linked to Diabetes, Sara Chodosh elaborates:

These large data sets are perfect for finding significant links between certain lifestyles and diseases. They’re not so great at finding causes—in that they cannot determine causality at all. For example, the data could tell you that there’s a statistically significant link between eating nuts and heart health, but it can’t tell you that eating nuts causes a healthier heart. It may be that people who eat nuts tend to exercise more, or that people who eat nuts also eat other foods that are good for the heart. Or maybe nuts really do directly improve your cardiac capabilities—we just can’t tell that from correlational data.

Let’s look at another passage from the press release:

In this long-term observational study, researchers found that most participants had gluten intake below 12 grams/day, and within this range, those who ate the most gluten had lower Type 2 diabetes risk during thirty years of follow-up. Study participants who ate less gluten also tended to eat less cereal fiber, a known protective factor for Type 2 diabetes development.

“Cereal fiber”? Why did they specify “cereal” fiber and not just…fiber?

It is an interesting choice of words, especially considering that the majority of the research supporting the benefits of dietary fiber come from epidemiological studies that link the consumption of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables with a lowered risk of certain diseases such as obesity, heart disease, and cancer (particularly colon cancer).

And, when tested in the lab, controlled intervention trials that simply add fiber supplements to an otherwise consistent diet have not shown these protective effects.

Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds are all excellent sources of fiber, in varying degrees. In addition, they all naturally contain far more nutrients than cereal or other grain-based foods (especially the processed ones).

So, one can’t help but wonder why these “researchers” failed to point that out.

Also, why did Geng Zong, Ph.D, one of the researchers, say this?

“Gluten-free foods often have less dietary fiber and other micronutrients, making them less nutritious and they also tend to cost more. People without Celiac disease may reconsider limiting their gluten intake for chronic disease prevention, especially for diabetes.”

What does he mean by “gluten-free foods”? That is not specified in the press release.

I can’t help but wonder if this is intentionally misleading. Why not say something like, “People without Celiac disease (or heck, everyone) may consider consuming more fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds to increase their intake of dietary fiber and other micronutrients, and to prevent chronic disease and diabetes”?

This is strange, too: If the researchers truly believe that people who don’t consume enough “cereal fiber” might be at higher risk of developing diabetes, then why not recommend gluten-free grains that are high in fiber, like quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, sorghum, gluten-free oats, and teff? Why did they specifically refer to “gluten intake?” Gluten itself is NOT a form of fiber – it is a protein.

Hmm. I wonder if the push to consume GLUTEN has anything to do with the fact that for Big Pharma and others who profit from unhealthy humans, type 2 diabetes is a goldmine.

Ironically, in 2016, Harvard shared a press release with the following headline:

Cost of Diabetes Hits 825 Billion Dollars a Year

Type 2 diabetes is largely caused by lifestyle factors – and is therefore avoidable, controllable, and even reversible in most cases.

For the majority of people, type 2 diabetes (and sometimes, type 1) is caused by the very dietary advice “experts” have been giving for decades, as Dr. Davis explains in Diabetes, Inc:

  • Cutting dietary fat and cholesterol–as advised the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the USDA, the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Increased consumption of grains–that raise blood sugar higher than table sugar, as also advised by the same agencies
  • Big Food and the soft drink industry–who have made high-carb grain-based products and soft drinks the centerpiece of their business model, while paying the same above agencies/experts to divert attention away from carbs and sugar and advocate silly notions like “everything in moderation”

In fact, if you want to avoid type 2 diabetes, avoiding grains (and gluten!) altogether is a great idea!

Dr. Davis writes,

I’m sometimes accused of exaggeration when I say that conventional dietary advice to cut fat and increase consumption of “healthy whole grains” causes type 2 (as well as much type 1) diabetes. But I can say with complete confidence that any food that 1) raises blood sugar and insulin to high levels every time you consume it, 2) plays a dominant role in diet, 3) provokes inflammation via multiple mechanisms, 4) can trigger immune destruction of pancreatic beta cells that produce insulin, and 5) acts as an appetite-stimulant (via gliadin protein-derived opiate peptides and blockade of the leptin hormone) all adds up to an astoundingly powerful way to cause diabetes.

