Koslo's Nutrition Solutions

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Study Backs Ginger for Diabetes Prevention

Spicy and sharp, ginger root, Zingiber officinale, adds a certain zest to all types of dishes from muffins to stir fries to brewed tea. Outside of the kitchen, ginger has been used historically as an herbal medicine and has a long tradition of use for the treatment of stomach problems like motion sickness, morning sickness, and gas. Modern studies have focused on the active components of ginger as an alternative treatment for Type 2 diabetes, and new findings provide convincing evidence that ginger can prevent many of the diseases long-term complications.
Effect on Type Two Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body fails to respond to the blood glucose-regulating hormone insulin. Prolonged elevated blood glucose can damage the heart, kidneys, eyes, and feet creating havoc throughout the body. Scientists have mainly been testing the active components of ginger called gingerols and have already found it to exert powerful anti-inflammatory effects and to provide relief from the pain of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
The latest study assessed the effect of ginger supplements on glycemic index, lipid profile, and a number of markers of inflammation in patients with Type 2 diabetes.  A total of seventy Type 2 diabetics participated in the study. The researchers randomly divided them into two groups: half received two 800 mg doses of ginger per day, and half received two 800 mg doses of a placebo per day for a total of twelve weeks. At the start and end of the trial each participant was measured for blood glucose levels, blood lipids, and three markers of inflammation: C-reactive protein, prostaglandin E2, and tumor necrosis factors. What did the results show? The participants who took the ginger supplements significantly reduced their fasting blood glucose, HA1C, insulin, and two of the markers of inflammation: C-reactive protein and prostaglandin E2. And while supplementation didn’t reduce LDL (bad cholesterol), it did reduce total cholesterol and triglycerides. Talk about impressive results for a relatively small dose of ginger!
The Secret to Ginger’s Success
What we know as ginger root is the thick, knotted, underground rhizome of the plant. If you have ever purchased fresh ginger you are familiar with its brownish, rough skin and irregular shape. When cut, the striated yellow flesh gives off a pungent scent due primarily to the release of the volatile oils or gingerols. Gingerol is a type of phytochemical and the major constituent of ginger, but the root also contains over 100 other active components that are under study. Phytochemicals provide a number of beneficial effects in the body and act as power anti-inflammatories and antioxidants. While the exact mechanisms of action are not yet fully known, gingerols may stimulate the muscles cells to uptake more glucose. It is also known that ginger and its metabolites accumulate in the gastrointestinal tract making it effective in the treatment of digestive upsets.
Including Ginger in Your Diet
The amount of ginger used in the study was 1600 mg, which is about a quarter of a teaspoon. You can choose to take supplements, but whenever possible, choose fresh ginger over the dried form of the spice. Fresh ginger contains higher levels of gingerol as well as ginger’s active anti-inflammatory compounds. Fresh ginger is readily available in the produce section of most supermarkets. When choosing ginger, make sure it is firm, smooth, and free of mold. The root can be stored unpeeled in the refrigerator for up to three weeks, or up to six weeks in the freezer. You will want to remove the skin with a paring knife first and then slice, mince, or julienne. Ginger has numerous culinary uses from drinks to main dishes to desserts. The root makes a great homemade ginger ale, a glaze for grilled fish, and a spicy topping to grilled peaches. Try adding freshly minced ginger to baked sweet potatoes, sautéed vegetables or combine it with soy sauce, olive oil and garlic to make your own salad dressing.

With all of its beneficial properties, it is worth including ginger in your diet for its mighty effects and many applications.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Power Up on Probiotics for Weight Loss

News about the benefits of probiotics is everywhere these days and these bacteria can be found in more supplements and foods than ever before. Preliminary science has shown that different strains can help ease symptoms of diarrhea, irritable bowl syndrome, allergies, and even help you recover faster from exercise. But can these bugs help with weight loss? The answer to that appears to be yes, that is if you are a woman.

Research Highlights

A new study shows that overweight women who took a daily probiotic supplement in addition to following a reduced calorie diet lost more weight than women who took a placebo. The study included 125 overweight men and women who were instructed to follow a 12-week weight loss diet followed by a 12-week maintenance diet. Half of the participants took two probiotic pills per day, while the other half took two placebo pills.

The results? At the end of the 12-week weight loss period, the women who took the probiotic supplement lost an average of 9.7 pounds compared to the placebo group who lost an average of 5.7 pounds. The women in the probiotic group also continued to lose weight during the maintenance period. Interestingly, the probiotics had no effect on the weight of the men. Good news for women but not so much for men.

How Do Probiotics “Work?”

Probiotics or “good bacteria” are live microorganisms that are similar to or the same as those that occur naturally in the human body and may be beneficial for health. Picture the human body as a “host” for bacteria. The body, especially the gut or lower gastrointestinal tract (GI) contains a complex and diverse community of bacteria. And although we tend to think of bacteria as harmful, many bacteria actually help the body function properly.

When it comes to weight loss and maintenance, research has found that the bacteria in the GI tracts of overweight and thin people are different. This may be because a diet high in fat and low in fiber promotes growth of certain types of bacteria over others. Certain types of bacteria alter how we absorb calories and so affect our weight. As shown in this study, it may be possible to supplement the diets of overweight people with the “missing” strains of probiotics, which can then promote a healthy weight.

Different Strains, Different Results

Probiotic supplements vary widely and contain many different strains of bacteria, have different effects in the body, and results can vary from person to person. It is important to note that the specific strain used in this study, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, produced weight loss in women under the study conditions. This strain is not available to consumers in the US, however the scientists note that the probiotics in dairy products sold here could have similar effects.

Choose Your Probiotics Wisely

In the US, probiotics are considered to be dietary supplements and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved health claims for probiotics and does not regulate them. If you decide to try a supplement, choose one that contains a variety of strains and at least one billion or more active cells. If you prefer to stick to foods, yogurt and fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, sourdough bread and soft cheeses like Gouda are good sources of various strains of lactobacillus bacteria. Fermented soy foods like miso and tempeh have over 160 different bacterial strains.

Probiotics are more likely to keep you healthy and at a healthy weight if you also engage in regular physical activity and eat a diet high in fiber and fresh unprocessed foods.