Cholesterol treatment guideline

The new Cholesterol guideline was published in November and is the result of a joint task force of the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association. The report was published in the journal Circulation.

Cholesterol moleculeFirst, a couple of caveats: Dietary supplements by law cannot claim to treat or prevent any illness. So to some degree, it makes sense that clinicians would not turn to them first to help patients who already have high cholesterol. Also, it should be noted that the guideline would be aimed first and foremost at specialists, who likely would be consulted only after a patient has been referred with a treatable condition.

Paucity of information on Cholesterol prevention

Nevertheless, it is telling that so little effort is spent in the guideline on discussing how to help patients to keep from crossing over the line into the treatment category, rather than spending page after page on how to fix the boat after it has sprung a leak. In the 120-page document, which includes 69 pages of actual text, only two short sections were devoted to lifestyle factors in the prevention of development of hyperlipidemia.

“Patients should consume a dietary pattern that emphasizes intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, healthy protein sources (low-fat dairy products, low-fat poultry (without the skin), fish/seafood, and nuts), and nontropical vegetable oils; and limits intake of sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red meats,” the guideline states.

One other section of the guideline addresses prevention specifically.

“Primary prevention of ASCVD over the life span requires attention to prevention or management of ASCVD risk factors beginning early in life,” the guideline states. It then refers the reader to a table that includes one statement about encouraging a healthy lifestyle and then devotes the rest of the information on statin therapy, starting as early as age 8.

Lipid ingredients, polyphenols shown to have effects

A number of dietary ingredients have been researched for their positive effects on blood lipid profiles including lipid ingredients and many plants and fruit extracts rich in phytochemicals.

Omega-3s, for example, have been shown to have positive effects on high triglyceride levels, but the effects on LDL cholesterol specifically are less clear-cut. Levels can actually increase slightly, but the size of the LDL particles changes as well, which is a good thing. And HDL (the “good” cholesterol) goes up, too, indicating a generally positive overall trend.

Extra virgin olive oil, which is rich is some polyphenolic compounds such as hydroxytyrosol, has been suggested to benefit blood lipid profiles via a multifaceted action that includes both anti-inflammatory aspects and the promotion of cholesterol efflux. Olive is, of course, one of the main components of the Mediterranean diet, which is frequently recommended for heart health.

Drug hits one target –  supplements hit many

But this multifactorial approach doesn’t fit neatly into the mostly drug-focused paradigm of the new guideline, said James Kennedy, Ph.D. president of ingredient supplier Polyphenolics, which has a line of grape seed extracts which are among the more comprehensively researched polyphenol-based ingredients on the market.

“There is no question that statins can dramatically reduce your blood cholesterol levels,” Kennedy told NutraIngredients-USA. “They absolutely can reduce cholesterol much further than any polyphenol from a fruit or vegetable.”

“But for me it’s about lifestyle first. It just struck me as odd that here is a group concerned about our heart health and they were pretty much exclusively recommending drugs,” he said.

Kennedy said that cardiovascular disease is a multifaceted condition. Statins target one aspect of this situation and hits that nail squarely on the head. But natural ingredients, perhaps especially when offered in combination, take a more comprehensive approach to the problem.

Polyphenolics offers a line of grape seed extracts that includes MegaNatural BP, which has been researched for its effect on supporting blood pressure in the healthy range. That effect takes into account the healthy flow dynamics of the circulatory system, something that a myopic focus on cholesterol numbers glosses over.

Evidence backing many polyphenols

Grape seed extracts are just one of many polyphenol-based ingredients on the market that have been researched for their benefits in ameliorating the risk factors of CVD.

grapes are recommended in low cholesterol diets

“If you look at cardiovascular disease as a whole, a lot of polyphenols – and grape seed extract in particular – address the various areas including blood pressure and blood glucose as well as hypercholesteremia. Our industry offers a food-first approach which makes sense to consumers. They look at supplementation as a complement to everything else they are doing to address all aspects of heart disease, not just one piece of it” Kennedy said.

The entourage effect implied by the research backing polyphenols (they all appear to do slightly different things) is now starting to be borne out by research. A recent study in the journal Nutrients showed that just two weeks on a polyphenol-poor diet could alter vascular biomarkers in a group of healthy men.

And a recent review article in the journal Molecules had this to say: “Consumption of polyphenols from plant extracts and fruits increases antioxidant levels in plasma which protect vasculature and improve anti-inflammatory and lipid profiles, blood pressure, HDL-C, and vascular function.”  The review focuses on a number of polyphenols and other naturally occurring compounds, including gallic acid and punicalagin from pomegranate.

Combo products increasing in popularity

Kennedy said there is increasing interest among supplement product formulators in taking advantage of the evidence supporting the multifactorial effects of polyphenols.

“We do come into contact with customers who say they want to put together a heart health formula and want to know what they can combine our grape seed extract with,” he said.

“Recently we had a customer who wanted to combine our grape seed extract with a blueberry extract and a bergamot extract. When you go into the store you frequently see our extract in formulation with other ingredients,” Kennedy said.

The beauty of the natural approach to heart health is these ingredients can be combined with virtually no concern about antagonistic interactions, Kennedy said. Polyphenolics has continually worked on its GRAS dossier, with higher and higher dosages proven to be safe, he said.

“For the most part these are natural products and they are not known to have any cross indications. With statins, you have to dial the dose in and the patient has to be monitored very carefully.”

 

Military diet alternative

The military diet requires people to follow a low-calorie diet for 3 days and then return to regular eating for 4 days. Across the first 3 days, the diet restricts daily calorie intake to 1,400, 1,200, and 1,100 calories.

The diet is high in protein and low in fat, carbohydrate, and calories. It also includes specific food combinations to try to boost metabolism and burn fat. Despite its name, this diet does not relate to how people in the military eat.

Information about the military diet suggests that people could lose up to 10 pounds (lb) in 1 week and as many as 30 lbs in 1 month if they continue to follow the diet.

In this article, we take a look at whether this diet works, its potential problems and benefits, and what to eat to follow the plan.

Is the military diet effective?

Woman with a shopping list for the military diet
The military diet is high in protein and low in fat.

A review article in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examines very-low-calorie diets (VLCDs) and suggests that they can be effective in helping people lose weight in the short term.

A VLCD allows a maximum of 800 calories per day. People with obesity may need to adopt a VLCD to achieve rapid weight loss before bariatric surgery.

Low-calorie diets are those that allow fewer than 1,000 calories per day.

It is impossible to predict how much weight an individual will lose on a restrictive 1-week diet as everyone is different.

