Detoxification

A study links the consumption of ultra-processed foods with the shortening of the body’s telomeres.

Telomeres are structures located at the ends of our chromosomes. Although they contain no genetic information themselves, they preserve the integrity of chromosomes by keeping their ends from fraying, much as shoelace tips protect the laces.

Telomeres become shorter and less effective over time as chromosomes replicate. Scientists view them as markers of an individual’s biological age at a cellular level.

New research indicates that eating ultra-processed foods is linked to the accelerated shortening of telomeres and cell aging.

The researchers, from the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, presented their findings at this year’s European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) in September.

The findings also feature in a study paper in The Americal Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Lucia Alonso-Pedrero, who is a doctoral researcher at this university, led the study.

The rise of ultra-processed foods

The consumption of ultra-processed foods, or UPFs, is on the rise worldwide. UPFs are manufactured food products comprising the building blocks of naturally occurring foods: protein isolates, sugars, fats, and oils.

However, while their components are often extracted from natural sources, UPFs ultimately contain no, or very little, in the way of whole foods.

The companies that produce UPFs often add flavorings and emulsifiers for taste, as well as colorings and other cosmetic additives to achieve the desired appearance. UPFs are nutritionally poor and often unbalanced.

UPFs are highly profitable for their producers due to their inexpensive ingredients, cost effective manufacturing processes, and long shelf life in stores. What makes them so attractive to consumers is their convenience and their relative imperishability.

Previous research has not conclusively established a link between UPFs in general and telomere length (TL). However, researchers have noted associations between TL and alcoholsugar-sweetened beveragesprocessed meats, and foods high in saturated fat and sugar.

Other research indicates a UPF connection to several serious conditions, such as obesityhypertensiondepressionmetabolic syndrome, some types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes. However, these conditions also tend to be age-related and thus difficult to associate definitively with the consumption of UPFs.

UPFs and telomere length

The NOVA system classifies foods according to the degree of processing that their production involves, as opposed to their nutritional content. The goal of Alonso-Pedrero and her colleagues was to investigate the effect of UPF consumption in older adults using NOVA as a means of categorizing the foods that they consumed.

The researchers began their analysis with data from the SUN project, which the University of Navarra is conducting with other Spanish universities. The ongoing study began recruiting in 2000 and includes volunteers over the age of 20 years. Participants are required to fill out and return questionnaires every 2 years.

In 2008, all SUN participants over the age of 55 years took part in a genetic study that forms the foundation of the new research. A total of 886 individuals — 645 men and 241 women — provided saliva samples for DNA analysis and self-reported their daily food consumption. Their average age was 67.7 years.

The team sorted the participants into four groups of equal size, or quartiles, according to the number of UPF servings that they consumed daily:

  • low: under 2 servings
  • medium-low: 2–2.5 servings
  • medium-high: 2.5–3 servings
  • high: more than 3 servings

In terms of telomeres, Alonso-Pedrero and her colleagues detected a clear correspondence between TL and the consumption of UPFs.

The likelihood of shortened telomeres increased dramatically with the number of UPF servings, starting with the medium-low group. That group was 29% more likely to exhibit reduced TL, while the medium-high group was 40% more likely to do so. Those in the high group were 82% more likely to have shortened telomeres.

The study’s authors write:

“In this cross-sectional study of elderly Spanish subjects, we showed a robust strong association between UPF consumption and TL. Further research in larger longitudinal studies with baseline and repeated measures of TL is needed to confirm these observations.”

The researchers also made a number of general observations regarding those who consumed more than 3 servings of UPFs per day. People in this quartile:

  • were more likely to have diabetes, a family history of cardiovascular disease, and abnormal blood fats under their skin
  • were the participants most likely to snack between meals
  • consumed less protein, carbohydrate, fiber, fruit, vegetables, olive oil, and other micronutrients

Individuals who ate more UPFs were less likely to adhere to a healthful Mediterranean diet. In exchange, they consumed more fats, saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, sodium, sugar-sweetened beverages, cholesterol, fast food, and processed meats.

The study authors also found that those who consumed higher amounts of UPFs were more likely to experience depression — especially when they were less active physically.

Finally, the findings linked the consumption of UPFs to excessive body weight, hypertension, and all-cause mortality.

If your cholesterol level has crept up over the years, you may wonder whether changing your diet can help. Ideally, your total cholesterol value should be 200 milligrammes per deciliter (mg/dL) or lower. But it is the harmful Low-Density Lipo-protein (LDL) ‘bad’ cholesterol value that experts worry about the most. Excess LDL builds up on artery walls and triggers a release of inflammatory substances that boost heart attack risk.

“To prevent heart disease, your LDL should be 100 mg/dL or lower,” says Dr. Jorge Plutzky, director of preventive cardiology at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. But many Americans have LDL values that are less than optimal (100 to 129 mg/dL) or borderline high (130 to 159 mg/dL).

If you fall into either of those categories, you may be able to nudge down your LDL to a healthier level by changing what you eat, particularly if your current diet could use some improvement. However, most people with higher LDL values likely will also need to take a cholesterol-lowering drug, such as a statin, says Dr. Plutzky.

Dietary directives
Avoiding foods that are high in cholesterol isn’t the best way to lower your LDL. Your overall diet — especially the types of fats and carbohydrates you eat — has the most impact on your blood cholesterol values. “As the American Heart Association has noted, you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck by lowering saturated fat and replacing it with unsaturated fat,” says registered dietitian Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

That means avoiding meat, cheese, and other high-fat dairy products such as butter, half-and-half, and ice cream. Equally important is replacing those calories with healthy, unsaturated fats (such as those found in vegetable oils, avocados, and fatty fish) rather than refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, and white rice. Unlike healthy fats, these starchy foods aren’t very filling, and they can trigger overeating and weight gain.

The other big problem with refined carbs: They are woefully low in fibre, which helps flush cholesterol out of the body.

The fibre factor
Your body can’t break down fiber, so it passes through your body undigested. It comes in two varieties: insoluble and soluble. Fiber-containing foods usually feature a mix of the two.

Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water. While it doesn’t directly lower LDL, this form of fiber fills you up, crowding other cholesterol-raising foods out of your diet and helping to promote weight loss.

Soluble fibre dissolves in water, creating a gel. This gel traps some of the cholesterol in your body, so it’s eliminated as waste instead of entering your arteries.

Soluble fibre also binds to bile acids, which carry fats from your small intestine into the large intestine for excretion. This triggers your liver to create more bile acids — a process that requires cholesterol. If the liver doesn’t have enough cholesterol, it draws more from the bloodstream, which in turn lowers your circulating LDL.

Finally, certain soluble fibres (called oligosaccharides) are fermented into short-chain fatty acids in the gut. These fatty acids may also inhibit cholesterol production.

The “best” foods
The following 11 foods are good sources of fibre or unsaturated fat (or both). But they’re not in any particular order and are simply suggestions. Most whole grains, vegetables, and fruits are good sources of fiber. And most nuts and seeds (and the oils made from them) provide monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats.

