Thursday, February 20, 2020
Diabetes

According to a new study analyzing the data of thousands of people, an excessive intake of a certain kind of amino acid — present in protein-rich foods — is associated with a higher cardiometabolic risk.

person slicing meat
A new study in humans adds to the evidence that protein-rich foods, such as meat, may have a negative effect on heart health.

Many people follow diets that are high in protein, which can help with weight loss and building muscle mass.

However, increasingly, researchers are starting to question whether protein-rich foods provide enough benefits to offset the potential risks.

For the most part, various recent studies have suggested that high protein foods may affect the health of the heart and the cardiovascular system.

For example, a study in animal models that Medical News Today covered last week found that diets that are high in protein may be directly responsible for cardiovascular problems, such as atherosclerosis.

Now, hot on its heels, a new study in humans points out a link between eating foods with a high sulfur amino acid content — typically high protein foods — and an increased cardiometabolic risk.

The research — the findings of which appear in EClinicalMedicine — comes from Pennsylvania (Penn) State University in State College.

Proteins comprise tiny compounds called amino acids, which vary in their components. Some contain atoms of the element sulfur, which gives them their name: sulfur amino acids.

Cardiometabolic risk and diet

Two sulfur amino acids occur in protein-rich food. These are methionine, an essential amino acid, and cysteine, a semi-essential amino acid.

The human body needs these amino acids to function well, and it must obtain them from a food source. The body cannot synthesize essential amino acids, and it cannot make enough of the semi-essential ones.

However, as with many other nutrients, if they are present in excessive quantities, amino acids can end up doing more harm than good.

This is what Penn State researchers noticed when they looked at the diets and health status of 11,576 individuals, whose data they accessed via the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted.

The researchers came up with a composite cardiometabolic disease risk score assessing each participant’s risk of developing cardiometabolic problems, such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

To do this, they measured the levels of tell-tale biomarkers — including cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose (sugar), and insulin — in the participants’ blood following a 10–16 hour fast.

“These biomarkers are indicative of an individual’s risk for disease, just as high cholesterol levels are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease,” explains study co-author Prof. John Richie.

“Many of these levels can be impacted by a person’s longer-term dietary habits leading up to the test,” Prof. Richie adds.

The researchers also analyzed information about the participants’ dietary habits, which included nutrient intake calculations. They excluded from the study any individuals who reported having an overly low intake of sulfur amino acids.

‘First epidemiologic evidence’

The team’s final analysis, which accounted for body weight measurements, revealed that the participants had an average intake of sulfur amino acids that was almost 2.5 times higher than the estimated average requirement of 15 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day.

“Many people in the U.S. consume a diet rich in meat and dairy products, and the estimated average requirement is only expected to meet the needs of half of healthy individuals,” points out study co-author Xiang Gao.

“Therefore, it is not surprising that many are surpassing the average requirement when considering these foods contain higher amounts of sulfur amino acids,” says Gao.

Moreover, the investigators found that participants with higher sulfur amino acid intakes also tended to have higher composite cardiometabolic risk scores.

This association remained in place even after the researchers accounted for confounding factors, including age, biological sex, and a history of health conditions such as hypertension and diabetes.

As for the source of the sulfur amino acids, the team said that they were present in almost all foods, excluding grains, fruit, and vegetables.

“Meats and other high protein foods are generally higher in sulfur amino acid content,” notes lead author Zhen Dong, Ph.D.

“People who eat lots of plant-based products like fruits and vegetables will consume lower amounts of sulfur amino acids. These results support some of the beneficial health effects observed in those who eat vegan or other plant-based diets,” Dong adds.

The researchers caution that the current findings are, so far, only observational, pointing to an association rather than verifying causality.

“A longitudinal study would allow us to analyze whether people who eat a certain way do end up developing the diseases these biomarkers indicate a risk for,” notes Prof. Richie.

Nevertheless, he stresses that the recent study shows that researchers should pay more attention to the possible risks associated with dietary amino acids.

“For decades, it has been understood that diets restricting sulfur amino acids were beneficial for longevity in animals. This study provides the first epidemiologic evidence that excessive dietary intake of sulfur amino acids may be related to chronic disease outcomes in humans.”

– Prof. John Richie

New research uses high quality data to find that the type 2 diabetes drug rosiglitazone raises the risk of adverse cardiovascular events by 33%.

Rosiglitazone is a drug originally developed to treat type 2 diabetes. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it in 1999 under the name Avandia.

Although Europe suspended the drug due to concerns about its adverse effects on heart health, and the United States restricted its use, the research on its safety has so far yielded mixed results.

Now, a new study, appearing in the journal The BMJ has used more reliable data to investigate the effects of this drug on cardiovascular health.

Joshua D. Wallach, who is an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, CT, is the lead author of the new paper.

The need for more accurate data

The FDA approved rosiglitazone in 1999, a year ahead of Europe, note Wallach and colleagues in their paper.

Regulatory bodies warned about its potential effects on heart failure as early as 2006, and a meta-analysis of several trials pointed to a 43% higher risk of heart attack in 2007.

As a result, by 2010, the drug was pulled off European markets because it raised the risk of heart attack and stroke.

In the U.S., the drug is still available, although it features warnings on its packaging, and the FDA restricted its availability in 2010-2011.

The fact that the drug is still available is primarily due to the mixed results yielded by the investigation into the drug’s cardiovascular effects.

