Zinc-binding is vital for regulating pH levels in the brain

Researchers in Oslo, Norway, have discovered that Zinc-binding plays a vital role in the sensing and regulation of pH in the human brain. The findings come as one of the first studies that directly link Zinc-binding with bicarbonate transporters.

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The Morth Group, led by J. Preben Morth, recently published the findings in Scientific Reports. The group is based at the Centre for Molecular Medicine Norway and studies the structure and function of membrane proteins, and their interaction with lipids in the biological membrane.  When we inhale, oxygen is distributed via our red blood cells to every living cell of our body. Human cells use oxygen to produce Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) – the molecule that fuels vital processes in the cells, such as maintaining the electrical potential across the membranes of the cells that allow us to think and feel. In other words, we wouldn’t “work” very efficiently without this process.

ATP generation is directly linked to the citric acid cycle also known as the Krebs cycle, which leads to the complete breakdown of nutrients. This process ultimately generates carbon dioxide (CO2) as the final waste product, which is expelled when we exhale. However, before we can emit the excess CO2, this critical molecule is involved in one of the most important biological functions in our body: It regulates pH in our cells. This process is incredibly important; if the pH in and around our cells is lower than 6.8 or higher than 7.8, then we are in danger of dying due to cell death and tissue damage.

An example of how essential pH levels are to our health is demonstrated by the fact that pH levels in blood from the umbilical cord are always tested in newborn babies. A low pH value is correlated with a low oxygen supply during birth, which can lead to severe brain damage. When in water, CO2 forms bicarbonate (HCO3-) and is transported by specific transport proteins across the cell membrane. How these transport molecules sense what the pH value is inside the cell is still an open question. However, the work performed by Alvadia et al.describes that the transition metal, Zinc, likely interacts with the proteins that facilitate the transport of HCO3– through the membrane.

This Zinc-binding, therefore, plays a vital role in the sensing and regulation of cellular pH, in particular in the transporters found in neurons of the human brain. This is one of the first studies that directly associates Zinc binding with bicarbonate transporters. Preben Morth, Group Leader at NCMM comments, “This is a basic research project, and at this stage, it is difficult to predict what the medical consequences will be. However, it is likely that Zinc may play a key role in the regulation of pH in the brain and therefore has implications for brain function and health.”

The results have recently been published in Scientific Reports from the Nature publishing group. The research group behind the discovery is M.Sc. Carolina Alvadia Dr. Kaare Bjerregaard-Andersen, Dr. Theis Sommer, M.Sc. Michele Montrasio, Asc. Prof. Helle Damkier, Prof. Christian Aalkjaer, Asc. and Nordic EMBL Partnership principal investigator, J. Preben Morth.

Adapted from: Carolina M. Alvadia, Theis Sommer, Kaare Bjerregaard-Andersen, Helle Hasager Damkier, Michele Montrasio, Christian Aalkjaer, J. Preben Morth. The crystal structure of the regulatory domain of the human sodium-driven chloride/bicarbonate exchangerScientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-12409-0

Nutrition Nugget

Pre-Pack Your Meals And Snacks! It’s easy to get caught up with work and meetings during the day, leaving a quick fast-food lunch your only option. Spare yourself the empty calories and money by packing your lunch. Whether you meal prep at the beginning of the week or have leftovers from last night’s healthy dinner, you’re guaranteed a healthy option for lunch. Save even more money when you pack your own snacks to avoid any unnecessary trips to the vending machine!

Inspirational Nugget

Don’t forget to Thank God for keeping you safe through the night and every time you awaken to see a beautiful new day.

 

Moringa, Maqui Berries, and More: 8 Superfood Trends Coming Your Way

Move over kale, quinoa, and coconut water! You were so last years. 

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There are some new superfoods on the block, packed with compelling nutritional benefits and exotic tastes. They might sound rather bizarre but, five years ago, who could have predicted we’d be drinking collagen and feasting on avocado toast. These are the superfood trends you should not only watch out for but get excited about.

