‘Pie hole’, colloquial for one’s mouth, is believed to have evolved in the USA in the 1980s from the British expression ‘cake hole’ (coined in the mid 20th century). Pie hole refers to a mouth, as in: Shut your pie hole or, in this case: Put less in your pie hole.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

3 More Things to Know About the A2 Milk Protein

If you love yourself a good milk article, a splash of controversy, and a dollop of science, this article's got you covered. We're milking it again, and it's udderly delightful.

Pie Hole devotees will recall several milk-related articles in the past. One more recent post about a specific kind of milk: A2 milk. The article, titled A2 Milk Protein for a Happy, Healthy Gut.

Today let's talk about the controversy of milk causing health problems like type 1 diabetes, inflammation, neurological disorders, and possibly even SIDS...

In case you haven't read the above article (which you should), here's a quick catch-me-up:
  • Most commercial milks contain both the A1 β-casein and A2 β-casein proteins
  • The A1 variant is able to be broken down in the human gut, forming "beta casomorphine 7" (BCM-7)
    • This isn't a good thing
    • BCM-7 attaches to mu-opioid receptors and decreases gut transit time (not a good thing)
    • BCM-7 has numerous other effects on our bodies, read about that in detail here
  • There is some convincing research that milks containing only the A2 protein alleviate symptoms including bloating, stomach discomfort, diarrhea, and gas (1, 2, 3, 4)
    • Including in people with lactose intolerance
    • This article is specific to lactose intolerance in Chinese populations (and how A2-only milk alleviated lactose intolerance symptoms)
Now that you're all caught up, onto the juicy stuff... 3 more things to know about milk and health. In my research preparing for this article, I came across these really interesting findings:
1. A1-containing milk and type 1 diabetes:

A very recent scientific review hypothesised a major environmental trigger of type 1 diabetes is milk containing A1 β-casein. Before you get up in arms about it, the study noted there are pre and post-natal factors that play into type 1 diabetes, BUT, a strong correlation (r value =0.92) exists between A1 milk-containing consumption and type 1 diabetes. You can see this below in the figure examining 19 "health care affluent" countries below.

Several animal studies demonstrate a link between autoimmune (type 1) diabetes and A1 milk protein consumption. I know, animal studies aren't human studies... Although no human studies exist at this time, there is research suggesting β-casein stimulate specific aspects of the immune system, consistent with those that trigger type 1 diabetes. Epidemiological evidence also suggests populations with higher A2 consumption have lower mortality rates from cardiovascular disease and type 1 diabetes. Finally, in case you're wondering about breastmilk, it contains only A2-like β-casein, meaning it contains no A1.
Adapted from: http://www.nature.com/articles/nutd201716/figures/3 (accessed Nov 15 2017)

2. A1-containing milk and neurological disease:

Although not as recent, there is research suggesting an association between milk consumption, high BCM-7 (remember, this is produced in the body as A1 is broken down) and neurological disorders including autism and schizophrenia.

3. A1-containing milk and SIDS:

Another study examined SIDS and near miss events. They found some infants after apnea (breathing cessation) events had higher BCM-7 levels in their blood. Another abnormality detected in all infants after an apnea even was lower levels of dipeptidyl peptidase-IV (DPPIV, which is involved in the immune system).

The researchers suspect the lower DPPIV activity, induced by BCM-7, is responsible for opioid-induced respiratory depression.
Translation => BCM-7 (a by-product of A1 milk protein digestion, remember?) supresses the action of DPPIV (an important immune system protein), which in turn depresses respiration (breathing), leading to an apnea event. More research is needed, this is a hypothesis!
So what's the bottom line?

