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Looking at anti-nutrients

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Photo of various grains and beans
These compounds occur naturally in a number of healthy foods, including legumes and whole grains. foodism360/Unsplash, CC BY

Anti-nutrients – they’re part of a normal diet and not as scary as they sound

Jill Joyce, Oklahoma State University

Maybe you’re trying to eat healthier these days, aiming to get enough of the good stuff and limit the less-good stuff. You’re paying attention to things like fiber and fat and vitamins… and anti-nutrients?

What the heck are anti-nutrients and are they something you need to be concerned about in your diet?

Let me, as a public health nutrition researcher, reassure you that anti-nutrients aren’t the evil nemesis of all the nutritious foods you eat. As long as you’re consuming a balanced and varied diet, anti-nutrients are not a concern. In fact, scientists are realizing they actually have many health benefits.

illustration of small intestine amid other organs
Nutrients get absorbed into your bloodstream – or not – as digestion occurs in your small intestine.
Sebastian Kaulitzki/Science Photo Library via Getty Images

What are anti-nutrients?

Anti-nutrients are substances that naturally occur in plant and animal foods.

The name comes from how they function in your body once you eat them. They block or interfere with how your body absorbs other nutrients out of your gut and into your bloodstream so you can then use them. Thus, anti-nutrients may decrease the amount of nutrients you actually get from your food. They most commonly interfere with the absorption of calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium and zinc.

Plants evolved these compounds as a defensive mechanism against insects, parasites, bacteria and fungi. For example, some anti-nutrients can cause a food to taste bitter; animals won’t want to eat it, leaving the seed, for instance, to provide nourishment for future seedlings. Some anti-nutrients block the digestion of seeds that are eaten. The seeds disperse when they come out the other end in the animal’s fecal matter and can go on to grow new plants. Both of these survival tactics help the plant species grow and spread.

In terms of foods that people eat, you’ll most commonly find anti-nutrients naturally occurring in whole grains and legumes.

Time for an image makeover as health enhancers

Despite sounding scary, studies show that anti-nutrients are not of concern unless consumed in ultra, unrealistically high amounts – and they have numerous health benefits.

Anti-nutrients are currently undergoing a change in image very similar to the one dietary fiber experienced. At one point, scientists thought dietary fiber was bad for people. Since fiber could bind to nutrients and pull them out of the digestive tract in poop, it seemed like something to avoid. To address this perceived issue, grain processing in the late 1800s removed fiber from foods.

But now scientists know that dietary fiber is incredibly important and encourage its consumption. Eating plenty of fiber lowers the risks of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some gastrointestinal diseases.

In the same way, rather than something to avoid, many anti-nutrients are now considered health-promoting nutraceuticals and functional foods due to their numerous benefits. Here’s an introduction to some of the most frequently eaten anti-nutrients that come with benefits:

Oxalates are one of the few anti-nutrients with mostly negative impacts on the body. They are found in lots of common foods, including legumes, beets, berries, cranberries, oranges, chocolate, tofu, wheat bran, soda, coffee, tea, beer, dark green vegetables and sweet potatoes. The negative impacts of oxalates include binding to calcium in the digestive tract and removing it from the body in bowel movements. Oxalates can also increase the risk of kidney stones in some people.

bowl of chickpea curry
Lots of healthy, tasty foods come with the added benefits of anti-nutrients.
Joan Ransley/Moment via Getty Images

Fitting anti-nutrients into a healthy diet

Overall, comparing the benefits to the drawbacks, anti-nutrient pros actually outweigh the cons. The healthy foods that contain them – mainly fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes – should be encouraged not avoided.

Anti-nutrients become a concern only if these foods are consumed in ultra-high amounts, which is very unlikely for most adults and children in the U.S. Additionally, a large proportion of anti-nutrients are removed or lost from foods people eat as they’re processed and cooked, especially if soaking, blanching, boiling or other high-heat processes are involved.

Vegetarians and vegans may be at higher risk of negative effects from anti-nutrients because their diet relies heavily on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. But these plant-based diets are still among the healthiest and are associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes and numerous types of cancers.

Vegetarians and vegans can take a few steps to help counteract anti-nutrients’ effects on their absorption of particular nutrients:

  • Pair high iron and zinc foods with foods high in vitamin C (examples: meatballs with tomato sauce, tomato-based chili with beans).

  • Soak legumes before cooking.

  • Time dairy intake such that it is not always paired with high oxalate foods.

  • Purchase dairy products that are fortified with calcium.

  • Consider a multivitamin-mineral supplement with about 100% of the daily recommended dose of nutrients (check the nutrition facts panel) as nutrition insurance if you are worried, but be sure to talk to your doctor first.

[Get our best science, health and technology stories. Sign up for The Conversation’s science newsletter.]The Conversation

Jill Joyce, Assistant Professor of Public Health Nutrition, Oklahoma State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Mild vaccine side effects expected

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A little bit of post-injection soreness is completely normal. Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/DigitalVision via Getty Images

Vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 will have side effects – that’s a good thing

Matthew Woodruff, Emory University

Takeaways

  • Temporary side effects from vaccines are a normal sign of a developing immune response.
  • Vaccines work by training your immune system to recognize and remember a pathogen in a safe way.
  • Expected side effects from a COVID-19 vaccine include redness and swelling at the injection site and stiffness and soreness in the muscle.
  • A potent vaccine may even cause fever. It does not mean that the vaccine gave you COVID-19.

