Diet: Getting to know Indoles

… the evidence indicates that dietary indoles may help extend lifespan

By Denise Reynolds, Registered Dietitian

Researchers are continually learning about micronutrients that help improve lifespan. Sometimes we achieve the nutrients directly, such as through the food we eat – and sometimes indirectly, such as through metabolism of our intestinal bacteria. The microbiome, which refers to the colonies of bacteria that live in our digestive tract, is fascinating. We may not be aware of them, but they can do wonderful things for our health. For example, we have recently learned that this bacteria plays a role in supporting our immune system.

These little creatures inside us may also play a key role in helping us live longer and healthier lives.

Researchers with Emory University School of Medicine have found that intestinal bacteria produce a nutrient class called indoles. These micronutrients may help us maintain mobility and resilience throughout our lifespan. Senior author Daniel Kalman PhD calls this a “healthspan”, as it doesn’t necessarily mean you are adding years to your life, but you are definitely adding life to your years. “With medical advances, people are living longer; but you might not really want to live longer if it means spending those extra years frail and infirm,” says Dr. Kalman.

Indoles are produced by many types of bacteria, including E.Coli. Most varieties of E. Coli bacteria are harmless and normally live within the intestines of healthy people. (There are strains that you may have heard of that are harmful to health such as E.Coli 0157:H7, but that isn’t the strain we are talking about here.)

In an animal study, indoles appeared to increase mobility in older age and improved resistance to stress.

A lot of new research about gut microbiome and health shows that certain foods contribute to a positive balance of the strains of bacteria we find in our digestive tracts. Too much of the wrong foods can upset the balance and lead to systemic inflammation. These include refined carbohydrate (including added sugar), animal foods and trans fats.

Foods that positively impact our microbiota include plants, especially those with anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties such as colourful fruits and vegetables. Some of these plants even contain direct sources of indoles – cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and kale for example. These specifically contain Indole-3-carbinol or I3C which is thought to have anti-cancer activity.

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This article first appeared on 31st August 2017 on EmaxHealth, the online health news portal and is reproduced here under CCL copyright rules.

Robert Sonowal, Daniel Kalman et al. Indoles from commensal bacteria extend healthspan. PNAS, August 21, 2017 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1706464114 Additional Resource: Oregon State University – Linus Pauling Institute.

Diet: Know the 2 types of Vitamin D

Vitamin D guidelines need to be updated – here’s why

By Susan Lanham-New

Most people know that it’s important to get enough vitamin D. Among other things, it’s vital for bone and muscle health. What people may not know is that there are two types of vitamin D: vitamin D2 (found in plant-based foods) and vitamin D3 (found in meat and fish). The public haven’t had to worry about this distinction because nutritional scientists have been telling us for years that both forms of the vitamin are “biologically equivalent”. In other words, a given dose of vitamin D2 or D3 will raise blood levels of vitamin D by the same amount. However, our latest study shows that this is not the case. We have discovered that, compared with vitamin D2, vitamin D3 is twice as effective at raising levels of the vitamin in the body, when given at recommended daily doses. This finding means that a lot of health guidelines will need to be rewritten as many claim that the two forms of vitamin D are equivalent.

Unique study

For our study – which is the largest of its kind so far – we compared vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 levels in 335 women over two consecutive winters. We ran the study during the winter months to exclude any effects of sunlight exposure on vitamin D levels. (Sunlight increases the production of vitamin D).

Participants were randomly allocated to one of five groups. The groups were administered vitamin D2 or D3 in juice or a biscuit, or they were given juice and a biscuit that didn’t contain vitamin D (the control group). None of the participants knew whether they were receiving vitamin D2, or D3 or neither (a placebo). The researchers also didn’t know what the participants were receiving – until the end of the study, that is. This is what’s known as a “double-blind” study. Each participant drank a small juice and ate one biscuit every day for 12 weeks. To measure the levels of vitamin D in the participants’ bodies, we took blood sample at the beginning of the study, midway through (at six weeks) and at the end of the study (12 weeks). We carefully measured dietary intake of vitamin D and found no differences in any of the five groups. None of the participants were taking vitamin D supplements. We also ensured that none of the subjects took winter holidays in the sun.