However, the new research suggests that these mixed results are due to the poor quality of the data that these previous studies used.

Namely, these previous papers did not have access to “individual patient data (IPD),” that is, raw data, such as the medical records of patients, instead of summary-level data, which are the final results of clinical trials, for example.

Studying rosiglitazone and heart health

To rectify this methodological problem, Wallach and colleagues set out to analyze over 130 clinical trials; the researchers had access to IPD for 33 of these trials. This totaled 48,000 adult patient data, of which researchers had IPD for 21,156.

The clinical trials were randomized, controlled, phase II-IV trials that had studied and compared the effects of rosiglitazone with any other control for at least 24 weeks.

“The control group was defined as patients who received any drug regimen other than rosiglitazone, including placebo,” explain the researchers.

The team examined the outcomes of “acute myocardial infarction, heart failure, cardiovascular-related death, and noncardiovascular-related death” in their analysis of trials for which they had IPD.

For the other trials, the researchers examined myocardial infarction and cardiovascular-related death only, using summary-level data.

A 33% higher risk of cardiovascular disease

The analysis revealed a 33% higher risk of heart attack, heart failure, cardiovascular deaths, and noncardiovascular-related deaths combined for people who were taking the drug compared with people who were taking another control substance, including placebo.

Wallach and colleagues conclude:

“The results suggest that rosiglitazone is associated with an increased cardiovascular risk, especially for heart failure events.”

The findings also serve to emphasize the importance of using raw data to accurately assess the safety of a drug, say the authors.

“Our study suggests that when evaluating drug safety and performing meta-analyses focused on safety, IPD might be necessary to accurately classify all adverse events,” they write.

“By including this data in research, patients, clinicians, and researchers would be able to make more informed decisions about the safety of interventions.”

“Our study highlights the need for independent evidence assessment to promote transparency and ensure confidence in approved therapeutics, and postmarket surveillance that tracks known and unknown risks and benefits.”

Experts know that processed red meats are likely to raise the risk of cardiovascular disease and death. But are unprocessed meats, fish, and poultry less harmful? New research investigates.

Several studies have established a link between consuming processed meat — such as bacon, hot dogs, sausages, and other similar meats — and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and death.

The higher amount of saturated fats in these foods, along with a higher level of salt and preservatives, might explain these associations. Newer research has suggested that even a low amount of these foods is enough to jeopardize health.

But what about other meats, such as unprocessed red meat, poultry, or fish? Do these foods affect cardiovascular risk and longevity in the same way?

Here, the research is more mixed. The results of several studies vary partly because the methods were different and partly because the existing prospective cohort studies had their limitations.

So, to fill this gap in the research, a group of scientists led by Victor W. Zhong, Ph.D., of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, set out to conduct a new meta-analysis of 6 existing studies.

The pooled analysis appears in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

Studying intake of meat, poultry, and fish

Zhong and the team looked at prospective cohort studies that had been carried out across the United States, totaling 29,682 U.S. adults who did not have CVD at baseline.

Of the participants, 44% were men, and almost 31% were non-white.

Researchers had recorded the participants’ dietary data between 1985–2002 and clinically followed them for 30 years, until August 31, 2016.

Over a median follow-up period of 19 years, 6,963 adverse cardiovascular events and 8,875 all-cause deaths occurred.

Of the cardiovascular events, 38.6% were cases of coronary heart disease, 25% were stroke events, and 34.0% involved heart failure.

To define what constitutes 1 serving of meat and assess the participants’ diet, the researchers used the Willett Food Frequency Questionnaire.

“1 serving was equivalent to 4 [ounces] of unprocessed red meat or poultry or 3 [ounces] of fish. For processed meat, 1 serving consisted of 2 slices of bacon, 2 small links of sausage, or 1 hot dog,” explain the authors.

The median consumption in terms of servings of meat, poultry, and fish per week was 1.5 for processed meat, 3 for unprocessed red meat, 2 for poultry, and 1.6 for fish.

“Compared with participants with lower total intake of these four food types, participants with higher total intake,” write the authors, were more likely to:

  • be younger and male
  • be non-Hispanic black
  • be smokers, have diabetes, a higher body mass index (BMI), higher non-high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels, and consume more alcohol
  • have lower HDL cholesterol levels and eat a lower diet quality diet
  • have a higher incidence of CVD and death from any cause

The main outcome that the scientists looked for was the relative risk of CVD and all-cause mortality over the 30 years between people who consumed these different foods, as well as the difference in absolute risk over the same period.

They calculated the risks for each additional intake of 2 servings per week.

Up to 7% higher relative risk of death, CVD

Zhong and the team summarize the findings: the “intake of processed meat, unprocessed red meat, or poultry was significantly associated with incident cardiovascular disease, but fish intake was not.”

More specifically, the increased relative risks of CVD and all-cause mortality ranged from about 3% to 7%. “The increased absolute risks were less than 2% over the 30 years of follow-up,” add the authors.

More in-depth detail shows that for every 2 additional servings of processed meat per week, the relative risk of all-cause mortality rose by 3% compared with those who did not eat processed meat.

The same was true for each additional 2 servings of unprocessed meat.

The relative risk of CVD rose by 7% for every 2 servings of processed meat per week. For unprocessed red meat, this risk was 3%.

