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Sep 27, 2011

Control Type 2 Diabetes by Including Nuts in Diet

Recent research from St. Michael's Hospital and University of Toronto reveals that regular intake of nuts can make a real difference in people with Type 2 diabetes. Two ounces of this food every day eaten in place of carbohydrates proved helpful in controlling blood sugar and serum lipids.

In this study, 117 people with type 2 diabetes were randomly assigned to one of three groups for 3 months. Different dietary supplements were given to each group, totaling 475 kcal per 2,000-kcal diet. The first group received mixed nuts (including raw almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, peanuts, cashews, and macadamias), the second group received muffins, and the last group was given a combination of muffins and mixed nuts.

Based on glycosylated hemoglobin measurement, a long-term marker for blood sugar control also known as HbA1c, participants in the first group (nuts only) showed the most improvement in blood sugar control. Serum LDL or "bad" cholesterol levels in this group also improved. In both the muffin and combination groups, there was no significant change in control of blood sugar, however, the combination group did experience a substantial lowering of serum LDL.

According to lead researcher, Dr. David Jenkins, participants in the nuts-only group lowered their glycosylated hemoglobin by two-thirds the level the FDA considers to be clinically meaningful for therapeutic agents.  Dr. Jenkins also pointed out that nuts appear to be well suited as part of weight-reducing diets.” This is contrary to the popular belief that consumption of nuts automatically contributes to weight gain.

Nuts are a valuable source of protein, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and other important nutrients. Those of us looking to balance blood sugar and improve lipids may want to consider replacing some of those daily carbohydrates with a handful of mixed nuts.

Dr. Shana McQueen


Deep Sleep Lowers Risk for High Blood Pressure

The relationship between chronic sleep problems and increased risk for cardiovascular disease has been validated by multiple past scientific studies. A newer study published in Hypertension indicates that quality of sleep, not just quantity of sleep, plays a major role in risk for high blood pressure.

Interested in analyzing the effects of deep sleep on health, researchers studied nearly 800 healthy men with no signs of high blood pressure at the time of enrollment. Over the period of 3 ½ years, participants had their blood pressures checked periodically and had their sleep monitored via a home machine. Researchers were particularly concerned with slow-wave stages of sleep since these correlate with the deepest hours of sleep. During a normal night's sleep, slow-wave stages typically makeup about 25% of total sleep, usually lasting for 1 ½ to 2 hours.

Results of the study showed that men experiencing slow-wave (deep sleep) for the shortest amounts of time were the most likely to develop hypertension. Rather than getting the benefit of deep sleep lasting for 25% of their total sleep, the men at most risk for elevated blood pressure only experienced deep sleep for up to 4% of their total sleep every night. Men with the lowest levels of deep sleep also tended to have more sleep apnea and sleep less hours overall.

Although this study population only included men, Dr. Susan Redline, author and professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's hospital, believes that lack of deep sleep probably affects women similarly.

Many factors can get in the way of a good night's deep sleep. Some of the common causes of sleep interruption include poor sleep habits, loud snoring, sleep apnea, restless legs, physical pain or discomfort, chronic stress, and side effects from some medications. Deep sleep also tends to decrease as we age, particularly when there are dramatic changes in hormone levels as well as life situations. The types and amounts of physical and mental activities we engage in during the day also play an important role in quality of sleep.

By developing healthier sleep habits (i.e. getting to bed earlier, having relaxing routines before bedtime, sleeping in a dark room, etc) and addressing any other factors that may be interfering with our sleep, we will not only improve our deep sleep and wake up feeling more refreshed, but also improve our cardiovascular health. Once again, sleep proves to be a vital key to optimal health and well-being!

Dr. Shana McQueen


Probiotics for Prevention of Urinary Tract Infections

"It is essential to replenish the good bacteria that have been lost"

For many women, urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a highly unpleasant and all too familiar experience. Once affected by their first UTI, a person tends to become more susceptible to repeat infections. Recurrence is particularly likely in those with a history of antibiotic use since these drugs target both the bad and beneficial microorganisms in our bodies. When beneficial bacteria are killed off, they are no longer available to help protect our tissues from invasion of pathogenic bacteria, thus increasing the chances for future infection. Overuse and misuse of antibiotics also leads to the development of drug resistance, whereby the most vicious and problematic bad bacteria manage to survive and can become difficult to control. Curious how the very drugs so commonly relied on to treat infections are predisposing us to recurrent infections!

