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So long, soya. Why you need cow’s milk

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Dr Michael Mosley writes in the Times:

My 18-year-old daughter has recently decided to reduce dairy in her diet, which includes switching from drinking cow’s milk to drinking almond milk. She has done this because she says that drinking cow’s milk causes bloating, and she may be right. Cow’s milk is rich in lactose and if you lack the enzyme lactase — which many people do — your body will find the lactose difficult to break down and absorb. Instead the bacteria in your gut will feast on the lactose, producing gas and gut irritation. My daughter decided to see if she is genuinely lactose intolerant by taking dairy out of her diet, then reintroducing it gradually. It appears that she is.

So I am supportive of her decision. What worries me, however, it that she is part of an accelerating trend away from dairy, particularly among young women, that could have serious health consequences for the next generation.

There are lots of nutrients that cow’s milk has in abundance that other milks, derived from soya, almonds or oats, don’t. These include calcium, for strong bones, and something that many people rarely consider: iodine. Cow’s milk is the greatest source of iodine in the British diet and a move away from drinking it is likely to worsen the already high rates of iodine deficiency in the UK.

In the bad old days, before we knew anything about vitamins and micronutrients, iodine deficiency was common and devastating, leading to goitres and cretinism. So it is disturbing that after a century of medical progress it’s back. The UK ranks in the top ten most iodine-deficient nations in the world, which is particularly worrying because iodine deficiency is especially common in young British women.

In 2011 a study measured the amount of iodine in urine samples collected from 737 teenage girls from all over the UK. It found that nearly 70 per cent had levels below 100 micrograms per litre — the acceptable minimum level defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Furthermore, 18 per cent of the samples showed very low iodine levels — below 50mcg/l.

This matters because the effects of being iodine-deficient can be profound and long-lasting. Iodine is essential for the production of thyroxine, a hormone that controls all the metabolic processes that go on in your body and, in particular, your metabolic rate. Having low levels of iodine leads to low levels of thyroxine, which in turn leads to a lower metabolic rate, weight gain and mood swings. In other words, a lack of iodine in your diet can make you fat (I feel a potential marketing campaign coming on). More worryingly, even mild iodine deficiency in a pregnant woman can have a significant impact on the brain of her developing foetus.

A long-running study in the West Country, called the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, has followed a large group of women going through pregnancy and beyond. It found that most of them were iodine-deficient. It also found a strong link between the women being mildly or moderately deficient prenatally and their children’s reading ability and IQ score when they were tested at the age of nine.

Other studies carried out by the WHO have found an IQ difference of up to 13 points between communities that have adequate amounts of iodine in their diet and those that don’t. The WHO’s response to this global problem has been to encourage the addition of iodine to salt, a campaign that has been remarkably successful elsewhere. It is not, however, likely to happen in the UK any time soon, for reasons that elude me.

In the recent past that didn’t matter so much because we were drinking cow’s milk, which is rich in iodine. It matters now that so many people are switching to alternatives. A study carried out by the University of Surrey looked at the iodine content of 47 “healthy” milks (including soya, coconut, almond, rice and oat milk) and found that they had levels of iodine that were 2 per cent of those in cow’s milk. . .

Continue reading.

Of course, those avoiding dairy can easily get enough iodine by eating ocean fish (e.g., cod) and sea vegetables (aka seaweed). Still it’s interesting that cow’s milk is such a good source of iodine.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 January 2018 at 2:30 pm

Posted in Food, Health, Science

1 Son, 4 Overdoses, 6 Hours

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Katherine Q. Seelye reports in the NY Times:

The first time Patrick Griffin overdosed one afternoon in May, he was still breathing when his father and sister found him on the floor around 1:30. When he came to, he was in a foul mood and began arguing with his father, who was fed up with his son’s heroin and fentanyl habit.

Patrick, 34, feeling morose and nauseous, lashed out. He sliced a love seat with a knife, smashed a glass bowl, kicked and broke a side table and threatened to kill himself. Shortly after 3, he darted into the bathroom, where he shot up and overdosed again. He fell limp, turned blue and lost consciousness. His family called 911. Emergency medical workers revived him with Narcan, the antidote that reverses opioid overdoses.

