The Most Compelling Headlines in Holistic and Integrative Medicine This Month with a Bonus on Our Buggy Friends (Gut Microbiome News)

200468780-001October 2015 Top Holistic Health Reads

Last month’s health headlines were even more intriguing than usual. I always get a little glimmer in my eye at the end of the month to share with you what I have been researching and reading for the past 30 days or so. In October, controversial subjects resurfaced for another round of debate and some of our favorite topics, such as the microbiome, continued to gain popularity. The stories provided updates on the dietary war between the low fat fanatics and low carb crusaders, the release of updated and still disappointing statistics on U.S. healthcare, misleading supplement scares, and the continued bait-and-switch fish effect.

Below is a summary of the subjects of this month’s Top Holistic Health Reads. Once again, for your skimming pleasure, you can either read just the headlines, the excerpt, or click on the provided source link to dive in deeper.

Before you start geeking out like crazy on various topics, I have my very own honorable mention of one of my favorite things in the world, our belly bugs, here. You’re not going to want to miss it if you love our buggy friends like me. Hint, it has to do with the formation of the “Unified Microbiome Initiative.” (How cool is that!)

If you’re just starting out in the microbiome world or if you’re a microbe-nerd, I think you’ll enjoy one of my favorite videos here by researcher Rob Knight.



  • A New Measurement for Gluten Sensitivity?
  • A Digital Form of the Tree of Life
  • Short Bursts for Big Gains for Teens
  • The Genetics of Hip Measurements
  • Sitting May Not Be That Bad?!
  • Sleeping and Rewards = What Better Way to Learn?
  • Nuclear Worker’s Cancer Risk
  • Celiac Disease and Link to Dementia
  • Different Diabetes for Different Folks
  • Supplement States
  • Breathing in Chemicals Through the Skin
  • Job Stress and Stroke Risk



  • More Diet Wars
  • Nutritional Therapy for Mental Health- Is It Read For Mainstream?
  • More Proof That Carrots Are Good for Eyes
  • Electrolytes and Stroke Risk
  • A Cup of Tea for Bone Health
  • Mom Was Right, Eat Your Veggies
  • NAC for the Heart
  • The Great Salmon Hoax
  • How Cutting Sugar for 10 Days Can Cause Healthy Changes in Kids
  • GMOs Banned in 36 Countries



  • Back off Beta-Blockers Pre-Surgery?
  • Understanding of the Placebo Effect in Depression
  • Essure Not Sure Thing
  • New Risks for Hepatitis C Drugs, FDA Warns
  • Do Drugs Work for Increasing Life Span?
  • PPIs and Link to Kidney Disease
  • Oxytocin Nasal Spray for Autistic Children
  • Epi-Pen Recall
  • Statins and Flu Vaccine





A New Measurement for Gluten Sensitivity?

In the current study, which has not yet been published, Dr. Barbara and colleagues measured serum zonulin in 15 healthy volunteers, as well as 15 patients with confirmed celiac disease, 15 with diarrhea-predominant IBS, and 27 with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS).

The latter group represents patients who do not show the classic tissue changes or immunologic signs characteristic of celiac disease, but whose symptoms appear to be connected with gluten exposure, and who show improvement when following a strict gluten-free diet. Dr. Barbara’s team calculated that the mean circulating zonulin level in the control group was 0.007 ng/mg. Among those with frank celiac disease it was 0.033 ng/mg, and among those with NCGS it was 0.030 ng/mg. The authors note that in the latter group, zonulin levels dropped significantly when the patients practiced strict gluten avoidance.

 “We were intrigued to find that blood levels of zonulin were almost as high in patients with NCGS as in those with celiac disease,” Dr. Barbara said at the UEG Week meeting. The findings provide objective support for the reality of a condition that some clinicians and researchers dismiss as a questionable or contrived diagnosis. The dismissal has been based, in part, on the fact that there were no reliable biomarkers definitively associated with the condition. (Holistic UpShots, October 30, 2015)


A Digital Form of the Tree of Life

  • Researchers from 11 institutions collaborated to draft the first digital “tree of life”
  • The tree includes 2.3 million species of animals, plants, fungi, and microbes, and attempts to show how these organisms evolved from single cells into creatures as complex as human beings
  • The tree is available in digital format with open access and in editable form, which means anyone can view it, edit it, or add to it

Mercola J. Scientists Create the First Digital Tree of Life. October 3, 2015.

Synthesis of phylogeny and taxonomy into a comprehensive tree of life. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Sep 18; pii: 201423041.


