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Blog #15: So, does the diet really affect acne?

The purpose of the four previous blog post was to introduce the topic about the role diet plays in acne production and acne severity and to provide an analysis on three popular health myths surrounding the diet and acne. From my analysis of the studies from my previous post and my further research into the topic of diet and acne, I believe that a person’s diet is a factor in the severity of their acne, but there is limited research for me to conclude on whether or not a person’s diet causes acne. I have provided my conclusions for my three previous blog post below as well as a few tips on how to improve acne severity.

Blog Post #12: Are High Glycemic Carbs breaking me out?

Based on my research on high glycemic index carbohydrates and acne severity, there is a weak correlation between high glycemic index food consumption and acne severity, and people who have acne should mainly consume low glycemic index foods in order to reduce their risk of having hyperinsulemia (a condition diagnosed from having excess levels of serum insulin levels over an extended period of time and insulin resistance; it may also play a role in the acne pathogenesis pathway) and improve their acne severity. Results from one study supporting this conclusion showed that participants who consumed low glycemic index diets for twelve weeks had statistically significant decreases in acne severity, decreases in weight, decreases in BMI, and improved insulin sensitivity compared to participants with high glycemic load diets.

Blog Post #13: Got milk? Got acne?

Based on the studies from my milk blog post, I believe all dairy products do not result in increases in acne severity or cause acne, but high frequencies of milk consumption enhance acne severity in people who have acne. This is possibly due to milk increasing serum levels of insulin and IGF I levels, which promote increases in sebaceous lipogenesis. This lipogenesis causes sebaceous glands to produce larger amounts of oil and can lead to clogged pores. Milk also contains a variety of steroids and androgen hormone precursors that could also increase human hormone levels, and irregular hormone levels is one step in the acne pathogenesis pathway. While milk consumption may not be a factor for every person’s acne severity, cutting out milk and possibly other dairy products may be a way to decrease acne severity.

Blog Post #14: Can the Consumption of Certain Food Clear Up Your Acne?

My research on omega 3 fatty acids and gamma-linoleic acid has persuaded me to believe omega-3 fatty acids and GLA are supplements that can improve acne severity due to their anti-inflammatory properties. Results from one study supporting this claim showed significant decreases in inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne lesion counts in the omega-3 group and the GLA group compared to the control group. However, instead of consuming pill supplements of omega 3 fatty acids, people should consume foods with high levels of omega 3 fatty acids, such as fish, fish oil, flax seed, and canola oil. While Omega 3 fatty acids improve acne, omega 6 fatty acids may be the reason why the sunflower seed study resulted in increased acne severity among the intervention group because omega 6 fatty acids can be pro-inflammatory when there are higher ratios of omega 6 fatty acids to omega 3 fatty acids.

Because the diet does affect acne severity, there are most likely other food items affecting acne severity besides the ones listed above, and I may continue this series to explore the topic further. As I have stated in previous blogs, make sure to read moderate to high quality scientific, peer reviewed articles before forming an opinion on a health related topic.

 

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Citation:

Whitbread, Daisy. “Top 10 Foods Highest in Omega 3 Fatty Acids.” HealthAliciousNess. HealthAliciousNess, n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

 

 

 

Can the Consumption of Certain Foods Clear Up Your Acne?

During my college acne breakout phase, I tried a variety of “natural” ways to prevent and heal my acne prior to being prescribed Retin A cream. These at home acne remedies included using Apple Cider Vinegar as a toner, oil cleansing, using Vitamin E as a moisturizer, rubbing my face with lemon juice, and leaving toothpaste on my pimples overnight. I was also recommended by health blogs to consume foods with high antioxidant concentrations as well as supplementing with anti-inflammatory oils, such as Omega-3 fatty acids, but after my face looked like a stucco ceiling from oil cleansing with coconut oil, I did not have the heart to continue my DIY acne treatments. Albeit Retin A cream has been amazing for my skin’s clarity and texture, I have always wondered if I should replace this treatment for a non-medicated alternative to preventing my acne. Today, I will discuss two popular “dietary acne treatments”: consuming sunflower seeds and supplementing with Omega-3 fatty acids.