1. Oatmeal. This whole grain is one of the best sources of soluble fiber, along with barley (see “Grain of the month,” at right). Start your day with a bowl of steel-cut or old-fashioned rolled oats, topped with fresh or dried fruit for a little extra fiber.

2. White beans. Also called navy beans, this variety ranks highest in fiber content. Try different types of beans as well, such as black beans, garbanzos, or kidney beans, which you can add to salads, soups, or chili. But avoid prepared baked beans, which are canned in sauce that’s loaded with added sugar.

3. Avocado. The creamy, green flesh of an avocado is not only rich in monounsaturated fat; it also contains both soluble and insoluble fiber. Enjoy this fruit sliced in salad, pureed into dip, or mashed and spread on a slice of whole-grain toast.

4. Eggplant. Although not everyone’s favorite, these deep purple vegetables are one of the richest sources of soluble fiber. One idea: oven-roast or grill whole eggplants until soft and use the flesh in a Middle Eastern dip called baba ghanoush.

5. Carrots. Raw baby carrots are a tasty and convenient snack — and they also give you a decent dose of insoluble fiber.

6. Almonds. Among nuts, almonds are highest in fiber, although other popular varieties such as pistachios and pecans are close behind. Walnuts have the added advantage of being a good source of polyunsaturated, plant-based omega-3 fatty acids.

7. Kiwi fruit. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to peel these fuzzy, brown fruits. But to avoid the skin, slice one in half and scoop out the inside with a spoon for an easy, fiber-rich, sweet snack.

8. Berries. Because these fruits are packed with tiny seeds, their fiber content is higher than most other fruits. Raspberries and blackberries provide the most, but strawberries and blueberries are also good sources.

9. Cauliflower. This cruciferous veggie not only provides fiber, but it can also serve as a substitute for white rice. Just shred or whirl in a food processor until it resembles rice, then sauté with a little olive oil until tender.

10. Soy. Eating soybeans and foods made from them, such as soymilk, tofu, and tempeh, was once touted as a powerful way to lower cholesterol. More recent analyses showed the effect is modest, at best. Still, protein-rich, soy-based foods are a far healthier choice than a hamburger or other red meat.

11. Salmon. Likewise, eating cold-water fish such as salmon twice a week can lower LDL by replacing meat and delivering healthy omega-3 fats. Other good fish options include chunk light canned tuna and tinned sardines.

New research has found that a smartphone can accurately detect whether the person who has it is drunk, based on how they are walking.

A new study has found that a smartphone attached to a person can tell when their breath alcohol concentration exceeds 0.08%.

The legal limit for driving in the United States is a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08%. Breath alcohol measures are on average 15% lower than blood alcohol levels.

The research, appearing in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, could be helpful in warning people when they are in danger of causing harm due to the amount that they have drunk.

Alcohol consumption

Many people throughout the world enjoy drinking alcohol safely, without causing harm to themselves or others. Yet alcohol is also the direct or indirect cause of a significant number of health issues, injuries, and deaths.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol use is the third leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., behind smoking and issues concerning physical activity and diet. Approximately 88,000 people die of alcohol-related causes each year.

Estimates show that 5.8% of people 18 or over have alcohol use disorder, a chronic condition that can keep a person from limiting their intake of alcohol, in spite of its negative effects.

Alcohol consumption can impede cognitive and motor performance — the ability to think clearly and move in a careful and controlled way. This increases the risk of harming oneself or someone else.

In 2018, for example, 29% of driving deaths in the U.S. involved someone who had drunk too much.

Finding ways of warning someone when they have had too much to drink could be valuable in encouraging them to take more care.

This was personally important to Dr. Brian Suffoletto, previously of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and now at Stanford Medical School’s Department of Emergency Medicine, and the corresponding author of the study.

“I lost a close friend to a drinking and driving crash in college,” Dr. Suffoletto says. “And as an emergency physician, I have taken care of scores of adults with injuries related to acute alcohol intoxication. Because of this, I have dedicated the past 10 years to testing digital interventions to prevent deaths and injury related to excessive alcohol consumption.”

While devices such as portable breath analyzers are available, there are barriers to their use: They are expensive, and social stigma may stop a person from using one on a night out.

Smartphones could represent an alternative: 81% of people in the U.S. own smartphones, and the vast majority of smartphones have sophisticated sensors that can determine if a person is drunk.

“We have powerful sensors [that] we carry around with us wherever we go. We need to learn how to use them to best serve public health.” – Dr. Brian Suffoletto

Straight line walking

Previous research has found that smartphones are able to determine if a person is drunk using information about their gait — how they walk. One study, from 2016, used machine learning to determine whether a participant was inebriated.

In the present study, the authors wanted to see whether smartphones measuring gait could tell if a person had reached an objective measure of intoxication: a breath alcohol concentration of 0.08%, the level at which people tend to show poor coordination.

For the study, the researchers recruited 22 adults who visited a lab to consume a vodka-based drink that would raise their breath alcohol concentration to 0.2%.

Prior to consuming the alcohol, each participant had a smartphone strapped to their back and was asked to walk 10 steps in a straight line, then back again. Over the next 7 hours, the participants repeated their walks each hour.

The sensors on the smartphones measured each participant’s acceleration, their movements from side to side, and their movements up and down.

Over 90% accurate

By analyzing the data, the researchers found that 92.5% of the time, they could determine that a participant would have exceeded the legal limit of a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08%.

“This controlled lab study shows that our phones can be useful to identify ‘signatures’ of functional impairments related to alcohol.” – Dr. Brian Suffoletto

The study has some limitations. A person is unlikely to keep their phone strapped to their back, and changing its location, by carrying it or putting it in a bag or pocket, for example, could affect the results.

Also, the study measured breath alcohol concentrations, which are on average 15% lower than blood alcohol concentrations. Therefore a breath alcohol concentration of greater than 0.068% would indicate a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit of 0.08%. Assessing how accurate the app is at these lower levels will require further research.

This was a small proof of concept study. Future research with significantly more participants and, ideally, real-world analysis, is needed to confirm that smartphones can regularly be used for this purpose.

Nonetheless, this study lays the groundwork for further research.

“In 5 years, I would like to imagine a world in which, if people go out with friends and drink at risky levels, they get an alert at the first sign of impairment and are sent strategies to help them stop drinking and protect them from high-risk events, like driving, interpersonal violence, and unprotected sexual encounters.” – Dr. Brian Suffoletto

When children indulge in sugary foods, they turn feral and bounce off every available surface. This is, as most parents can attest, a fact. In this Special Feature, we ask whether this common knowledge holds up to scientific scrutiny.

You are at a party, and there are around 20 children, aged 3–6. The noise is deafening and the candy bowls are empty. Screams of joy fill the air as parents marvel at their offspring’s sugar-induced bedlam.

But what does the science say? Does sugar increase the risk of hyperactivity in children? Perhaps surprisingly, the data says “probably not.”

This will come as a surprise to anyone who has attended a gathering of children where sweet treats are available, so let’s dive into the evidence, or lack thereof.

Sugar and hyperactivity in children

The question of whether sugar influences children’s behavior started to generate interest in the 1990s, and a flurry of studies ensued. In 1995, JAMA published a meta-analysis that combed through the findings of 23 experiments across 16 scientific papers.