We found that vitamin D levels in women who received vitamin D3 from juice or a biscuit increased their vitamin D levels from their baseline measurements by around 75%, whereas those given vitamin D2 had an average increase in vitamin D levels of around 33% over the course of the 12-week intervention. The method of giving the supplemental vitamin D – juice or biscuit – didn’t make any difference to the outcome, they were both equally effective “vehicles”. This is the first study to directly compare one method of delivering vitamin D with another in the same study design, and it could have relevance for public health (for food fortification programmes) and for the food industry. Participants who were in the placebo group saw their vitamin D levels fall by a quarter.

This is as we expected as there is insufficient sunlight in the winter months, and most people don’t get enough vitamin D from their diets. We also found that participants who were given vitamin D2 had a substantial drop in the levels of vitamin D that your body makes naturally (that is, our vitamin D3 levels), which suggests that taking vitamin D2 may actually be harmful to the body in the long run. A large review of studies has shown that vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 have different effects on our health.

Get some sun

Vitamin D is an important nutrient for your health. You should aim to get 15 to 20 minutes of sunlight exposure on your skin each day during spring and summer. That doesn’t mean you have to strip off. Having 10% of your body exposed (which would be roughly your face, neck, hands and some of our arms), and not wearing sunscreen during this 15 to 20 minutes, is enough. Be careful not to allow your skin to burn during this time. If you are not able to get outside, or you cover up, then take a vitamin D supplement all year round. And if you are able to go outside in the summer, consider just taking a supplement in the winter, but don’t reach for any vitamin D pill at your local pharmacy – look for vitamin D3 on the label. And don’t forget to eat plenty of oily fish.

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About the author and source material:

Susan Lanham-New is Head of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Surrey. This article was originally published on 5th July, 2017 in the academic discussion jounal, ‘The Conversation’. To read the original article, including links to all references, please see here.

Fact Check: Is it bad for your health to eat food fried in olive oil?

By James Brown and Rachel Adams

It has been suggested recently that using vegetable oils to fry food may be bad for your health due to the production of toxic chemicals called aldehydes during the heating process. Aldehydes are simple organic structures – compounds which contain a carbon-oxygen double bond – and are abundant in nature. They are formed in the human body in small amounts as by-products of normal fructose and alcohol metabolism. Consumption of dietary aldehydes is thought to contribute to human diseases including diabetes and heart disease. But what about olive oil? Is it classed as a vegetable oil, and is it safe to fry food with it?

Around half of UK households now use olive oil, which demonstrates a sizeable shift in our oil use in recent years. This may be in part because olive oil consumption is frequently linked to good health, and forms a central component of the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet is itself known to reduce the risk of disease and early death. Olive oil, produced by pressing olives, is commonly used across the world in food preparation, whether for frying, drizzling or as a part of a salad dressing. It is therefore classed as a vegetable oil, as it is produced from vegetable matter, as opposed to animal fats such as lard or goose fat.

Of the vegetable oils that have been tested for heating-induced aldehyde content, olive oil actually performs reasonably well. Researchers from the University of the Basque Country

analysed olive, sunflower and flaxseed oils for their aldehyde content after the oils had been heated to 190℃. They found that heating the polyunsaturated sunflower and flaxseed oils produced greater quantities of aldehydes more quickly, whereas heating monounsaturated olive oil created fewer aldehydes and much later in the heating process.

This is thought to be because of a structural difference, with polyunsaturated oils containing more regions ripe for chemical reaction. Experiments performed for BBC’s Trust Me I’m a Doctor confirmed this, suggesting that heating olive oil, butter and goose fat produced similarly lower levels of aldehydes. These experiments collectively suggest that if you are going to fry, choosing olive oil is one of the better options.

