Obese

Cholesterol is a fatty wax-like substance present in all the cells of the body and it is also in transit in the blood. In fact, to test for the level of cholesterol in the body, you have to do a blood test. Usually, the body produces all the cholesterol it needs. There are occasions where the liver produces cholesterol in response to reduced blood cholesterol in cases of dehydration.

Functions of cholesterol
Cholesterol plays a role in many vital functions of the body. It is a precursor in the production of all sex hormones in the body. It is also involved in the manufacture of bile salts and other substances that help the body to digest foods, especially fatty foods. Cholesterol is needed in the production of vitamin D in the skin exposed to sunlight. In water therapy, we understand that cholesterol plays a very significant role in water redistribution when the body is dehydrated.

Types of cholesterol
There are two main types of cholesterol that we are interested in here in this article. These are the High Density Lipo-protein (HDL)-cholesterol/good cholesterol and the Low Density Lipo-protein (LDL)-cholesterol/bad cholesterol. Cholesterol is not water-soluble and therefore it cannot dissolve in and be transported by the blood. It has to bind to lipoproteins before it can be transported in the blood. Two types of lipoproteins that bind cholesterol are low density (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). When cholesterol is bound to LDL, it is known as ‘bad’ cholesterol and when it is bound to HDL, is referred to as ‘good’ cholesterol.

Low-density lipoprotein transports cholesterol to the tissues where it can increase the risk of heart diseases, high blood pressure and stroke. On the other hand, HDL-cholesterol reduces the risk of heart diseases and other complications because it transports cholesterol from the tissues to the liver where it is metabolized, used in the production of bile salts and excreted.

The LDL to HDL ratio is very important. This ratio will determine whether cholesterol will be deposited in the tissues and increase the risk of heart disease or transported to the liver for metabolism and production of bile salts. As we shall see later in this article, the risk of heart disease can be reduced drastically by lowering LDL-cholesterol, while at the same time you raise the HDL-cholesterol. This is what we must have in mind in the treatment of hypercholesterolemia.

Normal Blood Levels of Cholesterol
• Total Cholesterol – less than 200 milligrams/deciliter
• LDL Cholesterol – less than 130 milligrams/deciliter
• HDL Cholesterol – more than 35milligrams/deciliter
• LDL to HDL ratio – less than 4:5.

Hypercholesterolemia
This is a state of excessively high cholesterol in the blood.
An unhealthy lifestyle is by far the commonest cause of high cholesterol in the blood. This lifestyle will include eating unhealthy and ‘dead’ foods such as saturated fats in some types of meat, white flour and its products (baked foods), dairy products, chocolates, deep-fries and fast foods cooked with bad fats. Sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise lead to a lower HDL (good) cholesterol. Another habit, which lowers HDL – cholesterol is smoking. It also increases LDL (bad) cholesterol. Hypercholesterolemia may be inherited and some medications may also cause it.
Risk factors of hypercholesterolemia are age, race, heredity, obesity, cigarette smoking etc.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids
These are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are widely distributed in nature and they play very important roles in human diet and the metabolic processes that goon in the human body.

There are three types of omega 3 that are commonly involved in the workings of the human being and these are; a-linolenic acid (ALA) which is usually sourced from plants and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), both of which are found in cold water fish. Flaxseed is the commonest plant source of ALA. It can also be found in walnut, almonds and hemp seed. Sources of omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA are cold water fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardine etc. they can also be found in chickens and their eggs.

Human beings do not synthesize these fatty acids so all they need has to be sourced from their diet. Omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA are the forms in which fatty acids are utilized in the body. However, omega 3 fatty acid ALA from plant sources can be converted to the usable EPA and DHA.

Omega 3 fatty acids lower total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol. These fatty acids, whether from plants or fish oils, reduce the ability of platelets to stick together and thus prevent clot formation. When platelets stick together, (aggregate), they release potent compounds that promote the formation of atherosclerotic plaques. They can also form blood clots that can block small arteries in the heart or the brain where they give rise to heart attack and stroke respectively.

Continuous consumption of omega 3-rich foods as shown above will prevent the formation of plaques and blood clots and prevent these heart diseases. There are also supplements of these health foods that can be bought from Health Food Shops to add to these natural products.

A colourful and fresh spread of grilled eggplant/aubergine with salad, herb butter and mashed butter beans. A balanced and healthy meal for vegans, vegetarians or vegetable lovers!

Plant-based diets support healthy aging and could significantly reduce the risk of cardiometabolic diseases, including diabetes and heart disease, finds a new review.

Plant-based diets are becoming increasingly popular in the United States. A 2017 report estimated that 6% of U.S. consumers eat a vegan diet, up from just 1% in 2014.

There are many reasons why people choose to adopt a vegan diet, including avoiding harm to animals and mitigating the environmental impact of intensive farming.

A plant-based diet also provides health benefits. This diet is higher in fiber and lower in cholesterol and fat than an omnivorous diet, and it scores higher on the Healthy Eating Index.

A new review of the evidence on plant-based diets suggests that they may also protect against type 2 diabetes and heart disease and could reduce cardiometabolic-related deaths in the U.S.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) in Washington, DC, led the review, which features in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

An aging world

The review focuses on health in the context of aging, an important topic given that the world’s population is rapidly getting older.

