Monthly Archives: August 2016

Information About Probiotics Help People With Alzheimer’s

Probiotics are well-known for their digestive health perks. But scientists have wondered if the “good” bugs might also affect our brains, since the brain and the gut appear to be closely connected.

Now, a study suggests that taking a daily probiotic supplement may slightly improve memory and thinking skills in older adults. According to the Iranian researchers, the beneficial bacteria might potentially protect against Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of cognitive decline, although more studies are needed.

Other research has shown that mice fed probiotics had improved thinking and memory skills. Until now, however, no placebo-controlled trials had been conducted on people, the authors say. For their study, they gave 60 men and women diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease either a daily glass of plain milk or milk treated with probiotics—including Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus fermentum, and Bifidobacterium bifidum.

At the beginning and end of the 12-week study, the participants took tests designed to measure brain function, such as giving the current date, counting backward from 100 by sevens, naming objects, repeating a phrase, and copying a picture. They also gave blood samples to measure other metabolic changes.

Over the 12 weeks, those in the probiotic group reported no side effects and their average cognitive score rose slightly—from 8.7 to 10.6 out of a 30-point maximum. In the placebo group, scores went down a bit, from 8.5 to 8.0.

This is only a mild improvement, say the study authors, and all of the participants remained severely impaired. But the findings are still important, they add, because they are the first to show any brain benefits from probiotics in humans. The authors say they have no financial conflicts of interest, although a supplement maker donated the probiotics for the study.

In their conclusion, the researchers wrote that “probiotic supplementation shows some hopeful trends that warrant further study to assess if probiotics have a clinically significant impact on the cognitive symptoms.” Larger patient groups, and longer study periods, could show if the small, but statistically real effects seen here could become stronger over time, they say.

The study, which was published yesterday in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, revealed other probiotic-related perks, as well: Daily consumption was associated not just with improved memory and thinking, but lower levels of two types of cholesterol (triglycerides and VLDL, or very low-density lipoprotein) and two common measures of insulin resistance as well.

It also appeared to lower levels of a marker of inflammation found in the blood of people with Alzheimer’s (called high-sensitivity c-reactive protein)—although it had no effect on other biomarkers of cell damage or inflammation.

“These findings indicate that change in the metabolic adjustments might be a mechanism by which probiotics affect Alzheimer’s and possibly other neurological disorders,” said senior author Mahmoud Salami, PhD, professor of physiology at Kashan University in Iran, in a press release. “We plan to look at these mechanisms in greater detail in our next study.”

Louisiana State University neurology professor Walter Lukiw, PhD, said in a press release that the study provides important evidence for the theory that the gut microbiome can play a role in neurological functioning—and that probiotics seem to influence both.

“This is in line with some of our recent studies which indicate that the GI tract microbiome in Alzheimer’s is significantly altered in composition when compared to age-matched controls,” said Lukiw, who reviewed the new study but was not involved in the research.

As another potential explanation for the link between brain and gut, Lukiw cited evidence that “both the GI tract and blood-brain barriers become significantly more leaky with aging,” potentially allowing toxic bacteria and other substances from the GI system to access the central nervous system.

Healthy adults can safely consume up to 20 billion CFUs of probiotics a day, says Health’s medical editor Dr. Raj. If you want to try a supplement, check out our recommendations and talk to your doc about what products and dosage she recommends.

Of course, you can also get the beneficial bugs by eating fermented foods. To work more of them into your diet, here’s a list of 9 probiotic foods other than yogurt.

Know More About Best Foods for Crohn’s Disease

What to eat if you have Crohn’s
If you’ve got inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), you need to make calories count.

Certain foods won’t speed gut healing, but there are plenty that can help you stay well-nourished without aggravating symptoms, says Tracie Dalessandro, RD, a nutritionist based in Briarcliff Manor, NY, who also has Crohn’s disease.

Here are 13 foods that should be easy on your digestion. However, the right Crohn’s diet is highly individual—so use trial and error to see what works for you.

– Almond milk
Many people with Crohn’s are lactose intolerant. Luckily, there’s a great dairy alternative: almond milk, which is made from ground-up almonds and can be fortified to contain as much calcium as regular milk (check the label).

Almond milk also has vitamin D and E, but contains no cholesterol or saturated fat, and fewer calories than cow’s milk. Many varieties contain added sweetener; choosing an unsweetened product cuts about 20 calories per serving.

– Eggs
Scrambled, hard-boiled, soft-cooked—any way you prepare them, eggs are an inexpensive source of easily digested protein.

Make sure you’ve always got some in the fridge.

Eggs and toast are a standby for Marge McDonald, 46, during a flare up, along with potatoes and egg noodles. “Anything non-greasy,” says McDonald, who directs the Burlington Senior Center in Massachusetts and has ulcerative colitis. “Honestly when I’m flaring I just end up eating carbs.”