However, people often experience rapid weight gain after stopping one of these short-term diets unless they have put a plan in place to maintain the weight loss.

Meal plan and shopping list

Below is a 3-day meal plan that features on a website supporting the military diet. There is also a comprehensive shopping list for people looking to follow this diet.

People can drink water throughout the day, as well as 1–2 cups of black coffee or tea.

Day 1

Breakfast

  • half a grapefruit
  • one slice of toast
  • 2 tablespoons (tbsp) of peanut butter, ideally a salt-free and sugar-free brand
  • 1 cup of caffeinated coffee or tea

Lunch

  • half a cup of tuna
  • one slice of toast
  • 1 cup of caffeinated coffee or tea

Dinner

  • 3 ounces of any meat
  • 1 cup of green beans
  • half a banana
  • one small apple
  • 1 cup of vanilla ice cream

Day 2

Breakfast

  • one egg
  • one slice of toast
  • half a banana

Lunch

  • one hard-boiled egg
  • 1 cup of cottage cheese
  • five saltine crackers

Dinner

  • two hot dogs without the buns
  • 1 cup of broccoli
  • half a cup of carrots
  • half a banana
  • half a cup of vanilla ice cream

Day 3

Breakfast

  • five saltine crackers
  • one slice of cheddar cheese
  • one small apple

Lunch

  • one hard-boiled egg
  • one slice of toast

Dinner

  • 1 cup of tuna
  • half a banana
  • 1 cup of vanilla ice cream

Vegetarian meal plan

A vegetarian and vegan meal plan is also available:

Day 1

Breakfast

  • half a grapefruit
  • one slice of toast
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 cup of caffeinated coffee or tea

Lunch

  • half an avocado
  • 2 tbsp hummus
  • one slice of whole-wheat toast
  • 1 cup of caffeinated coffee or tea

Dinner

  • tofu (up to 300 calories)
  • 1 cup of green beans
  • half a banana
  • one small apple
  • 1 cup of vanilla ice cream (vegans can use dairy-free ice cream)

Day 2

Breakfast

  • half a cup of baked beans
  • one slice of whole-wheat toast
  • half a banana

Lunch

  • 1 cup of unsweetened soy, hemp, or almond milk
  • half an avocado
  • 2 tbsp hummus
  • five saltine crackers

Dinner

  • two veggie hot dogs without the buns
  • 1 cup of broccoli
  • half a cup of carrots
  • half a banana
  • half a cup of vanilla ice cream (can be dairy-free)

Day 3

Breakfast

  • one slice of cheddar cheese (for vegans, about 15–20 almonds)
  • five saltine crackers or half a cup of couscous or quinoa
  • one small apple

Lunch

  • half an avocado
  • 1 tbsp hummus
  • one slice of whole-wheat bread

Dinner

  • half a cup of canned chickpeas
  • half a banana
  • 1 cup of vanilla ice cream (or dairy-free ice cream)

Shopping list

Peanut butter in a jar and whole wheat bread
The military diet shopping list should include peanut butter and whole-wheat bread.

The following list contains the items of food that people will need to buy for the first 3 days of a week on the military diet:

  • caffeinated coffee or tea
  • one grapefruit
  • two bananas
  • two apples
  • whole-wheat bread
  • peanut butter
  • eggs
  • three cans of tuna
  • hot dogs
  • a small piece of meat
  • green beans (fresh, frozen, or canned)
  • small head of broccoli
  • carrots
  • saltine crackers
  • cottage cheese
  • a small amount of cheddar cheese
  • vanilla ice cream

Disadvantages

Following a 3-day military diet plan can cause several potential problems.

Some of the issues below relate specifically to the suggested meal plans.

Limited nutrient intake

The poor variety on the diet days means that people will struggle to eat enough fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients are essential for good health, energy production, detoxification, and efficient metabolism.

High in added salt, sugar, and saturated fat

Between the saltine crackers, peanut butter, bread, hot dogs, and cheese, the diet is quite high in processed foods that contain salt.

People should check nutrition labels to make sure that they are not eating more sodium than the recommended 2,300 milligrams a day limit. Where possible, it is best to buy food brands that are low in sodium or contain no added salt.

The hot dogs that the diet recommends eating consist of processed meat. They contain high levels of saturated fat and sodium.

Each day’s meal plan also includes vanilla ice cream, which can be high in added sugar. People could substitute the ice cream for 300 calories of healthful fruit, vegetables, or whole grains, which the plan currently lacks.

A diet that emphasizes high-calorie, dense foods may not feel very satisfying because portion sizes must remain small to keep meals within the daily calorie budget. This approach may not be sustainable.

Calories too low to exercise?

Senior man tired from running
Some people may find exercise challenging on diet days.

Eating fewer than 1,400 calories on diet days may make it challenging to do exercise, especially any high-intensity activities.

Eating enough calories on the 4 days off will allow people to exercise more easily. However, proponents of the diet recommend sticking to fewer than 1,500 calories on these days too.

One small study looking at alternate day calorie restriction (ADCR), also called intermittent fasting, found that combining ADCR with exercise led to greater weight changes than either dieting or exercise alone.

Following a VLCD can prevent people from exercising at all.

Confusing science

The military diet suggests that people who dislike or cannot eat grapefruit swap it for a glass of water with baking soda in it to continue to promote an alkaline environment.

It is true that foods can change pH from acid to alkaline. However, this primarily affects the acidity or alkalinity of a person’s urine. The pH of foods in the diet does not affect a person’s blood or metabolism enough to significantly influence weight gain or loss, although it may affect other aspects of health.

All fruit produces alkaline byproducts in the body. As a result, swapping one fruit with another fruit should be fine.

The high-protein aspect of the diet will make urine more acidic. As a result, it is not suitable for someone experiencing kidney problems or gout.

Advantages

In the short term, the military diet could be beneficial for weight loss.

It is easy to follow because it includes limited foods with simple measurements and cooking methods.

The recommended meal plan for the 4 days off allows for a wide variety of vegetables and fruits, and it also includes whole grains, legumes, and different meal choices.

The plan provides the calorie targets for each food and suggests substitutions for people with food intolerance and other dietary considerations.

The diet focuses on protein, which increases the feeling of fullness, maintains muscle mass, and provides energy for day-to-day activities. It is important to maintain muscle tissue as it contributes directly to a person’s metabolism.

A small 2018 study looked at the effects of following a diet with calorie restrictions on alternate days. The researchers compared the results of the diet with those of exercise in obese and overweight people.