“The global population of adults 60 years old or older is expected to double from 841 million to 2 billion by 2050, presenting clear challenges for our healthcare system,” explains first author Hana Kahleova, M.D., Ph.D., director of clinical research for the PCRM.

Dr. Kahleova and her team reviewed both clinical trials — which researchers perform under controlled conditions, usually to test the effect of a specific intervention on a particular outcome — and epidemiological studies, which follow people over time under normal conditions.

They found evidence that a plant-based diet reduces the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and coronary heart disease.

Specifically, they found that plant-based diets could halve the risk of metabolic syndrome, which increases a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Eating a plant-based diet could also halve the risk of type 2 diabetes itself, as well as reducing the risk of coronary heart disease events, such as a heart attack, by 40%.

‘Blue Zones’

People who eat plant-based diets may also live longer. The authors refer to so-called Blue Zones, where people live longer than the average. Examples include Loma Linda, CA, where people live up to 10 years longer than other people in California, and Okinawa, Japan, which has one of the highest life expectancy rates in the world.

As well as not smoking and engaging in moderate physical activity, people in Blue Zones tend to have a mostly plant-based diet. In Okinawa, for example, people consume a diet high in sweet potatoes, green leafy vegetables, and soy products.

As well as living longer, people who eat a plant-based diet may also remain cognitively healthy for longer.

The authors found one study which showed that the MIND diet — which is rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds but does not exclude animal products — reduced the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The team found that the DASH diet, which is similar to the MIND diet, and the Mediterranean diet were also associated with a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

A cost effective approach

Although aging is inevitable, the authors say that adopting a healthful, plant-based diet could help delay the aging process and reduce the risk of age-associated diseases. It could also increase a person’s life expectancy.

“[S]imple diet changes can go a long way in helping populations lead longer, healthier lives.” Dr. Hana Kahleova, Ph.D.

This conclusion is in line with the findings of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017, which showed that a low intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and a high intake of red and processed meats are major risk factors for disease.

The authors say that as well as offering significant benefits for health, plant-based diets could reduce healthcare costs in the U.S., which are close to $3.5 trillion each year. They suggest that a healthful diet is a cost effective approach to preventing disease and recommend incorporating it into everyday life.

An estimated 1.7 billion people — more than 20 percent of the world’s population — risk becoming severely infected with COVID-19 due to underlying health problems such as obesity and heart disease, analysis showed Tuesday.

The novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 420,000 people globally during the first wave of the pandemic, adversely effects patients suffering from co-morbidities.

A team of experts from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine analysed global data sets of illnesses including diabetes, lung disease and HIV used these to estimate how many people are at heightened risk of serious COVID-19 infection.

They found that one in five people have at least one underlying health problem putting them in greater danger.

While not all of those would go on to develop severe symptoms if infected, the researchers said around 4 percent of the global population — around 350 million) would likely get sick enough to require hospital treatment.

“As countries move out of lockdown, governments are looking for ways to protect the most vulnerable from a virus that is still circulating,” said Andrew Clark, who contributed to the study.

“This might involve advising people with underlying conditions to adopt social distancing measures appropriate to their level of risk.”

Clark said the findings could help governments make decisions on who receives a COVID-19 vaccine first when one becomes available.

Consistent with other studies about COVID risk, the authors found that older people are in greater danger of getting seriously unwell from the virus.

Less than 5 percent of people aged under 20 have an underlying risk factor, compared with two thirds of over 70s.

Countries with younger populations have fewer people with at least one underlying condition, but risks vary globally, according to the analysis.

Small island states such as Fiji and Mauritius have among the highest rates of diabetes — a known COVID-19 risk factor — on Earth, for example.

And countries with the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS, such as eSwatini and Lesotho, also need to be vigilant, said authors of the research published in The Lancet.

In Europe, more than 30 percent of people have one or more health conditions, it showed.

Writing in a linked comment, Nina Schwalbe from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, said the study showed “it is time to evolve from a one-size-fits-all approach to one that centres on those most at risk.”

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.”

Two recent but separate studies have demonstrated how bitter melon and turmeric could be used to prevent, treat and reduce the progression of cancers.

Commonly called bitter melon, bitter gourd, African cucumber or balsam pear, Momordica charantia belongs to the plant family Cucurbitaceae. In Nigeria, bitter melon is called ndakdi in Dera; dagdaggi in Fula-Fulfulde; hashinashiap in Goemai; daddagu in Hausa; iliahia in Igala; akban ndene in Igbo (Ibuzo in Delta State); dagdagoo in Kanuri; akara aj, ejinrin nla, ejinrin weeri, ejirin-weewe or igbole aja in Yoruba.

Turmeric is a spice that comes from the root of Curcuma longa, a member of the ginger family, Zingaberaceae. In traditional medicine, turmeric has been used for its medicinal properties for various indications and through different routes of administration, including topically, orally, and by inhalation.

In Nigeria, it is called atale pupa in Yoruba; gangamau in Hausa; nwandumo in Ebonyi; ohu boboch in Enugu (Nkanu East); gigir in Tiv; magina in Kaduna; turi in Niger State; onjonigho in Cross River (Meo tribe).