Throughout the afternoon his parents, who are divorced, tried to persuade Patrick to go into treatment. His father told him he could not live with him anymore, setting off another shouting match. Around 4, Patrick slipped away and shot up a third time. He overdosed again, and emergency workers came back and revived him again. They took him to a hospital, but Patrick checked himself out.

Back at his mother’s house and anxious to stave off withdrawal, he shot up again around 7:30, overdosing a fourth time in just six hours. His mother, frantic, tried pumping his chest, to no avail, and feared he was dead. Rescue workers returned and administered three doses of Narcan to bring him back. At that point, an ambulance took him to the hospital under a police escort and his parents — terrified, angry and wrung out — had him involuntarily admitted.

The torrent of people who have died in the opioid crisis has transfixed and horrified the nation, with overdose now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50.

But most drug users do not die. Far more, like Patrick, are snared for years in a consuming, grinding, unending cycle of addiction.

In the 20 years that Patrick has been using drugs, he has lost track of how many times he has overdosed. He guesses 30, a number experts say would not be surprising for someone taking drugs off and on for that long.

Patrick and his family allowed The New York Times to follow them for much of the past year because they said they wanted people to understand the realities of living with drug addiction. Over the months, their lives played out in an almost constant state of emergency or dread, their days dictated by whether Patrick would shoot up or not. For an entire family, many of the arguments, the decisions, the plans came back to him and that single question. Even in the cheeriest moments, when Patrick was clean, everyone — including him — seemed to be bracing for the inevitable moment when he would turn back to drugs.

“We are your neighbors,” his mother, Sandy Griffin, said of the many families living with addiction, “and this is the B.S. going on in the house.”

In Patrick’s home state of New Hampshire, which leads the country in deaths per capita from fentanyl, almost 500 people died of overdoses in 2016. The government estimates that 10 percent of New Hampshire residents — about 130,000 people — are addicted to drugs or alcohol. The overall burden to the state, including health care and criminal justice costs and lost worker productivity, has ballooned into the billions of dollars. Some people do recover, usually after multiple relapses. But the opioid scourge, here and elsewhere, has overwhelmed police and fire departments, hospitals, prosecutors, public defenders, courts, jails and the foster care system.

Most of all, though, it has upended families.

All of the Griffins speak of nonstop stress. They have lived through chaotic days: When the parents called the police on their children (both Patrick and his sister, Betsy, have been addicted to drugs); when Dennis, the father, a recovering alcoholic, worried that every thud on the floor was Patrick passing out; and when Sandy was, by turns, paralyzed with a common parental fear — that she had somehow caused her children’s problems — or was out driving around looking for them on the streets. . .

Continue reading.

Trump refuses to make the opioid crisis a national emergency, though he promised that he would. His promises turn out to be worthless.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 January 2018 at 7:27 am

Our culture and economic values share the blame for epic opioid crisis

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Dr. Frank Huyler, an emergency physician in New Mexico, writes in the Daily News:

In 2017, U.S. life expectancy fell for the second consecutive year. Among all of the disturbing headlines that we’ve seen in the past 12 months, this is arguably the worst, and it should make all of us stop and pay attention.

In countries like the United States, any decline in life expectancy is unheard of. It speaks to very large forces at work, like World War II, or HIV.

In this case, opioid overdoses are to blame. They have quadrupled since 1999, and are continuing to rise. Right now that epidemic is killing more people in the U.S. than AIDS at its peak. About five people are dying per hour — all day, every day.

The story of the opioid epidemic has been told before by the media. But it hasn’t been examined nearly enough. It’s a story that should prompt far larger questions about our country, its values, and its institutions than we have asked.

Opioids affect us in complex and mysterious ways . They don’t stop sensation, like local anesthetics. Instead, these drugs work by activating natural opioid receptors in our brains. They change our experience of pain. They replace pain, in part, with pleasure.

Pain thresholds are built into us for powerful evolutionary reasons. Opioids make us feel good in the short term, but they also distort essential mechanisms necessary for survival in a Darwinian world.

Tolerance is the body’s natural attempt to restore those mechanisms. We become less sensitive to opioids, and need higher doses for the same effect. Tolerance is the first step toward physical addiction; the two are linked. As tolerance rises, the risk of overdose and death follows closely behind.