In the participants who were both following the diet and exercising, body weight, waist circumference, and body fat percentage all decreased.

A 2016 review compared a VLCD with an alternate-day-fasting (ADF) diet. The researchers found that ADF was more effective for fat loss and preserving fat-free mass, including muscle.

Due to the military diet’s recommended daily calorie intake of 1,000 to 1,400 calories on the first 3 days, it is not possible to classify it as either a VLCD or an ADF program. Research on VLCD and ADF regimens only looks at diets providing fewer than 800 calories per day.

Although calorie intake on the military diet is too high to count as fasting, the approach of eating normally on the 4 days off mimics the practice of intermittent fasting. Therefore, people may achieve better long-term results by following this diet rather than a low-calorie diet.

Further research is necessary to confirm any specific benefits of the military diet.

Conclusion

The military diet involves restricting calorie consumption on 3 days and then eating a regular diet for the next 4 days. To optimize their weight loss, people may wish to try reducing calories on the 4 rest days too.

Following the military diet may be effective and harmless in the short term, but long-term adherence has associated risks. These include regaining the lost weight afterward, especially if people are reducing their calorie intake on all days of the week.

The diet is very limited in choice and includes some foods that are high in saturated fat, salt, and sugar. It also promotes eating unhealthful processed meats and under emphasizes vegetable consumption.

Adopting healthy eating habits every day is a more sustainable approach to losing weight and maintaining weight loss.

Q:

What is the safest way to lose weight quickly?

A:

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to weight loss. However, overconsuming carbohydrates in the form of sugar is one of the main culprits of weight gain, particularly if a person’s exercise regimen does not match their carbohydrate intake. One cup of sugar provides 774 calories. A person could eat 12 cups of grapes for the same calories, and these have a lot more nutrients and provide more satiety.

To lose weight safely, remove all added sugars from your diet. Scan the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer and remove or avoid products containing any form of added sugar on the ingredient list. These products will include sodas, sweet beverages, cereals, most yogurts, baked goods, and more.

Although it may significantly narrow down a person’s food choices, removing added sugar (and most packaged and processed items in the process) will lower their calorie intake and give them a better understanding of what constitutes real, nourishing food.

Soil health affects Nutrition Industry

soil health

Soil health as related to untangling food webs is the work of a lifetime.  That’s why it’s so difficult to predict the effect of large-scale inputs of chemicals into agricultural ecosystems.  And some of these effects don’t become apparent for decades.

Long-term effects of poor soil health

For example, the Haber/Bosch process is a little more than a century old.  This is a catalytic process, invented by German chemists in the early 1900s, by which nonreactive nitrogen—the stuff that makes up most of the atmosphere—can be converted into ammonia, the basis of chemical fertilizers.

The development was one of the most important of the industrial age, and is the mechanism by which the world’s billions are fed. Prior to this breakthrough, policymakers at the turn of the nineteenth century were looking forward to a world plagued by malnutrition and starvation. There was thought to be no way to raise agricultural production fast enough to feed the world’s rising population (about 1.6 billion in 1900) with the relatively small amount of reactive nitrogen at hand in the form of animal manure and compost.

Who could have predicted in the first bloom of the use of these nitrogen fertilizers the eventual consequences? These include oceanic dead zones utterly depleted of oxygen by rivers saturated with agricultural runoff. According to Scientific American, there were 49 such dead zones identified in coastal waters around the world in 1960. A study conducted in 2008 found there are now more than 400.

Vaclav Smil, Ph.D., a professor emeritus at the University of Manitoba in Canada, is one of the first researchers to have sounded the alarm about excessive nitrogen use.  In addition to the runoff problems, he said excess nitrogen also can contribute to the greenhouse effect and can work over time to demineralize soils.

Glyphosate use accelerating

Similarly unintended (or hidden, perhaps?) consequences affecting soil health can be ascribed to the use of many pesticides and herbicides, including glyphosate.  The use of this herbicide, marketed by Monsanto as RoundUp, has been accelerating rapidly in recent decades.  Recent studies have shown that by 2020, worldwide glyphosate use is expected to hit  1 million tons per year. Another study shows that in the US, the rate of growth has been accelerating. Between 1995 and 2004, glyphosate use grew by 356%. Between 2005 and 2014, it grew by 637%.

Studies have shown that plants exposed to high levels of CO2 grow faster, but contain fewer nutrients. The same appears to be true of crops treated with glyphosate.  One of the side effects of this heavy usage, which now includes spraying fields to desiccate the crops prior to harvest, is a lowered microbial diversity in the soil.

Committing to true sustainability

MegaFood and its parent company Food State is one organization that has been putting its money where its mouth is in terms of its sustainability message. Bethany Davis, MegaFood’s director of advocacy and government relations, said supporting soil health has now become part of the company’s core mission.  And getting the word out about the side effects of high glyphosate usage is part of that effort.

“People know about gut microbiome. They understand the importance of that. But the same thing is true of the soil,” Davis told NutraIngredients-USA.

Davis and others maintain that soil rich in a full suite of microbes, fungi, and viruses functions better in many ways. Plants grown in such soils are more nutrient dense, and soils with diverse, robust microbiomes absorb and hold more water, easing runoff and drought concerns.

And a key point that figures into the climate change debate: Rich soils store much more carbon than do their depleted counterparts.

Regenerative solution

Regenerative agriculture is the catchphrase for practices that have topsoil health, replenishment and, ultimately increase as a core principle.  It goes a step beyond organic, which is mostly about acceptable inputs, to take a holistic view of the agricultural ecosystem.  The need to address topsoil loss is illustrated by a 2011 report by the Environmental Working Group that highlighted data from the Iowa Daily Erosion Project coordinated through Iowa State University. The project estimated that agricultural fields in 440 townships encompassing 10.1 million acres may have suffered erosion at rates greater than the statewide average and that eight townships encompassing 184,000 acres experienced utterly disastrous average erosion rates exceeding 50 tons per acre.

“I like to joke that the reason why any of us are here is that there are six inches of soil and it rains sometimes,” Davis said.

“Our food is about 50% less nutritious on average than it was 40 or 50 years ago. Regenerative agriculture is integrally linked to nutrition. That is one of the reasons we stand for it, and it is confusing that so few people in our space stand for it,” she said.

Dietary supplement companies might observe that the sum total of ingredients used in our industry hardly amounts to skimming the froth from a huge vat of milk when talking about the large-scale effects of agricultural practices relating to soil health.  They are mere derivatives, in other words.