So what can be done about this?
In the case of UTIs, one solution is to replete the tissues in women who get UTIs with beneficial bacteria. A double-blind-placebo-controlled trial published in Clinical Infectious Diseases confirmed that hydrogen peroxide-producing vaginal probiotics (aka beneficial bacteria) can be used to prevent recurrent UTIs in premenopausal women. Participants in the study included 100 young women who had been prescribed antibiotics for acute UTI. All women had a history of recurrent UTIs and were randomly placed in one of two groups, either to receive Lactin-V (intravaginal probiotic suppository containing Lactobacillus crispatus) or placebo. The Lactin-V or placebo were given once daily for 5 days, then once per week for 10 weeks. Urine cultures and vaginal swabs were taken as part of follow-up after 1 and 10 weeks, respectively.

Results of this study found that out of the women receiving Lactin-V, only 15% experienced recurrent UTI, but 27% of the women receiving placebo had recurrent UTI. In the Lactin-V group, significant decline in repeat UTI was found to correlate with a high-level vaginal colonization with Lactobacillus crispatus. Lactin-V proved to be effective in reducing UTI recurrence in women treated with antibiotics.

As helpful as antibiotic drugs may be in certain situations, they do carry risks and should always be used with care. When they are used, it is essential to replenish the good bacteria that have been lost. This study provides evidence that repleting the vaginal flora with probiotics after antibiotic treatment can be very helpful for prevention of repeat urinary tract infections.

Dr. Shana McQueen


Sep 19, 2011

Memory Improved with Brain Fitness Program

A healthy brain is one that gets “exercised” regularly in both a mental and physical sense.  New research shows that memory can be improved in healthy elderly adults by implementation of brain exercises and healthy lifestyle changes.  The study population included 115 residents living in retirement communities in Maryland, ages 63 and older.  The majority of participants were white females (98% white, 79% female), and all participants had slight memory complaints but no diagnosis of dementia.  Each participant underwent memory testing and then was randomly enrolled in the memory fitness program or placed on a waiting list for the program.  During 12 bi-weekly 60-minute sessions, the memory fitness program consisted of memory training, physical activity, stress reduction, and education on diet for a healthy brain. 

After 6 weeks of the program, participants demonstrated significant improvements in areas such as word recognition and recall.  Improvements were reflected not only in objective but also subjective measurements.  For example, objective cognitive measures included things like retention of verbal information while subjective measures looked at frequency and severity of forgetting.  Participants were able to perceive positive changes in their memory abilities.   

The Erickson Foundation, directed by John Parrish, PhD, oversees retirement communities including the ones used in this study.  According to Parrish, the memory fitness program will be offered in all 16 of their communities spread throughout the country.      
Lead author Karen Miller, PhD, pointed out, “The study demonstrates that it’s never too late to learn new skills to enhance one’s life.”  Another author concluded, “It's important to empower people and teach them about healthy brain lifestyle. Although there's no absolute proof that you can prevent Alzheimer's disease, we know that physical exercise and healthy diet can prevent diabetes, which is itself a major risk factor for Alzheimer's. So it all seems to tie together."

Healthy brain function is a necessity for a happy healthy life.  If you want your brain to work for you throughout life, you've also got to work for it!   

This study was published online in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

Dr. Shana McQueen


Children with ADHD Benefit from Omega-3 Supplementation

A recent meta-analysis supports the use of omega-3 acids as part of treatment for children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  After evaluating 10 trials with nearly 700 children diagnosed with ADHD, results indicated a “small but significant” improvement in severity of symptoms in those children who received omega-3 supplementation compared with children given placebo.  Supplements containing higher doses of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) also proved to provide beneficial effects in ADHD children.  Researchers stated that the treatment efficacy “was modest compared with currently available pharmacotherapies for ADHD, such as psychostimulants, atomoxetine, or a2 agonists" but added that the “relatively benign side-effect profile” may be a reasonable addition to conventional treat ments or even an option for those not wanting to go the psychopharmacologic treatment route.   

