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Medical News Today: Online information about probiotics often misleading

As probiotics grow in popularity, a recent study investigates the reliability of online information. They find that the majority of "top" websites provide information that lacks scientific evidence.

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Probiotics are popular, but do they cut the mustard?

As scientists have become increasingly interested in the role of gut bacteria, so have the public. In parallel with the microbiome's rise to fame, probiotics have grown ever more popular.

Probiotics are live organisms that manufacturers add to a range of foods, most commonly yogurts. Their marketing information often contains an array of health claims, from improving digestive health to boosting the immune system.

Probiotics are now big business. In 2017, the probiotics market in the United States was worth more than $40 billion, according to the authors of the recent study.

Claims and accuracy examined

As with many products today, online sales and marketing play a significant role. With this in mind, researchers from the Brighton and Sussex Medical School in the United Kingdom and the Université libre de Bruxelles in Belgium assessed online claims about these products for accuracy.

To investigate, they collected information from top-ranked webpages in Google searches. Co-author Prof. Michel Goldman explains that "often, the public will not go past the first 10 results — these will, therefore, have a higher visibility and impact."

First, the authors analyzed the pages for "accuracy and completeness." Next, they checked the information against the Cochrane library, which is a database of evidence-based medical information, including clinical trials and meta-analyses.

Prof. Goldman explains their approach: "We assessed the first 150 webpages brought up by a Google search for 'probiotics' and recorded where they originated from and the diseases they mentioned. The scientific evidence for health benefits of probiotics against these diseases was then examined for scientific rigor."

They published their findings in the journal Frontiers in Medicine.

Site type matters

The scientists found that the majority of the top 150 websites were news-based or commercial — 31% and 43%, respectively. Overall, news and commercial sites were the least reliable sources of information as they rarely mentioned regulatory issues or side effects for vulnerable individuals, such as those who are immunocompromised.

Of the 150 webpages, only 40% mentioned that the benefits of probiotics need more research, 35% referenced scientific literature, only 25% listed potential side effects, and just 15% mentioned regulatory provisions.

In the four categories covered above, commercial websites scored lowest. In Google's top 10 results, the scores were higher.

The authors explain that Google's algorithms do a relatively good job of ensuring that reliable health portals come at the top of searches: in the top 10 search entries in Google, reliable health portals took up the majority of slots.

However, as author Prof. Pietro Ghezzi explains, "the fact that there is such a large amount of commercially-oriented information is problematic for consumers who are searching for honest answers."

Evidence is lacking

The researchers investigated specific health claims in more detail, checking these claims against the Cochrane database. Although websites make claims about probiotics treating a range of ills, the evidence is severely lacking.

To date, evidence only supports the use of probiotics to treat a handful of conditions, including infectious diarrhea and necrotizing enterocolitis in preterm infants. Even in these cases, it is necessary for scientists to do more research.

Overall, 93 of the 150 websites claimed that probiotics could enhance the immune system. In reality, as the authors explain, this "has been barely investigated in clinical trials."

Similarly, a significant number of websites claim that probiotics might help relieve mental disorders and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Again, scientists have carried out very little research into these topics.

In all, there were 325 specific health claims on the webpages that the scientists investigated. Scientific evidence substantiated only 23%, and 20% had no evidential support to back them up. These findings are important, as the authors explain:

"In the current era where distrust in medical experts and health authorities is widespread, individual consumption of over-the-counter health products is largely guided by information collected on the internet."

They continue, "Since probiotics escape scrutinization by regulatory authorities, it is of utmost importance to get insight into the level of trustworthiness provided by online information on their benefits and risks."

Original Article

Medical News Today: Sugar alters brain chemistry after only 12 days

New research in pigs finds that sugar intake alters the reward-processing circuitry of the brain in a similar way to addictive drugs.

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New research helps explain why sugary foods are irresistible.

Whenever we learn something new or experience something pleasurable, our brain's reward system becomes activated. With the help of natural brain chemicals, several brain areas communicate with each other to help us learn and repeat behaviors that improve our knowledge and well-being.

Relying heavily on the neurotransmitter dopamine, the reward system helps explain several quintessential human experiences, such as falling in love, sexual pleasure, and enjoying time with friends.

However, certain substances, such as drugs, hijack the brain's reward system, "artificially" activating it. Telling the brain to repeat pleasure-seeking behavior constantly is the mechanism behind addiction.

But is sugar such a substance? And if so, does it help explain sugary food cravings?

A United States scientist named Theron Randolph coined the term "food addiction" in the 1950s to describe the compulsive consumption of certain foods, such as milk, eggs, and potatoes.

Since then, the studies exploring this concept have yielded mixed results, and some experts argue that speaking of food addiction is a bit of a stretch.

New research helps shed some light on the matter, as Michael Winterdahl, associate professor at the Department of Clinical Medicine at Aarhus University in Denmark, and his colleagues examined the effect of sugar intake on the reward circuitry in the brains of pigs.

The researchers published their findings in the journal Scientific Reports.

'Major changes' after 12 days

The scientists analyzed the effects of sugar intake on seven female Göttingen minipigs, using complex PET imaging techniques with opioid receptor agonists and dopamine receptor antagonists to examine the animals' brain reward systems.

The team gave the minipigs access to a sucrose solution for 1 hour on 12 consecutive days and then retook the scans 24 hours after the last sugar dose.

In a subgroup of five minipigs, the team applied an additional PET scanning session after the first exposure to sugar.

"After just 12 days of sugar intake, we could see major changes in the brain's dopamine and opioid systems," reports Winterdahl.

"In fact, the opioid system, which is that part of the brain's chemistry that is associated with well-being and pleasure, was already activated after the very first intake," adds the study's lead author.

Specifically, there were alterations in the "striatum, nucleus accumbens, thalamus, amygdala, cingulate cortex, and prefrontal cortex" after the sugar intake.

Why sugar may be addictive after all

The findings, conclude the researchers, imply that "foods high in sucrose influence brain reward circuitry in ways similar to those observed when addictive drugs are consumed."

The lead researcher explains that the findings contradicted his initial expectations. "There is no doubt that sugar has several physiological effects, and there are many reasons why it is not healthy."

"But I have been in doubt of the effects sugar has on our brain and behavior, [and] I had hoped to be able to kill a myth." He continues by emphasizing the addictive aspects of sugar intake.

"If sugar can change the brain's reward system after only 12 days, as we saw in the case of the pigs, you can imagine that natural stimuli, such as learning or social interaction, are pushed into the background and replaced by sugar and/or other 'artificial' stimuli."