An increase of 2 weekly servings of poultry correlated with a 4% higher relative risk, whereas fish was not associated with CVD risk.

“People who consume more servings per week would have greater risks,” add the researchers.

Study of ‘critical public health’ importance

The authors deem the findings of “critical public health” importance. They also note that more research is necessary to strengthen the findings.

As it stands, the current study has some limitations, such as the self-reported nature of dietary data. This may have resulted in over or underestimation of the association.

Secondly, the scientists did not have any data on the method of food preparation. Whether the meat was fried or non-fried may have impacted the health outcomes.

Thirdly, the study only used one dietary measurement at the beginning of the study, but the dietary habits of the participants may have changed over time.

Finally, residual confounding, the observational nature of the study, and the fact that the data may only be limited to U.S. adults are further shortcomings of this research. Still, Zhong and team conclude:

“The findings of this study appear to have critical public health implications given that dietary behaviors are modifiable, and most people consume these four food types on a daily or weekly basis.”

A new trial suggests that people who eat walnuts every day may have better gut health and a lower risk of heart disease.

Nuts can be a great source of nutrients and a very healthful “pick-me-up” snack.

Walnuts, in particular, are high in protein, fat, and they are also a source of calcium and iron.

Given walnuts’ nutritional potential, some researchers have been looking at whether these nuts might actually help prevent specific health issues.

In 2019, researchers from Pennsylvania State University in State College found that individuals who replaced saturated fats with walnuts — a source of unsaturated fats — experienced cardiovascular benefits, particularly improvements in blood pressure.

The investigators explain that walnuts contain alpha-linolenic acid, which is a type of omega-3 fatty acid that is present in plants.

Following up from that research, the team — which includes assistant research professor Kristina Petersen and Prof. Penny Kris-Etherton — have recently conducted another study to find out more about walnuts’ benefits to health.

The new study — whose findings appear in the Journal of Nutrition — suggests that incorporating walnuts into a healthful diet may benefit the gut and thus lead to better heart health.

“There’s a lot of work being done on gut health and how it affects overall health,” notes Prof. Kris-Etherton.

“So, in addition to looking at factors like lipids and lipoproteins, we wanted to look at gut health. We also wanted to see if changes in gut health with walnut consumption were related to improvements in risk factors for heart disease,” she says.

‘A small change to improve your diet’

The researchers conducted a randomized, controlled trial involving 42 participants with overweight or obesity aged 30–65.

They wanted to see if — and how — adding walnuts to a person’s diet might influence gut health.

To begin with, the research team asked the participants to follow a standard Western diet for 2 weeks.

Then, at the end of this period, the researchers randomly split the study participants into three groups. One group followed a diet that included whole walnuts, the second group ate a diet that included alpha-linolenic acid but in the same quantity that the walnuts would contain. The third group followed a walnut-free diet in which the researchers replaced alpha-linolenic acid with oleic acid.

The participants followed their assigned diet for 6 weeks and then switched diets until each person had followed all three eating plans.

The researchers collected fecal samples from all participants at the end of each diet regimen period. This allowed them to analyze any changes regarding the bacterial populations present in the gastrointestinal tract.

Prof. Kris-Etherton, Petersen, and their colleagues found that individuals who ate 3 ounces (oz) of walnuts as part of an otherwise healthful diet experienced improvements in heart health. The scientists say that these changes were likely mediated by improvements in gut health, as suggested by changes in gut bacteria.

“The walnut diet enriched a number of gut bacteria that have been associated with health benefits in the past,” explains Petersen.

“One of those is Roseburia, which has been associated with protection of the gut lining,” she adds. “We also saw enrichment in Eubacteria eligens and Butyricicoccus.”

The researchers explain that E. eligens has associations with a variety of different aspects of irregular blood pressure. They add that an increase in the population of this bacterium may thus suggest a lower cardiovascular risk.

They also note that an increase in Lachnospiraceae has links with lower blood pressure, total cholesterol, and “bad” cholesterol measurements.

The study did not find any significant associations between any changes in gut bacteria following the walnut-free diets and risk factors for heart disease.

“Replacing your usual snack — especially if it’s an unhealthful snack — with walnuts is a small change you can make to improve your diet,” notes Petersen.

“Substantial evidence shows that small improvements in diet greatly benefit health. Eating 2 to 3 oz of walnuts a day as part of a healthful diet could be a good way to improve gut health and reduce the risk of heart disease.”

– Kristina Petersen

Just how healthful are walnuts?

The authors of the current study explain that walnuts may bring different health benefits due to the variety of nutrients that they contain.

Co-author Regina Lamendella, who is an associate professor of Biology, emphasizes that “[f]oods like whole walnuts provide a diverse array of substrates — like fatty acids, fiber, and bioactive compounds — for our gut microbiomes to feed on.”

She continues, “this can help generate beneficial metabolites and other products for our bodies.”

Going forward, the research team wants to find out whether whole walnuts might influence other measurements that determine a person’s health, too.

“The study gives us clues that nuts may change gut health, and now we’re interested in expanding that and looking into how it may affect blood sugar levels,” says Prof. Kris-Etherton.

Yet, while nutritious and healthful, do walnuts really have a significant impact on our well-being? The researchers who conducted this study suggest they might.

However, they do disclose that their trial received some funding from the California Walnut Commission, which represents the walnut growers of California. As other research suggests, studies funded by stakeholders often raise issues about trust among the general public.