Importantly, very little is known about what constitutes a low or high dose of aldehydes in food in humans. There is some data from animal studies, but the conclusions we can draw from them are limited. If olive oil is used to shallow fry foods for short periods, it is unlikely that your body would be exposed to greater concentrations of aldehydes than it normally would as a result of your body’s normal metabolic processes, mentioned earlier.


While there are clearly healthier ways to cook foods, frying food with olive oil is unlikely to be significantly bad for your health.


Rachel Adams, senior lecturer, Cardiff Metropolitan University adds: Heat causes chemical changes in all oils and this alters their aroma, flavour and nutritional content. Overheating oil during cooking will result in a dirty smoky kitchen, poor tasting food and the creation of harmful chemicals.

Olive oil is no different from other oils. If you burn it (heat it above its smoke point) it will taste bad and it will contain harmful chemicals. Smoke points tend to increase with olive oil quality, as the free fatty acid content tends to decrease and the antioxidant content increases. The high antioxidant content of olive oil could even reduce the amount of harmful chemicals produced during cooking. When cooking with olive oil, any potential harms can be reduced by using high quality oil and making sure you keep the oil below its smoke point; it will also make your food taste nicer.

The ConversationSo I agree with the author: Frying in general is not the healthiest way to prepare food, but if you are going to fry then frying in olive oil is not a bad choice. If cooking with olive oil was that bad for you there would be population-based evidence to support the argument.

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About the authors and source material:

James Brown is lecturer in Biology and Biomedical Science, Aston University and Rachel Adams is Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Science, Cardiff Metropolitan University. This article was originally published in the academic discussion journal The Conversation on 27th June, 2017. To read the original article, with links to all references, please see here.

Insomnia: The role of Indigestion

What Really Causes Insomnia, Why It Leads To Heart Attack And Stroke… And How to Avoid It.

Think there’s no connection between insomnia and your lifestyle habits? Recent research sheds some light on how and why insomnia really occurs and how its linked to heart attacks and stroke.

The million dollar question has always been “What causes Insomnia?” In the search for answers, a recent study published in the European Journal Of Preventative Cardiology1 analysed fifteen studies and made an association between insomnia and the incidence of death from cardiovascular disease. While it didn’t show a causative relationship to insomnia and heart disease and stroke, the study found a consistent link between insomnia and a person having a heart attack or stroke. The researchers analysed fifteen studies of 160,867 people. They were followed for an average of three to 29.6 years, examining the relationship between insomnia and incidence of or death from cardiovascular disease. The study noted significant and consistent associations between difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, non-restorative sleep and an increased risk for heart disease and stroke.

So, What Causes Insomnia?

Generally, the causes of insomnia have always been related to stress, having a lot on one’s mind, upset, and worry etc. While these may be legitimate causes of insomnia there is a physiological element to insomnia that is often overlooked according to a recent study2 that has made the connection between insomnia and digestive disturbances. When there is unrest in the body’s processes, insomnia is a very real result.

The Main Cause Of Insomnia Is Indigestion

The main cause for failing asleep and being awakened in the middle of the night is indigestion. Not the type of indigestion that you consciously feel – the kind of indigestion that is occurring during digestion. To illustrate, if you’re the type that’s active during the day and you throw back breakfast, lunch and dinner and you’ve been on the move, your body hasn’t had the chance to digest the day’s meals. This is because digestion only occurs when you rest. So, if you’re active digestion stops and you carry food around all day in your stomach. Some people feel this, other do not, but after that last meal of the day, when you finally lay down and go to bed, your body, in its attempt to do its eliminative and healing work, is going to instead begin the process of digestion. This silent indigestion caused by food moving through the digestive tract
can wake you up.


