Beef: The Most Environmentally Harmful Animal Product in the American Diet

Researchers from Bard College and Yale University recently published findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on the sustainability of animal products in our diet. The paper examined eggs, dairy, poultry, beef, and pork to determine which has the most significant environmental impact. In the past, similar studies have concluded that beef is the most environmentally harmful animal product. This survey to no surprise found the same conclusion.


How does beef harm the environment?


Beef is meat product typically from cow, ox, or bull. Beef was concluded as the most harmful to the environment because it uses the most water, land, and nitrogen fertilizer. On top of that, the process creates more greenhouse gases than pork, poultry, or eggs in a per-calorie comparison.


beef research study harmful environment sustainability


The authors of the study concluded that producing one calorie of beef uses 11 times more water and six times more nitrogen fertilizer than pork, poultry, eggs, and dairy.


How does animal-product production impact America?

40% of the total land area in the United States is dedicated to the creation of animal-based products. This includes pasture land as well as feed crops like corn. The authors recommended that we start moving away from as much animal-product production to more efficiently producing calories from plants.


However, the authors did note that much of the ranching where animal-products are produced is done in the western states where fewer plants can grow.


The study did not analyze fish because of lack of comprehensive data and because seafood only accounts for 0.5% of the total calories consumed by the average American. The authors hope that their findings can help steer policy when it comes to farming and food security decisions.


“Because our results reflect current US farm policies and agrotechnology, the picture can change markedly in response to changes in agricultural technology and practice, national policies, and personal choice…”


It will be interesting to see how people make smarter purchasing decisions on animal-products and understand how much worse beef is for the environment compared to pork, poultry, and dairy.


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High-Sugar Diets Increase Heart Disease Risk

A new study from the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom found that in only three months on a high-sugar diet, even healthy people had an increased risk of heart disease. The research points to the way the fat metabolism is altered during the diet. The liver deals with fat much different in a high-sugar diet versus a low-sugar diet.

NAFLD Increases Heart Disease Risk

The study showcased the similarities between men’s fat metabolism during a high-sugar diet and those suffering from a non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD is a condition that develops when fat builds up in the liver.

“Our findings provide new evidence that consuming high amouts of sugar can alter your fat metabolism in ways that could increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.” – Bruce Griffen, Professor of Nutritional Metabolism

Around 92.1 million adults in the United States are living with some form of cardiovascular disease or the after-effects of a stroke. Their evidence suggests that NAFLD can significantly raise the risk of heart disease adults and children.

Fat Metabolism Changes

heart disease sugar diet fat metabolism NAFLD


In the study, men with NAFLD and healthy men were fed one of two different diets, a high-sugar diet or a low-sugar diet. The diets had the same amount of calories, but in the high-sugar, 26% of calories were coming from sugar versus 6% in the low sugar diet.


The research was designed as a “randomized cross over” meaning that each participant followed the first diet for 12 weeks then the other diet for 12 weeks in no particular order. Researchers compared multiple biomarkers of fat metabolism like lipids and cholesterol in the blood to determine the results. They found that after 12 weeks on the high-sugar diet, both healthy men and NAFLD men both had increased amounts of fat in the liver that resemble a fat metabolism known to be linked to an increased risk of heart disease.


However, the researchers note that most people will probably not consume that much sugar regularly. They did say that some children and teenagers may be reaching that level through candy and sugar-sweetened drinks.


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Consuming Cranberries Can Increase Beneficial Gut Microflora

The adage “you are what you eat” has some truth to it. The thing is that the types of food that we eat also affects our health. What we eat does not only provide us the nutrients that our body needs to sustain different metabolic processes, but it also feeds the beneficial microbiomes in our intestines.


The word prebiotics and probiotics are becoming a trend in the food industry these days. Prebiotic foods can help improve the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, and they are essentially a nondigestible food ingredient that promotes the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the intestines. The human body is made up of billions of bacterial cells–more than human cells.  The majority of these microbial cells are found in the intestines and what we eat affects the types of bacteria that we carry in our digestive system.


We are finding it is important to feed our gut microflora with the right kinds of foods. While it is crucial to consume more fiber from fruits and vegetables, plant cell walls are indigestible. According to David Sela, a nutritional microbiologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, some beneficial gut bacteria can grow when fed cranberries.

The Cranberry-Gut Microflora Connection

gut bacteria gut microflora cranberry cranberriesCranberries contain xyloglucans, a type of particular sugar, that the gut microflora can use to synthesize different compounds. This sugar can improve the health of the digestive system. In turn, this allows our digestive system to perform to its full potential so that it can absorb more nutrients from food.


To conduct the study, researchers used a type of beneficial bacterium called bifidobacteria and fed it with purified xyloglucan in an oxygen-free environment inside the laboratory. Research indicated that the gut bacteria could use up the xyloglucan and it encouraged the bacteria to undergo a proper metabolism that produces less lactic acid and formic acid.