The time it takes for this process to occur is the key to understanding the opioid epidemic. A week or two of opioids may cause euphoria and pleasure, but it will rarely create physical addiction. Given a few months, however, anyone can be made into an opioid addict.

This has been understood in the medical world for a hundred years.

In 1996 a single company, Purdue Pharmaceuticals, introduced a patented new opioid compound into the market with FDA approval. They called it OxyContin, and marketed it as a new drug.

OxyContin wasn’t a new drug. It was simply a new pill designed to release an old drug — oxycodone — more slowly. Oxycodone was first synthesized in 1916, and is closely related to heroin.

Since it releases oxycodone more slowly, OxyContin doesn’t have to be taken as often to relieve pain. That slower release also allowed Purdue to put higher doses of oxycodone into each pill.

Purdue Pharma used this distinction as a pretext for claims that OxyContin was safer and less addictive than other opioids and therefore should be widely prescribed for pain of all kinds. The FDA enabled this assertion, and the FDA examiner who approved OxyContin’s initial application took a job with Purdue shortly thereafter.

Once the FDA approved the drug, Purdue unleashed a fraudulent marketing campaign designed to generate as many new OxyContin consumers as possible.

A critical element of their strategy was to expand the traditional indications for opioid prescriptions beyond acute pain into the far more controversial category of chronic pain. Chronic pain is so broadly defined that tens of millions of patients became potential customers.

This was hugely consequential. When drugs are approved by the FDA, health insurance pays for them. The big money was not in acute pain, which goes away, or cancer pain, where patients die quickly, but in chronic pain, which is endless.

Other opioid manufacturers soon joined the effort, marketing their own products for chronic pain. A combination of physician complicity, patient demand and fundamentally flawed retail-based models of medical care then created a dismal synergy that flooded society with oral narcotics.

As steadily increasing numbers of people were encouraged to take prescribed opioids, and became physically addicted to them, more people also turned to heroin and other illicit drugs. Purdue Pharma and others generated enormous sales. Drug cartels and dealers were handed an abundance of new customers. Heroin and even more dangerous illegal narcotics such as fentanyl became more plentiful and cheaper across the country.

A new wave of opioid addiction eventually spread far beyond the control of Purdue Pharma or anyone else. That increased demand had the additional effect of destabilizing Mexico and supporting Islamic extremists with opium revenue from Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Opioid addiction is not a new problem. Ten years before OxyContin appeared on the market, as part of the so-called war on drugs, Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which imposed harsh federal mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes.

More than 300,000 people are currently serving time in either state or federal prisons for often minor drug offenses. Most of these prisoners are poor, and a disproportionate number are minorities. Hardly any of them are drug kingpins.

Purdue’s efforts, however, were unprecedented. In 2007, three senior executives of Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges for criminally misbranding OxyContin by falsely and deliberately claiming it was less addictive and safer than other opioids.

They were sentenced to a few hours of community service, and fined. Purdue Pharma was also fined some $634 million for these misrepresentations.

Purdue’s fine, large for the pharmaceutical industry, represents less than 2% of the roughly $36 billion of revenue so far generated from sales of OxyContin.

Purdue Pharma is not a publicly traded company. It is owned by a single family, the Sacklers, who control the board and hire the executives. In 2015, the Sacklers abruptly appeared on Forbes Magazine’s richest families list, at number 16, with a net worth conservatively estimated at $14 billion. Much of their wealth came from OxyContin sales.

Most of the discussion around the opioid epidemic stops there. The epidemic has been treated primarily as a tragic yet isolated phenomenon, a cautionary tale of a few bad actors mixed in with regulatory mistakes and the confluence of good intentions gone awry.

This view misses a much more fundamental point. . .

Continue reading.

There’s a lot more and it’s well worth reading—and acting upon.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 January 2018 at 7:03 am

Apparently US bacon is not so good

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Lisa O’Carroll reports in the Guardian:

Chlorinated chicken, hormone-fed beef and bacon produced with additives strong enough to cripple pigs have been listed by British campaigners as three of the top 10 food safety risks posed by a free-trade deal with the US.

