Could Fungi Be A Vast, Untapped Source Of New Antibiotics?

Fungi could harbor a vast treasure trove for new drugs to fight infections caused by bacteria and other microbes. This was the conclusion that scientists from the Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, came to after scanning the genomes of several species of fungi and identifying more than 1,000 pathways that make bioactive compounds. The team believes that the finding could be an important step toward solving the global problem of antibiotic resistance.
Penicillium species
Researchers believe that fungi – such as the 10 different Penicillium species shown here (each grown on two different media) – harbor a vast potential source of new antibiotics to fight infectious diseases.
Image credit: Chalmers University of Technology

The researchers report their findings in a paper published in the journal Nature Microbiology.

Antibiotics are drugs that treat and prevent bacterial infections – either by killing the bacteria or by stopping their spread. Antibiotic resistance arises when the bacteria change after being exposed to these compounds.

Since the 1940s, antibiotics and other antimicrobial drugs have dramatically reduced illnesses and deaths from infections caused by microbes.

However, due to the prolonged and widespread use of these drugs, the bacteria and other disease-causing microbes that the medicines are designed to kill have evolved the ability to survive them.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 2 million people contract antibiotic-resistant infections and more than 23,000 people die from them in the United States every year.

The illnesses caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria – which can infect animals as well as humans – are becoming much harder to treat than those caused by non-resistant bacteria.

Fungi less well-understood than bacteria

Fast facts about antibiotic resistance

  • Antibiotic-resistant infections require longer stays in hospital, cost more to treat, and carry a higher risk of death.
  • Antibiotic resistance is one of the most significant threats to public health, food security, and the world’s development.
  • It can affect anyone, no matter how old they are or where they live.

Learn more about antibiotic resistance

The World Health Organization (WHO) have warned that unless the situation is addressed urgently, the world is “heading for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill.”

Nature is an obvious place to look for compounds with antibiotic properties. Microorganisms produce compounds that attack other species of microorganisms to help them survive in a competitive environment.

However, the researchers behind the new study note that attempts to find new antibiotics in nature have mainly focused on bacteria because they are much easier to study than fungi, about which we understand much less.

However, they note that fungi (much like bacteria) also make bioactive compounds – molecules that have an effect on living cells – to defend against competitors.

The team, therefore, decided to use the genome-sequencing tools that have been used to investigate bacteria to analyze fungi and their potential for producing bioactive compounds.

Altogether, the team sequenced the genomes of nine species of the genus Penicillium – members of which produce the penicillin that Sir Alexander Fleming discovered in 1928.

More than 1,000 pathways for bioactive compounds

The data from these sequences and those obtained from the sequences of 15 published genomes yielded what the authors describe as “an immense, unexploited potential” for producing bioactive compounds in this genus.

From the genome sequencing data of 24 different species of Penicillium, the team identified more than 1,000 pathways – patterns of particular molecular reactions and events – for producing a variety of bioactive compounds with medicinal potential.

The researchers were able to predict the compounds produced by 90 of the pathways – including those that produce antibiotics, called yanuthones.

Upon further investigation, they found a formerly undescribed yanuthone produced by a species of Penicillium that was previously not known to make yanuthones.

Thus, the authors believe that their findings show not only that fungi may offer a vast potential source of new antibiotics, but also that they unlock a source of new – and perhaps more effective – versions of old drugs. They conclude that:

“This study is the first genus-wide analysis of the genomic diversity of Penicillia and highlights the potential of these species as a source of new antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals.”

Nine Essential Oils for Diabetes

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that affects many people in the United States and much more around the globe. The disease is usually treated medically but as yet, there is no cure for it.

Some research suggests that there may be some essential oils that can be safely added to a diabetes care plan with great results.

Essential oils and diabetes

essential oils
Essential oils have been used for many years and compounds of plants have been used in many western medications.

Essential oils are concentrated versions of certain compounds that are found in plant matter.

A simple example of essential oils can be found in the peel of citrus fruits. Peeling an orange releases the essential oil from the peel, causing the fresh orange scent to spread into the air.

Some of the oldest known civilizations used essential oils in one form or another. Compounds isolated from essential oils have been used to make many western medications. Many of the compounds in essential oils can be readily used by the body.

By pairing these effects with the symptoms people are looking to help treat, essential oils can be used to help with many diabetes symptoms.

Coriander seed

Coriander or cilantro seed is grown all over the world and has been used by many cultures for treating digestive issues, such as indigestion, diarrhea, and flatulence.

