‘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.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Save the Planet: Eat Healthy

For the final article of the year, I chose a topic that was both future-thinking and hopeful. Environmental sustainability is on the pulse these days, as it should be. But let's tie it in with nutrition and health. The way we eat, what we eat, and how much we eat impacts the environment.

A fascinating new study compared the nationally recommended diet (NRD) with an average diet across 37 nations (this is 64% of the global population.) The environmental focus was greenhouse gas emissions, eutrophication (an oversupply of nutrients in an aquatic system causing low oxygen levels, runoff is a common cause), and land use.

A few more details to know about the study:
  • Of the 37 nations investigated, 28 were high-income nations, 9 were middle-income nations (including 2 lower-middle nations - India and Indonesia)
  • NRDs varied by the level of income of the nations
    • High-income nations tend to emphasise increased intake of plants products
      • Mostly because inhabitants of these countries are able to easily and often eat large amounts of Bessie the Cow, fast (nutrient-poor) food, and neglect plant products 
    • Lower-income nations emphasise sufficient caloric and protein intake, recommending high amounts of both
      • Something to note, as transitions occur to diets higher animal and processed food, malnutrition and obesity are likely to coexist (as in many developed countries)
    • Only 4 nations currently mention the environment in their NRD
      • Sweden, The Netherlands, the UK, and China, since you were wondering
In the U.S., compared with the average diet, the NRD recommends substantial decreases in sugars, oils, meats, and dairy. We the people have enough money to make poor food choices and/or eat way too much.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Greenhouse gas emissions based on the average diet increased significantly as national income increased. Animal products (meat, fish, and dairy) accounted for 22%, 65%, and 70% of emissions for lower-middle, upper-middle, and high-income nations, respectively.

Translation = large amounts of animal products consumed in upper-middle and high-income nations are costly in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Think of all the animal farts, and resources like water, feed, and land needed to keep the animals alive and farting.

Diet Shifts
Shifting from average diets to the NRD had the greatest environmental impact in high-income nations. Further beneficial impacts were noted if calorie intake decreased (this makes sense, because eating too much wastes resources, a whole article about that here.) Certain nations that emphasise vegetables, nuts, and dairy would see increased environmental impact. But in general, decreases in the consumption of meat and dairy would result in significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions, eutrophication, and land use in all but 3 lower-income countries (India, Indonesia, Romania.)

Translation = Nationally, if people ate the amounts and types of foods recommended (yes, meaning calories and food groups) we would not only be healthier, but also decrease our environmental footprint. We don't make up the dietary guidelines for our health.

So, are any of you thinking, "well, if more people were vegetarian or vegan, things might be even better?" That's a really interesting statement. Another recent study examined how suitable, in terms of nutritional adequacy, human diets are with and without animals. Here were some interesting findings:
  • Protein, many microminerals, vitamins, and amino acids are consumed in excess in the average American diet
    • However, certain vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids were deficient:
      • Calcium, vitamin K, vitamin D, choline, linoleic, and a-linolenic acid
      • Mostly because we choose to buy and eat large amounts of processed, nutrient poor-foods
    • Protein provided 171% of what is actually required, and excess energy (calories) was about 12% above the needs for moderately active humans (remember, many Americans are not moderately active)
  • In the plant-only food system, consumption of grains increased 10-fold, and all other food types declined
    • Calcium, vitamins A and B12, EPA, DHA, and arachidonic acid were deficient in the plant-only diet
Previous research shows plant-only diets are associated with greater deficiencies in protein, calcium, vitamins A and D, and also tend to be higher in sugar, and lower in essential micronutrients. Deficiencies from plant-only diets increase as one takes into account the lower bioavailability of certain nutrients (iron, zinc, protein, and vitamin A) from plant foods. Therefore not improving nutritional quality or health (1, 2, 3, 4.) So, once again herbivory ≠ omnipotency.

The above study eloquently points out that unsupplemented, carefully planned, plant-only diets can meet nutritional needs, however, meeting these needs for an entire population poses many challenges.

How to eat more sustainably: The takeaway... 
  • Eat more fruit and vegetables
  • Eat less meat (still eat Bessie the Cow, just a couple of times a week, and less of her...AKA smaller portions, here's what a "serve" looks like)
  • Watch your protein intake. No, you actually do not need as much as you think (read about that here and here, seriously... do it.)
  • Be cognisant of eating too much... Not overeating is not only beneficial for your waistline and your wallet, but also for the environment
  • How to do this: think about your meals, add fruit to your breakfast, add (more) vegetables to your snacks and other meals... You'll feel more full and therefore eat less meat/grains... Good for your colon, good for your weight, good for the environment, and cheaper... Yes cheaper!

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.

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!