bone broth, brain health, healthy lifestyle, microbiome, nutrition, probiotics, research, weight loss

Where Tradition and Research Intersect at Weight Loss

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This is a longer post, but it quantifies the research behind Reset Your Weight Basics.

Traditional Foods

When my Grandmother heard me mention that I’d been making my own bone broth, she said that it brought back fond memories.  As the story goes, she used to fight her five siblings to be the first down in the morning to steal the marrow out of the bones after her mother was done making bone broth.  Here’s her first person trip down memory lane:

“School was out for the day, it was about 3:30 in the afternoon, the year, about 1937, I was 9 years old.  My weekly excursion was about to begin as it did every Wednesday.  As my memory recalls, my Mother gave me ten cents and I had to go to the store.  We lived on eleventh street and my first stop was at 18th to the vegetable store.  I would ask the man for ten cents worth of soup greens and he would get a good size brown bag and fill it with onions, turnips, celery, carrots and whatever else he could grab.  It was full.
I’d start my walk back and stop at the butcher, go in, and ask the butcher for a bag of bones, PLEASE.  Mom really liked the marrow ones, she said they had better flavor, but I never asked, just took what they gave me, and yes, they GAVE them to me and were glad to get rid of them!
Continuing my walk, my next stop was the bakery for a loaf of Italian bread.  Can’t remember how much more Mom gave me than 10 cents, or how much the bread was. 
Mom made a tomato based stew for Thursday supper.  First cooking the bones with some of the greens (onions, celery a carrot maybe) for many hours on the stove top.  Then over-nighting this broth in the ice box, (did not have a frig) removing the fat the next morning and straining the broth.  She then added the rest, which was the most, of the greens, cutting into bite-size pieces, seasoned, cooked.  Best supper ever!
Actually, if it was winter, the broth would not be in the ice box, but on the window box outside the kitchen window where we kept the perishables. Worked!” – Grandma Dot
I’m sure if you asked someone in your own family who lived during the great depression or later, they would have a similar story to tell.  Bone broth, fresh greens, and hearty soups are as old as time!

Paleo cook and Nom Nom Paleo blogger, Michelle Tam, talked to the NYTimes about her own family history that is similar to mine.  In addition, as an adult, she then came to the realization that “Just because something is organic doesn’t mean it has the nutrition we’re looking for,” Ms. Tam said. “Or that it’s delicious.”

vegetable soup with bone broth baseThere isn’t a substitute for traditional, authentic, real food bone broth from our collective heritage’s past.  Bone broth was not just a staple food, it sustained families during times of food scarcity and satiated the many hungry bellies.

The same can be said of preserving a harvest’s food by the process of fermentation.  Kept in cool, root cellars across the world (or buried in pits) were nutrient-dense, raw foods that were a must for maintaining the quality of the food during the off seasons.

This practice hasn’t stopped in lieu of modern conveniences.  The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations published “Diversification booklet number 21” that details how the process of fermentation reduces food waste and sustains families.  Another publication, provides a global perspective on how Fermented Fruits and Vegetables is one method that is effective and necessary for meeting the organization’s goals:

“Achieving food security for all is at the heart of FAO’s efforts – to make sure people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives. 

Our three main goals are: the eradication of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition; the elimination of poverty and the driving forward of economic and social progress for all; and, the sustainable management and utilization of natural resources.”

The WHO publishes a variety of resources on fermentation, stating that it boosts the “nutritional values” of the food and remains an “efficient, low energy preservation process” that helps bring nutritional food to the poor (Health Benefits of Fermented Foods and Beverages).

Other cultures have been defined in part by their fermented foods.  The United Nations University published an informative article that cites the origins of common fermented foods and the benefits associated with its traditions.

Korea is known for kimchi; Central America makes Curtido; India has Dosa; Asia makes a variety of miso and bean pastes; Ethiopia’s dish is Injera; Indonesia makes Tempeh; and France is known for its cultured dairy while Africa is known for its hundreds of varied, fermented milks.

sourdough bouleAnd, thankfully, a french baker came to America and brought a sourdough bread starter to the San Francisco gold rush! For a great read on colonial American food preservation methods, read this post by The Food Timeline.