– Oatmeal
This comfort food is a great choice if you have Crohn’s. “Oatmeal is even OK when I’m flaring, if I’m not flaring too badly,” McDonald says.

Insoluble fiber—the kind in raw veggies, fruits, and nuts—draws water into the colon and can worsen diarrhea for those with IBD. But oatmeal has soluble fiber, which absorbs water and passes more slowly through your digestive tract, says Dalessandro, who is also a nutritional advisor to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America.

“If you have very soft-cooked oatmeal, that’s a great breakfast,” she says.

– Vegetable soups
“A lot of people I see are really, really afraid of eating vegetables,” says Dalessandro. “Most of the time their diet consists of a lot of white carbohydrate products, which of course are OK, but they don’t have a lot of nutrients.”

But even during a flare-up, pureed veggies like pumpkins, butternut squash, carrots and parsnips are fine. And you won’t lose nutrients, like you do when vegetables are boiled.

– Salmon
Twenty-five percent of the calories you eat should come from protein, which is key to healing.

Lean protein, like seafood, is your best option. “Fish is extremely beneficial, especially fish that’s high in omega-3s, like salmon,” Dalessandro says.

Shrimp and white fish like tilapia and flounder are also nutritious and easily digestible. Prepare seafood by steaming, broiling or grilling, and skip the deep-fat fryer.

– Papaya
People with Crohn’s may think they should avoid fruit, but even during a flare, tropical fruits like bananas are an easy-to-digest, nutritious option.

“Mango and papaya are super-high in nutrients and very, very easy to digest,” Dalessandro says.

Papaya contains an enzyme, papain, which helps your body digest proteins; this butter-soft fruit is also rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, folate and potassium, and is available year-round. Cantaloupe is a good choice too.

– Pureed beans
Beans may sound like the ultimate no-no for anyone who’s having digestive trouble.

But pureed chickpeas—the main component of hummus—and well-pureed lentils are a terrific source of lean protein and other nutrients, and should be safe even if your Crohn’s is acting up, Dalessandro says.

– Poultry
Chicken and turkey are protein-rich, and lean if you limit your consumption to the white meat.

They’re also mild and easy to digest, making them a go-to protein source for anyone with IBD.

– Avocado
Soft, smooth, and chock-full of good fats, B vitamins, vitamin E, and potassium, avocados should definitely be on the menu if you have Crohn’s disease.

They’re also one of the only fruits that contains digestion-friendly soluble fiber along with the insoluble type.

– Butter lettuce
A Crohn’s diagnosis doesn’t mean your salad days are over, says Dalessandro.

As long as you’re not experiencing severe diarrhea, you should be able to enjoy a salad made from butter lettuce.

Also known as Boston Bibb, this widely available light-green lettuce is much more tender and easily digestible than other salad greens.

– Roasted red peppers
Brilliant and super-tasty, roasted peppers—with skins removed—are delicious, nutritious, and safe for people with Crohn’s to eat, Dalessandro says.

Add them to a salad, slip them into a sandwich, or even use them as a soup garnish.
But see how they affect your digestion; they may not be for everyone. “For me peppers have always been a really bad food,”says McDonald.

– Rice
A traditional choice for anyone who’s suffering from stomach woes, white rice and other refined carbohydrates may not be super-nutritious, but they’re easy on the gut. They can also provide the calories you need during intestinally challenging times.

Just make sure these simple carbs aren’t crowding protein and well-cooked veggies out of your diet.

– Smooth nut butters
Nuts are an excellent source of good fats, vitamin E, and protein, but digesting them presents an insurmountable challenge to most people with Crohn’s.

You can get the benefits of nuts without aggravating symptoms by eating nut butters.
Make sure to choose smooth, not chunky versions of these products. In addition to peanut butter, most stores now stock almond and cashew butter, too.

Let’s Learn About Fungus And Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease is a serious condition in which the immune system attacks and destroys portions of the intestines, causing pain, bleeding, diarrhea, fevers, and more—for reasons that are far from clear.

Now, new research suggests that a fungus may play a role in triggering this inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which affects as many as 700,000 Americans. Crohn’s can happen at any age, even during childhood, although it’s most often diagnosed in teens or young adults.

An international research team found a link between a fungus, called Candida tropicalis, and Crohn’s disease in humans. (Previously, fungi have only been linked to the disease in mice.)

“Our study adds significant new information to understanding why some people develop Crohn’s disease,” the study’s senior author, Mahmoud Ghannoum, PhD, said in a news release. The findings could lead to new treatments, said Ghannoum, a professor and director of the Center for Medical Mycology at Case Western Reserve and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center.

In the study, the researchers analyzed fecal samples from nine families in France and Belgium. They included 20 Crohn’s patients and 28 close relatives who did not have the disease. They also examined samples from 21 Crohn’s-free individuals from four families living in same region.

