By Ana Maldonado-Contreras
- Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria that are vital for keeping you healthy.
- Some of these microbes help to regulate the immune system.
- New research, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, shows the presence of certain bacteria in the gut may reveal which people are more vulnerable to a more severe case of COVID-19.
You may not know it, but you have an army of microbes living inside of you that are essential for fighting off threats, including the virus that causes COVID-19.
In the past two decades scientists have learned our bodies are home to more bacterial cells than human ones. This community of bacteria that lives in and on us – called the microbiome – resembles a company, with each microbe species performing specialized jobs but all working to keep us healthy. In the gut, the bacteria balance the immune response against pathogens. These bacteria ensure the immune response is effective but not so violent that it causes collateral damage to the host.
Bacteria in our guts can elicit an effective immune response against viruses that not only infect the gut, such as norovirus and rotavirus, but also those infecting the lungs, such as the flu virus. The beneficial gut microbes do this by ordering specialized immune cells to produce potent antiviral proteins that ultimately eliminate viral infections. And the body of a person lacking these beneficial gut bacteria won't have as strong an immune response to invading viruses. As a result, infections might go unchecked, taking a toll on health.
I am a microbiologist fascinated by the ways bacteria shape human health. An important focus of my research is figuring out how the beneficial bacteria populating our guts combat disease and infection. My most recent work focuses on the link between a particular microbe and the severity of COVID-19 in patients. My ultimate goal is to figure out out how to enhance the gut microbiome with diet to evoke a strong immune response – for not just SARS-CoV-2 but all pathogens.
How Do Resident Bacteria Keep You Healthy?
Our immune defense is part of a complex biological response against harmful pathogens, such as viruses or bacteria. However, because our bodies are inhabited by trillions of mostly beneficial bacteria, virus and fungi, activation of our immune response is tightly regulated to distinguish between harmful and helpful microbes.
Our bacteria are spectacular companions diligently helping prime our immune system defenses to combat infections. A seminal study found that mice treated with antibiotics that eliminate bacteria in the gut exhibited an impaired immune response. These animals had low counts of virus-fighting white blood cells, weak antibody responses and poor production of a protein that is vital for combating viral infection and modulating the immune response.
In another study, mice were fed Lactobacillus bacteria, commonly used as probiotic in fermented food. These microbes reduced the severity of influenza infection. The Lactobacillus-treated mice did not lose weight and had only mild lung damage compared with untreated mice. Similarly, others have found that treatment of mice with Lactobacillus protects against different subtypes of influenza virus and human respiratory syncytial virus – the major cause of viral bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children.
Chronic Disease and Microbes
Patients with chronic illnesses including Type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease exhibit a hyperactive immune system that fails to recognize a harmless stimulus and is linked to an altered gut microbiome.
In these chronic diseases, the gut microbiome lacks bacteria that activate immune cells that block the response against harmless bacteria in our guts. Such alteration of the gut microbiome is also observed in babies delivered by cesarean section, individuals consuming a poor diet and the elderly.
In the U.S., 117 million individuals – about half the adult population – suffer from Type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease or a combination of them. That suggests that half of American adults carry a faulty microbiome army.
Research in my laboratory focuses on identifying gut bacteria that are critical for creating a balanced immune system, which fights life-threatening bacterial and viral infections, while tolerating the beneficial bacteria in and on us.
Given that diet affects the diversity of bacteria in the gut, my lab studies show how diet can be used as a therapy for chronic diseases. Using different foods, people can shift their gut microbiome to one that boosts a healthy immune response.
A fraction of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease, develop severe complications that require hospitalization in intensive care units. What do many of those patients have in common? Old age and chronic diet-related diseases like obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Black and Latinx people are disproportionately affected by obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, all of which are linked to poor nutrition. Thus, it is not a coincidence that these groups have suffered more deaths from COVID-19 compared with whites. This is the case not only in the U.S. but also in Britain.
Discovering Microbes That Predict COVID-19 Severity
The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired me to shift my research and explore the role of the gut microbiome in the overly aggressive immune response against SARS-CoV-2 infection.
My colleagues and I have hypothesized that critically ill SARS-CoV-2 patients with conditions like obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease exhibit an altered gut microbiome that aggravates acute respiratory distress syndrome.
Acute respiratory distress syndrome, a life-threatening lung injury, in SARS-CoV-2 patients is thought to develop from a fatal overreaction of the immune response called a cytokine storm that causes an uncontrolled flood of immune cells into the lungs. In these patients, their own uncontrolled inflammatory immune response, rather than the virus itself, causes the severe lung injury and multiorgan failures that lead to death.
Several studies described in one recent review have identified an altered gut microbiome in patients with COVID-19. However, identification of specific bacteria within the microbiome that could predict COVID-19 severity is lacking.
To address this question, my colleagues and I recruited COVID-19 hospitalized patients with severe and moderate symptoms. We collected stool and saliva samples to determine whether bacteria within the gut and oral microbiome could predict COVID-19 severity. The identification of microbiome markers that can predict the clinical outcomes of COVID-19 disease is key to help prioritize patients needing urgent treatment.
We demonstrated, in a paper which has not yet been peer reviewed, that the composition of the gut microbiome is the strongest predictor of COVID-19 severity compared to patient's clinical characteristics commonly used to do so. Specifically, we identified that the presence of a bacterium in the stool – called Enterococcus faecalis– was a robust predictor of COVID-19 severity. Not surprisingly, Enterococcus faecalis has been associated with chronic inflammation.
Enterococcus faecalis collected from feces can be grown outside of the body in clinical laboratories. Thus, an E. faecalis test might be a cost-effective, rapid and relatively easy way to identify patients who are likely to require more supportive care and therapeutic interventions to improve their chances of survival.
But it is not yet clear from our research what is the contribution of the altered microbiome in the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection. A recent study has shown that SARS-CoV-2 infection triggers an imbalance in immune cells called T regulatory cells that are critical to immune balance.
Bacteria from the gut microbiome are responsible for the proper activation of those T-regulatory cells. Thus, researchers like me need to take repeated patient stool, saliva and blood samples over a longer time frame to learn how the altered microbiome observed in COVID-19 patients can modulate COVID-19 disease severity, perhaps by altering the development of the T-regulatory cells.
As a Latina scientist investigating interactions between diet, microbiome and immunity, I must stress the importance of better policies to improve access to healthy foods, which lead to a healthier microbiome. It is also important to design culturally sensitive dietary interventions for Black and Latinx communities. While a good-quality diet might not prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection, it can treat the underlying conditions related to its severity.
Ana Maldonado-Contreras is an assistant professor of Microbiology and Physiological Systems at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Disclosure statement: Ana Maldonado-Contreras receives funding from The Helmsley Charitable Trust and her work has been supported by the American Gastroenterological Association. She received The Charles A. King Trust Postdoctoral Research Fellowship. She is also member of the Diversity Committee of the American Gastroenterological Association.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
Sauerkraut survived the test of time to become a popular side dish and condiment in many cultures. It's especially appreciated in Germany, where its name comes from.
Due to the fermentation it undergoes, sauerkraut offers nutrition and health benefits far beyond those of fresh cabbage.
This article outlines 8 health benefits of sauerkraut and provides a step-by-step guide for how to make your own.
1. Sauerkraut is Very Nutritious
Sauerkraut contains many nutrients important for optimal health. One cup (142 grams) provides (2Trusted Source):
- Calories: 27
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbs: 6 grams
- Fiber: 4 grams
- Protein: 1 gram
- Sodium: 41% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Vitamin C: 23% of the DV
- Vitamin K1: 15% of the DV
- Iron: 12% of the DV
- Manganese: 9% of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 11% of the DV
- Folate: 9% of the DV
- Copper: 15% of the DV
- Potassium: 5% of the DV
Sauerkraut is particularly nutritious because it undergoes fermentation, a process during which microorganisms on the cabbage digest its natural sugars and convert them into carbon dioxide and organic acids.
Fermentation starts when yeast and bacteria that are naturally present on the cabbage and your hands, as well as in the air, come into contact with the sugars in the cabbage.
However, unlike cabbage, sauerkraut can be high in sodium. Keep this in mind if you're watching your salt intake.
Sauerkraut is rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Its probiotics also help your body absorb these nutrients more easily, which is what makes sauerkraut more nutritious than raw cabbage or coleslaw.
2. Improves Your Digestion
Your gut is said to contain over 100 trillion microorganisms or "gut flora," which is more than 10 times the total number of cells in your body.
Unpasteurized sauerkraut contains probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that act as the first line of defense against toxins and harmful bacteria. They can also improve your digestion and overall health.
Probiotics like those in sauerkraut can help improve the bacterial balance in your gut after it has been disturbed by the use of antibiotics. This can help reduce or prevent antibiotic-provoked diarrhea.
Research also shows that probiotics help reduce gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and symptoms linked to Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
Probiotic supplements may contain anywhere from 1–50 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) per dose. In comparison, 1 gram of sauerkraut may contain 1,000–100 million CFUs.
Different probiotic strains may provide varying advantages. Thus, consuming a wide variety of strains may give you a broader range of health benefits.
In this regard, sauerkraut may have the advantage. Research has reported that one serving may contain up to 28 distinct bacterial strains
Sauerkraut is a source of probiotics, which provide many potential health benefits. It also contains enzymes that help your body absorb nutrients more easily.
3. Boosts Your Immune System
Sauerkraut is a source of immune-boosting probiotics and nutrients.
For starters, the bacteria that populate your gut can have a strong influence on your immune system. The probiotics found in sauerkraut may help improve the balance of bacteria in your gut, which helps keep your gut lining healthy.
A stronger gut lining helps prevent unwanted substances from "leaking" into your body and causing an immune response.
Maintaining a healthy gut flora also helps prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and may even boost the production of natural antibodies.
Moreover, regularly consuming probiotic foods like sauerkraut may reduce your risk of developing infections, such as the common cold and urinary tract infections.
If you do get sick, regularly consuming probiotic-rich foods may help you recover faster.
In particular, upping your vitamin C intake when you have the common cold may help you get rid of symptoms more quickly.
Sauerkraut is a source of probiotics, vitamin C, and iron, all of which contribute to a stronger immune system.
4. May Help You Lose Weight
Regularly consuming sauerkraut may help you lose weight and keep it off.
That's partly because sauerkraut, like most vegetables, is low in calories and high in fiber. High fiber diets keep you fuller for longer, which may help you naturally reduce the number of calories you eat each day.
Sauerkraut's probiotic content may also contribute to a trimmer waistline.
The exact reasons aren't yet fully understood, but scientists believe that certain probiotics may have the ability to reduce the amount of fat your body absorbs from your diet.
Various studies report that participants given probiotic-rich foods or supplements lost more weight than those given a placebo.
A recent study even reports that purposely overfed participants given probiotics gained about 50% less body fat than overfed participants given a placebo. This suggests that a probiotic-rich diet may even help prevent weight gain.