1. Nut oils

In 2016, nut butter exploded into the mainstream, with many choosing to give up animal products in favor of a plant-based diet. Following suit, nut oils are the new breed of superfood cooking essentials, with cold-pressed almond, cashew, walnut, and hazelnut oils set to be a healthier alternative to the average olive, vegetable, or sunflower varieties. While the nutritional content may be primarily quite similar, it’s worth remembering that not all fat is created equal. Nut oils typically contain less damaging trans fats and are much healthier for the heart. If you’re allergic to nuts, you could try avocado oil, which is coined to be the next coconut oil, as it’s great for cooking!

2. Moringa

Matcha, maca, spirulina, and green tea powder have previously ruled the roost when it comes to supercharging your smoothies, but there’s a new super-green in town, and it sounds more like a new dance craze than something you’d actually consume. Packed with vitamin C, calcium, potassium, and amino acids, the delicate, velvety powder comes from the fast-growing Moringa tree, native to India, Pakistan, and Nepal. Try sprinkling it into smoothies, yogurts, and juices. On the first impression, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a more peppery version of green tea, but the taste is a touch more bitter. Moringa is said to help manage blood sugar and stabilize histamine production. And despite being totally caffeine-free, it makes for a fabulous natural energy booster.

3. Chaga mushrooms

Admittedly, these don’t look very appetizing, with a lumpy exterior that resembles burnt charcoal. However, these important fungi are high in fiber, which makes them fantastic for regulating the digestive system, while its anti-inflammatory properties can also help soothe any inflammation in the bowels. The high level of antioxidants is another impressive superfood quality of the chaga, with further studies showing that it supports the immune system by increasing the production of certain immune cells. While you can buy a packet of chaga to crunch on, it’s more likely to be seeing them on the hot drinks menu as “mushroom coffee.” Interesting!

4. Cassava flour

Move over buckwheat and coconut flour! Used traditionally in Bali and South Asia, this beautifully soft powder is a much closer alternative to wheat for gluten-free eaters. It’s paleo-friendly, vegan-friendly, and nut-free, too. It’s not necessarily a superfood in the sense that it doesn’t offer an overwhelming amount of nutritional benefits that we couldn’t get elsewhere. However, it deserved a place on the list because it’s a perfect fit for plant-based recipes due to its root vegetable base and non-allergenic properties.

5. Watermelon seeds

Taking over from chia, pumpkin, and sesame, watermelon seeds will soon be the new buzz word among superfood fanatics. To enjoy the full goodness, they need to be sprouted and shelled before consumption. But it’s worth the hassle; a one cup serving contains 31 grams of protein and is also a fantastic source of magnesium, vitamin B, and both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Eat them alone as a snack, try roasting them, or sprinkle them over fruit, yogurt, or atop your acai breakfast bowl for a nutritious boost!

6. Maqui berries

Apparently, goji and acai have had their moments, it’s time to let their low-sugar sister shine. With a less bitter taste and milder flavor, these hard working berries contain a big dose of antioxidants, and they can help regulate blood sugar, aid digestion, and boost metabolism. Likely to spring up in powder form and be consumed much like acai, in breakfast bowls, smoothies, and juices, it contains a rainbow of vitamins, minerals, anti-inflammatory properties, as well as fiber. Add two tablespoons of freeze-dried powder to your breakfast smoothie for a superfood hit!

7. Tiger nuts

The incredible superfood benefits of tiger nuts are slowly but surely making their presence known and weaving their way into modern takes on favorite sweet and savory recipes. The small, raisin-shaped nuts contain high amounts of dietary fiber, potassium, and vegetable protein and have prebiotics which aid in digestion. They’re also an excellent source of magnesium, which is a natural muscle relaxer that helps maintain healthy kidneys and also prevents menstrual issues in women. They can be easily ground to make flour, or compressed as an alternative to cow’s milk.

8. Probiotic waters

In addition to nut butter, 2016 was also the year where probiotics really started making their way into the mainstream rather than being purely something health-conscious individuals kept a secret. They’d not only crop up in supplements but also in chocolate and yogurts too. Making it even easier for us to boost our gut flora and maintain a healthy digestive system, gut-friendly waters will soon be in our refrigerators. Why eat your probiotics when you can drink them? Offering a more functional delivery, the good bacteria will be in the right place in a matter of seconds by drinking it in liquid form. If you experience regular IBS troubles and irritation, you may benefit weaving one into your daily routine.

So, there you have it. Before long, expect to be sipping chaga coffee while you chow down on a maqui and moringa bowl, topped with watermelon seeds and tiger nuts. You heard it here first!