Michael Winterdahl

"We're all looking for the rush from dopamine, and if something gives us a better or bigger kick, then that's what we choose," he explains.

Are pig models relevant?

The researchers also explain their choice of minipigs as a model in which to study the effects of sugar on the brain.

They say that previous studies have used rats, but even if these rodents do have a penchant for sugar, their homeostatic mechanisms — which help regulate weight gain and metabolism — "differ significantly from those of humans."

"It would, of course, be ideal if the studies could be done in humans themselves, but humans are hard to control, and dopamine levels can be modulated by a number of different factors," explains Winterdahl.

"They are influenced by what we eat, whether we play games on our phones, or if we enter a new romantic relationship in the middle of the trial, with potential for great variation in the data."

"The pig is a good alternative because its brain is more complex than a rodent and […] large enough for imaging deep brain structures using human brain scanners."

Original Article

Medical News Today: Could hydration levels influence cognitive function?

Dehydration can cause headaches and several physiological issues, and older adults are most at risk of experiencing it. Does it also affect cognitive function, however? And might overhydration also affect mental performance?

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Recent research set out to reveal whether or not hydration levels can affect cognitive performance in older adults.

Dehydration can cause headaches, lethargy, dizziness, and many other issues, depending on how severe it is.

Studies have tended to focus on the effects of dehydration in younger populations — especially in the context of sports and fitness, where overexertion and abundant sweating can cause people to lose more fluids than they than ingest.

However, one segment of the population is particularly susceptible to dehydration: older adults.

"As we age, our water reserves decline due to reductions in muscle mass, our kidneys become less effective at retaining water, and hormonal signals that trigger thirst and motivate water intake become blunted," explains Hilary Bethancourt, Ph.D., from the Pennsylvania State University College of Health and Human Development in State College.

Older adults also have a higher risk of cognitive impairment. Are their hydration levels and their cognitive performance linked in any way? Bethancourt and colleagues set out to answer this question in a new study. Their findings now appear in the European Journal of Nutrition.

"[W]e felt like it was particularly important to look at cognitive performance in relation to hydration status and water intake among older adults, who may be underhydrated on a regular basis," says Bethancourt, the study's first author.

Under and overhydration are both nonideal

In their study, the researchers analyzed the data of 2,506 participants — 1,271 women and 1,235 men — aged 60 and over. The Nutrition and Health Examination Survey collected these data in 2011–2014.

All the participants involved in the study were able to give blood samples. They also provided information about what they had consumed throughout the day preceding the blood sample collection.

To measure each participant's hydration levels, the investigators looked at the concentration of different substances and compounds — including sodium, potassium, glucose, and urea nitrogen — in their blood.

All participants also undertook cognitive function tests, including tasks designed to assess verbal recall and fluency, and exercises focused on attention levels and working memory.

At first glance, the researchers found an association between appropriate hydration and good scores in the cognitive function tests. However, the results became less clear when the researchers adjusted their analysis for confounding factors.

"Once we accounted for age, education, hours of sleep, physical activity level, and diabetes status and analyzed the data separately for men and women, the associations with hydration status and water intake were diminished," says Bethancourt.

After these readjustments, only some of the links remained of interest. In particular, the researchers saw that women appeared to display poorer cognitive performance when they were underhydrated. The same applied when they were overhydrated.

"A trend toward lower scores on [one of the cognitive function tests] among women who were categorized as either underhydrated or overhydrated was the most prominent finding that remained after we accounted for other influential factors," explains Bethancourt.

The test that those who were overhydrated or underhydrated performed the worst in was "the test of attention, processing speed, and working memory," she says.

"It was interesting that even though [this test] took only a few minutes, it was the one most strongly associated with lower hydration levels," notes Bethancourt.

"Other research has similarly suggested that attention may be one of the cognitive domains most affected by hydration status. This left us wondering what the effects of inadequate hydration might be on more difficult tasks requiring longer periods of concentration and focus," she adds.

However, the researchers were unable to confirm whether nonideal hydration levels caused worse cognitive performance, or whether individuals who may already have had some cognitive impairments were also likelier to drink too few or too many liquids.

The lack of a link between hydration levels and cognitive performance in older men also remains a mystery.

Although many questions remain to be answered, study co-author Prof. Asher Rosinger advises that older adults should not risk their health by overlooking proper hydration.

"Because older adults may not necessarily feel thirsty when their body is reaching a state of underhydration and may be taking diuretics that can increase salt excretion, it is important for older adults and their physicians to better understand the symptoms of being both under and overhydrated."

Prof. Asher Rosinger

Original Article

Medical News Today: A guide to 16:8 intermittent fasting

16:8 intermittent fasting, which people sometimes call the 16:8 diet or 16:8 plan, is a popular type of fasting. People who follow this eating plan will fast for 16 hours a day and consume all of their calories during the remaining 8 hours.

Suggested benefits of the 16:8 plan include weight loss and fat loss, as well as the prevention of type 2 diabetes and other obesity-associated conditions.

Read on to learn more about the 16:8 intermittent fasting plan, including how to do it and the health benefits and side effects.

What is 16:8 intermittent fasting?

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Most people on a 16:8 intermittent fasting plan choose to consume their daily calories during the middle part of the day.

16:8 intermittent fasting is a form of time-restricted fasting. It involves consuming foods during an 8-hour window and avoiding food, or fasting, for the remaining 16 hours each day.

Some people believe that this method works by supporting the body's circadian rhythm, which is its internal clock.

Most people who follow the 16:8 plan abstain from food at night and for part of the morning and evening. They tend to consume their daily calories during the middle of the day.

There are no restrictions on the types or amounts of food that a person can eat during the 8-hour window. This flexibility makes the plan relatively easy to follow.

How to do it

The easiest way to follow the 16:8 diet is to choose a 16-hour fasting window that includes the time that a person spends sleeping.

Some experts advise finishing food consumption in the early evening, as metabolism slows down after this time. However, this is not feasible for everyone.

Some people may not be able to consume their evening meal until 7 p.m. or later. Even so, it is best to avoid food for 2–3 hours before bed.

People may choose one of the following 8-hour eating windows:

  • 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • noon to 8 p.m.

Within this timeframe, people can eat their meals and snacks at convenient times. Eating regularly is important to prevent blood sugar peaks and dips and to avoid excessive hunger.

Some people may need to experiment to find the best eating window and mealtimes for their lifestyle.

Recommended foods and tips

While the 16:8 intermittent fasting plan does not specify which foods to eat and avoid, it is beneficial to focus on healthful eating and to limit or avoid junk foods. The consumption of too much unhealthful food may cause weight gain and contribute to disease.

