Is fasting a free health fix – or is it just a fad? | Life and style | The Guardian

Restricting the amount you eat is said to fight disease, extend lifespan and improve wellbeing. As well as dieters, people with diabetes and MS could benefit

Source: Is fasting a free health fix – or is it just a fad? | Life and style | The Guardian

Gut Bacteria swap is alternative to Gastric Bypass Surgery

Gastric-SurgeryA bacterial cocktail could soon offer a knifeless alternative to gastric bypass surgery.

The gastric bypass limits a person’s food intake by, in effect, reducing the size of the stomach – often to the size of a walnut. The procedure is an effective treatment for obesity and associated diseases such as type 2 diabetes, and typically leads to a loss in excess body weight of between 65 and 75 per cent. However, it carries a high mortality risk, especially in severely obese individuals.

Lee Kaplan at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and colleagues may have discovered an alternative to surgery. The team performed a gastric bypass on mice and then fed microbes from their lower intestine to other healthy mice. The mice fed the bacterial cocktail lost five per cent of their body weight in two weeks, compared with mice on the same diet who had not been fed the bacteria. Continue reading Gut Bacteria swap is alternative to Gastric Bypass Surgery

Vegetarians “Cut heart risk by 32%”

Vegetarian-FoodDitching meat and fish in favour of a vegetarian diet can have a dramatic effect on the health of your heart, research suggests.

A study of 44,500 people in England and Scotland showed vegetarians were 32% less likely to die or need hospital treatment as a result of heart disease.

Differences in cholesterol levels, blood pressure and body weight are thought to be behind the health boost.

The findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Heart disease is a major blight in Western countries. It kills 94,000 people in the UK each year – more than any other disease, and 2.6 million people live with the condition. Continue reading Vegetarians “Cut heart risk by 32%”

Gut Instincts & your second Brain

Gut-FeelingsWhen it comes to your moods, decisions and behaviour, the brain in your head is not the only one doing the thinking

IT’S been a tough morning. You were late for work, missed a crucial meeting and now your boss is mad at you. Come lunchtime you walk straight past the salad bar and head for the stodge. You can’t help yourself – at times of stress the brain encourages us to seek out comfort foods. That much is well known. What you probably don’t know, though, is that the real culprit may not be the brain in your skull but your other brain.

Yes, that’s right, your other brain. Your body contains a separate nervous system that is so complex it has been dubbed the second brain. It comprises an estimated 500 million neurons – about five times as many as in the brain of a rat – and is around 9 metres long, stretching from your oesophagus to your anus. It is this brain that could be responsible for your craving under stress for crisps, chocolate and cookies.

Embedded in the wall of the gut, the enteric nervous system (ENS) has long been known to control digestion. Now it seems it also plays an important role in our physical and mental well-being. It can work both independently of and in conjunction with the brain in your head and, although you are not conscious of your gut “thinking”, the ENS helps you sense environmental threats, and then influences your response. “A lot of the information that the gut sends to the brain affects well-being, and doesn’t even come to consciousness,” says Michael Gershon at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, New York. Continue reading Gut Instincts & your second Brain

Intermittent Fasting by Emma Young

For a healthier body and mind, forget food fads and try the age-old practice of going without.

THERE’S a fuzz in my brain and an ache in my gut. My legs are leaden and my eyesight is blurry. But I have only myself to blame. Besides, I have been assured that these symptoms will pass. Between 10 days and three weeks from now, my body will adjust to the new regime, which entails fasting for two days each week. In the meantime, I just need to keep my eyes on the prize. Forget breakfast and second breakfast, ignore the call of multiple afternoon snacks, because the pay offs of doing without could be enormous.

Fasting is most commonly associated with religious observation. It is the fourth of the Five Pillars of Islam. Buddhists consider it a means to practise self-control and advocate abstaining from food after the noon meal. For some Christians, temporary fasts are seen as a way of getting closer to God. But the benefits I am hoping for are more corporeal.

A new surge of interest in fasting suggests that it might indeed help people with cancer. It could also reduce the risk of developing cancer, guard against diabetes and heart disease, help control asthma and even stave off Parkinson’s disease and dementia. Many of the scientists who study fasting practise what they research, and they tell me that at my age (39) it could be vital that I start now. “We know from animal models,” says Mark Mattson at the US National Institute on Aging, “that if we start an intermittent fasting diet at what would be the equivalent of middle age in people, we can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.” Surely it’s worth a try? Continue reading Intermittent Fasting by Emma Young

Is Alzheimers Disease Type 3 Diabetes ?

THE human brain evolved to seek out foods high in fat and sugar. But a preference that started out as a survival mechanism has, in our age of plenty, become a self-destructive compulsion.

It is well known that bad diets can trigger obesity and diabetes. There is growing evidence that they trigger Alzheimer’s disease too, and some researchers now see it as just another form of diabetes.

