The Latest in Health & Medicine

hands-berriesHave you kept up-to-date with the research on nutrition, the human microbiome, and ancestral health lately? If not, here’s your chance to catch up. In these semi-regular posts I include links to recently published articles, videos, and scientific papers that I find particularly interesting and that revolve around topics that are frequently discussed on this site, such as the human microbiome, physical activity, and ancestral diets.

Let me know in the comment section if you have any thoughts/opinions related to the articles in today’s post or if you’ve come across any interesting new research on diet, health, and exercise that you think deserves to be mentioned.

– Nutrition

Meat-Eating Among the Earliest Humans

Although the modern “paleodiet” movement often claims that our ancestors ate large amounts of meat, we still don’t know the proportion of meat in the diet of any early human species, nor how frequently meat was eaten. Modern hunter-gatherers have incredibly varied diets, some of which include fairly high amounts of meat, but many of which don’t. Still, we do know that meat-eating was one of the most pivotal changes in our ancestors’ diets and that it led to many of the physical, behavioral, and ecological changes that make us uniquely human. Read more…

When food alters gene function

As the study shows, a high-fat diet during pregnancy and lactation leads to epigenetic changes in the offspring. These changes affect metabolic pathways regulated by the gut hormone GIP, whereby the adult offspring are more susceptible to obesity and insulin resistance, the precursor to type 2 diabetes. Similar mechanisms cannot be ruled out in humans, according to Pfeiffer. Read more…

The Mindlessly slim

You know that one friend that never worries about weight and seems to stay effortlessly slim? That friend, and others like them might unknowingly possess secrets to helping those who struggle with their weight. Read more…

Confessions of a Paleo Diet Pioneer

Whatever the ratio, our theory was that early humans who made it past the gantlet of childhood microbes—which led to very high infant mortality and low life expectancy on average—would be much less likely to suffer the plagues of modern life: diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer. We still think that a mismatch between the lifestyle to which our genes are adapted and current habits helps to explain these new epidemics. Human beings evolved in a very different world from our own. Our ancestors’ watchword was to eat while you can, the more calories the better—which didn’t do much harm when you had to earn every calorie and the spectrum of foods was healthier. Read more…

Does a ‘Western diet’ increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease?

What the researchers found was that prolonged consumption of the western diet chow led to a dramatic increase in immune response activity in the brains of all mice, including those that don’t model Alzheimer’s disease. The diet greatly increased the activity of microglia, which function as the brain’s immune cells, and monocytes, circulating white blood cells that may cross into the brain in response to immune signaling. Some components of the western diet have been associated with the development of peripheral inflammation over time, and the study’s findings strengthen the possibility that immune activity in the brain increases Alzheimer’s disease susceptibility. Read more…

Intermittent energy restriction and weight loss: a systematic review

This systematic review finds that IER [Intermittent Energy Restriction] may be an effective dietary alternative for promoting weight loss in overweight/obese adults in the short term (that is, over a 12-month period) for the treatment of overweight and obesity. Read more…

Brain food: Clever eating

The micronutrients in meat have become an essential part of our diet over millennia. A few years ago, archaeologists in Tanzania unearthed fragments of a child’s skull dating back 1.5 million years. Deformities on the bones suggested that the child had died from porotic hyperostosis, a condition thought to result from a deficiency in vitamin B12 — found exclusively in animal-derived foods. Humans started eating dairy products only in the past 5,000 years, meaning that the child had almost certainly died from a lack of meat7. So, by at least 1.5 million years ago, says Domínguez-Rodrigo, humans had become so adapted to eating meat that without it they would die. Read more…

Let hunger be your guide

With the wide availability of convenient foods engineered for maximum tastiness– such as potato chips, chocolates, and bacon double cheeseburgers– in the modern food environment and with widespread advertising, the contemporary consumer is incessantly being bombarded with the temptation to eat. This means that, in contrast to people in traditional societies, people in contemporary societies often eat not on account of hunger but because tasty food is available and beckoning at all hours of the day. Read more…