Other researchers have also concluded that walnuts are “optimal healthful foods.” There are few reports of health risks associated with walnuts for people who do not have a nut allergy or gastrointestinal problems.

For now, the research into how much of a difference walnuts can make for a person’s health continues.

The medical term form dry mouth is “xerostomia.” Xerostomia can be an uncomfortable condition that can affect a person’s sense of taste and may increase their risk of developing dental cavities.

Some people may experience dry mouth at night. This may be due to natural variations in how much saliva the body makes, but certain medical conditions can also cause it.

This article outlines the various causes of dry mouth at night and their associated treatment options. It also provides a list of home remedies for dry mouth.

Causes of dry mouth at night

The following are some potential causes of dry mouth at night.

Natural variation in saliva production

According to an article in the journal Compendium, a person’s salivary glands typically produce less saliva at night. As a result, some people may notice that their mouths feel drier in the evening.

Treatment:

A doctor may prescribe special mouthwashes that can moisten the mouth and reduce sensations of dry mouth before bedtime.

People should also consider keeping a glass of water by their bedside. If a person wakes up with a dry mouth, drinking some water will help moisten the mouth.

Dehydration

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, an estimated 20% of older adults struggle with dry mouth. In older adults, this condition usually occurs as a result of dehydration or as a side effect of certain medications.

Older adults who wear dentures may find that they no longer fit properly as a result of dry mouth. Without adequate saliva, dentures can rub against the gums, causing sore spots.

Treatment:

A person who experiences dry mouth should visit their doctor or dentist who will help determine the cause of the condition.

If dry mouth is due to the medications a person is taking, the doctor or dentist may recommend changing the dosage or switching to a different drug.

In some cases, people may receive medications to improve the function of the salivary glands.

Medication side effects

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services state that more than 400 medicines can reduce the body’s ability to produce saliva. People who take their medications at nighttime may notice their dry mouth symptoms worsening at night.

Some medications that can cause dry mouth include:

  • blood pressure lowering drugs, or antihypertensives
  • antihistamines
  • antidepressants
  • diuretics
  • some medications used to control Parkinson’s disease
  • chemotherapy
  • radiation therapy

Treatment:

A person should see their doctor if they suspect that their medication is causing dry mouth. However, people should not stop taking their medications unless they have their doctor’s approval to do so.

A doctor may suggest lowering the dosage of the medication or taking the drug earlier in the day. Sometimes, a doctor may suggest changing to a different medicine that does not cause dry mouth.

The doctor may also recommend the following:

  • taking medications with plenty of water
  • sipping on water at nighttime
  • chewing on gum to encourage saliva production
  • using a humidifier to release moisture into the air and alleviate sensations of dry mouth

Mouth breathing

Some people wake up during the night and notice that they have an extremely dry mouth. This can be a sign that they have been breathing through their mouth while asleep. Some possible causes of this behavior include:

  • a narrowing or blockage of the nasal passages
  • an acute illness, such as an upper respiratory infection or a cold
  • allergies
  • obstructive sleep apnea, which may result in repeated gasping, snorting, or snoring episodes

Treatment:

The treatment for nighttime mouth breathing depends on the underlying cause. We outline the potential causes and their associated treatment options below.

Infections

Antibiotics can help to treat a bacterial infection, while decongestants may help to alleviate any associated sinus congestion.

Allergies

Antihistamines can help to treat allergies, while corticosteroids may also help to relieve any associated nasal inflammation and stuffiness.

Sleep apnea

People who experience sleep apnea may require a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. The CPAP is a mask that fits over the mouth or nose and blows air into the airways to keep them open during sleep.

Although the treatment is effective against sleep apnea, the constant stream of air can actually worsen symptoms of a dry mouth. A person should talk to their doctor or dentist who can adjust the mask or recommend a machine that does not dry out the mouth.

Narrowed nasal passages

In some cases, people who have severe difficulty breathing through their nose may require surgery to widen the nasal passages. This will help to promote airflow through the nasal passages, preventing the need for mouth breathing.

Sjogren’s syndrome

Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks its tear glands and saliva-producing glands. As a result, a person who has Sjogren’s syndrome will typically experience sensations of dry mouth. This symptom may worsen at nighttime when the salivary glands naturally produce less saliva.

People with Sjogren’s syndrome may experience the following symptoms as a result of dry mouth:

  • difficulty swallowing food without a drink
  • pain in the mouth
  • speech problems at night

They may also experience dryness in their eyes, nose, throat, or vagina.

Treatment:

Doctors may prescribe medications to reduce dry mouth and encourage saliva production. Examples include pilocarpine (Salagen) and cevimeline (Evoxac).

A doctor will also encourage people with Sjogren’s syndrome to drink water frequently, and chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production.

Home remedies for dry mouth

Regardless of the underlying cause of dry mouth at night, the following home remedies can help reduce sensations of dry mouth:

  • avoiding caffeinated drinks at night
  • avoiding smoking and use of tobacco products, which can dry out the mouth
  • chewing sugarless gum or sucking sugar-free lozenges or hard candies to stimulate saliva production.
  • sipping cool water frequently throughout the day

To reduce the risk of dental cavities associated with dry mouth, people should maintain good oral hygiene. This involves flossing daily and brushing the teeth twice a day using fluoride toothpaste.