A recent study on rats shows that coriander seed essential oil may help in the fight against diabetes as well. An extract from coriander seed was found to reduce the blood sugar levels in test subjects.

Researchers noted that the beta cells in the pancreas were more active. This helps to increase insulin levels while reducing blood sugar.

In many cases, coriander essential oil may help the body increase insulin levels naturally.

Lemon balm

Lemon balm essential oil is a lesser known oil, but new research may soon change its profile. A study found that the essential oil from lemon balm helped to consume sugar it came into contact with.

This test was carried out in a lab, not with humans, but it does highlight a possibility that the oil may be beneficial for blood sugar levels when used in a diffuser or applied to the skin.

Clove bud

clove bud essential oil
Studies suggest that clove bud may reduce enzymes in the pancreas that are linked to diabetes.

Another study on animals found that clove bud essential oil might play a role in preventing or managing type 2 diabetes. The research found that using clove oil reduced levels of certain enzymes in the pancreas that are believed to be linked to diabetes.

The study also noted that the oil might be helpful in managing or preventing diabetes caused by oxidative stress. This occurs when the body does not produce enough antioxidants to battle the free radicals (unstable molecules) that cause damage to cells throughout the body.

Black seed

Black seed, or Nigella sativa, has been used in traditional medicine to treat many conditions, including diabetes. Recent research in a laboratory aimed to see if these claims were true, using both the Nigella sativa seed and its essential oil.

The authors found that both the seed and essential oil were useful treatments for high blood sugar and the related issues that come with it. They also found that Nigella sativa is high in antioxidants that help to reduce the risk of diabetes complications that are caused by oxidative stress.

Using black seed essential oil alongside a varied and wholesome diet may help to reduce blood sugar to safe levels.

Black pepper

People with type 2 diabetes often have other symptoms, such as high blood pressure and circulation issues.

A study found that an essential oil derived from the common kitchen spice, black pepper, might provide a way to manage or prevent type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

The researchers noted that the oil contains a lot of antioxidants, and helps to block certain enzymes in the body that may contribute to diabetes and high blood pressure.

Helichrysum and grapefruit

Weight loss is a key factor in controlling type 2 diabetes symptoms. While being overweight does not cause every case of diabetes, it can make symptoms worse.

Losing weight is typically seen as the first line of treatment for people with diabetes. This means dieting and exercise, but the process may also be helped along with essential oils.

A recent study found that obese rats given extracts of helichrysum and grapefruit gained less weight, had reduced signs of inflammation, and had less excess insulin than other subjects.

While the study was not done with humans, it may be a good sign that helichrysum and grapefruit can help people lose weight if used properly.

A relaxing massage of oil containing helichrysum and grapefruit essential oils after a nice workout may help promote relaxation and weight loss.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon has long been a favored spice in desserts. It has a sweet flavor that seems to boost sweetness without adding more sugar. New research also suggests that it may also be great for people with diabetes.

One study looked at the effects of cinnamon and the compounds in it on various factors in diabetes. The researchers noted that cinnamon has shown to be beneficial to insulin sensitivity, sugar and fat levels, inflammation, blood pressure, and even body weight.

Regular intake of cinnamon and regular use of cinnamon essential oil may help to control factors of diabetes in some people.

Lavender

The scent of lavender oil is very familiar and lavender has numerous uses in both traditional and western medicine. According to research, one promising use may be in relieving diabetes symptoms.

Researchers found that in animal experiments, lavender essential oil helped to balance high blood sugar levels and protect the body from the oxidative stress that causes complications in people with diabetes.

Aromatherapy and diabetes

lavender
Lavender oil may help to balance high blood sugar levels.

Diabetes is a complex disease that has many contributing factors and can create different symptoms in different people.

Risk factors, such as poor diet, high blood pressure, obesity, and physical inactivity can all play a role in type 2 diabetes. Stress may make symptoms worse for some, and rapid changes to the diet and physical activity levels may affect others more.

People who are in these situations may find essential oils very beneficial. Adding a few drops of essential oil to an aromatherapy diffuser and taking long, deep breaths of the vapor produced is an easy way to get any beneficial compounds into the body.

The receptors in the nose and capillaries of the lungs can pick up the tiny particles of many essential oils and carry them into the bloodstream to be used by the body where it needs the most help.

Some particles may also be small enough to pass through the skin. This is beneficial for people looking for on-the-go relief from symptoms or more localized treatment.

