Tag Archives: #health

Selenium Supplementation Protects Against Obesity And May Extend Lifespan (Food)

Supplementation of the nutrient selenium protects against diet-induced obesity and may extend the lifespan of mice by controlling energy-regulating hormones.

Adding the nutrient selenium to diets protects against obesity and provides metabolic benefits to mice, according to a study published today in eLife.

The results could lead to interventions that reproduce many of the anti-aging effects associated with dietary restriction while also allowing people to eat as normal.

Several types of diet have been shown to increase healthspan – that is, the period of healthy lifespan. One of the proven methods of increasing healthspan in many organisms, including non-human mammals, is to restrict dietary intake of an amino acid called methionine.

Recent studies have suggested that the effects of methionine restriction on healthspan are likely to be conserved in humans. Although it might be feasible for some people to practice methionine restriction, for example, by adhering to a vegan diet, such a diet might not be practical or desirable for everyone. In the current study, a research team from the Orentreich Foundation for the Advancement of Science (OFAS), Cold Spring, New York, US, aimed to develop an intervention that produces the same effects as methionine restriction, while also allowing an individual to eat a normal, unrestricted diet.

An important clue for developing such a treatment is that methionine restriction causes a decrease in the amounts of an energy-regulating hormone called IGF-1. If a treatment could be found that causes a similar decrease in IGF-1, this might also have beneficial effects on healthspan. Previous research has shown that selenium supplementation reduces the levels of circulating IGF-1 in rats, suggesting that this could be an ideal candidate.

The team first studied whether selenium supplementation offered the same protection against obesity as methionine restriction. They fed young male and older female mice one of three high-fat diets: a control diet containing typical amounts of methionine, a methionine-restricted diet, and a diet containing typical amounts of methionine as well as a source of selenium. For both male and female mice of any age, the authors found that selenium supplementation completely protected against the dramatic weight gain and fat accumulation seen in mice fed the control diet, and to the same extent as restricting methionine.

Next, they explored the effects of the three diets on physiological changes normally associated with methionine restriction. To do this, they measured the amounts of four metabolic markers in blood samples from the previously treated mice. As hoped, they found dramatically reduced levels of IGF-1 in both male and female mice. They also saw reductions in the levels of the hormone leptin, which controls food intake and energy expenditure. Their results indicate that selenium supplementation produces most, if not all, of the hallmarks of methionine restriction, which suggests that this intervention may have a similar positive effect on healthspan.

To gain insight into the beneficial effects of selenium supplementation, the researchers used a different organism – yeast. The two most widely used measurements of healthspan in yeast are chronological lifespan, which tells us how long dormant yeast remain viable, and replicative lifespan, which measures the number of times a yeast cell can produce new offspring. The team previously showed that methionine restriction increases the chronological lifespan of yeast, so they tested whether selenium supplementation might do the same. As it turned out, yeast grown under selenium-supplemented conditions had a 62% longer chronological lifespan (from 13 days to 21 days) and a replicative lifespan extended by nine generations as compared with controls. This demonstrates that supplementing yeast with selenium produces benefits to healthspan detectable by multiple tests of cell aging.

“One of the major goals of aging research is to identify simple interventions that promote human healthspan,” notes senior author Jay Johnson, Senior Scientist at OFAS. “Here we present evidence that short-term administration of either organic or inorganic sources of selenium provides multiple health benefits to mice, the most notable of which being the prevention of diet-induced obesity. In the long term, we expect that supplementation with these compounds will also prevent age-related disease and extend the overall survival of mice. It is our hope that many of the benefits observed for mice will also hold true for humans.”

This study will be included in eLife’s Special Issue on Aging, Geroscience and Longevity. To view all articles published in the Special Issue, visit https://elifesciences.org/collections/6d673315/aging-geroscience-and-longevity-a-special-issue.

Reference: Jason Plummer et al., “Selenium supplementation inhibits IGF-1 signaling and confers methionine restriction-like healthspan benefits to mice”, ELife, 2021. https://elifesciences.org/articles/62483

Provided by Elife

Why Portraying Humans as Healthy Machines Can Backfire? (Food)

Researchers from University of Amsterdam and Stanford University published a new paper in the Journal of Marketing that examines explores how human-as-machine representations affect consumers—specifically their eating behavior and health.

