Not all vegan or plant-based diets are equally healthy

Vegan Diet Vegetables

By HENA PATEL and KIM ALLAN WILLIAMS, SR

 

Move over, low-fat diets. More and more experts are recommending plant-based diets to reduce the risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions such as diabetes and cancer.

But are all plant-based diets equally beneficial? And must they be all-or-none eating strategies, or is there a role for a semi-vegetarian or “flexitarian” approach?

The term plant-based diet often conjures up images of vegetarian or vegan fare. But it really means a diet that emphasizes foods from plants — vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds, and the like — not one that necessarily excludes non-plant foods.

The results of studies on the health effects of plant-based diets have varied widely, largely due to how these diets were defined. Some focused on vegetarian or vegan eating habits, others included some foods from animals. Notably, these studies tended to treat all plant foods equally, even though eating certain foods from plants, such as refined grains and sugar-sweetened beverages, is associated with a higher risk of developing diabetes or having a heart attack or stroke, while eating whole grains and produce are associated with lower risks.

That’s why we were so interested to see the results of a recently published study performed by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Led by Ambika Satija, the team catalogued the diets of nearly 210,000 nurses and other health professionals based on their answers to food frequency questionnaires every two years for an average of 23 years. From these data, the researchers defined three versions of a plant-based diet: an overall plant-based diet that emphasizes the consumption of all plant foods and reduced the intake of animal foods; a healthful plant-based diet that emphasizes the intake of healthy whole grains, fruits, and vegetables; and an unhealthful plant-based diet that emphasizes the intake of less-healthy plant foods, such as refined grains.

In addition to detailing their food choices, the study participants also recorded other lifestyle choices, health behaviors, and their medical histories.

Over the course of the study, 8,631 participants developed coronary heart disease, which the researchers defined as a nonfatal heart attack or dying of heart disease. Those who followed an overall plant-based diet were slightly less likely (an 8 percent reduction) to have developed coronary heart disease than those who didn’t.

But here’s where things get interesting. Those who followed a healthful plant-based diet had a substantial 25 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease, while those who followed an unhealthful plant-based diet had a substantial 32 percent increased risk.

This study is certainly not the last word on the subject. As an observational study, it can’t prove cause and effect like a randomized trial can. And the diet data came from self reports, which aren’t always accurate at measuring an individual’s diet. However, these diet assessments were validated against multiple-week diet records and biomarkers. Overall, this work adds to the substantial evidence that a predominately plant-based diet reduces the risk of developing heart disease.

It has two important take-home messages. One is that a plant-based diet is good for long-term health. The other is that not all plant-based diets are equally healthy. The kind that deserves to be highlighted in dietary recommendations is rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and unsaturated fats, and contains minimal animal protein, refined carbohydrates, and harmful saturated and trans fats.

In practice, this translates into eating mostly vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and soy products in their natural forms; sufficient “good fats,” such as those in fish or flax seeds, nuts, and other seeds; very few simple and refined carbohydrates; and little or no red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy. It also means choosing quality over quantity.

Click here to read the rest of this article origially published in StatNews,com

 

###

Upping coffee consumption could help you live longer

A new study suggests that higher coffee consumption could reduce the risk of death from all causes

As one of the world’s most popular beverages, it is clear that us humans do love a good cup of coffee. And a new study drawing on data from over half a million Europeans suggests that this penchant for a little pick-me-up could have a range of health benefits, by revealing an association between higher coffee consumption and a reduced risk of death from all causes.

The research was carried out by scientists from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and Imperial College London, who analyzed cancer and nutrition data from more than 500,000 Europeans over the age of 35. These subjects hailed from 10 different European countries, each with their distinctive styles of coffee consumption, such as the espresso sippers of Italy and the cappuccino-lovers of the UK.

This in itself revealed a few interesting insights. The people of Denmark, it was found, boast the highest level of coffee consumption by volume, at 900 mL (30 oz) per person per day, while the Italians consumed the least at around 92 mL (3.04 oz). The more coffee people drank, the more likely they were to be smokers, drinkers, meat-eaters, younger and not huge fans of fruit and vegetables.

Following up with the same participants 16 years later, the study found that 42,000 deaths had occurred from causes including cancer, circulatory diseases, heart failure and stroke. Adjusting for factors such as diet and smoking, the team says that subjects in the highest quartile of coffee consumption had significantly lower mortality rates than those that didn’t drink coffee.

“We found that higher coffee consumption was associated with a lower risk of death from any cause, and specifically for circulatory diseases, and digestive diseases,” said lead author Dr. Marc Gunter of the IARC. “Importantly, these results were similar across all of the 10 European countries, with variable coffee drinking habits and customs. Our study also offers important insights into the possible mechanisms for the beneficial health effects of coffee.”

