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Junk Food Alters Intestinal Bacteria in One Day

After just one day of switching from a plant-based diet to a high-fat-and-sugar diet, mice with human intestinal bacteria developed bacteria associated with obesity in humans, and soon became grossly obese (Science Translational Medicine, November 11, 2009).

Dr. Jeffrey Gordon of Washington University in St Louis first showed that certain types of bacteria in the human intestinal tract can break down food more efficiently and help you absorb a greater percentage of calories from the food that you eat. He also showed that humans whose intestinal tracts are dominated by these bacteria tend to be overweight.

In this new study, Dr. Gordon created germ-free mice and fed them a low-fat, plant-rich diet. Then he fed them bacteria extracted from human stool and continued to feed them a low-fat, plant-based diet for one month. By sequencing the microbes' 16S rRNA gene, he showed that the intestinal bacteria in the mice were the same as those living in a healthy human's intestines.

One month later, he switched half the mice to a high-fat, high-sugar diet. After 24 hours, the intestines of the mice had increases in the obesity-causing bacteria, Firmicutes, and decreases in the obesity-preventing Bacteroidetes. The mice continued to grow fatter and fatter, even when switched back to the low-fat, plant-based diet.

What does this mean to you? When you eat a diet rich in refined carbohydrates (fruit juices, sugared drinks and foods made from flour and sugar) and fat (meat, fried foods, and fatty desserts), you develop intestines full of bacteria that thrive on these foods, break down these foods more efficiently, and then absorb far more calories from these foods. If you want your gut flora to help you maintain a healthful weight, you should eat primarily fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Should I take aspirin to help prevent a heart attack?

About 50 million Americans take aspirin daily in the hope of preventing heart attacks. A recent report shows that they and you should not do this unless you have had a heart attack or clot- related stroke (Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin, November 2009). The authors report that two large studies show that taking one baby aspirin a day for up to seven years does not protect diabetics from suffering heart attacks or strokes. The risk of suffering serious harm from bleeding was greater than the risk of a heart attack.

The latest recommendation is that you should not take aspirin regularly unless you have at least a 10 percent risk for a heart attack in the next decade, indicated by having several of the following risk factors: diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, overweight, abdominal obesity, lack of exercise, or a diet high fat and meat and low in vegetables. Correcting these risk factors should be the first priority.

Taking aspirin increases risk for bleeding in your stomach or brain or hemorrhaging excessively with a minor accident. Although aspirin can prevent strokes caused by clots, it can cause strokes caused by bleeding.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: What are the risks of taking human growth hormone?

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health in Baltimore showed that giving growth hormone to 131 healthy men and women, 65 to 88 years of age, markedly increased their chances of becoming diabetic. It increased their blood sugar and insulin levels after eating, and decreased their ability to respond to insulin (Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, October 2009). The authors of this study explained that growth hormone is widely and inappropriately used as anti-aging therapy with little information on the consequences.

Before insulin can do its job of driving sugar from the bloodstream into cells, it must first attach to special hooks on each cell, called insulin receptors. Most cases of diabetes occur when insulin loses some of its ability to attach to these receptors. Then blood sugar levels rise too high, which causes sugar to attach on the surface of cell membranes to damage cells throughout the body. The pancreas tries to lower blood sugar levels by putting out even more insulin. So most diabetics cannot respond to insulin, and therefore have very high blood levels of both insulin and sugar. Eventually the pancreas exhausts itself from putting out so much insulin; it dies so the person has no insulin and must take insulin injections for the rest of his life.

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Recipe of the Week:

Diana's Spice Blends

You'll find lots of recipes and helpful tips in The Good Food Book - it's FREE

June 22nd, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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