Study 1:

This study entitled “Sunflower Seeds and Acne Vulgaris” was a randomized controlled trial conducted in Ardabil, Iran. The goal of the study was to determine the effect of consuming sunflower seeds on the severity of acne and acne lesions, and researchers believed sunflower seeds would improve acne severity because of its high levels of omega 6 fatty acids (which have anti-inflammatory properties. There were 50 teen and young adult subjects (between the ages of 15-30) in the study who were patients in a dermatology clinic in the city. The subjects were divided into a control group and an intervention group, and the intervention group was required to consume 25 g of sunflower seed containing food for a period of 7 days. During the study, the control group was not allowed to consume sunflower seeds. Acne severity was assessed by dermatologists who used ASI (acne severity index) as well as GAGS (global acne grading score) at baseline and on the follow up day. The results of the study were that the mean ASI in the intervention group increased from baseline, and the ASI means of the intervention group were significantly higher compared to the control group’s mean ASI. However, the GAGS did not show any significant changes in acne severity between the intervention group and the control group. While the study provides significant results on the negative effects of sunflower seed consumption, it has its limitations, including the small sample size, the short intervention period, the conflicting results between the mean ASI and GAGS, and a possible genetic component to acne severity because over half of the patients reported a family history of acne vulgaris.

Study 2:

The second study entitled, “Effect of Dietary Supplementation with Omega-3 Fatty Acid and Gamma-linolenic Acid on Acne Vulgaris”, was randomized, control study conducted on 45 participants who had mild to moderate acne. The rationale for the study was omega-3 fatty acids and gamma-linoleic acids are anti-inflammatory agents and could inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory agents that cause acne. The participants were divided into 3 groups, a control group, an omega-3 supplemented group, and a gamma- linoleic acid (GLA) group, and they consumed either supplements or a placebo over a 10-week period. Histological analyses were conducted on 7 patients from each group, and researchers counted the number of acne lesions each participant had during several periods of the study. The results showed that there were significant decreases inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne lesion counts in the omega-3 group and the GLA group compared to the control group. But, there was not a significant difference in the number of acne lesions between the omega-3 group and the GLA group. The limitations of the study are the small sample size, the lack of blood samples from each participant in order to determine the bioavailbility of omega-3 and GLA, and the lack of information on whether there were differences in the number of acne lesions based on gender and age.

The next blog post will conclude all of the studies from blogs 12-14, so check back on my website soon!

Citations

  1. Mohebbipour, Alireza, Homayoun Sadeghi-Bazargani, and Mona Mansouri. “Sunflower Seed and Acne Vulgaris.” Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal Iran Red Crescent Med J9 (2015): n. pag. Web. 4 Apr. 2016. 
  2. Jung, J., H. Kwon, J. Hong, J. Yoon, M. Park, M. Jang, and D. Suh. “Effect of Dietary Supplementation with Omega-3 Fatty Acid and Gamma-linolenic Acid on Acne Vulgaris: A Randomised, Double-blind, Controlled Trial.” Acta Dermato Venereologica Acta Derm Venerol5 (2014): 521-25. Web. 4 Apr. 2016.
  1. Sanders, Helen. “The Best Foods to Clear Acne.” Health Ambition The Best Foods to Clear Acne Comments. Health Ambition, 14 Aug. 2014. Web. 03 Apr. 2016.

 

Got Milk? Got Acne?

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The amount of pimples on my face reached an all time high between my freshman and sophomore year of college. These pimples weren’t the tiny raised bumps that randomly pop up on your face and then vanish a few days later. Instead, the bumps would form painful, deep seated white heads and blackheads and took at least two weeks to finally emerge from my skin. During this time period, I was consuming a variety of dairy products multiple times a day until I was recommended by my dermatologist to decrease my consumption of dairy products. After a few months of lowering my dairy consumption as well as using Retin A cream once a day, I saw significant improvements in the texture and clarity of my skin. I continue to limit my dairy intake now, and I have recently realized that I automatically believed the dairy and acne claim without conducting my own research. While there is limited current research on dairy intake and acne prevalence, I discovered two research articles worth mentioning.

Study 1:

The first study is entitled “High Glycemic Load Diet, Milk and Ice Cream Consumption Are Related to Acne Vulgaris in Malaysian Young Adults: A Case Control Study”, and its purpose was to determine if there is an association between milk consumption, ice cream consumption, and high glycemic foods consumption on acne vulgaris. The three-month, case controlled study included eighty-eight Malaysian adults between the ages of eighteen and thirty. The participants were equally divided into two groups based on whether or not they had acne. The control group consisted of healthy individuals who did not have acne while the case group had acne vulgaris and were undergoing treatment in a Dermatology Clinic in Kuala Lumpur. Anthropometric measurements (body weight, height, and body fat percentage) were taken from the subjects. Daily dietary GI values were determined from three-day food frequency questionnaires, and dairy intake was noted during face to face interviews with each of the subjects. A family history of acne prevalence was also taken into account during statistical analyses, and the case group had a significantly larger number of family members with acne than the control group. The results of the study are that significant, positive associations were shown between increased milk and ice cream consumption and acne occurrence, and subjects with high glycemic load diets had higher incidences of acne. The risk of acne also increased quadruple fold when the consumption of milk was greater than once a week. While the results support the dairy and acne health claim, there are a few limitations and confounding variables in the study. The first confounding variable is genetic factors may play a significant role in the occurrence of acne in the case group since these subjects had a higher number of family members with acne. Another confounding variable is the study did not take into account other acne inducing factors, such as stress or menstruation, and there was most likely bias in the food frequency questionnaire. A limitation of the study that it may not be relevant in other countries, like America where the diet and overall health of the population is different than Malaysia’s diet and population health.