Speaking of diabetes and avoiding gluten, this is certainly interesting (emphasis mine):

Our group just published a research study that shows those with celiac disease are much less likely to get type 2 diabetes compared to people without celiac disease. This was an unexpected finding and to our knowledge is the first study looking at the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in celiac disease. While we found that people with celiac disease have substantial protection from type 2 diabetes, it’s not clear why. (source)

If those study participants were strictly following a gluten-free diet (as people with Celiac disease NEED to do), then…perhaps we can speculate that avoiding gluten is what protected them from developing type 2 diabetes.

It’s just an idea – an intriguing one, I think.

What else were the people who were studied eating, or not eating? That crucial bit of information is not shared with us.

Also – and this is a BIG problem – the researchers did not specifically study people on gluten-free diets. They only studied associations between eating less gluten and developing diabetes.

They even admit this in the press release:

Also, most of the participants took part in the study before gluten-free diets became popular, so there is no data from gluten abstainers.

The researchers claim a 13% difference in type 2 diabetes incidence, but that is minor, especially considering the inherent flaws associated with epidemiological studies. As Dr. William Davis explains, “…confident associations are typically much larger than this: 40% or 50%, for instance. This does not stop, of course, media people, who are journalists at best, paid marketing people for the grain industry at worst, to propagate their misinterpretations.”

As Chodosh points out:

It’s possible that gluten intake actually has nothing to do with diabetes risk, it’s that people who eat less gluten also eat less fiber, and the lack of fiber is what’s affecting the likelihood of getting diabetes. Maybe people who ate less gluten in the ’80s and ’90s also tended to eat worse overall. Maybe those people ate not just fewer whole grains, but also more sugar. Maybe gluten has nothing to do with it. We just don’t know yet.

All of this does raise an important question: COULD avoiding gluten lead to the development of type 2 diabetes?

Definitely – if you replace products that contain gluten with substitutes that are made with cornstarch, rice flour, tapioca starch, and potato flour. There are plenty of gluten-free junk foods on the market – cookies, brownies, cupcakes, crackers, chips, bagels, breads, pancakes, waffles, muffins – you name it, you can probably find a gluten-free version. Of course, many of these “food” items are also filled with sugar…and I think by now everyone knows sugar is linked with the development of type 2 diabetes (and a long list of other chronic, debilitating diseases).

Another deceptive claim…

In the beginning of the press release, the researchers make the claim that there “is lack of evidence that reducing gluten consumption provides long-term health benefits.”

I guess they haven’t been keeping up with research.

Maybe they should take a look at these studies…

Intestinal cell damage and systemic immune activation in individuals reporting sensitivity to wheat in the absence of coeliac disease (My article on this study: Trust Your Gut: Now There’s Proof That Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity Exists)

Long-term response to gluten-free diet as evidence for non-celiac wheat sensitivity in one third of patients with diarrhea-dominant and mixed-type irritable bowel syndrome

Effect of Gliadin on Permeability of Intestinal Biopsy Explants from Celiac Disease Patients and Patients with Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

Small Amounts of Gluten in Subjects With Suspected Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo Controlled, Cross-Over Trial

Low Incidence of Spontaneous Type 1 Diabetes in NonObese Diabetic Mice Raised on Gluten-Free Diets Is Associated with Changes in the Intestinal Microbiome

Non-celiac Gluten Sensitivity and Rheumatic Diseases

New study links protein in wheat to the inflammation of chronic health conditions

The Dietary Intake of Wheat and other Cereal Grains and Their Role in Inflammation

Gluten Causes Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Subjects Without Celiac Disease: A Double-Blind Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity triggers gut dysbiosis, neuroinflammation, gut-brain axis dysfunction, and vulnerability for dementia

Cutaneous Manifestations of Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity: Clinical Histological and Immunopathological Features

Diagnosis of Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS): The Salerno Experts’ Criteria

There are many more.

Parting thoughts

Many people believe that “gluten free” is a silly diet trend and that there’s not a thing wrong with consuming products that contain gluten. It’s become fashionable to mock and belittle people who don’t have an official Celiac diagnosis, but decide to live a gluten-free lifestyle anyway.

But Celiac disease isn’t the only problem associated with gluten. Some have wheat allergies, and now researchers are trying to determine how to best diagnose people with a recently identified condition called Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity.

From the paper Spectrum of gluten-related disorders: consensus on new nomenclature and classification:

It is now becoming apparent that reactions to gluten are not limited to CD, rather we now appreciate the existence of a spectrum of gluten-related disorders. The high frequency and wide range of adverse reactions to gluten raise the question as to why this dietary protein is toxic for so many individuals in the world.

I have a few thoughts on this…

One: Why do those people care what other people eat/don’t eat? Is it somehow a threat to them?

