My Annual End-of-the-Year Wrap-Up: Your Top 5 Picks!
For my annual year-end post, I’ve decided to once again review YOUR top 5 choices of the year. I guess I shouldn’t be shocked by what you were most interested, in what has been quite the remarkable year for the world. Here’s to hoping that 2021 is a banner year for all of us, across the world, and that this time next year, COVID is but a memory.
- At number 5, is my post from August 20th: New Info on COVID, the Immune System and the Microbiome. In this post, I reported on research examining the connection of body fat to COVID risks. The statistics are frightening: those with a BMI of over 25, which includes those who are fairly mildly overweight, have a 40% greater chance of hospitalization from COVID, and those who are obese with a BMI over 30, have a 70% chance of hospitalization. Those with excess weight also tend to have altered gut bacteria and high levels of inflammation – a HUGE area of study worldwide at the moment – and it tuned out that dysbiosis is also a huge risk factor in terms of disease severity.
- In March, I wrote an update on research into the gut/Parkinson’s disease (PD) connection. I have to say, PD is one area where I feel like there has been considerable progress the last couple of years. Did you know that there are 44 blog posts on the topic on The Biome Buzz?! Anyway, this post is kind of a summary of the current model for the development and progression of PD. The first sign of the impending disease tends to be constipation: it starts with abnormal peristaltic movement of the gut. It appears that a currently “unknown pathogen” invades the gut, which causes alterations (folding) in the formation of α-synuclein which some believe to be an immune molecule. (In the paper I covered that day, they postulate that α-synuclein plays a role in modulating the supply and release of dopamine.) It’s believed this mis-folded protein can make its way to the brain via the vagus nerve, causing a detrimental immune effect in the brain. Stay tuned on this rapidly-developing story!
- June 27: I wrote about a clinical trial for constipation in the autism population. I am still amazed by this statistic: in one study (with 124 chlildren) it was found that 34% of them suffered from constipation. Anyway, this post was about a small clinical trial using a prebiotic derived from guar gum (a carbohydrate derived from the guar plant’s bean). As a pilot study, it was small – only 13 children – all of whom suffered from severe constipation The results were kind of extraordinary though: constipation improved, blood inflammatory markers decreased significantly, and irritability also significantly improved. The prebiotic seems to be available depending upon where you live – I’m disappointed no one has tried it and let me know the results! If anyone does, please do let me know!
- In July I wrote one of my best-read posts of all time: Glyphosate, Gut Bugs and Autism. Like all of you, I am particularly interested in this topic. I maintain my scientific objectivity at this point and continue to follow the research as it is published. For those unfamiliar, glyphosate is the herbicide found in products like Roundup, the most used herbicide in the world. I mention, in my post, that as of October, 2019, a summary article that I wrote about then concluded that we still don’t know enough to conclude anything. The article I covered in this blog post actually predated that: it was published in 2018 and looked specifically at whether or not glyphosate can lead to higher levels of Clostridia. If you read my blog regularly, you know that there is a huge amount of evidence pointing to the short-chain fatty acid, propionic acid, produced by Clostridia as a leading cause of autism.
This paper pointed out that glyphosate can alter gut bacteria, and that pathogenic bacteria are particularly resistant to it, whereas as probiotic species (like Lactobacillus) are much more susceptible. However, the fact remains that the relationship of glyphosate to the development of autism, via alterations in the gut bacteria, is still hypothetical. And a new paper, published just this past September, actually concludes that many of the studies in the literature have methodological weaknesses and that it is still impossible to “…draw any definitive conclusions regarding glyphosate’s influence on health through alterations in the gut microbiome.”[i] They specifically look at whether or not there is evidence that the glyphosate used on wheat is responsible for wheat sensitivities. Double-blind, randomized clinical trials do not support the supposition that gluten is responsible for symptoms in healthy people. However, research does support glyphosate’s effects on the microbiome: “Exposure to glyphosate alone or through the administration of herbicide appears to promote gut dysbiosis through a reduction in commensal bacteria species, including Lactobacillus spp., and butyrate-producing bacteria and an increase in opportunistic pathogens.” They go on to say, “Glyphosate may also have ramifications for early microbiome development when exposed both pre and postnatally,” so theory that there may be a link to autism is not impossible. It is not, however, proven so we do need to wait for better designed studies to be conducted. From the concluding paragraph:
“Glyphosate may be a critical environmental trigger in the etiology of several disease states associated with dysbiosis, including celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Glyphosate exposure may also have consequences for mental health, including anxiety and depression, through alterations in the gut microbiome. However, the research surrounding glyphosate’s effects on the gut microbiome also suffers from numerous methodological weaknesses including artificially high-doses, insufficient duration, proprietary ingredients and an over reliance on animal models.”
I will absolutely stay on top of this critically important story so stay tuned.
- And finally, the number one most-read blog post ever on The Biome Buzz: Covid-19 and Probiotics: A (Successful) Clinical Study, which I posted in August. Anyone surprised?! (NOT!) In this post, I describe work done in Italy on 70 hospitalized patients with COVID severe enough to require hospitalization but not a ventilaor. 28 of these subjects received a probiotic, 42 did not. All those who received the probiotic improved much faster than those who did not, in terms of both respiratory and digestive symptoms: as opposed to those who did not get the probiotic, no one treated ended up requiring a ventilator, a stay in the ICU, or died.
Just bear in mind that to get this effect, high doses of probiotics were used.
Everyone, stay safe. And as I said at the start, I hope with all my heart that 2021 brings all of us good health, happiness, many more human clinical trials for me to report to you – and an end to this awful pandemic.
[i] Barnett, JA, Gibson, DL. Separating the empirical wheat from the pseudoscientific chaff: a critical review of the literature surrounding glyphosate, dysbiosis and wheat-sensitivity. Frontiers in Microbiology. 2020. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2020.556729