Study 2:

The purpose of the second study was to determine if the consumption of dairy foods contributed to acne among American teenage girls. The study was a prospective cohort study, and the participants were 6,094 teenage women who had completed at least two detailed food frequency questionnaires. The dairy food groups on the questionnaires included total milk, chocolate milk, instant breakfast drink, ice cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, cream cheese, other (hard) cheese, frappe (milkshake), and butter. The type of milk (i.e. whole milk, 2 percent milk, skim/nonfat milk, etc.) was also included in the study. Statistical tests were used to analyze the data from the food frequency questionnaires, and factors such as age, weight, height, and use of oral contraceptives were controlled for during the analyses. The study’s results are the increased consumption of all milk varieties was associated with higher prevalence of acne. The limitations/ confounding variables in the study are biased answers in the food frequency questionnaire, biased reports of acne occurrence and acne severity since the participants self reported these answers to the researchers, and a lack of gender diversity in the sample population.

One plausible explanation for the results of both studies is milk increases serum levels of insulin and IGF I levels, which promote increases in sebaceous lipogenesis within sebaceous glands. Milk also contains a variety of steroids and androgen hormone precursors that could also increase human hormone levels, and irregular hormone levels is one step in the acne pathogenesis pathway.

Stay tuned for my last blog post in the series in order to know my final decision about the dairy and acne claim.

Citations

  1. Ismail, Noor, Zahara Manaf, and Noor Azizan. “High Glycemic Load Diet, Milk and Ice Cream Consumption Are Related to Acne Vulgaris in Malaysian Young Adults: A Case Control Study.” BMC Dermatology 12.13 (2012): n. pag. Web. 30 Mar. 2016.
  1. Adebamowo, Clement, Donna Spiegelman, Catherine Berkey, F William Danby, Helaine Rockett, Graham Colditz, Walter Willett, and Michelle Holmes. “Dermatology Online Journal.” Dermatology Online Journal 1st ser. 12.4 (2006): n. pag. Milk Consumption and Acne in Adolescent Girls [eScholarship]. Web. 30 Mar. 2016.
  1. Tomlin, Annie. “I Gave Up Dairy And All I Got Was The Best Skin Of My Life.” XOJane. Time Inc. Style Network, 31 Jan. 2014. Web. 30 Mar. 2016.

 

 

Are High Glycemic Carbs Breaking Me Out?

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I have been warring with acne for the past seven years, and I have not won a battle yet. I cannot count the number of times I have woken up to a new inflamed pink spot on my face or the number of times I have painfully popped a whitehead and watched as the cream colored blob splats against a mirror while a droplets of blood begin to pool into the newly unclogged pore (Note: I am aware that popping pimples is not beneficial to dealing with acne, but I do not have the restraint or the patience to let the pimple naturally heal itself). Although I have tried a variety of over the counter treatments and prescribed drugs, like Retin A cream, to defeat my acne, nothing has provided me with the weapon I need to annihilate it forever. I have read a number of blogs and other sites on how to deal with acne, and one dietary change that is often suggested is decreasing the amount of high glycemic index carbohydrates I consume (Scroll to the bottom of the page for an explanation of what high glycemic index carbohydrates are). Because the health claim of high glycemic carbohydrates promoting acne is a popular health claim, I decided to review the current scientific journals on the effects of high glycemic index carbohydrates on acne.

Albeit there is a limited amount or research on high glycemic index carbohydrates and acne, I found two articles that are two conflicting research articles worth mentioning.