Two: Why would people voluntarily restrict their diets if they weren’t actually feeling better and noticing improvements in health? I am one of the people who feels infinitely better on a gluten and grain-free diet, and I know many others.

Three: Products that contain gluten are not necessary for health anyway. There’s not a thing in them that you can’t get from other dietary sources.

Four: So what if there are a lack of studies that “prove” a particular food/ingredient is “bad” for us? Does it really matter? If a person feels better on a certain kind of diet, who is anyone else to say they are wrong?

In the article How to Avoid Clickbait on Nutrition Studies, Kamal Patel writes…

You don’t need a study for everything.

This cannot be repeated enough. Let’s say that you have a friend who SUPPOSEDLY developed a allergy to red meat a few years ago. But instead of it happening within minutes of eating the food, like a normal allergy, it happens hours after. Ridiculous! Preposterous! And there weren’t any studies on this supposed allergy when you looked it up … so it must be psychosomatic.

Wrong. Studies started being published in the last few years of red meat allergies caused by tick bites.

Humans are so sure of their limited cognitive abilities that they’ll disregard anything that doesn’t fit into their predefined mold. If someone reliably gets an allergic reaction after eating red meat, that’s a very valuable observation, and the starting point for further thought. It’s not something that has to be backed up by a study, because studies aren’t always available for what’s happening to you.

The body is infinitely more complex than we understand, and isolated trials will never be able to answer all the questions we want to know about. Your personal experiences are worth as much, and sometimes more, than the studies that are out there.

What does this mean for you?

If you believe you may have celiac disease, it is important to consult with your healthcare provider because of the seriousness of the disorder. If you don’t think you have celiac disease, but believe you might benefit from avoiding gluten, it couldn’t hurt to try. Humans don’t NEED to consume gluten, and many people report feeling better after going gluten-free. Just be sure to avoid gluten-free junk foods.

For those who are still skeptical (or want inspiration), please read my dear friend Melissa’s personal story about her battle with NCGS and the amazing health transformation she experienced when she removed gluten from her diet.

Let this study be a cautionary tale: always, always read press releases and associated articles with a critical eye.

Related Reading

Trust Your Gut: Now There’s Proof That Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity Exists

Can Gluten Cause Depression?

Can Gluten-Free Diets Help Tame Psoriasis?

Myths, Misconceptions, and Outright Lies About Nutrition Are Keeping People Fat and Sick

Depression Cause May Be Physical, Not Mental

Cancer, the Media, and the Misinterpretation of Studies: A Cautionary Tale

Disclaimer

Plant-Based for 30 is owned and operated by Lisa Egan and may contain advertisements, sponsored content, paid insertions, affiliate links or other forms of monetization.

Plant-Based for 30 abides by word-of-mouth marketing standards. We believe in honesty of relationship, opinion, and identity. The compensation received may influence the advertising content, topics, or posts made in this blog. That content, advertising space, or post will be clearly identified as paid or sponsored content.

Plant-Based for 30 is never directly compensated to provide opinion on products, services, websites, and various other topics. The views and opinions expressed on this website are purely those of the authors. If we claim or appear to be experts on a certain topic or product or service area, we will only endorse products or services that we believe, based on our expertise, are worthy of such endorsement. Any product claim, statistic, quote, or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.

This site does not contain any content which might present a conflict of interest.

Plant-Based for 30 makes no representations, warranties, or assurances as to the accuracy, currency, or completeness of the content contain on this website or any sites linked to or from this site.

Plant-Based for 30 may offer health, fitness, nutritional, and other such information, but such information is designed for educational and informational purposes only. The information contained on the site does not and is not intended to convey medical advice and does not constitute the practice of medicine. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Plant-Based for 30 is not responsible for any actions or inaction on a user’s part based on the information that is presented on the site.

Great News for Cocoa and Chocolate Lovers: Both Are Good For Your Brain

If you need another reason to eat chocolate, here it is.

A new research reviewfound that consuming chocolate may protect human cognition and can counteract different types of cognitive decline.

Italian researchers examined the available literature for the effects of acute and chronic administration of cocoa flavanols on different cognitive domains. They wanted to know what happens to your brain up to a few hours after you eat cocoa flavanols, and what happens when you sustain such a cocoa flavanol enriched diet for a prolonged period of time.