But, as the sellers of derivative mortgage securities discovered in 2008 and 2009, when the underlying market is unhealthy, everyone, even the bit players, suffers.  For dietary supplement companies touting a sustainability message, and exactly as we see in climate change issues, being part of the solution seems to be the place to be, rather than sitting on the sidelines.

Cardio versus weights

Cardiovascular (cardio) workouts and weightlifting (weights) are two types of exercise that differ in intensity, duration, and the groups of muscles that they use. They also burn calories in different ways. While cardiovascular exercise helps the body burn more calories per session, lifting weights allows the body to burn more calories in the long term.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) defines aerobic exercise as any activity that uses large muscle groups, is possible to maintain continuously, and is rhythmic.

Cardiovascular exercise (cardio) is a form of aerobic activity. It increases breathing rate, burns calories quickly, and improves overall endurance. Examples of aerobic exercise include cycling, dancing, jogging, and swimming.

The ACSM define anaerobic exercise as intense physical activity of short duration, which uses fuel from energy sources within the contracting muscles rather than relying on inhaled oxygen. Lifting weights and sprinting are both examples of anaerobic exercise.

Strength training, including weightlifting, helps people gain muscle, which speeds up metabolism and burns more fat in the long term.

How long do the effects last?

jumping rope cardio
Cardiovascular exercise has a more lasting effect than weightlifting.

Cardio generally has a less prolonged aftereffect than lifting weights.

In many studies, experts use “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption” (EPOC) to measure this effect.

For example, the researchers working on a 2014 study used it to measure the positive effects of cardio on men with metabolic syndrome. EPOC refers to the amount of oxygen that the body requires to return to its pre-exercise or resting state.

Lifting weights usually lead to higher EPOC levels than cardio, resulting in more significant muscle breakdown. This means that the body continues to burn calories even after completing a weightlifting workout.

A 2018 study looking at the effect of resistance training in sedentary adult women found that this activity, which includes weightlifting, elevated the participants’ overall basal metabolic rate (BMR) for up to 48 hours. The BMR is the number of calories that the body burns at rest.

Which anaerobic exercises burn the most calories?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the following high-intensity anaerobic exercises to burn calories effectively:

  • jogging or sprinting
  • competitive sports, such as football, basketball, and soccer
  • jumping rope
  • inline skating or rollerblading at a fast speed
  • cross-country skiing
  • swimming laps

Calculating the calories that weightlifting burns

Online calculators can help a person establish how many calories they burn, taking their weight and physical activity of choice into account.

For example, the Calorie Burn Rate Calculator outlines various calorie burn counts depending on body weight and the type and intensity of physical activity.

Similarly, the Omni Calculator uses the activity type and duration to estimate the total number of calories that a person burns. It also helps predict how much weight a person can expect to lose.

Another useful calorie calculator is Cornell University’s METS to Calories Calculator. The term MET refers to “Metabolic Equivalent of Task,” or metabolic equivalent. This calculator works out the number of calories that a person burns by assessing their body weight, activity level (METS), and the duration of the physical activity.

Making the most of your exercise program

stretching before cardio
Stretching before and after exercising can help prevent muscle strain.

Regardless of the chosen form of exercise, people can use the following safety tips to help make sure that they maximize the effectiveness of their workout:

  • Take 5 to 10 minutes to warm up and cool down by doing stretches.
  • Make gradual increases in physical activity, especially if not very physically active.
  • Rest between strenuous workouts, and do not exercise too much if feeling faint or ill.
  • Do not rush to lift heavy weights. Correct form and strength building takes time, so start with light weights to master the techniques.
  • Do not do any high-intensity exercise in hot, humid conditions as this can lead to severe dehydration.
  • Stop exercising if signs of overheating occur, such as a headache, dizziness, nausea, cramps, or heart palpitations.
  • Wear clothes and shoes that are suitable for the type of physical activity.

Takeaway of cardio vs. weights

Both cardio and weightlifting exercises have advantages and disadvantages, and their benefits and effects vary between people.

Evidence shows that lifting weights burns more fat and has more promising long-term results. However, the type of exercise that is better ultimately depends on a person’s goals, physical fitness, and capabilities.

Most experts recommend a combination of the two for overall health and fitness.

Climate change and supplement industry

Recent mainstream media reports about climate change leave one wondering where the planet is headed when considering its effect on the supplement industry. Two are especially harrowing.

Ice disappearing because of climate change

climage change

In late September, the National Snow and Ice Data Center based at the University of Colorado, Boulder released its annual report on the extent of Arctic sea ice.  The report showed that at its lowest extent, the Arctic ice pack covered about 1.77 million square miles. This is tied for the sixth lowest extent on record.  In the past twelve years, the ice pack matched or exceeded the 1981-2010 average minimum of 2.4 million square miles only once.

“This year’s minimum is relatively high compared to the record low extent we saw in 2012, but it is still low compared to what it used to be in the 1970s, 1980s and even the 1990s,” said NASA climate change senior scientist Claire Parkinson. (NASA supports the ice data center.)

Insects are too

Another even more sobering report was published late last month in The New York Times.  Titled “The Insect Apocalypse is Here,” the report looked at still poorly understood population declines across insect species.  Conducting population studies is unglamorous, rigorous, time-consuming and grueling work, the article noted, which is why few of them have been done.

But the few that have been done have turned in alarming results. The Times article detailed a 2013 German study on insect abundance that was the work of a group of highly skilled and committed citizen scientists.

“The German study found that, measured simply by weight, the overall abundance of flying insects in German nature reserves had decreased by 75 percent over just 27 years. If you looked at midsummer population peaks, the drop was 82 percent,” the article noted.

Another researcher, entomologist Arthur Shapiro of the University of California Davis, has for the past 46 years been walking the same transects in California’s Central Valley and the Sierra Nevada foothills counting butterflies.  He has noticed a similar dearth of individuals as was seen in Germany.

Similar declines have been noted in a rain forest study in Puerto Rico.  The insects there have not been contending with pesticides and habitat loss, two concerns mentioned in the German study, which leads researchers to point to global temperature induced rise as the probable culprit.

Climate change is responsible

Despite White House tweets to the contrary, worldwide scientific consensus attributes blame for rising temperatures on increased greenhouse gas emissions which cause climate change.  These come from smokestacks at factories and power plants, from the tailpipes of hundreds of millions of vehicles and from the burning of tropical woodlands to create cattle ranches or palm oil plantations.

climate change and supplementsWhere does the dietary supplement industry fit into that equation?  From a practical standpoint, the industry’s footprint is minuscule.  Some ingredients, like fish oils, tropical botanicals, or krill oil, might get shipped around the globe more than once when all of the extraction, formulation and packaging steps are taken into account. But even so, the carbon footprint of these materials is still not even a rounding error when it comes to the global emissions problem.