Turmeric, also known as curcuma, produces a root that is used to produce the vibrant yellow spice used as a culinary spice so often used in curry dishes. Though native to India and parts of Asia, and is a relative of cardamom and ginger, turmeric has been domesticated in Nigeria. In Asia, turmeric is used to treat many health conditions and it has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and perhaps even anticancer properties.

Meanwhile, Prof. Ratna Ray from Saint Louis University in Missouri, United States (U.S.), and her colleagues, in a recent study on bitter melon, made an intriguing find. In experiments using mouse models, bitter melon extract appeared to be effective in preventing cancer tumours from growing and spreading.

The researchers report their findings in a study paper that now appears in the journal Cell Communication and Signaling. Ray grew up in India, so she was familiar not just with the culinary qualities of bitter melon, but also with its alleged medicinal properties.

This made her curious as to whether or not the plant also harbored properties that would make it an effective aid to anticancer treatments. She and her colleagues decided to put this to the test in a preliminary study by using bitter melon extract on various types of cancer cells — including breast, prostate, and head and neck cancer cells.

Laboratory tests showed that the extract stopped those cells from replicating, suggesting that it might be effective in preventing the spread of cancer. In further experiments using mouse models, the researchers found that the plant extract was able to reduce the incidence of tongue cancer.

So, in their new study, Prof. Ray and team tried to find out what might give bitter melon compounds an edge against cancer cells. This time, they used mouse models to study the mechanism through which bitter melon extract interacted with tumors of cancer of the mouth and tongue.

They saw that the extract interacted with molecules that allow glucose (simple sugar) and fat to travel around the body, in some cases “feeding” cancer cells and allowing them to thrive.

By interfering with those pathways, the bitter melon extract essentially stopped cancer tumors from growing, and it even led to the death of some of the cancer cells. Ray said: “All animal model studies that we’ve conducted are giving us similar results, an approximately 50 per cent reduction in tumor growth.”

Ray and colleagues explained that it remains unclear whether or not bitter melon would have the same effect in humans, but Prof., going forward, this is what they are aiming to find out.

“Our next step is to conduct a pilot study in [people with cancer] to see if bitter melon has clinical benefits and is a promising additional therapy to current treatments,” she noted.

Ray seemed convinced that the plant is, if nothing else, at least a positive contributor to personal health.“Some people take an apple a day, and I’d eat a bitter melon a day. I enjoy the taste,” she said.“Natural products play a critical role in the discovery and development of numerous drugs for the treatment of various types of deadly diseases, including cancer. Therefore, the use of natural products as preventive medicine is becoming increasingly important.”

Meanwhile, a recent literature review investigated whether turmeric may be useful for treating cancer. The authors concluded that it might be but noted that there are many challenges to overcome before it makes it to the clinic. The chemical in turmeric that most interests medical researchers is a polyphenol called diferuloylmethane, which is more commonly called curcumin. Most of the research into turmeric’s potential powers has focused on this chemical.

Over the years, researchers have pitted curcumin against a number of symptoms and conditions, including inflammation, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, liver disease, obesity, and neurodegenerative diseases, with varying levels of success.
Above all, though, scientists have focused on cancer. According to the authors of the recent review, of the 12,595 papers that researchers published on curcumin between 1924 and 2018, 37 per cent focus on cancer.

In the current review, which features in the journal Nutrients, the authors mainly focused on cell signaling pathways that play a role in cancer’s growth and development and how turmeric might influence them. Treatment for cancer has improved vastly over recent decades, but there is still a long path to tread before we can beat cancer. As the authors note, “the search for innovative and more effective drugs” is still vital work.

In their review, the scientists paid particular attention to research involving breast cancer, lung cancer, cancers of the blood, and cancers of the digestive system. The authors concluded: “Curcumin represents a promising candidate as an effective anticancer drug to be used alone or in combination with other drugs.”

According to the review, curcumin can influence a wide range of molecules that play a role in cancer, including transcription factors, which are vital for Deoxy ribonucleic Acid (DNA)/genetic material replication; growth factors; cytokines, which are important for cell signaling; and apoptotic proteins, which help control cell death.

Alongside the discussions surrounding curcumin’s molecular influence over cancer pathways, the authors also addressed the possible issues with using curcumin as a drug. For instance, they explain that if a person takes curcumin orally — in a turmeric latte, for example — the body rapidly breaks it down into metabolites. As a result, any active ingredients are unlikely to reach the site of a tumour.

With this in mind, some researchers are trying to design ways of delivering curcumin into the body and protecting it from undergoing metabolisation. For instance, researchers who encapsulated the chemical within a protein nanoparticle noted promising results in the laboratory and in rats.

Although scientists have published a great many papers on curcumin and cancer, there is a need for more work. Many of the studies in the current review are in vitro studies, which means that the researchers conducted them in laboratories using cells or tissues. Although this type of research is vital for understanding which interventions may or may not influence cancer, not all in vitro studies translate to humans.

Relatively few studies have tested turmeric’s or curcumin’s anticancer properties in humans, and the human studies that have taken place have been small-scale. However, aside from the difficulties and limited data, curcumin still has potential as an anticancer treatment.

Scientists are continuing to work on the problem. For instance, the authors mention two clinical trials that are underway, both of which aim to “evaluate the therapeutic effect of curcumin on the development of primary and metastatic breast cancer, as well as to estimate the risk of adverse events.”