People who have a very dry mouth may require more frequent dental check-ups. This is to ensure that they have not developed cavities.

When to see a doctor

Dry mouth at night is rarely a medical emergency. However, in some cases, it may indicate a need for medical treatment.

People should see a doctor if they experience any of the following:

  • dry mouth that is affecting their sleep at night
  • dry mouth that causes pain and discomfort
  • increased incidence of dental cavities without any change in dental routine

Summary

Dry mouth at night can occur as a result of a normal nighttime decrease in saliva production.

However, dry mouth at night can also be a symptom of an acute illness or an underlying medical condition.

People should see a doctor if their dry mouth causes pain or discomfort or affects their sleep and overall sense of well-being. A doctor will work to diagnose the cause of dry mouth and will recommend appropriate treatments.

Anxiety commonly causes a change in appetite. Some people with anxiety tend to overeat or consume a lot of unhealthful foods. Others, however, lose their desire to eat when they feel stressed and anxious.

Anxiety is a mental health condition that affects 40 million adults in the United States each year. Changes in appetite are one of many possible symptoms.

Keep reading to learn more about the link between anxiety and a loss of appetite, some potential remedies and treatments for the problem, and some other common causes of appetite loss.

Anxiety and appetite loss

When someone starts to feel stressed or anxious, their body begins to release stress hormones. These hormones activate the sympathetic nervous system and trigger the body’s fight-or-flight response.

The fight-or-flight response is an instinctive reaction that attempts to keep people safe from potential threats. It physically prepares the body to either stay and fight a threat or run away to safety.

This sudden surge of stress hormones has several physical effects. For example, research suggests that one of the hormones — corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) — affects the digestive system and may lead to the suppression of appetite.

Another hormone, cortisol, increases gastric acid secretion to speed the digestion of food so that the person can fight or flee more efficiently.

Other digestive effects of the fight-or-flight response can include:

  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • indigestion
  • nausea

This response can cause additional physical symptoms, such as an increase in breathing rate, heart rate, and blood pressure. It also causes muscle tension, pale or flushed skin, and shakiness.

Some of these physical symptoms can be so uncomfortable that people have no desire to eat. Feeling constipated, for example, can make the thought of eating seem very unappetizing.

Overeating vs. appetite loss

People who have persistent anxiety or an anxiety disorder are more likely to have long-term heightened levels of CRF hormones in their system. As a result, these individuals may be more likely to experience a prolonged loss of appetite.

On the other hand, people who experience anxiety less frequently may be more likely to seek comfort from food and overeat. However, everyone reacts differently to anxiety and stress, whether it is chronic or short-term.

In fact, the same person may react differently to mild anxiety and high anxiety. Mild stress may, for example, cause a person to overeat. If that person experiences severe anxiety, however, they may lose their appetite. Another person may respond in the opposite way.

Men and women may also react differently to anxiety in terms of their food choices and consumption.

One study indicates that women may eat more calories when anxious. The study also links higher anxiety with a higher body mass index (BMI) in women but not in men.

Remedies and treatment

Individuals who experience a loss of appetite due to anxiety should take steps to address the issue. Long-term appetite loss can lead to health problems. Potential remedies and treatments include:

1. Understanding anxiety

Simply realizing that sources of stress can trigger physical sensations can go some way toward reducing anxiety and its symptoms.

2. Addressing sources of anxiety

Identifying and dealing with anxiety triggers can sometimes help people regain their appetite. Where possible, individuals should work to eliminate or reduce stressors.

If this proves challenging, a person may wish to consider working with a therapist who can help them manage anxiety triggers.

3. Practicing stress management

Several techniques can effectively reduce or control anxiety symptoms, including appetite loss. Examples include:

  • deep breathing exercises
  • guided imagery practice
  • meditation
  • mindfulness
  • progressive muscle relaxation

4. Choosing nutritious, easily digestible foods

If people cannot eat much, they should ensure that what they do eat is nutrient-rich. Some good choices include:

  • soups containing a protein source and a variety of vegetables
  • meal-replacement shakes
  • smoothies containing fruits, green leafy vegetables, fat, and protein

It is also a good idea to opt for easily digestible foods that will not further upset the digestive system. Examples include rice, white potato, steamed vegetables, and lean proteins.

People with symptoms of anxiety may also find it beneficial to avoid foods that are high in fat, salt, or sugar, as well as high-fiber foods, which can be difficult to digest.

It can also help to limit the consumption of drinks containing caffeine and alcohol, as these often cause digestive problems.

5. Eating regularly

Getting into a regular eating pattern can help the body and brain regulate hunger cues.

Even if someone can only manage a few bites at each mealtime, this will be better than nothing. Over time, they can increase the amount that they eat at each sitting.

6. Making other healthful lifestyle choices

When a person is anxious, they may find it difficult to exercise or sleep. However, both sleep and physical activity can reduce anxiety and increase appetite.

Individuals should try to get enough sleep each night by setting a regular sleep schedule.

They should also aim to exercise most days. Even short bursts of gentle exercise can be helpful. People who are new to exercise can start small and increase the duration and intensity of activities over time.

When to see a doctor

People should see a doctor if their appetite loss persists for 2 weeks or more, or if they lose weight rapidly. A doctor can check for an underlying physical condition that may be causing symptoms.

