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  1. Do We Really Need to Drink Milk?

    Cow’s milk is creamy, filling, and delicious ice-cold, and decades of advertising have sold it to Americans as a food that “does a body good.” Dairy products are rich in calcium and protein, and they have long been promoted as important for helping kids grow and helping kids and adults build and maintain strong bones. But does dairy deserve its health halo?

    The current U.S. dietary guidelines recommend that just about everyone eat three servings of dairy a day.

    Now, in a new review, Walter Willett, MD, DrPH, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and his co-author, David Ludwig, MD, PhD, a professor of paediatrics and nutrition at Harvard, say the science behind those dietary recommendations is thin. And they say eating too much dairy may cause harm to both our bodies and the planet.

    “If we’re going to recommend something, it obviously should be based on strong evidence,” says Willett. He reviewed the risks and benefits of drinking milk for The New England Journal of Medicine

    “The basis of calcium recommendations is, I think, fundamentally flawed in the United States,” he says.

    He’s not the only one who feels that way.

    Elizabeth Jacobs, PhD, is a professor of epidemiology, biostatistics, and nutritional sciences at the University of Arizona Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health in Tucson. She and her colleagues recently reviewed the science behind the dairy recommendations and concluded that the U.S. should follow Canada’s lead and ditch dairy as a separate food group. Instead, they recommended placing dairy foods in the protein category, making them one choice among many that would help people meet their protein requirements. Their paper is published in Nutrition Reviews.

    The two papers come at time when the U.S. dietary guidelines are under review. A new version of the guidelines will be issued by a panel of experts later this year, and for the first time will include advice for pregnant women and for children under age 2.

    “We’re not saying milk is dangerous or harmful,” Jacobs says. “No matter how you slice it, Americans are moving away from milk. So let’s adapt to this change and give people more opportunity to meet their nutritional needs.”

    Willett also points out that dairy farming is hard on the environment. While that might not have been a big consideration 20 years ago, climate change makes it critical to consider now. “If it’s going to have a major adverse environmental impact, we better take a serious look at our recommendations as well and see what we’re going to do to mitigate that,” he says.

    Slim Evidence Behind Dairy’s Health Claims

    While we’re drinking less dairy as a beverage, we’re still consuming more of it overall. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average American ate and drank about 9% more dairy in 2018 than we consumed per person in 1975. Data shows that we’re eating more cheese and yoghurt but drinking a lot less milk. Milk consumption has fallen about 40% since 1975. But because it takes more milk to make products like cheese and yoghurt, dairy consumption is up overall.

    The current dietary guidelines for dairy are based on the idea that we need milk to help meet daily calcium requirements.

     Yet Willett says those recommendations come from studies that were relatively small -- including just 155 men and women. And those studies were short -- following people for 2 to 3 weeks. Researchers measured how much calcium they ate and drank, and compared it to how much they were excreting in stool and urine. The idea was to find out how much calcium the body needs to keep it in balance.

    In adults, who are done growing, calcium balance should be net zero. That is, people should excrete about the same amount as they eat or drink. In Americans, who tend to eat a lot of calcium compared to people in other countries, the studies concluded 741 milligrams of calcium a day was enough for balance. In other countries, like Peru, where diets typically aren’t as rich in calcium and dairy products, the amount needed for balance was much less -- around 200 milligrams. Willett says this is consistent with the idea that the body can change how much calcium it absorbs from food. When people eat less calcium, the body may simply absorb more to meet its needs.

    He also points to large population-based studies that offer snapshots of how people eat and what happens to their health. These kinds of studies have consistently shown that in countries where people eat the most dairy, they also have higher rates of fractures.

    “That raises sort of a red flag that there’s something wrong here,” Willett says.

    Those studies can’t prove that eating more dairy causes hip fractures, but Willett believes it makes sense because eating dairy products in childhood is known to accelerate growth and lengthen bones. The risk appears to be highest for men who drank a lot of milk in childhood.

    “That’s probably because of basic mechanics. If you have long bones, they’re easier to break than short bones,” he says.

    Not everyone agrees with the study’s conclusions. In a written statement, the National Dairy Council, which represents dairy farmers, said the study didn’t include the “total body of evidence” on dairy foods.

    “Dairy remains an important part of a balanced diet and provides lasting and meaningful nourishment for people, the planet and communities,” Gregory Miller, PhD, chief global science officer at the National Dairy Council, said in a written statement.

    In additional to bone health, milk has been touted as being helpful for weight loss. The review found no evidence to support that.

    Research shows that dairy products can help control blood pressure, but only when they’re part of an overall healthy diet. That makes it tough to tease out whether milk or dairy products were responsible for the benefit.

    Its effects on other health outcomes are mixed. Willett says observational studies have found strong links between eating dairy and some kinds of cancer, such as prostate cancers. Again, these studies can’t show that milk causes cancer. There were no links found between milk and getting diabetes. And there was no link between lifespan and eating dairy.

    Taken together, the science shows that “milk is not essential for health,” says Marion Nestle, PhD, a retired professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University who was not involved in the study.

    “This tells me that milk is a food like any other, meaning that its effects depend on everything else people are eating or doing. People who like milk can continue drinking it. Those who don’t like it don’t have to,” she says. “It’s just a food.”

    Willett agrees. He says if you’re a dairy underachiever, you shouldn’t worry about it. If you’re not getting any dairy in your diet at all, it’s not a bad idea to take a calcium supplement, but don’t take gobs -- 500-600 milligrams a day should be enough.

    What About Kids?

    “It’s complicated for adults, but it’s even more complicated for kids, and we have even less data,” Willett says.

    The calcium needs of kids are trickier to figure out. They’re growing, so they’ll naturally need more. But the role dairy should play in meeting their calcium needs isn’t clear.

    There is good evidence that kids who drink cow’s milk grow taller than those who don’t.

    It’s not known exactly how milk accelerates growth. But the study authors say cows are often pregnant when they’re milked, which increases hormones like oestrogen and progesterone. Cows have also been bred to produce more of another hormone, called insulin-like growth factor, which increases milk production, but those hormones may also promote growth in people.

    There’s also some worry that hormones in milk may lead to the cancer later in life, but the evidence for that is mostly circumstantial.

    Kids need calcium for building strong bones, Willett says, but studies don’t show that adding a lot more dairy makes a difference.

    One study, for example, randomly assigned 240 kids, ages 8 to 15, who weren't getting enough calcium in their diets, to a meal plan with three added daily servings of dairy, or to continue on their normal diets. After 18 months, the study found no difference in bone density between the kids who had more dairy and the ones who didn’t.

    Willett also notes that while the U.S. recommends that kids ages 4 to 8 get 1,000 milligrams of calcium in their diets, the U.K. recommends about half that much, just 450 to 550 milligrams a day.

    That doesn’t have to come from milk, he says. Other foods like kale, broccoli, tofu, nuts, and beans all count toward the goal. One important point, he says, is if dairy is off the table at your house, make sure your kids are getting vitamin D, though a dietary supplement.

    Jean Welsh, PhD, who researches nutrition as an associate professor of paediatrics at Emory University, praised the reviewers for raising important questions about dairy. But she urged caution when it comes to taking dairy off the table for kids.

    “What always makes me nervous when we talk about these key features of our diets is if we promote a change, what’s going to replace it?” says Welsh, who was not involved in the review.

    “The study authors say that if you have a good-quality diet, you don’t need milk. Well, yeah,” Welsh says. “It’s not like we’re eating well.”

    On average, many kids probably don’t get enough broccoli, kale, or other sources of calcium in their diets to meet all their needs, she says. 

    Milk is better than sugar-sweetened beverages, she says, especially for kids.

    Welsh recently tested several brands of conventional and organic milk for pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones. While pesticides and antibiotics were sometimes found in the conventionally farmed milk samples, none were found in the organic milk samples. Hormone levels were also higher in the conventionally farmed samples, compared to the organic samples.

    She says that if organic milk is too pricey, parents shouldn’t worry. Milk is still good for kids. Especially if they’re picky eaters.

    “While there are advantages to drinking organic milk in that it’s free of chemicals often used in milk production, we do not have evidence that this makes a difference in children’s health,” Welsh says. “What we do know is that milk, organic or not, is a readily available source of nutrients important in the diets of children.”

    Environmental Impacts of Dairy

    Even if you’ve loved dairy for a long time, there are reasons to reconsider, not least of which is climate change. Willett notes that considering different sources of protein, the costs of dairy to the environment are probably five to 10 times greater than plant-based protein sources. Dairy farms consume more water. They can contribute to water pollution. Large-scale dairies may depend on antibiotics to keep their animals healthy, which contributes to antibiotic resistance in people. He says limiting dairy production would make a “major contribution” to reaching greenhouse gas targets.

    Some dairy alternatives have their own environmental issues. Almonds, for example, are a water-intensive crop.

    Miller, of the National Dairy Council, says dairy farmers are working to green their operations.

    “U.S. dairy only accounts for approximately 2% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Farmers continue to make even more environmental progress. For example, producing a gallon of milk in 2017 involved 30% less water, 21% less land, 19% smaller carbon footprint and 20% less manure than in 2007,” he says.


  2. Doctors working on a clinical trial for treatment of heart disease held back key data, Newsnight has been told.

    The Excel trial tested whether stents were as effective as open-heart surgery at treating patients with a heart problem called left main disease.

    The data suggested more people fitted with stents were dying after three years.

    It was eventually published - but only after treatment guidelines that partly relied on the trial had been written.

    These guidelines recommend both stents and heart surgery for certain patients with left main disease.

    Trial authors defend standards

    The authors of the trial said it was carried out rigorously and to accepted academic standards.

    In the trial, sponsored by US stent manufacturer Abbott, half the patients were given stents, the other half had open heart surgery.

    Not all the patients were recruited at the same time. Some were recruited in 2011, others over the years that followed.

    So, when the first results were published in 2016, the doctors doing the trial knew there was data about what had happened to some of the patients five years after their stent or heart surgery procedure.

    But they chose to look only at what happened up to three years after the patients' procedures and publish that data.

    A spokesman for Abbott said: "The study's execution, data collection, analysis and interpretation were entirely performed by independent research organisations. The publication of three-year Excel data reflects the original follow-up period and endpoints the study was powered to assess."

    'Absolutely appalled'

    Prof Nick Freemantle, a biostatistician at University College London, said: "If somebody had died three years and one day into the trial, that death wouldn't have been counted in the results.

    "I'm absolutely appalled that they've done this," he said.

    "I've taken a straw poll of my professional colleagues and it draws disbelief that people would do this," he said

    The researchers said the outcomes of the study were analysed and reported according to the protocol.

    Newsnight has seen information shared between people involved with the safety of the trial that suggested things were starting to look worse for people with stents after three years. More people were dying than those who had had surgery.

    Emails from the the trial's safety committee warned that all the data about deaths should be viewed by the researchers and published.

    "It might be very concerning if in the future, suspicions were raised that already available information on mortality was withheld from the cardiology and thoracic surgery community," Dr Lars Wallentin, the head of the safety committee, wrote to the researchers in 2017.

    He was worried that major European clinical guidelines were being drawn up by heart doctors about how people with left main disease should be treated and the trial results would be used as part of their work.

    But the doctors on the trial chose not to publish the data when the safety committee asked, despite the warning. They published further data after the guidelines were completed.

    Even without this additional data, there was disagreement among those writing the guidelines about whether stents or surgery was the better treatment for patients.

    Review 'not shared'

    An external reviewer was brought in by the European Society of Cardiology to look at a number of trials and resolve the debate.

    Newsnight has seen the review. It said that the evidence suggested stents were worse than surgery for those with left main disease.

    "I think most patients would find these differences to be clinically meaningful, I do not believe that both these procedures should receive the same class of recommendation," it said.

    But the review was not shared with everyone who believed they should have seen it. One of those people was Prof Freemantle, who was involved in the European guidelines.

    He claims that this calls into question the neutrality of the whole process.

    Newsnight has previously reported that the same trial failed to publish certain heart attack data that cast stents in a bad light.

    The researchers said our leak data was fake and their methodology was the right one.

    Following Newsnight's previous report, a number of major surgical organisations have called for a review of the trial.

    The researchers carrying out the trial have agreed to an "independent" review of the raw data.

    Various names have been put forward by the researchers and the European Society of Cardiology about who is doing the analysis. All have ties to the researchers, guidelines process or medical device industry.

