Do Probiotics Lower Blood Pressure?

Do Probiotics Lower Blood Pressure?

By: Austin Perlmutter, Medical Student, Miller School of Medicine

As research on the microbiome flourishes, we continue to find evidence for the role of probiotics in optimizing our health. Most recently, an analysis published in the journal Hypertension examines the effect of probiotic supplementation on our blood pressure. Considering that two thirds of Americans are pre-hypertensive or fully hypertensive, this data may prove extremely significant

Over the last several years, we’ve started investigations on how probiotics affect everything from brain health to acne. Though this is a relatively new field of academic concentration, the interplay between bacteria and human has been increasingly illuminating. One area of focus examines changes in blood pressure with probiotic administration. Several studies have observed positive interactions, but this meta-analysis is the first to cross-analyze and synthesize the available information. Continue reading

Yes, Dietary Fat is Associated with Better Health

Yes, Dietary Fat is Associated with Better Health

There is no question that one of the biggest debates these days centers on the health risks or benefits of dietary fat. And rather then enter into this discussion from an opinion derived position, I believe it’s fundamentally important to first and foremost see what our most well respected institutions that are researching questions such as this are telling us in the form of peer-reviewed publications.

Arguably, one of the most well respected medical journals on the planet is the New England Journal of Medicine. And last year the journal published a study entitled, Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet. The researchers enrolled 7447 individuals whose age ranged between 55 and 80 years. There were slightly more women than men, 57%. There were three different dietary plans used in this interventional study including a standard low-fat diet, A Mediterranean diet enriched with extra-virgin olive oil, and a group that received the Mediterranean diet with the addition of fat derived from added nuts.

The study was designed to look for particular “endpoints” and in this case there were three. They included having a stroke, a heart attack, or death.

The study was halted at 4.8 years, far earlier then what was intended. The researchers had performed an “interim analysis” meaning that they looked at the results before the planned end of the study to determine if there were any trends. When the researchers actually looked at the data, it revealed a dramatic difference between those eating the high-fat diets (Mediterranean diet with either extra olive oil or added nuts) when compared to those given the still popular “low-fat” dietary recommendation. In fact, risk for the endpoints, stroke, heart attack, or death (which is certainly a meaningful end point), were found to be 30% reduced in those individuals eating the most fat, in comparison to the low-fat group.

Importantly, the diets enriched with fat were “energy–unrestricted,” meaning that there was no limitation in total calories. As the authors stated: In conclusion, in this primary prevention trial we observed that an energy-unrestricted Mediterranean diet, supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts, resulted in a substantial reduction in the risk of major cardiovascular events among high-risk persons.

So again, I really feel it’s time to move away from the emotion as it relates to these aspects of dietary recommendations, and take the time to see what current science is telling us.

The One Probiotic Supplement You Need to be Taking

The One Probiotic Supplement You Need to be Taking

Bowel wall permeability, more commonly described these days as “leaky gut,” is now front and center in the news, and is well known as a cause of a large number of common disease entities. The intestinal barrier that separates the luminal contents from the systemic circulation is, incredibly, only one cell thick! This extends from the esophagus to the anus. That means that we are dependent on a one cell layer, as well as the connections between these single cells, to carefully screen what is taken in and what is excluded.

The integrity of the gut lining can be compromised by any number of influences including antibiotics, stress, various medications, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, as well as steroids, harmful bacteria, glycated proteins, and even exposure to gluten. When the permeability of the gut lining is increased, it sets the stage for a dramatic increase in inflammation and compromises our immune system’s ability to determine self versus non-self. The latter is a hallmark of autoimmune diseases including lupus, diabetes type I, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and so many more of the common maladies of our modern world. Continue reading

The Diagnosis that Could Mean Cognitive Decline

The Diagnosis that Could Mean Cognitive Decline

One of the most important concepts described in Grain Brain focuses on the fundamental role of elevated blood sugar as it relates to brain degeneration. We explored in-depth, scientific literature that demonstrates a significant increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia if a person carries a diagnosis of type II diabetes. This relationship was amplified recently by a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that demonstrated significantly increased risk for cognitive decline with mild elevations of blood sugar, well below levels that would indicate diabetes.

In a recent report, published in Clinical Interventions in Aging, Japanese researchers again solidified our knowledge base about the relationship between diabetes and cognitive decline. The report, “Type II Diabetes as a Risk Factor for  Cognitive Impairment: Current Insights“, focuses on not only statistics relating diabetes to cognitive decline, but also the mechanisms by which that happens.

The researchers describe a variety of factors relating type II diabetes to brain dysfunction including impaired neurogenesis which is the process by which we are able to grow new brain cells, specifically in the brains memory center, hippocampus. This is compromised in diabetes.

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What You Need to Know about Gut Bacteria and Autoimmunity

What You Need to Know about Gut Bacteria and Autoimmunity

We are just beginning to gain an understanding as to the mechanisms underlying the role of gluten in inducing autoimmune diseases like type I diabetes. Much of our understanding stems from the landmark publication by Harvard’s Dr. Alessio Fasano in which he provided and in-depth and comprehensive understanding of the role of the intestinal barrier in terms of regulating inflammation as well as autoimmunity. Fundamental to his thesis is the effect of gliadin, a component of gluten, on the integrity of the gut wall.

What Dr. Fasano demonstrated was how gliadin induces the mobilization of another protein, zonulin, and how zonulin then goes on to increase the permeability of the bowel. It is this increase in permeability that is playing a pivotal role in challenging the immune system, and leading to inflammation as well as autoimmunity.

Subsequent to Dr. Fasano’s publication, researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota published exciting research that demonstrated a dramatic reduction in development of type I diabetes in laboratory mice if they were raised on a gluten-free diet. While it is reasonable to assume that the preservation of gut integrity by not challenging it with gluten may have been responsible, the authors explored another intriguing possibility. What they found was that when these animals were placed on a gluten-free diet there was actually a significant change in the various species of gut bacteria in the animals tested. Continue reading

ADHD – Thinking Beyond the Brain

ADHD – Thinking Beyond the Brain

As is so often the case, Americans want to reach for pharmaceutical fixes for our various maladies, and so it is with ADHD. Right now, it is estimated that there are more than 6.5 million American children who have been given this diagnosis. Making this even worse is the fact that about two-thirds of these children are receiving powerful, mind-altering medication, the long-term consequences of which have never been studied.

I think it’s very important that we recognize that there’s a strong gut issue that relates to these children, and, for the most part, is being ignored. Apart from the fact that being born by cesarean section dramatically increases the risk for ADHD, as does frequent antibiotic exposure (both of which affect gut bacteria), a high percentage of children with ADHD have straightforward bowel abnormalities in comparison to age matched controls.

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Dietary Fat and Breast Cancer

Dietary Fat and Breast Cancer

When you go on the Grain Brain program, one of the things that is important is that you reduce your consumption of carbohydrates while increasing your consumption of dietary fat. Occasionally a woman might ask “Won’t that increase my risk for breast cancer?” As a matter of fact, when we look at the science we see that it will actually decrease your risk for breast cancer!