Here’s What Doesn’t Happen When Your Body Is Digesting at Night And How It Negatively Affects Health

The intricate and very complex process of digestion takes up a majority of the body’s energy. That being said, if you overeat, stuff yourself, and improperly combine your foods when eat your meals during the day, there’s a good chance the process of digestion will occur (or complete) during the night when you sleep. This robs your body of healing time. To explain lets say you had a day of light meals and lots of rest in between those meals, and your body did its digestive work during the day. When you head off sleep, not only will your sleep be more peaceful, your body is better able to do its eliminative, healing and restorative work because it isn’t using all its energy on the process of digestion. This simple bad habit of eating on the go and unrest between meals lays the groundwork for disease as we’ve seen in the study over time.

Emotions Do Play A Big Role In Indigestion

It’s important to realise the role of your emotions on the digestive process. Your emotions affect whether or not you digest. So if you’ve got a stressful job, eat light, and have time to sit around after meals, your emotional unrest will still cause digestion to stop. Similarly, if you’re consistently aggravated, or get bad news during the day that causes upset, all of your body’s energy and blood flow will redirect from digesting and move to the brain, leaving the process of digestion to occur during the night, causing insomnia and interrupting sleep.

Cardiovascular Disease And Stroke Are Years In The Making

In laying the groundwork for disease, it should be noted that cardiovascular disease and strokes or any disease for that matter, do not just occur spontaneously – they are years in the making. Therefore, diseases such as heart disease and stroke as mentioned, can and do occur over time and stem from poor lifestyle and dietary habits according to a study published in JAMA,3 on the “Association Between Dietary Factors and Mortality From Heart Disease, Stroke, and Type 2 Diabetes in the United States”.

How To Ensure Better Sleep

The best selling diet, nutrition and weight loss book EAT! – Empower. Adjust. Triump!: Lose Ridiculous Weight, poignantly addresses the importance of eating as it relates to digestion and insomnia in this excerpt:

“If the body is digesting continually, nerve energy is wasted and other bodily functions will operate at a deficit. An example of this would be the brain. There’s a saying that goes like this: “A full stomach does not like to think.” Think about how you feel after a meal. You may or may not notice, but concentration becomes lessened or even difficult on a full stomach. The reason the brain cannot think on a full stomach is primarily due to the process of digestion. Digestion is such a massive effort for the body that it requires a fundamental use of blood flow. This means less blood flow goes to the brain, resulting in lower concentration and an inability to focus. Your body requires rest for digestion to begin. This is why leaving time between meals is so important. Should your body not get the opportunity to completely digest its meals throughout the day, it will begin the process of digestion at night. If meals are improperly combined, this process will take longer and indigestion may occur. Incidentally, indigestion is the number one cause of insomnia in the world. Indigestion has an adverse effect on weight-loss by causing the body to hold on to weight. In the end, eating should be a slow and purposeful process, while digestion and elimination should be rather speedy. Your gut health is solely dependent on what you eat. That said; empower yourself by understanding the following digestion facts:

  • The human body does well on one to three completely digested, nutritious meals per day. Good digestion requires time between meals, which is why it’s essential not to overeat. We have to give the body time to digest and do its nutritive work. This is one of the main reasons diets that require five to six small meals a day can stall weight-loss efforts.
  • Gut health is paramount to good digestion, and good digestion is paramount to absorption.
  • Both gut health and good digestion are linked to your health and weight-loss in a big way.
  • Gut health cannot be permanently corrected by supplementation. The belief that poor eating can be corrected simply by taking a vitamin or probiotic provides a false sense of security, allowing you to continue a crappy diet. While a probiotic may seem to relieve a symptom, over time it will not heal the gut. Only proper diet will heal the gut.”
If Your Digestion Is In Question…

In understanding what causes insomnia and how disease can develop in a body that habitually loses its healing and restorative time because of the important and necessary process of digestion, does shed some light on the importance of creating lifestyle habits that maintain physiological homeostasis. If your digestion is in question and you aren’t getting adequate sleep – work with your Naturopath, a Holistic Nutrition Expert and/or your Practitioner to discover ways to improve your diet and living habits to lower the amount your overall amounts of both physiological, physical and emotional stress and find a balance of these that works for you. You’ll sleep better for it.4

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1 European Journal Of Preventative Cardiology:
2 Science Daily:
4 The views expressed in this article are those of the author and their publication here should not be taken as an endorsement by Peak Health Online. This article is reproduced here for information purposes only and should not be viewed as an alternative to, or in place of, advice from your medical practitioner, to whom you should always refer in case of any health concerns.