The authors only included studies that had used a placebo and were blinded, which means that the children, parents, and teachers involved did not know who had received the sugar and who had been given the placebo.

After analyzing the data, the authors concluded: “This meta-analysis of the reported studies to date found that sugar (mainly sucrose) does not affect the behavior or cognitive performance of children.”

However, the authors note that they cannot eliminate the possibility of a “small effect.” As ever, they explain that more studies on a large scale are needed.

There is also the possibility that a certain subsection of children might respond differently to sugar. Overall, though, the scientists demonstrate that there certainly isn’t an effect as large as many parents report.

Are some children more sensitive to sugar?

Some parents believe that their child is particularly sensitive to sugar. To test whether this might be the case, one group of researchers compared two groups of children:

  • 25 “normal” children aged 3–5
  • 23 children, aged 6–10, whose parents described them as being sensitive to sugar

Each family followed three experimental diets in turn and each for 3 weeks. The diets were:

  1. high in sucrose, with no artificial sweeteners
  2. low in sucrose, but with aspartame as a sweetener
  3. low in sucrose, but with saccharin — a placebo — as a sweetener

The study included aspartame, as the authors explain, because it, too, has been “considered a possible cause of hyperactivity and other behavior problems in children.”

All three diets were free from artificial food colorings, additives, and preservatives. Each week, the scientists assessed the children’s behavior and cognitive performance. After analysis, the authors concluded:

“For the children described as sugar-sensitive, there were no significant differences among the three diets in any of 39 behavioral and cognitive variables. For the preschool children, only 4 of the 31 measures differed significantly among the three diets, and there was no consistent pattern in the differences that were observed.”

In 2017, a related study appeared in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition. The researchers investigated the impact of sugar consumption on the sleep and behavior of 287 children aged 8–12.

The scientists collected information from food frequency questionnaires and demographic, sleep, and behavior questionnaires. A surprising 81% of the children consumed more than the recommended daily sugar intake.

Still, the researchers concluded that “Total sugar consumption was not related to behavioral or sleep problems, nor affected the relationship between these variables.”

Taking the findings together, it seems clear that if sugar does impact hyperactivity, the effect is not huge and does not extend to the majority of children.

Why does the idea persist?

At this point, some readers might be asking, “If there is no scientific evidence that sugar induces hyperactivity in children, why does it induce hyperactivity in my children?” Some of the blame, it is sad to say, may fall on parental expectations.

A study that underlines this point appeared in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology in 1994. The researchers recruited 35 boys aged 5–7 whose mothers described them as being behaviorally “sugar sensitive.”

The children were split into two groups. They all received a placebo, which was aspartame. Half of the mothers were told that their children had each received a placebo, and the others were told that theirs had each received a large dose of sugar.

The scientists filmed the mothers and sons as they interacted and were asked questions about the interaction. The authors explain what they saw:

“Mothers in the sugar expectancy condition rated their children as significantly more hyperactive. Behavioral observations revealed these mothers exercised more control by maintaining physical closeness, as well as showing trends to criticize, look at, and talk to their sons more than did control mothers.”

Also, the media plays a part in perpetuating the myth. From cartoons to movies, the term “sugar rush” has entered common parlance.

Another factor is the setting in which a child might be given excess sugar. The classic scenario is a room full of children at a birthday party. In this environment, they are having fun and are likely to be excitable, regardless of the candy consumed.

Similarly, if candy is a special treat, the simple fact of receiving a delicious reward might be enough to generate a boisterous outburst of high-octane activity.

Where did this idea begin?

The health effects of sugar have been discussed widely over the last century. Even today, much research is dedicated to understanding the full details of this sweet chemical’s power over human health.

In 1947, Dr. Theron G. Randolph published a paper discussing the role of food allergies in fatigue, irritability, and behavioral problems in children. Among other factors, he described sensitivity to corn sugars, or corn syrup, as the cause of “tension-fatigue syndrome” in children, symptoms of which include tiredness and irritability.

In the 1970s, sugar was blamed for reactive or functional hypoglycemia — in other words, a dip in blood sugar following a meal — which can cause symptoms such as anxiety, confusion, and irritability.

These were the two prominent theories that underpinned the belief that children’s behavior is negatively impacted by consuming sugar: It is either an allergic reaction or a response to hypoglycemia. However, neither theory is now backed by the data.

Another lay explanation is that sugary snacks cause a brief spike in blood glucose, an effect called hyperglycemia. However, the symptoms of hyperglycemia include thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, irritability, and nausea. They do not include hyperactivity.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, there was a fresh surge of interest in the sugar–hyperactivity theory. A number of studies appeared to show that children who were the most hyperactive consumed more sugar.

However, these studies were cross-sectional, meaning that they studied one population of children at one point in time. As the authors of the meta-analysis cited above explain, from these findings, it is impossible to know whether sugar causes hyperactivity or whether hyperactivity drives increased sugar intake.

Ongoing research

Since the 1990s, studies looking at hyperactivity and sugar have trailed off, with most experts considering the case closed. In one domain, however, studies have continued.

For the vast majority of children, sugar will not cause hyperactivity, but the jury is still out for one group of youngsters: those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Scientists have approached this topic from two angles; some studies ask whether a high-sugar diet could increase the risk of developing ADHD, while others investigate whether sugar could exacerbate symptoms of ADHD in kids with the condition.

From the first camp of research, a study published in 2011 followed 107 fifth-graders and found “no significant association […] between total volume of simple sugar intake from snacks and ADHD development.”

Looking for longer-term effects, a systematic review and meta-analysis published in the Journal of Affective Disorders in 2019 assessed “evidence of the association between dietary patterns and ADHD.” The authors concluded that “a diet high in refined sugar and saturated fat can increase the risk” of ADHD and that a diet heavy in fruit and vegetables is protective.

However, they acknowledge that the evidence was generally weak. For instance, of the 14 studies that found a relationship between diet and ADHD, 10 used a cross-sectional or case-control design, both of which are observational and can have methodological problems.

Cross-sectional studies cannot tease apart which came first, the cause or the effect, because they determine the prevalence of both at the same point in time.

Case-control studies provide stronger evidence, as they look back into potential causes, or risk factors, after working out who has the health issue in question. The researchers then explore the occurrence of the risk factors in a similar group of people who do not have the health problem.

However, information about potential causes can be affected by memory bias — for example, people with ADHD may be more likely to report that they had a sugary diet because the association is expected.

The authors of the meta-analysis make another important point; there is some evidence that people with ADHD are more likely to binge eat than people without it. This might mean that increased consumption of foods that activate reward networks in the brain, such as sugary snacks, might be the result of ADHD, rather than a factor that increases the risk of ADHD.

An important final word

Sugar, it seems, does not cause hyperactivity in the vast majority of children. In the future, larger, longer studies might detect a small effect, but current evidence suggests that the association is a myth.

This, however, does not discount the fact that a diet high in sugar increases the risk of diabetes, weight gain, tooth cavities, and heart disease. Monitoring children’s, and our own, sugar intake is still important for maintaining good health.