American use of the pork additive ractopamine alongside the more publicised practices of washing chicken in chlorine and feeding cattle growth hormones are highlighted in a report by the Soil Association as chief among its concerns about a post-Brexit era.

“Some of the key differences between UK and US production – hormone-treated beef, GM crops and chlorinated chicken – are becoming increasingly understood by British consumers,” the report says.

But there are “other areas where products imported from the US could be produced under significantly different standards to our own”, it adds.

The report was published to coincide with the second reading of the trade bill, which will provide a framework for post-Brexit trade deals.

Ractopamine, which can add three kilos of extra meat to a pig, is banned by almost every country except the US. The EU has outlawed its use since 1996.

It is fed to an estimated 60-90% of pigs in the US in the weeks before slaughter and has been found to cause disability in animals including trembling, broken bones and an inability to walk, according to the Soil Association.

The group says it is concerned there will be pressure to source food from the US after Brexit, particularly if tariffs are imposed on food from elsewhere in the EU.

“The concern is that while Michael Gove [the environment secretary] wants the country to be a leader in animal welfare and food safety … there will be a race to the bottom if British farmers have to compete on price with American food,” said Honor Eldridge, a policy officer at the Soil Association.

Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, has long argued that the biggest prize from Brexit would be a trade deal with the US. Farmers and food producers have expressed deep concern that food standards would be compromised in pursuit of a deal.

They have been spooked by a London visit by Donald Trump’s most senior business representative, who warned that any post-Brexit deal with Washington would hinge on the UK scrapping rules set by Brussels, including regulations governing imports of chlorinated chicken.

Wilbur Ross, the US commerce secretary, suggested European regulations governing the safety of chlorine-washed chicken ignored the findings of US scientific research. His comments underline the potential difficulties in striking a free-trade deal with the US once Britain leaves the EU.

“Michael Gove needs to continue to advocate for high British food standards to Liam Fox and the government and for the risks and differences of food standards in the US to be recognised,” said Eldridge.

The full list of controversial practices highlighted by the Soil Association is:

  1. Chlorine-washed chicken (banned in the EU).
  2. Hormone-treated beef (banned in the EU).
  3. Ractopamine in pork (banned in the EU).
  4. Chicken litter as animal feed (banned in the EU).
  5. Atrazine-treated crops (banned in the EU). Atrazine is a herbicide used on 90% of sugar cane, which can enter the water supply and interfere with wildlife.
  6. . . .

Continue reading. There’s more. US food can be hard on your health. The Dept. of Agriculture and the FDA seem totally unable to do their jobs now, because of overfunding and regulatory capture.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 January 2018 at 11:46 am

What is the physiological basis of the healing touch?

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Pavel Goldstein, a visiting scholar at the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder, writes in Aeon:

Around 100 million adults in the United States are affected by chronic pain – pain that lasts for months or years on end. It is one of the country’s most underestimated health problems. The annual cost of managing pain is greater than that of heart disease, cancer and diabetes, and the cost to the economy through decreased productivity reaches hundreds of billions of dollars. Chronic pain’s unremitting presence can lead to a variety of mental-health issues, depression above all, which often intensifies pain. And our most common weapon against pain – prescription painkillers – generates its own pain, as the ongoing opioid crisis attests. But must we rely on pharmacology to stave off pain? Perhaps there is a more natural nostrum – partial and insufficient, but helpful nonetheless – closer to hand.

Most pain research concentrates on a single, isolated person in pain. This allows researchers to simplify their analyses of pain, which is useful to a point, though it does yield a somewhat distorted view. The problem is that, outside of the laboratory, people are often not isolated: they take part in a social world. Without involving social interactions into the study of pain, we risk ignoring the part that social communication might play.

New techniques have recently made it possible to monitor the physiological activity of several people simultaneously. This allows us to measure the level of synchrony between people as they take part in extreme or prosaic social situations, with some surprising findings. Participants and spectators of a fire-walking ritual were found to have synchronous heartbeats. So do people watching emotional movies together, choir singers singing together, and romantic couples gazing at each other and engaged in imitation tasks in the lab. How can interpersonal synchrony be facilitated? And might there be a way for such physiological coupling to contribute to pain relief? The answer lies in the simplest of human interactions: touch.