What you eat can influence how you sleep

A new study found that eating less fiber, more saturated fat and more sugar is associated with lighter, less restorative, and more disrupted sleep. Read more…

New study finds clear differences between organic and non-organic milk and meat

Both organic milk and meat contain around 50 percent more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids than conventionally produced products, report researchers who conducted systematic literature reviews and analyzed data from around the world. Read more…

Kids may risk cancer from toxins in food

All 364 children in a recent study of food-borne toxin exposure exceeded cancer benchmarks for arsenic, dieldrin, DDE, and dioxins. Read more…

– Physical activity

Intensive exercise with intervals ‘more effective’

Researcher Charlotte Jelleyman said: “This study involved a meta-analysis of experimental research, allowing us to pull together evidence and establish cause and effect. We have demonstrated that HIIT conveys benefits to cardiometabolic health which in the cases of insulin resistance and aerobic fitness may be superior to the effect of traditional continuous training.” Read more…

Endurance Exercise Enhances the Effect of Strength Training on Muscle Fiber Size and Protein Expression of Akt and mTOR

The major finding in the present study was that endurance training does not impair the enhancement in maximal strength or fiber hypertrophy induced by a subsequent session of strength training. Actually, the combined training led to more pronounced increase in muscle fiber area, accompanied by elevations in the levels of both Akt and mTOR proteins in the vastus lateralis muscle. In addition, the combined training enhanced the area of both type I and type II fibers, whereas strength training only increased the type II fibers. Read more…

Losing fat while gaining muscle: Scientists close in on ‘holy grail’ of diet and exercise

Researchers at McMaster University have uncovered significant new evidence in the quest for the elusive goal of gaining muscle and losing fat, an oft-debated problem for those trying to manage their weight, control their calories and balance their protein consumption. Read more…

Why you won’t lose weight with exercise alone

Exercise by itself isn’t always enough to take off the weight. Now, evidence helps to explain why that is: our bodies adapt to higher activity levels, so that people don’t necessarily burn extra calories even if they exercise more. Read more…

Muscle memory and a new cellular model for muscle atrophy and hypertrophy

Memory is a process in which information is encoded, stored, and retrieved. For vertebrates, the modern view has been that it occurs only in the brain. This review describes a cellular memory in skeletal muscle in which hypertrophy is ‘remembered’ such that a fibre that has previously been large, but subsequently lost its mass, can regain mass faster than naive fibres. Read more…

– The human microbiome

Gut Microbiome of Coexisting BaAka Pygmies and Bantu Reflects Gradients of Traditional Subsistence Patterns

To understand how the gut microbiome is impacted by human adaptation to varying environments, we explored gut bacterial communities in the BaAka rainforest hunter-gatherers and their agriculturalist Bantu neighbors in the Central African Republic. Although the microbiome of both groups is compositionally similar, hunter-gatherers harbor increased abundance of Prevotellaceae, Treponema, and Clostridiaceae, while the Bantu gut microbiome is dominated by Firmicutes. Comparisons with US Americans reveal microbiome differences between Africans and westerners but show western-like features in the Bantu, including an increased abundance of predictive carbohydrate and xenobiotic metabolic pathways. In contrast, the hunter-gatherer gut shows increased abundance of predicted virulence, amino acid, and vitamin metabolism functions, as well as dominance of lipid and amino-acid-derived metabolites, as determined through metabolomics. Our results demonstrate gradients of traditional subsistence patterns in two neighboring African groups and highlight the adaptability of the microbiome in response to host ecology. Read more…

Bacteria Can Convey Electrical Messages the Same Way Neurons Do

Bacteria may be ancient organisms, but don’t call them primitive. Despite being unicellular, they can behave collectively—sharing nutrients with neighbors, moving in concert with others and even committing suicide for the greater good of their colony. Molecules that travel from cell to cell enable such group behavior in a signaling process called quorum sensing. Now new evidence reveals that bacteria may have another way to “talk” to one another: communication via electrical signaling—a mechanism previously thought to occur only in multicellular organisms. Read more…

‘Gut’ bacteria may help put a kink in family obesity cycle

For this study, a prebiotic supplement was given to rats on a high-fat and high-sugar diet during their three-week pregnancy and three-weeks post-birth, during lactation. The rats taking the supplement ate less, and both baby and mother had a lower percentage of body fat — 33 percent for mom and 30 per cent for newborn — compared to the rats that ate the same diet but with no supplement. Read more…

Does our Microbiome Control Us or Do We Control It?