However, these results are not universal. In addition, different probiotic strains may have varying effects. Thus, more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of sauerkraut-specific probiotic strains on weight loss.
Sauerkraut's low calorie, high fiber, and high probiotic content may help prevent weight gain and promote the loss of unwanted body fat.
5. Helps Reduce Stress and Maintain Brain Health
While your mood can affect what you eat, the reverse is also thought to be true. What you eat can affect your mood and brain function.
An increasing number of studies are discovering an intimate connection between your gut and brain.
They've found that the type of bacteria present in your gut may have the ability to send messages to your brain, influencing the way it functions and perceives the world.
For instance, fermented, probiotic foods such as sauerkraut contribute to the creation of a healthy gut flora, which research shows may help reduce stress and maintain brain health.
Probiotics have been found to help improve memory and reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, autism, and even obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Sauerkraut may also maintain brain health by increasing your gut's absorption of mood-regulating minerals, including magnesium and zinc.
That said, some researchers warn that compounds in sauerkraut may interact with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), a type of medication prescribed to treat depression, anxiety disorders, and Parkinson's disease.
Individuals taking these medications should consult their healthcare provider before adding sauerkraut to their diet.
Sauerkraut promotes healthy gut flora and may increase the absorption of mood-regulating minerals from your diet. Both of these effects help reduce stress and maintain brain health.
6. May Reduce the Risk of Certain Cancers
Cabbage, the main ingredient in sauerkraut, contains antioxidants and other beneficial plant compounds that may help reduce the risk of certain cancers.
Researchers believe these compounds may help reduce DNA damage, prevent cell mutations, and block the excessive cell growth that typically leads to tumor development.
The cabbage fermentation process may also create particular plant compounds that suppress the growth of precancerous cells.
Certain genes are associated with an increased risk of cancer. The expression of these genes is sometimes modulated by chemical compounds in the food you eat.
Two recent studies suggest that cabbage and sauerkraut juice may help reduce the risk of cancer by reducing the expression of cancer-associated genes.
In another study, researchers observed that women who ate a lot of cabbage and sauerkraut from their teens into adulthood had a reduced risk of breast cancer.
However, the number of studies is limited, and not all studies found the same results. Thus, more are needed before strong conclusions can be made.
Sauerkraut contains beneficial plant compounds that may reduce the risk of cancer cells developing and spreading.
7. May Promote Heart Health
Sauerkraut may contribute to a healthier heart.
That's because it contains a good amount of fiber and probiotics, both of which may help reduce cholesterol levels.
Probiotics such as those found in sauerkraut may also help lower blood pressure slightly in people with hypertension. People seem to achieve the best results when they take at least 10 million CFUs per day for longer than 8 weeks.
Moreover, sauerkraut is one of the rare plant sources of menaquinone, more commonly known as vitamin K2.
Vitamin K2 is believed to help reduce the risk of heart disease by preventing calcium deposits from accumulating in the arteries.
In one study, regular intake of vitamin-K2-rich foods was linked to a 57% lower risk of dying from heart disease over the 7–10 year study period.
In another, women reduced their risk of heart disease by 9% for every 10 mcg of vitamin K2 they consumed per day.
For reference, 1 cup of sauerkraut contains about 6.6 mcg of vitamin K2.
The fiber, probiotic, and vitamin K2 contents of sauerkraut may contribute to lower cholesterol levels, slight improvements in blood pressure, and a lower risk of heart disease.
8. Contributes to Stronger Bones
Sauerkraut contains vitamin K2, which plays an important role in bone health.
More specifically, vitamin K2 activates two proteins that bind to calcium, the main mineral found in bones.
This is thought to contribute to stronger, healthier bones. In fact, several studies have shown that vitamin K2 may benefit bone health.
For instance, a 3-year study in postmenopausal women observed that those taking vitamin K2 supplements experienced slower rates of age-related loss in bone mineral density.
Similarly, several other studies have reported that taking vitamin K2 supplements reduced the risk of spine, hip, and non-spine fractures by 60–81%.
However, some of these studies used supplements to provide very high doses of vitamin K2. Thus, it's unknown whether the vitamin K2 you'd get from eating sauerkraut alone would provide the same benefits.
Sauerkraut contains vitamin K2, a nutrient that promotes healthier, stronger bones.
How to Shop for Sauerkraut
You can find sauerkraut easily in most supermarkets, but not all types you'll come across will be the same.
To ensure you get the most out of store-bought sauerkraut, try to keep these simple tips in mind:
- Avoid pasteurized varieties. Off-the-shelf sauerkraut is typically pasteurized, a process that kills the beneficial probiotics. Refrigerated varieties are less likely to be pasteurized, but check the label to be sure.
- Avoid preservatives. Many store-bought sauerkraut brands contain preservatives, which may lower the probiotic count.
- Avoid added sugars. Sauerkraut should only contain two basic ingredients: cabbage and salt. Some varieties may also add extra vegetables, but avoid those that add sugar or anything else to the mix.
Alternatively, to make sure you get all the health benefits of sauerkraut, you can make it yourself.
You will get the most benefits out of store-bought sauerkraut by opting for non-pasteurized varieties that don't contain added sugars or preservatives.
How to Make Sauerkraut
Making sauerkraut is easy, simple and inexpensive. Here's how:
- 1 medium green cabbage
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of non-iodized salt
- 2–3 carrots, shredded (optional)
- 2–3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (optional)
Have a 1-quart (1-liter) jar ready to keep the sauerkraut in, a 4-ounce (120-mL) smaller jar to press it down, and a kitchen scale to weigh your cabbage mixture.
- If you wish to add carrots and garlic, start by placing them in a large bowl.
- Discard the outer leaves of your cabbage, setting one nicer leaf aside. Then, slice the cabbage into quarters, leaving the core in. This makes shredding easier.
- Shred the cabbage quarters into the large bowl with the carrot and garlic mix. Incorporate enough cabbage to bring the total weight up to 28 ounces (800 grams), which will fit a 1-quart (1-liter) jar.
- Add salt and massage it into the cabbage mixture for a few minutes until brine starts accumulating at the bottom of your bowl.
- Pack the cabbage mixture into a clean, 1-quart (1-liter) jar, pressing down to get rid of air pockets. Pour the remaining brine into the jar. Air in the jar enables harmful bacteria to grow, so make sure the mixture is completely submerged.
- Trim the cabbage leaf you set aside earlier to the size of your jar opening. Place it in the jar on top of the mixture to prevent veggies from floating to the surface.
- Place a 4-ounce (120-mL) jelly jar with no lid inside the larger jar, on top of the mixture. This will hold your veggie mixture below the brine during fermentation.
- Screw the lid onto your 1-quart (1-liter) jar. It will press the jelly jar down, keeping your cabbage mixture below the brine. Leave the lid slightly loose, which will allow gases to escape during the fermentation process.
- Keep it at room temperature and out of direct sunlight for 1–4 weeks.
Keep in mind that the larger the head of cabbage you start with, the sweeter and better your sauerkraut will taste.
If you're impatient to taste your creation, you can do so after 7 days. The longer you allow it to ferment, the stronger the taste will be.
Here are some additional sauerkraut recipes:
Follow the steps above to make your own inexpensive, tasty sauerkraut at home.
The Bottom Line
Sauerkraut is incredibly nutritious and healthy.
It provides probiotics and vitamin K2, which are known for their health benefits, and many other nutrients.
Eating sauerkraut may help you strengthen your immune system, improve your digestion, reduce your risk of certain diseases, and even lose weight.
To reap the greatest benefits, try eating a little bit of sauerkraut each day.
- 5 Probiotic Foods You Should Be Eating - EcoWatch ›
- 8 Impressive Benefits of Purple Cabbage - EcoWatch ›
As more and more homeowners make the switch to solar power, you may be considering putting panels on your own roof. But before you purchase a home solar system, you should consider the major solar energy pros and cons.
Of course, using the sun as an energy source can reduce your household's monthly electric bills and minimize your carbon footprint. However, making the switch to renewable energy isn't always the best choice for all homeowners. Let's take a closer look at the pros and cons of solar energy.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Pros and Cons of Solar Energy: What You Need to Know
By installing a home solar system, you can use solar panels to harness the sun's rays, convert them into electrical energy and use that energy to power your home. This can offset or even completely replace the energy you'd typically get from your utility company.
While the advantages of solar energy are plenty, there are also some drawbacks. Here are the top solar energy pros and cons to consider when deciding if solar panels are worth it for your home.
Benefits of Solar Energy
We'll begin with a summary of the main advantages of solar energy.
1) You can significantly reduce or even eliminate your household electric bills.
One of the most significant benefits of solar energy is also the most obvious: By harnessing energy from the sun, you can cut back your dependence on electric utility, which means you'll see a sharp drop off in your monthly electricity bills. In fact, the average solar system lasts for two to three decades, which means that your return on investment will pay for the system itself over time.
2) Going solar can reduce your carbon emissions.
Another one of the main advantages of solar energy is that it's a clean and renewable energy source. What this means is that you reduce your greenhouse gas emissions and decrease your environmental impact. While energy from coal and other fossil fuels tend to create a lot of environmental pollutants, solar energy does not produce any direct pollution at all, which makes it far and away the most environmentally friendly way to power your home.
3) Investing in a solar power system can increase the value of your home.
Solar homes are becoming considerably more appealing, and installing the best solar panels can bump an estate's resale value by a decent amount. Note that this helps offset one of the primary cons of solar energy, which is the steep startup cost of solar panels — but more on that later.
4) Going solar can make you eligible for rebates and tax incentives.
Over the past couple of decades, the federal government has implemented numerous plans to incentivize solar energy, including tax credits and rebates. Many state governments have followed suit, particularly those where sun exposure is most consistent. (North Carolina has actually been one of the leaders in this space.) Thanks to this, there are some significant ways to recoup part of your solar investment almost immediately. Again, this can help offset the initial cost of your solar panel system, allowing you to generate some savings even before those utility reductions begin to stack up.
Disadvantages of Solar Energy
There are obviously some significant benefits of solar energy, but it's only fair to outline some of the drawbacks, too. A few of the most notable disadvantages include:
1) Not every roof can accommodate a solar system.
Solar panel installation requires you to have a certain kind of roof. If you have an older home, especially one with slate or cedar tiles on the roof, then you may not be able to buy solar panels for your personal use. Additionally, homes with skylights and other rooftop features may not have the surface area needed for solar panels. If you don't have a lot of space or you're unsure about your home's solar capability, contact a local solar installer for a consultation. Most top solar companies will send out a representative free of charge.
2) Solar energy can be very location-dependent.
You may have a roof that's ideal for solar panel installation and still not be a good candidate for solar energy. Why? Because to take full advantage of solar energy, you need to live in a place that gets consistent sun exposure from day to day. So, if you live in a part of the country that tends to be pretty cloudy or grey, solar may be a non-starter. And if your roof is partly shielded by trees or by neighboring homes, you may not get the best mileage from a solar energy system.
3) Solar savings tend to correspond with energy bills.