So, should supplement companies just wave their hands and say, ‘not my problem?’

Effecting change

It appears this is an ethical consideration, not a marketing-driven one.  After all, how much does it matter if a company can nudge a particular consumer’s personal health needle in a positive direction if the environment that person is living in is falling off the edge of the table?

“I think absolutely supplement companies can be part of the solution,” consultant Steve Hoffman told NutraIngredients-USA. Hoffman, who is a principal in the consulting firm Compass Natural, was also tapped by Colorado governor-elect Jared Polis to serve as an adviser to his transition team as part of the on the Natural Resources & Energy and Agriculture committee.

Hoffman pointed to certain brands, such as Mercola, that have made big commitments to sustainable packaging. The energy that goes into packaging and shipping is part of the equation.  Other companies have made commitments toward restricting the flow of waste material off-site, or have announced goals for use of renewable energy.

Other brands such as Gaia Herbs and MegaFood, have committed to supporting regenerative agriculture. This is a concept that goes a step beyond traditional organic farming concerns, which is more about the nature of inputs.  It looks at the role agriculture can play in supporting local biodiversity (remember those insect declines?), creating rather than depleting topsoil and lessening the overall carbon footprint of agriculture.

The idea has coalesced into plans for certification called Regenerative Organic Certified.  Brands participating in the founding discussions are Horizon Organic, Guayaki, and Maple Hill Creamery.

Part of the solution

All of these may be small steps, mere drops in the ocean of the global climate change debate.  But it is also true that every journey can only begin from where you are.

As the author and activist Eldridge Cleaver is reputed to have said, “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”

Single workout metabolic benefits

A single workout offers lasting metabolic benefits.  New research in mice finds that a single workout activates a brain circuit associated with a lower appetite, lower blood sugar levels, and better metabolism. Moreover, this effect lasted for 2 days after the workout. The findings may help improve blood sugar metabolism in people with diabetes.

Single workout boxing routine
A single workout can offer long-lasting metabolic benefits.

According to the most recent estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 100 million people in the United States are currently living with diabetes or pre-diabetes.

In excess of 30 million U.S. adults have diabetes, and more than 84 million have pre-diabetes. According to the CDC, pre-diabetes can evolve into diabetes within 5 years.

Controlling blood sugar levels with physical activity and diet is the key to managing or preventing diabetes. However, new research suggests that we may need less physical activity than we might think to achieve these health benefits. This means that the effects of a single workout appear to offer great benefits to the individual.

Dr. Kevin Williams, a neuroscientist at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas, is the corresponding and last author of the new study. Dr. Williams and colleagues examined the effects of a single bout of exercise on two types of neurons in mice.

The neurons make up the so-called melanocortin brain circuit, which humans share with rodents.

Scientists have linked POMC neurons with a lower appetite, reduced blood sugar levels, and a more active metabolism. NPY/AgRP neurons, on the other hand, have an association with an increase in appetite and a slower metabolism.

Dr. Williams and colleagues published their findings in the journal Molecular Metabolism.

How exercise improves glucose metabolism

Scientists have previously studied the properties of the melanocortin brain circuit in relation to diet and fasting, but they have not investigated how physical exercise affects these neurons.

So, Dr. Williams and team examined the brain activity and neuronal firing rate in transgenic mice after a workout consisting of three, consecutive, 20-minute sessions of treadmill running.

They found that the single bout of exercise activated rodents’ POMC neurons, but deactivated the appetite-boosting NPY/AgRP neurons. The scientists noticed these neuronal changes lasted for up to 2 days.

“It doesn’t take much exercise to alter the activity of these neurons,” explains Dr. Williams. The researchers also trained the mice for periods ranging from zero to 10 days and found that the neuronal effects lasted longer if the training period was longer.

Finally, the metabolism-boosting POMC neurons stayed active for longer if they also expressed leptin receptors. Leptin is a metabolic hormone that previous research has shown is of benefit to the synapses of POMC neurons.

Based on our results, we would predict that getting out and exercising even once in a semi-intense manner can reap benefits that can last for days, in particular with respect to glucose metabolism.”

Dr. Kevin Williams

Single workout findings may benefit people with diabetes

The rodents also lost their appetite after the workout. This effect lasted for up to 6 hours after working out. Dr. Williams comments, “This result may explain at the neural circuit level why many people don’t feel hungry immediately after exercise.”

Dr. Williams continues to comment on the benefits of the findings for metabolic conditions. “This research is not just for improving fitness,” he says, adding, “A better understanding of neural links to exercise can potentially help a number of conditions affected by glucose regulation.”

It is possible that activating melanocortin neurons may hold therapeutic benefits for patients one day, especially for [people with diabetes] who need improved blood-glucose regulation.”

Dr. Kevin Williams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Applying this concept is essential in establishing an effective weekly workout routine.  No matter which time of the day you prefer to workout, this research clearly points out that the effects of a single workout lasts for two days.  Establishing proper rest time between workouts therefore goes a long way in taking advantage of the long-lasting effects of the single workout.

When properly spaced, the body reacts in a positive way and metabolic systems adjust accordingly.  It does not matter if you are trying to control diabetes, the point is that those who do not suffer from this malady can keep it at bay by being conscientious that the single workout concept does work and the research posted here proves it!

Almond Milk Benefits

Almond milk is a creamy, nutty-flavored beverage made by soaking, grinding and straining raw almonds. It is often used as a substitute for dairy milk, which today almost every supermarket sells in several flavors and of numerous brands. Even though its consumption can be dated back to several hundred years ago, it is most popular with individuals who wish to avoid dairy. Overall, it is not a commonly used product and so not everyone is familiar with its nutritional facts.

Almond Milk Nutrition Facts

Glass of Almond milk

 

 

Vitamins

Almond milk and its various products are all supplemented with vitamins A, D and B complex thereby providing adequate amounts of the recommended daily intake of these nutrients. One cup contains 500 and 200 international units of vitamin A and D respectively, fulfilling approximately 20% of an individual’s recommended daily intake. It also contains three micrograms of vitamin B-12 which fulfills 100% of an average person’s B-12 requirements.

Vitamin E plays a major role in improving skin health on account of its antioxidant properties. Vitamin A is vital for healthy eyesight; it helps the eyes better adjust to differences in light.