Olusola Malomo, a leading Lagos nutritionist/Publicity Secretary of Nutrition Society of Nigeria, has called for regular intake of 100% fruit juice and regular exercise among others, as measures to boost the immune system and combat the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic. He gave the advice at his monthly healthy living dialogue.

While noting that COVID-19 is a respiratory infection which causes fever, tiredness, sore throat and in severe cases, shortness of breath and respiratory difficulty, he said that the World Health Organization (WHO) and other global public institutions have confirmed that the severity of the COVID-19 infection is linked with the overall state of the body’s immune system. He stated that this is the reason why people with pre-existing health challenges are most vulnerable to the contagion.

Quoting the Harvard Medical School in its Harvard Health Publishing, Malomo revealed that deficiency in Zinc, Iron, Copper, Folic Acid, Vitamins A, B6, C (which is contained in large quantity in fruit juice) and E have negative impacts on immune responses.

He said: “CNN reported that the United States retail sales of orange juice jumped about 38 percent in the four weeks ending on March 28, 2020, when compared to the same period last year. Also, the Florida Department of Citrus disclosed that there was a spike in demand for 100% orange juice within the same period.”

“During the five weeks the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun were on lockdown, shops and supermarkets had run out of orange fruit juice stock in the first two or three weeks of the restriction.”

“In fact, less than a week into the lockdown, my favorite Chivita 100% Real Orange Fruit Juice which would have made the stay-at-home less boring for me, had rapidly been purchased off the shelves in Lagos. The scramble for unavailable raw fruits in the open markets started in earnest as the restriction on movement cut off a large chunk of the supplies.”

The expert, however, stated that fruit juice intake is just one of the many ways to boost one’s immune system. Others measures according to him include getting adequate sleep, thorough cooking of meat, maintaining good hygiene, moderate intake of alcohol and exercising regularly.

“Regular exercise is an essential component of healthy living. It improves cardiovascular function, helps control body weight, removes toxins in the body, increases blood circulation and lowers blood pressure. The result of these is a strengthened immune system that protects the body against infections and diseases. Regular exercise is most valuable when one shuns junk food and sticks to healthy eating habits and a balanced diet,” he noted. It is difficult to ascertain the level of good hygiene maintained by those who sell raw fruits, and considering that good hygiene is essential to combat COVID-19, Malomo said pure fruit juices, where available, can be substituted for raw fruits. He, however, cautioned against the consumption of brands whose production processes are not trusted.

In the short-term, eating too much sugar may contribute to acne, weight gain, and tiredness. In the long-term, too much sugar increases the risk of chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people in the United States consume too much added sugar. Added sugars are sugars that manufacturers add to food to sweeten them.

In this article, we look at how much added sugar a person should consume, the symptoms and impact of eating too much sugar, and how someone can reduce their sugar intake.

How much sugar is too much? 

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010-2015, on average, Americans consume 17 teaspoons (tsp) of added sugar each day. This adds up to 270 calories.

However, the guidelines advise that people limit added sugars to less than 10% of their daily calorie intake. For a daily intake of 2,000 calories, added sugar should account for fewer than 200 calories.

However, in 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) advised that people eat half this amount, with no more than 5% of their daily calories coming from added sugar. For a diet of 2,000 calories per day, this would amount to 100 calories, or 6 tsp, at the most.

Symptoms of eating too much sugar

Some people experience the following symptoms after consuming sugar:

  • Low energy levels: 2019 study found that 1 hour after sugar consumption, participants felt tired and less alert than a control group.
  • Low mood: A 2017 prospective study found that higher sugar intake increased rates of depression and mood disorder in males.
  • Bloating: According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, certain types of sugar may cause bloating and gas in people who have digestive conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).

Risks of eating too much sugar 

Consuming too much sugar can also contribute to long-term health problems.

Tooth decay

Sugar feeds bacteria that live in the mouth. When bacteria digest the sugar, they create acid as a waste product. This acid can erode tooth enamel, leading to holes or cavities in the teeth.

People who frequently eat sugary foods, particularly in between mealtimes as snacks or in sweetened drinks, are more likely to develop tooth decay, according to Action on Sugar, part of the Wolfson Institute in Preventive Medicine in the United Kingdom.

Acne

2018 study of university students in China showed that those who drank sweetened drinks seven times per week or more were more likely to develop moderate or severe acne.

Additionally, a 2019 study suggests that lowering sugar consumption may decrease insulin-like growth factors, androgens, and sebum, all of which may contribute to acne.

Weight gain and obesity

Sugar can affect the hormones in the body that control a person’s weight. The hormone leptin tells the brain a person has had enough to eat. However, according to a 2008 animal study, a diet high in sugar may cause leptin resistance.

This may mean, that over time, a high sugar diet prevents the brain from knowing when a person has eaten enough. However, researchers have yet to test this in humans.

Diabetes and insulin resistance

2013 article in PLOS ONE, indicated that high sugar levels in the diet might cause type 2 diabetes over time.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) add that other risk factors, such as obesity and insulin resistance, can also lead to type 2 diabetes.

Cardiovascular disease

A large prospective study in 2014 found that people who got 17–21% of their daily calories from added sugar had a 38% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease (CVD) than those who consumed 8% added sugars. For those who consumed 21% or more of their energy from added sugars, their risk for CVD doubled.

High blood pressure

In a 2011 study, researchers found a link between sugar-sweetened beverages and high blood pressure, or hypertension. A review in Pharmacological Research states that hypertension is a risk factor for CVD. This may mean that sugar exacerbates both conditions.

Cancer

Excess sugar consumption can cause inflammationoxidative stress, and obesity. These factors influence a person’s risk of developing cancer.

A review of studies in the Annual Review of Nutrition found a 23–200% increased cancer risk with sugary drink consumption. Another study found a 59% increased risk of some cancers in people who consumed sugary drinks and carried weight around their abdomen.

Aging skin

Excess sugar in the diet leads to the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which play a role in diabetes. However, they also affect collagen formation in the skin.

According to Skin Therapy Letter, there is some evidence to suggest that a high number of AGEs may lead to faster visible aging. However, scientists need to study this in humans more thoroughly to understand the impact of sugar in the aging process.

How to eat less sugar

A person can reduce the amount of added sugar they eat by:

  1. checking food labels for sweeteners
  2. reducing foods with added sugar
  3. avoiding processed foods in general

Checking food labels

Added sugar and sweeteners come in many forms. Ingredients to look out for on a food label include:

  • brown sugar
  • fructose
  • glucose
  • sucrose
  • maltose
  • honey
  • corn sweetener
  • corn syrup
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • raw sugar
  • molasses
  • malt syrup
  • evaporated cane juice
  • agave nectar
  • maple syrup
  • invert sugar
  • fruit juice concentrates
  • trehalose
  • turbinado sugar

Some of these ingredients are natural sources of sugar and are not harmful in small amounts. However, when manufacturers add them to food products, a person might easily consume too much sugar without realizing it.