    When approached by the BBC they have all said they are not doing it.

    No ties

    Prof John Ioannadis, from Stanford University, an expert on medical research design, said the analysis must be completely independent.

    "I think that if you have the same network, the same closed club passing the data from one member to another, that's not really very helpful," he said.

    He believes the trial and guidelines process raise concerns which are indicative of a wider systemic problem with the way medical research is done.

    All the main doctors working on the trial, and the lead doctor writing the guidelines for left main disease, have declared financial contributions to either themselves or their institutions from companies that manufacture stents.

    "You have the same people who run the show at all levels. They design the trials. They set the agenda, they choose what to present.

    "They are involved in disseminating the information and running the large conferences that are attended by tens of thousands of people, specialists in the field. And then they also populate the guideline panels that reach the recommendations," he said.

    The organisations involved and researchers have declared the conflicts of interest, and say that they are effective in managing them. The conflict-of-interest declarations are intended to mitigate against conscious or unconscious bias - or the appearance of it.





  3. Vegan Cheddar Cheese

    •    1/2 cup water
    •    2 tablespoons agar powder, or 2 teaspoons kappa carrageenan
    •    1/2 cup water
    •    1/2 cup cashews
    •    1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped seeds removed
    •    1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
    •    2 tablespoons lemon juice
    •    2 tablespoons coconut milk
    •    2 tablespoons coconut oil
    •    1 tablespoon tapioca starch
    •    1 tablespoon non-GMO corn-starch
    •    1 teaspoon granulated onion powder
    •    1 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
    •    1 teaspoon salt
    •    Pinch Cayenne pepper, optional

    1.    If using a high-speed blender, add water, cashews, bell pepper, nutritional yeast flakes, lemon juice, coconut milk, coconut oil, tapioca starch, corn-starch, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and cayenne pepper. Process until smooth and creamy.
    2.    Mix cold water with agar powder in a saucepan, bring to boil on medium stirring constantly. Remove from heat and immediately add to cheese sauce.
    3.    Process until smooth.
    4.    Pour mixture into an oiled container and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
    5.    Alternatively, especially when using a regular blender, process all the ingredients including agar powder in a blender until smooth. Pour sauce into a non-stick sauce on medium heat whisking constantly until thick and bubbly. Immediately pour into an oiled container and refrigerate for an hour.




    You don’t have to give up cheese if you give up dairy. Inhale, exhale — everything is going to be alright. Vegan cheese is no longer what it once was. Today’s dairy-free cheeses taste like the real thing, from individually-wrapped slices that make the most beautiful vegan grilled cheese to artisan nut cheeses for pairing with wine (or non-alcoholic sparkling fruit juice) and crackers.

    Is Cheese Healthy?

    The question of the day: is cheese healthy? Many of us were raised to believe that cheese is part of a healthy diet. The old food pyramid recommended one to two servings of dairy (milk, cheese, or yogurt) as a source for calcium and vitamin D. Entire marketing campaigns were built on the idea that dairy helps build strong bones. It was even once recommended for babies.

    Today, cheese is no longer the dietary staple it once was — relegated to a tiny “Dairy” circle in the new MyPlate nutrition guide. “Calcium-fortified soymilk (soy beverage) is also part of the Dairy Group,” the new guidelines state.

    The American Heart Association names cheese on its list of foods high in saturated fat. “Eating foods that contain saturated fats raises the level of cholesterol in your blood. High levels of LDL cholesterol in your blood increase your risk of heart disease and stroke,” states the website.

    Cheese is also high in sodium. According to the University of California San Francisco Health“Sodium controls fluid balance in our bodies and maintains blood volume and blood pressure. Eating too much sodium may raise blood pressure and cause fluid retention, which could lead to swelling of the legs and feet or other health issues.”

    A 2017 study funded by the National Cancer Institute found that eating dairy may increase one’s breast cancer risk. It analysed the diets of 1,941 women diagnosed with breast cancer and found that those who ate the most American, cheddar, and cream cheese had a 53 percent increased risk. Those who drank the most milk had a 58 percent increase in their risk for breast cancer. Doctors from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) recently petitioned the FDA to add breast cancer warnings on cheese labels, similar to the one on cigarette packs.

    How Do Nut Cheeses Taste?

    Vegan cheese has evolved beyond the options found in health food stores of the 1990s, which often tasted plastic-y when melted. Today, we could theoretically divide vegan cheese into two categories. There those that work best as an ingredient in pizza, sandwiches, and tacos, like shreds and slices. Nuts and seeds are used to make some artisan vegan cheeses. Flavours vary. Some vegan cheeses made to taste like the real thing, including varieties like camembert, brie, gouda, and pepper jack.

    Aged nut cheeses may be made with vegan prebiotics, which helps it ferment and makes it taste tangy. Miso paste also bestows an authentic flavour.

     Best Nuts For Cheese

    Vegan cheese can be made from cashews, almonds, and macadamia. It can also be nut-free, made from pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or hemp. But, what’s the best type for making cheese? According to Stiner, owner and operator at Portland, Oregon-based Vtopian Artisan Cheeses, it’s cashews.

    “They have a mild buttery taste and when blended they get so magically creamy and smooth,” he tells LIVEKINDLY in an email. He adds, “I make sure to use fair trade brands that get their cashews from farms that treat and pay their workers well.”

    Vegan cheese may be kind to animals, but depending on the cashew’s origin, it may not be kind to humans. Traditionally, harvesting and processing cashews is done by hand. The majority of the world’s cashews are harvested in India while Vietnam is increasingly taking a bigger market share, Quartz reports.

    Many cashew processors must meet a quota passed on weight. They are paid by this, rather than by hours worked, encouraging people to work fast for extended hours. Processing cashews can be harmful, exposing workers’ hands to the caustic chemicals within the nut. Gloves are available, but due to steep quotes, many forgo them due to how they slow down the shelling process. Many workers’ rights violations have been reported, Quartz notes. But mechanization of facilities –which is slowly happening in some areas, such as Nigeria — can help improve working conditions and make traceability for cashews easier. Choosing fair trade cashews is a way to ensure that you’re buying from an ethical supply chain.

    But, what’s the best type of vegan cheese for making what you would typically serve on a cheese or charcuterie board?

    Kat Magsaysay, founder of Cruelty-Free Charcuterie in Portland, Oregon, tells LIVEKINDLY that there are three rules to follow: a soft cheese, a hard cheese, and one that can be either cut into cubed or sliced. Magsaysay, who describes herself as “seriously pro charcuterie, especially when it’s sans cruelty,” builds elaborate vegan charcuterie for clients in the Portland area.

    She suggests Sweet Simple Vegan’s baked almond cheese ball is one “that I truly love having on my boards.” Magsaysay also loves to build boards with Treeline Chive cheese (“one of my go-to cheeses”), Miyoko’s Sundried Tomato Garlic, Daiya for the cheese slices, and Reine Vegan Cuisine Gouda (“Tastes almost as close as the real stuff!”).

    Vegan Cheese Benefits

    Nut-based cheese is lower in saturated fat and sodium. Since it’s dairy-free, it’s a more sustainable way to enjoy cheese.

    A 2010 report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) found that cheese processing is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than any other product from the dairy sector. Research from the University of Wisconsin found that it takes 10 pounds of milk to produce one pound of cheese. That single pound of milk produces 1.2 kg of carbon dioxide CO2. Cheese’s carbon footprint increases as it ages. Cattle are responsible for 65 percent of the livestock sector’s emissions, according to the FAO.

     About Dairy Cows

    It’s also much kinder to animals. Cows, like humans, feed their babies with milk. The cycle of giving birth and producing milk often results in mastitis, the inflammation of the mammary glands. They live like this, a cycle of being forcibly impregnated to induce milk production, until they are “spent” and sent to slaughter. Dairy products have another victim — the calf. If a baby is female, she will become a dairy cow like her mother. The veal industry usually buys the male calves.




  5. There's a Virus Spreading in U.S. That's Killed 10,000: The Flu


    Folks fretting about the coronavirus are forgetting there's another virus already running rampant in the United States, one that's killed nearly 20 times as many people in this country alone.

    Influenza has already taken the lives of 10,000 Americans this season, according to the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. At least 19 million have caught the flu, and an estimated 180,000 became so ill they landed in the hospital.

    By comparison, there are 12 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, and just over 31,000 confirmed cases in mainland China, where the virus first emerged. More than 3,800 cases in China are critical, and 636 people there have died from complications of coronavirus infection.

    "Influenza is easier to pick up and there are far, far more cases," said Dr. Alan Taege, an infectious disease physician at the Cleveland Clinic. "It's already much larger than coronavirus has been so far in the whole world, in our own country alone."

    It's easy to forget the clear and present danger posed by influenza because it's always there, sickening millions and killing thousands every year during flu season, said Dr. Bernard Camins, medical director for infection prevention at the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City.

    "Currently, we have high levels of influenza in the country, which started out really early this year, around Thanksgiving," Camins said. "Pretty much the entire country has high levels of influenza-like illness right now."

    The CDC predicts that at least 12,000 Americans will die from the flu in any given year. As many as 61,000 people died in the 2017-2018 flu season, and 45 million were infected.

    And it's even worse when a new type of flu virus emerges, mutated into a form against which humans have limited immunity, Camins added.

    The H1N1 strain of influenza first appeared in 2009, and that year there were between 151,700 and 575,400 deaths caused by the new strain, Camins said.

    That's why there's a new flu vaccine every year. Influenza is constantly mutating in a Darwinian attempt to become more infectious, and public health officials have to scramble to stay one step ahead.

    On the other hand, there are a multitude of different coronaviruses but less than a handful have proven deadly, Taege noted.

    "Coronavirus comes in many, many different forms, and most of them are similar to just a cold virus," Taege said. "This will be the third known episode of a coronavirus that had a significant impact on health beyond just a cold," the first two being SARS and MERS.

    Coronavirus also appears to be much less infectious than flu, based on what is known at this point. Of the 12 cases in America, only two people caught the virus from another person inside the United States, and in both of those cases the person was infected by a spouse with whom they had constant contact.

    By comparison, flu viruses travel through the air in droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks or even breathes. You can catch the flu by inhaling it in the air or by touching a surface upon which the virus has landed and then touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

    It's too early to say how deadly coronavirus will prove, given the inconsistent data coming out of China, Taege said.

    "Influenza is a killer. Coronavirus can be, too," Taege said. "We don't have enough data yet to make across-the-board comparisons."

    In the meantime, Americans can protect themselves from the health threat already at their doorstep by getting the flu vaccine if they haven't already, Camins and Taege said.

    "The vaccine is still available, and it's not too late to get it," Camins said. "As we learned from last year, in some regions in the country the flu season didn't end until the first week in May."

    Here's how you can also protect yourself from the flu:

    • Wash your hands regularly.
    • Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose or mouth.
    • Avoid crowds and stay away from sick people.

    More information

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about this year's flu season.

    Copyright © 2020 healthday.com/





  6. Vegetarian Diet Healthy When You Have Type 2?


    Plant-based diets are becoming more and more popular. Some people go vegetarian or vegan for ethical reasons—for the welfare of animals and the planet. Others are focused on the health benefits of eliminating animal products, like avoiding excess hormones and antibiotics. Whatever the reason, there are many benefits to eating more plant-based foods, such as boosting fibre intake and getting in a good dose of antioxidants. But what does this mean for those living with diabetes? Are the health benefits the same? How does going vegetarian play a role in managing blood sugars?

    If you’re thinking about going vegetarian, vegan, or simply looking to reduce your meat intake, here are some things to consider about adopting a plant-based diet while living with diabetes.

    What Will Your Diet Consist Of?

    There are several different versions of plant-based diets. Some people choose to completely eliminate all animal-based products from their lifestyle, including things like meat, eggs, cheese, and honey (a vegan diet). Other versions only focus on eliminating animal flesh but still allow for some animal products—things like cheese, eggs, and milk (vegetarianism).

    There is no right answer as to exactly “how vegetarian” you should be – it’s really a matter of personal preference. But whatever you plan to exclude from your diet, it’s very important to think about what you plan to replace it with.

    When completely eliminating meat, it’s important to eat a variety of plant-based sources of protein to make up for what you’re removing from your diet. Things like nuts, seeds, beans, tofu and tempeh make great replacements for meat in everyday meals. Yogurt, cheese and eggs also contain high amounts of protein if you plan to keep those in your diet.