Unfortunately, researchers are not yet sure about the exact health impacts of the study, but they suspected that the metabolism of xyloglucans from cranberries could have a significant implication on the entire microbial community in the intestines. The active interaction of the microbial flora in the stomach creates a healthier digestive system.

The Implications of The Study

This information can provide opportunities for future food products to contain cranberries to improve the gut health of consumers.  With this study, there is a stronger need for food manufacturers to focus on developing products that have prebiotic benefits.


The cranberry study is a good example of what prebiotics can do. While probiotics are all about taking extra doses of beneficial bacteria, prebiotics is all about feeding the stomach with the right food to encourage the growth of beneficial microflora. In a way, prebiotics allows us to increase the number of good bacteria in our digestive system naturally, and these good bacteria can work in digesting foods that our stomach can’t. Moreover, it can also address other issues in the bowel such as constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and other chronic inflammation disorders.


Tapping into the potential of prebiotics through the cranberry study can help transform the health food industry.


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High Sugar Drinks Combined with Protein Triggers Fat Storage

Sodas and burgers are great takeout favorites but didn’t you know that too much consumption of this fast food duo is making you fat? A study conducted by the USDA suggests that people who drink sugary drinks and eat high-protein foods at the same time have more stored fat compared to those who ate proteins with sugar-free beverages.

According to Shanon Casperson, a research biologist with the USDA, consuming more carbohydrates than what is already in your meals can hurt the body as it will more likely store the excess energy as fat. In the United States, the leading sources of added sugar come from sweetened beverages like sodas, iced tea, fruit juices, and energy drinks. The Center for Disease Control noted that sweetened beverages had found their way into the American diet such that 60% of kids and 50% of adults drink at least one sweetened drink each day.

How was the Study Conducted?

The study involved 27 healthy adults who were placed in a sealed metabolic room where researchers tracked how much oxygen they inhaled as well as the carbon dioxide that they exhaled. The participants were asked to stay in the sealed room for two days.

During the first day, they ate two meals that contained 15% protein while their protein intake increased to 30% the following day. The participants were also asked to consume a sweetened drink in one day and sugar-free drink on the other.

Results showed that those who drank sugary drinks with 15% protein had decreased fat oxidation (fat burning) by 7.2 grams. Those who consumed sugary drinks with 30% protein intake have an even lower fat oxidation of 12.6 grams.

What Does the Study Imply About Sugar?

sugar drinks fast food fat


The researchers believe that the extra load of sugar from the sweetened drinks reduces the need for the body to process fat for energy. So, the body turns to carbohydrates as an easier source to burn for energy. The thing is that when you eat carbs, your body is going to use it up first. The unused fat is deposited in the liver and other parts of the body.

The results of the study provide us with a better understanding of fast food nutrition. According to Erika Renick, a bariatric dietitian from the Staten Island University Hospital in New York, the study indicates that adding protein in meals can help users feel full. And pairing it with sugary drinks can lead to weight gain while controling our food cravings. With this study, fast food restaurants all over the world can revamp their food items so that they don’t contribute to the worsening obesity rates that is not only plaguing developed nations but even those in developing and underdeveloped nations.

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supplements vs. medications

Supplements and Medications May Not Mix

Some prescription medications that Americans are taking is directly proportional to the amount of supplements that they also take. However, combining medications with supplements can be detrimental. The effect of taking both at the same time is internal bleeding. Moreover, it can also produce contradictions that can decrease the efficacy of the medication.


According to the assistant professor of pharmacy at the University of Illinois in Chicago, Dima Qato, the risk of combining supplements and drugs is a serious concern. In the study conducted by Professor Dima Qato, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, it was found out that many people take multiple supplements and drugs at the same time.


medications vs. supplements consumers warningThe research also looked into the dangerous combination of medications and supplements. They discovered that intake of omega-3 fish oil and warfarin together could increase the risk of internal bleeding. Some drugs, when combined with other supplements, is shown to enhance the occurrence of the drugs’ side effects. However, according to Andrea Wong, who is the vice president of the scientific and regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, the concurrent intake of drugs and supplements has potentially little interaction and thus poses a low total overall risk to the general population.


Unfortunately, most patients believe that the products–particularly, supplements–are safe because they are natural, but this is not always the case. In Qato’s study, they noted that more than 25% of ill adults took herbal medicines alongside prescription drugs. Thus, experts urge the consumers to discuss whatever supplements they are taking with their doctor to pinpoint possible drug interactions.


Specific Supplements to Watch

So which supplements are known to have deleterious effects when combined with prescription medicine? Below is a list of the different types of supplements and how they may interact with conventional medication.