If you have high energy bills, then going solar will probably give you significant savings. But the inverse is also true: If you live somewhere with low utility costs, then the savings from switching to solar energy are going to be more modest. In other words, there are some parts of the country where the financial advantages of solar energy are going to be pronounced, and other places where those financial advantages are going to be fairly inconsequential. It all depends on the cost of electricity where you live.
4) The upfront cost of going solar can be quite expensive.
According to some estimates, the average cost of a solar system investment is around $13,000, and for some homeowners, may exceed $20,000. The specific number will vary according to the size of your home, your household energy needs and the type of solar panels you choose. For example, if you make your own DIY solar panels, you'll cut down on installation costs, or if you want to get the most efficient solar panels, they'll cost significantly more.
There are plenty of ways to offset the cost, including tax incentives, utility savings, increased home value and financing options. Still, there's no getting around it: Making the switch to solar energy is always going to prove costly.
Free Quote: How Much Can You Save on Solar?
Cost is a major factor to consider when weighing the pros and cons of solar energy. Fill out the 30-second form below to get a free, no-obligation quote from a top solar company in your area to help you decide if solar is right for you. You could save up to $2,500 each year on your electric bills and receive both federal and state tax rebates.
Weighing the Solar Energy Pros and Cons
So, do the advantages of solar energy outweigh the disadvantages? Unfortunately, there's no easy answer here, as different homeowners may experience different levels of savings when they make the jump to solar.
Before investing in a system, make sure you do your due diligence. Research local sun exposure, tax incentives and your own household energy expenses. And, get quotes from a few solar providers that can give you more details about how much a new system will cost you. By weighing the pros and cons of solar energy, you can make the most advantageous decision for your household.
Vegetarianism has become increasingly popular in recent years.
This diet is associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases and may aid weight loss (1Trusted Source).
However, you may find it difficult to lose weight on a vegetarian diet — especially if you're eating too many refined carbs or highly processed foods.
This article explains how to lose weight on a vegetarian diet.
What is a Vegetarian Diet?
Vegetarian diets exclude meat, fish, and poultry.
Some people may follow this diet for religious or ethical reasons, while others are drawn to its possible health benefits.
The main types of vegetarian diets are:
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: allows eggs and dairy but excludes meat, fish, and poultry
- Lacto-vegetarian: allows dairy but excludes eggs, meat, fish, and poultry
- Ovo-vegetarian: allows eggs but excludes dairy, meat, fish, and poultry
- Vegan: excludes all animal products, including honey, dairy, and eggs
Other plant-based eating patterns include the flexitarian (which includes some animal foods but is mostly vegetarian) and pescatarian (which includes fish but not meat) diets.
Vegetarian diets typically focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. These foods are rich in fiber, micronutrients, and beneficial plant compounds, and tend to be lower in calories, fat, and protein than animal foods.
Since this diet emphasizes nutrient-rich foods, it's linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, and high blood pressure (2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source).
However, the benefits of vegetarianism largely depend on the types of foods you eat and your overall dietary habits.
Overeating or choosing too many highly processed foods will provide fewer benefits than a diet based on unrefined, whole plant foods — and may have several downsides.
A vegetarian diet excludes meat, fish, and poultry and mostly focuses on plant foods. It has been linked to weight loss and a reduced risk of chronic diseases, but these benefits depend on which foods you eat.
Barriers to Losing Weight on a Vegetarian Diet
While vegetarianism may seem like an effective way to shed excess weight, several factors may prevent this from happening.
Eating Large Portions and Not Enough Protein
Eating more calories than you need can result in weight gain.
Even if you're filling up on nutritious foods on a vegetarian diet, you may be helping yourself to larger portions than necessary.
This is especially common if you skimp on protein intake.
Protein can increase fullness by decreasing levels of ghrelin, a hormone that regulates hunger, which may in turn lower your overall calorie intake and boost weight loss (8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source).
If you don't eat enough protein, you might eat more food to feel full — hindering your weight loss efforts.
While your protein needs can be met easily on a vegetarian diet, you may encounter difficulties at first as you eliminate meat from your diet.
Eating Too Many Refined Carbs
Foods that are high in refined carbs, such as bread, pizza, and pasta, can be easy to overeat on a vegetarian diet.
They're widely available and may sometimes be the only vegetarian options at restaurants or gatherings.
What's more, some studies suggest that refined carbs trigger the release of extra insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. This may also contribute to weight gain (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).
In fact, one study including around 500,000 adults detected a strong association between higher insulin levels after carb intake and greater body mass index (BMI) (12Trusted Source).
Overdoing Calorie-Rich Foods
When transitioning to a vegetarian diet, you might substantially increase your intake of high-fat plant foods.
Vegetarian meals often incorporate nuts, seeds, nut butters, avocados, or coconut. While these foods are incredibly nutritious and filling, they also provide 9 calories per gram — compared with 4 calories per gram of proteins and carbs.
What's more, many people eat more than the recommended serving size of nut butters and other healthy fats.
Focusing on Highly Processed Vegetarian Foods
If you're relying on too many processed foods as part of a vegetarian diet, you may have a hard time losing weight.
Countless products are technically vegetarian but still harbor unnecessary additives and other unhealthy ingredients. Examples include veggie burgers, meat substitutes, freezer meals, baked goods, packaged desserts, and vegan cheese.
These foods are often packed not only with sodium, highly processed compounds, chemical preservatives, and coloring agents but also calories and added sugars.
As a result, they may contribute to weight gain when eaten in excess.
Some barriers to losing weight on a vegetarian diet include not eating enough protein and relying too heavily on refined carbs, calorie-rich foods, and highly processed items.
Tips to Lose Weight on a Vegetarian Diet
Several strategies can help promote weight loss on a vegetarian diet, including:
- Filling half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables. Choosing high-fiber veggies, such as broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, leafy greens, and mushrooms, can help you stay full and decrease calorie intake.
- Incorporating protein at every meal and snack. High-protein vegetarian foods include beans, nuts, seeds, lentils, eggs, dairy products, and soy foods (such as tempeh, tofu, and edamame).
- Opting for complex carbs. These fullness-boosting foods include whole grains, starchy vegetables, fruits, and legumes.
- Watching your portions of high-calorie foods. Pair nuts, seeds, and healthy fats with lower-calorie foods so that you don't overeat.
- Eating mostly whole foods. Unprocessed foods, such as whole fruits and vegetables, do not have any unnecessary ingredients.
- Limiting highly processed foods. Avoid meat alternatives, frozen meals, and other ultra-processed foods, as they likely host unhealthy additives, extra salt, and added sugar.
A balanced vegetarian diet that emphasizes whole plant foods and limits refined carbs and highly processed products may help you lose weight.
Still, don't forget about other important contributors to weight loss, such as proper sleep, hydration, and exercise.
Including protein at all meals, eating plenty of whole foods, and eliminating highly processed items are just a few of the techniques you can use to lose weight on a vegetarian diet.
Vegetarian Foods That Aid Weight Loss
To bolster weight loss, choose a vegetarian diet that's rich in whole, minimally processed plant foods.
Depending on your specific regimen, you may also incorporate dairy or eggs.
Vegetarian foods that may aid weight loss include:
- Non-starchy vegetables: broccoli, bell pepper, cauliflower, zucchini, mushrooms, tomatoes, eggplant, carrots, celery, and cucumber
- Starchy vegetables: peas, potatoes, corn, and winter squash
- Fruits: berries, oranges, apples, bananas, grapes, citrus, kiwi, and mango
- Whole grains: quinoa, brown rice, farro, millet, barley, and bulgur wheat
- Beans and legumes: lentils, black beans, pinto beans, and kidney beans
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, and nut butters
- Lean proteins: beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, nut butters, eggs, Greek yogurt, milk, and soy products like tofu, tempeh, and edamame
- Healthy fats: avocado, olive oil, coconut, nuts, seeds, nut butters, and cheese
- Water and other healthy beverages: naturally flavored seltzer, fruit-infused water, and plain coffee or tea
Eating a variety of non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds may help you lose weight on a vegetarian diet.
Foods to Avoid on a Vegetarian Diet for Weight Loss
While most plant foods are naturally healthy, highly processed vegetarian foods tend to be less so.
You should limit or avoid the following foods if you're following a vegetarian diet for weight loss:
- Highly processed vegetarian foods: veggie burgers, meat replacements, freezer meals, frozen desserts, and imitation dairy products
- Refined carbs: white bread, white pasta, bagels, and crackers
- Sugary foods and beverages: candy, cookies, pastries, table sugar, sodas, fruit juices, energy drinks, and sweet tea
In addition, try to avoid extra-large portions of any food — especially those high in sugar and calories.
If you're looking to lose weight on a vegetarian diet, you should steer clear of highly processed products, refined carbs, and sugary beverages.
Sample Vegetarian Meal Plan for Weight Loss
This 5-day meal plan provides a few ideas for a vegetarian diet for weight loss.
- Breakfast: steel-cut oats with apples, peanut butter, and cinnamon
- Lunch: a salad with greens, hard-boiled eggs, avocado, tomatoes, and balsamic vinaigrette
- Dinner: black-bean soup with a dollop of Greek yogurt, whole-grain bread, and a side salad
- Snack: almonds and dark chocolate
- Breakfast: scrambled eggs with broccoli and cheddar, plus a side of berries
- Lunch: a burrito bowl with brown rice, pinto beans, tomato, onion, and avocado
- Dinner: zucchini noodles with marinara, sunflower seeds, and white beans
- Snack: string cheese or an orange
- Breakfast: plain Greek yogurt with pineapple, shredded coconut, and walnuts
- Lunch: lentil soup, chopped bell peppers, and guacamole
- Dinner: eggplant Parmesan served over whole-grain pasta and green beans
- Snack: a whole-grain granola bar or berries
- Breakfast: a smoothie bowl made from unsweetened almond milk, spinach, hemp seeds, frozen berries, and a banana
- Lunch: an egg salad on whole-grain bread with strawberries, carrots, and hummus
- Dinner: stir-fry with tofu, carrots, broccoli, brown rice, soy sauce, and honey
- Snack: dried mango and pistachios
- Breakfast: two eggs and one slice of whole-grain toast with avocado, plus a side of grapes
- Lunch: a salad with kale, pecans, dried cranberries, goat cheese, and edamame
- Dinner: homemade chickpea patties alongside sautéed mushrooms and a baked sweet potato
- Snack: plain Greek yogurt with cherries
These meal and snack ideas can help you get started with vegetarian eating for weight loss.
The Bottom Line
A vegetarian diet that focuses on nutritious plant foods may help you lose weight.
However, it's important to eat enough protein while curbing your portion sizes and intake of calorie-rich foods, refined carbs, and highly processed items.
Keep in mind that not all vegetarian foods are healthy.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
By Joe Leech
The human body comprises around 60% water.
It's commonly recommended that you drink eight 8-ounce (237-mL) glasses of water per day (the 8×8 rule).