If the loss of appetite is purely a result of stress, a doctor can suggest ways to manage the anxiety, including therapy and lifestyle changes.

They may also prescribe medication to those with chronic or severe anxiety.

Other causes of appetite loss

Anxiety is not the only cause of appetite loss. Other possible causes include:

  • Depression: As with anxiety, feeling depressed can cause a loss of appetite in some people but lead others to overeat.
  • Gastroenteritis: Also known as a stomach bug, gastroenteritis can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite.
  • Medication: Some medications, including antibiotics and certain pain relievers, can reduce appetite. They can also cause side effects that include diarrhea or constipation.
  • Intense exercise: Some people, especially endurance athletes, experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and intestinal cramping after periods of intense activity, which may result in a loss of appetite.
  • Pregnancy: Some pregnant women may lose their appetite due to morning sickness or because of pressure on the stomach.
  • Illness: Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or cancer, can lead to a reduction in appetite.
  • Aging: Appetite loss is common among older adults, possibly due to a loss of taste and smell or because of illness or medication use.

Summary

Anxiety can cause a loss of appetite or an increase in appetite. These effects are primarily due to hormonal changes in the body, but some people may also avoid eating as a result of the physical sensations of anxiety.

Individuals who experience chronic or severe anxiety should see their doctor.

Sometimes, there may be other reasons for appetite loss that also require treatment.

Once a person addresses the anxiety, their appetite will typically return. Without treatment, long-term appetite loss and chronic anxiety can have serious health consequences.

Previous research has suggested that there is a link between depression and tea drinking. Now, a new study is investigating this relationship further.

Depression is common among older adults, with 7% of those over the age of 60 years reporting “major depressive disorder.”

Accordingly, research is underway to identify possible causes, which include genetic predisposition, socioeconomic status, and relationships with family, living partners, and the community at large.

A study by researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Fudan University in Shanghai raises another possibility. It finds a statistically significant link between regular tea drinking and lower levels of depression in seniors.

While the researchers have not yet established a causal relationship between tea and mental health, their findings — which appear in BMC Geriatrics — show a strong association.

Reading the tea leaves

Tea is popular among older adults, and various researchers have recently been investigating the potential beneficial effects of the beverage.

A separate study from the NUS that appeared in Aging last June, for example, found that tea may have properties that help brain areas maintain healthy cognitive function.

“Our study offers the first evidence of the positive contribution of tea drinking to brain structure and suggests a protective effect on age-related decline in brain organization.”

Junhua Li, lead author

That earlier paper also cites research showing that tea and its ingredients — catechin, L-theanine, and caffeine — can produce positive effects on mood, cognitive ability, cardiovascular health, cancer prevention, and mortality.

However, defining the exact role of tea in preventing depression is difficult, especially due to the social context in which people often consume it. Particularly in countries such as China, social interaction may itself account for some or even all of the drink’s benefits.

Feng Qiushi and Shen Ke led the new study, which tracks this covariate and others, including gender, education, and residence, as well as marital and pension status.

The team also factored in lifestyle habits and health details, including smoking, drinking alcohol, daily activities, level of cognitive function, and degree of social engagement.

In addition, the authors write, “The study has major methodological strength,” citing a few of its attributes.

Firstly, they note, it could more accurately track an individual’s tea-drinking history because “instead of examining tea-drinking habit [only] at the time of survey or in the preceding month/year, we combined the information on frequency and consistency of tea consumption at age 60 and at the time of assessment.”

Once the researchers had classified each person as one of four types of tea drinker according to how often they drank the beverage, they concluded:

“[O]nly consistent daily drinkers, those who had drunk tea almost every day since age 60, could significantly benefit in mental health.”

13,000 study participants

The researchers analyzed the data of 13,000 individuals who took part in the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey (CLHLS) between 2005 and 2014.

They discovered a virtually universal link between tea drinking and lower reports of depression.

Other factors seemed to reduce depression as well, including living in an urban setting and being educated, married, financially comfortable, in better health, and socially engaged.

The data also suggested that the benefits of tea drinking are strongest for males aged 65 to 79 years. Feng Qiushi suggests an explanation: “It is likely that the benefit of tea drinking is more evident for the early stage of health deterioration. More studies are surely needed in regard to this issue.”

Looking at the connection the other way around, tea drinkers appeared to share certain characteristics.

Higher proportions of tea drinkers were older, male, and urban residents. In addition, they were more likely to be educated, married, and receiving pensions.

Tea drinkers also exhibited higher cognitive and physical function and were more socially involved. On the other hand, they were also more likely to drink alcohol and smoke.

Qiushi previously published the results of the effect of tea drinking on a different population, Singaporeans, finding a similar link to lower rates of depression. The new study, while more detailed, supports this earlier work.

Currently exploring new CLHLS data regarding tea drinking, Qiushi wishes to understand more about what tea can do, saying, “This new round of data collection has distinguished different types of tea, such as green tea, black tea, and oolong tea so that we could see which type of tea really works for alleviating depressive symptoms.”

Walnuts may not just be a tasty snack, they may also promote good-for-your-gut bacteria. New research suggests that these “good” bacteria could be contributing to the heart-health benefits of walnuts. In a randomized, controlled trial, researchers found that eating walnuts daily as part of a healthy diet was associated with increases in certain bacteria that can help promote health. Additionally, those changes in gut bacteria were associated with improvements in some risk factors for heart disease.