As essential requirements for optimal brain and nervous system function, omega-3 fatty acids also have important anti-inflammatory properties in the body.  According to researchers, past studies have revealed differences in omega-3s in both the plasma and red blood cell membranes of individuals with ADHD compared with peers without ADHD.      

In looking at results of the individual trials included in the meta-analysis, 2 trials showed significant benefit of supplementation with omega-3, 2 showed benefit only on some of the ADHD rating scales used, and the remaining 6 indicated no amount of benefit.  However, when pooling all the trial data together, the analysis revealed significant benefit in those participants using omega-3 supplementation as compared with placebo.      

This study was published in the Journal of the Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.  

Dr. Shana McQueen 


Sep 12, 2011

Daily Handful of Walnuts Lowers Breast Cancer Risk

Researchers from Marshall University in West Virginia have found that small amounts of walnuts eaten daily significantly lowers the risk of breast cancer in mice.  The study, published in Nutrition and Cancer, looked at the influence of a typical diet compared with a walnut-enhanced diet throughout the entire lifespan.  This included what mice ate directly as well as what they got from their mothers from the period of conception through weaning.  An amount of 2 ounces per day is the human equivalent to what test mice were fed in the study.    

In the group with regular walnut consumption, development of breast cancers occurred at less than half the rate compared with the group eating the typical diet. Tumor number and size were also significantly smaller in the walnut group.   Lead researcher, Elaine Hardman, Ph.D., expressed how especially important these findings are considering how the mice in this study were genetically predisposed to develop breast cancer tumors.  “We were able to reduce the risk for cancer even in the presence of a preexisting genetic mutation.”

Whether the cancer prevention benefits in this study were due to additions or deletions in the diet are not known.  Including healthy dietary fats from walnuts translates as a corresponding lower intake of unhealthy fats, but walnuts also contain numerous other ingredients known to be responsible for lowering cancer risk and cancer growth. 

Hardman points out the essential role that diet plays in health.  “Food is important medicine in our diet.  What we put into our bodies makes a big difference -  it determines how the body functions, our reaction to illness and health.  The simple stuff really works:  eat right, get off the couch, and turn off the TV.”

Walnuts are a tasty food known to be a rich in health-promoting nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and protein.  By incorporating just 2 ounces (or about 14 halves) of this superfood into your diet each day, you can dramatically lower your risk of breast cancer!

Dr. Shana McQueen


Tone Your Bones with Dried Plums

Dried plums, also known as prunes, are not just good for getting your bowels moving when things are “stopped up.”  Incorporating this fruit into the diet can also apparently lower risk for osteoporosis and fractures in postmenopausal women, according to a new study in the British Journal of Nutrition.  

After comparing dried plums to many other fruits, including figs, strawberries, and dates, Professor Bahram H. Arjmandi of Florida State University found that dried plums have a particular affinity for improving bone health.  He and his colleagues from Oklahoma State University studied 2 groups of postmenopausal women over the period of 1 year.  The first group of 55 women ate 100 grams of dried plums (approximately 10) daily, while the second group of 35 consumed 500 grams of dried apples each day.  Women from both groups took supplemental calcium (500 mg) and vitamin D (400 IUs) daily.  After 1 year, the women in the dried plum group were found to have greater bone densities in both their ulnas and spines compared with the dried apple group.  They also had lowered serum values of compounds known to be involved in the breaking down of bone, including alkaline phosphatase and tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase-5b.       