Although there's little science behind this specific rule, staying hydrated is important.
Here are 7 evidence-based health benefits of drinking plenty of water.
1. Helps Maximize Physical Performance
If you don't stay hydrated, your physical performance can suffer.
This is particularly important during intense exercise or high heat.
Dehydration can have a noticeable effect if you lose as little as 2% of your body's water content. However, it isn't uncommon for athletes to lose as much as 6–10% of their water weight via sweat.
This can lead to altered body temperature control, reduced motivation, and increased fatigue. It can also make exercise feel much more difficult, both physically and mentally.
Optimal hydration has been shown to prevent this from happening, and it may even reduce the oxidative stress that occurs during high intensity exercise. This isn't surprising when you consider that muscle is about 80% water.
If you exercise intensely and tend to sweat, staying hydrated can help you perform at your absolute best.
Losing as little as 2% of your body's water content can significantly impair your physical performance.
2. Significantly Affects Energy Levels and Brain Function
Your brain is strongly influenced by your hydration status.
Studies show that even mild dehydration, such as the loss of 1–3% of body weight, can impair many aspects of brain function.
In a study in young women, researchers found that fluid loss of 1.4% after exercise impaired both mood and concentration. It also increased the frequency of headaches.
A fluid loss of 1–3% equals about 1.5–4.5 pounds (0.5–2 kg) of body weight loss for a person weighing 150 pounds (68 kg). This can easily occur through normal daily activities, let alone during exercise or high heat.
Mild dehydration (fluid loss of 1–3%) can impair energy levels, impair mood, and lead to major reductions in memory and brain performance.
3. May Help Prevent and Treat Headaches
Dehydration can trigger headaches and migraine in some individuals.
Research has shown that a headache is one of the most common symptoms of dehydration. For example, a study in 393 people found that 40% of the participants experienced a headache as a result of dehydration.
What's more, some studies have shown that drinking water can help relieve headaches in those who experience frequent headaches.
A study in 102 men found that drinking an additional 50.7 ounces (1.5 liters) of water per day resulted in significant improvements on the Migraine-Specific Quality of Life scale, a scoring system for migraine symptoms.
However, not all studies agree, and researchers have concluded that because of the lack of high quality studies, more research is needed to confirm how increasing hydration may help improve headache symptoms and decrease headache frequency.
Drinking water may help reduce headaches and headache symptoms. However, more high quality research is needed to confirm this potential benefit.
4. May Help Relieve Constipation
Constipation is a common problem that's characterized by infrequent bowel movements and difficulty passing stool.
Increasing fluid intake is often recommended as a part of the treatment protocol, and there's some evidence to back this up.
Low water consumption appears to be a risk factor for constipation in both younger and older individuals.
Increasing hydration may help decrease constipation.
Mineral water may be a particularly beneficial beverage for those with constipation.
Drinking plenty of water may help prevent and relieve constipation, especially in people who generally don't drink enough water.
5. May Help Treat Kidney Stones
Urinary stones are painful clumps of mineral crystal that form in the urinary system.
The most common form is kidney stones, which form in the kidneys.
Higher fluid intake increases the volume of urine passing through the kidneys. This dilutes the concentration of minerals, so they're less likely to crystallize and form clumps.
Water may also help prevent the initial formation of stones, but studies are required to confirm this.
Increased water intake appears to decrease the risk of kidney stone formation.
6. Helps Prevent Hangovers
A hangover refers to the unpleasant symptoms experienced after drinking alcohol.
Alcohol is a diuretic, so it makes you lose more water than you take in. This can lead to dehydration.
Although dehydration isn't the main cause of hangovers, it can cause symptoms like thirst, fatigue, headache, and dry mouth.
Good ways to reduce hangovers are to drink a glass of water between drinks and have at least one big glass of water before going to bed.
Hangovers are partly caused by dehydration, and drinking water can help reduce some of the main symptoms of hangovers.
7. Can Aid Weight Loss
Drinking plenty of water can help you lose weight.
This is because water can increase satiety and boost your metabolic rate.
Some evidence suggests that increasing water intake can promote weight loss by slightly increasing your metabolism, which can increase the number of calories you burn on a daily basis.
A 2013 study in 50 young women with overweight demonstrated that drinking an additional 16.9 ounces (500 mL) of water 3 times per day before meals for 8 weeks led to significant reductions in body weight and body fat compared with their pre-study measurements.
The timing is important too. Drinking water half an hour before meals is the most effective. It can make you feel more full so that you eat fewer calories.
In one study, dieters who drank 16.9 ounces (0.5 liters) of water before meals lost 44% more weight over a period of 12 weeks than dieters who didn't drink water before meals.
The Bottom Line
Even mild dehydration can affect you mentally and physically.
Make sure that you get enough water each day, whether your personal goal is 64 ounces (1.9 liters) or a different amount. It's one of the best things you can do for your overall health.
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By Chris McGreal
After a century of wielding extraordinary economic and political power, America's petroleum giants face a reckoning for driving the greatest existential threat of our lifetimes.
An unprecedented wave of lawsuits, filed by cities and states across the US, aim to hold the oil and gas industry to account for the environmental devastation caused by fossil fuels – and covering up what they knew along the way.
Coastal cities struggling to keep rising sea levels at bay, midwestern states watching "mega-rains" destroy crops and homes, and fishing communities losing catches to warming waters, are now demanding the oil conglomerates pay damages and take urgent action to reduce further harm from burning fossil fuels.
But, even more strikingly, the nearly two dozen lawsuits are underpinned by accusations that the industry severely aggravated the environmental crisis with a decades-long campaign of lies and deceit to suppress warnings from their own scientists about the impact of fossil fuels on the climate and dupe the American public.
The environmentalist Bill McKibben once characterized the fossil fuel industry's behavior as "the most consequential cover-up in US history". And now for the first time in decades, the lawsuits chart a path toward public accountability that climate activists say has the potential to rival big tobacco's downfall after it concealed the real dangers of smoking.
"We are at an inflection point," said Daniel Farber, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley and director of the Center for Law, Energy, and the Environment.
"Things have to get worse for the oil companies," he added. "Even if they've got a pretty good chance of winning the litigation in places, the discovery of pretty clearcut wrong doing – that they knew their product was bad and they were lying to the public – really weakens the industry's ability to resist legislation and settlements."
For decades, the country's leading oil and gas companies have understood the science of climate change and the dangers posed by fossil fuels. Year after year, top executives heard it from their own scientists whose warnings were explicit and often dire.
In 1979, an Exxon study said that burning fossil fuels "will cause dramatic environmental effects" in the coming decades.
"The potential problem is great and urgent," it concluded.
But instead of heeding the evidence of the research they were funding, major oil firms worked together to bury the findings and manufacture a counter narrative to undermine the growing scientific consensus around climate science. The fossil fuel industry's campaign to create uncertainty paid off for decades by muddying public understanding of the growing dangers from global heating and stalling political action.
The urgency of the crisis is not in doubt. A draft United Nations report, leaked last week, warns that the consequences of the climate crisis, including rising seas, intense heat and ecosystem collapse, will fundamentally reshape life on Earth in the coming decades even if fossil fuel emissions are curbed.
To investigate the lengths of the oil and gas industry's deceptions – and the disastrous consequences for communities across the country – the Guardian is launching a year-long series tracking the unprecedented efforts to hold the fossil fuel industry to account.
The legal process is expected to take years. Cities in California filed the first lawsuits back in 2017, and they have been tied down by disputes over jurisdiction, with the oil companies fighting with limited success to get them moved from state to federal courts where they think the law is more favorable.
But climate activists see opportunities long before verdicts are rendered in the US. The legal process is expected to add to already damning revelations of the energy giants' closely held secrets. If history is a guide, those developments could in turn alter public opinion in favor of regulations that the oil and gas companies spent years fighting off.
A string of other recent victories for climate activists already points to a shift in the industry's power.
Last month, a Dutch court ordered Shell to cut its global carbon emissions by 45% by the end of the decade. The same day, in Houston, an activist hedge fund forced three new directors on to the board of the US's largest oil firm, ExxonMobil, to address climate issues. Investors at Chevron also voted to cut emissions from the petroleum products it sells.
Earlier this month, developers of the Keystone XL pipeline cancelled the project after more than a decade of unrelenting opposition over environmental concerns. And although a federal court last year threw out a lawsuit brought by 21 young Americans who say the US government violated their constitutional rights by exacerbating climate change, the Biden administration recently agreed to settlement talks in a symbolic gesture aimed to appease younger voters.
For all that, American lawyers say the legal reasoning behind foreign court judgments are unlikely to carry much weight in the US and domestic law is largely untested. In 2018, a federal court knocked back New York City's initial attempt to force big oil to cover the costs of the climate crisis by saying that its global nature requires a political, not legal, remedy.
Other regional lawsuits are inching their way through the courts. From Charleston, South Carolina, to Boulder, Colorado, and Maui, Hawaii, communities are seeking to force the industry to use its huge profits to pay for the damage and to oblige energy companies to treat the climate crisis for what it is – a global emergency.
Municipalities such as Imperial Beach, California – the poorest city in San Diego county with a budget less than Exxon chief executive's annual pay – faces rising waters on three sides without the necessary funding to build protective barriers. They claim oil companies created a "public nuisance" by fuelling the climate crisis. They seek to recover the cost of repairing the damage and constructing defences.
The public nuisance claim, also pursued by Honolulu, San Francisco and Rhode Island, follows a legal strategy with a record of success in other types of litigation. In 2019, Oklahoma's attorney general won compensation of nearly half a billion dollars against the pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson over its false marketing of powerful prescription painkillers on the grounds it created a public nuisance by contributing to the opioid epidemic in the state.
Other climate lawsuits, including one filed in Minnesota, allege the oil firms' campaigns of deception and denial about the climate crisis amount to fraud. Minnesota is suing Exxon, Koch Industries and an industry trade group for breaches of state law for deceptive trade practices, false advertising and consumer fraud over what the lawsuit characterises as distortions and lies about climate science.
The midwestern state, which has seen temperatures rise faster than the US and global averages, said scorching temperatures and "mega-rains" have devastated farming and flooded people out of their homes, with low-income and minority families most at risk.
Minnesota's attorney general, Keith Ellison, claims in his lawsuit that for years Exxon orchestrated a campaign to bury the evidence of environmental damage caused by burning fossil fuels "with disturbing success".
"Defendants spent millions on advertising and public relations because they understood that an accurate understanding of climate change would affect their ability to continue to earn profits by conducting business as usual," Ellison said in his lawsuit.
Farber said cases rooted in claims that the petroleum industry lied have the most promising chance of success.
"To the extent the plaintiffs can point to misconduct, like telling everybody there's no such thing as climate change when your scientists have told you the opposite, that might give the courts a greater feeling of comfort that they're not trying to take over the US energy system," he said.
Fighting the Facts
Almost all the lawsuits draw on the oil industry's own records as the foundation for claims that it covered up the growing threat to life caused by its products.