They also refer to other ongoing studies in humans that are evaluating curcumin as a treatment for prostate cancer, cervical cancer, and lung nodules, among other diseases. The authors believe that curcumin belongs to “the most promising group of bioactive natural compounds, especially in the treatment of several cancer types.”

However, their praise for curcumin as an anticancer hero is tempered by the realities that their review has unearthed, and they end their paper on a low note: “Curcumin is not immune from side effects, such as nausea, diarrhea, headache, and yellow stool. Moreover, it showed poor bioavailability due to the fact of low absorption, rapid metabolism, and systemic elimination that limit its efficacy in diseases treatment. Further studies and clinical trials in humans are needed to validate curcumin as an effective anticancer agent.”

Meanwhile, an earlier study published in journal Current Pharmacology Reports established that besides diabetes, bitter melon is effective in treating other chronic diseases such as cancer and Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

The study is titled “Bitter Melon as a Therapy for Diabetes, Inflammation, and Cancer: a Panacea?” The researchers noted: “Over the last few decades, multiple well-structured scientific studies have been performed to study the effects of bitter melon in various diseases. Some of the properties for which bitter melon has been studied include: antioxidant, anti-diabetic, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anti-HIV, anthelmintic, hypotensive, anti-obesity, immuno-modulatory, anti-hyperlipidemic, hepato-protective, and neuro-protective activities. This review attempts to summarize the various literature findings regarding medicinal properties of bitter melon. With such strong scientific support on so many medicinal claims, bitter melon comes close to being considered a panacea.”

According to Food as Medicine: Functional Food Plants of Africa published 2017 by CRC Press, “…Dietary use of bitter melon or its juice decreases blood glucose levels, increases High Density Lipo-protein (HDL)/good cholesterol, and decreases triglyceride levels, thus exhibiting antiatherogenic qualities. Extract of bitter melon in supplement form has been widely used as a traditional medicine for diabetic patients.

When administered alone, it has a modest hypoglycemic effect at doses of at least 2000 mg/day. This botanical supplement enhances the cellular uptake of glucose and promotes insulin release, potentiating its effect, and in animal studies has been shown to increase the number of insulin-producing beta cells in diabetic animals. Bitter melon has also been found to reduce adiposity and oxidative stress in addition to reducing blood triglycerides and Low Density Lipo-proteins (LDL)/bad cholesterol.”

A new study spanning nearly 2 decades has found a link between an unhealthful diet and vision loss in older age. Should we be keeping more of an eye on what we eat?

A robust body of research has shown that a diet rich in red meat, fried foods, high fat dairy, processed meats, and refined grains is bad for the heart and linked to the development of cancer.

However, not many people consider the impact of diet on their eyesight.

A new study, now appearing in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, has found a link between a diet rich in unhealthful foods and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

AMD is a condition that impacts the retina with age, blurring central vision. Central vision helps people see objects clearly and perform everyday activities such as reading and driving.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States, around 1.8 million people aged 40 and above are living with AMD, and another 7.3 million have a condition called drusen, which usually precedes AMD.

The CDC also explain that “AMD is the leading cause of permanent impairment of reading and fine or close-up vision among people aged 65 years and older.”

Now, the new study — which was the first to look at dietary patterns and the development of AMD over time — has found an association between an unhealthful diet and AMD.

Senior study author Dr. Amy Millen, of the University at Buffalo in New York, told Medical News Today, “Most people understand that diet influences cardiovascular disease risk and risk [of] obesity; however I’m not sure the public thinks about whether or not diet influences one’s risk [of] vision loss later in life.”

Although research has shown links between certain foods and nutrients and AMD — for example, some studies have suggested that high dose antioxidants may slow progression — there has been less research into dietary patterns as a whole.

Furthermore, studies that have looked at dietary patterns have focused on late stage risk — that is, the point at which the condition becomes vision threatening — rather than early and late stage disease.

“We wanted to examine how the overall pattern of one’s diet may predict later development of AMD, both early onset and late stage disease,” said Dr. Millen.

Unhealthful diet raises AMD risk by threefold

The study looked at the development of early and late AMD in participants of the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study, which looked at arterial health over 18 years (1987–1995).

Using data on 66 different food types, the researchers identified two diet patterns: one they dubbed “Prudent,” or healthful, and one they dubbed “Western,” which included a high intake of “processed and red meat, fried food, dessert, eggs, refined grains, high fat dairy, and sugar sweetened beverages.”

Although the researchers found no link between early AMD and dietary patterns, they found that the incidence of late AMD was three times higher among those with a Western eating pattern.

“What we observed in this study was that people who had no AMD or early AMD at the start of our study, and reported frequently consuming [unhealthful] foods, were more likely to develop vision threatening, late stage disease approximately 18 years later,” says Dr. Millen.

Prevention is better than cure

Early stage AMD has no symptoms, so a person may not know that have it. Also, although not everyone develops late stage AMD, for those who do, it can be costly and invasive to treat.

There are two forms of late stage AMD. One is called wet AMD, or neovascular AMD, which healthcare professionals tend to treat by injecting antivascular growth factors.

The other is called dry AMD, or geographic atrophy, which occurs when the photoreceptor cells die without neovascularization. There is no effective treatment for this form of AMD.

