Instagram or Insta-kilogram

Visions of tasty foods bombard us constantly on social media, television and in magazines. Our foodie culture is overloading our senses and our abilty to just say “no.”

Our brain has evolved to find nutritious foods and reject poisonous substances. Taste, smell and texture team up with our sense of vision to find them.

The flood of images–called gastroporn– may contribute to our obesity epidemic. A new discussion is worth reading: Eating with our eyes: From visual hunger to digital satiation in Brain and Cognition by Charles Spence and colleagues in October of 2015.

The authors review the role that viewing images may have on neural activity and whether it may lead to increased hunger.

One interesting take is the trend of taking pictures of food at home and restaurants. 

The authors conclude:”Given the essential role that food plays in helping us to live long and healthy lives, one of the key challenges outlined here concerns the extent to which our food-seeking sensory systems/biology, which evolved in pre-technological and food-scarce environments, are capable of adapting to a rapidly-changing (sometimes abundant) food landscape, in which technology plays a crucial role in informing our (conscious and automatic) decisions.”

Microbes Target the Sweet Spot

As obesity and diabetes numbers soar across the globe, public health departments are looking for answers beyond the “fast food, slow lifestyle” cause.
Microbes may be part of the problem. In chronic diseases, a dysbiosis—imbalance of the gut microbial ecosystem—often exists. Whereas the disease itself may lead to a microbial mess, it is also believed that the opposite may be true: dysbiosis may be a cause of diabetes and obesity.
Finnish researchers Mikael Knip and Heli Siljander at Helsinki University Hospital looked at the evidence. Their work appears as Effects of Probiotics on Glycemic Control and Inflammation in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-controlled Study.

Type 1 diabetes:

Prediabetic children have decreased microbial diversity as well as reduced community stability when matched with children not showing antibodies or biomarkers of the disease.
Antibody-positive children showed:
• More Bacteroidetes
• Fewer butyrate-producing bacteria

Obesity:

• Alterations in gut microbes
• Efficient in harvesting energy
• More Firmicutes
• Decreased Bacteroidetes
• Reduced butyrate-producing bacteria

Type 2 Diabetes:
• Decreased diversity
• Reduced butyrate-producing bacteria in the gut
• Change in inflammatory activity
• Change in insulin resistance

The question: what to do with this information to benefit health.
Diet itself can have a profound impact. High fiber foods or indigestible carbohydrates called prebiotics may reset the microbiome.

Use of probiotics can alter the system and reduce the risk of obesity and diabetes. This is ironic because in Finland where supplementation with probiotics is high, the incidence of Type 1 diabetes is the world’s highest.
Reseeding the entire gut with fecal transplants works well with infestation by toxins such as Clostridium difficile and may eventually be effective in diabetics. Initial research shows improved insulin sensitivity. One 2015 study from Brazil showed reduced hemoglobin A1C (average blood sugar over 2-3 months) when a group of Type 2 diabetics were given milk fermented with strains of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis. Inflammatory markers also decreased
Take-away message?
Eat lots of fermented foods: yogurt, buttermilk, kefir and the like. Increase those foods needed to feed them. Prebiotics are available in whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Take a supplement.

We need all the help we can get.