There are a few!
- More research is needed (which is almost always the case with everything in science)
- There is some convincing research linking A1 milk consumption and type 1 diabetes
- Read more about A2, my first A2 article goes into a bunch of detail about other researched effects of A1 milk consumption (including more info about BCM-7, inflammation, gut problems- both symptoms you can feel, and things you might not notice that decrease colon health, and even cognition)
- Try an A2-only milk and decide for yourself*
*The A2 Milk Company founded back in 2000 in New Zealand has a patent on a DNA test that ensures their dairy cows only produce the A2 protein. The test simply sequences a strand of tail hair. The A2 Milk Company now sells A2 milk in Australia, the UK, China, and the USA. You can read more on their website and find an outlet near you.

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Disclosure: I received no compensation, sponsoring, financial incentive, or other inducements to write this article. I think the science here is fascinating and I see a potential group of milk-avoiders getting back on the milk bandwagon. I myself switched my family to A2 milk in June 2016 and have seen a huge change in our GI health as well as family and friends who have tried it. I own a small number of shares in the A2 Milk Company.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Abnormal Sperm Swimming Upstream

Men, grab your avocados, this one's for you. Try as you might, you cannot slink, shy, or swim away from this one. A ballsy new study adds to the growing body of research that men's nutrition does, in fact, impact sperm.

Now now, don't get teste, I'll explain.

A recent study investigated almost 1,300 obese men. Results showed obesity was associated with:
  • Lower sperm volume
  • Lower sperm count
  • Lower sperm concentration
  • Decreased progressive motility and total motility (ability to progress through the female reproductive tract, and ability to move in a typical way, respectively)
  • Higher percent of head defects, including pyriform heads (pear-shaped)
Do these results hit a little below the belt? Do they appear to hang a little low? Are they a bit lopsided? Far be it from me to bat at the low hanging fruit, but for all the men out there who care about their sperm... Read on.

I hear you asking: What do these abnormalities mean? Simply put, they make conception more difficult. That includes conception through sex and conception through IVF.

Now I hear you asking: How does obesity affects sperm? Truly, the cause is currently unknown. However, the research team whose results are discussed above is investigating the impact of weight loss on sperm quality, and the preliminary results are positive.

What about: I don't care about my sperm, so why should I care at all? If you're carting around some extra weight, and you're not thinking about babies... Maybe you don't have to worry about your (possibly abnormal) sperm, but your body has other things to worry about, like chronic diseases. You can pretty much look at any other article on this blog and learn about that.

Do you remember not that long ago there was a big hoopla in the news about declining male fertility? You might not, but I do. This one, that found mean sperm count declined 52.4% between 1973 and 2011. This data was based off 185 studies, and almost 43,000 men from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Most frighteningly, the results showed no signs of slowing.

There are many reasons why sperm count may be declining. There's a vas deferens, excuse me, vast difference between these two studies. The first article found an association between sperm abnormalities and obesity, but doesn't prove causation. The second one found declining sperm counts with only possible theories as to why. Obviously more research must be done.

It is a fairly compelling argument that obesity and sperm abnormalities are linked.

The take home message at this point?

Men, what you eat affects more than your waistline. Keep is simple stupid: Add more fruit and veg to your diet. Your waist and your swimmers will salute you.
I couldn't resist, since most salad pictures are of women looking happy eating salads...
let's see a happy man eating a salad!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

4 Things to Wrap Your Sugar-Addicted Brain Around

You may have seen the memes floating around about sugar being addictive, don't worry if you haven't, I have one below! Although the thought of sugar addiction isn't new, it is, however, a gross oversimplification and misunderstanding of human biology and neurobiology. Humans are complicated, and science helps us appreciate just how complex the human body, brain, and psychology are.

Let's chow down and break down the science in relation to sugar and addiction.

First of all, addiction to a substance requires diagnosis by a certified professional using a standard set of diagnostic criteria outlined by the American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM-IV). That's a mouthful, and possibly a risky opening paragraph... If you're still with me, thanks, it gets better.