    Try to fill up on foods rich in fibre and antioxidants, like colourful fruits and non-starchy vegetables. This will be key in staying full and meeting your nutrient requirements throughout the day.

    Finally, if you are planning to go vegan, consider including a multivitamin with B12 into your daily routine, since most sources of the nutrient are found in animal-based foods.

    How Will You Manage Your Blood Sugars?

    When going vegetarian, it’s quite common for people to end up consuming more carbohydrates than they used to. For someone living with diabetes, this can end up spiking blood sugars and making it more difficult to keep blood glucose stabilised.

    Avoid this common mistake by making sure you’re not replacing animal foods with sources of carbohydrates. At each meal, aim to get a full serving of protein, fat and fibre. These three nutrients help to slow the absorption of carbohydrates into the bloodstream, making them essential for maintaining balanced blood sugars.

    Need some meal planning tips? Check out the USDA’s vegetarian MyPlate for ideas on how to create well balanced meals without meat. Essentially this guideline recommends that, for each meal, you fill up half of your plate with non-starchy fruits and veggies, a quarter with a high-fibre carbohydrate, and the remaining quarter with a plant-based protein.

    Will Going Vegetarian Cure Your Diabetes?

    Going vegetarian won’t necessarily get rid of your diabetes but there are some great benefits to following a more plant-based diet. For example, eating a diet that’s comprised of mostly plant-based foods has been associated with reduced body weight, lower cholesterol, and improved insulin sensitivity—all of which are important factors in staying healthy while living with diabetes.

    Still on the fence? The good news is you don’t have to completely eliminate meat to reap the benefits of adding in more plant-based foods to your weekly routine. If you do decide to go vegetarian or vegan, meet with a Registered Dietitian to ensure you’re getting in all the proper nutrients you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle. (As always, be sure to talk your doctor before you make any changes to your diet.)








    A meat-free diet could cut the risk of premature death by as much as one-third, according to Harvard scientists.

    According to the study from Harvard Medical School, at least 200,000 lives could be saved each year by going vegetarian. The figures, presented at the Unite to Cure Fourth International Vatican Conference in Vatican City in April 2018, looked purely at how diet affects health, The Telegraph reported.

    We have just been doing some calculations looking at the question of how much could we reduce mortality shifting towards a healthy, more plant-based diet, not necessarily totally vegan, and our estimates are about one-third of deaths could be prevented,” said Dr. Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard Medical School.

    Dr. Willet believes that the benefits of a meat-free diet have been underestimated. He continued: “When we start to look at it we see that healthy diet is related to a lower risk of almost everything that we look at. Perhaps not too surprising because everything in the body is connected by the same underlying processes.”

    We’re Underestimating The Effect’

    Dr. Willet is not alone in speaking to the health benefits of a meat-free diet.

    At the conference, Professor David Jenkins of the University of Toronto — who is credited with creating the glycaemic index — also promoted a plant-forward diet. Dr. Jenkins advised that humans would be healthier following a “simian” diet, similar to lowland gorillas, who eat vegetation and fruit. When he and his team recreated the animals’ diet in humans, they saw a 35 percent drop in cholesterol levels in two weeks, the equivalent of taking statins.

    Dr. Jenkins described the drop as “quite dramatic.” He added, “We’re saying you’ve got a choice, you can change your diet to therapeutically meaningful change or you can take a statin. Drug or diet.”

    Dr. Neal Barnard, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), also weighed in of the health benefits of a plant-based diet. PCRM, a non-profit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., says it “combines the clout and expertise of more than 12,000 physicians with the dedicated actions of more than 175,00 members.

    Speaking to delegates at the conference, he said that people are “underestimating” how a vegan diet can prevent not only an early death, but also other diseases.

    “I think people imagine that a healthy diet has only a modest effect and a vegetarian diet might help you lose a little bit of weight. But when these diets are properly constructed I think they are enormously powerful,” he said. Dr. Barnard also highlighted the “tremendous potential” of plant-based diets to alleviate inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.

    How Not To Die (Early)

    Dr. Michael Greger also agrees that a plant-based diet can help prevent early death. The American physician is the author of “How Not to Die,” which delves into the way diet can influence disease.

    Greger promotes the increased consumption of plant-based foods — especially greens, berries, legumes, flaxseeds, and turmeric — to ward off life-threatening diseases.

    More research is linking vegan food to improved health, and meat, dairy, and eggs to an increased risk of disease. However, Americans are still eating animal products. A study from the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that American adults have not decreased their processed meat consumption over the past 18 years.

    In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) classed processed meat as a Group 1 carcinogen. The category is used when there is “convincing” evidence that something causes cancer, WHO explains on its website. Tobacco smoking and asbestos are also in this category.

    According to the WHO, eating 50 grams of processed meat a day — roughly four strips of bacon or one hot dog — increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent. Meat consumption has also been linked to diabetes, liver disease, and heart disease. However, plant-based foods can have the opposite effect, even reversing disease in some cases.

    In an interview with Fox Business Network, Greger said, “We have tremendous power over our health destiny and longevity. The vast majority of premature death and disability is preventable with a plant-based diet and other healthy lifestyle behaviours.”

    study from the Cleveland Clinic found that eating red meat increases the risk of heart disease 1,000 percent more than a vegan diet. Separate research found that adhering to a plant-based diet could lower the risk of cardiovascular problems and early death as effectively as pharmacotherapies.

    Meat-Free Diet Benefits

    Greger acknowledged that people suffering from health problems do have the “extra motivation” to revamp their diet. However, he pointed out that the “sustaining motivation” comes from “how good you feel when you start eating healthier.

    “All of a sudden you’re feeling better, you’re sleeping better, your digestion is better. And then you have that internal motivation to continue to eat healthier because you feel so much better. But you don’t know how good you feel until you give it a try,” he explained.

    The analysis of the unchanging meat-eating habits of Americans highlights “the abject failure of the public health community to warn consumers about the dangers of processed meat,” Greger said. “Bacon, ham, hot dogs, lunch meat, sausage — these are known human carcinogens. We know they cause cancer in people. You know, we try not to smoke around our kids. But why are we sending them to school with a baloney sandwich?”

    “Some of our leading killers can be reversed. For example, heart disease, the number one killer of men and women — arteries can be opened, heart disease reversed without drugs, without surgery, just a healthy enough diet centred around whole plant foods,” the doctor continued. “There’s only one diet that’s ever been proven to reverse heart disease in the majority of patients: a plant-based diet.”

    He added, “You’d think that’d be the default diet. But instead, unfortunately, just not enough people know about the power they have at the end of their fork.”

    France has said that it will ban the controversial, commonplace practice of culling male chicks by live-shredding them. It will be one of the first countries in the world to implement such a restriction on its egg industry.

    French Minister of Agriculture Didier Guillaume announced the ban in Paris. He told reporters: “From the end of 2021, nothing will be like it was before.”

    Every year, the egg industry culls approximately seven billion male chicks. The industry considers male chicks worthless, as they don’t produce eggs or commercially popular meat. Live-shredding and death by C02 gas are typical. Electrocution and suffocation are also common.

    Switzerland has already banned the practice of live-shredding male chicks, while in Germany shredding will continue until an “alternative“—one that is suitable for intensive farming practices—is found. Guillaume said he hopes farmers will soon be able to determine the @@@ of chicken embryos before they are hatched.

    In addition to the culling ban, Guillaume says piglets will no longer be castrated without anaesthetic. But castration, in general, will continue. French animal protection group L214 has said that the measures are “not ambitious” and still “do not address the basic problems.”

    “There is nothing on slaughter conditions, nor on how to exit from intensive animal farming,” adds L214.

    An IFOP opinion poll, commissioned by the animal welfare group Fondation 30 Million D’Amis, suggests that French consumers are critical of animal cruelty. Fifty-five percent want animal issues such as factory farming, hunting, and fur to be discussed in the Grand Débat.

    Eighty-three percent of respondents said they were in favour of ending intensive farming.

    The Egg Industry

    According to British animal rights group Viva!, female mutilations, and cramped conditions are “all part of the egg industry.” The organisation also suggests that much of free-range agriculture is now so intensive it is comparable to factory farming.

    Sparing male chicks a gruesome death will not impact the lives of female chicks. On modern factory farms, chickens are fed high protein feed and live in cramped, constantly lit areas to maximize egg production. Many produce more than 300 eggs a year, compared to the 20 eggs a hen would naturally lay in the wild.

    According to Farm Sanctuary, 280 million hens laid 77.3 billion eggs in 2007.




  8. How Effective is Body Cooling in Patients that Experience Cardiac Arrest?

    A new nationwide clinical trial hopes to discover if patients that experience cardiac arrest survive more often and have a better recovery based on how long they have their body temperature cooled.

    While body temperature cooling is not a new treatment tactic for patients who experience cardiac arrest, a new clinical trial hopes to better understand the optimal amount of time for targeted temperature management.

    “Cardiac arrest is a common and devastating cardiac and neurological emergency affecting almost 400,000 victims in the United States every year,” says Robert Silbergleit, M.D., a professor of emergency medicine at Michigan Medicine. “Many of whom are successfully resuscitated, but then die in the hospital or are left with severe disability from injury to the brain during the cardiac arrest.”

    Induced therapeutic hypothermia, or medically-induced cooling of the body’s temperature, is commonly used to treat comatose patients who survive a cardiac arrest. Generally, these patients have their body temperature lowered via special cooling pads or cooling catheters placed in large veins.

    “Immediate temperature control and cooling of comatose survivors of cardiac arrest is commonly used to try to reduce the injury to the brain,” says William Meurer, M.D., M.S., an associate professor of emergency medicine and neurology at Michigan Medicine. “But it remains uncertain whether cooling actually works, how long a survivor of cardiac arrest should be cooled and which patients are most likely to benefit from the cooling.”

    "We hope this study allows us to not only discover which cardiac arrest patient population benefits the most from body cooling, but the optimal duration of body cooling to give patients the best chance of full neurological recovery."

    Meurer and Silbergleit are principal investigators of a new clinical trial that will explore whether whole-body cooling improves the survival and recovery of comatose patients after a cardiac arrest, and if increasing durations of cooling are associated with better outcomes and recovery in these patients.

    Meurer and Silbergleit are joined by Romergryko Geocadin, M.D., from Johns Hopkins Medicine, as well as Sharon Yeatts, Ph.D., and Ramesh Ramakrishnan, Ph.D., from Medical University of South Carolina, as leaders of the study, which is funded by nearly $30 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health.

    The research team notes that the study is unique, as it will explore body cooling in patients resuscitated from shockable cardiac arrest and non-shockable cardiac arrest.

    “Most previous research has only studied patients whose hearts were restarted with a defibrillator, a device that gives an electrical shock to restart a heart that has stopped beating,” says Meurer, a member of the Michigan Centre for Integrative Research in Critical Care.

    “These patients are easier to study and already do better than those with other types of cardiac arrest, called asystole or pulseless electrical activity, that don’t respond to defibrillation and who typically have longer periods of cardiac arrest.”

    Silbergleit adds, “Body cooling has appeared in the past to increase the rate of good neurological outcomes in patients resuscitated from shockable rhythms, but even in the most optimistic prior research, no more than 50% of these patients get better.”

    Silbergleit says that’s not good enough.

    “We want to do better than that,” he says. “In addition, whether body cooling works in the half of patients that get resuscitated from asystole and pulseless electrical activity has never been studied before in a randomized study.”

    Increasing neurological recovery

    The study will include comatose patients who have experienced a cardiac arrest and have had their body successfully cooled to 34 degrees Celsius or lower in the emergency department or intensive care unit. The cooling must be part of their usual care and take place within 240 minutes of experiencing the cardiac arrest. In addition, patients will only be enrolled with written informed consent from a legally authorized representative.

    Early on in the trial, patients who experience either type of cardiac arrest will be equally randomized between 12, 24 and 48 hours of cooling. Later, as the trial progresses and more patients are enrolled, they may be randomized to shorter or longer cooling treatment time frames depending on what durations of treatment seem to work best. Durations of cooling up to 72 hours may be explored.

    Ninety days after their cardiac arrest and having their heart restarted, patients in the trial will be assessed on a scale that measures their degree of neurological disability.

    “We hope this study allows us to not only discover which cardiac arrest patient population benefits the most from body cooling, but the optimal duration of body cooling to give patients the best chance of full neurological recovery,” Meurer says.