Kristina Petersen, assistant research professor at Penn State, said the study — recently published in the Journal of Nutrition — suggests walnuts may be a heart- and gut-healthy snack.

“Replacing your usual snack — especially if it’s an unhealthy snack — with walnuts is a small change you can make to improve your diet,” Petersen said. “Substantial evidence shows that small improvements in diet greatly benefit health. Eating two to three ounces of walnuts a day as part of a healthy diet could be a good way to improve gut health and reduce the risk of heart disease.”Previous research has shown that walnuts, when combined with a diet low in saturated fats, may have heart-healthy benefits. For example, previous work demonstrated that eating whole walnuts daily lowers cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

According to the researchers, other research has found that changes to the bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract — also known as the gut microbiome — may help explain the cardiovascular benefits of walnuts.“There’s a lot of work being done on gut health and how it affects overall health,” said Penny Kris-Etherton, distinguished professor of nutrition at Penn State. “So, in addition to looking at factors like lipids and lipoproteins, we wanted to look at gut health. We also wanted to see if changes in gut health with walnut consumption were related to improvements in risk factors for heart disease.”

For the study, the researchers recruited 42 participants with overweight or obesity who were between the ages of 30 and 65. Before the study began, participants were placed on an average American diet for two weeks. After this “run-in” diet, the participants were randomly assigned to one of three study diets, all of which included less saturated fat than the run-in diet. The diets included one that incorporated whole walnuts, one that included the same amount of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and polyunsaturated fatty acids without walnuts, and one that partially substituted oleic acid (another fatty acid) for the same amount of ALA found in walnuts, without any walnuts.

In all three diets, walnuts or vegetable oils replaced saturated fat, and all participants followed each diet for six weeks with a break between diet periods. To analyze the bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, the researchers collected fecal samples 72 hours before the participants finished the run-in diet and each of the three study diet periods. “The walnut diet enriched a number of gut bacteria that have been associated with health benefits in the past,” Petersen said. “One of those is Roseburia, which has been associated with protection of the gut lining. We also saw enrichment in Eubacteria eligens and Butyricicoccus.”

The researchers also found that after the walnut diet, there were significant associations between changes in gut bacteria and risk factors for heart disease. Eubacterium eligens was inversely associated with changes in several different measures of blood pressure, suggesting that greater numbers of Eubacterium eligens was associated with greater reductions in those risk factors.

Additionally, greater numbers of Lachnospiraceae were associated with greater reductions in blood pressure, total cholesterol, and non-High Density Lipo-protein (HDL) cholesterol. There were no significant correlations between enriched bacteria and heart-disease risk factors after the other two diets.

Regina Lamendella, associate professor of biology at Juniata College, said the findings are an example of how people can feed the gut microbiome in a positive way. “Foods like whole walnuts provide a diverse array of substrates — like fatty acids, fiber and bioactive compounds — for our gut microbiomes to feed on,” Lamendella said. “In turn, this can help generate beneficial metabolites and other products for our bodies.” Kris-Etherton added that future research can continue to investigate how walnuts affect the microbiome and other elements of health.

“The findings add to what we know about the health benefits of walnuts, this time moving toward their effects on gut health,” Kris-Etherton said. “The study gives us clues that nuts may change gut health, and now we’re interested in expanding that and looking into how it may affect blood sugar levels.”

In last week’s Thursday’s edition of the Guardian Newspaper, I wrote generally on the fruit berries. Having done that I have also seen the richness of individual berries in the group of fruits in what is called berries. For this reason I have decided to write about four of the commonest fruits in this group.

It is important for us to know that there are berries in such shops as Shoprite, SPAR etc. In other words, these fruits can easily be found and bought here in Nigeria.

Strawberries are juicy and delicious nutrient-rich fruits, which are full of antioxidants. Minerals and vitamins commonly found in strawberries are potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and vitamin CC.

Health benefits of strawberries

Boosts the immune system
Strawberries are a powerful source of vitamin C, which is an established immune booster. Vitamin C is also a well-known antioxidant. It is a fast working antioxidant, which effectively neutralises free radicals and contributes to the effectiveness of the Vitamin Antioxidant Defense System. Consumption of one serving of strawberries is sure to provide one half of our body’s daily requirement of vitamin C

Helps to prevent cancer
Vitamin C, the antioxidant neutralizes free radicals that would have destroyed cells and DNA and possibly cause cancer (vitamin C boosts the immune system). Ellagic acid is a phytonutrient that is also found in strawberry. Ellagic acid has been found to exhibit anti-cancer properties by suppressing cancer growth. Lutein and zeaxanthin (zeathanins) are free fatty acids also found in strawberry. They are antioxidants, which mop up free radicals and prevent oxidative stress damage of cells.

Ensures healthy vision
Strawberry, by its antioxidant function can help to prevent cataract formation. Cataract can lead to blindness in old age. The UV rays from the sun causes the release of free radicals from the protein in the lens. Sufficient vitamin C in the system neutralizes these free radicals and prevents damage to the lens of the eyes. Also, vitamin C functions in strengthening of the cornea and retina of the eye.

Cholesterol Lowering Effect
Strawberries are included in the list of heart-healthy foods. Ellagic acid and flavonoids in strawberries are antioxidants, which prevent the build up of plaques on the walls of arteries by the LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood circulation. The anti-inflammatory effect of ellagic acid and flavonoids also prevent heart disease.