In 2021 hundreds of millions of people will be vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2. The success of that COVID-19 vaccination campaign will heavily depend on public trust that the vaccines are not only effective, but also safe. To build that trust, the medical and scientific communities have a responsibility to engage in difficult discussions with the public about the significant fraction of people who will experience temporary side effects from these vaccines.

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Assessing the massive Sunburst hack

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Photo of the whitehouse
Federal government agencies, from the Treasury Department to the National Nuclear Security Administration, have been compromised by the attack.

The Sunburst hack was massive and devastating – 5 observations from a cybersecurity expert

Paulo Shakarian, Arizona State University

So much remains unknown about what is now being called the Sunburst hack, the cyberattack against U.S. government agencies and corporations. U.S. officials widely believe that Russian state-sponsored hackers are responsible.

The attack gave the perpetrators access to numerous key American business and government organizations. The immediate effects will be difficult to judge, and a complete accounting of the damage is unlikely. However, the nature of the affected organizations alone makes it clear that this is perhaps the most consequential cyberattack against the U.S. to date.

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Wealthy nations drive the global wildlife trade

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Phooto of protestors
Protesters hold signs outside women’s fashion designer Eudon Choi in London during Fashion Week in 2017. Elena Rostenova/www.shutterstock.com

Python skin jackets and elephant leather boots: How wealthy Western nations drive the global wildlife trade

Maria Ivanova, University of Massachusetts Boston and Candace Famiglietti, University of Massachusetts Boston

Three-quarters of new and emerging infectious diseases in humans originate in wildlife. COVID-19, SARS and Ebola all started this way. The COVID-19 global pandemic has drawn new attention to how people think about wild animals, consume them and interact with them, and how those interactions can affect public health.

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Exercise leads to immune system boost

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Working out strengthens more than just your muscles – it strengthens your immune system, too. SelectStock/E+ via Getty Images

These at-home exercises can help older people boost their immune system and overall health in the age of COVID-19

Mark A. Gluck, Rutgers University – Newark ; Bernadette A. Fausto, Rutgers University – Newark , and Lisa Charles, Rutgers University – Newark

Older adults, especially those over 65, have five times the risk of hospitalization and 90 times the risk of death from COVID-19 compared with younger adults.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 78% of the more than 114,000 COVID-19 related deaths between May and August 2020 were people age 65 and older. Many of those individuals had compromised immune systems due, in part, to a variety of other health conditions including obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory disease and hypertension. The CDC suggests these additional health problems could lead to increased severity of COVID-19.

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Virus evolution could undermine a COVID-19 vaccine

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Jose A. Bernat Bacete/Moment collection/Getty Images

Viruses evolve defenses, this allows them to adapt and could undermine a COVID-19 vaccine – but this can be stopped

Andrew Read, Penn State and David Kennedy, Penn State

The first drug against HIV brought dying patients back from the brink. But as excited doctors raced to get the miracle drug to new patients, the miracle melted away. In each and every patient, the drug only worked for a while.

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Americans missing out on robust health benefits of fish

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Photo of sardines
Sardines are rich in oils and protein. Photo by Ahmed Nadar for Unsplash, CC BY-ND

Americans don’t eat enough fish and miss out on robust health benefits

Michael Tlusty, University of Massachusetts Boston

26 lbs. - Recommended annual amount of seafood that Americans should eat
CC BY-NC-ND

Eating fish can provide powerful advantages for the heart and brain, yet Americans eat less than half of the 26 pounds per year that experts recommend. By contrast, Americans buy seven times more chicken and beef annually than fish.

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COVID-19 and obesity

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Oceanside, N.Y.: A COVID-19 patient, in a medically induced coma, is connected to life-sustaining devices providing blood pressure medication, antibiotics, sedation, feeding and assistance breathing at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital in Oceanside, New York on April 14, 2020. (Photo by Jeffrey Basinger/Newsday via Getty Images)

COVID-19 reveals how obesity harms the body in real time, not just over a lifetime

A COVID-19 patient is connected to life-sustaining devices at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital in Oceanside, New York on April 14, 2020.

Cate Varney, University of Virginia

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust the obesity epidemic once again into the spotlight, revealing that obesity is no longer a disease that harms just in the long run but one that can have acutely devastating effects. New studies and information confirm doctors’ suspicion that this virus takes advantage of a disease that our current U.S. health care system is unable to get under control.

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How the internet is changing the way we grieve

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Social media has become a powerful platform to cope with grief.

Loss and grieving during the era of social media

Jo Bell, University of Hull

People don’t die in the same way that they used to. In the past, a relative, friend, partner would pass away, and in time, all that would be left would be memories and a collection of photographs. These days the dead are now forever present online and digital encounters with someone who has passed away are becoming a common experience.

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Unexpected find in the clouds of Venus

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Artist drawing of Venus
A radar mosaic image of Venus. NASA.gov

The detection of phosphine in Venus’ clouds is a big deal – here’s how we can find out if it’s a sign of life

Paul K. Byrne, North Carolina State University

On Sept. 14, 2020, a new planet was added to the list of potentially habitable worlds in the Solar System: Venus.

Phosphine, a toxic gas made up of one phosphorus and three hydrogen atoms (PH₃), commonly produced by organic life forms but otherwise difficult to make on rocky planets, was discovered in the middle layer of the Venus atmosphere. This raises the tantalizing possibility that something is alive on our planetary neighbor. With this discovery, Venus joins the exalted ranks of Mars and the icy moons Enceladus and Europa among planetary bodies where life may once have existed, or perhaps might even still do so today.

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