HSN – New research on the gut-brain axis, herbal supps, protein

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Health Scoop News 📑 – New research on the gut-brain axis, herbal supps, protein

I always have my nose in new health research, so I’m sharing some of the most relevant studies with you in regular editions of “Health Scoop News.”

[This news summary is a bit reminiscent of my old “This week in science for holistic health” newsletters that I used to do circa 2016 (I deleted most, but here’s one post I kept live), as well as the rEATsearch podcast I used to co-host.]

These are my top three study picks (comment below to tell me what health topics/niches are best for you!). All are very high quality studies (most are studies that review and analyze data from several previous studies, not just one or two).

These studies were all published in the past month or so.

1 – Microbiota-gut-brain-axis for mental health

Study title: The importance of the gut microbiome and its signals for a healthy nervous system and the multifaceted mechanisms of neuropsychiatric disorders

This is a narrative review that summarizes the current research describing the many links between the gut microbiome and mental health/physical pain.

Here’s some background info:

  • There are documented interactions “between the gut microbiota, the intestinal epithelium, and the brain.
  • There are several “communication routes and signals of the bidirectional interactions between gut microbiota and the brain.”

Here is a list of the routes of communication between gut and brain (both from the gut to the brain ⬆️ and from the brain to the gut ⬇️):

  • Nerves that directly link the gut to the brain – Vagal afferent and efferent neurons that connect in a “bottom-up and top-down fashion
  • Nerves that link the gut and brain via the spinal cord – Spinal visceral pathways
  • Biochemicals – Humoral pathways, e.g., chemokines, neuropeptides, endocrine messengers, cytokines, exotoxins, and short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that travel around via the circulatory and lymphatic systems
  • Metabolites secreted by gut microbiota, e.g., nutrients, lactate, acetate, propionate
  • Neurotransmitters – e.g., GABA, 5-HT, tryptamine, acetylcholine, L-dopa, norepinephrine, histamine
  • Non-coding RNAs – “Gene regulation mediated through fecal miRNA enables the host to exert control over the gut microbiota”
    • Note from Leesa – You may recall in the last issue of Health Scoop News, there was a study about how gut microbes can help increase mineral absorption. One of those methods included the expression of genes in the cells of the intestinal epithelium. Looks like this is a new, hot area of research with more studies to come.

A few interesting points:

  • “The gut microbiome has an important influence on brain functions and mental health, including pain disorders”
  • “The mutual crosstalk and feedback mechanisms between the CNS and the gut microbiota are still incompletely understood.”

In other words, according to this study, researchers keep learning more and more about how the brain and gut are linked, and are still figuring out which are “causes” and which are “effects” in people (mice studies can only give us *some* info about human health . . . ’cause we’re not rodents 🐭). More research will hopefully lead to future evidence-based nutrition and supplement recommendations for gut issues (e.g., IBS), mental health concerns, and pain.

For more information, here is a link to the study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10797776/

2 – Yep, some herbal supps help with hot flashes

Study title: Efficacy of plant-derived dietary supplements in improving overall menopausal symptoms in women: An updated systematic review and meta-analysis

This is a systematic review and meta-analysis (an objective scientific review and statistical analysis that combines the results) of over 60 other studies about plant-based supplements for menopausal symptoms.

Here’s some background info:

  • During the menopausal transition, women experience various menopausal symptoms due to the decrease in hormone production, leading to the complete cessation of menstruation. Common symptoms of menopause include hot flashes (HFs), general anxiety, heart discomfort, vaginal dryness, and insomnia.
  • Isoflavones, such as those derived from soybeans and red clover, are considered phytoestrogens because they exhibit estrogen-like activities in the body. These compounds can alleviate menopausal symptoms and reduce the risk of postmenopausal women developing cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
  • Clinical studies have also reported that plant-derived dietary supplements, such as black cohosh, St. John’s wort, and fennel seed, can alleviate menopausal symptoms.