If an essential oil is to be used on the skin, it should be properly diluted first. Many people enjoy adding a few drops of essential oil to an ounce of olive oil, coconut oil, or almond oil. Before applying it anywhere else, apply a dime-sized amount to the forearm to check for allergies. If no signs of allergies appear after 24-48 hours, it should be safe to use the diluted oil.

It is important to note that essential oils should not be swallowed. Even with the purest essential oils, the high antioxidant content of many oils can damage the food pipe, stomach, and intestines.

Outlook

The most important thing to consider with essential oils is that they are a complementary treatment. No essential oil should be expected to relieve a person’s diabetes symptoms on its own.

Essential oils can be used as part of a balanced program of diet, exercise, lifestyle choices, and medical treatment options. It is always best to discuss treatment options that include essential oils with both the doctor and licensed aromatherapist.

When used with proper guidance, essential oils may be useful in the fight against diabetes and its symptoms and side effects.

Medicinal mushrooms are the new turmeric | MNN – Mother Nature Network

Mushrooms are the latest functional food shown to have science-backed health benefits beyond nutrients. Here are 5 to add to your must-eat list.

Source: Medicinal mushrooms are the new turmeric | MNN – Mother Nature Network

Almond Supplementation Lowers Uric Acid Levels in Patients with Coronary Artery Disease

  • Almonds (Prunus dulcis, Rosaceae)
  • Coronary Artery Disease
  • Serum Uric Acid

Higher serum levels of uric acid (UA) are increasing in prevalence globally and are associated with coronary artery disease (CAD) and a higher risk of heart attack or stroke in patients with no history of heart disease and stroke. An increase of 1 mg/dL in serum UA has been found to cause a 12% increase in the risk of CAD mortality. Almonds (Prunus dulcis, Rosaceae) are recognized for their lipid-neutralizing effects and may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). A previous study found almond supplementation to prevent hyperuricemia in a CVD rat model. The goal of this randomized controlled trial (RCT) was to evaluate the UA-reducing potential of almond supplementation in patients with CAD.

The study recruited 150 patients with CAD from the Cardiology Clinic, Aga Khan University Hospital; Karachi, Pakistan. Patients who regularly consumed nuts or had nut allergies were excluded. Patients were randomly assigned into 1 of the following 3 groups of 50: no intervention (NI), supplementation with almonds grown in Pakistan (PA), and supplementation with imported American almonds (AA). Patients in the NI group were asked to abstain from consuming any nuts, specifically almonds, while enrolled in the RCT. Those in the PA and AA groups were given 10 g/day almonds and told to prepare them traditionally—soak overnight, peel, and eat before breakfast daily. Patients kept consumption diaries and compliance was monitored in twice-weekly phone calls. At baseline, blood was drawn and body weight, blood pressure (BP), and other measures were taken. Follow-up visits were scheduled at 6 and 12 weeks with the same measurements taken. Patients in the NI group received almonds at the end of the RCT.

Baseline demographics and serum UA were similar in all the groups (P>0.05). Patient weight and BP remained fairly constant in all groups throughout the 12-week study. At week 6, men in the PA group had a 15% reduction in UA, and women had a 12% reduction in UA, compared to the NI group (P<0.05). Men in the AA group had 17% less serum UA, and women 19% less, compared to NI (P<0.05). At week 12, men in the PA group had 17% less serum UA, and women 16% less, than those in the NI group (P<0.05). In the AA group at the end of the study, men had 20% less serum UA, and women 21% less, compared to NI (P<0.05). Compared to baseline, patients in the NI group showed negligible decreases in serum UA, whereas both the PA and AA groups had significant improvement (P<0.05) at both follow-up visits. Men in both active groups had 13% less serum UA at 6 weeks; women in the PA group, 11% less; and women in the AA group, 16% less. At 12 weeks, men in the PA group had improved 16% over baseline and women in the PA group had improved by 14%; and men and women in the AA group had 18% less serum UA than at baseline. This is the first almond intervention study in patients with CAD reporting on UA reduction.

Serum UA may be considered as a marker for vascular function, with anticipated pathways of damage including pro-oxidative and proinflammatory factors among others. Almond supplementation is known to positively affect some of these factors, including a possible reduction in C-reactive protein reported in some studies. Almonds contain L-arginine, a precursor of nitric oxide that has been reported to reduce BP in vivo. In this RCT, almost all patients were taking antihypertensive medications and no effect on BP was seen.