    The study begins in early 2020 and is anticipated to take place for four years. It will be conducted through the National Institutes of Health-funded network, The Strategies to Innovate Emergency Care Clinical Trials Network (SIREN).

    SIREN seeks to improve the outcomes of patients with neurologic, cardiac, respiratory, hematologic and trauma emergencies by identifying effective treatments administered in the earliest stages of critical care. Michigan Medicine serves as the network’s clinical coordinating centre, with a data coordinating centre at the Medical University of South Carolina and 11 award hubs with primary investigators at each.

    “The SIREN network allows us to perform this clinical trial at sites across the country,” says Silbergleit, one of the principal investigators of the SIREN network. “We anticipate around 50 hospitals enrolling an average of nine patients each year.”

    Future care

    The study team hopes this clinical trial will help with future body cooling treatment guidelines.

    “We’ve noted that body cooling is a commonly-used treatment in comatose cardiac arrest survivors, but there is limited data in the treatment guidelines, specifically about its ability to reduce brain injury,” Meurer says.

    Silbergleit agrees, “We hope the results of this trial will impact clinical practice and give emergency medicine and intensive care unit physicians additional information on body cooling and its effects on patients.”             

    The study, “ICECAP: Influence of Cooling duration on Efficacy in Cardiac Arrest Patients”, is funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute under award number UG3HL145269. To view the study’s U.S. Food and Drug Administration protocol, please visit the study’s website.






  9. Is it safe to go vegan in older age?

    The diet takes vegetarianism to the extreme and poses a risk for nutrient deficiency. But it does offer health benefits.

    If tofu turkey and meatless meatloaf are on your holiday menu this year, you may have made the switch to a vegetarian diet, eliminating at least some animal protein. But how much animal protein can you safely cut out of your diet?

    Vegetarian diet benefits

    Among the many types of vegetarian diets, three are particularly common: a pescatarian diet allows seafood; a lacto-ovo diet allows dairy products and eggs; finally, a vegan diet allows no seafood, dairy, or other animal products.

    All of these approaches typically include lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils. These plant-based foods contain several healthy components:

    • a wide variety of antioxidants, which have anti-inflammatory properties that are linked to better health
    • lots of fibre, which helps prevent constipation, lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol, and controls blood sugar and weight
    • low saturated fat compared with a non-vegetarian diet.

    Compared with meat-containing diets, the health benefits of all vegetarian diets are well documented: lower rates of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and cancer. The picture isn't completely straightforward: a study published Sept. 4, 2019, by The BMJ found that along with lower rates of heart attacks, vegetarians had higher rates of haemorrhagic (bleeding) stroke, compared with meat eaters. The increase equalled about three more cases of haemorrhagic stroke per 1,000 people over 10 years. Most other studies have not identified such a risk.

    Vegan diet benefits and challenges

    If plant-based foods are generally healthier than animal-based foods, should you consider a vegan diet, banishing all animal products? It seems like something to consider, with the increasing amount of vegan foods now sold in grocery stores and restaurants.

    Whether a vegan diet has even greater benefits than a less restrictive vegetarian diet is unclear. "Because the vegan diet is restrictive, it can be a challenge to maintain over the long term," says Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.

    A study published in April 2019 in The Journal of Nutrition found that a vegan diet slightly outperformed a pescatarian diet and a lacto-ovo diet when it came to the amount of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids in the blood, and that a vegan diet significantly outperformed diets with meat. However, this is just one study. "Most studies don't separate vegan and vegetarian diets, so we don't have a lot of evidence comparing one vegetarian diet to the other," says McManus.

    A vegan diet also comes with health risks, especially for older adults, although you can take action to counteract those risks. In particular, McManus notes, when you cut out animal products, you may come up short on certain nutrients:

    Calcium. Calcium is important to many functions, especially bone, dental, heart, nerve, and blood health.

    Protein. We need protein to build strong muscles, bones, and skin — particularly as we age and lose muscle and bone mass and have a harder time healing from wounds.

    Vitamin B12. This vitamin comes only from animal-based foods. B12 is crucial to our DNA, red blood cell formation, new cell growth, glucose metabolism, and maintaining our nervous system and thinking skills.

    In addition, you may have trouble getting enough calories on a highly restricted diet. If you don't give your body enough fuel, you may become tired or malnourished.

    Avoiding deficiencies

    "You have to be selective when choosing a plant-based diet to ensure that you get enough calories and nutrients," McManus says. Here's how to avoid the potential pitfalls of a vegan diet — or, for that matter, any other type of vegetarian diet:

    Avoid calcium deficiency. Eat plant-based foods that are rich in calcium: almonds, dark leafy greens (kale, spinach), figs, tofu, and oranges. A medium-sized orange has about 50 milligrams (mg) of calcium; a cup of cooked collard greens has 268 mg of calcium. Aim for 1,000 to 1,200 mg of calcium per day.

    Get enough protein. Eat protein-rich plant foods: soy products (tofu, tempeh, and edamame), legumes (beans, lentils), nuts (walnuts, almonds), chia seeds, and spirulina (blue or green algae). For example, a cup of canned navy beans has 20 grams of protein. Chia seeds have about 4.5 grams of protein per ounce, and sunflower seeds have about 6 grams per ounce. You need about 7 grams of protein daily for every 20 pounds of body weight.

    Avoid vitamin B12 deficiency. Try B12-enriched vegan foods such as fortified plant milks (like almond or soy milk) or fortified cereals. McManus says you may need to take a B12 supplement while on a vegan diet. We also advise that your doctor check your blood level of vitamin B12 regularly.

    How should you start?

    Get the okay from your doctor before starting a vegan diet, and then seek advice from a registered dietitian, who can tailor an eating plan to your nutritional needs.

    Combine plant food sources for the maximum amount of vitamins and nutrients. Soups, salads, and smoothies with lots of different kinds of foods will help you maximize calories and nutrients.

    And by all means, take it slowly. "Get rid of red meat, and then poultry, and then dairy products and fish," McManus says, "But don't feel that you have to eliminate all of them at once."




  10. Healthy habits 'deliver extra disease-free decade'


    Women can gain 10 and men seven years of life free of cancer, heart problems and type-2 diabetes from a healthy lifestyle, a study in the BMJ suggests.

    They must exercise regularly, drink in moderation only, have a healthy weight and good diet and not smoke.

    The US research is based on 111,000 people tracked for more than 20 years.

    Lead author Dr Frank Hu, of Harvard School of Public Health, in Boston, said the study had "a positive message for the public".

    "They gain not just more years of life but good years through improved lifestyle choices."

    What is a healthy lifestyle?

    At the age of 50, study participants were asked if they met at least four of these five criteria:

    • never smoking
    • a healthy, balanced diet
    • 30 minutes of moderate or vigorous activity every day
    • a body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9
    • no more alcohol than a small glass of wine a day for women and a pint of beer for men

     Women who said they met four out of five lived an average of another 34 years free of cancer, cardiovascular disease (such as heart attack and stroke) and type-2 diabetes - more than 10 years longer than those who did not.

    For healthy men, it meant another 31 years of disease-free life - more than seven years extra than unhealthy men could expect.

    Why the difference between women and men?

    It may be linkMen who smoked more than 15 cigarettes a day and obese men and women (with a BMI of more than 30) had the lowest disease-free life expectancy, the study found.

    But some things were true for both sexes - not only did a healthy lifestyle reduce the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes, it also improved survival if men and women were diagnosed with any of the diseases.

    "The benefits add up for men and women," Dr Hu said.

    Why focus on these diseases?

    Cancer, cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes are three of the most common diseases in old age. They are also closely linked to people's lifestyles.

    Being obese or overweight, for example, is thought to be linked to 13 different types of cancers, including breast, bowel, kidney, liver and oesophagus.

    ed to the fact women live longer than men on average.

    Cancer Research UK has calculated that four in 10 cancers can be prevented by people changing aspects of their lifestyle, such as cutting down on processed meat, eating more fibre in their diet and protecting their skin in the sun.

    Could other factors play a role?

    This was a large, observational study, so it can't conclude these lifestyle factors were directly responsible for extending life free of disease.

    It did try to account for other factors, however, such as family medical history, ethnic background and age, which could have had an impact on the results.

    The research team also had to rely on people giving them information on their food intake, their exercise habits and even their height and weight, which is not always accurate.

    Most of the participants in the study, involving more than 73,000 women and 38,000 men, were white health professionals.






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  11. Running your first marathon ‘makes you four years younger’ in heart health

    Running a marathon for the first time can reverse key markers of ageing by four years, a British study has found.

    The research on novice runners who tackled the London Marathon found they experienced a significant reduction in artery stiffness and blood pressure – cutting their chance of heart attacks and strokes.

    Scientists said the changes were equivalent to a four year reduction in vascular age. 

    The greatest benefits were seen among those who were older, male and slower runners.

    Researchers from University College London and Barts Health NHS Trust tracked 138 healthy people who ran the London Marathon for the first time in 2016 or 2017,

    Participants had been running for less than two hours a week before they began training, mostly following a beginner’s plan consisting of around three runs a week. 

    After six months of training, scans found major improvements in their blood pressure and arterial stiffness.

    On average systolic and diastolic blood pressure dropped by 4mmHg and 3mmHg respectively. 

    Stiffness of the arteries indicates damage to the blood vessels, and is a key predictor of heart and circulatory problems in later life.

    Arteries normally stiffen with age, but experts said exercise could reverse or limit the damage.

    Among participants, some measures of arterial flexibility increased by nine per cent.

    The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, only included healthy participants. 

    Experts said even more benefit might be seen in those with higher blood pressure and stiffer arteries. 

    Lead researcher Dr Charlotte Manisty said:“Our study shows it is possible to reverse the consequences of aging on our blood vessels with real-world exercise in just six months.

    “These benefits were observed in overall healthy individuals across a broad age range and their marathon times are suggestive of achievable exercise training in novice participants.”

    The average running time for those in the group was 5.4 hours for women and 4.5 hours for men. 

    Expert said this suggested a training schedule of six to 13 miles per week. 

    Dr Manisty said signing up for a major health challenge could be a good way to make significant changes in health. 

     “Making a goal-oriented exercise training recommendation – such as signing up for a marathon or fun-run – may be a good motivator for our patients to keep active.

    “Our study highlights the importance of lifestyle modifications to slow the risks associated with aging, especially as it appears to never be too late as evidenced by our older, slower runners.”

    NHS guidance says all adults should get 150 minutes of exercise each week – such as a 30 minute brisk walk five times a week.

    Commenting on the British Heart Foundation-funded study, its Associate Medical Director Professor Metin Avkiran said: “The benefits of exercise are undeniable. Keeping active reduces your risk of having a heart attack or stroke and cuts your chances of an early death.

    “As the old mantra goes, if exercise were a pill it would be hailed as a wonder drug.

    “Setting yourself a goal – such as training for a marathon – is a great way to stay motivated and follow through on your New Year health resolutions.

    “But you don’t need to train for a marathon to reap the benefits. More is usually better, but every bit counts.”




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  12. AI 'outperforms' doctors diagnosing breast cancer


    Artificial intelligence is more accurate than doctors in diagnosing breast cancer from mammograms, a study in the journal Nature suggests.

    An international team, including researchers from Google Health and Imperial College London, designed and trained a computer model on X-ray images from nearly 29,000 women.

    The algorithm outperformed six radiologists in reading mammograms.

    AI was still as good as two doctors working together.

    Unlike humans, AI is tireless. Experts say it could improve detection.

    How good is it?

    The current system in the NHS uses two radiologists to analyse each woman's X-rays. In rare cases where they disagree, a third doctor assesses the images.

    In the research study, an AI model was given anonymised images, so that the women could not be identified.

    Unlike the human experts, who had access to the patient's history, AI had only the mammograms to go on.

    The results showed that the AI model was as good as the current double-reading system of two doctors.

    And it was actually superior at spotting cancer than a single doctor.

    Compared to one radiologist, there was a reduction of 1.2% in false positives, when a mammogram is incorrectly diagnosed as abnormal.

    There was also a reduction of 2.7% in false negatives, where a cancer is missed.

    Dominic King from Google Health said: "Our team is really proud of these research findings, which suggest that we are on our way to developing a tool that can help clinicians spot breast cancer with greater accuracy."

    Most of the mammograms came from Cancer Research UK's OPTIMAM dataset collected from St George's Hospital London, the Jarvis Breast Centre in Guildford and Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge.