Short Bursts, Big Gains for Teens, Small Study

The researchers had seven boys and six girls, ages 13 and 14, do six high-intensity workouts over two weeks. The teens did this by cycling at high speed for one minute, followed by a 75-second break. They started by repeating this pattern eight times during each exercise session. By the end of the second week, the teens had worked up to 10 one-minute bursts of activity a session, the study authors said.

The training program improved the teens’ blood vessel function and their brain’s ability to control their heart rate, both considered to be important markers of heart health, the investigators explained. “We may have more success in encouraging teenagers to dedicate a shorter time to improving their health by performing high-intensity exercise. (Health Day, October 5, 2015)


Hip Measurement and Genetics

Oct. 10, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Studies have shown that women with larger hips tend to have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, and now scientists are getting a clearer picture of the genetics behind it all. Recent research has shown that a variant in a gene called KLF14 is associated with the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It also seems to be a master regulator of how and where a woman’s body stores fat: Women with one particular “allele,” or version, of the gene variant tend to have slimmer hips, while women with another are more “pear-shaped.”

Now a team of international researchers has discovered more about how the gene variant works: It appears to regulate hundreds of other genes active in fat cells, and it changes the structure and function of those cells. The findings offer clues as to why narrow hips have the unfortunate side effect of an increased diabetes risk, the researchers reported.


Sitting May Not Be That Bad?!

(Think again)

Limitations to this study below include that the subjects examined was already exhibiting higher physical activity, and it was a very select population. This means that this research may stay the outlier that it is, in the fact that many other studies show a connection between sitting and health implications. There were also some statistical issues, the authors stated,

Due to low numbers in the original eight response categories for sitting time, these were collapsed into four categories of as near equal numbers as the data would allow. Exact quartiles were not possible due to the non-normal distribution of the data.

Key Messages (of the Study)

  • Five different indicators of sitting time were not associated with mortality risk over 16 years of follow-up.
  • This may be due in part to a protective effect of higher than average daily activity in this cohort.
  • Previously reported relationships between sitting time and health outcomes may be due in part to low total daily energy expenditure.
  • Policy makers should be cautious about recommending reductions in sitting time as a stand-alone public health intervention.
  • Future studies should examine the links between sitting and mortality risk using objective methods that quantify postural allocation. (Int. J. Epidemiol. (2015) doi: 10.1093/ije/dyv191)



Sleeping-Rewards for Enhanced Learning

Sleep plays a crucial role in the consolidation of newly acquired memories. Yet, how our brain selects the noteworthy information that will be consolidated during sleep remains largely unknown. Here we show that post-learning sleep favors the selectivity of long-term consolidation: when tested three months after initial encoding, the most important (i.e., rewarded, strongly encoded) memories are better retained, and also remembered with higher subjective confidence. Our brain imaging data reveals that the functional interplay between dopaminergic reward regions, the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus contributes to the integration of rewarded associative memories. We further show that sleep spindles strengthen memory representations based on reward values, suggesting a privileged replay of information yielding positive outcomes. These findings demonstrate that post-learning sleep determines the neural fate of motivationally-relevant memories and promotes a value-based stratification of long-term memory stores. (eLife 2015;10.7554/eLife.07903)


Nuclear Worker’s Cancer Risks

Long-term exposure to low levels of radiation increases nuclear workers’ cancer risk, a new study suggests. The findings provide scientific support for radiation protection standards, according to the international team of researchers.

“This study provides evidence of a linear increase in the excess relative rate of cancer mortality with increasing exposure to ionizing radiation at the low dose rates typically encountered in the nuclear industries in France, the U.K., and the U.S.A.,” the researchers wrote. (Health Day, October 21, 2015)


Celiac Disease and Link to Dementia

“Celiac disease did not increase the risk of Alzheimer’s in this population-based study,” said study lead author Dr. Benjamin Lebwohl, assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.

“We did not find evidence of increased dementia risk prior to the diagnosis of celiac disease, either,” he said in a hospital news release. Researchers did find a slight increase, however, in celiac patients’ risk of developing vascular dementia. The second-leading cause of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia results from an interruption of blood supply to the brain. (Health Day, October 23, 2015)


Different Diabetes for Different Folks

Big problems require big solutions, and for complex diseases such as cancer or diabetes, the big solution is big data. One long-term goal of U.S. President Barack Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative is to assemble medical and genetic data from at least one million volunteers. But how might researchers use all those data? Li et al. provide one answer by using patient electronic medical records (EMRs) and genotype data from Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York to characterize new subtypes of type 2 diabetes (T2D).