Shell, like other oil companies, had decades to prepare for those consequences after it was forewarned by its own research. In 1958, one of its executives, Charles Jones, presented a paper to the industry's trade group, the American Petroleum Institute (API), warning about increased carbon emissions from car exhaust. Other research followed through the 1960s, leading a White House advisory committee to express concern at "measurable and perhaps marked changes in climate" by 2000.
API's own reports flagged up "significant temperature changes" by the end of the twentieth century.
The largest oil company in the US, Exxon, was hearing the same from its researchers.
Year after year, Exxon scientists recorded the evidence about the dangers of burning fossil fuels. In 1978, its science adviser, James Black, warned that there was a "window of five to ten years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategy might become critical".
Exxon set up equipment on a supertanker, the Esso Atlantic, to monitor carbon dioxide in seawater and the air. In 1982, the company's scientists drew up a graph accurately plotting an increase in the globe's temperature to date.
"The 1980s revealed an established consensus among scientists," the Minnesota lawsuit against Exxon says. "A 1982 internal Exxon document … explicitly declares that the science was 'unanimous' and that climate change would 'bring about significant changes in the earth's climate'."
Then the monitoring on the Esso Atlantic was suddenly called off and other research downgraded.
What followed was what Naomi Oreskes, co-author of the report America Misled, called a "systematic, organised campaign by Exxon and other oil companies to sow doubt about the science and prevent meaningful action".
The report accused the energy companies of not only polluting the air but also "the information landscape" by replicating the cigarette makers' playbook of cherry-picking data, using fake experts and promoting conspiracy theories to attack a growing scientific consensus.
Many of the lawsuits draw on a raft of Exxon documents held at the University of Texas, and uncovered by the Columbia Journalism School and the Los Angeles Times in 2015.
Among them is a 1988 Exxon memo laying out a strategy to push for a "balanced scientific approach", which meant giving equal weight to hard evidence and climate change denialism. That move bore fruit in parts of the media into the 2000s as the oil industry repositioned global heating as theory, not fact, contributing to the most deep-rooted climate denialism in any developed country.
The company placed advertisements in major American newspapers to sow doubt. One in the New York Times in 2000, under the headline "Unsettled Science", compared climate data to changing weather forecasts. It claimed scientists were divided, when an overwhelming consensus already backed the evidence of a growing climate crisis, and said that the supposed doubts meant it was too soon to act.
Exxon's chairman and chief executive, Lee Raymond, told industry executives in 1996 that "scientific evidence remains inconclusive as to whether human activities affect global climate".
"It's a long and dangerous leap to conclude that we should, therefore, cut fossil fuel use," he said.
Documents show that his company's scientists were telling Exxon's management that the real danger lay in the failure to do exactly that.
In 2019, Martin Hoffert, a professor of physics at New York University, told a congressional hearing that as a consultant to Exxon on climate modelling in the 1980s, he worked on eight scientific papers for the company that showed fossil fuel burning was "increasingly having a perceptible influence on Earth's climate".
Hoffert said he "hoped that the work would help to persuade Exxon to invest in developing energy solutions the world needed". That was not the result.
"Exxon was publicly promoting views that its own scientists knew were wrong, and we knew that because we were the major group working on this. This was immoral and has greatly set back efforts to address climate change," said Hoffert.
"They deliberately created doubt when internal research confirmed how serious a threat it was. As a result, in my opinion, homes and livelihoods will likely be destroyed and lives lost."
Exxon worked alongside Chevron, Shell, BP and smaller oil firms to shift attention away from the growing climate crisis. They funded the industry's trade body, API, as it drew up a multimillion-dollar plan to ensure that "climate change becomes a non- issue" through disinformation. The plan said "victory will be achieved" when "recognition of uncertainties become part of the 'conventional wisdom'".
The fossil fuel industry also used its considerable resources to pour billions of dollars into political lobbying to block unfavourable laws and to fund front organisations with neutral and scientific-sounding names, such as the Global Climate Coalition (GCC). In 2001, the US state department told the GCC that President George W Bush rejected the Kyoto protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions "in part, based on input from you".
Exxon alone has funded more than 40 groups to deny climate science, including the George C Marshall Institute, which one lawsuit claims orchestrated a "sham petition" denying manmade global climate change. It was later denounced by the National Academy of Science as "a deliberate attempt to mislead scientists".
Drilling DownTo Sharon Eubanks the conspiracy to deny science sounded very familiar. From 2000, she led the US justice department's legal team against nine tobacco firms in one of the largest civil cases filed under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (Rico) Act, which was designed to combat organised crime.
In 2006, a federal judge found that the industry had spent decades committing a huge fraud on the American public by lying about the dangers of smoking and pushing cigarettes to young people.
Eubanks said that when she looked at the fossil fuel industry's strategy, she immediately recognised big tobacco's playbook.
"Big oil was engaged in exactly the same type of behaviour that the tobacco companies engaged in and were found liable for fraud on a massive scale," said Eubanks. "The cover-up, the denial of the problem, the funding of scientists to question the science. The same pattern. And some of the same lawyers represent both tobacco and big oil."
The danger for the fossil fuel industry is that the parallels do not end there.
The legal process is likely to oblige the oil conglomerates to turn over years of internal communications revealing what they knew about climate change, when and how they responded. Given what has already come out from Exxon, they are unlikely to help the industry's case.
Eubanks, who is now advising attorneys general and others suing the oil industry, said a turning point in her action against big tobacco came with the discovery of internal company memos in a state case in Minnesota. They included language that talked about recruiting young people as "replacement smokers" for those who died from cigarettes.
"I think the public was particularly stunned by some of the content of the documents and the talk about the need for bigger bags to take home all the money they were going to make from getting people to smoke," said Eubanks.
The exposure of the tobacco companies' internal communications shifted the public mood and the politics, helping to open the door to legislation to curb smoking that the industry had been successfully resisting for decades.
Farber, the Berkeley law professor, said the discovery process carries a similar danger for the oil companies because it is likely to expose yet more evidence that they set out to deceive. He said that will undercut any attempt by the energy giants to claim in court that they were ignorant of the damage they were causing.
Farber said it will also be difficult for the oil industry to resist the weight of US lawsuits, shareholder activism and shifting public and political opinion. "It might push them towards settlement or supporting legislation that releases some from liability in return for some major concessions such as a large tax to finance responses to climate change."
The alternative, said Farber, is to take their chance on judges and juries who may be increasingly inclined to take the climate crisis seriously.
"They may think this is an emergency that requires a response. That the oil companies should be held responsible for the harm they've caused and that could be very expensive," he said. "If they lose, it's catastrophic ultimately."
This story originally appeared in The Guardian and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.
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It's unlikely that taking a swig of apple cider vinegar in the morning will significantly affect weight loss.
Q: Is drinking apple cider vinegar in water first thing in the morning good for cleansing and weight loss? If so, how much is recommended?
Countless tips and tricks on how to lose weight quickly and "cleanse" the body are circulating online. However, most of them are unsubstantiated and ineffective.
Taking a shot of apple cider vinegar in the morning on an empty stomach is one practice that many wellness gurus claim helps you lose weight, reduce hunger, and remove toxins from your system.
Although limited research suggests that vinegar may have a beneficial effect on hunger levels and body composition, results are far from conclusive. Plus, the majority of this research has taken place in animals, not humans.
A few human studies have shown that supplementing with apple cider vinegar may help suppress appetite and have a modest beneficial effect on weight loss. This is mainly attributed to acetic acid, a type of acid concentrated in apple cider vinegar that may have hunger-suppressing effects.
However, it's important to note that there's a lack of high quality human research in this area. While apple cider vinegar may slightly affect hunger levels, it's unlikely that drinking apple cider vinegar will have any meaningful effect on your waistline — unless, of course, it's combined with increased physical activity and healthy modifications to your diet.
Additionally, drinking apple cider vinegar can cause adverse side effects, such as tooth erosion and nausea.
What's more, there's no evidence to say that throwing back a drink containing apple cider vinegar will rid your body of toxins. Your body has an entire system dedicated to detoxification, and it does not depend on supplements for optimal functioning.
Lastly, there's no scientific evidence to suggest that taking apple cider vinegar in the morning is more beneficial than doing so at any other time of the day.
In closing, although it's unlikely that taking a swig of apple cider vinegar in the morning will significantly affect weight loss, it's generally harmless for most people. Just make sure to limit your daily dose to 1–2 tablespoons diluted in a glass of water and rinse your mouth with water afterward to prevent dental erosion.
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By Brett Wilkins
After a federal judge rejected a $2 billion class-action proposal from Bayer to avert future lawsuits alleging its popular Roundup herbicide causes cancer, the pharmaceutical and chemical giant announced Thursday that it would consider ending sales of the glyphosate-based weedkiller for residential use in the United States.
In a statement, Bayer said that it "will immediately engage with partners to discuss the future of glyphosate-based products in the U.S. residential market" in a move aimed at "mitigating future litigation risk."
"None of these discussions will affect the availability of glyphosate-based products in markets for professional and agricultural users," the Germany-based company added.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco rejected Bayer's $2 billion plan to settle future lawsuits as "clearly unreasonable," saying that while the proposal would "accomplish a lot for Monsanto" — the Roundup maker acquired by Bayer for nearly $63 billion in 2018 — it "would accomplish far less for... Roundup users."
NEW: @Bayer is rethinking the future of glyphosate products after losing a $2B cancer claims settlement – yet it st… https://t.co/FTj62pCLPi— Friends of the Earth (Action) (@Friends of the Earth (Action))1622148837.0
Earlier this month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco upheld a lower court ruling against Monsanto that found the chemical maker liable for the cancer afflicting users of Roundup, the world's bestselling weedkiller. Thousands of Roundup users allege the herbicide gave them non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of the blood.
While Bayer claims Roundup is safe, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said in 2015 that glyphosate "is probably carcinogenic to humans."
In 2018, a San Francisco Superior Court jury found Monsanto liable for damages suffered by a groundskeeper and cancer patient who alleged his ailment was directly caused by exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides including Roundup, opening the floodgate for similar lawsuits across the nation. Juries in three separate cases have found that Monsanto covered up evidence of glyphosate's health risks for decades. Bayer subsequently agreed to allot $9.6 billion toward resolving the 125,000 claims against the company.
Health and environmental campaigners were encouraged by Bayer's Thursday announcement.
"Removing glyphosate from residential use would be a step in the right direction, as most of the cases now pending settlement involved serious exposure from non-farm uses," Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group (EWG), said in a statement.
"Another clear step would be for Bayer to withdraw the pesticide from end-of-season use on food crops, which gave rise to the contamination EWG has found on oat products, in hummus, and other food," Cook continued.
"But unless this cancer-causing weedkiller is banned by the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] or Bayer cuts its losses and stops making it, people will continue to be exposed and risk serious illness," he added. "And the legal and financial disaster stemming from one of the worst business decisions ever made will remain."