 Adapted from: Natalie Olsen, RD, LD, ACSM EP-C

Nutrition Daily Nugget

Eat Breakfast Within 1 Hour Of Waking Up!  When you eat right after waking up, you’re giving your body a chance to maximize your metabolism, regulate insulin levels and keep your appetite under control. By skipping breakfast, your body actually goes into conservation mode to preserve calories meaning you won’t burn calories and you’ll hang onto body fat.

Daily Inspiration Nugget

Just be yourself. Let people see the real, imperfect, flawed, quirky, weird, beautiful and magical person that your are. - Mandy Hale

 

 

 

5 Things That Might Happen to Your Body When You Give Up Dairy

Before you say goodbye to ice cream and mozzarella, here’s what you should know.

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What to know before you give up dairy

Thinking about eliminating milk, cheese, butter, and other dairy products from your diet (God help you; I could never give up cheese!)? You’re not alone. Whether or not to give up dairy, and how to do it is one of the top questions Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is often asked. One possible reason why so many people are ditching dairy? It’s gotten the A-list stamp of approval from those in the spotlight, from Jessica Biel who says she “just feels better” when she doesn’t eat dairy, gluten, or wheat to the Kardashian family where the women claimed that by going dairy-free they lost over 11 pounds in two weeks. And I have to be honest here and say, “Who Cares” but unfortunately these are some of the most “prized” role models.

Many experts stress that quitting dairy is not something to be done spontaneously or without cause. “You don’t need to eliminate an entire food group unless there’s a legitimate reason,” says Keri Gans, RDN, a nutritionist based in New York City. That said, if you do decide to give up dairy, there are five side effects you might experience.

You could miss out on some essential nutrients

Before you swap out your 1% for almond milk, it’s important to remember that dairy products can be part of a healthy diet. After all, there’s a reason why the USDA recommends adults have three cups of dairy per day; milk, cheese, and yogurt are rich sources of vitamin D, protein, and calcium, a critical nutrient for bone health. “It’s important to know how to replace them [if you give up dairy],” Sass says. If you’ve decided to eliminate dairy, work with a dietitian nutritionist (RDN) to create a diet plan that still includes plenty of these nutrients. “It’s not to say that someone who gives up dairy can’t get enough vitamin D and calcium, but it’s not as easy,” says Gans.

Dark leafy veggies, such as kale and collard greens, and fatty fish like sardines and canned salmon are good non-dairy calcium sources. Certain brands of plant-based milk and orange juice are also fortified with calcium and vitamin D, Sass notes, although “they’re low in protein so you may need to bump up your intake of foods like eggs, pulses, or salmon to maintain your total protein intake.” If you’ve eliminated dairy and are having trouble finding calcium and vitamin D alternatives that you enjoy, meet with an RDN to discuss whether or not you should start taking a supplement.

You might lose weight

Wanting to lose weight is often cited as the main motivation to cut out dairy, and Sass acknowledges that doing so may help you shed pounds. “I have had clients reduce body fat after giving up dairy,” she says. An important caveat, though: Weight loss after eliminating dairy “is often due to how they consumed it [before], how much, and in what form,” Sass explains. If pizza, mac and cheese, and grilled cheese sandwiches were your go-to meals, and you replaced them with lean proteins, whole grains, and fresh produce, then yes, you’d probably see the numbers on the scale drop.

“It’s not dairy itself, it’s the way it’s being consumed,” says Gans. In fact, research suggests that full-fat dairy, in particular, may actually aid weight loss. In an extensive 2016 study in the American Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that women who consumed higher quantities of high-fat dairy products had an 8% lower risk of being overweight or obese. One possible explanation: Full-fat dairy contains more calories, which may keep you feeling satiated for longer, and less likely to reach for known weight-gain culprits like sugar and refined carbs.

You could feel less bloated

“When people inquire about giving up dairy, it’s usually because they’re feeling bloated,” says Gans, adding that the culprit is almost always lactose intolerance. People with this condition can experience bloating and gas, plus severe stomach pain, diarrhea, and cramps when they consume dairy products. The reason: Lactose intolerant folks do not produce enough lactase, an enzyme that’s important for breaking down a type of sugar called lactase found in milk products. However, “not everybody with lactose intolerance needs to 100% remove dairy from their diet,” Gans says. Cutting back on your overall intake, or consuming dairy products along with other foods (such as cereal with milk instead of ice cream by itself) may be enough to ease symptoms.