Reducing foods that contain added sugar

Some food products contain large amounts of added sugars. Reducing or removing these foods is an efficient way to reduce the amount of sugar a person eats.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010–2015 state that soda and other soft drinks account for around half a person’s added sugar intake in the U.S. The average can of soda or fruit punch provides 10 tsp of sugar.

Another common source of sugar is breakfast cereal. According to EWG, many popular cereals contain over 60% sugar by weight, with some store brands containing over 80% sugar. This is especially true of cereals marketed towards children.

Swapping these foods for unsweetened alternatives will help a person lower their sugar intake, for example:

  • swapping soda for water, milk, or herbal teas
  • swapping sugary cereals for low sugar cereal, oatmeal, or eggs

Avoiding processed foods

Manufacturers often add sugars to foods to make them more appealing. Often, this means people do not realize how much sugar a food contains.

By avoiding processed foods, a person can get a better sense of what their food contains. Cooking whole foods at home also means someone can control what ingredients they put into their meals.

When to see a doctor

People should see their doctor if they experience the symptoms of high blood sugar. According to the NIDDK, symptoms include:

  • increased thirst and urination
  • increased hunger
  • fatigue
  • blurred vision
  • numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • unexplained weight loss
  • sores that do not heal

These symptoms may indicate a person has diabetes. A doctor can test for diabetes by taking a urine sample.

People should also speak to a doctor if they experience other symptoms after eating sugar, such as bloating.

Summary

Consuming too much added sugar has many adverse impacts on health, including tiredness and weight gain, and more severe conditions, such as heart disease. Added sugars are present in many processed foods and drinks.

People can reduce their sugar intake by knowing what to look for on food labels, avoiding or reducing common sources of sugar, such as soda and cereals, and prioritizing unprocessed whole foods.

If a person is concerned about weight gain, symptoms that may indicate diabetes, or other symptoms they experience after eating sugar, they should speak to a doctor.

After examining the link between metabolites in urine and overall health, researchers created a 5-minute test to reveal a person’s nutritional fingerprint.

Research finds a new way to look at the relationship between what we eat and our health.

It might seem obvious that good nutrition is linked to good health. Still, it has proven difficult to identify specific links between foods and health outcomes. Two new studies from scientists at Imperial College London (ICL), United Kingdom, and various collaborators report insights from the analysis of metabolites in urine.

The researchers have created a 5-minute urine test that can capture a person’s “nutritional fingerprint.”

“Diet is a key contributor to human health and disease, though it is notoriously difficult to measure accurately because it relies on an individual’s ability to recall what and how much they ate. For instance, asking people to track their diets through apps or diaries can often lead to inaccurate reports about what they really eat,” explains study author Joram Posma, of ICL’s Department of Metabolism, Digestion, and Reproduction.

“This research reveals this technology can help provide in-depth information on the quality of a person’s diet and whether it is the right type of diet for their individual biological makeup.” — Joram Posma, study co-author

The first study reveals links

Scientists from ICL and their collaborators — from Northwestern University in Chicago, IL, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Murdoch University in Australia — authored the first of the two studies. It appears in the journal Nature Food.

Metabolites are molecules that the body produces during cellular metabolism, and some are measurable in a person’s urine.

Working with 1,848 study participants in the U.S., the researchers were able to identify associations between 46 different metabolites and food types.

Co-author Paul Elliot, Chair in Epidemiology and Public Health Medicine at ICL, explains:

“Through careful measurement of people’s diets and collection of their urine excreted over two 24-hour periods, we were able to establish links between dietary inputs and urinary output of metabolites that may help improve understanding of how our diets affect health. Healthful diets have a different pattern of metabolites in the urine than those associated with worse health outcomes.”

Metabolites were linked with the ingestion of alcohol, citrus fruit, fructose (fruit sugar), glucose, red meats, and other animal proteins, such as chicken. Nutrients, including vitamin C and calcium, were also associated with metabolites in the study.

Metabolites’ associations with health outcomes also became apparent in the data. For instance, the scientists found that the metabolites formate and sodium were linked to obesity and higher blood pressure.

The second study and the 5-minute fingerprint

For the second research project, which also appears in Nature Food, the ICL team worked again with scientists from Murdoch University, along with researchers from Newcastle University and Aberystwyth University, both in the U.K.

The study reports that the scientists were able to produce an easy-to-administer urine test that could reveal a person’s metabolite profile in the form of a Dietary Metabotype Score (DMS).

Study author Isabel Garcia-Perez, of Imperial College, says:

“Our technology can provide crucial insights into how foods are processed by individuals in different ways — and can help health professionals, such as dietitians, provide dietary advice tailored to individual patients.”

In evaluating the test, the scientists conducted experiments with 19 people whom they instructed to follow one of four types of diets (ranging from very healthful to unhealthful) strictly based on the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) guidelines. The healthiest adhered 100% to the WHO recommendations, and the least healthy just 25% of them.

The study authors found that even among those who reported following the same diet, there were differences in the DMS.

WHO recommendations contain a great deal of latitude in the choice of specific foods. One recommendation, for example, is, “Fruit, vegetables, legumes (e.g., lentils and beans), nuts, and whole grains (e.g., unprocessed maize, millet, oats, wheat, and brown rice).”

The researchers found that, in general, the more healthful the person’s diet, the higher the DMS. Those with higher scores also had lower blood sugar and excreted an increased amount of energy from the body in the urine.

The study characterizes the difference between high energy urine and low energy urine as meaning that a person with a higher DMS would be losing 4 extra calories a day, which equates to about 1,500 calories a year, and would thus avoid about 215 g of body fat annually.

Next up for the team is investigating the use of this new technology in people at risk of cardiovascular disease.

Rethinking diets

Aside from the obvious value of the 5-minute test, the studies suggest that it may be time to use the new findings to personalize healthful food recommendations.

Newcastle University’s John Mathers says:

“We show here how different people metabolize the same foods in highly individual ways. This has implications for understanding the development of nutrition-related diseases and for more personalized dietary advice to improve public health.”

The link between specific metabolites, foods, and outcomes also raises other considerations, according to ICL’s Gary Frost, another co-author:

“These findings bring a new and more in-depth understanding to how our bodies process and use food at the molecular level. The research brings into question whether we should rewrite food tables to incorporate these new metabolites that have biological effects in the body.”

Can extracts of lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) and cocoa (Theobroma cacao) be effectively used to induce labour during childbirth?

A recent study published in Nigerian Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences concluded: “This study has shown that T. cacao and C. citratus stimulate uterine activity and may therefore be useful in the management of uterine contractility disorders.”

Induction of labour refers to techniques for stimulating uterine contractions to accomplish delivery prior to the spontaneous onset of such contractions.

Conventionally, oxytocin is used for induction of labour in women with an unscarred uterus. Oxytocin is a peptide hormone and neuropeptide. It is normally produced in the hypothalamus and released by the posterior pituitary. It plays a role in social bonding, sexual reproduction, childbirth, and the period after childbirth.

However, oxytocin like most other conventional medicines has its adverse side effects and limitations.

Consequently, there is a need to develop new drugs from natural products for the safe and effective management of female reproductive disorders and researchers have investigated two commonly consumed natural products on uterine function.