Financial Times reports U.S. glyphosate sales account for around $365 million of Bayer's annual revenue, or less than 2% of sales by its agriculture science division.
Earlier this month, the EPA drew fire from environmental groups for arguing that Roundup should remain on U.S. shelves indefinitely, even after admitting that the review of glyphosate conducted during the previous administration was flawed and needs to be redone.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
By John R. Platt
Humans and whales have a complex relationship.
We've hunted whales for food for centuries, celebrated them in our art and culture, admired their familial relationships and songs, and even worshipped them as gods.
But at the same time, we've overhunted multiple whale species to the brink of extinction, overfished their prey, poisoned their bodies and habitats, and scarred or killed them with our oceanic vessels.
While we've made great strides on many of those fronts, there's still a lot to do and many reasons to worry. Here are some of them, followed by an archive of related stories from The Revelator:
1. We're Still Discovering What's Out There — and What's Not
You'd think a large species like a whale would be easy to find.
Several new cetacean species have been discovered in the past few years, most recently the rarely seen Rice's whale in the Gulf of Mexico. Previously thought to be a subspecies of the Bryde's whale, the newly recognized species was identified just in time. Scientists estimate that fewer than 100 Rice's whales remain — perhaps as few as 60 — and say the species is critically endangered.
Similarly, it's often hard to realize what we're losing in the vast expanses of the ocean. In part that's because whales are hard to count — especially dead ones. While many whale carcasses wash up on beaches, most sink to the bottom of the ocean or are consumed by scavengers. That presents a challenge to understanding how many whales are being killed or, if we do find a body, how they died. This has important conservation implications. For example, recent research suggests we're undercounting the deaths of critically endangered North Atlantic right whales by 64% — and that's one of the world's most heavily monitored whale species, which all too often die after being struck by shipping vessels.
North Atlantic right whales. Sea to Shore Alliance / NOAA, under NOAA permit #15488
Speaking of which…
2. Ships vs. Whales
Globalization means more and more gigantic shipping vessels traversing the globe every day, where they can cross into whale feeding grounds or through migratory routes.
And when a ship strikes a whale, it's not the ship that loses.
Kees Torn / CC BY-SA 2.0
Most recently, necropsies revealed that at least two gray whales found dead near San Francisco Bay had been injured by ships, while an injured humpback whale was observed near Vancouver. Similar stories play out regularly around the globe.
And it's not just big ships. Fishing vessels of all sizes pose threats, either directly or through lost fishing gear. This April a research drone captured footage of a baby gray whale entangled in fishing line, dragging a buoy behind it.
3. Climate Change Comes Calling
Warming oceans pose multiple threats to whales, some of which relate once again to the shipping industry. In recent years the industry has rushed to newly ice-free waters in the Arctic, bringing with them noise, pollution and other harmful changes.
Additional threats from climate change continue to emerge, and exactly what's happening isn't always clear. One recent study found that a population of bowhead whales failed to make its annual autumn migration away from solid ice in the Bering Sea, but the reason remains undiscovered. One theory is that warming waters could have resulted in an increase in their food supply. Another theory suggests changing temperatures could have allowed more killer whales to block the bowheads' migration.
Similarly, climate change has resulted in decreased herring abundance in Quebec's Gulf of St. Lawrence, and this loss of food has resulted in fewer humpback whale pregnancies coming to term.
Meanwhile, there's a big reason to protect whales from climate change: their very existence helps protect us from climate change. Their feces help feed phytoplankton, which photosynthesize and absorb carbon dioxide before dying, sinking to the bottom of the ocean and sequestering that world-changing greenhouse gas. Whale bodies, similarly, also store an enormous amount of carbon that can be sequestered when they die.
4. Plastic: A Painful Threat
When whales accidentally consume plastic waste that they find floating in the ocean, the results can be deadly — either immediately or over time.
All too often, investigations into the cause of whale deaths find plastic to blame. One of the most recent examples occurred in Bangladesh, where two dead whales washed up near a resort town in April. "Primarily we think the two have died from consuming plastic and polluted objects," Jahirul Islam, executive director of Marine Life Alliance, told AFP.
And remember that new whale species that was just discovered? One of the reasons we know the species exists is because a carcass washed up near the Florida Everglades in 2019. Scientists found that it was killed by a tiny, 2.5-inch piece of jagged plastic that lodged in its stomach and caused internal bleeding and necrosis.
Smaller plastic particles may also have health implications for whales in even the most remote locations. A study published in 2020 found that seven beluga whales harvested by Inuvialuit hunters all had plastic fibers and fragments in their digestive systems. All the particles were what's considered microplastic, smaller than 5 millimeters in size. These may not be immediately fatal, but nearly half of the particles contained chemicals that could cause potential health problems, much like they could in humans. The risks whales may face from microplastics remains a field of active scientific investigation, with hundreds of papers published in just the past year.
A team of specially trained NOAA rescuers successfully free a humpback whale from a life-threatening tangle of fishing gear off the Kona Coast of Hawaii. R. Finn / NOAA MMHSRP permit #932-1905
Larger plastic waste, such as lost or discarded fishing lines and nets, poses an even bigger threat. "Imagine walking around with weights tied to your ankles," researcher Greg Merrill recently wrote in New Security Beat. "Whales struggle to get untangled from large nets and they end up dragging this weight along with them, expending extra energy they need to migrate and raise their young. An increasingly common tragedy is when whales become so overburdened by the weight of the plastic debris they cannot surface to breathe and drown."
5. Public Perception Still Lags
People generally love whales and support their conservation, but how much do they really know about whales and the threats the face?
Not much, it turns out.
A recent scientific survey found that the majority of people cared about legislation to protect whales, but at the same time they didn't know much about various whale or cetacean species. The researchers found that people thought common species such as bottlenose dolphins needed the most protection, didn't know about some of the most endangered species such as the vaquita, and believed more countries actively engaged in whaling than really do today.
Perhaps most strikingly, the survey presented people with the names of several fictional whale species (like the "pygmy short-finned whale"), which respondents said they believed needed protection more than real at-risk species.
This might not seem like a huge problem at first, but the future of whale conservation may rely once again upon grassroots efforts from caring citizens. As the researchers concluded, "A lack of awareness of the conservation status of whales and dolphins and continued whaling activities suggests that greater outreach to the public about the conservation status of whale and dolphin species is needed."
Reposted with permission from the Revelator.
By Gudrun Heise
"Although I hadn't used the stove at all, I touched every ring to check that it was off. Finally I had to keep telling myself: 'Off! Off! Off!'" Michaela says (her name has been changed by the editor).
Even when Michaela was a child, there were rituals that she always had to observe and from which her mind would not permit her to deviate. There were things that were simply not "allowed."
Every evening, for example, the procedure was exactly the same: Her parents always got given four goodnight kisses on each side, no more and no fewer. This number was fixed, as if set in stone. "Two on the right, two on the left and then the other way around: two on the left, two on the right," Michaela says.
Today she is 48, but her compulsion for rituals and double-checking and symmetry has stayed with her. Everything still has to be exactly symmetrical for her. On her yoga mat, she lies exactly in the middle, with exactly the same distance to the right and left. "If I scratch myself on the right, I have to scratch myself on the left," says Michaela.
For many people, this may sound strange or exaggerated. But it is a serious mental illness that is not easy to diagnose. "There has to be an impairment in everyday life, either professionally or socially," says Andreas Wahl-Kordon, medical director of the Oberberg Specialty Hospital in the Black Forest. "An important criterion for diagnosis is the length of time consumed by the obsessive thought or the actions taken to deal with it. If you check once whether the coffee maker is really switched off, then that is fine. But if you do this 20 times or more, it is already compulsive."
For Michaela, compulsions are part of her everyday life. They are exhausting and demand a lot of strength and energy. But things have got much better now, she says. She owes this above all to her psychiatrist, Andreas Wahl-Kordon. He is a person she trusts and has treated her several times as an inpatient.
OCD Is a Common Illness
Checking compulsions often begin at a young age, but can also develop in adulthood. "It is a common mental illness, but it is usually not obvious because it is often made a taboo and concealed," says Wahl-Kordon.
Sometimes sufferers and the people around them do not really take the somewhat strange behavior seriously. People with this form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) must first become aware that their behavior is not normal and be prepared to start treatment.
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
To find out whether someone has OCD, therapists usually work with various screening questions, such as: "Do you clean or wash extremely often? Are you often concerned with symmetries? Are there thoughts that do not let go of you?"
Wahl-Kordon says that "what is most significant is the intensity at which such actions are carried out and the time the sufferer actually spends on them or thinks about them," he says.
"With many sufferers, we can achieve very good results through behavioral therapy. Exposure and confrontation exercises are core elements here," Wahl-Kordon says.
Michaela has also been taking part in these kinds of therapies, which force her to permit situations that she fears and would otherwise try to avoid. They are meant to help her deal with her compulsions and fears, which often have their roots in the past.
'I Thought It Was My Fault'
When Michaela was 16, her sister-in-law died at the age of just 28. For Michaela, this was a traumatic experience and one that triggered severe feelings of self-blame.
"About a week before my sister-in-law died, I told a friend of mine that there was nothing to look forward to and that I dreamed that my sister-in-law was in the cemetery behind the cemetery wall and could not get out. When my sister-in-law died, I blamed myself a lot. I thought it was because of me, because I had moaned so much for no reason," she says.
She still has these feelings of self-blame and fears some kind of punishment if she complains about something without there being an obvious reason. And it is just one of many fears that she has developed.
Trouble Leaving the Apartment
Michaela studied law; during her time at university, her checking compulsion continued to accompany her and became a never-ending ordeal.
"My apartment had a kitchenette within sight of the bed. In the evening I always had to start checking from left to right to make sure that all appliances were turned off: stove, coffee maker and kettle. Had I pulled out all the plugs? Then check the fridge door again to see that it was really closed. Then I'd start all over again," she says.
Sometimes the whole procedure lasted several hours, she says, and on occasion she would go and sit outside the front door at 4 o'clock in the morning in desperation because she had not managed to go to bed.
Checking the Checks
During her studies, Michaela met her husband. She immediately got him involved, asking him to help her with her checking. "My husband was my salvation back then. I asked him to do a very last follow-up check after my check-ups. This gave me the feeling that he had taken the responsibility from me in case something started to burn because I had forgotten to check everything thoroughly," she says.
For about 20 years, Michaela checked every evening whether her husband had checked everything properly — checking the checker, so to speak. Thanks to the therapy, this, too, has now improved.
'I Was Afraid of Doing Everything Wrong'
Michaela was a specialist lawyer for criminal law and social law. She was on committees, gave lectures and received requests from various associations to join their boards of directors. She was a successful lawyer, at least on the outside. But her constant self-doubt and her checking compulsion made her life so difficult that she finally had to give up her profession.
"I was always just afraid of not doing anything right, of not being able to do anything, of being too stupid for everything, and thought that it was just a matter of chance that I had a particular position. In my work, I never felt as though I had done enough preparation," she says. "If, for example, I had an appointment at 2 p.m. on one day, it was not possible for me to do anything else that day. I always thought I had to prepare myself more and more and more for this one thing."