If you have a condition that damages the digestive tract, such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease, you may also get relief from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)–like symptoms when you cut back on dairy.

Your skin might clear up

Some may swear that going dairy-free helps the fight blemishes, but the relationship between diet and acne is an ongoing source of debate among dermatologists. Research stretching back to the 1940s suggests at most a weak link between dairy consumption and breakouts. However, some experts believe the hormones in milk products could play a role in exacerbating hormonal acne, and many people do report clearer complexions when they give up these foods. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends noting any food triggers that seem to aggravate the skin and cutting back with the help of an RDN to make sure you’re still eating a balanced diet.

Other skin conditions may improve, too

There’s no scientific evidence to back up claims that dairy aggravates skin conditions. That said, some people with eczema and psoriasis report fewer symptoms after they cut back or entirely eliminate dairy. In general, when skin is acting up, an RDN may recommend an elimination diet to help pinpoint the offender. Dairy is considered one of the most common food allergens (along with wheat, eggs, soy, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, and peanuts), and is usually one of the groups excluded in such a diet. After a few weeks, food groups are added back to see which one is triggering inflammation.

The bottom line: Cutting out dairy is not a guaranteed fix for those with psoriasis and eczema. However, if you’re experiencing a sudden flare of symptoms, it may be worth trying an elimination diet to find out if a particular food is to blame; However, consult an RDN before attempting this diet.

Nutrition Daily Nugget

Drink Warm Lemon Water! Drinking a glass of warm lemon water in the morning will start your day off right! You’ll get a boost of vitamin C, clean out toxins from your body and keep your digestion system on track.

Daily Inspiration Nugget

Just because some people are fueled by drama doesn't mean you have to attend the performance. - Cheryl Richardson

 

Neutrons observe vitamin B6-dependent enzyme activity useful for drug development

B6-dependent protein, potentially opening avenues for new antibiotics and drugs to battle diseases such as drug-resistant tuberculosis, malaria, and diabetes.

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Specifically, the team used neutron crystallography to study the location of hydrogen atoms in aspartate aminotransferase, or AAT, an enzyme vital to the metabolism of certain amino acids. “We visualized the first neutron structure of a vitamin B6 enzyme that belongs to a large protein family with hundreds of members that exist in nature,” said Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) Andrey Kovalevsky, a senior co-author of the study, which was published in Nature Communications. Vitamin B6-dependent proteins are part of a diverse group of enzymes that conduct over a hundred different chemical reactions in cells. The enzymes are of interest to biomedical, as well as bioenergy, researchers because of their role in metabolizing amino acids and other cell nutrients.

“These enzymes are unique in that each one performs a specific chemical reaction with exquisite accuracy while suppressing other viable chemical transformations,” Kovalevsky said. “How they accomplish this is not well understood, but it is of great significance for drug design.” The team’s previous research predicted that hydrogen atoms move in and around the enzyme’s active site, where the chemical reaction takes place, indicating that the hydrogen atoms’ positioning controls the reaction type. Knowing the precise location of hydrogen atoms can explain why the behavior of these enzymes is so specific, but hydrogen is hard to detect with standard methods such as X-ray crystallography.

To directly determine the positions of hydrogen atoms within AAT, the ORNL-led team turned to neutron diffraction techniques. The researchers exposed fine protein crystals to neutrons using the IMAGINE beamline at ORNL’s High Flux Isotope Reactor and the LADI-III beamline at the Institut Laue-Langevin in Grenoble, France. Surprisingly, the team observed a reaction within one AAT protein biomolecule while another AAT biomolecule was unchanged, providing a before-and-after perspective of the enzyme-catalyzed chemical reaction. “The data revealed that in one of the enzyme’s biomolecular structures the covalent bonds reorganized after a chemical reaction occurred in the active site and, in another, the reaction had not taken place,” Kovalevsky said. “Essentially, we were able to obtain two structures in one crystal, which has never been done before for any protein using neutrons.”

