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Why Should We Eat Plant–Based and Low Processed Foods?

Source: The Atlantic

Is there one “best” diet? Proper eating can bolster people’s lifespan and immunity. The right diet also eliminates the risk of chronic diseases. Yet, nutritional information contradicts, and dieticians’ theories widely vary.  Major trends in dietetics include:  low carb, low fat, low glycemic, Mediterranean, combination diet aka DASH, Paleolithic, vegan etc.

However, Dr. David Kartz, a practicing physician at Yale University’s Prevention Research Center, considers mainstream media diets “junk food” and “dangerous injustice.” His skepticism comes from his findings made along with his colleague, Stephanie Meller.

In the paper, “Can We Say What Diet Is Best for Health?” published in the scientific journal Annual Reviews, the Yale researchers examine the underlying principle in all diets: the avoidance of highly processed foods. 

They also concluded that low processed plant-based diets including vegetables, fruits, nuts and whole grains are vital for the health because they lower the risk of cancers and heart diseases. Thus, low-carb diets are not necessarily a panacea.

Apigenin helps cancer cells die


Compound apigenin, common in fruits and vegetables, speeds cancer cells' death

Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS)Science DailyOhio State University Research

One of the reasons cancer is difficult to fight is because of cancer cells' "superpower" ability to stay alive. A study led by Ohio State University researchers suggests that apigenin, a unique food component found in food sources such as parsley, celery, and chamomile tea, have far-reaching effects, binding together with approximately 160 proteins in the human body. (Conversely, most pharmaceutical drugs target only a single molecule.)

When the apigenin relates to these many proteins, it helps "re-establish the normal profile in cancer cells," allowing them to die off on a regular cycle instead of thriving in the body. The researchers conclude that these new insights into apigenin, dubbed a "nutraceutical", have potential as a cancer-prevention measure.


Can a mother's pregnancy diet influence her child's future weight?

Source: Time Magazine's Healthland; Diabetes, April 2011

A team of international researchers found that pregnant women with diets low in carbohydrates were more likely to have children with increased body fat between ages 6 and 9. These children experienced some modifications in their DNA due to changes in the cell material that modifies genes and how they are expressed (epigenetic markers).

Researchers identified markers associated with metabolic function, measured in the umbilical cord. Children from women who ate low-carb diets during pregnancy were more likely to have the relevant epigenetic markers in their umbilical cords. While the study was small and showed no cause or effect, growing evidence in the field suggests the impact of epigenetic changes, combined with one’s genes and environment, can help determine good health.



Disconnect between Medicare services and needs of elderly

Source: The New York Times, October 2011

Medicare participants’ needs and wants have changed since the program came into law in 1965. Technological advances in medicine keep people alive much longer than ever before, often with considerable consequences. This leads to financial and human costs, with fee-for-service doctors and major pharmaceutical companies with the most to gain and individual people with the most to lose.

Scientific reports actually suggest dangers involved with much of the biomedical healthcare currently provided by Medicare, including feeding tubes, joint replacements and glycemic control for Type 2 diabetes. The author notes how the program seems to favor "heroic" biomedical alternatives such as surgery, diagnostic tests, expensive medications, and trips to the emergency room or the hospital; however, other basic services are rarely covered under Medicare, included safe long-term care for the frail or demented and home aides to help with daily needs.

This disconnect between what is needed and what is covered creates strains for the elderly, their adult children, and the Medicare trust fund. Though this current system seems unsustainable, the alternative is “the third rail of health care policy.” An Independent Payment Advisory Board will make recommendations to Medicare beginning in 2015, but these proposals are not binding.

Medicare was not originally intended for long-term care, but today’s demographics and technology have changed the realities of our country’s elderly population.




Innate immunity and human milk

Source: Journal of Nutrition

Recent studies have suggested that women pass on even more health benefits through nursing than previously thought. Since babies are born without a fully developed immune system, they rely on their mothers to pass on antibodies against harmful pathogens. The compounds in a mother's milk help provide an infant's gut with the beneficial microflora that allow him/her to develop resistance to all the ingested pathogens that come with being a child.

A mother's milk has a uniquely potent combination of protective agents that literally create an innate immune system in a her child. This latest research furthers our understanding of the correlation between breast-feeding and healthy babies.


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