The study, forthcoming in the Journal of Marketing, is titled “Portraying Humans as Machines to Promote Health: Unintended Risks, Mechanisms, and Solutions” and is authored by Andrea Weihrauch and Szu-Chi Huang. 

To combat obesity, governments, marketers, and consumer welfare organizations often encourage consumers to make food choices more rationally. One strategy used is to leverage human-as-machine representations—portraying humans as machines. This approach tries to leverage people’s existing associations about machines—that machines make decisions rationally—to help them approach food in a machine-like manner, with the goal of encouraging healthier choices.

For example, National Geographic’s series “The Incredible Human Machine” describes unhealthy behaviors as (human) “errors” in the maintenance of our bodily machine; Centrum asks consumers to “power the human machine” with healthy food supplements; and the international event Men’s Health Week compares the human body to a car and states that unhealthy food and beverage choices (i.e., alcohol) hurt your “engine.” In addition, consumers experience human-as-machine representations in everyday life: virtual telepresence systems show people as human faces with mechanistic bodies, human enhancement technologies (e.g., augmented reality goggles) represent humans as more machine-like, and artificial intelligence (AI) software further blurs the line between humans and machines. 

When consumers see humans portrayed as machines, they feel that they are expected to behave like machines and choose food like machines would—in a rational and calculating manner. This style of choice making is in line with the hopes of policy makers and can lead to desired effects (healthier choices) for some consumers. However, this expectation backfires for a very vulnerable segment of consumers—consumers who have low confidence in their ability to choose healthy food. For them, human-as-machine representations actually lead them to choose unhealthier options.

Why does this occur? Weihrauch explains that “For this consumer segment, the expectation that one should be rational and machine-like when it comes to food feels impossible. Instead of feeling motivated to be more rational, the feeling of not being able to perform like a machine triggers unhealthier choice making instead. Thus, a strategy used with good intentions to educate consumers and improve their health can have an unintended dark side that hurts the very segment that consumer welfare organizations want to help.” 

There is hope, though. Research provides a practical solution to help circumvent this backfire effect: accompany the human-as-machine visuals with a message to reassure consumers that making machine-like food choices is doable. By adding this message in a cafeteria, the study found that consumers’ choice of healthy food increased by 22% for some. 

These results ring a cautionary bell for nonprofit organizations, policy makers, educators, and for-profit health marketers: the use of human-as-machine imagery can be more complicated than intended because confronting consumers with expectations to be “machine-like” can be risky if not aligned with their abilities. Understanding the potential processes that cause indulgent food choices is also crucial for consumers, especially as human-as-machine stimuli become more prevalent in the lives of consumers around the world.

Full article and author contact information available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/0022242920974986

Reference:  Weihrauch A, Huang S-C. Portraying Humans as Machines to Promote Health: Unintended Risks, Mechanisms, and Solutions. Journal of Marketing. January 2021. doi:10.1177/0022242920974986

Provided by American Marketing Association

About the Journal of Marketing 

The Journal of Marketing develops and disseminates knowledge about real-world marketing questions useful to scholars, educators, managers, policy makers, consumers, and other societal stakeholders around the world. Published by the American Marketing Association since its founding in 1936, JM has played a significant role in shaping the content and boundaries of the marketing discipline. Christine Moorman (T. Austin Finch, Sr. Professor of Business Administration at the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University) serves as the current Editor in Chief.

About the American Marketing Association (AMA) 

As the largest chapter-based marketing association in the world, the AMA is trusted by marketing and sales professionals to help them discover what is coming next in the industry. The AMA has a community of local chapters in more than 70 cities and 350 college campuses throughout North America. The AMA is home to award-winning content, PCM® professional certification, premiere academic journals, and industry-leading training events and conferences.