Sadly, Africa is an interesting snapshot of the impact of modern commercial processes on rich, traditional food preparation techniques like fermentation.   As fermentation occurs naturally but must be observed to work, it may take years to locate one usable live, active culture that only takes moments to be lost as commercial pasteurization is gaining momentum in the country.

They now can buy shelf stable milk instead of the time consuming process of maintaining an active culture that is historically known “for improving food safety in Africa as a low-cost method of food preservation and in improving the nutritional quality of the food raw materials” [1].

Advancing Research

With the technological age, came research into all things great and small.  What was before just a hypothesis, can now be studied and verified.

Let food be thy medicine, and let thy medicine be food.” -Hippocrates

The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.” –Thomas Edison

A more tongue in cheek approach to food and “evolving” research is summed up by this author: “we’re left to figure out which of the food headlines we should take to heart, and which should be taken with a grain of unrefined, mineral-rich sea salt…. If you don’t trust what your body tells you, remember that food science is ever evolving. Case in point: The seven foods below are ancient [listed out in his article]. But they’ve gone from being considered healthy (long ago) to unhealthy (within the last generation or two) to healthy again, even essential.”

SA MindBrain scans can now see exactly how the body and specific brain lobes react and trigger responses, verifying a discovered gut-brain connection.  The September 2015 issue of Scientific American Mind magazine (one of my geeky favorites) headlined, “Don’t Diet! Research Shows How to Avoid Pitfalls-and Really Lose Weight,” citing a large body of evidence from decades of studies.  For better or worse, the human psyche has a powerful connection over what we eat.  (Spoiler alert: Reset Your Weight by default takes their exact recommendations procured from “an overwhelming body of work” of research (pg 48).)

Furthermore, more and more scientific research is exploring and confirming the necessity of the learning about the expansive gut microbiome in a healthy human body.  The National Institute of Health regularly publishes long term studies:

“The Human Microbiome Project (HMP) was launched by NIH in 2007 to characterize the microbes found in different regions of the body….Researchers from almost 80 universities and scientific institutions described 5 years of research in a series of coordinated reports published online on June 13, 2012, in Nature and several journals in the Public Library of Science.”

“The scientists found that more than 10,000 microbial species occupy the human body. They estimated that the microbiome provides more genes that contribute to human survival than the human genome itself provides (8 million vs. 22,000). Humans need bacterial genes to aid in basic processes such as digestion.”

“Now that we understand what the normal human microbiome looks like, we should be able to understand how changes in the microbiome are associated with, or even cause, illnesses.” – “The Healthy Human Microbiome,” 2012

As a result of this and other research databases, insights into specific body functions and their connections to health and the brain have also been confirmed.   A 2014 report found that “Although the brain has been considered an insulin-insensitive organ, recent reports on the location of insulin and its receptors in the brain have introduced new ways of considering this hormone responsible for several functions.”  Many studies are ending with promising statements like this one, published on serotonin’s role in the pancreas: “In addition to solving the puzzle of what a brain neurotransmitter is doing in the pancreas, the study has some important clinical implications.”

While there is mainstream news about the controversial “leaky gut” diagnosis, the underlying medical qualifier has to do with the existence of the “elusive” blood-brain barrier” that media has been known to to discredit.  This issue is at the heart of several medical debates like seizures, autism, and “neuro-inflammation” issues surrounding vaccinations (not to be discussed as a main point-more for Devil’s Advocate).   But it does exist and has been studied for some time: “The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is formed by epithelial-like high resistance tight junctions within the endothelium of capillaries perfusing the vertebrate brain.”