Reduction of inflammation
Arthritis, which is inflammation of the joints have also been found to respond positive to the antioxidants and phytochemicals in strawberries. An elevated C-reactive protein is an indication of inflammation. This CRP has been shown to decrease in those who consume strawberries regularly.

Effect on blood pressure
Potassium is richly found in strawberries – about 134mg per serving. Potassium is a buffer against the negative effect of sodium in the cell, which leads to a reduction of the blood pressure.

Increase intake of fibre
Fibre helps in the healthy digestion of food in the intestine and prevents conditions such as constipation and diverticulitis. Fibre also helps to reduce the absorption of glucose in the blood. Strawberries are a good source of fibre.

Can diet impact mental health? A new review takes a look at the evidence. Overall, the authors conclude that although nutrition certainly does appear to have an impact, there are still many gaps in our knowledge.

Nutrition is big business, and the public is growing increasingly interested in how food affects health. At the same time, mental health has become a huge focus for scientists and the general population alike.

It is no surprise, then, that interest in the impact of food on mental health, or “nutritional psychiatry,” is also gathering momentum.

Supermarkets and advertisements inform us all, at great volume, about superfoods, probiotics, prebiotics, fad diets, and supplements. All of the above, they tell us, will boost our body and our mind.

Despite the confidence of marketing executives and food manufacturers, the evidence linking the food we eat to our state of mind is less clear-cut and nowhere near as definitive as some advertising slogans would have us believe.

At the same time, the authors of the new review explain, “neuropsychiatric disorders represent some of the most pressing societal challenges of our time.” If it is possible to prevent or treat these conditions with simple dietary changes, it would be life changing for millions of people.

This topic is complex and convoluted, but trying to understand the nuances is vital work.

Recently, a group of researchers reviewed the existing research into nutrition and mental health. They have now published their findings in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology.

The authors assessed the current evidence to gain a clearer understanding of the true influence of food on mental health. They also looked for holes in our knowledge, uncovering areas that need increased scientific attention.

It makes sense

That diet might affect mood makes good sense. First and foremost, our brains need nutrients to function. Also, the food we eat directly influences other factors that can impact mood and cognition, such as gut bacteria, hormones, neuropeptides, and neurotransmitters.

However, gleaning information about how specific types of diet influence specific mental health issues is incredibly challenging.

The reviewers found, for instance, that a number of large cross-sectional population studies demonstrate a relationship between certain nutrients and mental health. However, it is impossible, from this type of study, to determine whether or not food itself is driving these changes in mental health.

At the other end of the scale, well-controlled dietary intervention studies that are better at proving causation tend to recruit smaller numbers of participants and only run for a short period of time.

Lead author Prof. Suzanne Dickson, from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, explains the overarching theme of the team’s findings:

“We have found that there is increasing evidence of a link between a poor diet and the worsening of mood disorders, including anxiety and depression. However, many common beliefs about the health effects of certain foods are not supported by solid evidence.”

Some specifics

One diet that has received a great deal of attention during the past few years is the Mediterranean diet. According to the recent review, there is some relatively strong evidence to suggest that the Mediterranean diet can benefit mental health.

In their review, the authors explain how “a systematic review combining a total of 20 longitudinal and 21 cross-sectional studies provided compelling evidence that a Mediterranean diet can confer a protective effect against depression.”

They also found strong evidence to suggest that making some dietary changes can help people with certain conditions. For instance, children with drug resistant epilepsy have fewer seizures when they follow a ketogenic diet, which is high in fat and low in carbohydrates.

Also, people with vitamin B-12 deficiencies experience lethargy, fatigue, and memory problems. These deficiencies are also linked with psychosis and mania. For these people, vitamin B-12 supplementation can significantly improve mental well-being.

However, as the authors point out, it is not at all clear if vitamin B-12 would make a significant difference to people who are not clinically defined as deficient.

Much left to learn

For many of the questions the researchers explored in this review, it was not possible to reach firm conclusions. For instance, in the case of vitamin D, some research has concluded that supplementation improves working memory and attention in older adults. Other studies have found that using vitamin D supplements might reduce the risk of depression.

However, many of these studies were small, and other, similar studies have concluded that vitamin D does not have any impact on mental health.

As the review’s authors point out, because “a substantial proportion of the general population has a vitamin D deficiency,” understanding its role in mental health is important.

Similarly, the evidence for a nutritional role in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) was quite mixed.

As Prof. Dickson outlines: “[W]e can see [that] an increase in the quantity of refined sugar in the diet seems to increase ADHD and hyperactivity, whereas eating more fresh fruit and vegetables seems to protect against these conditions. But there are comparatively few studies, and many of them don’t last long enough to show long-term effects.”

“There is a general belief that dietary advice for mental health is based on solid scientific evidence. In reality, it is very difficult to prove that specific diets or specific dietary components contribute to mental health.”

Prof. Suzanne Dickson

The authors go on to explain some of the inherent difficulties in studying the impact of diet on mental health, and they offer some ideas for the future. Overall, Prof. Dickson concludes:

“Nutritional psychiatry is a new field. The message of this paper is that the effects of diet on mental health are real, but that we need to be careful about jumping to conclusions on the base of provisional evidence. We need more studies on the long-term effects of everyday diets.”