As people age, the process of bone breakdown tends to become faster relative to bone growth.  Women start losing bone at a significantly higher rate than before during their first several years after menopause, while men become more at risk for bone loss around age 65.  But proving to be quite the exceptional food, dried plums may actually suppress the breakdown of bone.  A study from 2010 published in the Journal of Nutrition revealed that dried plums have “proanabolic factors” responsible for increasing bone volume and even restoring bone lost due to aging.  These fruits are also fairly dense in some of the nutrients known to be essential for healthy bones, including vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, and boron.  As a way to help preserve and improve bone health in both women and men, Professor Arjmandi’s advice is to include dried plums in one’s diet, starting with a few per day and working up to 6-10 per day.    

Now that there are studies revealing some of the amazing benefits of prunes, we can all give this fruit the respect it truly deserves.  No longer just famous for relieving a sluggish digestive tract, prunes can now also be known for keeping our bones toned!     

Dr. Shana McQueen


Diet Influences Gut Microbes

The average human body is made up of 10 trillion cells and coexists with approximately 10 times that amount of microbes in the gut alone!  Extending from the old saying “you are what you eat,” it’s probably safe to assume that the microbial life that lives alongside us is also influenced by what we eat.  

A recent study done through University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine demonstrates this.  The study showed a variation in gut flora dependent upon whether people ate a high fat animal protein diet or a higher carbohydrate plant-based diet.  Researchers questioned 98 healthy, non-obese American adults about dietary habits and isolated bacterial DNA present in their stool samples.  Depending on the prevalence of different types of bacterial species found, participants were placed in one of two categories or enterotypes, either Bacteroides or Prevotella.  Those in the Bacteroides group tended to consume more animal proteins and fats, while those in the Prevotella group ate a more plant-based diet.  In a follow-up experiment, 10 participants who fell into the Bacteroides category were fed either a high fat/low fiber diet or low fat/high fiber diet for 10 days.  Changes in diet were found to correspond to changes in the types of gut bacteria present, but not to a large enough extent to shift any participant from the Bacteroides group into the Prevotella group.  This indicates that long-term dietary habits must have a stronger influence on gut microflora than short-term.    

Though this was only a small-scale study looking at a limited number of bacterial types, it provides evidence that food choice plays an important role in the types of microorganisms hanging out in our digestive systems.  Since many illnesses are correlated with either overgrowth or lack of particular gut microbes, it is essential to continue studying the relationship between diet, microbial variations in the gut, and overall health.  

Dr. Shana McQueen


Water Fluoridation to End in Spring Hill, Tennessee

City officials in Tennessee have officially agreed to stop fluoridation of Spring Hill’s public water supply beginning November 1, 2011.  The idea was first set into motion after individuals like Spring Hill’s water superintendent Caryl Giles began questioning the necessity for water fluoridation.  Concerns have been raised since public water fluoridation forces ingestion of the substance by all who drink city water.  I think we have to be responsible as parents and look at other options for fluoridation, but not put it in the water where it’s not needed,” said Alderman Keith Hudson.  Many people agree that water fluoridation is not only expensive, costing tax payers in Spring Hill more than $21,000 each year, but also an outdated practice not well supported by good science.           

Back in January of this year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed new recommendations for community water fluoridation that would replace the 1962 U.S. Public Health Service Drinking Water Standards.  The previous recommendation for optimal fluoride concentration was a range from 0.7-1.2 mg/L, but the HHS has suggested that community fluoridation be adjusted to the optimum level of 0.7 mg/L in order to provide [the  alleged] protection against tooth decay while simultaneously lowering risks for excess exposure to fluoride and dental fluorosis.  

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Exposure to excessive consumption of fluoride over a lifetime may lead to increased likelihood of bone fractures in adults, and may result in effects on bone leading to pain and tenderness. Children aged 8 years and younger exposed to excessive amounts of fluoride have an increased chance of developing pits in the tooth enamel, along with a range of cosmetic effects to teeth.”  Considering how community water fluoridation may cause these types of side effects in some people along with the fact that fluoride is so easily accessible these days through products like toothpastes, mouth rinses, and certain topical applications by dentists, it makes good sense to thoroughly re-evaluate current standards for fluoride concentration in community water supplies.  As more communities like Spring Hill move forward to question the practice of water fluoridation, other communities will likely continue to follow suit.     

Dr. Shana McQueen