Supplement Possible Benefits Possible Drug Interaction
Calcium Prevents bone loss, cancer, and heart disease. May reduce the absorption of some medicines and antibiotics.
Garlic Can lower blood pressure and cholesterol. May increase the risk of bleeding when taken together with blood thinners. It can also lessen the efficacy of saquinavir (anti-HIV drug) and lowers blood sugar thus insulin may not be needed.
Ginger Relieves vomiting and nausea. It can also stimulate the appetite as well as ease the digestive system. May increase the risk of internal bleeding when taken with anti-clotting medications. It may reduce levels of cyclosporine antibiotic in the blood.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Obtained from fish oil; it can protect the heart against cardiovascular diseases. It also has protective benefits against cancer and mental health. May increase internal bleeding. It can also increase the side effects of steroids like hydrocortisone and prednisone.
Saw Palmetto Promote urine flow among patients with an enlarged prostate. May increase internal bleeding when taken with anti-clotting drugs. It can also interfere with the enzymes that affect the metabolism of certain drugs.
St John’s Wort Can help reduce depression, premenstrual syndrome, and chronic fatigue syndrome. May reduce levels of the drug in the blood. It can also lessen the efficacy of other drugs like birth control pills, statins, and anti-HIV medication. It can also increase the side effects of anti-depressants as it increases its sedative power when combined with alcohol.


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GMO Crops Have No Negative Effects on Human Health

There has been a lifelong belief that consumption of genetically-modified organisms (GMO) is dangerous to your health. However, a new report from the National Academies of Science released that, use of GMO crops is safe for both humans and animals as it has not led to an increased occurrence of obesity, cancer, kidney disease, or allergies.


The committee began working on the report two years ago which involved more than 50 researchers, scientists, and industry experts. The report reviewed more than 900 studies and data covering 20 years of research since genetically-modified crops were first introduced to the market. The analysis was conducted in a systematic and thorough approach.


What Are GMO Crops?

 First things first, what are GMO crops? The genetic material of such plants is artificially manipulated so that they will have characteristics that they normally wouldn’t have. Most crops are genetically engineered to be resistant to pest and to withstand different types of herbicides so that farmers can kill the weeds and not crops. Moreover, they are created to tolerate drought.


gmo crops research human healthWhat the study found out is, while the genetically engineered (GE) or genetically modified (GM) crops have saved many farmers in the United States money, it did not appear to have increased their annual yields. However, what it did was lower the pest population particularly in the Midwest.


To date, 12 GM crops are commercially grown all over the world, and these include cotton, corn, soybeans, canola, sugar beets, papaya, alfalfa, summer squash, potatoes, and zucchini. However, only four of these crops are widely grown in the United States as GM crops, and these include sugar beets (99%), soybeans (94%), cotton (94%) and corn (92%).  About 12% of the global cropland is planted with GM crops.


Safe for Human Consumption

campbell gmo label exampleThe committee that created the report compared different accounts from the United States and Canada where most of the GE crops have been consumed since the mid-1990s. The review revealed that there is no long-term pattern for specific health problems after the introduction of genetically-modified organisms. For instance, there was no correlation found between consumption of GMO food with Type 2 diabetes, obesity, celiac disease, or autism in the population. Moreover, the review showed that there is no significant difference between eating GE and conventionally-grown crops.


Environmental and Economic Effects

The report found out that GE crops can help save farmers’ money regarding tilling and losses due to weeds and insect infestation. The use of GE crops has both advantages and disadvantages when it comes to agricultural infrastructure and farming practices.


For instance, pest-resistant crops have resulted in lower pest population, but it has led to the evolution of superweeds which are herbicide-resistant weeds. Contrary to previous claims, the use of GE crops did not result in the falling of the population of monarch butterflies but is actually due to the decline of milkweed, the known food of monarch caterpillars.


While the work sheds light to the right points of GMO crops, critics believed that the results might have been influenced by the modern agricultural industry. But other groups say that industry has been marginalized for a long time. Is GMO right or wrong? The decision still lies with the consumers.


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The Dark Side of Antioxidants

Antioxidants are very popular these days as they are known to slow aging, prevent cancer, and cure and prevent a multitude of health problems. However, before you drink your usual concoction of antioxidants, a study has been published that supports the idea that intake of antioxidants can help in the proliferation of cancer cells. Researchers from the United States and China found that two drugs for Type 2 diabetes which are both antioxidants resulted in the metastasis of cancer in laboratory mice.


But this study is so disappointing because many people have always relied on their vegetables and fruits to free their bodies of damaging free radicals. So, how are antioxidants causing cancer cells to metastasize?


