Every month, we publish around eight new videos, four Friday Favorites, eight blogs, and four podcasts on NutritionFacts.org. We are bursting at the seams with all sorts of health and nutrition info that we don’t want you to miss, so we wanted to wrap up the juiciest bits into a nice, bite-sized blog as an end-of-month recap in case you missed anything or just want a refresher. So, what were some highlights from March?
Endotoxins are highly pro-inflammatory components of bacteria like E. coli that can be absorbed through our gut wall and circulate in our bloodstream. Elevated endotoxin levels are associated with a host of health conditions, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, depression, and heart disease. Researchers have found a higher abundance of endotoxins in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease on autopsy. The highest levels of these components are found in foods like meat, perhaps helping to explain why those eating more plant-based may be as much as three times less likely to develop dementia.
We know there appears to be a signiﬁcant protective effect of a vegetarian diet for heart disease and all cancers combined, particularly for those eating vegan, but what about breast cancer and prostate cancer specifically? Studies have shown that more plant-based eating is associated with a significant reduction in breast cancer risk, and when it comes to prostate cancer, plant-based foods are associated with either decreased or neutral risk and animal foods are associated with either an increased or neutral risk. We shouldn’t only look at foods to avoid, like meat, eggs, and dairy products; we should also look at foods to embrace, such as vegetables, especially greens, and pulses, like beans, lentils, and chickpeas—foods that Dr. Greger includes in his Daily Dozen to encourage people to add to their meals each day.
Erythritol, a sugar alcohol naturally found in small quantities in certain fruits and vegetables, is mass-produced commercially for use as a sweetener. It has a role in actively preventing tooth decay and has been reported to be “totally safe,” with almost no calories. It also has the highest digestive tolerance of all of the sugar alcohols and appears to have anti-oxidant properties and protective effects on the cells that line our arteries. Unfortunately, as I will detail on April 3 in the follow-up Update on Erythritol Sweetener: Are There Side Effects?, a new study published interventional data in mice and in vitro that suggests erythritol may be harmful, and so (*spoiler alert*) I urge everyone to stop consuming it until we know more.
Coffee is more than just a drink to put some pep in your step. It may influence cholesterol, body weight, your blood sugars, and more, and light and dark roasts have different effects and their own pros and cons, depending on your own health priorities. One example is that dark roasting may destroy up to about 90 percent of chlorogenic acids, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients thought to account for many of coffee’s benefits, so light roast would be better in this respect.
Don’t be fooled by “low acid” coffee. It doesn’t help with the acid reflux, heartburn, or stomach upset that plagues some coffee drinkers. The low acid is a reference to low chlorogenic acid—which is exactly what we don’t want. Low-acid coffee producers use a slow roasting process that destroys the beneficial compounds. That’s like an orange juice company going out of its way to destroy the vitamin C and then branding its OJ as “low acid.” Technically true, since vitamin C is ascorbic acid, but the OJ maker would be bragging about destroying some of the nutrition, and that’s exactly what low-acid coffee companies are doing.
This month included a bunch of coffee content! In addition to this pair of blogs, we also released a new video about coffee and iron absorption and a Friday Favorites video that asks, Do the Health Benefits of Coffee Apply to Everyone?.
Two major risk factors that impact brain aging are chronic, low-grade inflammation and oxidative and nitrosative stress, so antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods may be helpful. Researchers investigated eight different dietary antioxidants, including vitamins A and E, and only lutein, the major carotenoid concentrated in the brain, was “significantly related to better cognition.”
Dark green leafy vegetables are lutein superstars: A half cup of kale has 50 times more lutein than an egg, and adding just 60 grams of spinach a day for a month can significantly boost macular pigment for most. Based on lutein/zeaxanthin supplement trials, greens may improve visual processing speed in young healthy people and significantly improve cognitive function in young adults and seniors. The earlier we start loading up, the better. Eat your greens!
You’re probably familiar with the buzz around “gluten-free diets,” but is going gluten-free safe and beneficial for everyone? Until recently, the scientific world largely maintained that the wheat protein gluten would provoke negative effects only in people with rare conditions, such as celiac disease. Now, an expert panel recognizes gluten sensitivity, which may affect about 1 percent of the population.
There is no evidence to suggest that following a gluten-free diet has any significant benefit in the general population, however, and indeed there is some evidence that a gluten-free diet may adversely affect gut health in those without celiac or gluten sensitivity. For the overwhelming majority of those who don’t have issues with gluten, whole grains—including the gluten grains of wheat, barley, and rye—are health-promoting and consumption is linked to the reduced risk of chronic disease. Dr. Greger includes two of these grains in his popular Basic BROL, which you can find on our recipes page.