The group first clustered EMR data to identify T2D patients within the larger group. Topological analysis of the T2D group identified three new T2D subtypes on the basis of distinct patterns of clinical characteristics and disease comorbidities. Genetic association analysis identified more than 300 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) specific to each subtype. The authors found that classical T2D features such as obesity, high blood sugar, kidney disease, and eye disease, were limited to subtype 1, whereas other comorbidities such as cancer and neurological diseases were specific to subtypes 2 and 3, respectively. These distinctions might call for tailored treatment regimens rather than a one-size-fits-all approach for T2D. Although a larger sample size is needed to determine causal relationships, this study demonstrates the potential of precision medicine. (Science Translational Medicine, October 28, 2015)


Supplement Stats

The majority of U.S. adults—68 percent—take dietary supplements and consumer confidence remains high, with 84 percent of U.S. adults expressing overall confidence in the safety, quality and effectiveness of dietary supplements, according to the results of the newest survey commissioned by the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN). The 2015 CRN Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements, conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs, found that when it comes to safety and effectiveness of specific dietary supplement categories, Americans have the most confidence in the “Vitamins & Minerals” category (85%). (October 30, 2015, Modern HCP)


“Breathing In Chemicals Through the Skin”

Certain phthalate esters used widely in vinyl plastics and other consumer products have been associated with impaired neurodevelopment,1 altered genital development,2 and respiratory problems3 in people. Studies of dermal absorption of phthalates have largely focused on direct contact of the skin with the chemicals, but some models predict that transdermal uptake directly from ambient air may be a potentially important route of exposure.4 In this issue of EHP, researchers confirm experimentally in humans that dermal uptake from indoor air may be a meaningful exposure pathway for some phthalates.5 (Environ Health Perspect; DOI:10.1289/ehp.123-A267)


Job Stress Linked to Stroke Risk

MINNEAPOLIS – Having a high stress job may be linked to a higher risk of stroke, according to an analysis of several studies. The meta-analysis is published in the Oct. 14, 2015, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology…The analysis looked at all of the available research on job strain and stroke risk. The six studies analyzed involved a total of 138,782 participants who were followed for three to 17 years. (Eurekalert, October 14, 2015)




Family mealMore Diet Wars

The effectiveness of low-fat diet on weight-loss has been debated for decades, and hundreds of randomized clinical trials aimed at evaluating this issue have been conducted with mixed results. New research finds that low-fat interventions were no more successful than higher-fat interventions in achieving and maintaining weight loss for periods longer than one year. (Science Daily, October 29, 2015)



More Proof That Carrots Help Eyes

Design, Setting, and Participants  Prospective cohort study, with cohorts from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study in the United States. A total of 63?443 women and 38?603 men were followed up, from 1984 until May 31, 2010, in the Nurses’ Health Study and from 1986 until January 31, 2010, in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. All participants were aged 50 years or older and were free of diagnosed AMD, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, and cancer at baseline.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Predicted plasma carotenoid scores were computed directly from food intake, assessed by repeated food frequency questionnaires at baseline and follow-up, using validated regression models to account for bioavailability and reporting validity of different foods, and associations between predicted plasma carotenoid scores and AMD were determined.

Results  We confirmed 1361 incident intermediate and 1118 advanced AMD cases (primarily neovascular AMD) with a visual acuity of 20/30 or worse by medical record review. Comparing extreme quintiles of predicted plasma lutein/zeaxanthin score, we found a risk reduction for advanced AMD of about 40% in both women and men (pooled relative risk comparing extreme quintiles?=?0.59; 95% CI, 0.48-0.73; P for trend?<?.001). Predicted plasma carotenoid scores for other carotenoids, including ?-cryptoxanthin, ?-carotene, and ?-carotene, were associated with a 25% to 35% lower risk of advanced AMD when comparing extreme quintiles. The relative risk comparing extreme quintiles for the predicted plasma total carotenoid index was 0.65 (95% CI, 0.53-0.80; P for trend?<?.001). We did not identify any associations of carotenoids, either as predicted plasma score or calculated intake, with intermediate AMD.