Almond milk contributes significantly in maintaining healthy bones and teeth as it is rich in both calcium and vitamin D. Additional benefits of vitamin D are that it decreases the incidence of osteoporosis in women, increases cell function and immunity and may even help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Almond milk also contributes to better muscle health. It is rich in Vitamin B-12 especially riboflavin and iron which are muscle regulating nutrients. Iron, in particular, helps muscles to absorb and use proteins for energy, growth, and repair.

Minerals

One of the product’s nutrition facts is that it also contains several vital minerals such as phosphorous, zinc and potassium. Packaged almond milk is often fortified by calcium, which is essential for optimal bone health, allowing an individual to meet one-third of the recommended daily intake. By substituting three servings of dairy products with three servings of almond milk, a person can easily meet his daily requirements for calcium; 1000 milligrams/day for men and 1200 milligrams/day for women.

Fats

Although it does contain fat, it is important to note, that the fat content of this particular milk is not unhealthy. An 8-ounce serving of sweetened almond milk contains 60 calories but 25 of those calories are on account of healthy fat. Meanwhile, in an 8-ounce cup of unsweetened almond milk, 30 out of 40 calories are owing to good fats. This fat is neither saturated nor trans-fat, and it does not contain any cholesterol either.

Since this type of milk contains good fats and has low sodium content, it is known for keeping the heart healthy. This is because foods that contain limited sodium and low amount of cholesterol help maintain normal blood pressure and keep the heart healthy. Almond milk is also rich in potassium which further helps in maintaining blood pressure.

Proteins

Almond milk is also a rich source of protein. Vegetarians and vegans often substitute dairy milk with almond milk which contains about 2 grams protein in an 8-ounce serving. Although cow’s milk provides 8 grams per every 8-ounce serving, almond milk contains much greater protein than rice milk. Also, by adding protein powder to almond milk, the amount of protein can always be increased.

Sugar

One of almond milk nutrition facts pertains to its sugar content. Homemade almond milk contains no sugar while store-bought ones contain sugar and other flavorings as well. For diabetics, homemade almond milk is advised.

Diabetics can benefit substantially from almond milk since it only contains 8 grams of carbohydrates per serving, unlike other dairy products. This meager amount of carbohydrates does not elevate blood sugar level and is, in fact, stored as fat in the body. Further, sugars present in almond milk are glycemic in nature meaning that they are fully digested in the body and used for energy.

Flavonoid and Antioxidant Content

Almond milk is prepared by crushing almonds along with their skins. The skin is rich in flavonoids thereby making almond milk a good source of flavonoids as well. Flavonoids are important in safeguarding the body against cardiovascular diseases. Almond milk is also rich in antioxidants which also help prevent heart diseases and cancers.

Making Your Own

With all these nutrition facts, many prefer to make it at home themselves.

Ingredients

  • Raw organic sprouted almonds: 1 cup
  • Pure filtered water: 4 cup
  • Honey, stevia, dates, vanilla (optional)

Instructions

  • For this, you need to soak overnight one cup of raw organic sprouted almonds for minimum 12 hours in water with half a teaspoon of sea salt. The soaking process helps to break down phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors and also allows beneficial enzymes that are present in the almonds to be cultured.
  • After the almonds have been soaked, they need to be rinsed and then mixed with four cups of water in a blender. The mixture needs to blend for a few minutes. Care should be taken to not overfill the blender as the mixture tends to expand and may overflow.
  • Once the mixture is smooth and creamy, it should be strained using cheesecloth, sprout bag or a kitchen towel.
  • Once strained, the mixture should be put back in the blender along with honey, soaked dates or other sweeteners.
  • The mixture should be put into a glass jar or pitcher and can be stored in the fridge for up to a week.

Natural Sugar effects

The effects of natural sugarnatural sugar fructose such as fructose on human health have been the source of much controversy. This is due to the fact that there are different kinds of foods, some of which are bad for health.

Fructose is a natural sugar that is present in fruits, fruit juices, certain vegetables, and honey. In these forms, this natural sugar can be part of a healthy diet.

However, it is also a component of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which manufacturers make from cornstarch and add to unhealthy foods such as sodas and candies.

Researchers are studying the links between high-fructose foods and obesity, diabetes, and even some cancers. However, there is also some evidence that indicates that it is not necessarily a public health concern when a person consumes it in moderation.

In this article, we will cover whether fructose is bad for health, the different types of sugar, and the research into their effects on the human body.

What is the natural sugar fructose?

apples and honey natural sugar
Fructose is a natural sugar present in fruit and honey.

Fructose is the sweetest of the naturally occurring caloric sweeteners. It occurs naturally in fruits, fruit juices, honey, and even some vegetables.

In its pure form, it is much sweeter than other types of sugar. As a result, people can use less of it than other sugars in cooking to achieve the same sweetness.

The most significant sources of fructose in the diet include:

  • table sugar
  • honey
  • agave nectar
  • fruit juices
  • HFCS, which is present in candy, baked goods, and sodas, and other processed foods

Manufacturers create HFCS by adding certain enzymes to cornstarch, which is essentially pure glucose. Glucose is another type of sugar. They then use this glucose to create a syrup that contains varying amounts of fructose.

Most varieties of HFCS contain either 42 or 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose. This means that HFCS contains the same amount of fructose as sucrose, or table sugar.

Manufacturers make table sugar from a combination of fructose and glucose.

Honey is another common food additive. Honey contains a 1-to-1 ratio of fructose to glucose.

Is fructose bad for you?

A natural sugar like fructose from fresh fruit and vegetables is good for a person’s health. Processed forms of fructose, such as HFCS, may have negative health effects. Scientists are currently studying how this type of sweetener compares with other forms of sugar.

Below, we discuss the research around the possible risks and benefits of fructose on a person’s health.

The evidence against fructose

woman pinching stomach
Consuming large amounts of fructose may put a person at greater risk of obesity.

Some researchers believe that the body processes fructose differently than other types of sugar.

In particular, there are concerns that when a person consumes fructose in excess, it may stimulate the body to deposit extra fat, especially in the liver. This may contribute to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

According to a 2017 literature review, eating excessive amounts of fructose is associated with:

  • inflammation that could lead to insulin resistance
  • increased development of fat, as it may alter the ways that the body breaks down fats and carbohydrates
  • a greater risk of obesity and related conditions, such as metabolic syndrome
  • greater food intake, as it does not make people feel full

A 2016 study looked at the effects of fructose-rich drink consumption in those aged 12–16 years in Taiwan. People who drank more fructose-rich drinks had higher levels of insulin resistance, which is a marker for hardened arteries, diabetes, and heart disease in adults.