More specific to the gut-brain barrier permeability and connection, is the study on these “morphological peculiarities [that] establish the physical permeability barrier of the BBB. In addition, a functional BBB is manifested by a number of permanently active transport mechanisms, specifically expressed by brain capillary endothelial cells that ensure the transport of nutrients into the CNS and exclusion of blood-borne molecules that could be detrimental to the milieu required for neural transmission. Finally, while the endothelial cells constitute the physical and metabolic barrier per se, interactions with adjacent cellular and acellular layers are prerequisites for barrier function.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine says that the “enteric nervous system (ENS)… is two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells lining your gastrointestinal tract from esophagus to rectum.”

“Its main role is controlling digestion, from swallowing to the release of enzymes that break down food to the control of blood flow that helps with nutrient absorption to elimination,” explains Jay Pasricha, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Neurogastroenterology, whose research on the enteric nervous system has garnered international attention.

“The enteric nervous system doesn’t seem capable of thought as we know it, but it communicates back and forth with our big brain—with profound results.”

This large medical community wants to further research in the areas of the gut-brain connection: “Discovering how signals from the digestive system affect metabolism…. This involves interactions between nerve signals, gut hormones and microbiota—the bacteria that live in the digestive system.”

I was ecstatic, practically giddy, when I came across this NYTs article, Can the Bacteria in Your Gut Explain Your Mood?

Given the extent to which bacteria are now understood to influence human physiology, it is hardly surprising that scientists have turned their attention to how bacteria might affect the brain.”  A study is currently underway to monitor “how certain gut microbes influenced the brain, functioning, in effect, as psychiatric drugs.”  

Until he joined his colleagues at Cork 10 years ago, Cryan thought about microbiology in terms of pathology…. “There are certain fields that just don’t seem to interact well,” he said. “Microbiology and neuroscience, as whole disciplines, don’t tend to have had much interaction, largely because the brain is somewhat protected.”

He was referring to the fact that the brain is anatomically isolated, guarded by a blood-brain barrier that allows nutrients in but keeps out pathogens and inflammation, the immune system’s typical response to germs. Cryan’s study added to the growing evidence that signals from beneficial bacteria nonetheless find a way through the barrier.”

Lyte had a difficult time finding microbiology journals that would publish either [his confirmed studies]. ‘‘It was so anathema to them,’’ he told me. When the mouse study finally appeared in the journal Physiology & Behavior in 1998, it garnered little attention. And yet as Stephen Collins, a gastroenterologist at McMaster University, told me, those first papers contained the seeds of an entire new field of research. ‘‘Mark showed, quite clearly, in elegant studies that are not often cited, that introducing a pathological bacterium into the gut will cause a change in behavior.’’

Regarding autism, the article addressed it through the gut-brain connection:

“Mazmanian knew the results offered only a provisional explanation for why restrictive diets and antibacterial treatments seemed to help some children with autism: Altering the microbial composition might be changing the permeability of the intestine. ‘‘The larger concept is, and this is pure speculation: Is a disease like autism really a disease of the brain or maybe a disease of the gut or some other aspect of physiology?”

Want to read even more on this topic? Check out The microbiome-gut-brain axis: from bowel to behavior.

Acknowledging the Connections

In short, playing Devil’s Advocate brings up many sides of the same coin and advancing research opens many interesting doors.  However, try not to discredit long standing history in light of modern technological advances simply because they make life easier-for the moment.  Perhaps we must learn to undo some of our misconceptions in the medical and psychological industry in order to gain new insight into the inner most workings of the human body and mind.

It is possible, yet not as widely studied at the moment, to combine and develop the known and unknown connections between the body and mind systems through the basic brain learning principle of pattern recognition.  The brain learns best by differentiating patterns.  This is where I started in my search for learning about what basic principles are the foundation for safe, effective, and sustainable weight loss.

American Gut“90% of the cells in the human body are not even human; they’re microbial.” –Jeff Leach, The American Gut Project

From there, I started sifting through cultural patterns, like the Asian culture’s health and food staples and other cultures that share the same cuisine and lack of certain diseases.  These findings became one benchmark for weight loss research and then I contrasted the effects of poor diet and obesity against it.  Many cultures that support fermentation and whole foods fair far better than what is medically labeled as the “Western diet.”