A balanced diet focuses primarily on:

  • fruits and vegetables, which can be fresh, frozen, or canned (in water)
  • whole grains, including quinoa, brown rice, oats, and barley
  • lean protein sources, such as poultry, fish, beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, seeds, low fat cottage cheese, and eggs
  • healthful fats from fatty fish, olives, olive oil, coconuts, avocados, nuts, and seeds

Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are high in fiber, so they can help keep a person feeling full and satisfied. Healthful fats and proteins can also contribute to satiety.

Beverages can play a role in satiety for those following the 16:8 intermittent fasting diet. Drinking water regularly throughout the day can help reduce calorie intake because people often mistake thirst for hunger.

The 16:8 diet plan permits the consumption of calorie-free drinks — such as water and unsweetened tea and coffee — during the 16-hour fasting window. It is important to consume fluids regularly to avoid dehydration.

Tips

People may find it easier to stick to the 16:8 diet when they follow these tips:

  • drinking cinnamon herbal tea during the fasting period, as it may suppress the appetite
  • consuming water regularly throughout the day
  • watching less television to reduce exposure to images of food, which may stimulate a sense of hunger
  • exercising just before or during the eating window, as exercise can trigger hunger
  • practicing mindful eating when consuming meals
  • trying meditation during the fasting period to allow hunger pangs to pass

Health benefits

Researchers have been studying intermittent fasting for decades.

Study findings are sometimes contradictory and inconclusive. However, the research on intermittent fasting, including 16:8 fasting, indicates that it may provide the following benefits:

Weight loss and fat loss

Eating during a set period can help people reduce the number of calories that they consume. It may also help boost metabolism.

A 2017 study suggests that intermittent fasting leads to greater weight loss and fat loss in men with obesity than regular calorie restriction.

Research from 2016 reports that men who followed a 16:8 approach for 8 weeks while resistance training showed a decrease in fat mass. The participants maintained their muscle mass throughout.

In contrast, a 2017 study found very little difference in weight loss between participants who practiced intermittent fasting — in the form of alternate-day fasting rather than 16:8 fasting — and those who reduced their overall calorie intake. The dropout rate was also high among those in the intermittent fasting group.

Disease prevention

Supporters of intermittent fasting suggest that it can prevent several conditions and diseases, including:

  • type 2 diabetes
  • heart conditions
  • some cancers
  • neurodegenerative diseases

However, the research in this area remains limited.

A 2014 review reports that intermittent fasting shows promise as an alternative to traditional calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes risk reduction and weight loss in people who have overweight or obesity.

The researchers caution, however, that more research is necessary before they can reach reliable conclusions.

A 2018 study indicates that in addition to weight loss, an 8-hour eating window may help reduce blood pressure in adults with obesity.

Other studies report that intermittent fasting reduces fasting glucose by 3–6% in those with prediabetes, although it has no effect on healthy individuals. It may also decrease fasting insulin by 11–57% after 3 to 24 weeks of intermittent fasting.

Time-restricted fasting, such as the 16:8 method, may also protect learning and memory and slow down diseases that affect the brain.

A 2017 annual review notes that animal research has indicated that this form of fasting reduces the risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and cancer.

Extended life span

Animal studies suggest that intermittent fasting may help animals live longer. For example, one study found that short-term repeated fasting increased the life span of female mice.

The National Institute on Aging point out that, even after decades of research, scientists still cannot explain why fasting may lengthen life span. As a result, they cannot confirm the long-term safety of this practice.

Human studies in the area are limited, and the potential benefits of intermittent fasting for human longevity are not yet known.

Side effects and risks

16:8 intermittent fasting has some associated risks and side effects. As a result, the plan is not right for everyone.

Potential side effects and risks include:

  • hunger, weakness, and tiredness in the beginning stages of the plan
  • overeating or eating unhealthful foods during the 8-hour eating window due to excessive hunger
  • heartburn or reflux as a result of overeating

Intermittent fasting may be less beneficial for women than men. Some research on animals suggests that intermittent fasting could negatively affect female fertility.

Individuals with a history of disordered eating may wish to avoid intermittent fasting. The National Eating Disorders Association warn that fasting is a risk factor for eating disorders.

The 16:8 plan may also not be suitable for those with a history of depression and anxiety. Some research indicates that short-term calorie restriction might relieve depression but that chronic calorie restriction can have the opposite effect. More research is necessary to understand the implications of these findings.

16:8 intermittent fasting is unsuitable for those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to conceive.

The National Institute on Aging conclude that there is insufficient evidence to recommend any fasting diet, especially for older adults.

People who wish to try the 16:8 method or other types of intermittent fasting should talk to their doctor first, especially if they are taking medications or have:

  • an underlying health condition, such as diabetes or low blood pressure
  • a history of disordered eating
  • a history of mental health disorders

Anyone who has any concerns or experiences any adverse effects of the diet should see a doctor.

Diabetes

While evidence indicates that the 16:8 method may be helpful for diabetes prevention, it may not be suitable for those who already have the condition.

The 16:8 intermittent fasting diet is not suitable for people with type 1 diabetes. However, some people with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes may be able to try the diet under a doctor's supervision.

People with diabetes who wish to try the 16:8 intermittent fasting plan should see their doctor before making changes to their eating habits.

Summary

16:8 intermittent fasting is a popular form of intermittent fasting. Potential benefits include weight loss, fat loss, and a reduction in the risk of some diseases.

This diet plan may also be easier to follow than other types of fasting. People doing 16:8 intermittent fasting should focus on eating high fiber whole foods, and they should stay hydrated throughout the day.

The plan is not right for everyone. Individuals who wish to follow the 16:8 intermittent fasting diet should speak to a doctor or dietitian if they have any concerns or underlying health conditions.

Original Article

Medical News Today: What is the Dr. Sebi diet, and does it work?

This controversial and strict plant-based diet was created by the late Dr. Sebi. Proponents claim that it reduces the risk of disease when coupled with specific supplements sold on the diet's website.

Dr. Sebi believed that mucus and acidity caused disease. He held that eating certain foods and avoiding others could detoxify the body, achieving an alkaline state that could reduce the risk and effects of disease.

The Dr. Sebi diet is not approved by official sources, and no scientific evidence shows that it can prevent or treat medical conditions.

Plant-based diets can benefit health under some conditions, but the Dr. Sebi diet may not include enough key nutrients to keep the body healthy.

This article looks into the diet and its potential benefits and risks.

Who is Dr. Sebi?