It should be noted that while this study differentiated between Pakistani and American almonds, and those in the AA group showed slightly more improvement than those in the PA group, there is no botanical difference between these almonds. Differences in constituents caused by time of harvest, a method of storage, and different cultivars might be considered in future studies. It should also be noted that the almond skin, discarded by patients in this study, is a rich source of vitamins and minerals, and possibly of other nutrients of interest. Future studies might compare effects of almonds with skins and those that have been peeled.

Resource:

Jamshed H, Gilani AUH, Sultan FAT, et al. Almond supplementation reduces serum uric acid in coronary artery disease patients: a randomized controlled trial. Nutr J. August 19, 2016;15:77. doi: 10.1186/s12937-016-0195-4.

Healthy Lifestyle Changes to Make Today

Over the years, we have helped thousands of people make better choices for their life and their health. People from all backgrounds say they feel sick, tired, and depressed. What’s truly scary is that people begin to accept that feeling as normal.

It doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t have to, nor should you, resign yourself to feeling perpetually run-down and exhausted. Some of the most effective ways to improve your health are simple and accessible to almost everyone. You don’t need a lot of money; you just need the drive to cultivate healthy habits. When people ask me what the best medicine is, do you know what I tell them? The best medicine is a prevention-based lifestyle.

6 Tips for a Healthy Lifestyle

The six simplest things you can incorporate in your life are the sunshine, clean air, fresh water, sleep, exercise, and most of all— a clean, healthy diet. That’s it. Improving these six things can improve anyone’s health. They require no fancy equipment, no special training, no 16-disc instructional DVD set, no payment plan. You can start improving your life yourself, today, right now.

1. Get Some Sunshine

Soaking up the sun has received a lot of bad press in recent years, and everyone now associates the sun’s UV rays with wrinkles and skin cancer. While it’s true that you shouldn’t spend all day in the sun, we’ve swung too far in the other direction, and people are quick to reach for chemically-suspect sunscreens or avoid the sun entirely. In reality, UV rays account for only about one-tenth of 1% of the total global burden of disease. You’re far more likely to get sick from too little sunlight.

Moderate exposure to direct sunshine boosts the health of both your mind and body. In addition to enhancing your mental state, exposure to sunlight directly affects the body’s production of melatonin and can promote more restful sleep. Sunlight is also vital to the body’s ability to produce vitamin D, an incredibly important nutrient that supports cardiovascular health, bone health, and the immune system. In fact, sunlight is the best source of vitamin D, as the nutrient is relatively uncommon in food.

That’s not to say you should ignore the risk of UV-related cancer. As in all things health-related, you must find the right balance. Be smart about your level of sunshine exposure. Try to get at least 15-30 minutes of direct sunlight every day. Avoid sunscreens. At best, they prevent vitamin D production. Worse, many sunscreens contain harsh chemicals that can be absorbed through the skin and cause dozens of health problems. If you are out in the glaring sun all day, make use of shade and wear sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats, and loose-fitting, long-sleeved clothing to avoid sunburn. If you must use sunscreen, only buy organic, mineral and plant-based varieties.

2. Breathe Clean Air

As the old saying goes, you can survive weeks without food, days without water, but only a few minutes without air. Given its extreme importance, it almost goes without saying that the best air is fresh and clean.

Clean air helps prevent respiratory ailments like asthma or allergies and supplies your body with the oxygen that all living cells need. Breathing dirty air can cause big problems.

A lot of people associate poor air quality with smog or industrial pollution. You may be surprised to learn that, according to the EPA, indoor air quality is usually 2-5x worse than that outside. That may be a best-case scenario; in the worst cases, indoor air can be up to 100x more toxic.

Oddly, efficient construction may be to blame. It’s energy efficient for a building to be sealed up tight, but it also allows for the accumulation and concentration of air pollutants. These pollutants include the VOCs and chemical fumes that off-gas from furniture, paint, flooring materials, and other indoor building materials.

Don’t think an air freshener is going to “clean” the air. Most air fresheners just release an equally toxic chemical fragrance to mask odors. Instead, get an air purification device for your home, preferably one that uses both HEPA and UV filters. You can also open the windows and get a few houseplants; they’re excellent, natural air filters that release clean oxygen. Better yet, go outside in nature and enjoy the fresh air first hand.

3. Stay Hydrated

By some estimates, 75% of people suffer from chronic mild dehydration. This affects your health in more ways than just feeling a bit thirsty. At a minimum, chronic dehydration causes a severe drop in your energy levels. Worse, since 70% of your body is water, dehydration can negatively affect every process in your body, including bone and tissue regeneration, natural detoxification abilities, immune function—all of it. Even blinking your eyes and the beating of your heart require water.