The study is titled “Ex-Vivo Uterine Activity of Theobroma Cacao (Malvaceae) Aqueous Seed Extract and Cymbopogon Citratus (Poaceae) Aqueous Leaf Extract – A Preliminary Investigation.”

Commonly called lemongrass, Cymbopogon citratus belongs to the plant family Graminae. To the French it is citronelle, citronella in Portuguese. In Nigeria, the Edos call it eti, Efik, ikon eti, Hausa, tsauri, Ibibio, myoyaka makara, Igbo (Owerri), achara ehi and Yoruba, kooko oba.

Until now, lemon grass is used in different parts of the world in the treatment of digestive disorders, fevers, menstrual disorder, rheumatism and other joint pains. The essential oil of the plant is used for the treatment of skin diseases.

Theobroma cacao, also called the cacao tree and the cocoa tree, is a small evergreen tree in the family Malvaceae, native to the deep tropical regions of Mesoamerica. Its seeds, cocoa beans, are used to make chocolate liquor, cocoa solids, cocoa butter and chocolate.

The ex-vivo uterine activity of Theobroma cacao (cocoa) aqueous seed extract and Cymbopogon citratus (lemon grass) aqueous leaf extract was investigated on non-pregnant mouse uteri. The effect of T. cacao (0.1 mg/mL) and C. citratus (0.1 mg/mL) on spontaneous uterine contractility and in the presence of oxytocin (11.54 nM) was examined.

This study showed that T. cacao elicited a significant increase in the amplitude of spontaneous uterine contractions with no significant change in the frequency, which was similarly observed with C. citratus leaf extract. An increase in amplitude and frequency of oxytocin-induced uterine contractions was observed in the presence of T. cacao while in the presence of C. citratus there was a significant reduction in amplitude and a non-significant reduction in the frequency of oxytocin-induced uterine contractions.

The researchers concluded: “The uterotonic effect of both extracts in the absence of agonists, as observed from this study maybe as a result of constituents with agonistic activity on intracellular calcium. This study has shown that T. cacao and C. citratus have stimulated uterine activity and may, therefore, be useful in the management of uterine contractility disorders.”

Also, a study published in the journal bioRxiv evaluates the potential of essential oil from Cymbopogon citratus (CEO) as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agent.

According to the study titled “In silico and In vitro evaluation of the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant potential of Cymbopogon citratus from North-western Himalayas”, CEO showed significant DPPH radical scavenging activity, as compared to Ascorbic acid (vitamin C). CEO also exhibited significant in-vitro anti-inflammatory activity as compared to diclofenac sodium.

Diclofenac sodium (Voltaren) is used to relieve pain, swelling (inflammation), and joint stiffness caused by arthritis.

Chemical constituents of the oil were determined using Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectroscopy, showed that 8-methyl-3,7-Nonadien-2-one (E), α-Pinene, limonene, citral, limonene oxide and Epoxy-α-terpenyl acetate were the major constituents.

According to the study, the in silico molecular docking study showed phytocompounds of CEO (Caryophyllene oxide and β-caryophyllene) have considerable binding potential with 1HD2 and 5IKQ receptors. PASS prediction of these phytocompounds also confirmed strong anti-inflammatory activity of C. citratus. The ADMET analysis also showed that these phyto-compounds are safer to replace the synthetic drugs with side effects. “This work establishes the anti-inflammatory potential of CEO as an alternative to existing therapeutic approach to the treatment of inflammation and also a natural source of antioxidant compounds,” it noted.

The researchers concluded: “C. citratus is one of the important herbs, which play an important role in human health due to the presence of phytochemicals which are responsible for its biological activity. However, the quantification of these phytochemicals in C. citratus is affected by geographical and climatic conditions. In the current investigation, CEO was examined for its chemical composition, in vitro antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, to provide a justification for its health benefits. CEO exhibit good DPPH radical scavenging activity, while FRAP and ABTS activity of CEO was very low which may be due to the combined effect of several phytocompounds.

“However, CEO showed significant anti-inflammatory activity. In silico prediction and molecular docking studies showed that Caryophyllene oxide and β-Caryophyllene contributed to antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity of CEO.

However, except α-Pinene (hepatotoxic), all the phytocompounds were found to qualify ADME/T condition and are less toxic in nature.

“In a nutshell, the present study opens new avenues for the plant C. citratus to be used as safe and less toxic alternatives to synthetic drugs used in complications arising due to oxidative stress and inflammation.”

Researchers have also examined the cytotoxicity and antiviral activity evaluation of Cymbopogon spp hydroethanolic extracts.

The study was published in Brazilian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Cymbopogon citratus and C. nardus are noteworthy among the several existing plant species displaying medicinal properties, due to the potential pharmacological activity of these species, including antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and anti-trypanosomal activities.

The objective of this study was to carry out in vitro toxicity tests of plant extracts from both species and analyze potential antiviral activity against Human mastadenovirus serotype 5 (HAdV-5). Two cell lines (A549 and VERO) were used and mitochondrial and lysosomal viability was determined by the MTT and neutral red assay, respectively, after two exposure times (24 hours and six days).

The aim of these assays was to counteract the behavior of the extracts against the different cell lines and determine their non-toxic concentration range, in order to evaluate possible antiviral activity against HAdV-5. Plaque reduction and inhibition index of viral titer assays were performed using the maximum non-cytotoxic concentrations (MNCC) of each extract.

“The results indicate MNCC at 625 μg/mL for all extracts, except for Cymbopogon nardus obtained with 80% ethanol (CN80), which showed toxicity at concentrations higher than 312.5 μg/mL. CN80 was the only extract that displayed potential activity against HAdV-5, at a concentration of 75 μg/mL, becoming a candidate for extract fraction purification and/or the isolation of substances related to the observed antiviral activity.”

The Cymbopogon genus is widely distributed worldwide and applied in popular medicine for different therapeutic purposes. Biological activities are closely related to their constituents, such as phenolic acids, flavonoids and alkaloids, among other secondary metabolites. In different countries, the popular use of species belonging to this genus indicates applicability as a tranquilizer, antiseptic, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory and analgesic compound and insect repellent, among others.

Cymbopogon citratus (CC), a species are commonly known as “lemongrass”, has been used in the pharma­ceutical, food, perfumery and cosmetic industries for various purposes, while Cymbopogon nardus (CN), known as “citronella grass”, has been used as an insect repellent due to its intense aroma. Several reports in the scientific literature of antibacterial, antifungal and anti-trypanosomal activities are available.

Furthermore, these species have also been evaluated concerning possible antiviral activity. Some studies have demonstrated ethanolic extract CN activity against herpes simplex virus serotype 1 (HSV-1), as well as against measles using hexane-extracted fractions. In addition, the antiviral action of CC has been reported for its methanolic extract against dengue virus serotype 1, and for its essential oil against HSV-1, hepatitis A virus and murine norovirus.

Nigerian researchers have also demonstrated the efficacy of lemon grass and some other plant extracts as storage protectants.

