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News: April 2024

Prebiotic fibre boosts gut health in pregnant mothers and their babies.

Improving gut health at the start of life can have hugely beneficial effects on both immune and metabolic health as babies grow and develop.  And this process starts during pregnancy and continues through breastfeeding.  With this mind, a recent study[1] found that women given prebiotic fibre during pregnancy and lactation, had an increase in beneficial bacteria for themselves and their infants.

The double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial participants were given two different types of prebiotic fibre: galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) and fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS). These were taken in powdered form from before 21 weeks gestation until six months after the baby’s birth.  Results showed an increase in the all-important beneficial Bifidobacteria. Importantly, there was an improvement in the diversity of gut bacteria seen in the infants.

From a health perspective, it’s essential for humans to have a diverse range of gut bacteria to help protect against immune and metabolic dysfunction.  Indeed, a healthy gut microbiome is associated with positive improvements in all aspects of health, including mental wellbeing. The researchers also noted that by supporting the health of the mother during pregnancy and breastfeeding, this can assist with a healthy population of commensal gut microbes (helper bacteria) in their offspring.

Gender differences and diet found to impact cases of Alzheimer’s

Older couple cycling

As cases of Alzheimer’s rise around the world, much research is centred on specific nutrients and how they can potentially influence outcomes of this debilitating disease. In a recent study, the authors in Taiwan looked at dietary patterns and intake of specific nutrients: Vitamin B12 and folate.  Both these nutrients directly affect levels of homocysteine, an amino acid, with raised levels foud to increase the risk of dementia.

The study published in Nutrients[2] found improved mental state scores in people drinking both coffee and tea, probably down to the caffeine effect, with lower cognitive scores and higher homocysteine levels in people eating processed food, skimmed milk, and sweet drinks. However, levels of B12, only found in animal produce, and folate were significant in men in terms of cognitive outcome prediction and levels of homocysteine.  In contrast, only B12 and homocysteine levels were significant in women.

Interestingly, the authors also noted that whilst homocysteine levels were hugely important in understanding cognitive outcomes, dietary patterns seemed to have more significance.  For men, tea and coffee intake appeared beneficial, and for women, fruits and vegetables, eggs (high in vitamin B12) and coffee and tea, appeared to be protective.

Coenzyme Q10 supplementation improves muscle function in statin patients

Close up of man's back wiht hands over lower back representing back pain

Statin medication is routinely given to patients with high levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol as well as those with raised total levels of cholesterol.  Indeed, it’s one of the most widely prescribed medications worldwide. However, one of the noted side effects of taking statins is muscle weakness and loss of energy. This is due to statins reducing levels of the body’s natural CoQ10 which plays a central role in energy production, working specifically in the mitochondria of every cell in the body.

A recent study[3] undertaken in Italy found that taking a daily supplement of 150 mg of CoQ10 significantly improved these symptoms compared to baseline. CoQ10 also works as a powerful antioxidant in the body, neutralising free radicals, another key role which shouldn’t be compromised.

The authors noted that CoQ10 supplementation reduced these the statin-associated muscle symptoms, implying that it could be a complementary approach when prescribing this medication.

[1] Jacquelyn M Jones et al.  Maternal prebiotic supplementation during pregnancy and lactation modifies the microbiome and short chain fatty acid profile of both mother and infant. Clinical Nutrition, volume 43, Issue 4, P969-980, April 2024

[2] Chi-Ping Ting et al. Diet pattern analysis in Alzheimer’s Disease implicates gender differences in folate-B2-homocysteine axis on cognitive outcomes. Nutrients 2024. 16(5), 733

[3] Cicero Arrigo et al. Effect of Coenzyme Q10 on muscular strength in elderly patients with stain-associated asthenia: a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Journal of Hypertension 41(Suppl 3):p e152-e153, June 2023.

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