Madison Avenue marketing wizards spend millions of dollars trying to convince us that water is plain and boring. Instead, they say, we should quench our thirst with overpriced, carbonated liquid candy like soda and energy drinks. Don’t listen. You need fresh water to function; there is no substitute. Coffee, sodas, and energy drinks are not good sources of hydration. In fact, the caffeine and sugar are diuretics that cause your body to lose water. Avoid.

How much water do you need? Eight cups a day is the standard recommendation. That’s a fairly good rule of thumb, but it doesn’t account for body size or activity level. A better guideline is to drink half your body weight in ounces. For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, drink 90 ounces of water per day. Of course, people’s needs differ based on many factors. Body size, physical activity, external temperature, sweatiness, health, and dozens of other factors all affect how much water you need. Start with the half-your-weight rule as a base and add water as needed.

4. Get Enough Rest

Have you noticed that in some circles, missing several hours of sleep a night is considered a badge of honor while sleeping the full, recommended 8 hours is seen as a weakness? This thinking is completely backward.

Adequate sleep—about 7-8 hours a night for most people—is absolutely necessary for a healthy body and mind. Rest promotes normal hormone levels and neurotransmitter responses. Skipping sleep can lead to poor work performance, car accidents, relationship problems, anger, and depression.

Why are so many people walking around completely exhausted? For most people, the problem isn’t that they’re too busy, it’s that they just need to turn off the TV, put down the phone, and close their eyes. In fact, trying to fall asleep with the TV or other gadgets on will only derail your body’s natural circadian rhythm.

Just put away the smartphone and go to bed. Make your sleeping space as dark as possible. If that’s not feasible, try wearing a sleep mask. It’s a great strategy for blocking out light. And, just as you’ve always heard, aim for about 8 hours of sleep every night.

5. Exercise Often

Exercise is vital to your health and mood. Unequivocally, research shows that your chances of living a long, healthy life are better if you exercise regularly. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advises that regular physical activity reduces mortality rates of many chronic diseases and helps improve or prevent many illnesses and conditions.

You don’t need to have the physique of an Olympian to see health benefits. Even light to moderate exercise can offer tremendous health benefits. Although forty-five minutes to an hour is better for most people, just 30 minutes of moderate activity a few times a week can boost energy levels, help you sleep better, sharpen your mind, and strengthen your defense against illness.

To maximize the benefits, exercise outdoors. Studies have shown that exercising outside promotes endurance, enthusiasm, pleasure, and self-esteem. It also helps reduce depression and fatigue. One study found that people who exercised outside exercised longer and more frequently. Not to mention that exercising outdoors can also help you get your daily dose of sunshine.

6. Follow a Clean Diet

You may be familiar with the expression, “garbage in, garbage out.” The food you eat is a perfect example of that expression in action. Good nutrition is vital to your health. You can exercise and sleep twice as much as anyone else, but without a clean and balanced diet, you will feel down and fatigued.

There are many, many schools of thought on what type of diet is the best. Although there are a few unshakeable principles, it has to be an individual choice. Personally, I both follow and recommend a raw, vegan diet, but everyone has to decide what works for their life.

Most of the animals raised for mass production are raised in squalid conditions and treated inhumanely. Not only is this unnecessarily cruel, but it also promotes diseased animals that yield toxic animal products. A plant-based diet avoids these dangers, but if you do decide to consume meat and dairy, at least avoid the worst of it. Only consume animal products that are produced organically, in a free range environment, with ethical standards in place.

And, while it’s a contentious topic, I believe there’s more than sufficient evidence to avoid genetically modified food, AKA GMOs. Italy, France, Germany, Greece, and dozens of other countries have limited or outright banned these foods. In the United States, however, they are everywhere. Buying organic food is the easiest way to avoid GMOs. According to both U.S. and Canadian law, a product with the “100% Certified Organic” label, it cannot contain any genetically modified organisms.

Finally, get in the habit of making your own food and avoid the mass-produced food products that are usually found in the center of the grocery store—boxed, packaged, and loaded with junk, especially refined carbohydrates. A few years ago, researchers at Princeton even confirmed that sugar is more addictive than heroin. It’s no surprise Americans buy more soda than water.

Most of your grocery shopping should consist of whole, raw foods. Vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. I won’t say all prepackaged food is terrible for you, but the vast majority of them contain a minefield of suspect ingredients.