The study published in the Journal of Biotechnology Biomaterials is titled “Efficacy of Some Plant Extracts as Storage Protectants against Callosobruchus maculatus.”

The researchers include Mojisola Esther Ojebode, Charles Openiyi Olaiya and Kayode Olayele Karigidi of the Nutritional and Industrial Biochemistry Research Laboratories, University of Ibadan, Oyo State; Adegoke Emmanuel Adegbite of the Department of Biological Sciences, Ondo State University of Science and Technology, Okitipupa, Ondo State; and Tosin Oluwaseun Ale of the Pharmaceutical Chemistry Research Laboratories, University of Ibadan.

The research was aimed at contributing to the collation and organisation of baseline data on natural insect repelling and insecticidal agents. It also aimed at discovering crop protection agents that would preferentially get rid of pests. The need to develop pest control measures, as an alternative to chemicals is a priority for scientists worldwide. Therefore, it is critical to find a cost effective and non-toxic method to prevent pest attack on the field or stored crops.

The researchers noted: “In this study, Cymbopogon citratus (lemon grass), Citrus sinensis (orange peel) and Azadirachta indica (neem) were used to investigate and evaluate the potency of the fixed and essential oils of these plants as pest control agent for the main storage insect pest of cowpea- Callosobruchus maculatus. All extracts were toxic to adult C. maculatus and prevented egg hatching.

“However, Citrus sinensis showed the highest weevil mortality on the first day of exposure, followed by Azadirachta indica and the least toxic was Cymbopogon citratus in the fixed oil category of extracts while in the essential oil category, Cymbopogon citratus showed 100 per cent adult weevil mortality within one hour of exposure and Citrus sinensis was able to achieve 100 per cent weevil mortality at the third hour of exposure. The Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) analysis of the essential oils of Cymbopogon citratus and Citrus sinensis was used to identify possible components of the oils comparing with existing data. This led to the development of technique adoptable for small holder farmers and cowpea traders.”

Also, another study published in the journal Clinical Phytoscience investigated the anti-diabetic action of lemongrass tea (LGT) in a type 2 diabetes (T2D) model of rats.

The fructose-streptozotocin (STZ) animal model for T2D was used and the LGT was prepared by boiling for 10 min in water, allowed to cool and administered at 0.25 or 0.5 per cent (ad libitum), for four weeks to the T2D rats.

The LGT showed higher phytochemical contents compared to the cold-water extract. The diabetic untreated animals exhibited significantly higher serum glucose and lipids, insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) index with significantly lower levels of serum insulin, β-cell function (HOMA-β) and liver glycogen compared to the normal animals. Oral supplemented of LGT for four weeks improved these changes comparable to the metformin treated group.

The researchers concluded: “The data suggests that LGT intake had an excellent anti-diabetic effect in a T2D model of rats attributed to the higher content of the ingredients.”

Another study has demonstrated the cellular antioxidant activity of lemon grass against liver cancer cells The results obtained from the study indicate that microemulsions are very good systems for applications of lemon grass in functional food and pharmaceutical industries.

The study is “Enhanced Antioxidant and Antiproliferative Activities of Cymbopogon citratus (DC.) Stapf Essential Oils in Microemulsion.”

The study was published in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemical Engineering.

Cymbopogon citratus essential oils (C.EO) have important applications in the food and pharmaceutical industries. However, the studies on microemulsions of C.EO (M-EO) are very limited though M-EO from other plants has been extensively studied. In this study, C.EO were first extracted by hydrodistillation and characterized by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry analysis with the identification of citronellal (35.7 per cent), citronellol (12.5 per cent), and geraniol (16.6 per cent) being the major oil compounds.

Furthermore, M-EO were prepared using Tween 80 as a surfactant and ethanol as a co-surfactant, and the pseudo-ternary phase diagrams were depicted at different surfactant/cosurfactant (Km) and surfactant + cosurfactant/essential oil (Smix) ratios. The M-EO structure changes were investigated and elaborated through the determination of electrical conductivity and viscosity of the system prepared at a Km of 2:1 and a Smix of 8:2. M-EO was relatively stable after 90 days at an ambient temperature of 25 °C. Extracellular antioxidant activities of M-EO were improved by approximately 47 per cent assessed by oxygen radical absorbance capacity assay and by 184 per cent by peroxyl radical scavenging capacity assay compared to the direct use of C.EO.

The cellular antioxidant activity of M-EO against liver cancer HepG2 cells was 151.1 ± 15.5 μmol quercetin equivalent/mg essential oils compared to negligible activity with C.EO. The EC50 of the antiproliferative activity of M-EO against HepG2 cells was 26.75 ± 2.91 μg essential oils/g, much lower than that (174.22 ± 8.20 μg essential oils/g) of C.EO. In addition, M-EO had little cytotoxicity against human normal cells, L02. The results obtained from this study indicate that microemulsions are very good systems for applications of C.EO in functional food and pharmaceutical industries.

Another study published in the journal Access Microbiology investigated the antiviral activity of leaf extract of lemon grass on viral diseases.

This study determined the in-ovo antiviral effect of crude Methanolic leaf extract of Cymbopogon citratus on Newcastle disease virus.

In ovo is Latin for in the egg. In medical usage, it refers to the growth of live virus in chicken egg embryos for vaccine development for human use, as well as an effective method for vaccination of poultry against various Avian influenza and coronaviruses.

Cold extraction was carried out using analytical grade methanol. Phytochemical screening of the crude extract was carried out using standard procedures. Antiviral assay was carried out in nine-day old specific pathogen free embryonated hens’ eggs in three designs made of five eggs per group (Virus with extract, the virus only and un-inoculated groups) with concentrations ranging from 12.5 to 100 mg ml−1. Egg toxicity of the extract was determined for concentrations of 12.5, 25, 50, 100, 200, 300 and 400 mg ml−1. Inoculated eggs were incubated at 37 °C and observed daily for 96 h for embryo survival and mortality. Spot haemagglutination was carried out on bacteria-free allantoic fluid from the embryonated eggs to detect the presence of the virus.

Phytochemical assay revealed the presence of saponins, flavonoids, steroids, terpenes, phlebotannins and terpenoids. Mild toxicity was observed at concentrations of 100 mg ml−1 and above. There was no haemagglutination of fluid from the eggs inoculated with a combination of Virus and extract at concentrations of 50 and 100 mg ml−1.

The current findings demonstrated that leaf extract of Cymbopogon citratus has potential medicinal value as well as antiviral activity against Newcastle disease virus in-vivo (inside a living organism). The specific mechanism of action remains to be studied to further elucidate on its potential as a therapeutic product for the treatment of Newcastle Disease.

blood donation - beautiful girl in the clinic

Despite lockdown measures being in place to curb the spread of SARS-CoV-2, it is crucial that people still donate blood.

COVID-19’s sudden emergence and rapid spread across the world have fundamentally changed how societies function, requiring radical restrictions on movement.

These lockdowns aim to limit the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to reduce both the number of people dying after becoming infected and the strain on overloaded intensive care units.