Counting Patients’ Social Determinants of Health May Help Doctors Prevent Fatal Heart Attacks (Cardiology / Medicine)

Doctors may be able to predict their patients’ risks of fatal coronary heart disease more accurately by taking into account the number of adverse social factors affecting them, according to a new study led by researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian.

The researchers, whose findings appear Dec. 3 in Circulation, analyzed data from the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) Study that tracked cardiovascular-related health outcomes in more than 20,000 people for a decade. The new analysis showed that participants who had more adverse social determinants of health, such as low income and educational attainment, were significantly more likely to die of coronary heart disease—mostly heart attacks—during the study. For example, people with three or more social determinants of health, on a list of seven, were about 67 percent more likely to have a fatal heart attack, even when accounting for differences in age and other health factors.

The researchers suggest that doctors consider using simple counts of these factors to better estimate their patients’ health risks and provide more aggressive treatment where applicable.

“Physicians tend to view social determinants of health as a peripheral part of clinical care management, but we think it should play a much more central role,” said lead author Dr. Monika Safford, John J. Kuiper Professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine and chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Social determinants of health have remained on the periphery of medicine, despite their potential for improving patient risk assessment, largely because no one has demonstrated an easy way to use them in day-to-day clinical practice.

“Physicians tend to be very busy people—they’re unlikely to adopt a complex tool for risk assessment,” Dr. Safford said. “Our approach therefore was to keep it simple.”

The analysis covered more than 22,000 people, who initially did not have diagnosed coronary heart disease, in the long-running REGARDS Study, on which Dr. Safford has been a lead investigator. The stroke-focused study has included ancillary studies of heart attacks and related health outcomes.

Dr. Safford and her colleagues identified a list of nine social determinants of health that prior research has linked individually to greater risks of heart attacks, strokes and related outcomes. They found that about half (48.8 percent) of those in the study group had two or more of these adverse social factors, and that having more of them generally predicted worse coronary heart disease outcomes during the study period. Participants with three or more social determinants were, for example, about three times more likely to suffer fatal coronary heart disease, compared to those with none of these factors.

These initial findings suggested that a count of social determinants of health could be a quick and easy source of information for doctors about their patients’ coronary heart disease risks—even if it is only predictive because the factors are linked to known cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension and obesity. However, a further analysis suggested that a high count also contains an independent signal of fatal-coronary heart disease risk.

The researchers narrowed their social determinants of health list to the seven that were most strongly linked to fatal coronary heart disease: Black race, low education, low income, living in a zip code with high poverty, residence in one of the U.S. states with the least public health infrastructure, not seeing close friends/family in the past month, and lack of health insurance. They then adjusted the outcomes data based on differences in health factors, such as a greater burden of chronic disease in the high social determinants group. They still found that people with three or more social determinants had a 67 percent greater risk of fatal coronary heart disease.

A similar analysis found that people with two or more social determinants had a 14 percent greater risk of nonfatal heart attack, although that association was not statistically significant.

Noting a patient’s high number of social determinants of health could enable a cardiologist or general practitioner not only to anticipate a higher chance of bad outcomes, but also to mitigate that added risk with more intensive treatment, Dr. Safford said.

“Our group has also done studies on social determinants of health and the risks of stroke, diabetes, and heart failure, and we’ve had similar findings in every case, so we may be close to the point where counting social determinants of health is generally adopted into clinical practice,” she said.

Reference: Monika M. Safford, Evgeniya Reshetnyak,  Madeline R. Sterling, Joshua S. Richman, Paul M. Muntner, Raegan W. Durant, John Booth, Laura C. Pinheiro, “Number of Social Determinants of Health and Fatal and Nonfatal Incident Coronary Heart Disease in the REGARDS Study”, Circulation. 2021;143:244–253. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.120.048026 https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.120.048026

Provided by Weill Cornell Medicine

How Aspiring to Help Others Keeps Us Happy and Healthy (Psychology)

Aspiring for community relationships based on giving back promotes well-being.

