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Poor health in deprived areas may be linked to the gut

Premature ageing and earlier onset of disease in the most deprived could be linked to gut health and poor diet, a new study has revealed.

Researchers from the University of Glasgow analysed the composition of microbes in the body and found that there was a higher amount of disease-causing bacteria in those who were most biologically aged. The study also found that those with a lower socioeconomic position had lower levels of betaine in their gut – a nutrient commonly obtained from a healthy, balanced diet containing fresh vegetables and fruits.

An imbalanced diet which is low in fresh fruits and vegetables is already associated with accelerated ageing, and early onset of disease. Higher betaine levels are found in those with a high intake of betaine-rich food sources, such as quinoa, spinach, fortified cereal products, bran and beetroot. As intake of fruit and vegetables is lower in some socioeconomic groups, researchers believe this may partly explain their low betaine levels.

The researchers believe that the abundance of disease-causing bacteria found in those with a low socioeconomic background, combined with their lower levels of good nutrients, may explain why people in these groups are more biologically aged than their counterparts from higher socioeconomic backgrounds.

The findings were published in Scientific Reports.

Better sleep means better mental health

Improving sleep quality leads to better mental health, particularly reduced feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress, according to a new scientific review.

The review, led by Dr Alex Scott from Keele University, combined the results of 65 randomised controlled trials involving 8,608 people using a technique called meta-analysis.

The team found that improving a person’s sleep quality led to less stress, anxiety and depression. They also found that the greater the improvements in sleep, the greater the improvements in mental health, and that improving sleep had a beneficial effect on mental health even when people were living with physical health problems.

Dr Scott said: “This was a large review of existing sleep research that incorporated a wide range of sleep interventions and a wide range of mental health outcomes. The evidence shows that by using techniques to get a better night’s sleep you can improve your mental health, especially for those experiencing depression, anxiety and stress.”

New study provides food for thought

Researchers have provided insight into why we sometimes make unhealthy food choices. The study, which was published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, found that on average it takes us less than half a second to decide whether a food tastes good, but twice as long to decide how healthy it is.

The team from the London School of Economics and Political Science and Duke University in North Carolina conducted a study which involved 79 adults. The participants were asked to choose between two foods – some of which were healthy and some of which weren’t – as a way of knowing more about how we decide which foods to eat and buy. Each adult had to choose between two different foods 300 times.

Lead author, Dr Nicolette Sullivan, Assistant Professor of Marketing at LSE, said: “Our findings suggest that it is often not our fault that we give in to unhealthy foods – our brain is simply slower at processing how healthy a food is compared to how good it tastes. We also found that people who take longer to decide what to eat end up making more healthy choices. In fact, even those who generally make unhealthy choices will make the better choice when they take longer. This is because taking longer allows that slower-processed health information a chance to have a say.”

High fat diet linked to chronic pain

A typical Western high-fat diet can increase the risk of painful disorders common in people with conditions such as diabetes or obesity, according to research carried out by a team from the University of Texas.

Moreover, changes in diet may significantly reduce or even reverse pain from conditions causing either inflammatory pain – such as arthritis, trauma or surgery – or neuropathic pain, such as diabetes.

The researchers found that typical Western diets high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats served as a significant risk factor for both inflammatory and neuropathic pain. Generally, unhealthy foods high in omega-6 fats include processed snacks, fast foods, cakes, and fatty and cured meats, among others.

Reversal of this diet, especially by lowering omega-6 and increasing healthy omega-3 fats, which are found in fish and sources like flaxseed and walnut, greatly reduced these pain conditions, the researchers found. The findings were published in the journal Nature Metabolism.

Fermented foods increase microbiome diversity and lower inflammation

Eating plenty of fermented foods helps to increase the diversity of gut microbes and decreases inflammation, new research from the Stanford School of Medicine has revealed.

The researchers randomly assigned 36 healthy adults to a 10-week diet that included either fermented or high-fibre foods. The two diets resulted in different effects on the gut microbiome and the immune system.

Eating foods such as yogurt, kefir, fermented cottage cheese, kimchi and other fermented vegetables, vegetable brine drinks, and kombucha tea led to an increase in overall microbial diversity, with stronger effects from larger servings. In addition, four types of immune cells showed less activation in the fermented-food group. The levels of 19 inflammatory proteins measured in blood samples also decreased. One of these proteins has been linked to conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, Type 2 diabetes and chronic stress.

By contrast, none of these 19 inflammatory proteins decreased in participants assigned to a high-fibre diet rich in legumes, seeds, whole grains, nuts, vegetables and fruits. On average, the diversity of their gut microbes also remained stable. “We expected high fibre to have a more universally beneficial effect and increase microbiota diversity,” said Erica Sonnenburg, PhD, a senior research scientist. “The data suggest that increased fibre intake alone over a short time period is insufficient to increase microbiota diversity.”

The study was published online in the journal Cell.

A sweet way to start the day

A new study has found that eating a concentrated amount of chocolate during a specific time in the morning may help to burn fat and decrease blood sugar levels in postmenopausal women.

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA, collaborated with investigators at the University of Murcia in Spain. Together, they conducted a randomised, controlled, cross-over trial of 19 postmenopausal women who consumed either 100g of chocolate in the morning (within one hour after waking time) or at night (within one hour before bedtime).

The researchers found that eating chocolate in the morning or in the evening can influence hunger and appetite, microbiota composition, sleep and more. Their findings also showed that a high intake of chocolate during the morning hours could help to burn fat and reduce blood glucose levels. Evening/night chocolate altered next-morning resting and exercise metabolism. Furthermore, neither the morning nor night-time chocolate intake led to weight gain.

CNM pioneers online natural health diploma courses

Responding to the current worldwide health challenges, the College of Naturopathic Medicine (CNM) is now offering online its internationally recognised diploma and short courses to overwhelming positive response from the public.

CNM graduates and students know:

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