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Ep. 4 – Media impact on health

Can the media influence your health? In more ways than you can imagine. It all depends where you get your health information. Dr. Chet Zelasko looks into it on this episode of Straight Talk on Health


Welcome to Straight Talk on Health, I’m Dr. Chet Zelasko and I’m your host. Can the media impact your health? Maybe not directly, but indirectly? I think in more ways that you can possibly imagine. Let me begin with talking about a recently published study in the journal Cell and its title “Personalize Microbiome Driven Effects of Non-nutritive Sweeteners on Human Glucose Tolerance. Now let me get through all those words: “personalized microbiome driven.” Essentially what that means is your personal microbiome is reflective of you and it is going to be different from someone else's and the way that you process things will be different than anyone else. Now you’ll have people that are close to you, your family, they may eat the same types of foods. You inherit things from your mom as you go through the birth canal, not inherit but you're exposed to them. That becomes your first part of developing a microbiome.

But your microbiome is the sum total of everything you've ever eaten that contained good bacteria we call probiotics. How you feed them with fiber and other things, well, that can change the nature of it. “Non-nutritive sweeteners,” let's just call them artificial sweeteners. They don't contain any calories and that was the point. So this is another study that's looking at artificial sweeteners: good, bad, indifferent- we'll get to that. “On human glucose tolerance.” If you've ever been diagnosed or considered to be diagnosed as a diabetic or pre-diabetic, what used to be commonplace, not so much anymore but an oral glucose tolerance test. What they would do is they would take your blood sugar. They would sit you down, have you take 200 calories, in other words 50 grams of sugar and then they would check your blood sugar every 30 minutes for the first hour and then every hour thereafter to see what your pattern was. Well, that's what this particular study was. So they're looking at: can someone’s microbiome in response to exposure to artificial sweeteners have an impact on the blood sugar test? Well, which artificial sweeteners did they use? Well, aspartame, also known as Equal, sucralose, also known as Splenda, saccharin, also known as Sweet and Low. Not very common but I still see the pink packets everywhere. And then finally, Stevia in the form of Truvia.

Before I get into the study I want to give you two headlines from online sources. From legitimate, I would say, companies or reporters, and here's one: Some Artificial Sweeteners May Have a Not-so-Sweet Impact on our Bodies. And here's the second one: Some Sugar Substitutes Affect Blood-Glucose and Gut Bacteria. Now, as you heard that, and I tried not to say it monotone but not emphasize either one, which one do you think of a more negative tone, even though they reviewed the same study? One treated it with potential negative health impacts. The other reported the facts of the study. One works for Science Alert, the other for Scientific American. If you read one, you might think there was something wrong with artificial sweeteners. The other? What they concluded was there’s-- what the researchers concluded--there's a whole lot more questions to be answered before any conclusions can be drawn.

So let me tell you a little bit about the study. Researchers sifted through a variety of subjects to find a 120 who are not overweight nor obese and were healthy with no metabolic issues, no words, no diabetes or anything like that. One more thing, and this is where it got complicated, they could never have used artificial sweeteners ever in their life in any form. That eliminates a lot of people because what people don't understand is that artificial sweeteners are often used in protein powders, they're used in some of the shakes that people have. They are used, the commercial ones, that is, they are used as a way of reducing carbohydrate calories because we live in a keto obsessed era. What did they find? Every sweetener altered subjects’ microbiome. So in other words, every artificial sweetener had a different impact on your gut bacteria. That wasn't good and it wasn't bad, they made no value judgment of that- it was just altered. Only sucralose and saccharin seem to impact blood sugar during the oral glucose tolerance test and they did that several times throughout the 28-day study.

They did one more thing. They transplanted the micro biome from the highest responders to the artificial sweetener. What that means is -those that responded, the most, in other words, had the biggest change in their oral glucose tolerance test, those were the microbiomes that they selected and then put that microbiome by the process, however they do it, into transgenic mice who are born without an immune system and therefore have no natural microbiome. They inserted it into there and lo and behold, guess what? They also had a very high response and had an altered oral glucose tolerance test.