    It takes over a decade of training as a doctor and specialist to become a radiologist, capable of interpreting mammograms.

    Reading X-rays is vital but time-consuming work, and there is an estimated shortage of more than 1,000 radiologists across the UK.

    Will AI take over from humans?

    No. It took humans to design and train the artificial intelligence model.

    This was a research study, and as yet the AI system has not been let loose in the clinic.

    Even when it is, at least one radiologist would remain in charge of diagnosis.

    But AI could largely do away with the need for dual reading of mammograms by two doctors, easing pressure on their workload, say researchers.

    Prof Ara Darzi, report co-author and director of the Cancer Research UK (CRUK) Imperial Centre, told the BBC: "This went far beyond my expectations. It will have a significant impact on improving the quality of reporting, and also free up radiologists to do even more important things."

    Women aged between 50 and 70 are invited for NHS breast screening every three years - those who are older can ask to be screened.

    The use of AI could eventually speed up diagnosis, as images can be analysed within seconds by the computer algorithm.

    Sara Hiom, director of cancer intelligence and early diagnosis at CRUK, told the BBC: "This is promising early research which suggests that in future it may be possible to make screening more accurate and efficient, which means less waiting and worrying for patients, and better outcomes."

    Helen Edwards, from Surrey, was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 44, before she was eligible for screening.

    She required surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but has been cancer-free for more than a decade.

    She was a patient representative on the CRUK panel which had to decide whether to grant Google Health permission to use the anonymised breast cancer data.

    Helen told the BBC: "Initially I was a bit concerned about what Google might do with the data, but it is stripped of all identifiers.

    "In the long term this can only benefit women.

    "Artificial intelligence machines don't get tired... they can work 24/7 whereas a human being can't do that, so to combine the two is a great idea."





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  13. 'Intermittent Fasting' Diet Could Boost Your Health

    Here comes the new year, and with it hordes of folks looking for ways to fulfill resolutions to eat healthy.

    Intermittent fasting is a legitimate option they might want to consider, claims a new review in the Dec. 26 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

    "The state of the science on intermittent fasting has evolved to the point that it now can be considered as one approach, with exercise and healthy food, to improving and maintaining health as a lifestyle approach," said senior author Mark Mattson, a neuroscientist with Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore.

    There are two main ways to adopt intermittent fasting into your life, Mattson said:

    Daily time-restricted feeding gives you a narrow window during which you can eat, usually 6 to 8 hours each day.
    5:2 intermittent fasting requires that people only eat one moderate-sized meal on two days each week.
    When people are fasting, they are slowly burning through the glucose stored in their liver, Mattson explained. The liver holds about 700 calories of glucose.

    "It takes 10 to 12 hours to use the liver's energy stores," Mattson said. "Then what happens is, fats are used for energy."

    This process is called "metabolic switching," and the three-meals-a-day eating pattern favored by Americans doesn't allow their bodies to run through their liver's energy stores and make the switch to fat-burning, Mattson said.

    In the new paper, Mattson and colleagues summarised the current scientific evidence. Studies show that intermittent fasting can:

    • Stabilise blood sugar levels, increase resistance to stress, and suppress inflammation.
    • Decrease blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and improve resting heart rate.
    • Improve brain health and memory.

    "If you're thinking of intermittent fasting as a fad diet, I think it's actually a pretty legitimate option," said Hannah Kittrell, a registered dietitian and manager of the Mount Sinai PhysioLab in New York City, a nutrition and exercise physiology clinic.

    "The reason for that is it's not completely cutting out any food groups," said Kittrell, who wasn't part of the study. "It's not telling you don't eat carbs, don't eat fat. It's just modulating when you're eating food."

    Kittrell said her lab evaluates different diets by looking at the evolutionary, historical and biological basis for them, and intermittent fasting passes all three tests.

    "There's an evolutionary basis in the sense that hunter-gatherers essentially followed an intermittent fasting diet because food was scarce. They wouldn't necessarily know the next time they'd eat," she said.

    The metabolic switch described by Mattson reflects the biological basis of intermittent fasting, and history is full of examples of humans engaging in fasting, Kittrell said.

    "It's been used a lot for medical and religious reasons," Kittrell said. "Ramadan is a great example of prolonged intermittent fasting."

    In the paper, Mattson lays out a couple of sample prescriptions for incorporating fasting into your daily life.

    People who want to try time-restricted feeding could limit themselves to a 10-hour feeding period five days a week for the first month, then bring the period down to 8 and then 6 hours in subsequent months. The goal would be to achieve a 6-hour feeding period seven days a week, the researchers wrote.

    Or people could start out by fasting one day a week, with one meal on that day of 1,000 calories, and extend that to two days a week by the second month. The goal would be a single 500-calorie meal on two days each week.

    Mattson and Kittrell warn that you'll likely be uncomfortable as your body adapts to your new eating pattern.

    "This is very similar to exercise programs where someone who is sedentary, they take a month or two to get in shape while their organ systems adapt to the exercise," Mattson said.

    It can take between a few weeks to a couple of months for someone to get comfortable with intermittent fasting, Mattson and Kittrell said.

    "If someone typically eats breakfast and tomorrow they don't eat breakfast, they're going to be hungry and irritable as it gets towards lunchtime," Mattson said. "That will be gone after two weeks to a month, if they stick with it. That's a very important practical aspect."

    Don't expect immediate results, either -- it can take a few weeks before your body adapts to the point where you'll start dropping pounds and experiencing improved health indicators, Mattson said.

    Participants also must keep in mind that fasting doesn't give them free license to eat whatever they want, Kittrell added.

    "Obviously, you're still going to want to follow a healthy diet," Kittrell said. "It's not like you can eat only fast food but because you're doing intermittent fasting you'll be healthy."

    Although Kittrell considers intermittent fasting a reasonable diet option, she said there's still a lot to learn about it.

    For example, studies show that some people respond better to fasting than others, though the reasons why aren't yet understood, she said.

    "I think it shows promise, but there's still a lot of work to be done before you can say that intermittent fasting is 100% safe and effective for everybody to follow," Kittrell said.

    Mattson, who's been fasting for 20 years himself, said there are certain types of people for whom he wouldn't recommend the practice -- children, the elderly and people who already have very low body weight.

    He agrees with Kittrell that more research needs to be done regarding the health potential of fasting.

    For one thing, there's a strong argument to be made that intermittent fasting might improve cancer treatment, Mattson said.

    "It turns out cancer cells typically only use glucose as a food source. They cannot use fats," Mattson said. "If you hit them with chemotherapeutic drugs or radiation when the person is fasting, then their cancer cells are more easily killed."

    There are multiple trials ongoing to see if fasting could help treat cancer, Mattson noted.




  14. Carbohydrates and Cholesterol Levels

    Not all carbohydrates are equal -- especially when it comes to their effect on cholesterol. Some carbohydrates raise cholesterol, while others lower it. You find carbohydrates in breads, cereals, grains, milk, yogurt, fruits, vegetables, and foods that contain added sugars. All carbs are converted into glucose -- which is also known as blood sugar -- in the body and carbs can be used immediately for energy or stored for later use. Research suggests that the quantity and type of carbohydrates consumed can affect cholesterol.

    Cholesterol and Triglycerides

    Cholesterol is in the fats in your blood. High cholesterol is the build-up of these fats, which can lead to heart disease or stroke. Two types of cholesterol exist: LDL, which is also known as low-density lipoprotein and HDL, which is also known as high-density lipoprotein. LDL is the "bad" cholesterol, because it causes a build-up of plaque in the arteries. HDL is the "good" cholesterol, because it helps the body get rid of excess LDL in the blood by carrying it away from the organs to the liver, so that it can be removed. Triglycerides are another type of fat found in the blood, and high triglyceride levels also increase the risk for heart disease.

    Research on Carbs and Cholesterol

    Carbohydrate consumption from refined carbohydrates that are high in sugar and low in fibre such as cookies and cakes, is associated with lower levels of HDL and higher levels of LDL and triglycerides, which is associated with an increased risk for heart disease. Very high carbohydrate intakes of more than 60 percent of total calories -- along with excess sugar consumption -- are associated with an increase in triglycerides, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. A 2005 OmniHeart study by Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions compared three diets that emphasised either protein, monounsaturated fat or carbohydrate and found that the protein and monounsaturated fat diets were more effective in reducing the risk factors for heart disease than the high-carbohydrate diet.

    Breaking Down the Carbohydrates

    A food's glycaemic index -- which is how fast it increases blood sugar -- may affect your cholesterol. The glycaemic index of a food depends upon a handful of factors, including the type of starch, fibre content and fat content of that food. For example, a refined or processed food such as white bread, has a higher glycaemic index than whole-wheat bread. Additionally, ripe foods tend to have more sugar, while lower fat foods digest faster and cause blood sugar to rise more rapidly, causing them to have a higher glycaemic index. In general, whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables are not only healthy but also have a low glycaemic index. Women who eat a high-glycaemic index diet are more than twice as likely to develop heart disease, according to a 2010 study published in the "Archives of Internal Medicine."

    Soluble fibre Plays a Role

    Although refined carbohydrates may raise your cholesterol, healthier carbohydrates with whole grains and fibre can help lower your cholesterol. The beneficial effects of a low-glycaemic diet that contains whole grains may because of its high-fibre content. In particular, soluble fibre has been shown to block cholesterol and fats from absorption, thus lowering the LDL cholesterol. Foods high in soluble fibre include kidney beans, oatmeal, barley, pears, apples and prunes. Aim for five to 10 grams of soluble fibre each day to lower your total cholesterol and your LDL cholesterol. For example, it is possible to meet this goal if you have half a cup of oatmeal for breakfast, half a cup of kidney beans for lunch, one apple for a snack and one medium artichoke with dinner.

    The Takeaway

    To improve your cholesterol, eat only a moderate amount of carbohydrates. Everyone has individual requirements, but it can be helpful to have less than 60 percent of your calories come from carbohydrates. Choose carbohydrates that have whole grains, are high in fibre and low in sugar, and include fruits and vegetables. Try replacing unhealthy, high-glycaemic carbohydrates -- such as chips or cookies -- with either whole grains or healthy fats, such as nuts or guacamole.



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  15. Cholesterol levels in young adults can predict heart disease risk

    A recent study investigates the relationship between cholesterol levels in young adulthood and cardiovascular risk in later life — with interesting recommendations for further research.

    Research has already well documented that high cholesterol levels can lead to heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States, and stroke, the fifth leading cause of death.

    Cholesterol is a fatty substance that the liver and foods we eat, such as eggs, cheese, and certain meat products produce.

    Cholesterol is necessary for the body to function. However, too much "bad" cholesterol, which is also called low-density lipoprotein (LDL), can clog the arteries with a fatty build-up, increasing the risk of heart attack, stroke, or peripheral artery disease.

    Scientists have also linked high total cholesterol to overweight, lack of exercise, smoking, and alcohol consumption.

    More than 12% of adults in the U.S. aged 20 years and over have total cholesterol levels above 240 milligrams per decilitre (mg/dl), which doctors consider high. Of children and adolescents aged 6–19 years, some 7% have high total cholesterol.

    High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is "good" cholesterol and helps to sweep LDL from the arteries back to the liver, which removes it from the body.

    A long look at lipids

    A new, comprehensive study, appearing in The Lancet, follows almost 400,000 people in 19 countries for up to 43.5 years (1970–2013). The findings shine a spotlight on the link between bad cholesterol (non-HDL) levels in people under 45 years of age and the long-term risk of heart disease and stroke.

    Set apart from previous studies, this observational and modelling study, which looked at individual level data, suggests that elevated non-HDL cholesterol levels at a younger age can predict cardiovascular risk at 75 years of age.

    The study used data from 38 studies carried out in the U.S., Europe, and Australia.

    Of the nearly 400,000 individuals that the study followed, none had cardiovascular disease at the start. The scientists tracked the participants over decades and took details of any heart disease event, fatal or otherwise, or stroke.

    In total, there were 54,542 incidents of heart disease, fatal or non-fatal, and stroke.

    When researchers analysed the data for all age groups and both sexes, they saw that the risk of heart disease or stroke dropped continuously as non-HDL levels dropped. In fact, those with the lowest non-HDL levels, — which the scientists defined as 2.6 millimoles (mmol) non-HDL cholesterol per litre — had the least risk.


    The highest long-term risks of heart and artery disease were in those younger than 45 years old.

