Study Suggests the Benefits of Prebiotic Supplements Were Dependent on Dietary Fiber Intake

This small proof-of-concept study found something for further exploration: the high dietary fiber vs low dietary fiber interaction with different prebiotic supplements. The  study found that the supplements only affected those who weren’t taking in dietary fiber, thus taking prebiotic supplements may be ineffective if you already consume the recommended amounts of dietary fiber. The study included a very wide age range so the findings shouldn’t be printed on t-short quite yet, however it brings to light an interesting interaction. Ironically it’s often the people who already have a healthy diet that lean towards supplement intake even though they don’t need it!

By: Marily Oppezzo, PhD, MS, Head of Lifestyle Medicine Nutrition Pillar


Journal Reference:

  1. Holmes ZC, Villa MM, Durand HK, Jiang S, Dallow EP, Petrone BL, Silverman JD, Lin PH, David LA. Microbiota responses to different prebiotics are conserved within individuals and associated with habitual fiber intake. Microbiome. 2022 Jul 29;10(1):114. doi: 10.1186/s40168-022-01307-x. PMID: 35902900; PMCID: PMC9336045.


Research Suggets Whole Food Diets Improve Mood and Quality of Life

When the substance of food culture is composed of highly processed goods and advertisements of snacks, alcohol and soda as avenues of happiness, the poor food choices that arise are unsurprising. However, sugar-laden and high-fat consumption are associated with rising mortality rates, increased prevalence of chronic diseases, and soaring rates of addiction and mental health crises.  

In a first of its kind study, Francis et al randomly assigned 76 young adults to either eat a healthy Mediterranean diet, that is rich in fruit, vegetables, fish, and lean meat, or to continue eating a diet high in processed foods, saturated fats, and refined sugars. After a brief educational video and a $60 incentive to purchase Mediterranean foods, the Med diet group reported decreasing their intake of refined sugar and saturated fat. After only three weeks, the Med diet group showed significantly lower levels of depressive symptoms. On the other hand, young adults in the control group, who consumed a diet high in processed foods, saturated fats, and refined sugars, experienced no change in depression symptoms. 

With diet as a modifiable risk factor for depression, education on healthy eating habits, diet changes, and interventions are more important than ever as we face a world of increased stress and anxiety from the pandemic and saturation with social media and virtual technology. In the study, the diet intervention consisted of vegetables, omega-3 fatty acids, wholegrain cereals, protein from poultry to eggs and legumes, nuts and seeds, olive oil, and spices such as turmeric and cinnamon. In addition to following a Mediterranean style diet, the recommendations provided in this study included avoiding foods that come in a package with multiple ingredients, foods with more than 10g sugar per 100g, soft drinks, chocolates, sweets, and fried take away foods.  

 There is no doubt that what we eat affects us from our head to toe. Therefore, eating healthy, whole foods, is a promising way to improve our mood and the quality of our life.  

By: Helena Zhang, BS and Marily Oppezzo, PhD, MS

Journal Reference:

  1. Francis HM, Stevenson RJ, Chambers JR, Gupta D, Newey B, Lim CK. A brief diet intervention can reduce symptoms of depression in young adults – A randomised controlled trial. PLoS One. 2019 Oct 9;14(10):e0222768. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0222768. PMID: 31596866; PMCID: PMC6784975.

Creatine Supplementation Improves Healthspan and Muscle Preservation in Older Adults

This article is a fantastic summary of the work on creatine and dispelling myths. Creatine is one of the approved, safe, and effective aids for older adults. In this population, creatine supplementation can be beneficial for improving healthspan and muscle preservation. Some key findings of this article show:

  1. Creatine loading is not necessary, but it is safe and effective at smaller doses (3-5 g or 0.1 g/kg of body mass).
  2. Creatine supplementation and resistance training produce musculoskeletal and performance benefits in older adults.
  3. Creatine supplementation can be beneficial for a variety of athletes.
  4. Creatine supplementation benefits females across their lifespan.