Author and source material: This article was written by Dr Nancy Mure PhD. It was first published by the EmaxHealth magazine on 1st April 2017 and is reproduced here with their kind permission under the creative commons licence. The Original article may be viewed at

Fibromyalgia: Can a gluten-free diet help?

Proof that a gluten-free diet for fibromyalgia really works4

Have you considered trying the gluten-free diet to find relief from fibromyalgia? If you are curious about the diet and its ability to reduce symptoms, then you want to pay attention to the following research. Several studies have shown that a gluten-free diet can work for fibromyalgia patients and provide relief from common symptoms. According to the research, it is important to note that the gluten-free (GF) diet may help both fibromyalgia (FM) patients with and without celiac disease. Before you start a new diet, you should consult a doctor, but first consider the following studies.

Gluten-free diet for fibromyalgia helps non-celiac gluten sensitivity

A study published in Rheumatology International1 reveals that fibromyalgia patients who have not been diagnosed with celiac disease may still benefit from going on the gluten-free diet. Researchers point out that it is possible for these patients to have non-celiac gluten sensitivity. This means that the celiac disease tests come back negative, but the patients are still reacting to gluten. According to the researchers, when fibromyalgia patients adhered to the gluten-free diet, they were able to reduce or eliminate many FM symptoms. They point out that 90 patients out of the 246 who participated in the study responded well to the gluten-free diet. All of these patients reported a reduction in pain, and some were able to return to work and normal life. In addition, the patients noted that their fatigue, depression, gastrointestinal symptoms and migraines improved on the gluten-free diet.

Gluten-free diet for fibromyalgia and celiac disease

It is possible to have both fibromyalgia and celiac disease. A study published in BMC Gastroenterology2 reveals that patients who have fibromyalgia and celiac disease benefit from the gluten-free diet. After one year of following the gluten-free diet, the patients reported an improvement in the quality of their lives and a reduction in fibromyalgia symptoms.

The patients had fewer tender points and better scores on the health assessment questionnaire. In addition, both their celiac disease, fibromyalgia pain and other symptoms decreased. Furthermore, they were able to reduce the number of prescribed drugs they took.

Should you try the gluten-free diet for fibromyalgia?4

It is important to consider the diet advice from experts3about fibromyalgia. Several studies have shown that the gluten-free diet can help patients with this medical condition. However, each case is unique, so you have to consult your doctor before making significant diet changes.

If you have fibromyalgia, you may want to consider being tested for celiac disease. Some of the main symptoms of celiac disease are abdominal pain and gastrointestinal problems such as bloating, diarrhea, constipation, gas, indigestion and nausea. You may also experience cramps, itchy rashes, weight loss, fatigue and many other symptoms.

The gluten-free diet requires you to eliminate all wheat, barley and rye products. Gluten is a protein, and it can appear as an ingredient in many products. In addition, cross-contamination is a big issue, so many products can be contaminated with gluten and not safe on this diet. If you decide to follow this diet, you must start by reading labels carefully.

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Author and Source: 

This article was written by Lana Bandoim. It was first published by EmaxHealth on 31st March 2017 and is reproduced here with their kind permission under CCL copyright provisions. The Original article may be viewed at



4 The views expressed in this article are those of the author and their publication here should not be taken as an endorsement by Peak Health Online. This article is reproduced here for information purposes only and should not be viewed as an alternative to, or in place of, advice from your medical practitioner, to whom you should always refer in case of any health concerns.