Anti-Inflammatory Diet

All health care starts with diet. My recommendations for a healthy diet are here:
Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Lifestyle.
There are over 190 articles on diet, inflammation and disease on this blog
(find topics using search [upper left] or index [lower right]), and
more articles by Prof. Ayers on Suite101 .

Friday, May 28, 2010

Necrotising Enterocolitis, Low Birth Weight and Formula

Human Milk and Milk Supplements Protect Newborns

Babies born prematurely are at risk of a serious bacterial infection of the intestines, necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), that can be prevented if formula based on cow’s milk products is avoided and human milk is used for all feedings.
Human Milk Protects Against Formula Based NEC
Feeding low birth weight, premature babies formula made from cow’s milk increases their risk of NEC ten fold.  Replacement of some of the cow’s milk formula with human milk from a milk bank reduces NEC. 
Human Milk and Cow’s Milk Are Very Different
What is present in human milk that protects against NEC?  The major components in milk are proteins, lactose, fats and oligosaccharides (short to medium length chains of sugars.)  Human milk and cow’s milk have the same amount of fat (35 grams/liter) and about the same amount of lactose (65 vs. 45 g/l) and protein (10 vs. 35 g/l).  The big difference is in the amount (5-10 vs. 0.05 g/l) and quality of oligosaccharides.  Human milk has more than 100 times the amount of oligosaccharides as cow’s milk.  That also means that about 10% of the carbohydrates in human milk are non-nutritive human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs).
HMOs Are Not FOS
Human milk oligosaccharides are complex, with over 200 different structures identified so far.  Essentially they are made up of a lactose (a disaccharide consisting of galactose linked to glucose) extended by different numbers of N-acetyllactosamine (lactose with a modified glucose) and a few other sugars attached a various locations.  A different enzyme is used for each modification and the synthesis of these oligosaccharides has not yet been figured out in detail.  More than a dozen different genes are devoted to the synthesis of these oligosaccharides.  These oligosaccharides are not structurally or functionally related to the frucose oligosaccharides used as prebiotics.
HMOs Are Prebiotic and Stop NEC
Human milk oligosaccharides have been tested both for their ability to act as prebiotics to encourage the development of normal baby gut flora and to suppress NEC.  The HMOs were found to be the elusive bifidus factor that stops the development of adult gut flora and facilitates only the development of the Bifidobacterium bifidum monoculture found in exclusively breastfed babies.  HMOs also reduce NEC in the same way as whole human milk.  Another interesting aspect of HMOs is that they modify the oligosaccharides produced on the surface of baby intestinal cells.  Babies fed human milk also secrete HMOs in their urine, indicating that ingested HMOs are absorbed in the intestines and reach the blood stream.
Neonatal Nurseries Should Use Only Human Milk
Human milk is now available to neonatal intensive care nurseries through milk banks and purified components of human milk are also available to supplement feedings for very low birth weight premature babies.  Nursing is still best for baby and mother, but those mothers who choose not to nurse need not compromise the health and development of their babies by using cow’s milk-based formula or supplements.  Every dollar spent on pasteurized donor milk ($3/oz.) reduces costs in neonatal intensive care units by more than ten dollars.  It seems to be time to eliminate the added risks of formula use in hospitals and provide every baby with a healthy start and normal gut flora by only using human milk products in hospitals.
Lars Bode. 2009.  Human milk oligosaccharides: prebiotics and beyond 
Nutrition Reviews® Vol. 67(Suppl. 2):S183–S191 

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Healthcare: DNA Testing vs. Diet and Exercise

Contributions of genetic alleles to disease are useful for understanding, but not in predicting disease.  Diet and lifestyle are the major determinants of disease and not genes for most common diseases.
OTC Genetic Screening Kits
A recent headline touted the availability of a kit at Walgreens to screen for “predisposition” to a hundred common diseases.  A few months earlier, scientists admitted that after lengthy examination of a dozen major diseases, the genetic contribution was negligible.  It may now be possible to cheaply (less than $25,000) determine the sequence of the entire genome of an individual or even more cheaply test for the presence of particular genetic alleles, but that information is useless compared to diet for predicting if the person will actually get the disease.  The screening kits were pulled before they reached the shelves.
Gut Flora Dominates Gut Genotype
I think that the reason why an individual’s genes don’t dominate health issues, is because the composition of meals dominates the development of the gut flora community and it is the interaction between the gut and its bacteria that dominates health.  The genes of the individual are just not that important in determining disease.
You Are What You Ate  
For each individual, the meals eaten over the last years have cultivated the existing gut flora, composed of hundreds of different species of bacteria with unique metabolic capabilities to digest unusual meal molecules and modulate the immune system.  Molecular communication between gut and the bacteria in intimate contact determine food intolerance, allergies, autoimmunity and many other disease processes.  Healthy eating produces a healthy gut flora and bad meal decisions can lead to unhealthy gut flora and the modern litany of  inflammatory ailments.  Some genes may mitigate or magnify the development of unhealthy gut flora, but it is difficult to be healthy with compromised gut flora.
Antibiotic Disruption of Gut Flora Trumps Good Genes
It doesn’t matter if there are great genes to help avoid disease, if the function of those genes is compromised by gut dysbiosis, a lack of functional gut flora.  Many antibiotic treatments, e.g. for acne, act by attacking the gut flora that support a specific portion of the immune system.  Deletion of this function causes cosmetic improvement, e.g. relief of  skin inflammation, but at the expense of producing a dysfunctional immune system that may lead to other diseases.  Presence or absence of healthy genes can be made irrelevant, if the gut flora is dysfunctional.