A review of the weeks plant-based nutrition news 10th November 2019

OMEGA-3 SUPPLEMENTS: There is an open question as to whether those following a 100% plant-based diets should take a long chain omega-3 supplement. There are 3 main omega-3 fatty acids. The short chain omega-3 fatty acid alpha linolenic acid (ALA) and the two long chain omega 3 fatty acids — DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). ALA is considered essential and must be obtained from the diet. ALA can be found in plants. DHA and EPA in most diet patterns is usually obtained from fish, although fish obtain it from marine algae. The body can convert ALA to DHA/EPA but the rate of conversion varies and may reduce with age and varies between individuals. To meet daily requirements of 2–4 grams of ALA per day this would require a tablespoon of chia seeds or ground flaxseeds (linseeds), two tablespoons of hemp seeds or six walnut halves daily.

There is evidence to suggest that if DHA and EPA are not being obtained from the diet, there is an increase in the efficiency of conversion from ALA. In the EPIC study, DHA/EPA levels in the blood did not differ as much as expected when comparing fish eaters, vegetarians and vegans. Most studies also show that vegans have higher blood levels of ALA than omnivores.

There is uncertainty as to whether there is benefit in taking DHA/EPA directly so as not to rely on conversion from ALA. This may be particularly important for brain health as you get older. The most reliable source in a WFPB diet would be a micro-algae supplement and the dosage for adults is 250mg DHA/EPA combination per day. This is recommended during pregnancy and breast feeding at higher doses (400–500mg).

Many plant-based physicians have been recommending a DHA/EPA supplement. However, Dr Michael Kalper recently posted a video on why he is stopping his DHA supplement. His main reason being the link between high levels of DHA and aggressive prostate cancer in men. Take a listen to his video here. I am not sure we know the definite answer to this question but it is worth keeping up with the science and making an informed decision.

Physiological effects of a plant-based diet

PLANT-BASED DIETS AND WEIGHT MANAGEMENT: An excellent new review on the role of plant-based diets for the reduction of body fat. There are a number reasons why plant-based diets help maintain a healthful body weight, which are explained in the paper. These include; 1) Reduced energy density – Plant foods are lower in calorie density yet higher in nutritional content compared with animal-derived foods. 2) Increased fibre intake — The increased fibre consumption in a plant-based diet is more satiating, giving the feeling of fullness with less calorie intake. 3) Reduced fat intake results in greater loss of body fat. A low fat diet results in greater fat loss compared to a low carbohydrate diet. 4) Increased postprandial (post-meal) energy expenditure. 5) Favourable modulation of appetite hormones. 6) Improved insulin sensitivity. 6) Healthy gut microbiome.


MADE IN HACKNEY: I can’t believe I have only just come across this amazing organisation in London. Made In Hackney is a plant-based community cookery school. They do the following;

  1. Promote health and environmental benefits of eating a local, organic, seasonal, plant-based diet
  2. Teach communities the skills to grow, cook, preserve and compost food that’s good for the health of people and the planet
  3. Provide training and an affordable kitchen space to support ethical food entrepreneurship
  4. Run a volunteer programme rich in opportunities to complete training and develop employability skills
  5. Work with diverse community groups and offer opportunities for interaction, celebration and collaboration
  6. Inspire communities and give them the skills to green the urban environment

Take a listen to the TEDx talk by co-founder Sarah Bentley. Truly inspirational!

PROBIOTICS AND CANCER TREATMENT: I have previously discussed the benefits of a healthy gut microbiome during cancer treatment, particularly for those receiving a type of treatment called immunotherapy. Studies have shown that those with greater diversity of gut bacteria and high levels of ‘good’ bacteria respond better to the treatment. In addition, a recent study shows that those receiving antibiotics in the 30 days prior to starting immunotherapy have a worse outcome, and the suggestion is that the adverse effects on the gut microbiome from antibiotic use may be responsible for this. So, it might be assumed that taking probiotics will have a beneficial effect during cancer treatment. However, this does NOT seem to be the case. Preliminary data suggest that those taking over the counter probiotics actually have a worse outcome when treated with immunotherapy. Therefore, until we know more, it is best to maintain a healthy gut microbiome by eating nutrient and fibre-rich whole plant foods.

VEGAN CHOCOLATE: This is clearly not a story about whole food plant-based nutrition, however, there are some health benefits to eating dark chocolate in small amounts if it contains>60% cocoa, due to the high levels of phenolic antioxidants. So it is great to see that the iconic department store Selfridges in London have opened a vegan chocolate counter!

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