With this knowledge, the team will run molecular simulations to determine the hydrogen atoms’ specific behavior when interacting with the enzyme. The results could be useful in guiding the future design of novel medicines against multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, malaria, diabetes and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. “This study highlights how neutrons are an unrivaled probe for identifying the location of hydrogen atoms in biological systems, providing us with an unprecedented level of structural detail for this important enzyme,” LADI-III beamline scientist Matthew Blakeley said.

Adapted from: Steven Dajnowicz, Ryne C. Johnston, Jerry M. Parks, Matthew P. Blakeley, David A. Keen, Kevin L. Weiss, Oksana Gerlits, Andrey Kovalevsky, Timothy C. Mueser. Direct visualization of critical hydrogen atoms in a pyridoxal 5′-phosphate enzymeNature Communications, 2017; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-01060-y

Nutrition Daily Nugget

Eat the rainbow! A fun and tasty way to make sure your family is eating a good variety of fruits and vegetables is to eat as many different colors as you can each day.

Daily Inspiration Nugget

Why do we close our eyes when we pray, cry, kiss, dream? Because the most beautiful things in life are not seen but felt only by the heart.

 

 

Top 5 Detox Foods

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Even the most health-conscious among us can go a little crazy on snacks and drinks during the holidays and at springtime and during the summer months, and before we know it, we are back at the holidays. Really, where does the time go? If we are having fun with people we love and care about, then that may also be another reason for indulging in our favorite snacks and drinks. So, when is it not a perfect reason or season to fall victim of the snack trap?

Thankfully, you can kind of have your cake and eat it, too. It’s OK to indulge a little in the foods you love, as long as you know how to get your body back on track. One of the best ways to help your body feel like it’s working at an optimal level is to support the bodies natural detoxification. Your organs are already incredibly well-suited for detoxing things, such as heavy metals, pathogens, and other deleterious compounds from its system. However, sometimes, especially when it’s overloaded and working overtime, your body can use a little bit of detox support.

Eating these foods regularly will help you feel energized and clear-minded. You’ll also notice that side effects of chronic inflammation caused by toxins will disappear. For many people, common side effects are bloating, indigestion, and weight gain, so in a sense, these are “flat tummy” foods, too!

  1. Beets: The root veggie is available year round, but be sure to grab a few at the farmers market before your next summer cookout. Beets support healthy liver function and help it filter out toxins all thanks to something called betaine. This compound, unique to raw beetroot, encourages the liver to cleanse itself and promotes healthy bile production. Try wrapping beets in foil and throwing them on the grill next time you BBQ!
  2. Grapefruit: Juicy, sweet, and tart, grapefruits are good to keep on hand the morning after a heavy meal. The antioxidants in the citrus fruit protect cells from free radical damage. Grapefruit is also very high in fiber, which acts like a broom for your digestive system, sweeping out the gut and intestines until everything is clean and good as new.
  3. Dandelion Root Iced Tea: Not exactly something you can snack on, but still an excellent detoxifying ingredient to have in your pantry! Dandelion Root promotes the production of bile in the liver. In other words, it helps your liver break down and cleanse your internal organs. Make a big batch and sip on this stuff the morning after a night out.
  4. Asparagus: According to the Journal of Food Science, the amino acids and minerals found in asparagus protect liver cells. Because so much of detoxification happens in the liver, it’s important to support this critical organ however possible.
  5. Avocado: Next time you’re feeling a little woozy after one too many skinny margaritas, whip up some avocado toast. A study published in The Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry found that of all fruits, avocado has the most liver-friendly benefits. It’s even able to reverse liver cell damage!

Daily Nutrition Nugget

Be an advocate for healthier kids! Insist on good food choices at school and childcare centers. Contact public officials and make your voice heard.

Daily Inspirational Nugget

Life is so ironic. It takes sadness to know happiness, noise to appreciate silence, and absence to value presence.

 

Like it or not: Broccoli may be good for the gut

For the broccoli haters of the world, researchers may have more bad news: the vegetable may also help promote a healthy gut.

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In a study, when mice ate broccoli with their regular diet, they were better able to tolerate digestive issues similar to symptoms of leaky gut and colitis than mice that were not placed on a broccoli-supplemented diet, according to Gary Perdew, the John T. and Paige S. Smith Professor in Agricultural Sciences, Penn State. He added that other vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, may also have similar gut health properties. “There are a lot of reasons we want to explore helping with gastrointestinal health and one reason is if you have problems, like a leaky gut, and start to suffer inflammation, that may then lead to other conditions, like arthritis and heart disease,” said Perdew. “Keeping your gut healthy and making sure you have good barrier functions so you’re not getting this leaky effect would be really big.”

