NutritionFacts.org

Best Treatment for Constipation

September 17, 2013 by Michael Greger M.D. in News with 12 Comments

Constipation is a common problem that affects up to 20 percent of the world’s population. Nearly 60 million Americans suffer from chronic constipation, which is particularly a problem in women and the elderly. It is a pathological condition that is often severe enough to disrupt daily activities and derange quality of life. It responds poorly to available medical remedies and may prompt sophisticated and potentially harmful surgical procedures. Despite all this, it is still frequently considered a trivial issue and affected individuals tend to self-medicate either using over-the-counter laxatives or ‘natural’ remedies, none of which had been adequately investigated. Until now. Fiber supplements can be inconvenient, taste nasty, and cause bloating—even choking. Prunes could present a natural, convenient, tasty alternative, but do they work?

A randomized clinical trial of prunes vs. Metamucil was recently published. I present the results in my 4-min video Prunes vs. Metamucil vs. Vegan Diet. Each dot on the graph represents a complete spontaneous bowel movement. You’ll notice when you watch the video how many had zero a week. Study participants went from an average of 1.7 a week up to 3.5 on prunes (at least one every other day), then back to baseline when prunes were removed. On Metamucil they got up to 2.8  a week. Not as good as the prunes, and a significantly better stool consistency was also noted when using the prunes, as measured by the famous Bristol Stool Scale.

The researchers concluded that treatment with dried plums resulted in a greater improvement in constipation symptoms than the commonly used fiber supplement. Given their palatability, tolerability, and availability, dried plums should be “considered as a first line therapy for chronic constipation.”

If that’s what adding one plant can do, though, what if all you ate was plants? Vegans are off the charts, averaging 10.9!

For more on optimizing bowel function, see:

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death and More Than an Apple a Day.

Image credit: Alexander Ekman / Flickr

Best Dried Fruit For Cholesterol

September 12, 2013 by Michael Greger M.D. in News with 34 Comments

When I saw there was a paper entitled “Daily Dried Apples Versus Daily Dried Plums: Impact on Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors in Postmenopausal Women,” the first thing I thought was well, was the study funded by the U.S. Apple Association or the International Prune Association? Turns out neither. Just our taxpayer dollars hard at work. Great! So what did they find?

One hundred and sixty older women were randomly assigned to a dried apple group or a dried plum group and followed for a year. A dozen dried apple rings a day or about 8 prunes. As you can see in my 3-min video Dried Apples, Dates, Figs or Prunes for Cholesterol?, within 3 months the apple group experienced a significant drop in cholesterol that stayed down throughout the rest of the study, but no cholesterol benefit in the prune group. Both dried fruit regimens lowered c-reactive protein levels about the same, though dried plums may cause a quicker decrease in inflammation, whereas dried apples may result in a greater decrease overall.

Prunes may not help our cholesterol, but they may improve the health of our skin—see Beauty Is More Than Skin Deep. That’s of course in addition to their customary regularity role, something I address in Prunes vs. Metamucil vs. Vegan Diet.

Twelve apple rings is equivalent to eating about 2 apples a day. They think that the cholesterol-lowering properties of apples may be due to their unique pectin fiber composition, which may increase fecal excretion of bile. Or there may be cholesterol-lowering phytonutrients unique to the apples. Either way, this supports the extraordinary findings detailed in my previous video Dried Apples Versus Cholesterol.

What about dried figs? The California Fig Board did not want to be left out. They put people on 14 figs a day (that’s a lot of figs!) for 5 weeks and… nothing. Daily consumption of figs did not appear to reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol.

Finally, what about dates? Another recent study tested 4 or 5 dates a day for a month and again nothing. The dates did tend to bring down triglyceride levels, though, which is surprising given their sugar content. Studies of the glycemic index of dates found them to have a surprisingly mild effect on blood sugar levels. In Dried Apples, Dates, Figs or Prunes for Cholesterol? I show graphs comparing the blood sugar effects of straight sugar water versus that same amount of sugar in date form. More on the sugar content of dates in Are Dates Good For You?, a recipe in Healthy Pumpkin Pie, and my favorite source for dates here (the season just started!).

Dates beat out other common fruits in terms of containing more vitamins and minerals. They’ve even been touted as the “richest source of dietary minerals,” but because they’re dried they have about 5 times more calories than fresh fruits. Thus, in terms of nutrient density, they’re really quite comparable to other fruits. Apples, however, clearly have others beat when it comes to lowering cholesterol.

More on dried fruit can be found in:

Those with asthma may want to choose dried fruits without the preservative sulfur dioxide.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death and More Than an Apple a Day.

Image credit: storebukkebruse / Flickr

 

Page 47 of 129« First...102030...4546474849...607080...Last »
  • What is the optimal diet for disease prevention?

  • Subscribe to our free newsletter and stay up to date with the latest discoveries in nutrition.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.