Among these insights was evidence that coffee drinkers may have healthier livers and better glucose control, something the researchers uncovered by analyzing metabolic biomarkers in a subset of 14,000 people. While coffee is know to contain compounds that interact with the body such as caffeine, diterpenes and antioxidants, the researchers say further research is needed pin down which ones in particular offer these apparent health benefits, along with how much would actually be a healthy amount to consume.

“Due to the limitations of observational research, we are not at the stage of recommending people to drink more or less coffee,” says Gunter. “That said, our results suggest that moderate coffee drinking – up to around three cups per day – is not detrimental to your health, and that incorporating coffee into your diet could have health benefits.”

The research was published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

Source: Imperial College London

 

 

Enzyme could help fight against mid-life obesity and fitness loss

National Institutes of Health discovery of enzyme in mice could lead to new class of medications to fight mid-life obesity

A team of scientists led by researchers from the National Institutes of Health has identified an enzyme that could help in the continuous battle against mid-life obesity and fitness loss. The discovery in mice could upend current notions about why people gain weight as they age, and could one day lead to more effective weight-loss medications.

“Our society attributes the weight gain and lack of exercise at mid-life (approximately 30-60 years) primarily to poor lifestyle choices and lack of will power, but this study shows that there is a genetic program driven by an overactive enzyme that promotes weight gain and loss of exercise capacity at mid-life,” said lead study author Jay H. Chung, Ph.D., M.D., head of the Laboratory of Obesity and Aging Research at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of NIH.

Chung and his team used mice to test the potentially key role this enzyme plays in obesity and exercise capacity. They administered an inhibitor that blocked the enzyme in one group being fed high-fat foods, but withheld it in another. The result was a 40 percent decrease in weight gain in the group that received the inhibitor.

The study, the first to link the increased activity of this enzyme to aging and obesity, appears in the current issue of Cell Metabolism. Its findings could have ramifications for several chronic illnesses. With lower rates of obesity, the researchers say, rates of heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases that tend to increase with age, including cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, could fall as well.

Researchers have known for years that losing weight and maintaining the capacity to exercise tend to get harder beginning between ages 30 to 40 — the start of midlife. Scientists have developed new therapies for obesity, including fat-fighting pills. However, many of those therapies have failed because of a lack of understanding about the biological changes that cause middle-aged people to gain weight, particularly around their abdomen.

Click here to read the rest of this article originally published by National Institutes of Health

Mayo Clinic breast cancer mammogram video — What to expect

By Mayo Clinic staff

Click here to see the ‘What to expect’ video >>> Mayo Clinic Mammogram Video

.

Copy of  the video text below:

A mammogram is a picture of your breast taken with a safe, low-dose X-ray machine. It’s the most effective exam for early detection of breast cancer.

There are two types of mammography exams: screening and diagnostic. A routine screening mammogram is performed when you have no symptoms. Ask your doctor when you should begin regular screening mammograms.

A diagnostic mammogram is performed if there is concern regarding your breasts or if a screening mammogram requires additional studies. You don’t need to prepare for a mammogram. You can eat normally, and if you take medications, continue to do so. However, you may be asked not to wear deodorant on the day of your mammogram because such products may show up on mammogram images. Also, if you are premenopausal, it’s best to schedule your screening exam during the week following your menstrual period, when your breasts may be less tender.

Once checked in, you’ll undress from the waist up and wear a special robe. A mammography technologist will perform your mammogram. She has specialized training in mammographic positioning and techniques.

If you are asked to complete a breast-health survey prior to your exam, your technologist can assist and review the survey with you.

Once in the exam room, you’ll be asked to stand in front of the mammography unit, a special type of X-ray machine. It can move up and down and side to side.

Your technologist will position your breast between two firm surfaces that compress your breast as flat as possible, to ensure good X-ray pictures. For example, here you can see how the machine flattens the technologist’s hand.

She may also switch paddles to get a different view.

Compression is necessary to spread the breast tissue and eliminate motion, which may blur the picture. This may be uncomfortable but shouldn’t hurt.

Compression usually lasts no more than 20 to 30 seconds. During this time, an X-ray beam comes from above and penetrates your breast tissue. The X-ray image is either created on a film cassette, located below your breast, or recorded digitally and stored in a computer. Denser tissue, such as cancer, appears bright and white, whereas less dense tissue, such as fat, appears dark or gray.

The images are then processed and made available for review and interpretation.

Here we see a baseline mammogram of a 40-year-old woman. Five years later, her formerly clear image now shows cancer.

Don’t be concerned if you are asked to remove your gown or reposition, even if it means standing on your toes. This ensures that your gown won’t interfere with the pictures and that you are standing correctly. If you are uncomfortable, please tell your technologist.

After the pictures are taken, you may be asked to wait while the X-ray images are processed.