Good intestinal barrier function means that the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is helping protect the intestines from toxins and harmful microorganisms while allowing nutrients to pass into the system, he said. According to Perdew, the key to the process may be a receptor in the gut called Aryl hydrocarbon receptor, or AHR. The receptor helps the body regulate its reaction to certain environmental contaminants, as well as triggers other responses to toxin exposure. The researchers, who released their findings in the current issue of the Journal of Functional Foods, suggest that cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, brussels sprouts and cabbage contain an organic chemical compound called indole glucosinolates, which breaks down into other compounds, including indolocarbazole (ICZ) in the stomach.

When ICZ binds to and activates the Aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) in the intestinal lining, it aids in maintaining a healthy balance in the gut flora and immune surveillance, and enhances host barrier function, according to the researchers. This may help prevent diseases, such as various cancers and Crohn’s Disease, caused by inflammation of the lining of the gut. According to Perdew, hyper-activating the AHR can cause toxicity, but using broccoli to activate the receptor locally, in the gut, rather than systemically might help avoid some of these problems. “Dioxin, for example, activates this receptor, and if you hyper-activate it with dioxin, it will cause toxicity,” said Perdew. “What we were interested in is: Could you locally activate the receptor naturally at a level that would cause only modest AHR activation in the gut, but not cause systemic activation, which could possibly lead to negative effects?”

The researchers used two genetic lines of mice in the study to focus on AHR. One line had a low ability to bind ICZ to AHR, while the other line had a high ability to bind ICZ to AHR. They added 15 percent broccoli to the diets of both groups of mice. After adding a substance that causes digestive problems, the researchers said that the mice with a higher ability to bind ICZ to the AHR were protected from a chemical that induced digestive problems, but the mice with the lower affinity suffered from the toxic insult.

For humans, the amount in the experiment would be equivalent to eating about 3.5 cups of broccoli each day, according to Perdew. “Now, three and a half cups is a lot, but it’s not a huge amount, really,” said Perdew. “We used a cultivar — or variety — with about half the amount of this chemical in it, and there are cultivars with twice as much. Also, brussels sprouts have three times as much, which would mean a cup of brussels sprouts could get us to the same level.”

Because people with certain digestive conditions like colitis, are often warned to avoid too much roughage in their diets, future research may include determining the best ways for people to consume broccoli, or other veggies with similar effects, to receive the same health benefits, without causing any other associated digestive problems from the fibrous vegetables.

Adapted from: Troy D. Hubbard, Iain A. Murray, Robert G. Nichols, Kaitlyn Cassel, Michael Podolsky, Guray Kuzu, Yuan Tian, Phillip Smith, Mary J. Kennett, Andrew D. Patterson, Gary H. Perdew. Dietary broccoli impacts microbial community structure and attenuates chemically induced colitis in mice in an Ah receptor dependent mannerJournal of Functional Foods, 2017; 37: 685 DOI: 10.1016/j.jff.2017.08.038

Nutrition Daily Nugget

Try a meatless meal each week. Think vegetable lasagna or a portabella mushroom burger! Vegetables and beans can add protein, fiber, and other nutrients to a meal.

Daily Inspiration Nugget

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Keto Diet Can Help You Live Longer, Researchers Say

Two recent studies concluded that the low-carbohydrate diet can increase lifespan. However, there is still plenty of controversy surrounding the Keto diet.

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Has the fountain of youth been sitting on your dinner plate? Two new scientific studies independently concluded that a ketogenic diet increased lifespan and preserved memory and motor function in mice. For advocates of the diet, the results are another feather in their cap, but the question remains if the science really outweighs the hype for humans. “The conclusion we draw out of this is that it’s a robust effect,” said Dr. Eric Verdin, president and chief executive officer of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and senior author of one of the papers, in a press release. “The two studies reinforce each other because they both show the same global effect on healthspan.”