    "This increased risk in younger people could be due to the longer exposure to harmful lipids in the blood," says Prof. Barbara Thorand, of the German Research Centre for Environmental Health in Neuherberg.

    Study suggests early intervention vital

    The study confirmed that the level of non-HDL and HDL cholesterol in the blood played a significant part in predicting the risk of cardiovascular disease over time.

    Researchers used data to create a model for people aged 35–70 years that could estimate the chances of a heart event by age 75 years. It factored in @@@, age, non-HDL levels, and cardiovascular risk factors, such as blood pressure, BMI, diabetes, and smoking status.

    It also examined how much one could lower risk if non-HDL cholesterol levels were a hypothetical 50% lower. Using this approach, the researchers saw the most significant reduction in risk in the youngest age group.

    As an example, a male under 45 years of age has starting levels of non-HDL cholesterol of between 3.7–4.8 mmol per litre and at least two risk factors for cardiovascular disease; if the individual was to halve their levels of non-HDL cholesterol, they could reduce the risk from 16% to 4%.

    A female with the same factors could reduce their risk from around 29% to 6%.

    Using the same levels of non-HDL cholesterol in individuals of 60 years or more, males could reduce risk from 21% to 10%, and females from 12% to 6%.

    The researchers suggest that intensive efforts to lower non-HDL cholesterol levels could reverse early signs of blocked arteries, which is known as atherosclerosis.

    However, there was no clarity on how much slightly increased or seemingly normal cholesterol levels affected cardiovascular risk over a person's lifetime or at what level treatment recommendations should occur, especially in younger adults.

    "Our estimates suggest that halving non-HDL cholesterol levels may be associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular events by the age of 75 years and that this reduction in risk is larger the sooner cholesterol levels are reduced."

    Co-author Prof. Stefan Blankenberg

    "The risk scores currently used in the clinic to decide whether a person should have lipid-lowering treatment only assess the risk of cardiovascular disease over 10 years, and so may underestimate lifetime risk, particularly in young people," notes the study's co-author, Prof. Stefan Blankenberg.

    The authors say future research is needed to understand whether early intervention in younger people with low 10-year risk but high lifetime risk would have more benefits than later intervention.

    A limitation of the study is that it may not apply to all regions or ethnic groups because its focus was on high income countries.

    High cholesterol has no symptoms, and many people are unaware that they have high levels; however, doctors can check levels with a simple blood test.




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  16. Fatty Diets Tied to Leading Cause of Vision Loss in Seniors

    - Diets heavy in red meat and fatty foods could help spur a leading cause of vision loss in older Americans, new research suggests.

    The study found that people who ate more typical Western diets were three times more likely to develop an eye condition that robs you of your central vision -- late-stage age-related macular degeneration.

    "What you eat seems to be important to your vision, and to whether or not you have vision loss later in life," said study lead author Amy Millen. She's an associate professor in the department of epidemiology and environmental health at the University at Buffalo's School of Public Health and Health Professions, in Buffalo, N.Y.

    "People know that diet influences cardiovascular risk and the risk of obesity, but the public may not know that diet can affect vision loss," Millen said.

    Age-related macular degeneration occurs when a part of the eye called the macula is damaged. Sometimes this happens when deposits called drusen grow on the macula. Or it can occur when new blood vessels keep forming and leak blood, scarring the macula, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

    Genetics and smoking are known risk factors for age-related macular degeneration.

    The study included almost 1,300 people from a nationally representative sample. Most did not have macular degeneration. There were 117 who had early AMD, and 27 had late.

    All of the study participants completed surveys about their diets twice during the 18-year study.

    The researchers sorted the foods into 29 categories to measure the quality of the diet.

    They found that people who ate a more Western diet were much more likely to develop late-stage AMD. Foods linked to a higher risk included:

    • Red and processed meats
    • Fats, such as margarine and butter
    • High-fat dairy
    • Fried foods.

    "Diet is one way you might be able to modify your risk of vision loss from age-related macular degeneration," Millen said, especially if you have a family history of the disease.

    She noted that since the study was observational, it couldn't prove that eating healthy foods would reduce the risk of AMD, but she said it did show the foods you probably don't want to eat often.

    Dr. Avnish Deobhakta, an ophthalmologist at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai in New York City, wasn't involved with the study, but said he wasn't surprised by the findings.

    "This study shows what we've suspected. A diet high in fatty foods, processed meats and refined grains makes the more severe form of macular degeneration more likely," Deobhakta said.

    Both Millen and Deobhakta said inflammation caused by a less healthy diet and stress on the cells in the eyes (oxidative stress) are likely behind the increased risk.

    "The eyes are a sentinel for the rest of the body. In the tiny blood vessels of the eyes, even small changes that you would not otherwise notice in other organs, you will notice in the eyes," Deobhakta said.

    So can you make up for a lifetime of eating poorly? That's not known. But both experts said that a healthy diet -- full of vegetables (especially dark, leafy greens) and fruits and fatty fish -- contains important nutrients for eye health, including lutein and zeaxanthin.

    "It's difficult to switch the way you eat overnight, but this is almost certainly a decades-long process, so try to slowly move toward more virtuous behaviour with food. Try to supplement your current diet with more leafy vegetables and increase your consumption of fish," Deobhakta said.

    And both experts strongly advised no smoking.

    The study was published in the December issue of the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

    More information

    Learn more about macular degeneration from the American Academy of Ophthalmology.






  17. Eggs and cholesterol: Is industry funded research misleading?

    Whether dietary cholesterol increases levels of cholesterol in the blood is a controversial topic. Although many researchers have investigated this question, a recent review asks whether industry funding has slanted the overall results.

    Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is essential for good health as it is an important structural component of cell walls. Our liver can produce all of the cholesterol that we need, but we also consume it in animal products.

    As cholesterol circulates the body, it can cause problems. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which people often refer to as "bad" cholesterol, increases the risk of atherosclerosis, which is the accumulation of fatty plaques on the walls of blood vessels.

    Atherosclerosis increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, and peripheral artery disease.

    As eggs are high in cholesterol, scientists have raised concerns that they might lead to elevated cholesterol levels in the blood if a person eats them in excess. To investigate this, scientists have carried out many studies over more than 50 years. To date, however, the findings have fallen short of conclusive.

    The egg industry's role

    Some experts are concerned that industry funded research is muddying the waters and skewing result

    As the authors of the recent review explain, "In recent years, the egg industry, working especially through [United States] federally administered programs, has funded studies investigating the effects of eggs on blood cholesterol concentrations." They continue:

    "[T]he potential for industry funding for research to influence nutrition policy decisions has become an important concern."

    The primary purpose of the current review was to understand whether the proportion of industry funded studies is growing. The researchers also wanted to see "whether study conclusions reflected their objective findings."

    In total, the researchers found 211 papers that met their criteria for review, and they published their results in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.

    The authors note that industry funding has increased significantly. In the 1950s and 1960s, there were no industry funded studies, but from 2010 to 2019, 60% of studies had industry backing.

    Misrepresenting findings

    Overall, more than 85% of the studies reported that eggs increased blood cholesterol. However, the findings showed that the authors of industry funded papers were more likely to downplay the significance of these results.

    In fact, 49% of industry funded papers reported conclusions that did not match their results, compared with 13% of the papers that had not received industry funding.

    As an example, in one study, the researchers asked college students to eat two eggs with breakfast for 5 days each week for 14 weeks. At the end of the study, the participants' average LDL cholesterol had increased by 15 milligrams per decilitre (mg/dl).

    To put this into perspective, LDL cholesterol should be under 100 mg/dl for a healthy adult. So, an increase from 100 mg/dl to 115 mg/dl is a 15% rise in LDL cholesterol.

    Although this seems to be a substantial rise, in this study, it did not reach statistical significance. In other words, there was more than a 5% chance that the increase could have occurred by chance. As a result, the authors of the study concluded that an "additional 400 mg/day of dietary cholesterol did not negatively impact blood lipids."

    Study author Dr. Neal Barnard explains that "t would have been appropriate for the investigators to report that the cholesterol increases associated with eggs could have been due to chance. Instead, they wrote that the increases did not happen at all. Similar conclusions were reported in more than half of industry funded studies."

    The authors write, "It is important to differentiate between the absence of a statistically significant difference and the absence of a difference."

    Influencing policy

    The findings of this review are particularly worrying because this line of research has the power to influence policy. In 2015, for instance, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee wrote that "available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol."

    However, after reviewing the available evidence, in the final guidelines, they called for eating "as little dietary cholesterol as possible."

    According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 95 million adults over the age of 20 years have high cholesterol. Giving the public the right advice is of paramount importance.

    "In decades past, the egg industry played little or no role in cholesterol research, and the studies' conclusions clearly showed that eggs raise cholesterol," explains Dr. Barnard.

    "In recent years, the egg industry has sought to neutralise eggs' unhealthy image as a cholesterol-raising product by funding more studies and skewing the interpretation of the results."

    In particular, the authors identify the American Egg Board, which is a federally authorised, industry funded body. Their mission is "to increase demand for all U.S. eggs and egg products."

    Over the years, scientists have carried out a number of meta-analyses to assess the effect of egg consumption on levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood. As one example, a recent analysis that collated results from 28 studies concluded that eating eggs significantly increases both total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol concentrations.

    "The egg industry has mounted an intense effort to try to show that eggs do not adversely affect blood cholesterol levels. For years, faulty studies on the effects of eggs on cholesterol have duped the press, public, and policymakers to serve industry interests."

    Study author Dr. Neal Barnard




  18. Ultra-processed foods may raise the risk of type 2 diabetes

     Sugary drinks, packaged snacks, and ready-made meals all count as ultra-processed foods — that is, foods that contain a higher number of additives and last longer because of the added preservatives. New research suggests that these foods also raise the risk of type 2 diabetes.

     Sugary drinks, packaged snacks, and ready-made meals all count as ultra-processed foods — that is, foods that contain a higher number of additives and last longer because of the added preservatives. New research suggests that these foods also raise the risk of type 2 diabetes.

    Share on Pinterest Some packaged foods may be ultra-processed and raise the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to new research.

    Research has linked ultra-processed foods with conditions such as cancer, obesity, and cardiovascular disease, as well as with a higher risk of premature mortality.

    These foods are prevalent in Western diets, and the Western world has also seen a surge in the incidence of diabetes in recent decades. Are ultra-processed foods and type 2 diabetes linked? And if so, how?

    Bernard Srour, Ph.D., of the Epidemiology and Statistics Research Centre–University of Paris in France, and his team of researchers set out to answer this question.

    They did so by examining the dietary habits of more than 100,000 people.

    The results of their analysis appear in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

    Ultra-processed foods and diabetes

    Srour and team carried out a population-based prospective cohort study in which they included 104,707 adult participants who had participated in the French NutriNet-Santé study. Of these participants, 21,800 were men, and 82,907 were women.

    The NutriNet-Santé study spanned a decade, running from 2009 to 2019. The researchers collected data on the dietary intake of the participants using repeated 24 hour dietary records that asked them about their consumption of about 3,500 different foods.

    Using the NOVA classification system, the researchers classified the 3,500 food items according to their degree of processing. There were four categories: unprocessed/minimally processed foods, culinary ingredients, processed foods, and ultra-processed foods.

    The researchers used multivariable Cox proportional hazard models, which they adjusted for the known risk factors for type 2 diabetes, such as sociodemographic background, lifestyle, and medical history.

    Ultra-processed foods may raise risk

    Srour and colleagues found a consistent association between the absolute amount of ultra-processed food consumption, which they measured in grams per day, and the risk of type 2 diabetes.

    "In this large observational prospective study, a higher proportion of [ultra-processed foods] in the diet was associated with a higher risk of [type 2 diabetes]," conclude the authors. Srour and colleagues add:

    "Even though these results need to be confirmed in other populations and settings, they provide evidence to support efforts by public health authorities to recommend limiting [ultra-processed food] consumption."

    The researchers say that ultra-processed foods are a modifiable risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

    They also point to countries such as France and Brazil, whose public health authorities have already started encouraging the population to eat minimally processed foods and avoid ultra-processed ones as a precautionary measure.

    What might explain the link?

    The researchers did not single out one type of food or ingredient but instead looked at the cumulative effect of ultra-processed foods on type 2 diabetes risk.

    The authors recommend caution in interpreting the associations that they found. Most of the additives in ultra-processed foods "are likely to be neutral for long-term health, and some may even be beneficial," they write, giving antioxidants as an example.