God’s wisdom teaches me: When I help others, I’m really helping myself. And if we all could spread a little sunshine, all could lend a helping hand. We’d all be a little closer to the promised land.” —”Spread a Little Sunshine” sung by Fastrada in Pippin (music & lyrics by Stephen Schwartz)

What’s your gut reaction to Fastrada professing that “when I help others, I’m really helping myself” in this Pippin song? Does aspiring to help others within your community seem unethical or cunning if your primary motivation for lending a hand is ultimately to help yourself?

As a kid growing up in the 1970s, my family went to see Pippin on Broadway; we also had an 8-track of the original cast recording in the car and listened to this soundtrack nonstop. At the time, as someone who went to church on Sundays and aspired to be a genuine “do-gooder,” hearing Fastrada sing about ‘helping others to help herself’ seemed kind of selfish and didn’t align with my moral compass.

But over the years, singing along to “Spread a Little Sunshine” prompted the realization that altruistic behaviors aren’t always selfless.

Inevitably, our willingness to help others is going to be motivated by varying degrees of self-interest. And I realize now that embracing the “give-to-get” aspects of altruism doesn’t negate the prosocial, win-win benefits of helping others. (See “The Evolutionary Biology of Altruism.”)

Nonetheless, I’ve never felt 100% comfortable admitting that my altruistic motivations are often driven by the warm glow and positive feelings I get from giving to others. So-called “random acts of kindness”—like putting twenty bucks in the tip cup after I get a to-go order from my favorite, family-owned burrito place—are often token gestures that make the giver and receiver both feel good.

Anecdotally, based on life experience, I know that helping others in my community is usually self-serving to a degree. And that’s OK. For example, my habit of leaving big tips at local restaurants isn’t purely motivated by a desire to help the community-based front line workers on the receiving end; tipping people in the service industry generously makes me feel better on multiple levels.

Now, after reading about a new study (Bradshaw et al., 2020) published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that investigated how “the social breadth of aspiration profiles predicts well-being,” I’m planning to give back more substantially in 2021. Maybe learning more about this study will inspire you to do the same.

The latest study by first author Emma Bradshaw of Australian Catholic University (ACU) and colleagues at the University of Rochester found that of three different personality profiles, those who aspired for community relationships more than interpersonal relationships “reliably experienced the highest well-being.” These are the three profiles the researchers identified and studied:

  • Disengaged from relationships and health (Profile 1)
  • Aspiring for interpersonal relationships more than community relationships (Profile 2)
  • Aspiring for community relationships more than interpersonal relationships (Profile 3)

“If you want to make a New Year’s resolution that really makes you happy, think about the ways in which you can contribute to the world,” senior author Richard Ryan, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Rochester and the Institute for Positive Psychology and Education at ACU said in a news release. “The research shows it’s not just good for the world but also really good for you.”

According to Ryan, the act of willingly helping others satisfies the three core tenets of his self-determination theory (SDT) of human motivation and personality:

  1. Autonomy
  2. Competence
  3. Relatedness

Within the SDT framework, autonomy involves engaging in activities with “personal value” that evoke a feeling of “true volition.” Competence involves “feeling effective and having a sense of accomplishment.” Relatedness means working together with others and feeling a sense of connectedness.

“Think of how you can help,” Ryan suggests. “There’s a lot of distress out there: If we can set goals that aim to help others, those kinds of goals will, in turn, also add to our own well-being.”

“Belisarius Begging for Alms” Musée du Louvre, public domain (Atlas database: entry 18877)

References: Emma L. Bradshaw, Baljinder K. Sahdra, Joseph Ciarrochi, Philip D. Parker, Tamás Martos, Richard M. Ryan. “A Configural Approach To Aspirations: The Social Breadth of Aspiration Profiles Predicts Well-Being Over and Above the Intrinsic and Extrinsic Aspirations That Comprise the Profiles.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (First published online: December 03, 2020) DOI: 10.1037/pspp0000374

This article is originally written by Christopher Bergland, who is a world-class endurance athlete, coach, author, and political activist. This article is republished here from psychology today under common creative licenses

3D Printers May Be Toxic for Humans (Medicine)

Risk researchers are asking new questions about the health and safety implications and how to mitigate any potential health risks to users of 3-D printers and consumers of products manufactured with this emerging technology, especially children. Such printing is increasingly being used in homes, schools, libraries and other spaces where people commonly spend a lot of time. The particles released during the printing process, which are small enough to infiltrate deep into the lungs, can affect indoor air quality and public health. The wide use of 3-D printers to manufacture face shields, respirators and other personal protective equipment for COVID-19 has created a new urgency on these questions.