If correct, this has enormous, and grave, implications. The world already faces an epidemic of diabetes. The prospect of a parallel epidemic of Alzheimer’s is truly frightening, in terms of human suffering and monetary cost.

This outcome will not be easily averted. Few people need to be told that too much high-fat, high-sugar food is a health hazard. And yet sales of fast food remain healthy (or should that be hefty?). Part of the reason is “future discounting”, another evolved feature of the human brain that makes us value short-term rewards over long-term risks.

What can be done? One option is to call in the lawyers. Some moderately successful attempts have already been made to sue food companies for their role in creating the obesity epidemic. If a causal link between fatty, sugary food and Alzheimer’s can be established, it is highly likely that more lawsuits will follow. Such actions have their place, but this is a laborious and expensive way to enact change.

Nor do the policy levers at our disposal appear promising. Public awareness campaigns have been of limited use in reversing the tide of obesity. Will the added threat of dementia prove harder to ignore? “Sin taxes” on unhealthy foods may work – Denmark and a handful of other countries are experimenting with them – but it is not yet clear whether they make any real difference. What’s more, they raise questions about personal responsibility and nanny-statism.

We may be left with only the option of medically blocking either the craving for fast food, or its consequences. That has its own complications, and sidesteps the problem rather than addressing it. But the human brain also evolved to find ingenious solutions to intractable problems. It may yet come to its own rescue. Continue reading Is Alzheimers Disease Type 3 Diabetes ?

Exercise – Probably the best Medicine of all

From dementia and diabetes to high blood pressure – no pill protects us against ill health like exercise does.

A plethora of recent studies shows that exercise protects us from heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, obesity, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and depression. It even boosts memory. And it has the potential to prevent more premature deaths than any other single treatment, with none of the side effects of actual medication. “It’s a wonder drug,” says Erik Richter, a diabetes researcher at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. “There’s probably not a single organ in the body that’s unaffected by it.”

Throughout evolution, humans have been active. Our ancestors chased prey as hunter-gatherers and fled from predators. More recently, they laboured on farms and in factories. But the decline of agricultural and industrial labour, plus the invention of the car, a multitude of labour-saving devices and – most perniciously – TV, computers and video games, mean we’ve all ground to a sudden and catastrophic standstill.

“We were built to be active, but the way our environment has changed and the way we live our lives has led us to become inactive,” says Christopher Hughes, senior lecturer in sport and exercise medicine at Queen Mary, University of London. Continue reading Exercise – Probably the best Medicine of all

Antibiotic use in Babies linked to Obesity later in Life

Giving antibiotics to young babies may increase their weight later in life, according to US researchers.

A study of 11,532 infants, published in the International Journal of Obesity, showed children under six months who were given antibiotics were heavier in later years.

Researchers say the drugs could be affecting bacteria in the gut, leading to weight changes.

However, they say more work is needed to confirm there is a link.

Bacteria living on people greatly outnumber the body’s own cells and there is a growing interest in how this “microbiome” affects human health. In extreme circumstances there are even examples of doctors transplanting faecal matter in order to introduce healthy bacteria into the gut, treating infections when other methods have failed.

In this study, children who had antibiotics between birth and the age of five months were slightly heavier between the age of 10 and 20 months. After 38 months they were 22% more likely to be overweight.

One of the researchers, Dr Leonardo Trasande from New York University School of Medicine, said: “We typically consider obesity an epidemic grounded in unhealthy diet and exercise, yet increasingly studies suggest it’s more complicated.”

“Microbes in our intestines may play critical roles in how we absorb calories, and exposure to antibiotics, especially early in life, may kill off healthy bacteria that influence how we absorb nutrients into our bodies, and would otherwise keep us lean.”

Microbiologist Dr Cormac Gahan, from University College Cork, said there was certainly a lot of interest in the area, “but it is very early stages for this type of work”.

He said changing gut bacteria could alter weight by “a direct effect on energy extraction” or by “influencing hormones”.

Michael Mosley on intermittent Fasting

Scientists are uncovering evidence that short periods of fasting, if properly controlled, could achieve a number of health benefits, as well as potentially helping the overweight, as Michael Mosley discovered.

I’d always thought of fasting as something unpleasant, with no obvious long term benefits. So when I was asked to make a documentary that would involve me going without food, I was not keen as I was sure I would not enjoy it.

But the Horizon editor assured me there was great new science and that I might see some dramatic improvements to my body. So, of course, I said, “yes”.

I am not strong-willed enough to diet over the long term, but I am extremely interested in the reasons why eating less might lead to increased life span, particularly as scientists think it may be possible to get the benefits without the pain.

How you age is powerfully shaped by your genes. But there’s not much you can do about that.

Calorie restriction, eating well but not much, is one of the few things that has been shown to extend life expectancy, at least in animals. We’ve known since the 1930s that mice put on a low-calorie, nutrient-rich diet live far longer. There is mounting evidence that the same is true in monkeys. Continue reading Michael Mosley on intermittent Fasting