Study 1: The first study compared the effects of high glycemic index diets and low glycemic index diets in forty-three Australian teenage boys who had varying degrees of facial acne severity. Twenty-three of the young men were assigned to low glycemic index diets while the other twenty guys were assigned to high glycemic index foods for an eight-week period (the teens could eat their diets ad libitum). The severity of the boys’ acne was rated by a dermatologist at the beginning and end of the study, and two different dermatologists were used for these ratings. The boys also had to complete diet journals for each Saturday and Sunday they participated in the study, and the guys’ weights were measured each week. Blood sample tests, height, and weight of each participant was also taken. The results of the study showed that there were not any statistically significant differences between the acne severity of men on high glycemic index diets compared to men on low glycemic index diets. Although there were not any statistically significant results from the study, there are a few limitations/confounding variables from the study. These include the lack of knowledge on whether each subject remained on their assigned diet plan, the lack of women in the study to determine if the results would be similar based on gender differences, the differences in the ratings of acne severity based on the two different dermatologists used in the study.

Study 2:

The second study included forty three males between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five. Similar to the previous study, the men were divided into two groups and told to consume certain diets (low glycemic load diets and higher glycemic load diets) over a twelve-week period. The participants met with the researchers once a month to assess their acne severity, and participants were encouraged to remain on their diet plans through phone calls, 24-hour urine samples during week 0 and week 12, and daily glycemic load tests. The results of the study showed statistically significant decreases in acne severity of men with low glycemic load diets, decreases in weight, decreases in BMI, and improved insulin sensitivity compared to the higher glycemic load diets. The main problems with the study are the lack of knowledge on how well the subjects remained on their assigned dietary plans, the lack of diversity in the subjects (i.e. there were not female participants), and the small sample size. An explanation of the results of the study is that the regular consumption of high glycemic index diets frequently exposes adolescents to acute hyperinsulinemia, which is associated with increases in the bioavailability of the hormone, androgen, and increases in insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I). Increases in both of these compounds is part of a plausible acne pathogenesis pathway.

In conclusion, further studies need to be conducted in order for me to decide if reducing the consumption of high glycemic index foods could decrease the risk or severity of acne.

Explanation of Carbohydrates, Glycemic Index, and High Glycemic Index Foods:

Carbohydrates are compounds that can be broken down into sugar molecules and provide the main energy source for your body, glucose. The glycemic index is a way to measure the rise of blood glucose levels after eating a carbohydrate food source, and a high glycemic index food spikes blood glucose levels at a fast rate. Food sources of high glycemic index foods include white bread, certain fruits (such as watermelon), and corn flakes.

Note: This is the second blog post in a series of post I am completing on whether diet affects acne. To gain insight into my plans for the next few blog post, please view my first acne blog post.

 

Citations

  1. Smith, Robyn, Neil Mann, Anna Braue, Henna Mäkeläinen, and George Varigos. “A Low-glycemic-load Diet Improves Symptoms in Acne Vulgaris Patients: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition1 (2007): 107-15. Web. 29 Mar. 2016.

 

  1. Kaymak, Yesim, Esra Adisen, Nilsel Ilter, Aysun Bideci, Demet Gurler, and Bulent Celik. “Dietary Glycemic Index and Glucose, Insulin, Insulin-like Growth Factor-I, Insulin-like Growth Factor Binding Protein 3, and Leptin Levels in Patients with Acne.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology5 (2007): 819-23. Web. 28 Mar. 2016.

 

  1. Blake, Joan Salge. “Carbohydrates: Sugars, Starches, and Fibere.” Nutrition & You. 3rd ed. San Francisco: Pearson Benjamin Cummings, 2008. 119-20. Print.

Does Our Diet Influence Acne: An Introduction to the Claims Associated with Acne Vulgaris and the Diet?

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At some point in your lifetime you or someone you know has suffered through the embarrassment from having acne. In fact, approximately 85% of people between the ages of 12 and 24 have experienced acne. Acne vulgaris is a chronic skin disease caused by the inflammation and blockage of pilosebaceous glands (hair follicles with oil producing units) in the face, back, chest, and other areas of the body, and it is often characterized by small, lightly colored protruding bumps (whiteheads) or dark colored spots (blackheads). During these times when your face begins to resemble a bowl of cottage cheese, you have most likely heard about several topical remedies to treat the small, inflamed pimples on your face, such as using honey, apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil, lemon juice, and toothpaste. People also often tell those with acne to change their pillow cases more often and avoid excessive face touching. Most importantly, those with acne are informed to change their diet by drinking more water, removing dairy products, highly processed foods, high glycemic foods, and fried foods from the diet while consuming more fruits, vegetables, and low glycemic foods. I have read several success stories from people who have improved the clarity of their skin by changing their diet. But I often wondered if the diet significantly affects the risk of attaining acne, how certain foods cause acne, and whether there is scientific evidence to support the claims of dietary changes improving acne. So, I decided to dedicate my next five blog posts, including this post, to analyzing some of the available research on the diet and acne in order to eventually draw a conclusion about whether there is any merit in the claims about the associations between the diet and acne. While this post is only an introduction into this topic, my later post will focus on three common dietary interventions that are supposed to improve acne, including avoiding dairy products, decreasing the consumption of high glycemic foods, and increasing the intake of certain fatty acids to improve acne severity. My current position on this topic is the diet may promote some people to have a higher risk of acne, but there will not be significant results for most of the research conducted on the diet and acne. However, there is a possibility that I could be wrong, so stay tuned for my upcoming post. Until then, remember to conduct your own research from primary articles before believing dietary health claims.