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The Dr. Sebi diet requires a person to eat strictly plant-based foods

Alfredo Bowman, better known as Dr. Sebi, was a self-proclaimed healer and herbalist. He was self-educated — he was not a medical doctor and held no Ph.D.

An obituary describes his controversial health claims, such as curing AIDS and leukemia. These and similar assertions resulted in a 1993 lawsuit that ended with the court ordering Dr. Sebi's organization to stop making these claims. Dr. Sebi reportedly died in 2016 in police custody.

What is the Dr. Sebi diet?

Dr. Sebi believed the Western approach to disease to be ineffective. He held that mucus and acidity — rather bacteria and viruses, for example — caused disease.

A main theory behind the diet is that disease can only survive in acidic environments. The aim of the diet is to achieve an alkaline state in the body in order to prevent or eradicate disease.

The diet's official website sells botanical remedies that it claims will detoxify the body. Some of these remedies — called African Bio-mineral Balance supplements — retail at $1,500 per package.

The site links to no research that would support its claims about health benefits. It does note that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not evaluated the statements. Those behind the site acknowledge that they are not medical doctors and do not intend the site's content to replace medical advice.

How to follow the diet

Dr. Sebi's nutritional guide includes a number of rules, such as:

  • Only eat foods listed in the guide.
  • Drink 1 gallon of natural spring water daily.
  • Avoid animal products, hybrid foods, and alcohol.
  • Avoid using a microwave, which will "kill your food."
  • Avoid canned and seedless fruits.

The Dr. Sebi diet involves eating:

  • vegetables, including avocado, kale, bell peppers, and wild arugula
  • fruits, including apples, bananas, dates, and Seville oranges
  • grains, including rye, wild rice, spelt, and quinoa
  • oils, including avocado, hempseed, coconut, and olive oils, though the diet advises against using the latter two in cooking
  • nuts and seeds, including hemp and raw sesame seeds, tahini butter, and walnuts
  • herbal teas, including chamomile, fennel, and ginger varieties
  • natural sweeteners, including agave syrup and date sugar
  • spices, including cayenne and powdered seaweed

What are the benefits?

There is a lack of any scientific evidence to support the Dr. Sebi diet.

However, research indicates that a plant-based diet can benefit health. There are also risks to consider, which we discuss in the next section.

Some health benefits of plant-based diets may include:

  • Weight loss — a 2015 study concluded that a vegan diet resulted in more weight loss than other, less restrictive diets. Participants lost up to 7.5% of body weight after 6 months on a vegan diet.
  • Appetite control — a 2016 study in young male participants found that they felt more full and satisfied after eating a plant-based meal containing peas and beans than a meal containing meat.
  • Altering the microbiome ­— the term "microbiome" collectively refers to the microorganisms in the gut. A 2019 study found that a plant-based diet could alter the microbiome favorably, leading to less risk of disease. However, confirming this will require more research.
  • Reduced risk of disease — a 2017 review concluded that a plant-based diet may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 40% and the risk of developing metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes by half.

The Dr. Sebi diet encourages people to eat whole foods and avoids processed foods. A study from 2017 found that reducing the intake of processed food would improve the nutritional quality of the general diet in the United States.

Read more about the benefits of a plant-based diet here.

Is it safe?

The Dr. Sebi diet is restrictive, and it may not include enough important nutrients, which the diet's website does not clearly acknowledge.

If a person adopts this diet, they may benefit from consulting a healthcare professional, who may recommend additional supplements.

Vitamin B-12

Following the Dr. Sebi diet may result in a vitamin B-12 deficiency. A person may be able to prevent this by consuming supplements and fortified foods.

Vitamin B-12 is an essential nutrient necessary for the health of nerve and blood cells and for making DNA.

In general, people following vegan or vegetarian diets and older adults have a risk of B-12 deficiency. Doctors usually recommend that people who do not consume animal products take B-12 supplements.

Symptoms of B-12 deficiency include tiredness, depression, and tingling in the hands and feet. There is also a risk of pernicious anemia, which keeps the body from producing enough healthy red blood cells.

Protein

In the diet, protein helps support the health of the brain, muscles, bones, hormones, and DNA.

According to current guidelines, females aged over 19 should have a daily protein intake of 46 grams (g), while males of the same age should consume 56 g.

Some foods included in the Dr. Sebi diet contain protein. For example, 100 g of hulled hemp seeds contain 31.56 g of protein, while the same amount of walnuts contains 16.67 g of protein. For comparison, 100 g of oven-roasted chicken breast contains 16.79 g of the nutrient.

However, the Dr. Sebi diet restricts other sources of plant protein, such as beans, lentils, and soy. A person would need to eat an unusually large amount of the permitted protein sources to meet daily requirements.

Research suggests that it is important to eat a wide variety of plant foods to absorb enough amino acids, which are building blocks of protein. This may be difficult when following the Dr. Sebi diet.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are important components of cell membranes. They support:

  • brain, heart, and eye health
  • energy
  • the immune system

The Dr. Sebi diet includes plant sources of omega-3s, such as hemp seeds and walnuts.

However, the body more readily absorbs these acids from animal sources. A 2019 study indicates that a vegan diet contains little or none of two omega-3 fatty acids, unless the person takes a supplement.

Anyone following the Dr. Sebi diet may benefit from taking an omega-3 supplement.

Recipes

Dr. Sebi's recipes often contain unusual ingredients or his patented botanical supplements. However, a person who is not strictly adhering to the diet could easily adapt some recipes to make healthful, plant-based meals:

Summary

No scientific research supports the Dr. Sebi diet. However, it may bring some of the benefits associated with other plant-based diets.

Eating more whole fruits and vegetables could have positive effects on health. It could also help a person to lose weight if that is a goal.

The restrictions of the Dr. Sebi diet, however, could pose risks. It is crucial to ensure that the body is taking in enough nutrients, including vitamin B-12, through supplementation, if necessary.

Certain people may be more susceptible to the risks associated with the Dr. Sebi diet. Among them are adolescents, women who are breastfeeding, and older adults.

The diet's proponents recommend products that can be expensive, and no scientific evidence supports their use. A more healthful approach may be to eat more plant-based foods and to supplement any missing nutrients.

It may be a good idea to conduct research and consult a healthcare professional before trying any new diet.

Original Article

Medical News Today: Which is better: Bottled water or tap water?

With awareness of the environmental impact of plastic bottles increasing, more and more people are now questioning the advantages of tap water over bottled water.

Some people may wonder which option is safer, or which tastes better. However, there are also a range of other factors to consider when choosing between bottled water and tap water.

Keep reading to learn more about the pros and cons of both bottled water and tap water.