“We would like the public to realize that diet is important to their vision,” said Millen.

“The clinical take-home message is that dietary intake likely makes a difference in determining central vision loss later in life. If a person has early onset AMD, it is in their best interest to eat foods we identified as part of the Western diet pattern in moderation.”

Dr. Amy Millen

Hormone levels fluctuate throughout the 28-day menstrual cycle. These changes can affect a person’s appetite and may also lead to fluid retention. Both factors can lead to perceived or actual weight gain around the time of a period.

This article describes why a person may gain weight during a period, and how to prevent it. We also outline ways to help avoid weight gain during a period.

Weight gain during period

Medical research has identified around 150 symptoms that people may experience in the days leading up to a period. Food cravings, increased hunger, water retention, and swelling are premenstrual symptoms that may make a person feel like they are gaining weight.

Appetite changes

People may notice changes in their appetite throughout their menstrual cycle. For some, these changes may lead to concerns over weight gain.

Changes in appetite tend to occur at distinct stages of the menstrual cycle called the follicular phase and the luteal phase.

  • The follicular phase. This phase begins when a person bleeds and ends before they ovulate. Estrogen is the dominant hormone during this phase. Since estrogen suppresses appetite, a person may find that they eat less during this phase.
  • The luteal phase. This phase begins after ovulation and lasts up to the first day of the next period. During the luteal phase, progesterone is the dominant hormone. Since progesterone stimulates appetite, a person may find that they eat more during this phase.

Previous studiesTrusted Source have shown that females eat more calories during the luteal phase compared with the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle.

2016 studyTrusted Source found that females tend to eat more protein during the luteal phase of menstruation. Females also report increased food cravings, particularly for sweets, chocolate, and salty foods.

Not all studies show that food cravings result in an increased number of calories consumed and an increase in weight. However, people who do consume more calories as a result of their cravings may experience some weight gain.

Water retention and swelling

People may experience increased water and salt retention around the time of their period. This is due to an increase in the hormone progesterone. Progesterone activates the hormone aldosterone, which causes the kidneys to retain water and salt.

Water retention can lead to bloating and swelling, particularly in the abdomen, arms, and legs. This can give the appearance of weight gain. It may also make a person’s clothes feel tighter.

However, water retention does not always signify weight gain. A 2014 study investigated water retention in females who complained of swelling during their period.

Circumference measurements taken throughout the study indicated that the participants did have significant swelling in the following areas:

  • face
  • breasts
  • abdomen
  • upper and lower limbs
  • pubic areas

However, there were no significant changes in weight throughout the participant’s cycles.

What symptoms are normal?

Many people experience both physical and psychological symptoms during a period. Symptoms may include:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • angry outbursts
  • crying spells
  • confusion
  • social withdrawal
  • poor concentration
  • insomnia
  • taking more naps
  • changes in sexual desire
  • headache
  • aches and pains
  • fatigue
  • skin problems
  • gastrointestinal symptoms
  • abdominal pain

People may feel additional symptoms in the days leading up to a period. Symptoms may include:

  • thirst and appetite changes
  • breast tenderness
  • bloating
  • headache
  • swelling of the hands or feet

The type, severity, and duration of symptoms will vary from person to person. Additionally, some people may experience a combination of symptoms, while others may not experience any at all.

How long does it last?

Premenstrual symptoms tend to start a few days before bleeding, or menstruation, and stop once menstruation occurs.

Medical providers can diagnose people with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) if:

  • the person has a pattern of symptoms 5 days before their period for at least three cycles in a row
  • the symptoms end within 4 days after their period starts
  • the symptoms interfere with their normal activities

How to avoid weight gain

The following are some examples of how to prevent weight gain during a period.

Diet

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend the following eating habits to help lessen the effects of PMS:

  • eating complex carbohydrates to reduce mood symptoms and food cravings
  • eating calcium rich foods, including yogurt and leafy green vegetables
  • reducing fat, salt, and sugar intake
  • avoiding or limiting caffeine and alcoholic beverages
  • keeping blood sugar levels stable by eating smaller meals more often

Supplements

A doctor may also recommend taking a magnesium supplement. This can help to alleviate the following symptoms of PMS:

  • bloating
  • breast tenderness
  • mood disturbances

Medication

Sometimes, doctors may prescribe diuretics to people who complain of water retention during their period. Diuretics help to reduce the amount of water that the body stores.

Researchers have found that certain oral contraceptivesTrusted Source can also help reduce water retention. In a 2007 study, females who took 3 milligrams (mg) of drospirenone and 30 micrograms (mcg) of ethinyl estradiol had reduced water retention. Nonetheless, their body weight remained unchanged.

Doctors often use combined oral contraceptives to treat the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.

Summary

Hormonal fluctuations that occur throughout the menstrual cycle can affect a person’s appetite. In particular, people may experience food cravings in the days leading up to a period.

Females may also experience water retention and bloating, which can give the appearance of weight gain.

There are several steps people can take to prevent weight gain during a period. A person can practice healthful eating habits throughout their cycle. This includes eating less salt, sugar, and fat, and stocking up on low calorie snacks to satisfy food cravings. In addition, magnesium supplements may help to alleviate bloating and other symptoms of PMS.