Citations:

What’s the proof about ginger root?

I have had an exceptionally terrible cold for the past few days and have been drinking ginger tea at least twice a day soothe my soar throat. I learned about ginger tea from my grandmother during elementary school. Whenever I was sick, I would often stay at her house, and she would nurse me back to health with her kitchen concoctions and old Southern remedies. One of my grandmother’s favorite spices is ginger, and she always keeps a few fresh ginger roots in her medicinal arsenal to soothe her headaches and soar muscles. Today’s post is inspired by my grandmother’s love of ginger.

Ginger is the root of the plant Zingiber officinale, and it has been used for centuries as a food plant as well as a medicinal plant in Ayurvedic and Chinese Medicine. Ginger was traditionally used in these forms of medicine to treat nausea, stroke, toothache, and asthma. The current health claims of ginger are it has anti-inflammatory properties, anti- cancer properties, anti-oxidant properties, anti-nausea properties, decreases muscle pain and soreness via its analgesic properties, lowers blood sugar levels, lowers cholesterol levels, improves brain functioning, and fights infections. Although there are health claims about ginger, are these claims supported by scientific evidence?

Claim 1: Ginger aids in muscle pain and soreness

A study published in Phytotherapy Research tested ginger’s anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Researchers recruited 27 male and female participants to complete a total of 24 eccentric muscle activities on their non-dominant elbows over a three-day time period. After the elbow exercises were completed each day, the subjects were give either a two-gram placebo capsule containing white flower or a two-gram capsule of ginger. The subjects’ muscle pain intensity was measured with a visual analog scale, and the measurements were completed 45 minutes after the eccentric muscle exercises each day. Based on the results of the study, there was not a significant difference in muscle pain intensity from a single dose of ginger 45 minutes after eccentric muscle exercises. However, ginger may have attenuated muscle pain 24 hours after eccentric muscle exercises. There are a few problems with this study. This first problem is blood samples were not taken from the subjects, so the researchers were unaware of the bioavalibility of ginger in each person. The second problem with the study is inflammatory markers were not tested in the study, causing researchers to lack knowledge on the amount of inflammation the eccentric exercises caused. Also, the time frame between testing for muscle pain and taking the ginger supplements may not have been long enough to provide accurate results of ginger anti-inflammatory and muscle relief properties. Further studies need to occur before I am able to conclude on ginger’s analgesic properties.

Claim 2: Ginger lowers blood sugar levels.

A study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition supports claim 2. Researchers conducted a double blind placebo controlled clinical trial with 70 type 2 diabetics over a twelve-week interval. The subjects were divided into two groups: a control group who did not consume ginger and an experimental group who consumed 1600 mg of powdered ginger every day. The subjects were asked to not change their dietary patterns or physical activity, and they completed a 24-hour recall questionnaire, a food diary, and an an international physical activity questionnaire in order to control confounding variables. Blood glucose levels were taken from the subjects before and after the 12-week period. According to the results of this study, there were statistically significant reductions in the fasting plasma glucose and insulin of the experimental group and an increase in insulin sensitivity.

While ginger may not possess all of its health claim properties, it does provide some beneficial effects in humans.

Citations:

  1. Leech, John. “11 Proven Health Benefits of Ginger (No. 5 Is Insane).” Authority Nutrition. N.p., 26 Feb. 2015. Web. 17 Mar. 2016. 
  2. Black, Christopher D., and Patrick J. O’connor. “Acute Effects of Dietary Ginger on Muscle Pain Induced by Eccentric Exercise.” Res. Phytotherapy Research 24.11 (2010): 1620-626. Web. 17 Mar. 2016. 
  3. Arablou, Tahereh, Naheed Aryaeian, Majid Valizadeh, Faranak Sharifi, Aghafatemeh Hosseini, and Mahmoud Djalali. “The Effect of Ginger Consumption on Glycemic Status, Lipid Profile and Some Inflammatory Markers in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.” International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition4 (2014): 515-20. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.