Pros and cons of tap water

Factors to consider when choosing between tap water and bottled water include the safety of the water, its flavor, the cost and availability, and its impact on the environment.

The sections below list some pros and cons of tap water.

Safety

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Drinking tap water can be better for the environment than drinking bottled water.

Drinking water in the United States is some of the safest in the world, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In fact, nonprofit organization Food & Water Watch advise that tap water in the U.S. is subject to testing more often than bottled water.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are responsible for identifying and setting limits for the amount of contaminants that can be present in tap water and ground water. These include chemicals and microorganisms.

The standards are set out in the Safe Drinking Water Act. If there is a safety concern with tap water, federal law dictates that water companies must inform the public.

Although the EPA are responsible for setting tap water standards, not all contaminants are subject to regulation, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG). The EWG also report that contaminant level limits have remained unchanged for over 20 years.

To check the quality of their tap water, people can contact their local water company for a copy of the Annual Water Quality Report (or Consumer Confidence Report), check it against the EWG's standards, or both.

To improve the safety of their current tap water, a person can consider filtering it with carbon filters or a more effective reverse-osmosis system.

Taste

Blind taste tests consistently find that most people cannot differentiate between tap water and bottled water.

For example, a 2010 study in the Journal of Sensory Studies found that the majority of the participants could not tell the difference between six different bottled mineral waters and six municipal tap waters when the tap water was chlorine-free.

Most people preferred types of water with medium mineralization, regardless of the source. Just 36% of the participants were able to distinguish between bottled water and tap water.

Even if some tap waters may not taste as pleasant as bottled waters, it does not mean that the tap water is of poor quality. It may simply be due to chlorination or a higher mineral content.

One option to improve the taste of tap water is to use a filter. Another option is to add ice and a slice of lemon to each glass.

Cost and convenience

Drinking tap water is convenient and inexpensive. Simply turn on a faucet to get safe and cool drinking water.

Tap water is also readily available at restaurants and from public drinking fountains for free.

Environmental impact

To prevent contamination, water companies treat public drinking water with chemicals using a range of processes. They then pump the water into holding tanks.

Also, once a person drinks a glass of water, they are likely to wash the glass by hand or in a dishwasher.

These steps will all involve the use of chemicals and energy, which has an impact on the environment.

Even so, the environmental impact of drinking tap water is far lower than that of bottled water, according to a report on the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority's website.

Perhaps most importantly, there is no disposable packaging involved that would eventually end up in either a landfill or recycling center.

Read about 15 benefits of drinking water here.

Pros and cons of bottled water

The sections below list some of the pros and cons of bottled water.

Safety

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) set the standards for bottled water. They require manufacturers to process and transport bottled water under sanitary conditions and to use processes that ensure the safety of the water.

This means that, in general, bottled water is safe to drink. In very rare cases, however, bottled water recalls occur due to contamination.

One cause for concern is the presence of plastic in bottled water. Research indicates that most bottled water contains microplastics, which may pose health risks.

One 2018 study, for example, tested 11 globally sourced brands of bottled water from nine different countries. The researchers found that 93% of the bottles showed some signs of microplastic contamination, and that they contained double the amount present in tap water.

These findings suggest that the contamination is at least partially due to the packaging process itself. Researchers are now starting to investigate the impact of these microplastics on human health.

Microplastics appear to fall within the same category of endocrine-disrupting chemicals as obesogens, affecting human, animal, and marine metabolism, reproduction, oxidative stress, and several other factors.

Also, people with weakened immune systems should take special precautions with their drinking water, choosing bottled water that manufacturers have treated to protect against the parasite Cryptosporidium.

Though FDA inspection of bottled water plants is rare, the FDA have recalled two bottled water brands due to contamination. These were Safeway Select in 2001 and Sam's Choice in 2005.

Consumer access to bottled water information and contaminant levels is limited compared with the tap water disclosure requirements required by the EPA.

Taste and source

Some people may prefer the taste of bottled water. However, as mentioned above, studies tend to show that the majority of people cannot tell the difference between tap and bottled water.

When purchasing bottled water, people may wish to consider the source. A lot of bottled water is simply filtered tap water.

Water that comes from an underground source or fresh spring will carry one of the following FDA-approved labels:

  • artesian well water
  • mineral water
  • spring water
  • well water

People may also wish to choose bottled water if they prefer flavored or sparkling water. Many water brands sell citrus- or berry-flavored water, for example. Sparkling water is a popular alternative to still.

Cost and convenience

According to some estimates, bottled water is almost 2,000 times the price of tap water, with a gallon — obtained from combining single-serve water bottles — costing almost three times the national average for a gallon of milk.

This is interesting, given that bottled water is often simply filtered tap water.

One reason that people choose bottled over tap water despite the cost difference may be that it can be more convenient to have a bottle to hand when out and about — especially if there is no access to a faucet.

Environmental impact

Research indicates that the bottling, refrigeration, and transportation processes associated with water, as well as the disposal of plastic bottles after use, cause a wide range of adverse environmental effects far greater than those of tap water.

For example, in 2016, the bottling of water in the U.S. used 4 billion pounds of plastic. This process required an estimated energy input equal to approximately 64 million barrels of oil.

According to nonprofit organization Container Recycling Institute, every day in the U.S., people throw away over 60 million plastic water bottles. The majority of these bottles make their way into landfills and waterways, or they litter the streets.

These plastic bottles also release toxins as they degrade.

Some people try to reuse plastic water bottles in a bid to offset some of the environmental impacts. This may pose risks in the long-term, however, including the risk of bacterial growth and the risk of toxins leaching from the bottle.

Which is better?

Overall, it appears that tap water is a better option in most cases. It is convenient, free or inexpensive, and has much less of an environmental impact than bottled water.

Tap water is also just as safe as bottled water, and most people will not be able to tell the difference in taste.

Occasionally, bottled water may be more convenient or readily available than tap water. To remedy this, people can carry a reusable bottle of tap water with them and refill it from public drinking water facilities when necessary.

Those who prefer the taste of bottled water may wish to try a water filter. After all, a lot of bottled water is actually just filtered tap water. Or, people can try adding ice and slices of fruit to their tap water to improve its flavor.

Some people need to take extra precautions with their drinking water, especially if they have weaker immune systems, are pregnant, or are older.

These individuals should discuss their concerns with a doctor, who may advise them to drink certain bottled waters, or to boil their tap water before consumption.

Summary

There are pros and cons to both bottled water and tap water.

The type of water a person chooses will depend on many factors, including their preferences and concerns.

Overall, however, it seems that tap water consumption is much better for the environment, poses fewer health risks, and tastes very similar to bottled water — especially if filtered.