Several studies that aim to characterize and quantify the release and composition, particle size, and residence time in the indoor environment will be presented in the Exposure and Risk Assessment of 3-D Printing and Emerging Materials symposium on December 15 at the 2020 Society for Risk Analysis virtual Annual Meeting held December 13-17, 2020.

The base materials used in 3-D printers include thermoplastics, metals, nanomaterials, polymers and volatile and semi volatile organic chemicals. The printing process may take several hours, and during this time a range of chemical by-products and particulates may be released into indoor environments.

Given these unknowns, scientists have begun to conduct studies to understand these releases and their specific composition, particle size, and residence time in the indoor environment, producing data that can be incorporated into robust exposure and risk assessments.

A study conducted by Yong Qian, Ph.D., National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), evaluated the potential toxicity of ABS emissions generated during 3-D printing by examining human lung cells and rats exposed via inhalation. The study, “Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) printer emission induced in vitro and in vivo toxicity,” revealed that the emitted particles cause moderate toxicity in human lung cells and minimal toxicity in rats.

The presentation, “Recent 3-D printing emissions research at Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),” reviews two recent studies from the EPA; the first analyzed emissions from a 3-D printer filament extruder (a device used to create 3-D printer filaments) in a laboratory setting, and the second used a simulation model to predict the number of particles deposited at specific locations in the respiratory tract, and how that pattern changes for individuals of different ages, when using a 3-D printer.

“To date, the general public has little awareness of possible exposures to 3-D printer emissions,” states Peter Byrley, Ph.D., EPA, lead author. “A potential societal benefit of this research is to increase public awareness of 3-D printer emissions, and of the possibly higher susceptibility of children.”

The studies found that the filament extruder released amounts of small particles and vapors similar to those found in studies of 3-D printers, and the simulation model predicted higher deposition of particle mass per surface area in the pulmonary region for individuals ages nine and younger. Further testing of emission profiles with additional simulation studies to predict inhaled dose are needed.

While 3-D printing makes numerous products more readily available, and at cheaper costs, they do contribute to the mass of plastic products polluting the planet. Joana Marie Sipe, Duke University, has developed a machine that can measure how much a plastic product, like a water bottle, can break down through rubbing and sanding during use and in the environment. The plastic particles were then fed to fish to see the effects that the nanoparticles in the plastic had on their organs.

The study, “NanoPHEAT: Forecasting nanocomposite consumer product’s release, exposure, and toxic effects of nanomaterials (MWCNT and Ag NPs),” reveals that when plastics breakdown, the nanomaterials that were incorporated and thought to be biologically unavailable become exposed to the environment. The researchers were able to predict the percentage of nanoparticles that came out of the plastic when they were eaten by the fish, providing a Matrix Release Factor (MRF) which could be used to find out the quantity of plastic and nanoparticles that are released when someone chews a product or when it breaks down in the ocean.

“This research can help set regulations on how much nanomaterial fillers can be added to particular consumer products, based on their MRF value,” states Sipe. “The data can help determine how much plastic and/or nano-filled products release contaminants into the environment or the human body.”

As 3-D printing technologies become more widespread, regulators, manufacturers, and users may need to focus their attention on better managing potential risks.

Provided by Society for Risk Analysis

Signs of Healthy Aging Found in Ergothioneine Telomere Study (Biology)

An in vitro study published in theJournal of Dietary Supplements, demonstrated Blue California’s ErgoActive ergothioneine helped to preserve telomere length and reduced the rate of telomere shortening under oxidative stress.