Here’s what these researchers found when they went through previous studies:

  • Qualitative assessment revealed that approximately 76% of the studies were generally of fair or good quality, whereas 24% were of low quality.
  • They included 28 soy-derived, 6 red clover-derived, and 28 other plant-derived supplements.

Conclusions:

  • Various plant-derived dietary supplements can significantly alleviate menopausal symptoms.”
  • “These effects are primarily attributed to the estrogenic effects of plants.”
  • “However, further rigorous studies are needed to determine the association of plant-derived dietary supplements with menopausal health because of the general suboptimal quality and heterogeneous nature of current evidence.”

In other words, yep, soy and red clover supps can help reduce menopausal symptoms, mostly due to their estrogenic effect. Better research is needed, but it looks promising so far.

For more information, here is a link to the study: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ptr.8112

 


For a list of dozens of credible sites to find health information, plus some PubMed tips, download your free guide here:


 

3 – Protein intake in midlife for healthy aging later

Study title: Dietary protein intake in midlife in relation to healthy aging – results from the prospective Nurses’ Health Study cohort

This is a large observational study (Nurses Health Study) that looked at 48,762 people who were <60 y in 1984. They looked at participants’ total protein, animal protein, dairy protein (a subset of animal protein), and plant protein intake at midlife (in 1984) to see if after 30 years, they were free from 11 major chronic diseases, have good mental health, and don’t have impairments in either cognitive or physical function.

Note from Leesa: I only include observational studies in the Health Scoop News if they include tens of thousands of people over decades. This is because observational studies simply look at what people naturally do (they find “correlations”) so the results aren’t as strong as well conducted experimental studies like clinical trials (that can find “causation”). To dive a bit deeper into these intricacies of observation=correlation vs. experiment=causation, you can see my blog post here: https://leesaklich.com/health-research/correlation-does-not-equal-causation/

Here’s some background info on this study:

  • Diet is an important modifiable factor of several chronic diseases, frailty, premature death, and successful or healthy aging.”
  • “In particular, protein intake plays an important role in maintaining good health status in older adults,” by
    • improving physical performance
    • maintaining physical mobility and cognitive function
    • reducing muscle loss, risk of hip fractures, and loss of bone density

Here’s what the researchers conclude:

  • Dietary protein intake, especially plant protein, in midlife, is associated with higher odds of healthy aging and with several domains of positive health status in a large cohort of female nurses.”
  • “In our study, dietary protein was favorably associated with physical function in older age, and this relationship was stronger for plant protein.

Why does plant protein seem to have an edge over animal-based protein when it comes to aging healthfully?

  • Not 100% sure, but could be related to
    • “Reduced risk factors of cardiometabolic diseases, such as reduced LDL cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and insulin sensitivity, and decreased levels of proinflammatory markers.”
    • “We also note that although all protein sources were associated with better odds of healthy aging, dietary components related to plant protein sources, including dietary fiber, micronutrients, and polyphenols, may have contributed to the stronger associations observed for plant protein.”

In other words, eating protein in midlife (under age 60) sets you up for a healthier older life (age 70-93). This is especially true for plant-based protein.

For more information, here is a link to the study: https://ajcn.nutrition.org/article/S0002-9165(23)66282-3/fulltext

 

Signing off and toasting: To keeping up with the latest and greatest scientific research in nutrition, fitness, and health coaching!

 

Over to you

 

Do you have a specific question about any of these new studies?

Are you looking for a easy-to-understand study summary that you can share with your audience and clients?

What health topic/niche is most important to you?

Let me know in the comments below!

 

What's the latest health research for your nutrition, fitness, or health coaching practice?

Find out in the weekly Health Scoop News 📑email updates. See some of the latest studies (with Leesa's "in other words" explainers) here. Sign up if you want to be first to know new research:

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I'm Leesa Klich, MSc., R.H.N.
Health writer – Blogging expert – Research nerd.

I help health and wellness professionals build their authority with scientific health content. They want to stand out in the crowded, often unqualified, market of entrepreneurs. I help them establish trust with their audiences, add credibility to their services, and save them a ton of time so they don’t have to do the research or writing themselves. To work with me, click here.

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