How Antioxidants Causes Cancer to Metastasize

It is a known fact that antioxidants can fight off free radicals that cause cancer. When scientists subjected a laboratory dish full of human cancer cells to the diabetes drug sitagliptin and saxagliptin, it encouraged the cells to metastasize more. In the in vitro study, nine human-tumor carrying mice were given either of the Type 2 diabetes drug, and it showed the same results as with the petri dish study. Researchers found out that the cancer cells invaded healthy tissues in various parts of the body.

antioxidants vs. free radicals

It is surprising to take note that while the drug may encourage cancer cells to metastasize, it did not raise the risk of developing cancer. According to the lead author of the study Hongxing Zheng from the Third Military Medical University in Chongqing in China, this indicates that patients who suffer from both diabetes and cancer have the highest risk for metastasis.


What Does It Mean?

If future studies are conducted to support the current one, there will be more proof about the dangers of antioxidants. This is not to say that people suffering from Type 2 diabetes should quit taking their treatment drugs. But it is worth taking a trip to your doctor’s office to discuss a possible change in medication.


Aside from the study conducted by American and Chinese researchers, a case report in 2005 described how a patient with Type 2 diabetes developed rare cancer after receiving saxagliptin. Moreover, a recent study involving laboratory mice with melanoma indicated that antioxidants might help spread the cancer cells throughout the body. With the many studies popping up, biologist Zachary Schafer noted that it is possible that the anti-diabetes agents may drive a particular anti-oxidant pathway that results in stimulating the metastasis of cancer cells.  Until today, the route remains a mystery.


While the studies among laboratory mice show compelling results, studies on people have yet to be carried out. Clinical trials involving the use of diabetes drugs do not include cancer patients so there is no way that doctors can see the metastasis-promoting effects of the drug. Moreover, there is an ethical issue of purposefully endangering people with cancer and diabetes.


In conclusion, there is a reason why free radicals exist, and the rush to control them using antioxidants is not a superb idea. For now, let nature take its course.


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fruits and vegetables may prevent diabetes and alzheimer's disease

Fruit & Vegetables May Prevent Diabetes and Alzheimer’s

Eating fruits and vegetables has been advocated by many health experts as it protects the body from inflammatory diseases like diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Much is known about the efficacy of eating such healthy whole foods.  Experts noted that eating black, red, and purple fruits and vegetables can increase the consumption of polyphenols which reduce inflammation in the body.


Polyphenols and Inflammation


Fruits and Vegetables prevent diabetes kid's healthPolyphenols are metabolites from plants. Naturally, they are utilized by plants as a defense against ultraviolet rays and from pathogens. Polyphenols are also considered antioxidants. Researchers from the University of Liverpool studied the effects of polyphenol-rich foods in reducing the amount of pro-inflammatory proteins of the body. The pro-inflammatory proteins are linked to the development of different chronic conditions. In the study, they compared 31 polyphenols and six polyphenol mixtures of the pro-inflammatory proteins.


Researchers found out that polyphenols like curcumin, resveratrol, vanillic acid and isorhamnetin can change the inflammatory immune response by lowering the levels of cytokines (pro-inflammatory signaling molecules) from the released T-lymphocytes or killer T-cells. Moreover, researchers found out the interaction between the polyphenols is to control the release of cytokines further.


According to Sian Richardson from the University of Ageing and Chronic Disease, the study is very promising as it suggests that the polyphenols may be used to reduce the release of pro-inflammatory mediators especially among people who are at risk of chronic inflammation.


Baby Boomers and Older Can Benefit from Eating Fruits and Vegetables

Consumption of fruits and vegetables can help people from all walks of life especially the elderly as they are more susceptible to chronic inflammation.  Eating fruits and vegetables can increase their source of polyphenols to improve their well-being considerably.


fruits vegetables prevent diabetes baby boomersThe benefits of polyphenols have been widely documented in previous studies. Its consumption can have protective effects against age-related conditions like diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. However, the challenge is how to understand the efficacy of the polyphenols once inside the body. The body processes the polyphenols and turn them into a catabolite. For example, flavonoids–a type of polyphenol– absorbed in the small intestines, pass to the colon where they are converted into a lower molecular weight catabolite such as phenolic acid by the gut microbiota. Once it is converted into phenolic acid, little is known about its potential anti-inflammatory effects. Most researchers deduce that since the catabolites have lower molecular weight, their effects might be less active when it comes to reducing the release of the cytokines compared to the unaltered polyphenols.


However, one study suggests that even at this state, catabolites are still potent in reducing the pro-inflammatory responses of the body. In the research, they noticed that vanillic acid can still minimize the release of inflammatory cells which led to the conclusion that it is significantly relevant in treating inflammatory diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Vanillic acid is a catabolite found in acai berries, wheat, and blackcurrant juice.


Consumption of fruits and vegetables is beneficial to the body as it can fight off different kinds of inflammation. Eat fruits and vegetables regularly and make it part of your healthy daily habits.


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