Monday, August 7, 2017

What's in your snack? Titanium Dioxide

I've been warning about the dangers of processed foods for many years now. Today an article on the dangers of a common food additive, titanium dioxide, caught my attention. Titanium dioxide is used widely by the food industry as a coloring agent. Titanium oxide, also known as Ti02, is extracted from certain rocks mines around the world. When purified, Ti02 makes an excellent pigment for paint, paper, and plastic. Over 4.6 million tons of Ti02 are produced annually around the world. So what does this have to do with food?

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Gut Testing Limitations

Finally, some "not-so-fake" news from the world of gut testing.

Back in 2012 or so, I was really excited that some companies...first American Gut and then uBiome, were offering gut bacteria testing for under $100. These same tests used to cost $1000's and were off-limits to the general public. With the use of new digital methods for testing and cheaper machines, the price of testing gut bacteria is now just a matter of market demand.

Illumina Genome Analyzer

I've written several posts on how bacteria are discovered in a stool sample, so I won't rehash that here. However, from nearly the very beginning I was seeing some huge problems. The biggest was that reports from two companies on the same sample rarely looked similar, and the second was that medical conditions and diets rarely corresponded to the bacterial report.

Over the years, I've become increasingly leery of gut testing companies. Ubiome is now offering "suggestions" for changes in diet based on a single report, and even starting a medical-grade test option ("SmartGut") that must be ordered by trained physicians. American Gut is offering a similar feature, called "MapMyGut," also clinician-ordered.  But this week an article from Smithonian Science made me realize that there is some transparency in the world of gut testing.

You Are What You Eat, And What You Eat Is Millions of Microbes (, June 2017).  

We've been discussing the acquisition of microbes for years around here. We discussed how gut bacteria magically appear in your gut based on the food you eat and your daily interactions with the world. Finally the researchers are also looking at this angle, too.

When researchers crunched the numbers, however, they found no discernible correlations between gut communities and those with seemingly similar diets. 

This also holds true for medical conditions such as Crohn's disease and the myriad other dysbiosis-inducing diseases we deal with. As I've been preaching for years: When gut dysbiosis gets hold, all bets are off.

I'm quite amazed that Rob Knight of Knight Lab was the leading contributor to this article. Rob was one of the founders of the American Gut project. He's basically admitting that they have learned very little about the gut despite analyzing the feces of over 9000 people. Their new line of bacterial inquiry will be focused on the bacteria found within the foods we eat, they intend to analyze 1000 different foods from around the world to see what secrets they hold.

Bottom Line

While this is a good start, we are still a long ways off from understanding the complex interactions between bacteria and human health. The trend is a focus on bacteria, but there are also phages, viruses, and fungi in the mix. And these collective microbes are not only found on the foods we eat, but they can incorporate themselves into the DNA of the foods we will Rob Knight suss all this out? I have a feeling that the next blockbuster will be, "When researchers crunched the numbers, however, they found no discernible correlations between gut communities and the bacteria found in the foods they ate."

Take Home Message

Don't worry so much about the microbes that inhabit your gut.  Nature has developed ways to get them where they need to be...all that you have to do is eat mostly real food, lots of plants, and very little processed food.  Exercise, get dirty, and live a stress-free lifestyle. Get some sun and good sleep. If you have terrible gut problems, the same rules apply, but you may have a tough time sorting it all out. There are plenty of gurus who will promise the world if you follow their advice...but they are just guessing.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Microbe/Host Genetic Interactions

Nuclear Receptor

Here's a brand new paper out of Duke University that shows for the first time how gut microbes directly can effect host cells which could lead to human disease. This strengthens my notion that we must maintain a healthy gut flora and avoid upsets that can lead to colonization by pathogenic microbes.

Microbiota regulate intestinal epithelial gene expression by suppressing  the transcription 1 factor  Hepatocyte nuclear factor 4 alpha (Davison et al., 2017).