At some point, her fears increased so dramatically that she was no longer able to go in to work at the law firm at all.
"At some point, compulsions determine their entire lives," Wahl-Kordon says. "Some sufferers withdraw completely, no longer eat properly and lose weight. Those are the most serious cases — when everything revolves around the compulsions."
More Than One Compulsion
In addition to her constant drive to check things, Michaela developed other compulsions. Compulsive hoarding is a particular problem for her. People with this form of OCD collect all sorts of things without any necessity or good reason: small notes, old receipts, papers that are no longer valid. Michaela even finds it difficult to part with daily newspapers.
After one three-week vacation, the newspapers piled up in the apartment, but throwing them away was impossible for her. After all, something important could be hidden somewhere among the countless pages, and then she wouldn't be able to find it again.
"It is incredibly difficult for me to throw something away. It takes me a very long time to put things in order. I never finish. There is simply no end. I always think that maybe I could use the things again sometime," Michaela says.
Your partner doing the cleaning and throwing things away does not work either, says Wahl-Kordon. "That can mean that the world collapses for the sufferer, so it doesn't work at all. Hoarding often has to do with objects that I associate with certain events or experiences and which I simply can't get rid of for that reason alone."
Disposing of those objects thus becomes a difficult and confronting task that the patient must tackle with the support of a psychotherapist. Often the compulsive need to hoard affects older people in particular. In severe cases, they literally become buried in clutter because they simply cannot bring themselves to throw things away.
'But First I Have to Clean Up'
Michaela always tries to organize and prepare everything as perfectly as possible and have control over as many things as she can — even when she had suicidal thoughts because her condition was becoming too much for her.
"It was on a Sunday, and I had actually managed to organize replacements for my appointments for the entire coming week," she relates. After all, she was planning to not be alive the following week. But then, she says, her husband came home unexpectedly and thwarted her plans.
"Later, I always thought that I couldn't ever kill myself because I would have to clean up first. The thought of someone tampering with my things is simply unbearable for me!" she says.
Michaela has now taken up other forms of employment, including teaching social law to special education teachers. This is easier for her than her work as a lawyer. She can engage with it in a completely different way and sometimes even uses herself as an example.
After all, aspiring teachers must learn to deal with disabled people like her, she says. She says everyone in her environment knows about her obsessive-compulsive disorder — with the exception of her family.
In recent years, she has undergone trauma therapy, depression therapy and exposure therapy, which have helped. "I still check the stove and the refrigerator. I still have to do everything right. I'm still afraid that I am doing everything wrong. But compared to the way it used to be, everything is much, much better now."
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
By Alexandra Rowles
Oregano is a fragrant herb that's best known as an ingredient in Italian food.
However, it can also be concentrated into an essential oil that's loaded with antioxidants and powerful compounds that have proven health benefits.
Oregano oil is the extract and, although it's not as strong as the essential oil, it appears to be useful both when consumed or applied to the skin. Essential oils, on the other hand, are not meant to be consumed.
Interestingly, oregano oil is an effective natural antibiotic and antifungal agent, and it may help you lose weight and lower your cholesterol levels.
What Is Oregano Oil?
Botanically known as Origanum vulgare, oregano is a flowering plant from the same family as mint. It's often used as an herb to flavor food.
Although it's native to Europe, it now grows all over the world.
Oregano has been popular ever since the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations used it for medicinal purposes. In fact, the name oregano comes from the Greek words "oros," meaning mountain, and "ganos," meaning joy or delight.
The herb has also been used for centuries as a culinary spice.
Oregano essential oil is made by air-drying the leaves and shoots of the plant. Once they're dried, the oil is extracted and concentrated by steam distillation.
Oregano essential oil can be mixed with a carrier oil and applied topically. However, it should not be consumed orally.
Oregano oil extract, on the other hand, can be produced via several extraction methods using compounds like carbon dioxide or alcohol. It's widely available as a supplement and can often be found in pill or capsule form.
Oregano contains compounds called phenols, terpenes, and terpenoids. They have powerful antioxidant properties and are responsible for its fragrance:
- Carvacrol. The most abundant phenol in oregano, it has been shown to stop the growth of several different types of bacteria.
- Thymol. This natural antifungal can also support the immune system and protect against toxins.
- Rosmarinic acid. This powerful antioxidant helps protect against damage caused by free radicals.
These compounds are thought to underlie oregano's many health benefits.
Here are 9 potential benefits and uses of oregano oil.
Oregano and the carvacrol it contains may help fight bacteria.
The Staphylococcus aureus bacterium is one of the most common causes of infection, resulting in ailments like food poisoning and skin infections.
One particular study looked at whether oregano essential oil improved the survival of 14 mice infected with Staphylococcus aureus.
It found that 43% of the mice given oregano essential oil lived past 30 days, a survival rate nearly as high as the 50% survival rate for mice that received regular antibiotics.
Research has also shown that oregano essential oil may be effective against some potentially antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
This includes Pseudomonas aeruginosa and E. coli, both of which are common causes of urinary and respiratory tract infections.
Although more human studies on the effects of oregano oil extract are needed, it contains many of the same compounds as oregano essential oil and may offer similar health benefits when used as a supplement.
One mouse study found oregano essential oil to be almost as effective as antibiotics against common bacteria, though much more research is needed.
2. May Help Lower Cholesterol
Studies have shown that oregano oil may help lower cholesterol.
In one study, 48 people with mildly high cholesterol were given diet and lifestyle advice to help lower their cholesterol. Thirty-two participants were also given 0.85 ounces (25 mL) of oregano oil extract after each meal.
After 3 months, those given the oregano oil had lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and higher HDL (good) cholesterol, compared with those who were just given diet and lifestyle advice.
Carvacrol, the main compound in oregano oil, has also been shown to help lower cholesterol in mice that were fed a high fat diet over 10 weeks.
The mice given carvacrol alongside the high fat diet had significantly lower cholesterol at the end of the 10 weeks, compared with those that were just given a high fat diet.
The cholesterol-lowering effect of oregano oil is thought to be the result of the phenols carvacrol and thymol.
Studies have shown that oregano may help lower cholesterol in people and mice with high cholesterol. This is thought to be the result of the compounds carvacrol and thymol.
3. Powerful Antioxidant
Antioxidants help protect the body from damage caused by free radicals.
It's thought that free radical damage plays a role in aging and the development of some diseases, such as cancer and heart disease.
Free radicals are everywhere and a natural product of metabolism.
However, they can build up in the body through exposure to environmental factors, such as cigarette smoke and air pollutants.
One older test-tube study compared the antioxidant content of 39 commonly used herbs and found that oregano had the highest concentration of antioxidants.
It found that oregano contained 3–30 times the levels of antioxidants in the other herbs studied, which included thyme, marjoram, and St. John's wort.
Gram per gram, oregano also has 42 times the antioxidant level of apples and 4 times that of blueberries. This is thought to be mostly due to its rosmarinic acid content.
Because oregano oil extract is very concentrated, you need much less oregano oil to reap the same antioxidant benefits as you would from fresh oregano.
Fresh oregano has a very high antioxidant content. In fact, it's much higher than that of most fruits and vegetables, gram per gram. The antioxidant content is concentrated in oregano oil.
4. Could Help Treat Yeast Infections
Yeast is a type of fungus. It can be harmless, but overgrowth can result in gut problems and infections, such as thrush.
The most well-known yeast is Candida, which is the most common cause of yeast infections worldwide.
In test-tube studies, oregano essential oil has been found to be effective against five different types of Candida, such as those that cause infections in the mouth and vagina. In fact, it was more effective than any other essential oil tested.
Test-tube studies have also found that carvacrol, one of the main compounds of oregano oil, is very effective against oral Candida.
High levels of the yeast Candida have also been associated with some gut conditions, such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
A test-tube study on the effectiveness of oregano essential oil on 16 different strains of Candida concluded that oregano oil may be a good alternative treatment for Candida yeast infections. However, more research is needed.
Test-tube studies have shown that oregano essential oil is effective against Candida, the most common form of yeast.
5. May Improve Gut Health
Oregano may benefit gut health in a number of ways.
Gut symptoms like diarrhea, pain, and bloating are common and can be caused by gut parasites.
One older study gave 600 mg of oregano oil to 14 people who had gut symptoms as a result of a parasite. After daily treatment for 6 weeks, all participants experienced a reduction in parasites, and 77% were cured.
Participants also experienced a reduction in gut symptoms and tiredness associated with the symptoms.
Oregano may also help protect against another common gut complaint known as "leaky gut." This happens when the gut wall becomes damaged, allowing bacteria and toxins to pass into the bloodstream.
In a study on pigs, oregano essential oil protected the gut wall from damage and prevented it from becoming "leaky." It also reduced the number of E. coli bacteria in the gut.
Oregano oil may benefit gut health by killing gut parasites and protecting against leaky gut syndrome.
6. May Have Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Inflammation in the body is linked to a number of adverse health effects.
Research has shown that oregano oil may reduce inflammation.
One mouse study found that oregano essential oil, along with thyme essential oil, reduced inflammatory markers in those that had artificially induced colitis.
Carvacrol, one of the key components in oregano oil, has also been shown to reduce inflammation.
One study directly applied different concentrations of carvacrol to the swollen paws or ears of mice. Carvacrol reduced paw and ear swelling by 35–61% and 33–43%, respectively.
Oregano oil and its components may help reduce inflammation in mice, though human studies are needed.
7. Could Help Relieve Pain
Oregano oil has been investigated for its painkilling properties.
One older study in mice tested standard painkillers and essential oils, including oregano essential oil, for their ability to relieve pain.
It found that oregano essential oil significantly reduced pain in mice, exerting effects similar to those of the commonly used painkillers fenoprofen and morphine.
The research proposed these results were likely due to the carvacrol content of oregano.
A similar study found that oregano extract reduced pain in rats, and that the response was dose-dependent, meaning the more oregano extract the rats consumed, the less pain they appeared to feel.
Oregano oil may significantly reduce pain in mice and rats, exerting pain-relieving effects similar to those of some commonly used medications.
8. May Have Cancer-Fighting Properties
A few studies have indicated that carvacrol, one of the compounds of oregano oil, may have cancer-fighting properties.
In test-tube studies on cancer cells, carvacrol has demonstrated promising results against lung, liver, and breast cancer cells.
It has been found to inhibit cell growth and cause cancer cell death.
Although this is promising research, no studies have been carried out on people, so more research is needed.
Preliminary studies have shown that carvacrol — the most abundant compound in oregano oil — inhibits cancer cell growth and causes cell death in lung, liver, and breast cancer cells.
9. May Help You Lose Weight
Thanks to oregano's carvacrol content, oregano oil may aid weight loss.
In one study, mice were fed either a normal diet, high fat diet, or high fat diet with carvacrol. Those given carvacrol alongside their high fat diet gained significantly less weight and body fat than those just given a high fat diet.