People who are concerned about fluid retention should talk to their doctor. The doctor may prescribe diuretics or oral contraceptives to help alleviate this symptom.

Q:

What is the average amount of weight gain during a period?

A:

The symptoms that people experience during their menstrual cycle vary widely from one individual to the next. Symptoms can even differ between cycles, depending on a person’s nutrition, stress level, amount of exercise, intake of caffeine, sugar, and alcohol, and other lifestyle factors. Because everyone is so different, there’s not really an “average” weight gain during the menstrual cycle. While many people don’t notice any bloating or weight gain at all, others might gain as much as 5 pounds. Usually, this gain happens during the premenstrual, or luteal phase, and the person loses the weight again once the next period begins.Meredith Wallis, M.S., CNM, ANPAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

Recent research has revealed a mechanism through which fish oil, which contains omega-3 fatty acids, might reduce inflammation. A study that tested an enriched fish oil supplement found that it increased blood levels of certain anti-inflammatory molecules.

The anti-inflammatory molecules are called specialized pro-resolving mediators (SPMs), and they have a powerful effect on white blood cells, as well as controlling blood vessel inflammation.

Scientists already knew that the body makes SPMs by breaking down essential fatty acids, including some omega-3 fatty acids. However, the relationship between supplement intake and circulating levels of SPMs remained unclear.

So, a team of researchers from the William Harvey Research Institute at Queen Mary University of London in the United Kingdom set out to clarify the relationship by testing the effect of an enriched fish oil supplement in 22 healthy volunteers whose ages ranged from 19 to 37 years.

The team conducted the Circulation Research study as a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Therefore, neither the participants nor those who gave them the doses and monitored them knew who received fish oil supplements and who received the placebo.

“We used the molecules as our biomarkers to show how omega-3 fatty acids are used by our body and to determine if the production of these molecules has a beneficial effect on white blood cells,” says senior study author Jesmond Dalli, who is a professor of molecular pharmacology at the William Harvey Institute.

Enriched fish oil increased blood markers

The trial tested three doses of enriched fish oil supplement against the placebo. The researchers took samples of the participants’ blood to test.

Each participant gave five samples over 24 hours — at baseline and then 2, 4, 6, and 24 hours after taking their dose of supplement or placebo.

The researchers found that taking the enriched fish oil supplement raised blood levels of SPMs. The results showed a “time and dose-dependent” increase in circulating blood levels of SPMs.

The tests also revealed that supplementation led to a dose-dependent increase in immune cell attacks against bacteria and a decrease in cell activity that promotes blood clotting.

Inflammation is a defense response by the immune system that is essential to health. Various factors can trigger the response, including damaged cells, toxins, and pathogens such as bacteria.

Some of the immune cells that are active during inflammation can also damage tissue, so it is important, once the threat is over, for inflammation to subside to allow healing. Putting a stop to inflammation is where anti-inflammatory agents, such as SPMs, have a role.

However, if inflammation persists and becomes chronic, then, instead of protecting health, it undermines it. Studies have linked inflammation to heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and other serious health conditions.

Although it remains unclear whether those molecules reduce cardiovascular disease, a press release on the study notes that they do “supercharge macrophages, specialized cells that destroy bacteria and eliminate dead cells,” as well as making “platelets less sticky, potentially reducing the formation of blood clots.”

Research has also shown the molecules to play a role in tissue regeneration. As Prof. Dalli notes, “These molecules have multiple targets.”

Beware of unregulated supplements

An earlier 2019 study in NEJM showed that a prescription formula containing eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) could reduce heart attacks and strokes — and deaths relating to these events — in people who are at high risk of cardiovascular disease or already have it. EPA is an omega-3 fatty acid that is present in fish oil.

However, Dr. Deepak L. Bhatt, who is a cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, both in Boston, MA, and who led that study, says that there is no reliable evidence that over-the-counter supplements can have the same effect.

In the United States, federal regulators have approved two formulations: one containing EPA and a second that combines EPA with another omega-3 fatty acid called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

The American Heart Association (AHA) recently issued a scientific advisory that cautions consumers to avoid unregulated omega-3 supplements.

An earlier AHA advisory had stated that while such supplements may slightly lessen the risk of death following a heart attack or heart failure, there is no evidence that they prevent heart disease in the first place.

Prof. Dalli says that there is a need for further studies to establish whether people over the age of 45 years would experience the same results from enriched fish oil supplements that they saw in the younger volunteers.

Compared with healthy people, those living with chronic inflammation have lower levels of SPMs, he remarks, noting that the enzymes that produce them do not work as well in these individuals.

He suggests that this is the kind of information that developers will need to consider when formulating supplements for treating disease. It will also be important to check that the body is breaking down the supplements into protective molecules.

“We’re still far away from having the magic formula. Each person will need a specific formulation or at least a specific dosing, and that’s something we need to learn more about.”

Prof. Jesmond Dalli

A recent review and meta-analysis focus on the role of legumes in heart health. Taking data from multiple studies and earlier analyses, the authors conclude that legumes might benefit heart health but that the evidence is not overwhelming.

It is a no-brainer that nutrition plays a pivotal role in health. At one end of the spectrum, it is common knowledge that eating a diet that is high in sugar, salt, and fat increases the risk of poorer health outcomes.

At the other end, eating a balanced diet that is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables is likely to reduce the risk of certain conditions.