Research I recently conducted with my colleagues Haifa Irit Weissman-Fogel and Simone Shamay-Tsoory at the University of Haifa suggested that interpersonal touch is an effective way of reducing pain. We recruited 23 romantic, heterosexual couples to participate in the experiment. The women received pain stimuli under varying conditions. First, alone, without their partners, and then with their partners, but without physical contact. In the third condition, the women held hands with their partners while receiving pain and, in the fourth, they held hands with a stranger. This study showed that the third condition – partner’s touch – resulted in enhanced pain-reduction in comparison with others. Moreover, women with highly empathetic partners reported increased pain-reduction associated with that partner’s touch. It seems, then, that this study empirically supports the idea that touch can transfer a partner’s empathy, thereby decreasing pain. And it happens that this finding dovetails with previous research showing that a range of emotions from disgust to love to fear can be effectively communicated solely by means of touch.

In order to understand the physiological bases of our findings, we conducted an additional study that also measured synchrony. This time, 22 (different) romantic couples were invited to participate. Throughout the experiment, we calculated physiological synchrony by recording heartrate and respiration in each partner. There were four study conditions: holding hands, with pain; holding hands, without pain; not holding hands, with pain; and without either pain or holding hands. (Pain was again administered only to the females.) We explored interpersonal synchrony in both conditions without pain, and touch moderately enhanced the synchrony for the respiration. Surprisingly, synchrony disappeared altogether when pain was administered without touch, perhaps women participants focused almost exclusively on their own pain as a strategy to cope, leading to a physiological ‘disconnection’ from their partners. However, interpersonal touch enlivened synchrony between partners in both heartrate and respiration. Moreover, couples that demonstrated high touch-related pain relief showed enhanced levels of physiological synchrony, as did the couples with a highly empathic male partner.

The investigation didn’t stop there. Under the same conditions, we studied inter-brain synchrony. This study highlighted the analgesic effect of synergistic touch and empathy, which might have important implications for acute pain conditions, such as easing the pain of going through labour. Indeed, the presence of partners during delivery is helpful in 60 per cent of cases, suggesting that the partner’s empathy and the quality of the birth interaction might explain the differences between the cases. Similarly, otherstudies showed that the father’s presence increased positive experiences in all aspects of childbirth. Therefore, future studies might concentrate on the clinical implication of these findings, investigating the efficacy of different touch aspects and using empathy training.

Interpersonal touch has  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 January 2018 at 10:13 am

Using marijuana to fight the opioid crisis

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Margery Eagan writes in the Boston Globe:

IN WASHINGTON, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reversed Obama administration policies and freed US attorneys to prosecute the marijuana business, even where it’s legal.

In Boston, US Attorney Andrew Lelling has given no assurances that he won’t.

Meanwhile, in a nondescript Natick strip mall, in a physician’s office above a pizza joint and dance school, and down the hall from the Ebenezer Assembly of God ministry, Dr. Uma Dhanabalan helps patients use marijuana to wean themselves from an actual drug menace. That would be opioids, legally prescribed, government approved, a drug that’s made billions for the politically wired pharmaceutical industry and now kills nearly 100 Americans every day.

“I hated them,” said Beth, one of Dhanabalan’s patients, a 52-year-old wife and mother, about the Hydromorphone and Oxycodone she was prescribed for pain from a herniated disc and osteoarthritis.

On opioids, she couldn’t work. Her job involves money. She couldn’t misplace a decimal point. The drugs made her “cotton-ball headed, like a hangover mixed with a cold. I couldn’t think.”

On opioids, she couldn’t work. Her job involves money. She couldn’t misplace a decimal point. The drugs made her “cotton-ball headed, like a hangover mixed with a cold. I couldn’t think.”

She also endured the indignities of another notorious opioid side effect: constipation. For that, physicians routinely prescribe yet another drug with side effects almost as horrifying as those of opioids. Opiod side effects include not just dizziness, drowsiness, mood swings, and confusion, but also addiction, accidental overdose, and death.

“The nerve pain used to be unrelenting, like pushing out at the front of your consciousness,” she said. But the marijuana “put a barrier between conscious awareness and the pain. It’s still there, but like a shadow. It’s not banging. And I am clear-headed.