Should people really be in love with the coco?

I am a former coconut oil addict. I used to cook with coconut oil, do hot oil hair treatments with coconut oil, make DIY body scrubs with it, and use coconut oil as an overall body moisturizer. Then, my brother told me about how weird I smelled from using coconut oil, and I became self conscious about stinking. Back in my coconut oil loving days, I heard about the health benefits of consuming a spoonful or two of coconut oil every morning. But I never tried it myself because one tablespoon of coconut oil has approximately 59% of our % Daily Value of saturated fat in it, and I thought it was extremely unhealthy to consume such a large amount of saturated fat. Now, one of my best friends has become obsessed with coconut oil and has started consuming it every morning for breakfast. Because I am concerned for her health, I decided to conduct research on coconut oil to ensure that my friend isn’t harming herself by eating coconut oil. The health claims of consuming coconut oil are it is a natural way to treat Alzheimer’s disease, heals urinary tract infections, decreases inflammation, aids in arthritis, prevents high blood pressure, improves type 2 diabetes, aids in weight loss, has anti-aging properties, anti-bacterial properties, anti-fungal properties, anti-viral properties, and anti- cancer properties. All of these health claims make coconut oil appear as if it is the wholly grail item every person should have in their homes, but does scientific research support the health claims on the consumption of coconut oil?

Claim 1: Coconut oil aids in weight loss.

According to a study conducted on the effects of consuming extra virgin coconut oil in coronary artery patients, coconut oil does help with weight loss. The longitudinal study was conducted on 116 coronary artery patients. During the first three months of the study, the subjects were placed on intensive nutritional treatment, and during the next three months, the subjects were divided into two groups. One group did not have to supplement with coconut oil while the other group consumed 13 mL of coconut oil per day, and each group was placed on the same diet. Several anthropometric measurements and blood samples were taken of the subjects before, during, and at the end of the study. The results of the study showed that the coconut oil group had significantly smaller waist circumferences compared to the non coconut oil group. One concern from the study is all of the subjects may have cheated the diet they were instructed to follow, and another concern is the lack of information on whether the gender of the subjects and the subjects BMI prior to the study were taken into account during statistical analysis.

Claim 2: Coconut oil prevents high blood pressure.

A study conducted in Malaysia showed the beneficial effects of coconut oil on blood pressure. The researchers in the study used 32 male Sprague- Dawley rats with similar weights and divided them into four groups that were fed different diets. One group was fed commercial rat chow, another group was fed rat chow and a dose of virgin coconut oil, the third group was fed rat chow combined with heated palm oil, and the fourth group was fed rat chow combined with heated palm oil and virgin coconut oil. The results of the study showed that the fourth group had significantly lower blood pressure compared to the control group. There are a confounding variables with study; the first is the group fed rat chow  and virgin coconut oil only had significantly lower blood pressure at the eight-week mark. The second is the study’s small subject size (only 32 rats were included in the study). The study was also conducted on rats, and there could be differences in the results if a similar study was conducted on humans.

In conclusion, coconut oil does not seem to pose a health risk to my friend, and it may actually benefit her health. However, further research needs to be completed on the health effects coconut oil consumption in humans.

Citations:

  1. Axe, Josh. “20 Coconut Oil Benefits (#5 Is Life-Saving).” Dr Axe. N.p., 16 Jan. 2015. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.
  2. Cardoso, Diuli, Annie Moreira, Glaucia De Oliveira, Ronir Luiz, and Glorimar Rosa. “A Coconut Extra Virgin Oil-rich Diet Increases HDL Cholesterol and Decreases Waist Circumference and Body Mass in Coronary Artery Disease Patients.” Nutriticion Hospitalaria5 (2015): 2144-152. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.
  3. Nurul-Iman, Badlishah Sham, Yusof Kamisah, Kamsiah Jaarin, and Hj Mohd Saad Qodriyah. “Virgin Coconut Oil Prevents Blood Pressure Elevation and Improves Endothelial Functions in Rats Fed with Repeatedly Heated Palm Oil.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013 (2013): 1-7. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.

Is soy consumption preventive against breast cancer?