The evidence for fructose

Although there is evidence that excess fructose consumption is bad for health, it is difficult for researchers to separate the effects of fructose in the diet from those of other sugars.

This is because foods that contain high levels of added fructose usually also contain high levels of other sugars, such as glucose. Scientists conduct many research studies on the effects of fructose in rats fed combinations of sugars.

A 2014 literature review states that fructose does not have specific effects on the body that can cause weight gain when compared with eating sugar from other sources.

The authors also argue that, while sugar-sweetened drinks contain fructose, they are also high in calories. This may explain some links between fructose and obesity.

To date, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that they are not currently aware of any evidence that foods containing HFCS are less safe than other foods containing similar sweeteners, such as sucrose and honey.

The FDA list HFCS, the most controversial of the fructose-containing foods, as safe to eat.

However, people should limit their intake of all added sugars, including HFCS and sucrose.

Fructose vs. glucose

Fructose can bind to glucose. Fructose plus glucose is called sucrose, or table sugar.

Unlike fructose, the body largely breaks glucose down in the cells. The small intestine usually absorbs this sugar type and sends it out to the body’s cells for energy. Researchers usually regard glucose as the body’s preferred carbohydrate source for energy.

When a person eats glucose, the chemical structure of the compound triggers the pancreas to release insulin, a hormone that allows cells to use glucose for energy.

A natural sugar such as Fructose does not trigger insulin release, nor does it trigger the release of hormones such as leptin, which tells the brain that a person is full, or inhibit hormones that tell a person’s body that they are hungry.

As a result, researchers suggest that fructose is more harmful to a person because they are more likely to eat more than if they had eaten food containing glucose.

However, a person should remember that foods with glucose-containing sugars still have calories. Excess calorie intake can lead to weight gain.

Sources and types of fructose

young woman eating a pear
Pears are naturally high in fructose.

Two fructose types exist: naturally occurring and HFCS. The body digests both the same way.

Examples of natural foods that are naturally high in fructose include:

  • agave syrup
  • apple juice
  • apples
  • caramel
  • dry figs
  • honey
  • licorice
  • molasses
  • pears
  • prunes
  • sorghum

Some vegetables contain fructose, but this is usually in smaller amounts than fruits. These include:

  • asparagus
  • chicory roots
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • leeks
  • onions

Summary

Fructose is naturally present in many fruits and vegetables, which people can include as part of a healthful, balanced diet.

Researchers are still debating whether various forms of fructose are bad for people’s health. The FDA state that fructose is a safe ingredient to add to foods.

They believe that there is not enough evidence to say that fructose is less safe than other similar sugars, such as sucrose and honey, but they recommend limiting all added sugars.

When people eat or drink lots of high-fructose foods, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, they are also taking in extra calories that can contribute to weight gain.

There is no recommended minimum or maximum intake of fructose daily because a person does not need this sugar to survive. Manufacturers add fructose to foods as a sweetener, but it has little nutritional value.

Where possible, doctors recommend that people eat fresh, whole foods and avoid frequently eating foods with added sugars.

IIFYM diet technique

IIFYM stands for “if it fits your macros,”. This dieting technique involves counting the number of macronutrients, rather than calories, that a person is consuming.

Unlike diets that involve food restriction, proponents describe IIFYM as a flexible diet that can help people lose weight without drastically changing their eating habits.

Little research has investigated the diet, so its effectiveness has not been scientifically established.

In general, many people can lose weight by eating smaller portions, choosing less energy-dense foods, and increasing their physical activity. This does not have to occur as part of a dietary fad.

In this article, we describe how to follow the IIFYM diet and include potential benefits and risks.

What is the IIFYM diet?

Person writing down macronutrients for iifym diet
People following the IIFYM diet keep track of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.

The IIFYM diet hinges on the idea that eating fewer calories than the body requires — while still consuming enough protein, carbs, and fats — results in weight loss at a steady and predictable rate.

People following the IIFYM diet keep track of these three macronutrients:

The diet groups fiber with carbohydrates.

A person can consume these macronutrients in varying combinations, as long as the amounts do not exceed the body’s macronutrient needs for the day. This means that, if the calculation balances out, a person can eat any type of food, while still meeting their health or weight loss goals.

How to start with the IIFYM diet

Following the IIFYM diet involves:

  • calculating how many calories you need to maintain your current weight
  • determining how many calories to cut for the desired weight loss
  • grouping these calories by macronutrients: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats

The targets and figures vary, based on factors such as age, sex, weight, height, and activity levels.

Start by using the calculator on the IIFYM website or by following the steps below:

Step 1: Calculate current calorie needs

A person’s basal metabolic rate (BMR), or resting metabolic rate, is the amount of energy, in calories, that their body needs at rest for 24 hours. This energy goes toward essential functions, such as breathing, circulation, and body temperature.

A person can determine their BMR with an online calculator that uses the Mifflin-St. Jeor equation.

To manually calculate BMR:

  • for men, BMR = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) + 5
  • for women, BMR = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) – 161

Step 2: Adjust calorie needs for activity level

The next step involves factoring in the average physical activity level, as this affects the number of calories that the body uses. This measurement is called total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).

A person can calculate their TDEE using an online calculator, which automatically factors in their BMR. The IIFYM website also provides a TDEE calculator.

Step 3: Adjust calorie needs for desired weight

Subtract 15–20 percent of the TDEE to find out, according to the IIFYM website, how many calories a person should eat per day to achieve their weight loss goals.

Step 4: Determine macro needs per day

The final step is to divide the resulting value into what the website calls “adjusted macros.” This will determine how many macros a person needs, based on their current body weight:

  • protein: calculate this intake at around 0.7–1.0 grams (g) per pound (lb) of body weight
  • fat: calculate at about 0.25–0.4 g per lb of body weight
  • carbohydrates: this value comprises the remaining calories from the adjusted macros score

Sticking to IIFYM in the long term

To follow the IIFYM diet, a person must determine how many macros they are consuming at each meal and track their daily intake to ensure that it is close to their adjusted goal.

For more accurate results, a person may consider using a digital scale to weigh food.

Many macro-friendly recipes are available online. The IIFYM website provides a range of meal plans, including breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, and desserts.

Benefits of IIFYM

The possible benefits of the IIFYM diet include:

Flexibility

Man and woman eating lunch together outside
The IIFYM diet aims to make meals enjoyable and stress-free.