Here are a few sweet spoonfuls of science to swallow:
  1. Neural reward pathways light up in response to eating... As they do in response to sex, drugs, and a good workout
    • It is actually the act, the behaviour of eating that lights up these pathways, not a substance (eg: sugar)
    • So no, you cannot extrapolate and say that sugar lights up the same pathways as drugs, and therefore sugar is addictive. Again, it's the act of eating a food (not a specific nutrient) that lights up the pathway, and as you'll read in #3 below, addiction and dependence elicit a number of symptoms upon withdrawal that do not occur with sugar
  2. Addiction is a highly complex chronic disease involving brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry, as well as neurochemistry dysfunction... The American Society of Addiction Medicine says so
    • If addiction were a person, its relationship status would be: it's complicated
  3. Opiate withdrawal syndrome in relation to sudden opiate abstinence involves symptoms including hot and cold flashes, nausea, diarrhea, anxiety, restlessness, insomnia.... and then several others you've probably never heard of, so have fun google-ing these: piloerection, diaphoresis, myalgia, arthralgia, emesis, dysphoria, lacrimation, tachypnea, tachycardia, rhinorrhea, and hypertension
    • These withdrawal symptoms are similar for addictions to alcohol, stimulants, and sedatives... But not sugar, you dig?
  4. People often report "cravings" for foods (specifically, kinds of foods that are highly delicious, like chocolate, sweet desserts, or fried food)
    • BUT these people rarely limit their diets to specific nutrients or substances (eg: only eating sugar or fat)
    • AND these cravings are not as intense, frequent, and/or persistent in duration, unlike drug cravings
    • FURTHER, people restricting their intake of desirable foods (eg: chocolate) makes the forbidden food (eg: chocolate) ever so preoccupying. This is often interpreted as a craving and therefore an addiction, but really, collectively it may very well be part of normal eating behaviour. Basically, don't overthink it and make a mountain out of a molehill
Perhaps you're rethinking the sugar addiction thing a little... Maybe? In reality, your addiction might be to social media and sensationalist soundbites.

Back to point #1 about reward centers lighting up when eating, to reiterate: this is in the act, the behaviour of eating. Not in response to the substance or specific nutrient (eg: fat or sugar). Basically, if you really love the food you're eating, this reward system is activated. In my case, the act of eating peanut butter or chocolate, or both.

An offending meme: It looks legit and everything, it uses complex words like "insulin" and "dopamine"...
But there is no scientific link between sugar and addiction. Blood glucose levels dropping after eating any food with carbohydrates is not indicative of addiction, it's indicative of digestion and your body working correctly. 
In my research of this topic, I came across several points I wanted to share with anyone pedalling the idea of sugar addiction:
  • Calling certain foods or nutrients "addictive" implies they possess an inherent property making a susceptible individual addicted to it (which is the case for chemical substance abuse), NOT the case for sugar or fat
    • You are therefore giving food (or a particular nutrient) a "power" it does not have
  • Calling overeating "food addiction" neither explains overeating nor offers strategies for successfully reducing it
    • There is simply not enough evidence to validate or reject "food addiction"
    • Categorising a "food addiction" now, while evidence is insufficient to do so, risks trivialising serious and validated addictions
Just so you know, in recent years the amount of added sugar Americans eat has significantly decreased, mostly because soda consumption has decreased (yay!) BUT, the average American is still eating more sugar than is recommended. And FYI,  <10% of your daily calories should come from sugar, read more on that here.

In summary:
  • There is insufficient evidence of "food addiction" in humans, this includes substances and nutrients in foods like sugar or fat (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
  • The more correct notion is that people enjoy eating specific kinds of food that are often high in fat and sugar, and that the behaviour stimulates reward centers in the brain
  • These conclusions are not a green light to eat lots of sugary and fatty foods, because there is an mountain of evidence linking excess consumption of these to all manner of chronic diseases and death... just not by way of addiction
  • I love memes as much as the next guy, but they are unscientific sound bites, not facts!
If you're still reading, I've used this meme in other articles and I love it...
But not because it's true.