Issue: 63 2016-06-05T18:27:15-04:00

Less Immune Problems Growing Up On a Farm

Immunological diseases, such as eczema and asthma, are on the increase in westernized society and represent a major challenge for 21st century medicine.  A new study has shown, for the first time, that growing up on a farm directly affects the regulation of the immune system and causes a reduction in the immunological responses to food proteins.

The research, led by the University of Bristol’s School of Veterinary Sciences, found that spending early life in a complex farm environment increased the number of regulatory T-lymphocytes, the cells that damp down the immune system and limit immune responses.

In the study, piglets were nursed by their mothers on a farm while their siblings spent their early life (from one day onwards) in an isolator unit under very hygienic conditions and were fed formula milk, therefore, reflecting the extremes of environment human babies are raised in.  The work was carried out in piglets as they are valuable translational models for humans since they share many aspects of physiology, metabolism, genetics and immunity.

The researchers demonstrated that compared to their brothers and sisters in the isolator, the farm-reared piglets had reduced overall numbers of T-lymphocytes, the immune cells which drive immune responses, in their intestinal tissues. Importantly, these dirty piglets also had significantly increased numbers of a subset of these cells, the regulatory T-lymphocytes, which pacify immune responses and limit inflammation.  This shift also showed that they had a significantly decreased antibody response to new food proteins.  Which means that they were much less likely to have food allergies.

At this point it is not clear exactly what caused the increased ability for immune regulation in the farm-raised piglets. Some of the results suggest that intestinal bacteria play an important role in the development of a stronger immune system and these bacteria are obtained from their farm environment.  More research will continue to take place to see if there are any other factors that contribute to the positive increase in their immune systems.


Fewer Allergies in Unstressed Babies

A new Swedish study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, shows that infants with low concentrations of the stress-related hormone cortisol in their saliva develop fewer allergies than other infants.  Hopefully this new knowledge will be useful in future allergy prevention.

The incidence of allergies in children has increased over the past few decades, especially in the West.  A combination of environmental and lifestyle factors during pregnancy and early infancy are thought to be responsible for the sharp rise in allergic diseases.

“Psychosocial factors and the stress hormone cortisol are associated with allergic diseases,” says Dr Fredrik Stenius of the Department of Clinical Research and Education at Stockholm South General Hospital. “Our study found that children with low salivary cortisol levels as infants have a lower prevalence of allergies during the first two years of life, compared to other children.”

The researchers believe that factors related to stress regulation also influence the development of infant allergies and will now monitor the infants from the neonatal period and into childhood.  So in short, for the health of yourself, and your children, keep your home as stress-free as possible.  Spend time with your baby in quiet spaces with soft music, or sooth them by reading a book.  The sweet sound of your voice will comfort them, and keep those cortisol levels down.


Is Fructose Being Blamed Unfairly for Obesity Epidemic?

Is fructose being unfairly blamed for the obesity epidemic? Or do we just eat and drink too many calories?

Researchers from St. Michael’s Hospital reviewed more than 40 published studies on whether the fructose molecule itself causes weight gain.

In 31 “isocaloric” trials they reviewed, participants ate a similar number of calories, but one group ate pure fructose and the other ate non-fructose carbohydrates. The fructose group did not gain weight.

In 10 “hypercaloric” trials, one group consumed their usual diet and the other added excess calories in the form of pure fructose to their usual diet or a control diet. Those who consumed the extra calories as fructose did gain weight.

However, all that could mean is that one calorie is simply the same as another, and when we consume too many calories we gain weight, said the lead author, Dr. John Sievenpiper.

His research was recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

“Fructose may not be to blame for obesity,” he said. “It may just be calories from any food source. Over-consumption is the issue.”

Fructose is naturally found in fruits, vegetables and honey. Participants in the studies examined by Dr. Sievenpiper ate fructose in the form of free crystalline fructose, which was either baked into food or sprinkled on cereals or beverages.

The studies did not look at high-fructose corn syrup, which has been singled out as the main culprit for weight gain. It is only 55 per cent fructose, along with water and glucose.  There is a need for better quality and longer studies in the future, but the bottom line is moderation.  We know that the calories consumed cause weight gain. But, we also know that for a healthy diet you need to maintain optimal daily allowance of vitamins and minerals.  Indulgences are ok here and there, but we should still be smart with food, and eat to live … not live to eat.