For the meta-analysis, which was published in Frontiers in Nutrition, the researchers looked at the effects of eating chocolate on brain functioning and found that people who ate chocolate showed improvements in working memory and creativity and a boost in cognitive performance overall. And, eating chocolate daily appeared to provide some protection from cognitive decline caused by aging.

Although there aren’t many randomized controlled trials investigating the acute effect of cocoa flavanols (hey, sign me up for one of those studies!), most of them suggest they provide a beneficial effect on cognitive performance. Study participants showed enhancements in working memory performance and improved visual information processing after consuming cocoa flavanols.

And there’s a special benefit for women: Eating cocoa after a night of total sleep deprivation actually counteracted the cognitive impairment (i.e. less accuracy in performing tasks) caused by a sleepless night. While sleep deprivation is dangerous and should be taken seriously, this may offer a bit of hope for people who suffer from chronic sleep problems or work shifts.

The effects depended on the length and mental load of the cognitive tests used to measure the effect of acute cocoa consumption, the study authors noted. For example, in young and healthy adults, a high-demanding cognitive test was required to reveal the subtle, immediate behavioral impact cocoa flavanols have on this particular group.

The effects of relatively long-term ingestion of cocoa flavanols (ranging from 5 days up to 3 months) have generally been investigated in elderly individuals. For them, cognitive performance was improved by a daily intake of cocoa flavanols. Factors such as attention, processing speed, working memory, and verbal fluency were greatly affected. These effects were, however, most pronounced in older adults with a starting memory decline or other mild cognitive impairments.

That was the most unexpected and promising result, according to authors Valentina Socci and Michele Ferrara from the University of L’Aquila in Italy:

“This result suggests the potential of cocoa flavanols to protect cognition in vulnerable populations over time by improving cognitive performance. If you look at the underlying mechanism, the cocoa flavanols have beneficial effects for cardiovascular health and can increase cerebral blood volume in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus. This structure is particularly affected by aging and therefore the potential source of age-related memory decline in humans.”

While this is great news for chocolate lovers everywhere, the study authors caution against over-consumption:

“Regular intake of cocoa and chocolate could indeed provide beneficial effects on cognitive functioning over time. There are, however, potential side effects of eating cocoa and chocolate. Those are generally linked to the caloric value of chocolate, some inherent chemical compounds of the cocoa plant such as caffeine and theobromine, and a variety of additives we add to chocolate such as sugar or milk.”

The researchers added,

“Dark chocolate is a rich source of flavanols. So we always eat some dark chocolate. Every day.”

That’s good news indeed.

*When I’m craving chocolate, sometimes I make an easy banana-almond butter-cacao “ice cream” treat. To make this refreshing, nutrient-packed concoction, throw a frozen banana in your blender with a tablespoon or two of natural almond butter, a few tablespoons of almond or coconut milk, and cacao powder or cacao nibs. Sprinkle in some chia seeds if desired for a little crunch.

Related Reading

10 Convincing Reasons to Eat Chocolate

20 Reasons to Have a Love Affair With Chocolate (as if you needed more reasons…)

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There May Be a Complex Market Living in Your Gut

Image credit: Claremont Graduate University

Researchers apply economic concepts to explore the mysteries of the microbial world

Conventional theories used by economists for the past 150 years to explain how societies buy, sell, and trade goods and services may be able to unlock mysteries about the behavior of microbial life on earth, according to a study by researchers from Claremont Graduate University, Boston University, and Columbia University.

The findings, published July 29 in the open access journal PLOS ONE, provide new insight into the behavior of the planet’s oldest and tiniest life forms, and also create a new framework for examining larger questions about biological evolution and productivity.

Joshua Tasoff, an economics professor at Claremont Graduate University, conducted the study with Michael Mee of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Boston University and Harris Wang of the Department of Systems Biology at Columbia University.

“As an economist, I don’t normally get to experiment with a living organism’s DNA,” Tasoff said. “By developing an economic framework of microbial trade, we can use off-the-shelf economic concepts and theories to better understand how these microbial communities work.”

Microbes, tiny organisms too small to see with the naked eye, are everywhere. In the air, soil, and even inside the human body. In humans, bacteria cells outnumber human cells 10-to-1. Though some microbes cause disease, others are essential for plant and animal life, and humankind could not endure without them.

Although microbes are ubiquitous, they interact with each other in complicated ways that are not well understood. A large fraction of microbial life exists in complex communities where the exchange of molecules and proteins is vital for their survival. They trade these essential resources to promote their own growth in ways that are similar to countries that exchange goods in modern economic markets.

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