However, while staying at home as much as possible is important, it is also crucial that many essential workers can leave their homes safely. These individuals include care workers in hospitals and the community, public service workers, and people working in food industries, as well as anyone else who plays a key role in helping the country keep functioning, whether there is a pandemic or not.

Donating blood

As well as these key workers, other people who are crucial for maintaining the health of a population are those who donate blood.

A country’s blood supply is integral to supporting people in a critical condition. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), blood transfusions are necessary if a person loses too much blood due to injury or during a surgical procedure. They can also be necessary if a person’s body is not producing blood properly.

Depending on the reason why a person needs a blood transfusion, the NHLBI highlight that it is possible to give four different types of blood product during transfusion: whole blood, red blood cells, platelets, or plasma.

The American Red Cross note that scientists cannot manufacture blood and platelets, and the NHLBI say that the majority of the products given in blood transfusions come from whole blood donations from members of the public.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), blood transfusions are lifesaving procedures that occur every day in hospitals across the United States. There are more than 13.2 million blood donors in the U.S., who are crucial for the country’s blood supply. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) point out that someone needs a blood transfusion every 2 seconds.

Without ready access to supplies of blood, many people would not be able to undergo lifesaving blood transfusion procedures.

“Dramatic reduction” in blood donations during lockdown

As with all the other resources that a country depends on, supply and demand largely determine its blood reserves. At a local level, if there is a significant accident causing a loss of blood from many people, blood reserves may become stretched as the demand increases.

Conversely, too few people donating blood can put pressure on the blood reserves, as the supply of blood cannot meet the demand.

The physical distancing policies that authorities have implemented during the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak have put severe pressure on the supply of blood in the U.S.

According to Dr. Peter Marks, Director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, “[t]he COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented challenges to the U.S. blood supply. Donor centers have experienced a dramatic reduction in donations due to the implementation of physical distancing and the cancellation of blood drives.”

Dr. Marks describes people who donate blood as “part of our critical infrastructure industries.” Despite the physical lockdown measures, it is crucial that people continue to donate blood.

It is the responsibility of local governments to encourage people to donate blood and to help them do it in a safe way that does not significantly increase their risk of getting or passing on SARS-CoV-2.

In short, the benefits of giving blood at this critical stage of the pandemic far outweigh the negative consequences of the increased number of people traveling from their homes.

Donating blood safely

While it is crucial that people continue to donate blood, doing so safely is, of course, also important.

As with other people who are critical to the functioning of society and thus unable to stay at home, people who donate blood should adhere to physical distancing policies when traveling outside, wear masks in areas where they are unable to keep 6 feet apart from other people, and frequently wash their hands to reduce their chances of catching or spreading the virus.

As Dr. Marks points out, blood donation centers are ideally placed to manage the donations of blood safely during the pandemic, as they are highly skilled in infection control practices.

In Dr. Marks’ words, “[b]lood donation centers always take steps to prevent staff and donors who are not feeling well or who have a fever from reaching the donor area, and they are now taking additional social distancing precautions wherever possible, consistent with the President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America.”

“Donating blood is safe and takes only a little of your time. At many blood donation centers, those who are interested in donating can make an appointment to minimize the time it takes to donate blood. Centers can arrange to call a donor’s mobile phone when they’re ready for the donor to come in.”

The CDC have issued advice to blood and plasma collection facilities on how to operate safely during the pandemic. They recommend:

  • maintaining good respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette
  • following hand hygiene practices
  • cleaning and disinfecting surfaces regularly
  • placing seats 6 feet apart in waiting areas and the collection area
  • ensuring that donation center workers do not work if they have COVID-19 symptoms
  • making sure that all staff are aware of the latest policies and safety procedures in response to the pandemic

Various organizations can help a person find a local blood donation center where they can schedule an appointment. These organizations include:

  • AABB
  • America’s Blood Centers
  • American Red Cross
  • Armed Services Blood Program
  • Blood Centers of America

Dutch researchers studying COVID-19 patients admitted to Canisius Wilhelmina hospital have applauded benefits of vitamin K after discovering link between deficiency and the worst coronavirus outcome.

The research was undertaken in partnership with the Cardiovascular Research Institute Maastricht, one of Europe’s largest heart and vascular research institutes, which studied 134 patients hospitalised for Covid-19 between 12 March and 11 April.

Meanwhile, Iyayi Efianayi Foundation has counselled Nigerians on different measures to protect themselves and manage the pandemic. The recommendations, which were contained in a statement by president of the foundation, Dr. Caesar Osaheni-Iyayi, are outcomes of research instituted by the foundation as part of its effort to equip Nigerians with survival information.

While harping on importance of strong immune system and functioning of the circulatory system in management of COVID-19, Osaheni-Iyayi emphasized the need for more exposure to sunlight and appealed to the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to increase the time that patients at the treatment centres are exposed to sunlight from 15 minutes to at least one hour between 10 and 11a.m.

His words: “Studies have shown that for white people, 15 minutes is sufficient but for black people we have to stay for over an hour. Vitamin D is useful for the absorption of calcium and phosphorous but there is a new concern in Norway and America. People found out many black people were dying disproportionately to the population compared to the white. And what is the commonality between all these black people is that they lack vitamin D.

The same scenario, the statement disclosed played itself out in Holland where a group of black Ethiopians domiciled in a particular region with less than one percent of the entire population while about 48 percent of the death in Holland is attributed to the group.

“We know that the primary function of vitamin D is to aid the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, but it is also linked to promotion of immunity. So, what we want to say at this point is that if our people cannot be allowed to stay under the sun at the NCDC centre for more than 15 minutes, then they should be given vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D3, it is inexpensive, it contains 1000 international units. That is how vitamin D is measured. We are not too sure whether they are giving them zinc, we know they are getting vitamin E. Zinc is also important in the buildup of immunity”.

As researchers embark on seeking funding for a clinical trial, a scientist working on the project, Dr. Rob Janssen emphasised that in light of the initial findings, he would encourage a healthy intake of vitamin K, except to those on blood-clotting medications such as warfarin.
On the ‘Hot Water Therapy’, Dr. Osaheni-Iyayi said: “There are other things I want to talk about. It is a bit on the offside. Many people will regard it as something that should not be practiced in modern day era, but it makes sense. I know many doctors and nurses in Nigeria, America and Europe that are using this system to deal with coronavirus.

What we know about coronavirus is that at 27’Celsius, some people say 57’Celsius, coronavirus will not be able to survive. So, what our grandparents did when we were children was that they will get a hot bucket of water, because water boils at a 100’Celsius, seat in front of you, give you a small stool and cover you completely with a blanket. Because you must breath, you will be breathing in hot steam that will be may be about 70’Celsius. It will be going into your lungs and coronavirus is supposed to be forming inflammations in your lungs.

“So, that is another way to address it. I know many doctors in America that when they return home from their offices, the first thing they do is to seat down, cover themselves with blanket and hot water, but I don’t know why they are not talking about it. I do not know what the reason is. They are doing it and because of that, they are able to go to work freely without interruption.

“We are talking about how we in Nigeria can survive. These are some of the points that we have put together on behalf of Iyayi Efianayi Foundation.”