A potent antioxidant, Ergothioneine helps fight oxidative stress and cellular imbalance that contribute to cell damage associated with aging and several health-related issues.** Emerging science shows potential cognitive, immune, prostate and cardiovascular health benefits.Blue California’s ErgoActive Ergothioneine is: Not synthetic and GMO free. It’s made by fermentation through a proprietary technology and manufacturing process.No-Objection Letter from the US FDA to its GRAS notification, GRN 734. Credit: Blue California

The in vitro study is the first time ergothioneine has been studied for its effect on telomere length. Blue California provided its ErgoActive ergothioneine, which is produced by a proprietary fermentation process.

“Our results suggest that ergothioneine as part of a healthy diet could potentially mitigate the negative effects of oxidative stress and support healthy aging by helping to preserve telomere length and reduce the rate of shortening,” said Chief Science Officer, Dr. Priscilla Samuel.

Telomeres are complex protein structures located at the end of each DNA strand, protecting chromosomes from becoming damaged. When DNA strands are frayed or worn down, cells are challenged with performing specialized functions, thus making the protection offered by telomeres critical for the life of cells.

Shortened telomeres are associated with many chronic conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. “Many areas of health are impacted by oxidative stress during aging, including longevity, bone health, cardiovascular health, cognition and skin vitality,” said Samuel. “As oxidative stress accelerates the shortening of telomeres, antioxidants such as ergothioneine may help to decelerate it.”

Ergothioneine is a naturally occurring amino acid with potent antioxidant properties that the body does not make but obtains from dietary sources such as specific species of mushrooms, beans and oat bran. However, for most people, the dietary consumption of foods rich in ergothioneine tends to be low.

Moreover, humans produce a highly specific ergothioneine transporter (ETT), leading many to reason its importance, and suggest its essentiality to human health. Renowned scientist Dr. Bruce Ames has proposed classifying ergothioneine as a “longevity vitamin.”

In the in vitro study, human neonatal dermal fibroblast cells were used to observe the effect of ergothioneine on telomerase activity and telomeres under standard and oxidative stress conditions over an 8-week period.

Under oxidative conditions, at week 8 across all four tested concentrations (0.04 to 1.0 mg/ml) of ergothioneine, median telomere length was significantly longer than control and a significantly reduced percent of short telomeres was also observed, demonstrating a protective effect of ergothioneine.

“Blue California actively invests in clinical studies to advance the science and impact of our ErgoActive ergothioneine on overall health and wellness and look forward to investigating these effects in human clinical studies as well,” said Samuel. “We are committed to furthering research for substantiating functional benefits and claims associated with ingredients for use in dietary supplements, functional foods and beverages, personal care products, cosmetics and pet nutrition.”

Early in February 2020, Blue California filed a patent application reporting the discovery of ErgoActive ergothioneine’s impact on telomere shortening associated with oxidative stress.

Reference: Priscilla Samuel et al, Ergothioneine Mitigates Telomere Shortening under Oxidative Stress Conditions, Journal of Dietary Supplements (2020). https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19390211.2020.1854919 DOI: 10.1080/19390211.2020.1854919

Provided by Blue California

How to Succeed in Keeping Your New Year’s Resolution (Psychology)

New Year’s Eve is coming up, a holiday when many people choose to make a New Year’s resolution. They may be hard to keep, but research shows there is one possible way to succeed – rephrase your resolution.

One year later, what types of resolutions were more successful? © Per Carlbring

How you formulate your resolution is of great importance for the final outcome. If you rephrase your resolution from “I will quit/avoid” to “I will start to”, you will have a greater chance of reaching your goals. This is one of the conclusions that were made in the world’s largest study about New Year’s resolutions. The study is published 9 December in the American scientific journal PLOS ONE.

The study is based on the resolutions that 1066 people made in the end of 2017 and was conducted in collaboration between Stockholm University and Linköping University. The participants of the study got to formulate their own resolutions and were then divided into three different groups. The three groups received different amounts of support throughout the year – no support at all, some support and extended support. Follow-ups of the participants were made each month throughout the year.

“It was found that the support given to the participants did not make much of a difference when it came down to how well participants kept their resolutions throughout the year. What surprised us were the results on how to phrase your resolution,” says professor Per Carlbring at the Department of Psychology, Stockholm University.