“I used to drink two glasses of wine a day. Now I’ve stopped drinking almost entirely. Now I do errands and walk the dog.” She stood up and showed me her loose pants. “And I’ve lost 30 pounds.”

Beth did not want her last name used. She has a teenage son. Stigma and unease remain. And both became worse when prosecutor Lelling called marijuana a “dangerous” drug he may, or may not, crack down on.

The irony, said Dr. Dhanabalan, is that “nobody in the world has ever died from a cannabis overdose.” She calls cannabis “the exit drug” from opioid addiction, a controversial claim but one that is fast gaining traction.

Sitting in blue scrubs, pictures of a marijuana plant on one wall and her medical degrees and a plaque from the Veterans of Foreign Wars on another, the former family physician said it’s hard to fathom the continued hostility toward, and ignorance about, cannabis. She said it’s helped not only patients kicking opioids but also those with cancer, PTSD, or common maladies like insomnia. “It changes lives,” she said.

Surely it changed Daniel Snyder’s. A 64-year-old Stoneham mechanic badly injured in a tractor rollover, he said opioids helped his pain tremendously — at first.

“The reason people get addicted is this stuff makes them feel so good, it’s like you could have a good time watching paint dry,” he says. “Then you want more, and you end up in a deep dark hole.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 January 2018 at 11:40 am

Just Eat More Fiber

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Olga Khazan has an interesting article in the Atlantic:

In the spirit of Drynuary, I’d like to propose another health-oriented month of the year. Perhaps called Crunch-uary or Poop-tober, it would be 30 days in which Americans, for once, eat enough dietary fiber.

Currently, Americans only eat about 16 grams of fiber —the parts of plants that can’t be digested—per day. That’s way less than the 25 to 30 grams that’s recommended.

There are so many reasons why, from fast-food marketing to agriculture subsidies, but one contributing factor is the slow death of cooking, and the rise of the restaurant meal. Americans now spend more on food at restaurants than they do at grocery stores, but restaurant food tends to have even less fiber than the food we would otherwise eat at home.

One problem seems to be that restaurant meals aren’t typically loaded with two of the best sources of fiber, unprocessed fruits and vegetables. A revealing studyfrom 2007, in which researchers interviewed 41 restaurant executives, showed that restaurants think fruits and vegetables are too expensive to feature prominently on the menu, and “61 percent said profits drive menu selections.” They also opposed labeling certain menu items as healthier choices, saying that would be “the kiss of death.”

So people like to eat out, and when they do, they prefer mushy, fiber-free comfort foods. But that’s a pretty dangerous road to go down.

As my colleague Ed Yong has written, low-fiber diets make gut bacteria more homogenous, possibly for generations. Mice that are fed high-fiber diets have less-severe food allergies, potentially because gut bacteria break down fiber into short-chain fatty acids, which support the immune system. A more recent study in mice found that a low-fiber diet can spark inflammation in the intestines. We still need more studies to understand exactly how fiber and the microbiome interact in humans. But we do know that hunter-gatherer communities in Tanzania and elsewhere, who don’t eat Western diets, eat about 100 grams of fiber a day and have much more diverse microbiomes than Westerners.

“We’re beginning to realize that people who eat more dietary fiber are actually feeding their gut microbiome,” Justin Sonnenburg, a microbiologist at Stanford University, explained to NPR.

There are also already plenty of other studies detailing the many ways fiber boosts health.

Behold, an extremely confusing flow chart, from a 2005 study, showing how fiber leads to greater satiety, less insulin secretion, and more short-chain fatty acids, which all amounts to one thing: Less body weight. . .

Continue reading.

Since I try to minimize carbs, I looked at a couple of lists of high-fiber foods with minimal carb content (which leaves out pulse):

High-fiber low-carb foods from VeryWell.com

High-fiber low-carb foods from DietingWell.com

I certainly will get chia seeds back into the diet. I’ve eaten them for a while, and they tasty plus a good source of protein and fiber. They’re also high in omega-3.

Foods high in fibre without regard to carbs:
List 1
List 2

Written by LeisureGuy

15 January 2018 at 9:52 am

Posted in Food, Health, Low carb

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