Many are taking notice. This is a really exciting finding and long overdue,” Susan A. Masino, Ph.D., a professor of applied science at Trinity College in Connecticut, told Healthline. “[Ketogenic diets] mimic the metabolic state of fasting or caloric restriction — which has many similar benefits.” Masino has spent years researching the ketogenic diet, metabolism, and brain health — that is, how what we eat affects our brains.

How the studies were conducted

In Verdin’s study, some mice were fed between 70-90% of their daily food calories from fat. That was compared with control groups receiving only 13-17% from fat, with carbohydrate calories making up the bulk of the difference. The mice on higher fat diets had longer lives, lower midlife mortality rates, and performed better on tests pertaining to certain cognitive functioning. The results “clearly demonstrate that lifespan is increased in mice consuming a ketogenic diet,” compared with a control group, the authors wrote.

However, it’s impossible to say that such a conclusion could be reproduced in humans. As such, some experts are more measured in their assessment of these findings. Susan Weiner, MS, RDN, CDE, CDN, a dietitian and diabetes educator, agrees that the results are promising, but she cautions that it is still “too soon to recommend” the diet to many individuals.

Keto diet is controversial

The ketogenic diet has become pervasive in the United States in both popular culture and fitness circles for its myriad health benefits, but it remains contentious. The diet is based on the simple premise that when carbohydrate intake is drastically lowered or stopped entirely, the body must find a new primary source of energy. That source is fat. Ketosis is different from ketoacidosis, which is the leading cause of death of people with diabetes under 24 years of age.

Ketosis is identified by the presence of ketones in the bloodstream, a chemical that the body produces when it burns stored fat. The ketogenic diet has proven effective in helping to control seizures in some people with epilepsy. Advocates have also hailed its ability to help shed pounds. These new results, Masino said, are further proof of what some researchers, herself included, have believed for years.

However, any time a diet, scientifically backed or not, takes over Americans’ dinner plates, there are bound to be complications. A number of problems individuals can have with the diet have been pointed out in several articles. These include the risk of muscle loss, fatigue, and, of course, the many health issues associated with the yo-yo or fad dieting and with that story, many experts were at odds with each other.

However, Weiner and Masino both agree that for the average American, cutting down on carbs is probably a good thing (BUT, you DO want to make sure the carbs you do intake are whole grains!). “Most adults would benefit from reducing the overall amount of carbohydrate in their diet significantly,” said Masino. “Following a strict ketogenic diet is probably not necessary or realistic for most people unless they have very specific health goals.”

Trying to stay on the Keto diet

The “unrealistic” aspect of the ketogenic diet is that it can actually be difficult to maintain. It requires a strict adherence to a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet, with little wiggle room for “cheat meals,” and absolutely no sweets or alcohol (O.K. I’m out for sure!). “In any kind of nutrition change there has to be sustainability,” said Weiner. For individuals who are out to lose weight, choosing a difficult diet can be taxing and may cause further setbacks rather than help.

“When you stop short, it does affect people feeling bad about themselves because they can’t keep up with it necessarily at the pace that it’s being recommended,” Weiner said. “So they feel it’s another failure in their trying to lose weight.” The ketogenic diet has been called “antisocial” because dining out becomes difficult, depending on how strictly one is adhering to the diet. “It can be very socially isolating,” said Weiner.

Even when preparing food at home, time management and cost are also factors for individuals who want to cook their own meals. “The social and economic situations affect this decision as well,” said Weiner. The bottom line is that individuals hoping to embark on a nutritional diet should be aware of the multifold ways in which it can impact their lives, beyond potential health benefits or harms. While this new research on the ketogenic diet is exciting, there still remains significant work to be done in human trials. Even then, it may not be beneficial for everyone.

However, as interest in it continues to grow among the general public, and the more informed decision an individual can make about their diet, the better. Weiner said proponents of this diet suggest that our current nutritional habits may lead to an increasing incidence of obesity, prediabetes, cancer and type 2 diabetes. More studies are needed to determine if the ketogenic diet should be recommended for those at high risk for developing these conditions. For most Americans, having to adhere to a strict ketogenic diet is more difficult than taking more simple dietary steps such as eating fewer sweets and carbohydrates, and eating more fresh vegetables.

Nutrition Daily Nugget

Use frozen or canned fish and poultry for a quick and easy meal! Choose the options canned in water and watch sodium content.

Daily Inspiration Nugget

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