The most popular New Year’s resolutions.. ©Per Carlbring

The participants that formulated an “approach goal” were the ones with the highest rate of success. An approach goal is in this case a resolution where you try to adopt a new habit or introduce something new in your life. Resolutions regarding avoiding or quitting something, “avoidance goals”, proved to be less successful.

But is it as simple as to just rephrase your resolution in order to succeed?

“In many cases, rephrasing your resolution could definitely work. For example, if your goal is to stop eating sweets in order to lose weight, you will most likely be more successful if you say ‘I will eat fruit several times a day’ instead. You then replace sweets with something healthier, which probably means you will lose weight and also keep your resolution. You cannot erase a behaviour, but you can replace it with something else. Although, this might be harder to apply to the resolution ‘I will quit smoking’, which is something you might do 20 times a day,” says Per Carlbring.

About the study

  • The world’s largest experimental study on New Year’s resolutions with over 1000 participants. The study was conducted over a year and follow-ups were made each month.
  • The most popular resolutions regard physical health, weight loss and change of eating habits (see graph).
  • Resolutions phrased as so-called “approach goals”, starting something/adopting new habits, are more likely to be successful than resolutions about quitting/avoiding something, so-called “avoidance goals”.
  • The study is published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE on December 9th, 2020. PLOS ONE is published by the San Francisco based organization Public Library of Science. Reference: Oscarsson, M., Carlbring, P., Andersson, G. & Rozental, A. (2020). A large-scale experiment on New Year’s resolutions: Approach-oriented goals are more successful than avoidance-oriented goals. PLOS ONE. Link: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0234097

Provided by Stockholm University

Can We Improve our Health With Doses of Safe, Live Microbes on a Daily Basis? (Medicine)

Many everyday foods—from yogurt and other fermented foods to fresh fruits and vegetables—contain live microorganisms. And although humans have consumed these safe and potentially beneficial bacteria in their daily diets for millennia, live microbes have received much less attention than other components of the diet. With a rising global awareness of the importance of gut health, many people believe intake of live microbes is health-promoting, but so far it has not been possible for experts to create a guideline on how many we should be consuming on a daily basis.

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A group of seven interdisciplinary scientists recently published a review paper in The Journal of Nutrition, titled: “Should There Be a Recommended Daily Intake of Microbes?” They explain that only weak evidence to date confirms the link between live microbes and better human health, highlighting specific gaps in the research and laying out a plan for quantifying the relationship between consumption of live microbes and health outcomes across populations.

In the review, the authors outline why this scientific endeavor is worthwhile, but far from straightforward. Challenges include the scant records on consumption of microbes in past human populations; frequent mis-reporting of dietary intakes in current nutrition research; and the complex biology of the digestive tract, which makes the mechanisms of microbial health benefits difficult to discover.

“People frequently hear that they should keep adding ‘good microbes’ to their gut microbiomes,” says Dr. Mary Ellen Sanders, co-author of the paper and Executive Science Officer of the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP). “This makes intuitive sense, but it’s important to build up the scientific evidence for the idea rather than just assume this is true. Our paper is a call for scientists around the world to start building the evidence base in a rigorous way.”

The publication builds on a discussion group held at the 2019 ISAPP annual meeting in Belgium, which aimed to explore evidence that live microbes in general—and not only the bacterial strains that have special status as probiotics—form an essential part of the human diet.

“Currently, food guides around the world do not recommend daily intake of live microbes,” says Sanders. “Although continual doses of live microbes may not be critical for our survival, by ignoring them we may be missing out on an important opportunity to support the health of different populations.”

Reference: Maria L Marco et al. Should There Be a Recommended Daily Intake of Microbes? The Journal of Nutrition (2020). DOI: 10.1093/jn/nxaa323

Provided by International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics

Study Reveals Connection Between Gut Bacteria and Vitamin D Levels (Gastroenterology /Biology)

Our gut microbiomes—the many bacteria, viruses and other microbes living in our digestive tracts—play important roles in our health and risk for disease in ways that are only beginning to be recognized.