We may be able to keep our gut in check after all. That’s the tantalizing finding from a new study published today that reveals a way that mice—and potentially humans—can control the makeup and behavior of their gut microbiome. Such a prospect upends the popular notion that the complex ecosystem of germs residing in our guts essentially acts as our puppet master, altering brain biochemistry even as it tends to our immune system, wards off infection and helps us break down our supersized burger and fries. Read more…

Sweet discovery in leafy greens holds key to gut health

The finding suggests that leafy greens are essential for feeding good gut bacteria, limiting the ability of bad bacteria to colonise the gut by shutting them out of the prime ‘real estate’. Read more…

Daily dose of antibiotics helps bacteria develop multi-drug tolerance

Antibiotics do not easily eradicate the gut bacteria Escherichia coli, as some bacteria survive treatment in a dormant state. Once treatment is stopped, these dormant cells can become active again and recolonize the body. Researchers have shown that the more frequently bacteria receive antibiotics, the more of them survive. What is more, these survivors have evolved into bacteria with multi-drug tolerance. Read more…

Bacterial brawls mark life in the gut’s microbiome

Bacterially speaking, it gets very crowded in the human gut, with trillions of cells jostling for a position to carry out a host of specialized and often crucial tasks. A new Yale study, published the week of March 7 in the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests these “friendly” bacteria aggressively stake out their territory, injecting lethal toxins into any other cells that dare bump into them. Read more…

Preemies’ gut bacteria reveal vast scope of antibiotic resistance

A new study of gut bacteria in premature infants reveals the vast scope of the problem of antibiotic resistance and gives new insight into the extreme vulnerability of these young patients, according to researchers. Read more…

Maternal diet alters the breast milk microbiome and microbial gene content

“We saw considerable differences based on maternal diet,” explained Kristen Meyer, with the Baylor College of Medicine, one of the researchers of the study and the presenter at the SMFM annual meeting. “Based on this, we speculate that the maternal diet serves as a significant driver of the early infant microbiome, reinforcing the gestational dietary impact,” added Meyer. Read more…

Breast milk sugars promote healthy infant growth through gut microbiome

Childhood malnutrition causes over 3 million deaths every year and leads to stunted growth as well as deficits in immune and cognitive development. Partnering with colleagues in Malawi, Africa, where almost half of all children under five show stunted growth, the study’s researchers obtained small samples of human breast milk from the mothers of healthy or stunted babies. They found that sugars containing sialic acid, which has been implicated in brain development, were far more abundant in the breast milk of mothers with healthy compared with stunted babies. Read more…

– Other topics

Going Mainstream or Just a Passing Fad? The Future of the Ancestral Health Movement

The current ancestral health (“paleo”) movement is often thought to be on the verge of going mainstream. Many within the movement believe this would lead to positive health and financial outcomes for both individuals and society as a whole. However, the transition from a small, highly-devoted group of adherents to a mass following will be far more difficult than commonly assumed. This paper argues there are three main obstacles to it becoming a mass phenomenon in the United States. First, Neolithic foods are tightly woven into the fabric of our culture (for example, bread within the Christian tradition). Second, refined carbohydrates, which make up a large portion of the typical Western diet, are physiologically addictive. Third, we see a cross-generational sense of entitlement, which commonly privileges transitory “fun” over true mental and physical “flourishing” (eudemonia). This paper also identifies the two types of individuals that typically go paleo: those who are sick (and for whom conventional medicine has failed) and those who are seeking performance. The key commonality between both groups is a very high level of intrinsic motivation, which also suggests limited penetration of the ancestral health movement in the future. Read more…