Normal human intestines contain hundreds of bacteria and fungi species (known as the microbiome), which help digest food and protect against disease-causing germs. The researchers found an association between two types of bacteria, Escherichia coli and Serratia marcescens, and the fungus, C. tropicalis. Levels of these three were higher in family members with the disease, suggesting that they interact in the intestines. Further lab testing suggests that the bacterial-fungal trio forms a thin, slimy film. When that “biofilm” clings to a portion of the intestines, it may cause inflammation that results in Crohn’s disease symptoms, the news release noted.

“We know that intestinal microbial agents have a key role in causing IBD, but only a limited number of the enormously complex bacteria, viruses, and fungi have been identified and their functions are largely unknown,” said Caren Heller, MD, chief scientific officer of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, in a statement. “This study suggests that not only do viruses and bacteria play a role in the development of inflammatory bowel diseases in some patients but fungi may as well.”

Researchers also found that the gut profiles of Crohn’s patients and their healthy relatives were distinctly different from those of unrelated healthy people. But that may simply reflect the shared diet and environment of family members, authors noted.

“More studies of additional patients and among different cohorts must be conducted in order to validate these findings and their importance in development of future treatments and cures of IBD,” Dr. Heller’s statement said.

More Information About Cholesterol Myths

Even if you think you know everything there is to know about cholesterol, there may be a few more surprises in store. Check out these common myths about high cholesterol; find out whos most likely to have it, what types of food can cause it, and why—sometimes—cholesterol isnt a bad word.

– Americans have the highest cholesterol in the world
One of the world’s enduring stereotypes is the fat American with cholesterol-clogged arteries who is a Big Mac or two away from a heart attack. As a nation, we could certainly use some slimming down, but when it comes to cholesterol levels we are solidly middle-of-the-road.
According to 2005 World Health Organization statistics, American men rank 83rd in the world in average total cholesterol, and American women rank 81st; in both cases, the average number is 197 mg/dL, just below the Borderline-High Risk category. That is very respectable compared to the top-ranked countries: In Colombia the average cholesterol among men is a dangerous 244, while the women in Israel, Libya, Norway, and Uruguay are locked in a four-way tie at 232.

– Eggs are evil
It’s true that eggs have a lot of dietary cholesterol—upwards of 200 mg, which is more than two-thirds of the American Heart Association’s recommended limit of 300 mg a day. But dietary cholesterol isn’t nearly as dangerous as was once thought. Only some of the cholesterol in food ends up as cholesterol in your bloodstream, and if your dietary cholesterol intake rises, your body compensates by producing less cholesterol of its own.

While you don’t want to overdo it, eating an egg or two a few times a week isn’t dangerous. In fact, eggs are an excellent source of protein and contain unsaturated fat, a so-called good fat.

– Kids can’t have high cholesterol
Most people think high cholesterol is a problem that’s strictly for the middle-aged. But guess what? Research has shown that atherosclerosis—the narrowing of the arteries that leads to heart attacks—can start as early as age eight. In July 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics released guidelines on kids and cholesterol that recommended that children who are overweight, have hypertension, or have a family history of heart disease have their cholesterol tested as young as two years of age.

Children with high cholesterol should be on a diet that restricts saturated fat to 7% of calories and no more than 200 mg per day of dietary cholesterol, according to the guidelines. Fiber supplements and more exercise are also recommended.

While the guidelines prompted a bit of an outcry from parents worried that doctors would be pushing cholesterol-lowering drugs for kids, a new study suggests that less than 1% of adolescents aged 12 to 17 would be considered candidates for medication.

– Food is heart-healthy if it says “0 mg cholesterol”
The Cholesterol portion of the nutritional label refers to dietary cholesterol, which is only one of the things found in food that can cause your cholesterol to go sky-high. (A bigger contributor to elevated cholesterol? A high-fat diet.) It’s also believed to be the least important. Saturated fat (found in animal foods and dairy products) and trans fats (found in packaged foods) appear to have a far greater impact on low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the so-called bad cholesterol that causes atherosclerosis, than dietary cholesterol.

– Cholesterol is always a bad thing
When most people hear “cholesterol” they think “bad.” Like most things in life, the reality is more complex. High cholesterol can be dangerous, but cholesterol itself is essential to various bodily processes, from insulating nerve cells in the brain to providing structure for cell membranes. That’s why your body makes the white, waxy substance (about 75% of the cholesterol in your blood is made by the liver and cells elsewhere in your body).

The role of cholesterol in heart disease is often misunderstood. Cholesterol is carried through the bloodstream by low-density and high-density lipoproteins (LDL and HDL). LDL, known as bad cholesterol, and not the cholesterol it carries per se, is responsible for atherosclerosis.