Conclusions and Relevance  Higher intake of bioavailable lutein/zeaxanthin is associated with a long-term reduced risk of advanced AMD. Given that some other carotenoids are also associated with a lower risk, a public health strategy aimed at increasing dietary consumption of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables rich in carotenoids may reduce the incidence of advanced AMD. (Journal of Ophthalmology, October 8, 2015)


Magnesium, Calcium, and Potassium May Decrease Stroke Risk..Magnesium Seems to Be Star Again

METHODS: We prospectively examined the associations between intakes of magnesium, potassium, and calcium from diet and supplements, and the risk of incident stroke among 42?669 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, aged 40 to 75 years and free of diagnosed cardiovascular disease and cancer at baseline in 1986. We calculated the hazard ratio of total, ischemic, and haemorrhagic strokes by quintiles of each cation intake, and of a combined dietary score of all three cations, using multivariate Cox proportional hazard models.

CONCLUSIONS: A diet rich in magnesium, potassium, and calcium may contribute to reduced risk of stroke among men. Because of significant collinearity, the independent contribution of each cation is difficult to define. (Int J Stroke. 2015 Oct;10(7):1093-100. doi: 10.1111/ijs.12516. Epub 2015 Jun 4.)


A Cup of Tea for Bone Health

DESIGN: A total of 1188 women were assessed for habitual dietary intake with a food-frequency and beverage questionnaire. Incidence of osteoporotic fracture requiring hospitalization was determined through the Western Australian Hospital Morbidity Data system. Multivariable adjusted Cox regression was used to examine the HRs for incident fracture.

RESULTS: Over 10 y of follow-up, osteoporotic fractures were identified in 288 (24.2%) women; 212 (17.8%) were identified as a major osteoporotic fracture, and of these, 129 (10.9%) were a hip fracture. In comparison with the lowest tea intake category (?1 cup/wk), consumption of ?3 cups/d was associated with a 30% decrease in the risk of any osteoporotic fracture (HR: 0.70; 95% CI: 0.50, 0.96). Compared with women in the lowest tertile of total flavonoid intake (from tea and diet), women in the highest tertile had a lower risk of any osteoporotic fracture (HR: 0.65; 95% CI: 0.47, 0.88), major osteoporotic fracture (HR: 0.66; 95% CI: 0.45, 0.95), and hip fracture (HR: 0.58; 95% CI: 0.36, 0.95). For specific classes of flavonoids, statistically significant reductions in fracture risk were observed for higher intake of flavonols for any osteoporotic fracture and major osteoporotic fracture, as well as flavones for hip fracture (P < 0.05).

CONCLUSION: Higher intake of black tea and particular classes of flavonoids were associated with lower risk of fracture-related hospitalizations in elderly women at high risk of fracture. (Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Oct;102(4):958-65. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.109892. Epub 2015 Aug 12.)


NAC for the Heart

CONCLUSIONS: Four weeks of oral NAC treatment significantly decreased plasma tHcy concentrations, irrespective of lipid or smoking status, and lowered systolic blood pressure in both normolipidemic and hyperlipidemic men, with significant diastolic blood pressure reductions in the HYL group only. Increased oral intake of cysteine may therefore be considered for primary or secondary prevention of vascular events with regard to the 2 independent risk factors of hyperhomocysteinemia and arterial hypertension. (Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Oct 7. pii: ajcn101964.)


Mom Was Right, Eat Your Veggies

Oct. 26, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Young adults who eat more than five servings of fruits and vegetables a day have healthier hearts when they’re older, a new study finds.

Researchers divided more than 2,500 young adults into three groups based on how many fruits and vegetables they ate.

Twenty years later, CT scans showed that those who ate the most fruits and vegetables as young adults were 26 percent less likely to have calcified plaque in their arteries than those who ate the least. This plaque is associated with hardening of the arteries, which increases the risk of heart disease.


The Great Salmon Hoax

43% of salmon was mislabeled in a recent study by Oceana investigating several cities. Find out more in the summary or report here, it also includes steps to increase your chance of getting good salmon on page 14:


How Cutting Sugar for 10 Days Can Cause Healthy Changes in Kids

Here’s a write up in the Washington Post of the study below:

Objective Dietary fructose is implicated in metabolic syndrome, but intervention studies are confounded by positive caloric balance, changes in adiposity, or artifactually high amounts. This study determined whether isocaloric substitution of starch for sugar would improve metabolic parameters in Latino (n?=?27) and African-American (n?=?16) children with obesity and metabolic syndrome.