What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail? — Dr. Robert H. Schuller

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. — Wayne Gretzky

Every now and then, bite off more than you can chew. — Kobi Yamada

Have the courage to change – When the time is right, you’ll just know.  —  Unknown


Dark Roasted Tummy-Friendly Coffee

Stomach irritation preventing almost two out of every 10 people from enjoying coffee. Now, scientists report the discovery of several substances that may be among the culprits responsible for brewing up heartburn and stomach pain in every cup.  Their report showed findings that espresso, french roast, and other dark-roasted coffee may be easier on the tummy because these roasts contain a substance that tells the stomach to reduce production of acid.

The research could lead to a new generation of stomach-friendly brews with the rich taste and aroma of regular coffee, the scientists said.  This discovery is going to help a lot of people who suffer from coffee sensitivity.

Estimates suggest that up to 40 million people in the United States alone either avoid coffee, or cannot drink as much as they like, due to stomach irritation. Doctors think that chemicals in coffee cause the stomach to overproduce acid. Some coffee drinkers take antacids or drink decaffeinated coffee in an effort to reduce this effect. Others turn to a small but growing number of specialty coffee brews marketed as stomach friendly.  Those brands are being manufactured as ‘stomach friendly’ coffees by processing raw coffee beans with steam or solvents intended to reduce levels of the irritants, but if they are actually effective us unclear.

The processes used to produce stomach-friendly coffee also can reduce the amount of healthful substances in the coffee, including some that scientists have linked to benefits such as protection against diabetes and heart disease.  Not to mention how it can have a adverse affect on the flavor people love.

To study the irritants in coffee, the scientists exposed cultures of human stomach cells to a variety of different coffee preparations, including regular, dark-roast, mild, decaffeinated, and stomach-friendly. They identified several substances that appeared to trigger chemical changes associated with increased acid production. These substances include caffeine, catechols, and other ingredients.  They found that there was no ONE single component that was a key irritant, instead it is a mixture that seems to cause the irritant effect of coffee.

The scientists unexpectedly found that one of the coffee components, N-methylpyridium (NMP), seems to block the ability of the stomach cells to produce hydrochloric acid and could provide a way to reduce or avoid stomach irritation. Since NMP is generated only upon roasting and not found in raw coffee beans.  The darker the roast, the higher amounts of this stomach-friendly coffee ingredient there are, but the levels can vary widely depending on the variety of coffee bean and the roasting method.

The scientists are testing different varieties of raw coffee beans and different roasting methods in an effort to boost NMP levels to continue to make a better stomach-friendly coffee.


Physical Activity Triggers Excitement

People who are more physically active report greater levels of excitement and enthusiasm than people who are less physically active, according to Penn State researchers. People also are more likely to report feelings of excitement and enthusiasm on days when they are more physically active than usual.

You don’t have to be super fitness guru who exercises every day to receive the feel-good benefits of exercise, It’s a matter of taking it one day at a time, being active and you will still receive the feel-good rewards.  It is much easier to adhere to the idea of exercising if you set yourself short-term goals first.  Once those are met you feel accomplished and are able to set your next set of goals.

The researchers asked 190 university students to keep daily diaries of their lived experiences, including free-time physical activity and sleep quantity and quality, as well as their mental states, including perceived stress and feeling states. Participants were instructed to record only those episodes of physical activity that occurred for at least 15 minutes and to note whether the physical activity was mild, moderate or vigorous. Participants returned their diaries to the researchers at the end of each day for a total of eight days. The researchers published their results in the current issue of the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology.

In the study results, the team separated the participants’ feeling states into four categories: pleasant-activated feelings exemplified by excitement and enthusiasm, pleasant-deactivated feelings exemplified by satisfaction and relaxation, unpleasant-activated feelings exemplified by anxiety and anger, and unpleasant-deactivated feelings exemplified by depression and sadness.

They found that people who are more physically active have more pleasant-activated feelings than people who are less active.  There was also a noticeable increase in pleasant-activated feelings based on the amount of physical activity.  More active = more pleasant feelings.  They were also able to rule out alternative explanations for the pleasant-activated feelings, such as quality of sleep.

The results suggest that not only are there chronic benefits of physical activity, but also doing more exercise than you typically do can give you a burst of pleasant-activated feelings. So today, if you want a boost, go do some moderate-to-vigorous intensity exercise.

Knowing that moderate and vigorous physical activity generates a pleasant-activated feeling, rather than just a pleasant feeling, might help to explain why physical activity is so much more effective for treating depression rather than anxiety.  People dealing with anxious symptoms don’t need an increase in activation. If anything, they might want to bring it down some.  Future studies will be looking more closely at the effects of physical activity on different mental health symptoms.