How our ancestors drilled rotten teeth

In fact, rotten teeth only became a common problem very recently – about 10,000 years ago – at the dawn of the Neolithic period, a time when our ancestors began farming. Relatively sophisticated dentistry emerged soon after. In the last decade or so archaeologists have found evidence from cultures across the world that bad teeth were scraped, scoured, even drilled and filled apparently to remove decayed tissue. Read more…

Humans mated with Neandertals much earlier and more frequently than thought

Members of our species had sex with Neandertals much earlier—and more often—than previously believed, according to a new study of ancient DNA. As some of the first bands of modern humans moved out of Africa, they met and mated with Neandertals about 100,000 years ago—perhaps in the fertile Nile Valley, along the coastal hills of the Middle East, or in the once-verdant Arabian Peninsula. This pushes back the earliest encounter between the two groups by tens of thousands of years and suggests that our ancestors were shaped in significant ways by swapping genes with other types of humans. Read more…

How obesity makes memory go bad

Obesity plagues developed nations, and among the numerous negative health outcomes associated with obesity is a memory impairment that is seen in middle-aged and older obese people. The cause of this decline? Experiments with obese rodents have given a clue: altered gene expression in the hippocampus area of the brain. Until now, the reasons gene expression was changed, as well as the mechanism by which obesity leads to pathogenic memory impairment, have not been known. Read more…

Half the world to be short-sighted by 2050

The rapid increase in the prevalence of myopia globally is attributed to, “environmental factors (nurture), principally lifestyle changes resulting from a combination of decreased time outdoors and increased near work activities, among other factors,” say the authors from Brien Holden Vision Institute, University of New South Wales Australia and Singapore Eye Research Institute. Read more…

Comments

  1. A lot of food for thought here. Thanks, Eirik.

    Re. the “mindlessly slim” people I’ve known or lived with… I’ve mainly noticed that they aren’t preoccupied with food but do tend to gravitate toward nutritionally dense choices. For instance, breakfast might be a bowl of oatmeal or a couple of eggs. Lunch (for some I’ve observed) can be as little as an apple and a handful of trail mix. Dinner? Whatever doesn’t require much forethought or preparation–like maybe a piece of meat and a salad or some veggies. They don’t overeat and have no interest in sweets (which might be the real key). Food is a necessity, not a hobby; it’s just the fuel that allows them to pursue their interests.

  2. The articles about meat eating are apparent attempts to push gradually a vegetarian grain based diet. First, they have to admit the apparent evidence that meat played a crucial role in our evolution (you can’t deny a striking evidence), but then they diluite the meaning with many empty confounding nonsenses. Words, words…words… the fossil evidence, truangulated with rct and ethnographic data are the most powerful tool we have. Hunter gatherers data show that they eat at least 26% of their calories from animal food (Gwi), until 99% of the Inuit. 26% is the lower limit and is far from a flimsy steak once a week recommended by grain pushed dietary guidelines. Moreover, the less efficient conversion capability from ALA to DHA of european descendents is a hint that the pressure relaxed for europeans who had to rely more on animal based food.
    Most probably, africans need slightly less animal food than europeans. Of course veggies are important for us, especially for our microbiome, but please don’t blame paleo dieters and use strawmen arguments to push a grain based diet.

  3. I suggest to read “The perfect human diet” by CJ Hunt. There’s also a documentary with the interviews. You can hear directly from the researchers, Aiello and co. without filters.

  4. I don’t want to be biased and challenge my ideas every day. Cordain has been blamed to be biased, and like any other being he certainly has some bias, but when someone claims that Neanderthal ate barley broth based on bogus evidence, who is really biased? When someone is going to provide me reliable evidence, I will be happy to get rid of my bias. Sincerely folks, read the arguments of Cordain against the alleged grain consumption of early humans and let data speak for themselves. I smell the stink at hundreds of meters… so far, for me, the only argument that it may be possible that Cordain pushed too far is about phytic acid. The rest is a spectacular heavy referenced triangulation between ethnographic data, rct and animal studies.

  5. hi Eirik,
    I recommend to peruse “The ideal human eating regimen” . There’s additionally a narrative with the meetings. You can hear specifically from the analysts, Aiello and co. without filters.

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