During this time, technologists check your images to assure they are acceptable. If they aren’t clear, you may be asked to have more X-rays done. Don’t be alarmed if this happens, your technologist simply wants the best images.

A doctor trained to read X-ray images, a radiologist, will examine your mammograms. Under federal regulations, the radiologist must be experienced in reading mammograms.

If no further studies are required, you’ll be released and can resume your regular activities.

Based on what your radiologist sees on your mammogram, you may be asked to return for a diagnostic mammogram. It’s not unusual to be called back after a screening mammogram. This is because your radiologist may not have any previous comparison or may need to look more carefully at a specific area of the breast. The additional imaging is usually necessary to clarify a finding on your screening mammogram. Most findings are not cancer, but it’s important to have the additional imaging done. This may include specialized and tightly focused X-ray pictures, known as a magnification or compression view, or possibly a breast ultrasound.

.

Understanding Melanoma In Situ (Stage 0)

Symptoms, treatment, and prognosis for melanoma in situ, the earliest stage of melanoma.

.By Diana Rodriguez

.

With regular and thorough examinations of your skin, you can increase your changes of catching any abnormalities very early — which is good news in terms of treatment and prognosis if that abnormality turns out to be a malignant melanoma. In fact, experts now recommend that men and women of all ages check their skin frequently to increase their odds of spotting potential malignant mole at the earliest possible point: stage 0, or melanoma in situ.

What Is Melanoma In Situ?
Melanoma in situ comes from the Latin phrase “in situ,” which means “in place.” Melanoma in situ is cancer in the very early stages, when it affects only the top layer of the skin. At this point, the cancer has not spread deeper into the body. Cancer diagnosed at this early stage also means that it is less likely to recur or spread to other parts of the body than melanomas that are diagnosed at a later stage.

The very first symptoms of melanoma are any abnormalities in one or more moles on the skin. Abnormalities include moles with anyAsymmetry, uneven Borders, different Colors, large Diameter, orEvolution (any change). That’s why learning the ABCDEs of melanoma and checking yourself regularly are so important. If you see anything different about any of your moles, it could be a sign of melanoma in situ. The best course is to report any changes that you see to your doctor and schedule an exam to rule out melanoma, or to catch and treat it early.

How Is Melanoma In Situ Treated?
The treatment for melanoma in situ is usually fairly simple. In a doctor’s office, an outpatient procedure can be performed in which the melanoma is cut out of the skin, a process that medical personnel call resecting or excising.

“The treatment option for early stage melanoma is a wide excision procedure,” says Bruce A. Brod, MD, a clinical associate professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. “The key prognostic feature in melanoma is the thickness [in millimeters] of the melanoma, which is based on the initial biopsy of the lesion.”

How much skin needs to be cut out depends, then, on the biopsy results. “The consensus for treatment of melanoma in situ is to remove a half-centimeter diameter around the lesion or the initial biopsy site,” Dr. Brod says. “The consensus for treating melanomas less than 2 millimeters in thickness is to remove a 1-centimeter diameter, if possible, around the lesion.”

If the melanoma is larger in size, more skin may need to be removed, and a biopsy performed. “In melanomas greater than 2 millimeters [in thickness], the consensus is to excise a 2-centimeter diameter area around the lesion,” he says. “Since melanoma can spread to the lymph nodes in close proximity to the initial melanoma, a biopsy of lymph nodes is sometimes performed for melanoma close to or greater than 1 millimeter in thickness at the time of the wide excision procedure.”

Following Up on Melanoma in Situ
The good news? People who are diagnosed with melanoma in situ and receive early treatment have a great survival rate — 100 percent at 5 and 10 years. And everyone with melanoma in situ, including those diagnosed at an early stage, should check in with their doctors frequently to be certain that the cancer has not returned. Patients should have a complete physical and skin exam every six months for a year or two after their initial diagnosis, and typically once each year for several years after that.

“When melanoma is found early, it is easily cured with simple outpatient surgery,” says Catherine Poole, president and co-founder of the Melanoma International Foundation. “When found in later stages, it may become life-threatening, and there are few effective therapies to treat metastasized melanoma.”

Some good advice for healthy, cancer-free skin: Protect your skin at all times. “The most effective sun protection is to wear protective clothing, a broad-rimmed hat, seek shade, avoid being in the sun during the prime-time solar hours of 10 to 4, and use sunscreen as an adjunct to these behaviors,” says Poole.

……………………………….

Note *

A couple of weeks ago an ugly mole was removed from my stomach. After the biopsy results came back Doctor Rowe said that it was confirmed to be ‘Melanoma In Situ.’
Got it early enough that it shouldn’t be serious. I Praise God and thank the Veterans Administration!

Going back for one more minor surgery as a precautionary move. — Bob Diamond