The IIFYM website promises “no more dieting” and “no more restrictions.” It is advertised as a more flexible dieting stylebecause it incorporates more foods than many other diets.

It encourages people to eat diverse foods, as long as they do not exceed their macro targets.

The aim of the IIFYM diet is to make meals more enjoyable, and meal planning less stressful, which may increase the likelihood of sticking to the diet.

Losing weight

A person usually loses weight if they burn more calories than they take in. This often involves cutting around 500–750 calories each day. People may achieve this by following the IIFYM diet.

Similarly, increasing calorie consumption leads to weight gain. People looking to gain weight may also be able to meet their goals with IIFYM.

May benefit those unable to exercise

Because IIFYM takes physical activity levels into account when calculating macros, a person who gets limited or no exercise may find the diet useful.

Negatives of IIFYM

The IIFYM diet may have the following drawbacks:

No focus on micronutrients

Micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, are as important as macronutrients for health and development, but the IIFYM diet does not account for their intake.

The body does not produce micronutrients, so a person must obtain them from their diet. A person following the IIFYM diet may not be getting enough of these vital nutrients.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2 billion people worldwide have micronutrient deficiencies.

Macro calculations are not flexible

People may have difficulties adjusting their macro requirements to account for changes such as illness, recovering from injury, and breastfeeding.

For instance, research indicates that following an illness, the body needs more calories and protein, namely 1.5–2.0 g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, to make up for the loss of lean body mass and to promote recovery.

Takeaway

Proponents advertise the IIFYM diet as a flexible method of weight loss. It involves counting macronutrients — proteins, carbohydrates, and fats — instead of calories.

However, little scientific research has looked into its effectiveness.

People following the diet must be sure to consume enough micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals.

If a person uses more calories than they consume, they are likely to lose weight. An individual can do this by following a healthful diet, reducing portion sizes, and getting more physical activity.

For best results, and to ensure that their dieting plan is healthful, a person may wish to consult a healthcare professional.

New Obesity procedure

New obesity procedure appears to also reduce muscle mass.  A study about a new obesity procedure for the treatment of obesity has raised some concerns. This is because, while the treatment leads to weight loss, the pounds a person sheds consist of skeletal muscle as well as fat. Also, body fat loss seems to be mainly of the subcutaneous — as opposed to the riskier visceral — type.
obesity procedure doctor taking measurements of obese man
Visceral fat can harm health, and some people with obesity resort to surgical procedures to remove it.

Skeletal muscle is necessary for good health; its loss can result in not only physical problems, but it can also impair metabolism and raise the risk of injury.

Visceral fat is the type of fat that surrounds the organs deep inside the abdomen. Doctors have linked carrying too much of it to health problems, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

The new obesity procedure is called left gastric artery embolization. Interventional radiologists have been using it for decades to stop bleeding in emergencies.

However, the idea of using gastric artery embolization to treat obesity is new, and clinical trials are currently evaluating its safety and effectiveness for such a purpose.

The aim of the new obesity procedure treatment is to reduce the effect of an appetite hormone by injecting microscopic beads to block an artery that supplies blood to the stomach.

The study’s findings featured recently at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America that is currently taking place in Chicago, IL.

Need for new cost-effective, low-risk obesity procedures

Study lead author Dr. Edwin A. Takahashi, who is a vascular and interventional radiology fellow at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, explains that a lot of research has shown that gastric artery embolization can achieve weight loss.

“However,” he adds, “there has been no data on what is contributing to the weight loss, whether the patients are losing fat, as desired, or muscle mass, or some combination of the two.”

Obesity is a significant global public health issue with links to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and other serious illnesses and health problems.

Rates of obesity and being overweight have almost tripled worldwide over the last 40 years, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO estimates for 2016 suggest that being overweight affects more than 1.9 billion of the world’s adults. This figure includes some 650 million adults with obesity.

While changes to lifestyle factors such as diet and physical activity can work, for many people, these are not enough, and they opt to undergo weight-loss operations that reduce the size of the stomach.

Such surgical procedures have proved effective as treatments for obesity, but they are costly and carry risks and complications.

Left gastric artery embolization

Left gastric artery embolization — if found to be effective and safe — could offer people a less invasive option for the treatment of obesity.

The obesity procedure involves injecting microscopic beads into the artery that delivers blood to the stomach. The radiologist inserts a catheter either in the wrist or groin and uses imaging to reach the artery.

Once released into the artery, the microbeads block the flow of blood through the smaller blood vessels to the stomach. This has the effect of reducing production of ghrelin, a hunger-stimulating hormone.

Early trials have shown promising results that the procedure can help people lose weight. However, there is little information about where the weight loss comes from, and how it affects body composition of fat and muscle.

Dr. Takahashi and his team examined computed tomography scans of 16 overweight people, some with obesity, who had undergone left gastric artery embolization to stop bleeding.

With help from special software that analyzes tissue density, they assessed fat and muscle composition on scans taken before and about 1.5 months after the treatment.

Results raised some concerns by new obesity procedure

All 16 of the individuals who underwent embolization lost a significant amount of weight afterward. On average, they lost 6.4 percent of their body weight in the ensuing 1.5 months.

Their body mass index (BMI) fell by 6.3 percent over the same period.

The weight loss came as no surprise to the researchers; however, what did surprise them was the alteration in body composition.

They calculated that skeletal muscle index reduced by 6.8 percent. This index reflects the quantity of muscle in the body that is attached to bone and helps the movement of limbs and other body parts.

Loss of skeletal muscle can not only reduce physical function, but it can also damage metabolism and raise the risk of injury.

“The significant decrease in the amount of skeletal muscle,” says Dr. Takahashi, “highlights the fact that patients who undergo this procedure are at risk for losing muscle mass and need to be managed accordingly after [the] procedure.”

We must make sure they receive adequate nutrition to minimize the amount of muscle tissue they lose.”

Dr. Edwin A. Takahashi

The results also showed that the individuals lost a lot of body fat; there was an average drop of 3.7 percent in body fat index.

However, most of the body fat loss was due to the reduction in subcutaneous fat. Loss of visceral fat was insignificant over the follow-up.

Subcutaneous fat is all over the body under the skin. Visceral fat is fat that surrounds the organs deep in the abdominal cavity.

Science “has been distinctly linked” carrying excessive amounts of visceral fat to several health problems and conditions. These include impaired metabolism, insulin resistance, increased risk to certain cancers, prolonged hospitalization, and higher risk of complications.

The team now want to focus further studies on individuals who undergo left gastric artery embolization specifically to treat obesity.