Research is currently divided over the effects of soy consumption on breast cancer. Some studies support the consumption of soy products for their preventive effects against breast cancer. For example, a follow up study conducted in Takayama, Japan supported the beneficial effects of consuming soy products. The population-based prospective cohort study sent self-administered questionnaires to 31,552 people living in Takayama, and the questionnaire had questions about alcohol use, smoking, physical activity, medical history, the age of menarche (first menstrual period), whether or not menopause had occurred, diet, BMI, etc. A 169 food item semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire was also administered to subjects in the study, and nine types of soy food items were included within the questionnaire. The prevalence of cancer in Takayama was assessed through two regional population-based cancer registries. The results of the study showed that post menopausal women who consumed high quantities of soy products had significantly lower risks of breast cancer. There were not any significant associations between the consumption of soy products among pre menopausal women. Although the results of this study showed inverse associations between the consumption of soy products and breast cancer risk, there are a few problems with the study. One major concern is that the food frequency questionnaire was self administered, so there was most likely bias between the amount of soy products the subjects actually consumed and what they wrote on the questionnaire. Another concern is the study only provided associations between the consumption of soy products and breast cancer risk, and association does not equate to causation.

The protective effects of soy products and breast cancer for pre and postmenopausal women may only be seen in studies conducted on women in Asian countries according to a meta-analysis of published in Plos One. This meta-analysis of epidemiological studies analyzed 31 studies conducted on the association between soy intake and breast cancer risk in premenopausal women and 31 studies conducted on postmenopausal women. The premenopausal studies included 17 studies completed in Asian countries supporting the inverse association between breast cancer risk and soy consumption, and 14 of the studies conducted in Western countries did not have any statistically significant association between the consumption of soy and breast cancer risk. The results were similar for studies conducted on postmenopausal women. The studies conducted in Asian countries showed that there were statistically significant associations between the consumption of soy products and breast cancer risk while the majority of the studies conducted in Western countries had slightly significant inverse associations between breast cancer risk and soy consumption. One study conducted on breast cancer patients revealed concerns over the consumption of soy. 140 women who had early stages of breast cancer were provided with soy supplementation or a placebo from their cancer diagnosis until their surgery (between 7 and 30 days). Blood samples and tissue samples were taken from the women on the day of their surgery for analysis of gene expression and plasma genistein (a soy isoflavone) levels. The women also completed food frequency questionnaires to determine their consumption of soy products. The results of the study revealed that women who were give soy supplementation had statistically significant increases tumor gene expression from high plasma levels of genistein. Albeit the study suggested that soy products may induce increases in tumor gene expression, it was not conducted on women who did not have breast cancer, so these effects may only be seen in women who already have breast cancer. While studies remain inconclusive on the effects of soy consumption and breast cancer, I do not believe moderate levels of soy intake will increase or decrease the risk of a woman having breast cancer.

Citations:

  1. Getz, Lindsey. “Soyfoods & Cancer.” Today’s Dietitian. Great Valley Publishing Company, Apr. 2013. Web. 15 Mar. 2016.
  2. Wada, Keiko, Kozue Nakamura, Yuya Tamai, Michiko Tsuji, Toshiaki Kawachi, Akihiro Hori, Naoharu Takeyama, Shinobu Tanabashi, Shogen Matsushita, Naoki Tokimitsu, and Chisato Nagata. “Soy Isoflavone Intake and Breast Cancer Risk in Japan: From the Takayama Study.” International Journal of Cancer Int. J. Cancer4 (2013): 952-60. Web. 15 Mar. 2016.
  1. Chen, Meinan, Yanhua Rao, Yi Zheng, Shiqing Wei, Ye Li, Tong Guo, and Ping Yin. “Association between Soy Isoflavone Intake and Breast Cancer Risk for Pre- and Post-Menopausal Women: A Meta-Analysis of Epidemiological Studies.” PLoS ONE2 (2014): n. pag. Web. 15 Mar. 2016. 
  1. Kang, X., Q. Zhang, S. Wang, X. Huang, and S. Jin. “Effect of Soy Isoflavones on Breast Cancer Recurrence and Death for Patients Receiving Adjuvant Endocrine Therapy.” Canadian Medical Association Journal17 (2010): 1857-862. Web. 15 Mar. 2016. 
  2. Shike, M., A. S. Doane, L. Russo, R. Cabal, J. Reis-Filo, W. Gerald, H. Cody, R. Khanin, J. Bromberg, and L. Norton. “The Effects of Soy Supplementation on Gene Expression in Breast Cancer: A Randomized Placebo-Controlled Study.” JNCI Journal of the National Cancer Institute9 (2014): n. pag. Web. 15 Mar. 2016. 