Methods Participants consumed a diet for 9 days to deliver comparable percentages of protein, fat, and carbohydrate as their self-reported diet; however, dietary sugar was reduced from 28% to 10% and substituted with starch. Participants recorded daily weights, with calories adjusted for weight maintenance. Participants underwent dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry and oral glucose tolerance testing on Days 0 and 10. Biochemical analyses were controlled for weight change by repeated measures ANCOVA.

Results Reductions in diastolic blood pressure (?5 mmHg; P?=?0.002), lactate (?0.3 mmol/L; P?<?0.001), triglyceride, and LDL-cholesterol (?46% and ?0.3 mmol/L; P?<?0.001) were noted. Glucose tolerance and hyperinsulinemia improved (P?<?0.001). Weight reduced by 0.9?±?0.2 kg (P?<?0.001) and fat-free mass by 0.6 kg (P?=?0.04). Post hoc sensitivity analysis demonstrates that results in the subcohort that did not lose weight (n?=?10) were directionally consistent.

Conclusions Isocaloric fructose restriction improved surrogate metabolic parameters in children with obesity and metabolic syndrome irrespective of weight change. (Isocaloric fructose restriction and metabolic improvement in children with obesity and metabolic syndrome. Obesity. doi: 10.1002/oby.21371)


GMOs Now Banned in 36 Countries

Do these countries know something ours doesn’t? GM crops now banned in 36 countries. Get the links here. (Sustainable Pulse, October 22, 2015)



 LabsBack Off Beta-Blockers Pre-Surgery?

“This study suggests that if you have [high blood pressure], but are otherwise relatively healthy, it might make sense to back off of your beta blocker before surgery,” said Freeman, who is also a member of the Patient-Centered Care Committee for the American College of Cardiology (ACC). (Health Day, October 5, 2015.)


Essure Not Sure Thing

Oct. 13, 2015 (HealthDay News) — New research raises concerns about Essure, an implanted long-term birth control device that’s already the focus of controversy. Researchers found a 10-fold higher risk of needing a reoperation during the first year for women who choose the Essure device compared to those who had minimally invasive surgery for sterilization.

Essure works to prevent conception by blocking the fallopian tubes with metallic coils. This isn’t the first time the device, first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2002, has come under scrutiny.


New Risks with Hepatitis C Meds, FDA Warns

Oct. 23, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Reports of deaths and illnesses occurring soon after use are prompting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to issue warnings on two drugs used to fight the hepatitis C virus.

The drugs, called Viekira Pak and Technivie, appeared linked to serious liver damage in patients with advanced liver disease, the agency warned in a statement issued Thursday.

Of 26 cases reported worldwide where use of the medications has been the possible or probable cause of illness, 10 patients either died or required organ transplant after liver failure, and 16 patients had some form of liver dysfunction. In most cases, liver damage occurred within one to four weeks of patients starting treatment, the FDA said.


A Link Between PPIs and Kidney Disease

Oct. 27, 2015 (HealthDay News) — A common type of heartburn medication called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) seem to be linked with increased risk of chronic kidney disease, two new studies suggest. Prilosec, Nexium and Prevacid belong to this class of drugs, which treat heartburn and acid reflux by lowering the amount of acid produced by the stomach.

While the current studies have shown an association between these drugs and the development of chronic kidney disease, they did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.


Oxytocin Nasal Spray for Children with Autism

In conclusion, among children with autism aged between 3 and 8 years, a 5-week course of oxytocin nasal spray improved caregiver-rated social responsiveness compared with placebo. Oxytocin treatment was found to be well tolerated and there were no significant differences in the report of adverse events between conditions. These findings require confirmation in larger studies with potential for development of a first medical treatment for social impairments in child autism. (Nature, October 2015)


Epi-Pen Recall

Oct. 29, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Hundreds of thousands of epinephrine injectors are being recalled by the drug company Sanofi because they may not deliver the correct amount of the life-saving drug to people suffering severe allergic reactions. All packs of the Auvi-Q injectors are being recalled in the United States, the French drug maker said in a news release. Most packs contain two injectors. It’s believed that about 200,000 people in the United States have the injectors.


Statins and Flu Vaccine Interaction

The study found that compared to those who watched less than one hour per day, individuals who reported watching 3-4 hours of television watching per day were 15% more likely to die from any cause; those who watched 7 or more hours were 47% more likely to die over the study period. Risk began to increase at 3-4 hours per day for most causes they examined. The investigators took a number of other factors into consideration that might explain the associations observed, such as caloric and alcohol intake, smoking, and the health status of the population, but when they controlled for these factors in statistical models, the associations remained. (EurekAlert, October 29, 2015)


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