Sure to get a collective *yawn* from most readers, and even researchers, this paper explores a phenomenon that many seem to ignore:
...the roles of nuclear receptors  in host responses remain poorly understood, and no previous study has defined the impact of microbiota on nuclear receptor DNA binding. Nuclear receptors are a metazoan innovation.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Potatoes Cure T2D!

Here's a fairly recent paper that I missed last year (hattip DuckDodger).  Glycemic Control for Patients With Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (Sept 2016).  A release article was presented that seemed to imply that blood glucose control is not important at all. It seemed to say that drugs such as Metformin for blood sugar control did absolutely nothing. The article demands we get new drugs to treat diabetes!

There is a risk that all of the attention on blood sugar levels is distracting researchers from pursuing new leads. If doctors check the shelf for other medications that do something beyond glucose control, they will find that medical cupboard is bare. 

Big Pharma to the Rescue! 
Here's what the paper says, a little different than the fake news. They conclude:
The evidence summarized here  requires us to explore factors other than tight glycemic control  to  explain  this  improvement  and  better  address  the  diabetes  mellitus  epidemic.  Exciting  new  questions  and  new  answers  may surface as we look beyond glycemic control. 

The paper showed that if you have diabetes and you take blood sugar controlling drugs, you will have a slightly longer life than those who do not take drugs. 

The researchers are asking: Could we spend our research dollars more wisely than developing more glucose lowering drugs?

The answer is YES!
Potatoes for the Win!
If you have Type 2 Diabetes, you need to make some MAJOR changes in your life. I assume that people who take drugs to control their BG may also decide to make some big lifestyle eating whole, unprocessed foods. Exercising. And more crazy ideas: Low Carb Diets, Ketogenic diets, high RS diets, Diabetes Warrior Diets, heck...[gratuitous Amazon Link warning]: The Potato Hack: Weight Loss Simplified which details the use of all-potato diets to cure diabetes. 

Yes, yes. We need to look beyond treating T2D with drugs! The drugs work, though. Don't get me wrong. But why the drugs work may be bigger than tight blood sugar control. Maybe the changes are related to a change in gut flora after taking some drugs (ie. Metformin). In fact, Metformin in particular, is a really good drug for diabetics after it's too late to reverse normally. 

Metformin has a number of actions within the gut. It increases intestinal glucose uptake and lactate production, increases GLP-1 concentrations and the bile acid pool within the intestine, and alters the microbiome.
It's obvious that diabetes can be treated differently. Drugs are not the only option. T2D's need to completely give up sweets and breads, fried foods and fast-food. T2D's need to routinely check their blood glucose with a home test kit and strive to keep their fasting blood glucose under 130 and reduce post-prandial spikes. If diagnosed with pre-Diabetes or T2D, you HAVE to make changes. Most people's only change is to take drugs, and make no lifestyle modifications:

Here you have an obese, middle-aged person. Probably has high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a host of auto-immune conditions. They take Glucerna, Metformin or Cycloset and their doctor is encouraged about their good blood sugar numbers. Chides to lose weight and eat whole-grain wheat and lean meat. This person only sees a slight advantage in life when compared to people whose blood sugar in not controlled in any way. 


Type 2 Diabetes is common. Very common. It's easy to find diabetic test subjects. It's hard to find people with diabetes who are controlling their own disease progression with dietary interventions and lifestyle changes.

My contention is that everyone is at risk of developing T2D. All you have to do is eat the foods presented before you on TV and billboards. Eat all you want. Whenever you want. You'll soon be a candidate for diabetic drugs. Want it faster?  Don't move around so much. Take antibiotics.

Once T2D sets in, it's pretty late to be starting to get healthy. Prevention is key. Pay attention to blood glucose levels. Take action at the first signs of Pre-diabetes. Persons with T2D can benefit greatly from different diet plans that control blood glucose without medicine. Low carb diets, high carb diets, and everything in between.  It's not just the carbs, it's the quality and quantity.