Original Article

Medical News Today: Should we all be eating more protein?

A recent review and meta-analysis investigating protein intake conclude that consuming the recommended daily allowance is fine for most people, most of the time. However, more protein is not necessarily beneficial.

Protein shake powderShare on Pinterest
Protein supplements are increasingly popular.

Many of us enthusiastically indulge in holiday treats, which means that come New Year's Day, beginning a weight loss program is a common resolution.

An increase in the consumption of protein — often over the recommended daily allowance — is the cornerstone of many diets, but does eating more protein make sense for everyone?

A new study by nutrition scientists at Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN, finds that increasing the intake of protein only provides benefits in certain circumstances. The findings of the research appear in Advances in Nutrition.

The bottom line is that if you are not explicitly dieting for weight loss or weight training, there is no clear benefit to consuming more protein than the minimum daily requirements that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) have established.

"[T]here is so much encouragement, advertising, and marketing for everyone to eat higher protein diets, and this research supports that, yes, under certain conditions, including strength training and weight loss, moderately more protein may be helpful, but that doesn't mean more is needed for everybody at all times," explains the lead author, Joshua Hudson.

A normal amount of protein

Commenting on the study's narrow focus, Hudson says:

"This research was not designed to assess whether or not adults would benefit from consuming more protein than they usually consume. This distinction is important because the recommended dietary allowance is the standard against which to assess nutrition adequacy; however, most adults consume more protein than what is recommended."

According to the USDA's Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI), the desired daily amount of protein is 0.8 grams (g) per kilogram of body weight, which equates to about 0.36 g of protein per pound each day. Based on this, 56 g per day is suitable for the average, generally healthy sedentary male, while a similar female should aim for 46 g. It is important to note that these recommendations do not apply to people with type 2 diabetes.

The USDA list a range of food sources from which to get that protein, including seafood, meats, poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds, and soy products.

The study's methodology

Hudson and his colleagues began by looking at more than 1,500 articles on nutrition that they found in nutritional databases. From these, they identified 18 papers for closer examination.

The authors chose these papers for their inclusion of healthy adults and their focus on certain topics, including protein consumption, physical activity, and weight loss. Together, the research encompassed 22 interventions involving 981 individuals. The sources of protein that the participants consumed included lean and minimally processed meats, dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, and legumes.

The data revealed that for everyday life — when individuals are neither gaining nor losing weight — eating more than the recommended amount of protein does not do anything for body composition.

The study reports no harmful consequences, simply no effect at all, be it negative or positive.

A higher intake of protein only enhances lean mass in people who are consciously dieting or engaging in weight training.

Too little protein, however, is a problem, says study co-author Campbell, who explains, "This research is clinically more important for women and especially older women who are known to typically consume lower amounts of protein and should be maintaining a healthy body weight and regularly strength training."

As far as holiday eating goes, Campbell offers the following advice: "If you are going to start losing weight, don't cut back across all foods you usually consume, because you'll inadvertently cut back protein. Instead, work to maintain, or even moderately increase protein-rich foods. Then, cut back on the carbs and saturated fat-containing foods."

Original Article

Medical News Today: Intermittent fasting can help ease metabolic syndrome

For those with metabolic syndrome, the necessary lifestyle and weight changes can be challenging. Now, a study has shown that eating within a certain time window can help tackle that.

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New research shows how intermittent fasting can help ease metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is an umbrella term for a number of risk factors for serious conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. These risk factors include obesity and high blood pressure, among others.

This is no small issue in the United States, where one-third of adults have metabolic syndrome. In fact, the condition affects around 50% of people aged 60 and over.

Obesity is also prevalent, affecting around 39.8% of adults in the U.S. Obesity is closely linked to metabolic syndrome.

Receiving a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome offers a critical window of opportunity for making committed lifestyle changes before conditions such as diabetes set in.

However, making the necessary long-term lifestyle changes to improve one's health outlook is not always easy. Such changes include losing weight, managing stress, being as active as possible, and quitting smoking.

For the first time, a new study has looked into time-restricted eating, or intermittent fasting, as a means of losing weight and managing blood sugar and blood pressure for people with metabolic syndrome.

This new study, which appears in the journal Cell Metabolism, is set apart from previous studies that looked at the health and weight loss benefits of time-restricted eating in mice and healthy people.

"[People] who have metabolic syndrome/prediabetes are often told to make lifestyle interventions to prevent progression of their risk factors to […] disease," said co-corresponding study author Dr. Pam Taub, of the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.

"These [people] are at a crucial tipping point, where their disease process can be reversed."

"However, many of these lifestyle changes are difficult to make. We saw there was an unmet need in [people] with metabolic syndrome to come up with lifestyle strategies that could be easily implemented."

Clinical testing of time-restricted eating

Armed with the knowledge that time-restricted eating and intermittent fasting had been effective in treating and reversing metabolic syndrome in mice, the researchers set out to test these findings in a clinical setting.

"There are a lot of claims in the lay press about promising lifestyle strategies that have no data to back up the claims. We wanted to study [time-restricted eating] in a rigorous, well-designed clinical trial," said Dr. Taub.

Participants could eat what they wanted, when they wanted, within 10-hour windows.

The good news for the 19 participants with metabolic syndrome was that they could decide how much to eat and when they ate, as long as they restricted their eating to a window of 10 hours or less.

A 10-hour window had been effective with mice, and it offered people enough leeway that would be easy to comply with long-term.

"The participants in the study had control of their eating window," said Dr. Taub. "They could determine which 10-hour period they wanted to consume calories. They also had flexibility in adjusting their eating window by a couple [of] hours based on their schedule."

"Overall, participants felt they could adhere to this eating window. We did not restrict how many calories they consumed during their eating window," Dr. Taub told Medical News Today.

Most of the participants had obesity, and 84% were taking at least one medication, such as an antihypertensive drug or a statin.

Metabolic syndrome is associated with at least three of the following: high blood pressure, high fasting blood sugar, high triglyceride (body fat) levels, low high-density lipoprotein, or "good," cholesterol, and abdominal obesity.

Weight loss and better sleep

"As they started to adhere to this eating window, they started feeling better with more energy and better sleep, and this was positive reinforcement for them to continue with this 10-hour eating window," said Dr. Taub.

Almost all the participants ate breakfast later (around 2 hours after waking) and dinner earlier (around 3 hours before bed).

The study lasted for 3 months, during which time the participants showed a 3% weight and body mass index (BMI) reduction, on average, and a 3% loss of abdominal, or visceral, fat.

"All of these improvements reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease," said Dr. Taub.