A recurring thread came about, such as was described in this article:

“According to “Probiotics and Prebiotics in Dietetics Practice” in the March 2008 Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the challenge in developing clinical recommendations for probiotics therapy is not a lack of scientific literature, but a lack of consolidated research and consistency across studies with respect to bacterial strains, dosages and populations.

Nonetheless, the authors write that “although documenting efficacy of probiotics is still emerging, a growing number of consumers and health-care professionals are interested in trying probiotics,” and that people might “also be interested in increasing the levels of live active cultures in their diet. Such diets have not been evaluated strictly, but could be recommended based on the emerging body of evidence that a variety of probiotics is beneficial.”

The stories were the same for Basic bone broth; while it’s usage dates waaaay back, there just isn’t a market for it and therefore it is deemed like an “unknown” variable.  Take, for example, a humorous approach to educating people about the benefits of ancient bone broth posted by the Food Renegade called, “America Needs More Brothels”!  And has a great quote on its history, saying “The concept of broth as salve is nothing new, with chefs and writers alike quick to point out how varying takes on the slurpable liquid transcend cultural bounds.”

A 20 year veteran at Gourmet wrote an article on bone broth as well: “For the origins of bone broth, I reached out to archaeologist and educator Daphne Derven. ‘Cooking bones into broth or stock falls into the waste-not-use-every-part regime that was generally practiced in both prehistoric and historic times,’ she replied in an email.”  Further in the article, I found this excellent quote:

“I couldn’t find any studies that looked at bone broth specifically, but it’s worth noting that “when we consume collagen, usually in the form of food, the long chain proteins are broken down during digestion to their original amino acids,” explains Science-Based Medicine contributor Scott Gavura.

“Only then can they be absorbed. Once absorbed, these amino acids are available as building blocks to support collagen synthesis throughout the body. So from a dietary perspective, your body doesn’t care (and can’t tell) if you ate a collagen supplement, cheese, quinoa, beef, or chick peas—they’re all sources of protein and indistinguishable by the time they hit the bloodstream. The body doesn’t treat amino acids derived from collagen any differently than any other protein source.”

With Basic bone broth, however, you are completing the nutritional content with vegetables and consuming a large amount of nutrition in an easy manner.  It’s nutrition, simplified and in one place.  Then, look at the scientific connections between nutrition and the blood-brain-gut connection and many of the psychological and health aspects fall into place, with bone broth as a unique, foundational “delivery system.”

Food Freedom & Weight Loss with Reset Your Weight

It was in these overlapping connections and the interaction between the different systems that I personally found freedom from the psychological cravings associated with “poor diet” choices and the subsequent weight loss.  The GAPS Diet was instrumental for understanding gut health and the need for specific foods.

I delved deeper into the regimen and food choices in order to learn and apply nutritional components to my life and my tastes.  I hate squash and it was a necessary evil for me while on the Introductory Diet!  The Cooking School had a guest post from Megan Stevens who spent 5 years on the GAPS diet.  She had the same struggle as me in that she needed to know how the pieces fit together, researching to find her missing puzzle piece about the differences in fiber.

Since I have a professional background in cognitive psychology, behavior therapies, task analysis, and research marketing bundled with an obsession with neuroscience, I explored the interplay between various aspects of nutrition and behavior.  While there is little conclusive research being conducted on nutrition, behavior, and the gut microbiome on a larger scientific level, I started weaving them all together through associative links to find connections to weight loss based on what is already known.  If this sounds like fun to you as well, I highly recommend you check out Darya Rose at The Summer Tomato for more nutrition, weight loss, AND neuroscience!

The Reset Your Weight Basics of Bone Broth and Fermented Foods became my BFF=BrothFermentedFoods.

Tradition + Research = Reset Your Weight Basics

This is how it all began and it is not over yet!  As more and more research becomes available, exploring the intricate relationship between weight loss, nutrition, and the gut-brain connection, I’ll keep eating and blogging about it!

Where to Start

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