The preferable option is to eat right, exercise, and get a good night's sleep. You'll never have to worry about diabetes.

Anybody here fighting diabetes or concerned about their blood glucose numbers?  Tell me about it.

I am collecting data from 10 people who are tracking their blood glucose levels immediately after ingesting 2 spoonfuls of RS, as soon as they all get me their data, I'll write up a blog post that I think you will find very interesting.

Oh, and forgive me for the sensationalist post title. It seems to be the thing to do lately.

Rodríguez-Gutiérrez, R., & Montori, V. M. (2016). Glycemic Control for Patients With Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, CIRCOUTCOMES-116.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Resistant Starch Blood Glucose Experiment: Volunteers Needed

EDIT 5/11/17 - Project complete! See full results on my Potato Hack blog: RS Glycemic Impact Study

EDIT 4/17/17 - I have enough volunteers now, I'll share the results when I get them compiled. Thanks!

Dear Readers - I'm well into my RS analysis testing project. I've sent samples of various starches to different labs for RS testing and test comparisons.

Preliminary results show that things are as we expected: Potato Starch, Green Banana Flour, and Hi-Maize are all good sources of RS.

I'd like to take this project a step further, and test the blood glucose response caused by these starches.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Fiber Microdosing with SpudMIN

Buy SpudMIN Here.  First product in lineup.  $67 today only!

Microdosing is the latest trend. Silicon Valley professionals have pioneered microdosing of certain fibers found in wheat mold, mushrooms, and cacti and find that it:

...enhances overall well-being, helping to reduce stress and anxiety while improving sleep and leading to healthier habits.

Manufacturers of prebiotic fibers are starting to see the wisdom in using homeopathic doses of fibers. Doses as low as 1 gram per serving are showing tremendous potential! I intend to take this a step futher, reducing the serving size to beyond a microdose.

I am proud to announce that I am developing my own line of microdose fiber. I call it SpudMIN. It's based on raw potato starch. The serving size is one starch granule per day. Each bottle contains a 30 day supply and will only cost $67.  Get yours now!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Hi-Maize Studies

Last month I wrote about prebiotic research in 2017. I hope you had a chance to look some of them over. "Fiber" is being elevated to superfood status, and Big Pharma is clunking away, trying to market products that simply mimic nature.

A couple more great papers just released show that resistant starch is probably going to be the gold standard for all prebiotic research. Researchers love Hi-Maize, mostly because they get it for free from Ingredion, but also because it works.  It's a great product, still being sold as a cooking ingredient, and easy for people to buy. Presently, there are two good suppliers: King Arthur Flour and Honeyville

The best thing about Hi-Maize is that you can cook with it, so the sky's the limit for how to get this into your diet.  Raw potato starch and Banana Flour are great prebiotics, too, but must be consumed raw/unheated.

The Research

Study #1:

Resistant starch lowers postprandial glucose and leptin in overweight adults consuming a moderate-to-high-fat diet: a randomized-controlled trial (Maziarz et al., 2017).

Abstract of the paper:

High-amylose maize resistant starch type 2 (HAM-RS2) stimulates gut-derived satiety peptides and reduces adiposity in animals. Human studies have not supported these findings despite improvements in glucose homeostasis and insulin sensitivity after HAM-RS2 intake which can lower adiposity-related disease risk. The primary objective of this study was to evaluate the impact of HAM-RS2 consumption on blood glucose homeostasis in overweight, healthy adults. We also examined changes in biomarkers of satiety (glucagon-like peptide-1 [GLP-1], peptide YY [PYY], and leptin) and body composition determined by anthropometrics and dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, dietary intake, and subjective satiety measured by a visual analogue scale following HAM-RS2 consumption.
Using a randomized-controlled, parallel-arm, double-blind design, 18 overweight, healthy adults consumed either muffins enriched with 30 g HAM-RS2 (n = 11) or 0 g HAM-RS2 (control; n = 7) daily for 6 weeks. The HAM-RS2 and control muffins were similar in total calories and available carbohydrate.
At baseline, total PYY concentrations were significantly higher 120 min following the consumption of study muffins in the HAM-RS2 group than control group (P = 0.043). Within the HAM-RS2 group, the area under the curve (AUC) glucose (P = 0.028), AUC leptin (P = 0.022), and postprandial 120-min leptin (P = 0.028) decreased independent of changes in body composition or overall energy intake at the end of 6 weeks. Fasting total PYY increased (P = 0.033) in the HAM-RS2 group, but changes in insulin or total GLP-1 were not observed. Mean overall change in subjective satiety score did not correlate with mean AUC biomarker changes suggesting the satiety peptides did not elicit a satiation response or change in overall total caloric intake. The metabolic response from HAM-RS2 occurred despite the habitual intake of a moderate-to-high-fat diet (mean range 34.5% to 39.4% of total calories).
Consuming 30 g HAM-RS2 daily for 6 weeks can improve glucose homeostasis, lower leptin concentrations, and increase fasting PYY in healthy overweight adults without impacting body composition and may aid in the prevention of chronic disease. However, between-group differences in biomarkers were not observed and future research is warranted before specific recommendations can be made.

My impression: This study observed 11 people who supplemented with 30g (about 3TBS) of Hi-Maize daily, comparing them with 7 people who changed nothing in their diet. The folks taking the Hi-Maize showed changes related to hunger/satiety hormones (PYY and leptin) as well as blood glucose.

The test subjects were overweight, but otherwise healthy. The study designers did not include a pre-test acclimation period, which seems to be required for gut health research, but maybe there is something more to the story than gut bacteria, as the next paper describes:

Study #2:

Resistant starch can improve insulin sensitivity independently of the gut microbiota (Bindels et al., 2017).

Abstract of the paper:

Obesity-related diseases, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, have reached epidemic proportions in industrialized nations, and dietary interventions for their prevention are therefore important. Resistant starches (RS) improve insulin sensitivity in clinical trials, but the mechanisms underlying this health benefit remain poorly understood. Because RS fermentation by the gut microbiota results in the formation of physiologically active metabolites, we chose to specifically determine the role of the gut microbiota in mediating the metabolic benefits of RS. To achieve this goal, we determined the effects of RS when added to a Western diet on host metabolism in mice with and without a microbiota.
RS feeding of conventionalized mice improved insulin sensitivity and redressed some of the Western diet-induced changes in microbiome composition. However, parallel experiments in germ-free littermates revealed that RS-mediated improvements in insulin levels also occurred in the absence of a microbiota. RS reduced gene expression of adipose tissue macrophage markers and altered cecal concentrations of several bile acids in both germ-free and conventionalized mice; these effects were strongly correlated with the metabolic benefits, providing a potential microbiota-independent mechanism to explain the physiological effects of RS.
This study demonstrated that some metabolic benefits exerted by dietary RS, especially improvements in insulin levels, occur independently of the microbiota and could involve alterations in the bile acid cycle and adipose tissue immune modulation. This work also sets a precedent for future mechanistic studies aimed at establishing the causative role of the gut microbiota in mediating the benefits of bioactive compounds and functional foods.

My impression: This study used mice who were devoid of gut bacteria. They fed the mice Hi-Maize and FiberSym (an RS4 product) and observed how they responded. The germ-free mice had many of the same responses to resistant starch as did normal mice, indicating that the "magic" in RS is not all from your gut flora.

This is good news, because it means that everybody should see some benefits from increasing RS in their diet, even people whose gut bacteria has been wiped out by antibiotics and years of food abuse.

Take Home

Prebiotics are powerful and important. Learn to eat fiber rich foods and take a supplement if your diet lacks the amount of fiber you need. We should strive to eat 30-50 grams of fiber daily, yet most of us eat less than 15g.  A spoonful or two of a fiber supplement, a simple cooking ingredient...untouched by Big Pharm, and as cheap as it ought to be, is all you need.