Also, many participants showed a reduction in blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as improvements in fasting glucose. They also reported having more energy, and 70% reported an increase in the amount of time they slept or experienced sleep satisfaction.

The participants said that the plan was easier to follow than counting calories or exercising, and more than two-thirds kept it up for around a year after the study ended.

Dr. Taub recommends that anyone interested in trying time-restricted eating speak to their healthcare provider first, especially if they have metabolic syndrome and are taking medication, as weight loss may mean that medications require adjustment.

Original Article

Medical News Today: How to stay healthy on Christmas Day

It's Christmas Day, and you want to enjoy yourself — that's only natural. In this feature, we provide some quick tips that will allow you to have the fun you are hoping for without affecting your health too significantly.

Man running dressed as SantaShare on Pinterest
Christmas does not need to overturn healthful living completely.

The holiday period is, commonly, a time of overindulgence. With almost infinite food at our fingertips, it can be difficult not to go overboard on the cheeseboard.

Studies have found that during the holiday season, people usually put on a little extra weight.

This finding is no surprise, but research has also shown that people typically don't shift that weight before the next holiday season rolls around.

In fact, some scientists believe that this seasonal weight gain might be one of the reasons why people tend to get heavier as they age. As one author explains:

"Since this gain is not reversed during the spring or summer months, the net 0.48 kilogram weight gain in the fall and winter probably contributes to the increase in body weight that frequently occurs during adulthood."

Of course, eating poorly is not the only seasonal hazard that we face. Below are a few simple tips to help you cruise through Christmas Day without denting your health (too much).

1. Christmas spirit

During the Christmas period, there is often more alcohol in the home than usual, which can increase the temptation to indulge. At this time of year, people also tend to socialize more, providing a spike in the number of opportunities to drink alcohol.

Although taking it easy can be challenging, moderation will make Christmas Day much more pleasant. Here are some quick alcohol-related tips:

  • at parties, intersperse alcoholic drinks with soft drinks
  • eat before you drink and avoid salty snacks as they make you thirsty
  • refrain from starting to drink early in the day
  • remember that you are not under any obligation to accept every single party invitation
  • bear in mind that you do not need to stay until the bitter end of every event
  • remember that it is not necessary to accept every offer of a free drink
  • assign yourself as the designated driver and stick to soft drinks
  • stay hydrated
  • add more mixer to your glass so that your drink lasts longer
  • try nonalcoholic beers
  • choose drinks with lower levels of alcohol
  • drink slowly
  • avoid rounds and drink at your own pace

2. Do not remain seated

On Christmas Day, it can be tempting to stay sitting on the couch for the majority of your time, other than the hour or two that you spend sitting at the dining table. Many families gather around to watch seasonal movie marathons.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with indulging in some sofa time, but it will benefit your general sense of well-being if you also get up and move around now and again.

A quick walk in the park, a game of frisbee, or even some star jumps in the middle of the lounge will suffice.

If nothing else, a brief spate of activity will reduce the time available for consuming candy and roast potatoes.

3. Obligatory overeating

Christmas Day is, for many of us, the most gluttonous day of the year. Dinner is vast, and there is an accompanying array of biscuits, cheeses, chocolates, and snacks to choose from throughout the day. Of all the topics on this list, reducing food intake is perhaps the hardest at this time of year.

If you are tempted to go in for a second helping of dinner, force yourself to wait 20 minutes and then assess whether you truly need any more turkey or nut roast.

Once your meal has had time to reach your stomach, you might realize that you are not actually hungry and that the additional calories are not in your best interest.

4. Eat something healthful

As we have established, Christmas Day is bursting at the seams with sinful cuisine, but that doesn't mean that you can't opt for a little light relief.

Perhaps try to replace a few calorific snacks with a piece of fruit or two. Alongside the obvious benefits of taking in more vitamins and minerals, you might find that you will be fuller and, therefore, more unlikely to tuck into the less healthful options surrounding you.

When you are shopping for the holiday season, make sure to add some healthful food items to your list.

Some people find that starting Christmas Day with a large, healthful breakfast is helpful. It means that you are less inclined to begin snacking early and that you have had a good dose of nutrients before the onslaught begins.

5. Mind your mental well-being

There are numerous ways to look after your mental health during the holidays. In 2018, we dedicated an entire feature to tips on maintaining mental well-being during the holidays, and you can read that here.

Rather than repeating what we have already written, we will just provide one important tip: Consider doing something for someone else. Not everyone enjoys the holiday season, so a little bit of kindness might do wonders for someone else… and for you.

Being kind brings rewards to both the giver and the receiver. Some research has shown that altruism might boost self-esteem. Another study concluded that carrying out acts of kindness increased self-reported life satisfaction.

Although there are many ways to guard your mental well-being over the holiday season, being kind guards someone else's mental well-being, too.

6. Be careful!

Accidents do happen, and they often happen around the holidays. Alcohol and a hot stove do not mix. Then, there are batteries for children to swallow, Christmas trees that the cat can pull down, and sharp knives cutting through lumps of meat.

First and foremost, although candles are nice to look at, they are still an open flame. Avoid placing candles near your Christmas tree, even if it is plastic. In fact, limit your candle use wherever possible.

Make sure that toys are age appropriate and that children remain under supervision. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2013, U.S. hospital emergency departments provided treatment for about 256,700 toy-related injuries.

Turn off all of your lights before you turn in for the night. Santa always carries a torch, so he won't need your tree lights.

And, finally, although leftovers are a delicious treat, make sure that you refrigerate them as soon as possible and reheat them thoroughly before eating them.

People often view the holiday season as an open invitation to do whatever they please. Instead, this year, consider it an invitation to be good to your mental and physical health. From all of us at Medical News Today — Happy Christmas!

Original Article

Medical News Today: A guide to the best probiotics

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There are many different types of probiotic and many brands to choose from. For this reason, it can be difficult to know which probiotic is best for different situations.

The best probiotics for a person can depend on the strain of bacteria, how many bacteria the supplement contains, and whether or not the product also includes prebiotics.

Some research suggests that probiotics can help keep the gut healthy and may help relieve the symptoms of some health conditions.

This article offers a guide to probiotics — including information on the different strains and their specific uses — and provides a summary of what to keep in mind when choosing.

What are probiotics?

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Eating fermented foods such as kimchi can provide a person with beneficial bacteria.

Probiotics are "live microorganisms [that] when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host."

A person's body contains millions of live bacteria. Many of these are located in the gut. Gut bacteria make up a person's "microbiome."

