Wellness Article

Eating ‘Ultraprocessed’ Foods Linked with Early Death
Live Science – by Rachael Rettner, Senior Writer

They may be tasty, but so-called ultraprocessed foods are not what the doctor ordered. Yet, these foods – which are high in salt, sugar and other additives – are an increasingly large part of people’s diets. And now, a new study from France suggests that ultraprocessed foods may increase the risk of early death.

The research showed that increased consumption of ultraprocessed foods was associated with a higher risk of death over a 7-year period. The subjects must provide health measurements at the outset, learn the proper poses, continue to do them regularly for years and be regularly evaluated.

It’s important to note that the study found only an association and does not prove that ultraprocessed food consumption causes premature death. But the researchers hypothesized that these foods could contribute to a shorter life span in a number of ways – for example, by increasing a person’s risk of heart disease, cancer and other diseases. [7 Tips for Moving Toward a More Plant-Based Diet]

“Ultraprocessed foods consumption has largely increased during the past several decades and may drive a growing burden of noncommunicable disease deaths,” the authors wrote in their study, which was published online yesterday (Feb. 11) in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. (“Noncommunicable” diseases are those that aren’t infectious and can’t be spread from person to person.)

Acording to the study, ultraprocessed foods are those that “contain multiple ingredients and are manufactured through a multitude of industrial processes.” Besides sugar, salt, fat and oil, these foods include additives such as flavors, colors, sweeteners and emulsifiers. (full story)

Wellness Article

How Genetics Are Partly to Blame for Your Food Cravings
Certain genetic markers can influence your preferences for sweet vs. salty, but you can’t blame them entirely for poor eating habits. Life – by Erica Sweeney

Growing up, my sister liked to eat the salt that gathers at the bottom of bags of pretzels. She still craves salty foods, and so does her 3-year-old son. On the other hand, I’ve had a lifelong sweet tooth, like our dad.

My family’s sweet and salty food cravings raise a curious question: Could genetics play a role in our flavor preferences? A growing body of research suggests a possible link.

Nanette Steinle, a University of Maryland School of Medicine associate professor of medicine and endocrinology and the diabetes section chief at the Maryland Veterans Affairs Medical Center, has studied the relationship of genetics with taste preferences and food choices.

“There are specific receptors that regulate salt taste versus sugar taste,” she said. “There aren’t large, robust studies looking at this question, but for those that are available, we do suspect that there could be a genetic component for preferences for salt, bitter, sweet.”

Steinle co-authored Genetics of Eating Behavior: Established and Emerging Concepts, a 2011 study that examined the role of genetics and the five taste profiles: sweet, bitter, salty, sour and umami. It identified some genes that can influence preferences for sweet and umami and others linked to bitter taste receptors. There are also proteins that regulate salt and water absorption in the body and are connected to salt preferences, she said.

Many researchers believe that along with taste receptors, many factors affected by genetics – including body mass index, metabolism, the brain’s reward center and the hormones involved in feeling hunger and satiety – influence food cravings. Health and nutrition experts caution, however, that genetically influenced preferences shouldn’t be viewed as excuses for poor eating habits. (full story)

Wellness Article

The Germs That Love Diet Soda

The New York Times – by Moises Velasquez Manoff
There are lots of reasons to avoid processed foods. They’re often packed with sugar, fat and salt, and they tend to lack certain nutrients critical to health, like fiber. And now, new research suggests that some of the additives that extend the shelf life and improve the texture of these foods may have unintended side effects – not on our bodies directly, but on the human microbiome, the trillions of bacteria living in our guts.

These substances may selectively feed the more dangerous members of our microbial communities, causing illness and even death.

Consider the rise in deadly cases of clostridium difficile, or C. diff, a terrible infection of the gut. The bacterium tends to strike just after you’ve taken antibiotics to treat something else. Those antibiotics kill your native microbes, allowing C. diff to move in. Nearly half a million people develop the infection yearly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and around 29,000 die, sometimes after long bouts of painful, bloody diarrhea. By one estimate, deaths linked to C. diff increased fivefold between 1999 and 2007.

One reason the bug has become more virulent is that it has evolved antibiotic resistance and is not as easily treatable. But some years ago, Robert Britton, a microbiologist at Baylor College of Medicine, discovered something else about C. diff: More virulent strains were out-competing less virulent strains in the gut. (source)