However, drilling down to the effect of individual foods on specific conditions is notoriously difficult.

The authors of a recent review in Advances In Nutrition have taken up that gauntlet. They wanted to understand how legumes, which include beans, peas, and lentils, affect heart health.

In particular, they focused on cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk and CVD mortality. CVD includes coronary heart disease, myocardial infarction, and stroke. They also investigated legume consumption in relation to diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.

Study co-author Dr. Hana Kahleova, from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, DC, explains why investigating heart health is such a pressing matter, stating that “[c]ardiovascular disease is the world’s leading — and most expensive — cause of death, costing the United States nearly 1 billion dollars a day.”

Why legumes?

Legumes are rich in fiber, protein, and micronutrients but contain very little fat and sugar. Due to this, as the authors of the current study explain:

“The American Heart Association, Canadian Cardiovascular Society, and European Society for Cardiology encourage dietary patterns that emphasize intake of legumes” to reduce levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or bad) cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and manage diabetes.

Recently, the European Association for the Study of Diabetes commissioned a series of systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Using the results of these studies, they hope to update current recommendations on the role of legumes in preventing and treating cardiometabolic diseases.

In the current review, the authors compared data on people with the lowest and highest intake of legumes. They found that “dietary pulses with or without other legumes were associated with an 8%, 10%, 9%, and 13% decrease in CVD, [coronary heart disease], hypertension, and obesity incidence, respectively.”

However, they found that there was no association between legume intake and the incidence of myocardial infarction, diabetes, or stroke. Similarly, they identified no relationship between legumes and mortality from CVD, coronary heart disease, or stroke.

Although the team identified a positive relationship between consuming higher quantities of legumes and a reduced risk of certain cardiovascular parameters, the authors’ conclusions are still relatively muted. They write:

“The overall certainty of the evidence was graded as ‘low’ for CVD incidence and ‘very low’ for all other outcomes.”

They continue, “Current evidence shows that dietary pulses with or without other legumes are associated with reduced CVD incidence with low certainty and reduced [coronary heart disease], hypertension, and obesity incidence with very low certainty.”

Nutritional difficulties

One of the primary issues that scientists face when investigating nutrition and health is residual confounding. For instance, if someone eats more legumes than average, they might also eat more vegetables in general. Conversely, someone who eats few legumes might eat less fruit and vegetables overall.

If this is the case, it is difficult to pin any measured benefits on the legumes, specifically. They might simply be due to the increase in plant food overall.

Similarly, someone who eats particularly healthfully might also be more likely to exercise. Understanding whether the legume, the overall dietary patterns, or the entire lifestyle influences any given health outcome is verging on impossible.

Another problem centers around self-reporting food intake. Human memory, as impressive as it is, can make mistakes. One paperTrusted Source on this topic states that self-reports of food intake “are so poor that they are wholly unacceptable for scientific research.”

Studies attempt to minimize the influence of these factors as much as possible, but it can be challenging. As the authors explain, “Despite the inclusion of several large, high quality cohorts, the inability to rule out residual confounding is a limitation inherent in all observational studies.”

Despite the difficulties, overall, the authors believe that increasing legume intake could improve the heart health of the population of the United States.

“Americans eat less than one serving of legumes per day, on average. Simply adding more beans to our plates could be a powerful tool in fighting heart disease and bringing down blood pressure.”

Co-author Dr. Hana Kahleova

Although those studying nutrition and disease face many challenges, it is important to continue this line of investigation. Currently, in the U.S., 1 in 4 deathsTrusted Source relate to cardiovascular disease. If a simple change in diet could reduce the risk even a small amount, it might make a significant difference at the population level.

Low-calorie sweeteners, or sugar substitutes, can allow people with diabetes to enjoy sweet foods and drinks that do not affect their blood sugar levels. A range of sweeteners is available, each of which has different pros and cons.

In this article, we look at seven of the best low-calorie sweeteners for people with diabetes.

1. Stevia

Stevia is a natural sweetener that comes from the Stevia rebaudiana plant. To make stevia, manufacturers extract chemical compounds called steviol glycosides from the leaves of the plant.

This highly-processed and purified product is around 300 times sweeter than sucrose, or table sugar, and it is available under different brand names, including Truvia, SweetLeaf, and Sun Crystals.

Stevia has several pros and cons that people with diabetes will need to weigh up. This sweetener is calorie-free and does not raise blood sugar levels. However, it is often more expensive than other sugar substitutes on the market.

Stevia also has a bitter aftertaste that many people may find unpleasant. Some people report nausea, bloating, and stomach upset after consuming stevia.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classify sweeteners made from high-purity steviol glycosides to be “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS. However, they do not consider stevia leaf or crude stevia extracts to be safe, and it is illegal to sell them or import them into the U.S.

According to the FDA, the acceptable daily intake (ADI) of stevia is 4 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) of a person’s body weight. Accordingly, a person who weighs 60 kg, or 132 pounds (lb), can safely consume 9 packets of the tabletop sweetener version of stevia.

Various stevia products are available to purchase online.

2. Tagatose

Tagatose is a form of fructose that is around 90 percent sweeter than sucrose. Although rare, tagatose does occur naturally in some fruits, such as apples, oranges, and pineapples. Manufacturers use tagatose in foods as a low-calorie sweetener, texturizer, and stabilizer.