The microbiome is unique to each individual, and studies have shown it is determined from before birth. Research suggests that the microbiome changes throughout a person's life based on their diet, lifestyle, and exposure to different environmental influences.

Probiotics can help populate the gut with good bacteria. This is a key part of a person's immune system. Gut bacteria have many functions in the body and affect things such as weight, mood, and inflammation.

In recent years, there has been a lot of interest in how probiotics can support health and reduce a person's risk and symptoms of certain conditions.

Are some strains better than others?

Many probiotics contain mixtures of two or more individual strains of bacteria or yeasts. They may also contain prebiotics, which are compounds that the probiotics can feed on. If a formula contains both probiotics and prebiotics, it is called a "synbiotic."

Products most often contain Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium species, although many other species exist. Different strains of the same species of probiotics can act in different ways, according to some research.

Some people take probiotics for maintaining everyday health. When using a probiotic for a specific health concern, people should speak to a healthcare professional about the best strategy. This is because clinical trials show that different probiotics and dosages are effective for different conditions and situations.

Read on to learn more about the best probiotics for specific uses.

Best sources of probiotics

People can take probiotics in supplement form or in the form of foods and beverages such as yogurt and drinks that have live cultures added to them.

Fermented foods also naturally contain beneficial bacteria. Examples of fermented foods include:

  • miso
  • natto
  • tempeh
  • sauerkraut
  • kimchi
  • kombucha

Probiotic manufacturers measure amounts of bacteria in colony-forming units (CFUs). Supplements can vary, with some commonly having a CFU of billions. Foods with added probiotics often contain lower numbers of bacteria. Generally, people might take higher-CFU products for specific conditions and a lower-CFU product for general health maintenance.

Some formulas may also contain prebiotics. Including prebiotics can be beneficial, as they provide substances for probiotics to digest. This process can produce short-chain fatty acids, which can help maintain the health of a person's colon and immune system.

Some research indicates that in order for prebiotics to be effective, they must withstand food processing and reach the colon undigested. Some of the most common types of prebiotic in supplements and foods are called oligosaccharides.

Some people's bodies can be sensitive to prebiotics, so taking too much of them can cause flatulence or diarrhea. Such people can obtain the health benefits of prebiotics by instead including plenty of fiber and resistant starch in their diets and eating foods such as garlic, onions, bananas, and oats.

Probiotics for specific health conditions

A 2018 review states that the "strongest evidence in favor of probiotics lies in the prevention or treatment" of five conditions:

  • necrotizing enterocolitis, an inflammatory condition that affects the bowel, mostly in premature infants
  • acute infectious diarrhea
  • acute respiratory tract infections
  • antibiotic-associated diarrhea
  • infant colic

Probiotics for males and females

The effects of probiotics may be different in males and females.

In a 2014 study, researchers gave males and females with obesity Lactobacillus rhamnosus. The results suggested that females lost weight and fat during the trial, and that they maintained the loss after study completion. The males in the study, however, did not.

A different study in people with Salmonella infection suggested that the effects of taking Lactobacillus plantarum varied according to sex. Although the study authors saw little evidence that this probiotic can treat Salmonella, they noted how males and females experienced the symptoms and clearance of the infection differently.

Scientists need to conduct more studies to establish whether or not probiotic therapy should be different depending on a person's sex.

Probiotics for weight loss

The bacteria present in a person's gut can have an impact on their weight. Research from 2009 shows that people with obesity have lower bacterial diversity.

A small 2019 study found that people following a low calorie diet for 15 weeks had changes in their gut bacteria. They also had a reduction in bacteria associated with atherosclerosis, which occurs when the arteries become clogged with plaque.

The links between weight and gut bacteria could indicate that probiotics may be able to support weight loss.

Some experts suggest that supplementation with synbiotics, using strains such as Lactobacillus gasseri, cause weight reduction in large independent studies. Adding certain fibers may increase these effects.

A 2019 review looking at obesity and probiotics concluded that bacterial strains are associated with obesity, and that mixtures of probiotic strains may be more effective in treating obesity than single strains. In particular, Bifidobacterium may be effective for reducing body mass index (BMI).

Most research into this has used Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains. However, there are still unanswered questions about specific strains, duration of treatment, and appropriate dosages.

One 2018 review concluded that probiotics may result in a reduction of weight and fat percentage. However, there have not been enough high quality studies to confirm that probiotics have this effect.

Probiotics for gut health

Probiotics can also be useful to help support a person's gut health and relieve gut issues.

The gut's lining can sometimes become damaged, which may lead to intestinal permeability, or "leaky gut." This can allow molecules to get through into the bloodstream and cause inflammation or immune reactions.

Antibiotics can kill both bad and good bacteria. Sometimes, this can cause a person to experience symptoms of diarrhea when taking them. Taking probiotics at the same time, however, can help repopulate a person's gut with beneficial bacteria and ease any symptoms of diarrhea.

In particular, the probiotic yeast Saccharomyces boulardiihas been effective in the prevention and treatment of diarrhea that occurs when taking antibiotics or following infection. The yeast may also be effective in treating irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease, but more research is needed to confirm this.

Probiotics for constipation

Research indicates that probiotics may reduce gut transit time — that is, the time it takes for food to pass as a bowel movement — by 12.4 hours and increase bowel movements by 1.3 per week.

The Bifidobacterium lactis strain seems most efficient in improving gut transit time, stool frequency and consistency, and flatulence. The researchers advise caution when interpreting these results, however, as there may be bias in some of the studies.

Probiotics for mental health

The gut and brain are connected and communicate with each other using the nervous system. One 2016 review suggests that probiotic strains can help combat mood and neurotransmitter conditions.

Several studies have used Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus to improve the symptoms of anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, as well as memory, according to the review.

Summary

In recent years, the extensive research into probiotics and the microbiome leaves no doubt that these novel products can benefit some aspects of human health.

Specifically, science has identified areas of use for diarrhea, respiratory conditions, and some infant illnesses and conditions. Probiotics may also help with weight management, gut issues and constipation, and mental health.

People can do their own research into which specific strains might work for their particular condition. A healthcare professional can help with this.

They can choose probiotics according to their CFU, the strains included, and whether or not the product also contains prebiotics. It can be more cost effective to choose a product with a lower CFU for general health maintenance.

People can choose from a wide range of probiotic brands online.

Those taking probiotics for the first time might want to monitor any effects and build up their dosage slowly, especially if the product contains prebiotics, which can cause excess gas.

People who have an immune condition or severe illness should speak to their doctor before taking probiotics, as they may not be suitable. Also, people with allergies or intolerances should be sure to read product labels carefully to avoid triggering a reaction.

Original Article