    However, there are other compounds that recent studies in mice and in vitro have suggested may be harmful.

    For instance, "carrageenan, a thickening and stabilizing agent, [...] might contribute to the development of diabetes by impairing glucose tolerance, increasing insulin resistance, and inhibiting insulin signalling," write the authors.

    Nonetheless, they caution that more research in humans is necessary before drawing conclusions about the harms of such compounds.

    Chemicals such as phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA), which are often present in plastic packaging, may contaminate many ultra-processed foods.

    BPA and phthalates may disrupt endocrine function, and the authors note that some recent meta-analyses have shown that high concentrations of these compounds are associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

    Furthermore, research has associated metabolites that form as a result of high-temperature cooking — such as acrylamide and acrolein metabolites — with insulin resistance.

    "Finally, industrial partial oil hydrogenation may lead to the creation of trans unsaturated fatty acids in products containing hydrogenated oils," mention the authors. "Although still debated, trans fats were linked to increased risks of heart disease and [type 2 diabetes]," they note.

    Nevertheless, Srour and team conclude:

    "Additional research is needed to understand the biological mechanisms underlying the present observations."






    Black Patients May Not Gain Heart Benefit From Low-Dose Aspirin


    The daily use of low-dose aspirin against heart disease may have taken another knock.

    New research shows that the practice may not provide black Americans with any lowering of their heart attack risk.

    Researchers analysed 11 years of data from more than 65,000 people, ages 40-79, living in the American Southeast. More than two-thirds of the participants were black, and about two-thirds were at high risk for heart attack or stroke at the start of the study period.

    Taking low-dose aspirin was associated with a reduced risk of a fatal heart attack in whites, particularly in white women, but it did not appear to lower the risk among blacks, even among those with the highest risk of heart disease, the research found.

    The reasons for the "race gap" in aspirin effectiveness are unclear, but "we think the reason aspirin use did not have a beneficial effect for African Americans could involve a different genetic response to aspirin therapy and poor control of other risk factors," said study lead author Dr. Rodrigo Fernandez-Jimenez. He's a cardiologist and researcher at National Centre for Cardiovascular Research in Madrid, Spain.

    The researchers stressed that the study wasn't designed to prove cause and effect, only showing associations between aspirin use and heart health. The findings were published Dec. 11 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

    While millions of aging Americans take a daily low-dose (81 milligrams) aspirin in hopes of reducing their odds for heart attack and cancer, new data has emerged casting the practice in doubt.

    In fact, earlier this year, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology issued a joint statement that -- at least in older people at low risk for heart disease -- daily aspirin use was probably not worth it, given the added risk for bleeding tied to the drug.

    Dr. Benjamin Hirsh directs preventive cardiology at Northwell Health's Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y. He reviewed the study and agreed that "physicians are accustomed to prescribing aspirin to patients with lower risk of heart disease, but the findings of this study and others are changing this practice."

    Also, most of the previous research on aspirin's usefulness against heart trouble was based on data from white patients, Fernandez-Jimenez noted.

    "Most available data shows that African Americans have a higher risk of having a heart attack, stroke or other heart diseases compared to whites; however, previous studies didn't include enough black participants to determine if taking a low-dose aspirin for primary prevention of heart disease was useful for this group of people," he said in a journal news release.

    Dr. Satjit Bhusri is a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. He stressed that aspirin is still being recommended for people at high risk of a heart attack, such as those who've already had an attack.

    So why didn't that benefit seem to extend to black patients? "There may be an underlying genetic, compliance or socioeconomic play here," said Bhusri, who wasn't involved in the new study.

    In the meantime, informed decisions as to who is "high-risk," regardless of race, are easily made, Hirsh said.

    "We now have multiple tools including imaging scans, such as coronary calcium scores, which help identify individual risk to guide the recommendation for aspirin," Hirsh explained. "We need to individualise our patients' risk of heart disease in order to determine who will be most likely to benefit from aspirin."

    That's in keeping with American Heart Association guidelines, which now advise that decisions about aspirin use must be based on a patient's specific health status, in consultation with their physician.

    More information

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on heart disease prevention.





  20. Stroke: Excessive sleep may raise risk by 85%

    Stroke is one of the leading causes of death and disability worldwide and in the United States, specifically. New research finds that excessive sleep considerably raises the risk of this cardiovascular problem.
    Share on Pinterest New research suggests that people who take long naps in the day may be at a higher risk of stroke.
    Globally, 15 million Trusted Source people experience a stroke each year. Almost 6 million of these people die as a result, and 5 million go on to live with a disability.

    In the U.S., over 795,000 Trusted Source people have a stroke each year.
    The list of traditional risk factors Trusted Source for stroke is long, ranging from elements of lifestyle, including smoking, to pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes.
    More recently, researchers have started exploring sleep duration as another potential risk factor. Some studies Trusted Source have found that either too much or too little sleep can increase the risk of cardiovascular events, including stroke.

    According to these findings, regular sleep deprivation and sleep for more than 7 hours per night are each associated with a higher risk of stroke.
    Now, a study appearing in the journal Neurology finds an association between daytime naps, excessive sleep, and stroke risk.
    Dr. Xiaomin Zhang, from Huazhong University of Science and Technology, in Wuhan, China, is the corresponding author of the paper that details this study.

    85% higher risk in long sleepers, nappers
    Dr. Zhang and the team collected information from 31,750 people in China. None of the participants — who were 62 years old, on average — had a history of stroke or any other serious health condition at the start of the study.
    The participants answered questions about their sleeping patterns and napping habits, and the researchers clinically followed the group for an average of 6 years.The team found that 8% of the participants were in the habit of taking naps that lasted longer than 90 minutes, and 24% reported sleeping for at least 9 hours each night.

    Over the study period, there were 1,557 strokes among the participants. Those who slept for 9 or more hours per night were 23% more likely to experience a stroke than those who regularly slept only 7–8 hours each night.
    People who got less than 7 hours of shuteye or 8–9 hours had no higher risk of stroke than those who slept 7–8 hours.

    Importantly, people who both slept for longer than 9 hours and napped for more than 90 minutes per day had an 85% higher risk of stroke than those who slept and napped moderately.
    Finally, sleep quality seemed to play a role — people who reported poor sleep quality were 29% more likely to have a stroke than those whose sleep quality was reportedly good.These results continued to be significant after adjusting for potential confounders, such as hypertension, diabetes, and smoking.
    "These results highlight the importance of moderate napping and sleeping duration and maintaining good sleep quality, especially in middle-age and older adults."
    Dr. Xiaomin Zhang

    Study limitations and potential mechanisms
    The researchers acknowledge some limitations to their work, as well as the fact that more research is necessary.
    First, because the study was observational, it cannot prove causality. Second, the research did not account for sleep apnoea or other sleep disorders that may have influenced the results.Third, self-reported data is not as reliable as data recorded by researchers who observe participants' sleep.
    Finally, the results may only apply to older, healthy Chinese adults and not to other populations.
    "More research is needed to understand how taking long naps and sleeping longer hours at night may be tied to an increased risk of stroke, but previous studies have shown that long nappers and sleepers have unfavourable changes in their cholesterol levels and increased waist circumferences, both of which are risk factors for stroke," explains Dr. Zhang."In addition, long napping and sleeping may suggest an overall inactive lifestyle, which is also related to increased risk of stroke."






  21. What to know about CoQ10 and its dosage?

    Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10, is a naturally occurring chemical that exists in almost every cell of the human body. CoQ10 carries out several vital roles, including promoting energy production and neutralising harmful particles called free radicals.
    A deficiency in CoQ10 can adversely affect a person's health. People can get CoQ10 through foods and supplements.

    In this article, we discuss the benefits, side effects, and recommended dosages of CoQ10.

    What is CoQ10?
    Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10, is a naturally occurring chemical that exists in almost every cell of the human body. CoQ10 carries out several vital roles, including promoting energy production and neutralising harmful particles called free radicals.
    A deficiency in CoQ10 can adversely affect a person's health. People can get CoQ10 through foods and supplements.
    In this article, we discuss the benefits, side effects, and recommended dosages of CoQ10.

    What is the correct dosage?
    The exact recommended dose of CoQ10 will vary according to the following factors:
    •    a person's age
    •    a person's health
    •    the condition receiving treatment

    Standard daily doses of CoQ10 Trusted Source range from 60 milligrams (mg) to 500 mg. The highest recommended dose is 1,200 mg. However, clinical trials have used dosages as high as 3,000 mg per day.
    Different types of CoQ10 supplements may also require different dosages. Most supplements contain the inactive form of CoQ10, ubiquinone, which is harder to absorb than ubiquinol.
    A 2018 randomised trial compared the effects of 200 mg daily doses of ubiquinone and ubiquinol supplements on CoQ10 levels in older men. Ubiquinol supplementation led to a 1.5-fold increase in the amount of CoQ10 in the blood. Supplements containing ubiquinone did not have a significant effect on CoQ10 levels.

    Benefits of CoQ10
    CoQ10 protects cells against oxidative damage. It also plays a vital role in producing the body's primary source of energy, ATP. CoQ10 could, therefore, provide a range of health benefits. Some examples include:

    Improving heart health
    The heart contains some of the highest concentrations of CoQ10 in the body. The vast majority of people with heart disease also have low CoQ10 levels. Researchers Trusted Source now consider low CoQ10 levels to be an indicator of the severity and long-term outcome of various heart diseases.
    In one 2018 pilot study Trusted Source, ten children with cardiac muscle dysfunction received 110–700 mg of liquid ubiquinol per day. At weeks 12 and 24 of treatment, the children had significantly higher CoQ10 plasma levels and improved heart function.

    Reducing muscle pain from statin use
    Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is an umbrella term for conditions that affect the heart or blood vessels. Doctors often prescribe statins to treat CVD. These drugs work by reducing the cholesterol production that can contribute to the disease.
    Although statins reduce cholesterol production, they also lower CoQ10 levels. Reduced CoQ10 levels can lead to mitochondrial dysfunction, which can cause muscle pain Trusted Source, or myopathy.
    CoQ10 supplements may help relieve muscle pain related to statin use.
    A 2019 randomised controlled trial Trusted Source investigated the effect of CoQ10 on statin-related muscle pain. The study involved 60 participants who had previously reported muscle pain while taking statins. Over 3 months, each participant received daily doses of either 100mg of CoQ10 supplement or a placebo.

    The participants who took the CoQ10 supplements had significantly reduced statin-related muscle pain. Those who received the placebo reported no change in muscle pain.
    However, the authors of a 2015 meta-analysis evaluated the efficacy of CoQ10 supplementation for treating statin-related muscle pain. The meta-analysis included six studies with a combined total of 302 patients. The authors found no evidence that CoQ10 significantly improves statin-related muscle pain.

    Further large-scale RCTs are necessary to determine whether CoQ10 is a viable treatment for people experiencing statin-related muscle pain.

    Treating migraines
    Chronic migraines may be due to inflammation of neurons and cells in a part of the brain called the trigeminovascular system.
    A 2018 clinical trial investigated whether coQ10 supplements could reduce inflammation in 45 women with episodic migraines. The women took 400 mg daily doses of either a CoQ10 supplement or a placebo. The women who took the CoQ10 supplements had fewer and less intense migraines when compared to the placebo group.

    Women who took the CoQ10 supplements also showed lower levels of certain inflammatory biomarkers. Inflammatory biomarkers are substances in the blood that indicate the presence of inflammation somewhere in the body.
    A 2018 meta-analysis re-examined five studies investigating the use of CoQ10 supplements for migraines. The meta-analysis concluded that CoQ10 is more effective than a placebo at reducing the duration of migraines. However, CoQ10 did not appear to affect migraine severity or frequency.

    Protecting against age-related diseases
    Mitochondrial function decreases as the body's CoQ10 levels naturally deplete with age.
    Research Trusted Source suggests that mitochondrial dysfunction can contribute to age-related neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. These diseases are associated with free radical damage.
    A 2015 study investigated the effect of a Mediterranean diet combined with CoQ10 supplementation on metabolism in elderly adults. This combination led to an increase in antioxidant biomarkers in the urine.
    The authors concluded that taking CoQ10 and eating a diet low in saturated fat may help protect against diseases caused by free radical damage.
    In another 2015 study Trusted Source, older adults received CoQ10 and selenium supplements for 48 months. The participants reported improvements in vitality, physical performance, and overall quality of life.

