Can consuming grapes daily increase certain gut bacteria?

Gut bacteria – also known as the gut microbiome, microbiota, or microflora – play an important role in many areas of human health, including food digestion, immunity, and the regulation of brain function (known as the “gut-brain axis”). One area of interest is how our diet can affect the microbiome and our overall health. Researchers have looked into how different nutrients in food, like protein, carbohydrates, and fats, can change the composition of the microbiome and the substances it produces.

Now, a new study led by Dr. John M. Pezzuto, dean and professor of pharmaceutics of the Western New England University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and partly funded by the California Table Grape Commission looked at the influence of grape consumption on the human microbiome and urine and plasma (blood) metabolites in healthy adults.  The findings appear in the Nature journal Scientific Reports.

When asked how the changes induced by a grape-enriched diet may translate into health benefits, Dr. Pezzuto said that the altered enzyme and pathway levels “may affect the generation of specific chemical metabolites potentially capable of reaching the organs of the body. It remains to be shown which, if any, of these metabolites contribute to the health effects of grapes, but it is reasonable to expect there would be some effect.”

Read more: Can consuming grapes daily increase certain gut bacteria?

Almond yogurt is the dairy alternative with the most nutrients by Jessica Norris for, 6 June 2023.

Plant-based alternatives to many animal products are growing in popularity, and researchers are still working to understand the nutritional value of plant-based options and how they compare to their animal-based counterparts.  A​ study published in Frontiers in Nutrition examined the nutritional value of several different types of plant-based and dairy yogurt products available in the United States.  The authors found that almond yogurts had the highest nutrient density out of all the examined products based on the index scoring system they used.

The nutritional value of yogurts — both plant-based and dairy options — varies greatly. For this study, researchers wanted to look at key macro- and micronutrients of several plant-based and dairy yogurt options to compare nutritional values.

Researchers found that plant-based yogurt options typically had more fiber, less total sugar, and lower amounts of sodium when compared to dairy yogurts. However, dairy yogurt options typically had more protein, calcium, and potassium than plant-based yogurt options.

Read more: Almond yogurt is the dairy alternative with the most nutrients

Energy drink ingredient ‘Taurine’ may extend life by Mrigakshi Dixit for, 9 June 2023.

Taurine, commonly found in energy-boosting drinks and supplements, may be essential to extending life. This finding has only been confirmed in animal models, but experts believe it is worthwhile to investigate in humans. Taurine is a naturally occurring amino acid, and its level tends to decrease with age in various species, including humans. This micronutrient is abundant in the brain, eyes, heart, and muscles. 

The team tracked down taurine by examining various blood molecules of different animals (aged and young). According to the researchers, taurine levels in older animals were much lower — roughly 80 percent lower compared to young ones. Following this investigation, the researchers focused on its involvement in aging by conducting a series of studies on animals, including worms, mice, and primates. 

The findings revealed that middle-aged female mice witnessed a 12 percent increase in lifespan when compared to those that did not get taurine dosages. Male mice lived around 10 percent longer than female mice. All of those who got taurine reported better health and seemed younger. In addition, taurine supplementation decreased DNA damage in old animals. At the molecular level, the presence of taurine likely helps to slow the aging process by preventing the telomeres from shortening (compounds that govern how our cells age). 

If the findings from this study on mouse life expectancy are extrapolated to humans, taurine may increase the life years of elderly individuals by about seven to eight years. However, if taurine is the “elixir of life” for humans, that can only be determined following rigorous clinical research. And the team advises individuals not to rely excessively on taurine supplements and medicines to extend their lives. The results have been published today in Science

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Sucralose Damages DNA, Linked to Leaky Gut by Lisa O’Mary for, 11 June 2023.

A new study reveals health concerns about the sugar substitute sucralose so alarming that researchers said people should stop eating it and the government should regulate it more. Sucralose is sold under the brand name Splenda and is also used as an ingredient in packaged foods and beverages. The findings were published this week in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B

The researchers found that sucralose causes DNA to break apart, putting people at risk for disease. They also linked sucralose to leaky gut syndrome, which means the lining of the intestines are worn down and become permeable. Symptoms are a burning sensation, painful digestion, diarrhea, gas, and bloating.

When a substance damages DNA, it is called genotoxic. Researchers have found that eating sucralose results in the body producing a substance called sucralose-6-acetate, which the new study now shows is genotoxic. The researchers also found sucralose-6-acetate in trace amounts in off-the-shelf products that are so high, they would exceed the safety levels currently allowed in Europe.

“It’s time to revisit the safety and regulatory status of sucralose because the evidence is mounting that it carries significant risks. If nothing else, I encourage people to avoid products containing sucralose,” said researcher Susan Schiffman, PhD, adjunct professor of biomedical engineering at North Carolina State University. “It’s something you should not be eating.” 

Read more: Sucralose Damages DNA, Linked to Leaky Gut

Two decades ago, a landmark study led by the psychologist Robert A. Emmons sought to understand how people benefit from gratitude, a question that scientists had rarely explored until then. Dr. Emmons’s findings — which suggested that gratitude may improve psychological well-being — inspired a spate of additional research. To date, numerous studies have found that having a grateful outlook, “counting one’s blessings” and expressing gratitude to others can have positive effects on our emotional health as well as on interpersonal and romantic relationships.  In addition, some studies, but not all, have shown that gratitude can benefit physical health. “Gratitude heals, energizes and changes lives,” Dr. Emmons said. “It is the prism through which we view life in terms of gifts, givers, goodness and grace.”

The studies on gratitude don’t indicate how often we ought to express gratitude or how best to put it into practice. But many experts believe that a small dose of gratitude, once a day, is ideal. “I think the benefits of gratitude activities truly unfold through long-term habits,” said Joel Wong, a professor of counseling psychology at Indiana University’s School of Education, who is studying whether expressing gratitude in a six-week group program can help people with depression.

Specificity matters “because it deepens our experience of gratitude,” Dr. Wong said. “It intensifies our grateful emotions and thoughts.” Dr. Wong has created a list of 100 questions that may serve as useful prompts when thinking about gratitude in a more specific way, whether you are thanking someone else or listing the things in your life that you feel grateful for. When doing this exercise, Dr. Wong suggests putting pen to paper.

“The act of writing slows down our thinking process and allow us to ponder more deliberately,” Dr. Wong said. He added, “By writing, we retain a permanent record of our blessings; we can return to our gratitude journaling months or years later to recall what we were grateful for.”

Read more: Gratitude Really is Good for You. Here’s What the Science Shows.

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