Furthermore, carvacrol appeared to reverse the chain of events that can lead to the formation of fat cells.
More research is needed to demonstrate that oregano oil has a role in weight loss, but it may be worth trying as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Oregano oil may be beneficial for weight loss through the action of carvacrol, though human studies are needed.
How to Use Oregano Oil
Oregano oil extract is widely available in capsule and tablet form. It can be bought from most health food shops or online.
Because the strength of oregano supplements can vary, it's important to read the directions on the individual packet for instructions on how to use the product.
Oregano essential oil is also available and can be diluted with a carrier oil and applied topically. Note that no essential oil should be ingested.
There's no standard effective dose of oregano essential oil. However, it's often mixed with around 1 teaspoon (5 mL) of olive oil per drop of oregano essential oil and applied directly to the skin.
Like other essential oils, keep in mind that oregano essential oil should not be consumed orally.
If you're interested in taking oregano oil extract but currently taking prescription medications, make sure to consult your healthcare provider before adding it to your regimen.
In addition, oregano oil extract is not generally recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Oregano oil extract can be purchased in pill or capsule form and taken orally. Oregano essential oil is also available and can be diluted with a carrier oil and applied to the skin.
The Bottom Line
Oregano oil extract and oregano essential oil are both relatively cheap and readily available.
Oregano is higher in antioxidants than most fruits and vegetables, and it's packed full of powerful compounds called phenols.
Oregano also contains compounds that may be effective against bacterial and fungal infections, inflammation, and pain, among other conditions.
Overall, it appears to have several health benefits and may be useful as a natural treatment for some common health complaints.
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Last week, an amazing and unusual fish washed up on the beach in Southern California.
Black, 18-inches long and football-shaped, it sported a long stalk coming out of its head with bioluminescent tips. This is used to lure prey towards its large mouth with transparent teeth "like pointed shards of glass," a Facebook post by Crystal Cove State Park described. Its large mouth can then suck up and swallow prey the size of its own body, the park noted.
The fish was found by beach visitor Ben Estes in a Marine Protected Area at the popular park and is a species of deep-sea anglerfish. There are more than 200 species of anglerfish worldwide, the post shared, and experts believed this to be a very well-preserved, intact Pacific Footballfish (Himantolophus sagamius).
"To see an actual angler fish intact is very rare and it is unknown how or why the fish ended up on the shore," Crystal Cove posted.
Though not rare in the deep sea, where they usually live 2,000-3,300 feet below the surface in complete darkness, anglerfish do not usually wash up on the shore. According to the California Academy of Sciences, the only other specimen of the Pacific Footballfish from California that scientists have was caught in 1985 by fishermen in Monterey Bay, who hauled it up in their nets. It now is housed at the San Francisco museum.
The museum describes the environment that the Pacific Footballfish lives in as so dark that "sunlight doesn't penetrate." Food is scarce, so the footballfish has evolved to feed on "whatever fits in its mouth — including other fish, squid, and crustaceans," Cal Academy noted. The lure dangles in front of its mouth until the prey comes within striking distance. By then, it's too late for the food: it gets sucked into the footballfish's large mouth, and its sharp teeth, which are pointed inward, "ensure that what goes in doesn't come out," the museum said.
Both the 1985 specimen and the most recent find from Laguna Beach were female footballfish, experts noted, because only females have the long stalk coming out of their heads. Bioluminescent bacteria flow into this appendage through small pores and live within the lure, multiplying due to the protection and nutrition that a host footballfish provides, Cal Academy explained. These bacteria are what actually emit the concentrated light from within the anglerfish lures.
Aside from lacking the bright lure, male footballfish are also much smaller than females. While the latter can reach lengths of 24 inches, males only grow to be about an inch long. Their sole purpose is to find a female and help her reproduce, Crystal Cove noted.
"Males latch onto the female with their teeth and become 'sexual parasites,' eventually coalescing with the female until nothing is left of their form but their testes for reproduction. Wild!" the state park posted.
"Using well-developed olfactory organs, they find and fuse themselves to females, eventually losing their eyes, internal organs, and everything else but the testes. The male becomes a permanent appendage that draws nutrition from its female host and serves as an easily accessible source of sperm," Cal Academy explained further.
Of the most recent find, Crystal Cove concluded, "Seeing this strange and fascinating fish is a testament to the diversity of marine life lurking below the water's surface in California's MPAs and as scientists continue to learn more about these deep-sea creatures it's important to reflect on how much is still to be learned from our wonderful ocean."
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- Deep-Sea Study Records Species Found Nowhere Else on Earth ›
By Courtney Lindwall
Whether you're simply fascinated by the superorganism that is a humming hive, want to pollinate your garden, or hope to harvest some honey, the ancient art of beekeeping offers much for beginner apiarists. "It blew me away how complex and organized the bees were," says Jason Thomas, senior IT specialist at NRDC, who began his hobbyist beekeeping career maintaining the hives on the roof of NRDC's New York City office. Here are tips from Thomas and other bee advocates on how to get started.
Join a beekeeper's association.
Beyond books and YouTube tutorials, your local beekeeper's association can offer guidance and insider tips as you learn the ropes. The American Beekeeping Federation offers a good jumping-off point, with listings by state. Once you find your local club, see if it offers classes for newbies. That's how Nicole Rivera Hartery, who now owns her own New Jersey–based beekeeping service called Bees on Main St., got her start: by taking an intensive course through Rutgers University's agricultural program. "I was fortunate enough to assist the members on their hives, and they became my mentors."
Keep native bees in mind.
While honeybees get the attention, there are about 4,000 species of native bees across North America. Some, like the underground-dwelling mining bee and the solitary mason bee, help pollinate agricultural crops. And like honeybees, native species, too, face myriad threats: climate change, pesticides, and toxic pollution. The Center for Biological Diversity estimates that one in four native bee species are in peril. To protect against further decline, advocate for measures that support the health of all bees. Urge your lawmakers to ban harmful uses of neonics, a pesticide responsible for killing birds and bees, and encourage your community to cultivate a "pollinator pathway" lined with bee-friendly habitat and food sources.
Grow your own pollinator garden.
Bees feed off of nearby flowers, carrying sticky pollen on their legs and pollinating plants as they forage from two to four miles. Plant annuals that bloom throughout the season or perennials that bloom in sequence to provide food all year long. The ideal plants depend on where you live, but bees love native wildflowers and flowering trees—like wild cherries, horse chestnuts, tulip trees and crepe myrtles, for example—as well as fruit and vegetable gardens. (Read more tips on attracting bees and other pollinators here.) Watch out for toxic plants, like azaleas and rhododendrons, or ones that produce less nectar, like pansies. "If we all do this, we have a real opportunity to create a good stretch of pollinator habitat," says Guillermo Fernandez, executive director of the Bee Conservancy, "and to enjoy watching the wildlife that stops by for a sip of nectar."
Learn the local laws.
Whether you're tending to a single hive on your city roof or dozens in the country, get to know your local area's rules. Common ordinances include mandatory registration, limits on the number of hives, or restrictions on distancing from neighbors. In New York, for example, beekeepers are required to register their hives with the health department and renew their license annually.
Set up your hive.
Where you live, the amount of space you have, and your budget will influence how you set up your hive. The standard design since 1852 has been the Langstroth hive: It's more manageable because of its modular box and vertically hung frames—like folders in a filing cabinet—which help prevent them from fusing together. This where the bees make their honeycomb, store resources, and lay eggs. While plastic frames are durable, Thomas recommends natural materials like wood. "Anything plastic—the bees won't want to use that," Thomas says. Other designs include top bar, flow, and hex hives. Be sure to elevate your beehive off the ground—6 to 10 inches—to help keep it away from pests and ground moisture.
No hobby is without its gear. Start with what you'll wear for protection: Most apiarists recommend a sturdy suit (with ventilation for warm days), gloves, and a veil. As for tools, the basics include a hive smoker, which helps calm bees naturally and mask their alarm pheromones when you're disrupting their hive; a bee brush, to safely move bees without squishing them; and a hive tool, for prying open lids and separating frames. You may eventually want to purchase things like a queen clip, which allows you to catch and hold your queen bee, or a honey extractor.
Buy (or attract) some bees.
Most beekeepers purchase their starter bees online—typically the Western or Italian honeybee. A standard package has about 10,000 bees, including a queen. (Thomas recommends picking them up from a nearby retailer; shipping can cause bee loss.) After introducing the bees to the hive, set up a feeder—for initial sustenance—and remove it once the bees find nearby nectar. Some beekeepers choose to capture a wild swarm or attract one to a swarm trap, although Thomas cautions that this technique is best attempted by more experienced beekeepers.
Learn to read your frames.
Apiarists must tend to their hives throughout the year. Conduct check-ins every 7 to 10 days. Use your smoker to calm the bees and be careful not to crush any as you remove frames for inspection. Being able to "read your frames" takes experience, but be on the lookout for a healthy queen; a brood distributed in solid blocks within the comb cells; abundant pollen and nectar; and no pest or disease issues. Hive maintenance also changes through the seasons. Spring is when most hives grow. In winter, populations naturally shrink and hives need to be insulated. (In New York, Thomas aids overwintering by keeping a Canadian species that's more acclimated to the cold.)
Ensure your hive is "queenright."
Your hive may have thousands of worker bees and drone bees—but often just one queen, who lays all the eggs and whose good health—a state called "queenright"—determines the health of the hive. Learn to spot the queen quickly by watching for her longer abdomen and hairless back. You can also identify her by the way worker bees encircle her. Signs that your hive may no longer have a healthy queen include a lack of eggs and brood, a population decrease, and an agitated temperament.
Plan for pests and disease.
Even in the best-maintained hives, pests are unavoidable. "I thought I'd only have to worry about wasps," Hartery says, "but when I found out everything I'd have to protect them from, it was a shock." Varroa mites are most common (and often treatable with remedies like oxalic acid), but other threats include mice, wax moths, and small hive beetles. Your bees may also catch diseases, like the nosema fungus, but many are treatable if you catch them early. Aim for "Integrative Pest Management," which prioritizes nontoxic, preventative, least-invasive measures, before resorting to potentially harmful options, like miticides.
Reap the (sweet) rewards.
If you're mostly in it for the honey, keep in mind that it could take a while. "Usually, don't expect honey your first year," Hartery says. Thomas advises buying frames with existing honeycomb to start. When the honey comes, it will have the unique flavor of the plants the bees feasted on. Apiarists can also use their hives' comb, pollen, and wax to make everything from candles to pollen patties, which can be fed back to the bees before winter.
Stay the course.
"As beekeepers, we dedicate so much to these hives and we just want them to be healthy," Hartery says. "When we lose one, it can be pretty devastating." Her advice? Know that losing a hive is inevitable. But the rewards of the job have always won out for Hartery. "I get done working, and I'm able to sit back and observe—just watch them work together. It definitely opens up your eyes to life in general. You think, this is how we should be as a human race; this is how we should work together for the greater cause."
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