University of California San Diego researchers and collaborators recently demonstrated in older men that the makeup of a person’s gut microbiome is linked to their levels of active vitamin D, a hormone important for bone health and immunity.

The study, published November 26, 2020 in Nature Communications, also revealed a new understanding of vitamin D and how it’s typically measured.

Vitamin D can take several different forms, but standard blood tests detect only one, an inactive precursor that can be stored by the body. To use vitamin D, the body must metabolize the precursor into an active form.

“We were surprised to find that microbiome diversity—the variety of bacteria types in a person’s gut—was closely associated with active vitamin D, but not the precursor form,” said senior author Deborah Kado, MD, director of the Osteoporosis Clinic at UC San Diego Health. “Greater gut microbiome diversity is thought to be associated with better health in general.”

Kado led the study for the National Institute on Aging-funded Osteoporotic Fractures in Men (MrOS) Study Research Group, a large, multi-site effort that started in 2000. She teamed up with Rob Knight, Ph.D., professor and director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation at UC San Diego, and co-first authors Robert L. Thomas, MD, Ph.D., fellow in the Division of Endocrinology at UC San Diego School of Medicine, and Serene Lingjing Jiang, graduate student in the Biostatistics Program at Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Sciences.

Multiple studies have suggested that people with low vitamin D levels are at higher risk for cancer, heart disease, worse COVID-19 infections and other diseases. Yet the largest randomized clinical trial to date, with more than 25,000 adults, concluded that taking vitamin D supplements has no effect on health outcomes, including heart disease, cancer or even bone health.

“Our study suggests that might be because these studies measured only the precursor form of vitamin D, rather than active hormone,” said Kado, who is also professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine and Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health. “Measures of vitamin D formation and breakdown may be better indicators of underlying health issues, and who might best respond to vitamin D supplementation.”

The team analyzed stool and blood samples contributed by 567 men participating in MrOS. The participants live in six cities around the United States, their mean age was 84 and most reported being in good or excellent health. The researchers used a technique called 16s rRNA sequencing to identify and quantify the types of bacteria in each stool sample based on unique genetic identifiers. They used a method known as LC-MSMS to quantify vitamin D metabolites (the precursor, active hormone and the breakdown product) in each participant’s blood serum.

In addition to discovering a link between active vitamin D and overall microbiome diversity, the researchers also noted that 12 particular types of bacteria appeared more often in the gut microbiomes of men with lots of active vitamin D. Most of those 12 bacteria produce butyrate, a beneficial fatty acid that helps maintain gut lining health.

“Gut microbiomes are really complex and vary a lot from person to person,” Jiang said. “When we do find associations, they aren’t usually as distinct as we found here.”

Because they live in different regions of the U.S., the men in the study are exposed to differing amounts of sunlight, a source of vitamin D. As expected, men who lived in San Diego, California got the most sun, and they also had the most precursor form of vitamin D.

But the team unexpectedly found no correlations between where men lived and their levels of active vitamin D hormone.

“It seems like it doesn’t matter how much vitamin D you get through sunlight or supplementation, nor how much your body can store,” Kado said. “It matters how well your body is able to metabolize that into active vitamin D, and maybe that’s what clinical trials need to measure in order to get a more accurate picture of the vitamin’s role in health.”

“We often find in medicine that more is not necessarily better,” Thomas added. “So in this case, maybe it’s not how much vitamin D you supplement with, but how you encourage your body to use it.”

Kado pointed out that the study relied on a single snapshot in time of the microbes and vitamin D found in participants’ blood and stool, and those factors can fluctuate over time depending on a person’s environment, diet, sleep habits, medications and more. According to the team, more studies are needed to better understand the part bacteria play in vitamin D metabolism, and to determine whether intervening at the microbiome level could be used to augment current treatments to improve bone and possibly other health outcomes.

References: Thomas, R.L., Jiang, L., Adams, J.S. et al. Vitamin D metabolites and the gut microbiome in older men. Nat Commun 11, 5997 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-19793-8 https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-19793-8

Provided by University of California – San Diego