    Risks of too much CoQ10
    CoQ10 supplements appear to be safe, and most people tolerate them even at high doses. However, CoQ10 supplements can cause the following side effects:
    •    nausea
    •    stomach pain
    •    heartburn
    •    headache
    •    dizziness
    •    fatigue
    •    light sensitivity
    •    insomnia
    •    skin rash
    CoQ10 supplements may interfere with certain medications, including:
    •    blood-thinners, such as warfarin
    •    insulin
    •    some types of chemotherapy medication
    People should consult a doctor before taking any new medications or dietary supplements, including CoQ10.

    CoQ10 is an antioxidant that exists in almost every cell of the human body. CoQ10 deficiency is associated with various medical conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease.
    Although the body naturally produces CoQ10, some people may benefit from taking supplements. Overall, CoQ10 supplements appear relatively safe and cause few side effects. Supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for purity or verified for labeling accuracy, so purchase only those products that have been tested by an independent lab.
    People who are interested in trying CoQ10 supplements may want to consult a healthcare professional first. Experts do not recommend CoQ10 for people taking blood-thinning medications, insulin, or certain chemotherapy drugs.
    CoQ10 is available in some drug stores, pharmacies, and online.







    Low-Dose Aspirin Might Cut Cancer Risk

    Daily low-dose aspirin might reduce your risk of dying from cancer, particularly if you've packed on a few extra pounds, researchers say.

    Taking aspirin three or more times a week is associated with a lower risk of cancer death as well as death for any reason, a new study report.

    Aspirin's protective effect appears particularly pronounced among people who are overweight -- those with a body mass index of 25 to 29.9, the results show.

    Low-dose aspirin reduced overall cancer death risk by 15% and all-cause death by 19% among more than 146,000 people who participated in a cancer screening trial conducted between 1993 and 2008, the study authors said.

    Overweight folks also experienced a marked decline in their risk of death from gastrointestinal cancer (28%) and colon cancer (34%).

    "Our primary focus was really on colorectal cancer deaths, since there's a lot of evidence to suggest that aspirin use may lower risk of gastrointestinal deaths," said lead researcher Holli Loomans-Kropp, a cancer prevention fellow with the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

    The study results support the standing recommendation of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), which says people 50 to 59 should take low-dose aspirin to prevent colon cancer if they're not at increased risk for bleeding.

    Daily aspirin use as a preventive health measure has become controversial over the past few years, however.

    In March, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association changed their guidelines to restrict low-dose aspirin use to people at high risk for heart disease or stroke. The two groups argued that the bleeding risk from aspirin outweighed the heart benefits for healthy people.

    The USPSTF continues to recommend low-dose aspirin for middle-aged people for heart health, if they have a 10% or greater chance of developing heart disease within the next decade.

    The new study involved a re-analysis of data gathered during the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial, which was sponsored by the National Cancer Institute.

    No one knows why aspirin might have this protective effect, but Loomans-Kropp said evidence points toward its anti-inflammatory action.

    "Gastrointestinal cancers are highly inflammation-associated cancers, and where the strongest effect has been is with the gastrointestinal cancers," Loomans-Kropp said.

    It's also possible that aspirin's blood-thinning effect might play a role, said Eric Jacobs, senior scientific director of epidemiology research at the American Cancer Society.

    "Aspirin may help prevent cancer the same way that it helps prevent heart attacks, which is by blocking the activation of blood platelet cells," Jacobs said. "We know that activated platelets can release factors that help tumours grow, and activated platelets may also help cancers spread throughout the body."

    People worried about colon cancer should talk with their doctor about getting screened for the disease, since a colonoscopy can remove polyps before they can develop into cancer, Jacobs said.

    "Aspirin use is not the only way or the best way to lower risk of colorectal cancer," Jacobs said, adding that maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, quitting smoking and eating less red meat also can help reduce your risk.

    Anyone thinking about taking daily aspirin should discuss it with their doctor first, said Dr. Merry Jennifer Markham, a spokesperson for the American Society of Clinical Oncology and a cancer doctor with the University of Florida.

    "It's important to have a discussion with the physician about whether the benefits of regular aspirin use outweigh the harms," Markham said. "I don't believe this is a one-size-fits-all approach, and must be individualized based on the individual person's other health issues and bleeding risks."

    The new study was published online Dec. 4 in JAMA Network Open.




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  23. Ingredients

    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 medium onion (chopped)
    • 2 large stalks  celery(chopped)
    • 4 cloves garlic (pressed)
    • 1 red medium  bell pepper (chopped)
    • 1 cup carrot (chopped or chopped pumpkin if available)
    • 1 heaping tablespoon sweet paprika
    • 3 teaspoons turmeric
    • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
    • 450 grams can tomatoes (chopped)
    • 5 cups vegetable stock
    • 280 grams green beans (frozen or fresh)
    • 1 large leaf chard (cut into thin strips, or spinach or kale)



    1. In a large soup pot, simmer oil, onion, and celery. Cook over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes to develop more sweetness in the onion.

      Add garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Turn up the heat to medium and add the peppers and carrots. Cook another 1 to 2 minutes and add the spices. Stir and cook until fragrant—another minute or so.
    2. Add tomatoes and stock, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add beans and chard and simmer for another 5 minutes or until the beans are cooked. (If using cooked cubed meat such as chicken or turkey, add at this time.) Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper as needed.


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  24. Religion vs. Spirituality: What Is the Difference?

    You may have heard—or even used—the terms religion and spirituality interchangeably. But while they aren’t diametric opposites, neither are they the same. Learn how to tell the difference between religion and spirituality.

    For thousands of years, humanity has passionately pursued the Truth with a capital T—the ultimate answers to life and the universe. This perennial knowledge constitutes the answers to what are often called the soul questions:

    • Who am I?
    • What do I want?
    • What is my purpose?
    • What is the meaning of life?

    Historically, from the perspective of the soul, there have been two foundational routes to discover these truths: religion and spirituality. Although they have many similarities and there is a relationship between the two, there are differences between religion and spirituality.

    Religion: By definition, religion is a personal set or institutionalised system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices; the service and worship of God or the supernatural.

    SpiritualitySpirituality, on the other hand, connotes an experience of connection to something larger than you; living everyday life in a reverent and sacred manner. Or as Christina Puchalski, MD (leader in trying to incorporate spirituality into healthcare), puts it, “Spirituality is the aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning and purpose and the way they experience their connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred."

    Origins of Religions and Spirituality

    Religion: Religions are most often based upon the lives, teachings, and beliefs of a historical or archetypal figure (e.g.,

    Christ, Buddha, Moses, Krishna, Muhammad). The details of their lives as holy or highly evolved beings have been carried to us across the mists of time through oral tradition and written scriptures. These figures are the subject of worship and devotion and form the foundation of religious practices and rituals in a community.

    Spirituality: By contrast, spirituality is more often based upon the practical application of the founder’s teachings. Spiritual aspirants heed the advice of Japanese poet Matsuo Basho, “Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.”

    The Lines Blur

    If you feel these definitions get blurry and cross into each other’s territory, you’re not alone. For example, you may know people who consider themselves spiritual, but not religious. Conversely, there can be individuals who are devoutly religious but are not what most would consider deeply spiritual.

    Let’s try to clear things up by taking a closer look at the most defining differences between religious and spiritual paths. Bear in mind that there are no absolutes in these distinctions. They are merely general markers meant to better explore the qualities between two equally valid approaches to seeking the truth.


    Objective vs. Subjective Experience

    Religion: On the whole, a formal religion is often an objective experience. In other words, there is usually a greater focus on the externals:

    • Houses of worship (e.g., a church)
    • Books of scripture
    • Eternal rituals
    • Observances

    This is the equivalent of object-referral in which your attention is placed upon the objects in your experience.

    Spirituality: Spirituality, however, leans more toward self-referral or the internalisation of your awareness of your soul. Spirituality is an inward journey that involves a shift in awareness rather than some form of external activity. As such, spirituality is much more about inner understanding than outer worship. This is not to say that worship is not a part of spirituality; it’s a matter of where the devotion and worship are directed:

    • To an external practice, object, or figurehead
    • To your soul, higher self, or divinity within

    Organised vs. Formless

    Religion: One of the hallmarks of religion is its organisation. It is a structured, frequently rule-based construct that to some degree governs the behaviour of its members. Moral rules, laws, and doctrines, as well as specific codes and criteria, create the organised structure that contains the religion’s specific belief system. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In previous, more uncertain times, the rules and dogma of organised religion helped to give society a sense of certainty and helped to guide and comfort those whose faith was lacking.

    Spirituality: Spirituality though, breaks free from the restrictions and rigid structure sometimes associated with traditional religion. The spiritual aspirant recognises that he or she is on a “pathless path” of self-discovery. They are following not a set of external rules, but their own inner call to spirit. In this way, spirituality can sometimes feel like a rebellious act of going solo and leaving the tribe, very much in the spirit of American philosopher and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson when he said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

    Traditional vs. Evolutionary Approach

    Religion: Due to their centuries- to millennia-old histories, religions are by nature often deeply rooted in tradition, ritual, creed, and doctrine. Religious institutions conservatively guard their practices and values, holding rigidly to the past and the original interpretations of the founder’s teachings. This is understandable in that all religions wish to preserve the essence of their teachings so they may be accurately transmitted through history.

    Spirituality: By comparison, spirituality is often less focused on the rigidly traditional approach and often favour an evolutionary mentality. This refers to both a more flexible and adaptive mindset toward core teachings of the great wisdom traditions but also reflects the understanding that, as the name implies, spiritual growth is an evolutionary process. Spirituality embraces change and the evolution of consciousness. With spiritual practice, ideas and interpretations change as individuals, societies, and the world move forward.

    Exclusive vs. Inclusive

    Religion: Traditional religious beliefs, sometimes based upon rigid interpretations of key teachings, can create an exclusive worldview that isolates those who may not share their views or interpretations. Sadly, this religious “in-group” mentality can be used to justify the exclusion of minorities or those deemed unworthy of God’s favour.

    Spirituality: Spirituality makes no such distinctions. Instead, it favours an inclusive approach. In the recognition that pure spirit is a unifying force, no one is left out. You are part of the universal hologram, all gods and goddesses in disguise. As Krishna explains in the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 4, verse 11: “As men approach me, so I receive them. All paths Arjuna, lead to me.”

    In other words, from a spiritual perspective, no one has a monopoly on the truth. All are welcome in God’s eyes.

    Belief vs. Spiritual Experience

    Religion: At its core, religion is about faith. That is to say, belief in something based upon unconditional acceptance of the religion’s teachings. Unlike the scientific worldview, religions don’t require evidence to validate their claims. Through religion, you are taught to have faith in God or the scriptures as being the infallible and ultimate truth of reality. Acceptance and surrender to the divine are taught as the path that leads to ultimate salvation.

    Spirituality: Spirituality doesn’t dismiss faith; however, it often leans more heavily on direct experience of the soul or divinity. Spiritual practices such as meditation, yoga, silence, and contemplation allow you to make conscious contact with more expanded states of consciousness, thus helping to experientially validate the teachings rather than accepting them on faith alone. You know something because you have tasted the experience yourself and have allowed it to resonate, as opposed to taking the word of another.

    Fear vs. Love

    Religion: Despite the best of intentions, religions can sometimes contain a subtle (or not so subtle) undercurrent of fear woven into their teachings. The concepts of original sin, divine judgement, God’s wrath, or eternal punishment can create a mental environment burdened in worry and anxiety over your worthiness and whether your actions will result in divine retribution or karmic punishment. Your fate in the afterlife can loom like a spectre in the back of your mind, subtly influencing your thoughts and behaviour.

    Spirituality: By contrast, spirituality typically discards the vestiges of fear and worry in favour of a more loving, compassionate approach to life—and death. Spirituality embraces a consciousness-based worldview that supports all human beings on their path to awakening in unconditional love and kindness. Your choices and behaviour are guided not by fear of punishment, but rather by a desire to end suffering and create a peaceful and loving world for all.

    As you can see, there are noticeable distinctions between spirituality vs. religion; however, these comparisons aren’t meant to be absolutes or an attempt to polarise one against the other. Religious beliefs and spiritual beliefs differ in the ways in which they are practiced. However, each practice serves as a vehicle to lead you closer to the truth you seek. Whichever path or combination of the two you follow is the personal and subjective expression of your journey of awakening.





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