Here's the thing. This was a horribly complicated study just from the looking at the numbers. One of the things that they did that was unique was that the subjects use their markers for blood glucose, where you wear the patch on your arm and it recorded every 15 minutes. That's where they're able to do the oral glucose tolerance test at home, which is more reflective of what a person would do. They took 50 grams of carbohydrate and then the device automatically registered their blood sugar every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day. But when you look carefully at the data, what you find is that under every condition, whether it was placebo, whether it was glucose sugar itself or any one of the artificial sweeteners, everybody's blood sugar went up to about 250 milligrams per deciliter at 30 minutes, and in about one hour it was down to 200 and then after the 2 hours it was back to normal. So did it have an impact? Yes.

But here's the issue. There was nothing wrong with that. That's a typical response. Were they slightly different than the control groups. Yeah, but not so much as you’d really want to make a big deal out of it. What the researchers concluded was that, you know what, we've got a lot more research to do to figure out what can alter it in. One of the things that I want to know is, how does diet effect this? You had reached people that didn't respond at all. And some that were high responders. Was there a difference in the type of diet that they had that could have made a difference in their microbiomes? We don't know.

Let's turn from the normal media to social media. I have a Facebook follower who is really, really into the Keto diet and he posted an Instagram of a young man who claims to have lost a huge amount of weight and therefore eliminated his take 2 diabetes. And so they're big into ketogenic, even carnivore diet, which means they only eat meat, eggs, and things of that nature. No vegetables, no plant source of any type. And he took his blood sugar, showed you the little monitor. They ate the rolled Oats. One serving of it. Then he started checking his blood sugar and it went up to one 60 and then declined to 30 minutes and every hour. And in 2 hours it was back to normal, which for him was right around 90, Okay. So, what he did is he went on and on, talking about how bad that was and how it spiked his blood sugar.

Now, if you are listening to this, if we might be something that you might want to then avoid whole grains. Here's the thing. 160 milligrams per deciliter after eating a meal. That is exclusively carbohydrates is not abnormal in any way. It just is not an abnormal. He had a normal response to what would be considered a healthy food. For people on Keto, they don't like that but doesn't matter. It was something that was completely normal.

The fact that he didn't know that is where the problem comes in. Now, if he really was type 2 diabetic than the other explanation that androconologists would use would be that once a diabetic always diabetic, even if it's a type 2, if that was considered abnormal, it wasn't and he went on and he's a dynamic young men engaging personality, handsome very, very muscular. And to look at him, you would think he knew what he was talking about. But the fact that he made such a horrible mistake without knowing that that's not a normal blood sugar in blood sugar response. That in and of itself says he's not an expert in much of anything other than being on Instagram, in my opinion, but people are going to listen to him. This one enters the realm of politics and celebrity doctors. Recently a celebrity doctor who's running for Senate in Pennsylvania and his compassion, his campaign released the following statement: if his opponent had ever even a vegetable in his life than maybe he would have had a major stroke and wouldn't be in the position of having to lie about it constantly.

I will admit that this is more politics than anything else. But this is a celebrity doctor that is well known to everybody. There were a lot of questions about the recommendations that he gave when he had a television show, but certainly trying to say, give health information like this that suggesting eating one vegetable a day, which is sort of what he did would in any way prevent stroke is just flat wrong. There are many genetic factors that are involved in this. His opponent was overweight and still remains overweight. One doesn't necessarily equal the other.

So there you have it information from normal sources that you can read online for free information from social media and information from the political scene. Which one are you going to choose. Just be cautious and check everything out. That's what I do. Until next time. This is doctor Chet Zelasko saying health is a choice, people. choose wisely today and every day.


>> Straight Talk on Health with Dr. Chet Zelasko was recorded in the studios of WGVU Public Radio in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The views and opinions expressed on Straight Talk on Health are not necessarily those of WGVU, its underwriters or Grand Valley State University. Episodes are found at wgvunews.org and wherever you get your podcasts, please rate and subscribe.


Dr. Chet Zelasko is a scientist, speaker, and author. Dr. Chet has a Ph.D. and MA in Exercise Physiology and Health Education from Michigan State University and a BS in Physical Education from Canisius College. He’s certified by the American College of Sports Medicine as a Health and Fitness Specialist, belongs to the American Society of Nutrition, and has conducted research and been published in peer-reviewed journals. You can find him online at drchet.com.
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