By: Marily Oppezzo, PhD, MS, Head, Lifestyle Medicine Nutrition and Behavioral Change


Journal Reference:

  1. Antonio, J., Candow, D.G., Forbes, S.C. et al. Common questions and misconceptions about creatine supplementation: what does the scientific evidence really show?. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 18, 13 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-021-00412-w


Non-Nutritive Sweetener May Affect Human Microbiomes and Alter Glycemic Response

This elegant study looked comprehensively at whether four non-nutritive sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, stevia, and saccharin) are metabolically inert. Non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS) are used to reduce or replace sugar in various products with the goal of minimizing calories and avoiding glucose spikes in the body. Because many of these NNS are poorly absorbed, they do not provide direct calories for us like sugar, and generally skate through the small intestine unchanged, making their way into the colon. However, instead of just passing out of the body and into the bowl unchanged, this study showed that each of these four NNS have distinct, physiological effects on the microbiome! Some NNSs may be fuel for certain bacteria, while others may stunt the proliferation of other bacteria. The authors suggest a number of possible microbiome alterations-each a starting point for many more future studies to uncover all the details.

Another finding from this study was that two of the sweeteners tested, Saccharin and Sucralose, impaired individual’s oral glucose tolerance test response*. Aspartame and Stevia did not. You might think – oh, this means Diet Cokes make you insulin resistant. Not quite- the participants didn’t eat the sweetener alone, each NNS was paired with glucose, or “carb fillers,” found in the sachets. Also, there was significant individual variability in responses across individuals, so it’s tough to generalize this result.

The authors suggest future studies should look at sugar alcohols and other NNSs used in sugar-free products, as well as extend the period of time that people use the sweeteners, to look for long term effects.

One thing the authors made clear: This study shows exciting new findings, and is a great starting point. Don’t all of sudden toss out your Diet Coke and buy Regular Coke as a result.

*An oral glucose tolerance test is not like a meal or even a food people would typically eat, it is a bottle of pure glucose (75 grams of sugar) and then timed measures of how efficiently the body clears this abnormally high glucose load from the bloodstream.


By: Marily Oppezzo, PhD, MS, Head, Lifestyle Medicine Nutrition and Behavioral Change

Journal Reference:

  1. Jotham Suez, Yotam Cohen, Rafael Valdés-Mas, Uria Mor, Mally Dori-Bachash, Sara Federici, Niv Zmora, Avner Leshem, Melina Heinemann, Raquel Linevsky, Maya Zur, Rotem Ben-Zeev Brik, Aurelie Bukimer, Shimrit Eliyahu-Miller, Alona Metz, Ruthy Fischbein, Olga Sharov, Sergey Malitsky, Maxim Itkin, Noa Stettner, Alon Harmelin, Hagit Shapiro, Christoph K. Stein-Thoeringer, Eran Segal, Eran Elinav. Personalized microbiome-driven effects of non-nutritive sweeteners on human glucose toleranceCell, 2022; DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2022.07.016

High Levels of Physical Activity Do Not Counteract the Detrimental Effects of a Poor Diet on Mortality

A large-scale prospective study found  that high levels of physical activity do not counteract the detrimental effects of a poor diet on mortality risk. You need both pillars for optimal health.

By: Michael Fredericson, MD,  Lifestyle Medicine Program Director


Journal Reference:

  1. Ding D, Van Buskirk J, Nguyen B, Stamatakis E, Elbarbary M, Veronese N, Clare PJ, Lee IM, Ekelund U, Fontana L. Physical activity, diet quality and all-cause cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality: a prospective study of 346 627 UK Biobank participants. Br J Sports Med. 2022 Jul 10:bjsports-2021-105195. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2021-105195. PMID: 35811091.

Consuming a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet is Associated With Lower Odds of Moderate-to-Severe COVID-19

The power of lifestyle medicine! According to a study recently published in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health, consuming a predominantly whole food plant-based diet is associated with lower odds of moderate-to-severe COVID-19. This large sample size diverse multi-countries population-based case-control study showed that those consumed predominantly plant-based diets had 73% lower odds of moderate to severe COVID-19 severity compared to those who did not. Similarly those who followed either pant-based diets or pescatarian diets had 59% lower odds of moderate to severe COVID-19 severity compared with those who did not. Compared to those who did not follow low carbohydrate, high protein diets, following low carbohydrate, high protein diets was associated with 48% greater odds of moderate to severe COVID-19.

By: Rusly Harsono, MD, Head, Lifestyle Medicine Social Engagement


Journal Reference:

1. Kim HRebholz CMHegde S, et al. Plant-based diets, pescatarian diets and COVID-19 severity: a population-based case–control study in six countries.