Not only do the FDA class tagatose as GRAS, but scientists are interested in its potential to help manage type 2 diabetes. Some studies indicate that tagatose has a low glycemic index (GI) and may be beneficial in the treatment of obesity. GI is a measure of a food’s potential to affect a person’s blood sugar levels.

Tagatose may be of particular benefit to people with diabetes who are following a low-GI diet. However, this sugar substitute is more expensive than other low-calorie sweeteners and may be harder to find in stores.

Tagatose products are available to purchase online.

3. Sucralose

Sucralose, available under the brand name Splenda, is an artificial sweetener made from sucrose. Sucralose is about 600 times sweeter than table sugar but contains very few calories.

Sucralose is one of the most popular artificial sweeteners, and it is widely available. Manufacturers add it to a range of products from chewing gum to baked goods.

Sucralose is heat-stable, whereas many other artificial sweeteners lose their flavor at high temperatures. This makes sucralose a popular choice for sugar-free baking and sweetening hot drinks.

The FDA have approved sucralose as a general-purpose sweetener and set an ADI of 5 mg/kg of body weight. A person weighing 60 kg, or 132 lb, can safely consume 23 packets of a tabletop sweetener version of sucralose.

However, recent studies have raised some health concerns. A 2016 study found that male mice that consumed sucralose were more likely to develop malignant tumors. The researchers note that more studies are necessary to confirm the safety of sucralose.

A range of sucralose products is available to purchase online.

4. Aspartame

Aspartame is a very common artificial sweetener that has been available in the U.S. since the 1980s. It is around 200 times sweeter than sugar, and manufacturers add it to a wide variety of food products, including diet soda. Aspartame is available in grocery stores under the brand names Nutrasweet and Equal.

Unlike sucralose, aspartame is not a good sugar substitute for baking. Aspartame breaks down at high temperatures, so people generally only use it as a tabletop sweetener.

Aspartame is also not safe for people with a rare genetic disorder known as phenylketonuria.

The FDA consider aspartame to be safe at an ADI of 50 mg/kg of body weight. Therefore, someone with a body weight of 60 kg, or 132 lb, could consume 75 packets of a tabletop sweetener version of aspartame.

Many different aspartame products are available to purchase online.

5. Acesulfame potassium

Acesulfame potassium, also known as acesulfame K and Ace-K, is an artificial sweetener that is around 200 times sweeter than sugar. Manufacturers often combine acesulfame potassium with other sweeteners to combat its bitter aftertaste. It is available under the brand names Sunett and Sweet One.

The FDA have approved acesulfame potassium as a low-calorie sweetener and state that the results of more than 90 studies support its safety. A 2017 study in mice has suggested a possible association between acesulfame potassium and weight gain, but further research is necessary to confirm this.

The FDA have set an ADI for acesulfame potassium of 15 mg/kg of body weight. This is equivalent to a 60 kg, or 132 lb, person consuming 23 packets of a tabletop sweetener version of acesulfame potassium.

6. Saccharin

Saccharin is another widely available artificial sweetener. There are several different brands of saccharin, including Sweet Twin, Sweet’N Low, and Necta Sweet. Saccharin is a zero-calorie sweetener that is 200 to 700 times sweeter than table sugar.

According to the FDA, there were safety concerns in the 1970s after research found a link between saccharin and bladder cancer in laboratory rats. However, more than 30 human studies now support the safety of saccharin, and the National Institutes of Health no longer consider this sweetener to have the potential to cause cancer.

The FDA have determined the ADI of saccharin to be 15 mg/kg of body weight, which means that a 60 kg, or 132 lb, person can consume 45 packets of a tabletop sweetener version of it.

People can purchase a range of saccharin products online.

7. Neotame

Neotame is a low-calorie artificial sweetener that is about 7,000 to 13,000 times sweeter than table sugar. Neotame can tolerate high temperatures, which means that it is suitable for baking. It is available under the brand name Newtame.

The FDA approved neotame in 2002 as a general-purpose sweetener and flavour enhancer for all foods except for meat and poultry. They state that more than 113 animal and human studies support the safety of neotame.

The FDA have set an ADI for neotame of 0.3 mg/kg of body weight. This is equivalent to a 60 kg, or 132 lb, person consuming 23 packets of a tabletop sweetener version of neotame.

Considerations when choosing a sweetener

When choosing a low-calorie sweetener, some general considerations include:

  • Intended use. Many sugar substitutes do not withstand high temperatures so they would make poor choices for baking.
  • Cost. Some sugar substitutes are very expensive, whereas others have a cost more comparable to that of table sugar.
  • Availability. Some sugar substitutes are more widely available in stores than others.
  • Taste. Some sugar substitutes, such as stevia, have a bitter aftertaste that many people may find unpleasant.
  • Natural versus artificial. Some people prefer using natural sweeteners, such as stevia, rather than artificial sugar substitutes.

Summary

Many people with diabetes need to avoid or limit sugary foods. Low-calorie sweeteners can allow them to enjoy a sweet treat without it affecting their blood sugar levels.

There is a range of sweeteners to choose from, each with different pros and cons. Although the FDA generally consider these sugar substitutes to be safe, it is still best to consume them in moderation.