Spirulina Supplementation

As the weather begins to warm up, I’m thrilled to re-introduce smoothies into my breakfast meals. While searching Pinterest for new green smoothie recipes to try, I stumbled upon yummy images of smoothie bowls containing spirulina. Before I determined whether or not I should add spirulina to my smoothie grocery list, I did some research on the scientific evidence supporting or refuting the health claims of spirulina and am sharing my knowledge to everyone.

What is spirulina? Spirulina is a microscopic cyanobacterium containing essential fatty acids, essential amino acids, minerals, vitamins, and chlorophyll that is marketed as a dietary supplement. People can consume the deep green bacteria by taking the tablet or powered form with a beverage or mixing it with other food items, mainly smoothies. The health claims of spirulina are it has anti-oxidant properties, anti-inflammatory properties, anti-cancer properties, can decrease LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and triglyceride levels, can reduce blood pressure levels, protects against anemia, and lowers blood sugar levels. So, is spirulina a dietary supplement worth implementing into the diet?

Claim 1: LDL and triglyceride levels are lowered due to the consumption of spirulina.

            Low-density lipoprotein is a type of lipoprotein (a protein whose purpose it to carry fatty acids and cholesterol in the circulatory and lymphatic system) that transports cholesterol into arterial walls, and triglycerides are a combination of three fatty acids bonded to glycerol backbones. When LDL and fatty acids become oxidized in the walls of arteries, they induce plaque buildup in the arteries and can eventually lead to atherosclerosis. If health claim 1 is supported by a sufficient amount of scientific evidence, then the consumption of spirulina could be a simple way to prevent atherosclerosis. One study testing the effects of consuming spirulina on serum lipid levels provides promising evidence on the effectiveness of spirulina on lowering LDL and triglyceride levels. Researchers in the study fed hamsters high cholesterol diets for four weeks in order to induce hypercholesterolemia in the hamsters. The hamsters were then divided into groups and fed different supplements (along with a high cholesterol diet for another 4 weeks). One hamster group was fed a combination of spirulina and fish oil supplements, another group was feed fish oil supplements alone, and another group was fed spirulina supplements alone. Blood and aorta tissue samples were taken from the hamsters during the experiment and after when the experiment was complete. The group fed spirulina supplements alone had significant decreases in their LDL and triglyceride levels and increases in their HDL levels when compared to the hamsters fed the fish oil supplements. Although this study supports the health claim, it was not conducted on humans, and there may be differences in the results if the study was conducted on humans. But, another study conducted on human diabetic patients also showed that the consumption of spirulina decreased LDL cholesterol levels.

Claim 2: Spirulina lowers blood sugar levels.

According to a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, spirulina supplementation significantly decreased HbA1c levels (HbA1c is a measure of how well blood sugar levels are controlled), and subjects who consumed spirulina had lower blood glucose levels. However, these subjects blood glucose levels were not significantly lower than the control group who did not receive supplementation. The study sample size was also small (there were only 25 subjects), so further studies need to occur in order to determine if spirulina can actually lower and control blood glucose levels.

From the research I have read, I do not believe it will harm me to add spirulina to my smoothies, but further research on the effects of consuming spirulina need to be conduced before I begin adding this dietary supplement to my breakfast meals.

 

Citations:

  1. Leech, Joe. “10 Proven Benefits of Spirulina (No. 1 Is Very Impressive).” Authority Nutrition. N.p., 12 Mar. 2015. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.
  2. Lee Hee, Ji-Eun Park, Young-Ju Choi, Kap-Bum Huh, and Wha-Young Kim. “A Randomized Study to Establish the Effects of Spirulina in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Patients.” Nutrition Research and Practice Nutr Res Pract4 (2008): 295-300. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.
  3. Muga, Miriam, and Jane C-J Chao. “Effects of Fish Oil and Spirulina on Oxidative Stress and Inflammation in Hypercholesterolemic Hamsters.” BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine BMC Complement Altern Med1 (2014): 470-80. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.
  4. Parikh, Panam, Uliyar Mani, and Uma Iyer. “Role of Spirulina in the Control of Glycemia and Lipidemia in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.” Journal of Medicinal Food4 (2001): 193-99. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.
  5. Kita, N. Kume, M. Minami, K. Hayashida, T. Murayama, H. Sano, H. Moriwaki, H. Kataoka, E. Nishi, H. Horiuchi, H. Arai, M. Yokode. Role of oxidized LDL in atherosclerosis. Ann. NY Acad. Sci., 947 (2001), pp. 199–205. Web. 14 Mar 2016.

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