The Obesity Edition – This week in Science for Holistic Health – 14May2016

This Week in Science for Holistic Health

This week in science for holistic health

Welcome to This Week in Science for Holistic Health!

I scour the science news for interesting and relevant research for a holistic approach to health to keep you up-to-date!

This edition:

  • Food & Eating – Strategies to reduce intake of discretionary foods (for chronic disease).

  • Supplements & Nutrients – Yes we DO have nutrient deficiencies!

  • Disease Prevention – Obesity: the role of gut microbiota and genetics.

  • Anatomy & Physiology – Eating too much can trigger inflammation and metabolic disorders.


Food & Eating

Discrete strategies to reduce intake of discretionary food choices: a scoping review.

On a population level, dietary improvement strategies have had limited success in preventing the surge in overweight and obesity or reducing risk factors for chronic disease. While numerous multi-component studies have examined whole-of-diet strategies, and single component (i.e. discrete) dietary intervention strategies have targeted an increase in core foods (e.g. fruits, vegetables, dairy), there is a paucity of evidence on the effectiveness of dietary intervention strategies targeting a decrease in discretionary choices. The aim of this review was to identify dietary intervention strategies that are potentially relevant to reducing intake of discretionary choices in 2-65 year olds. A scoping review was carried out to map the literature on key discrete dietary intervention strategies that are potentially applicable to reducing discretionary choices, and to identify the targeted health/nutrition effects (e.g. improve nutrient intake, decrease sugar intake, and reduce body weight) of these strategies. Studies conducted in participants aged 2-65 years and published in English by July 20, 2015, were located through electronic searches including the Cochrane Library, Medline, Embase, CINAHL, and Scopus. Three thousand two hundred and eighty three studies were identified from the search, of which 44 met the selection criteria. The dietary intervention strategies included reformulation (n = 13), substitution (n = 5), restriction/elimination (n = 9), supplementation (n = 13), and nutrition education/messages (n = 4). The key findings of the review were: restricting portion size was consistently beneficial for reducing energy intake in the acute setting; reformulating foods from higher fat to lower fat could be useful to reduce saturated fat intake; substituting discretionary choices for high fibre snacks, fruit, or low/no-calorie beverages may be an effective strategy for reducing energy intake; supplementing nutrient dense foods such as nuts and wholegrain cereals supports an improved overall diet quality; and, a combination of permissive and restrictive nutrition messages may effectively modify behavior to reduce discretionary choices intake. Longer-term, well-controlled studies are required to assess the effectiveness of the identified dietary strategies as interventions to reduce discretionary choices intake.

Strategies to help reduce chronic diseases #overweight #obesity #chronicdisease #food… Click To Tweet

Mechanism of fat taste perception: Association with diet and obesity.

Energy homeostasis plays a significant role in food consumption and body weight regulation with fat intake being an area of particular interest due to its palatability and high energy density. Increasing evidence from humans and animal studies indicate the existence of a taste modality responsive to fat via its breakdown product fatty acids. These studies implicate multiple candidate receptors and ion channels for fatty acid taste detection, indicating a complex peripheral physiology that is currently not well understood. Additionally, a limited number of studies suggest a reduced ability to detect fatty acids is associated with obesity and a diet high in fat reduces an individual’s ability to detect fatty acids. To support this, genetic variants within candidate fatty acid receptors are also associated with obesity reduced ability to detect fatty acids. Understanding oral peripheral fatty acid transduction mechanisms and the association with fat consumption may provide the basis of novel approaches to control development of obesity.

How we taste fat can lead to how much fat we eat #taste #fat #fattyacids #obesity #science Click To Tweet

[Vegetarian diets in the nutrition of pregnant and breastfeeding women].

Pregnant and breastfeeding women who eat vegetarian are a source of much controversy. This is the result of concern that eliminating some or all animal produce may lead to nutritional deficiencies and thus adversely affect the mother’s and child’s health. The American Dietetic Association’s position is that appropriately planned vegan, lacto-vegetarian and lacto-ovo-vegetarian diets ensure a normal course of pregnancy and lactation. However, in practice the balancing of such a diet can pose certain difficulties, especially for individuals without the necessary experience or knowledge about nutrition. Nutrients to which particular attention needs to be paid to ensure their sufficient supply include: protein (essential amino acids), Omega-3 essential fatty acids, iron and calcium as well as vitamins D and B12. The proper adherence to recommendations can be attained with a varied diet containing suitable plant products compensating for the nutritional value of the eliminated animal products. Supplementation with vitamin D and vitamin B12 is also necessary. Research shows that infants born to vegetarian mothers are born at term and have normal birth weight. There is an increased risk of hypospadias in boys. The main difference in the composition of vegetarian mothers’ milk compared to non-vegetarians’ is lower content of docosahexaenoic acid and higher content of Linoleic and α-Linolenic acid.

Nutrition advice for pregnant and breastfeeding vegetarian moms #healthybabies #vegetarian… Click To Tweet

Supplements and Nutrients

Dietary supplements and disease prevention – a global overview.

Dietary supplements are widely used and offer the potential to improve health if appropriately targeted to those in need. Inadequate nutrition and micronutrient deficiencies are prevalent conditions that adversely affect global health. Although improvements in diet quality are essential to address these issues, dietary supplements and/or food fortification could help meet requirements for individuals at risk of deficiencies. For example, supplementation with vitamin A and iron in developing countries, where women of reproductive age, infants and children often have deficiencies; with folic acid among women of reproductive age and during pregnancy; with vitamin D among infants and children; and with calcium and vitamin D to ensure bone health among adults aged ≥65 years. Intense debate surrounds the benefits of individual high-dose micronutrient supplementation among well-nourished individuals because the alleged beneficial effects on chronic diseases are not consistently supported. Daily low-dose multivitamin supplementation has been linked to reductions in the incidence of cancer and cataracts, especially among men. Baseline nutrition is an important consideration in supplementation that is likely to modify its effects. Here, we provide a detailed summary of dietary supplements and health outcomes in both developing and developed countries to help guide decisions about dietary supplement recommendations.

NOTE FROM LEESA:  This abstract is very much along the lines of a guest blog post I wrote that was published a couple of days ago.  You can read it (it’s in English, not “science-ish”) here:

Yes We DO Have Nutrient Deficiencies!  Here’s the proof and what you can do about it.

Supplements and disease prevention #nutrient #deficiency #supplement #nutrition #health Click To Tweet

Nutritional immunology: function of natural killer cells and their modulation by resveratrol for cancer prevention and treatment.

Natural killer (NK) cells as part of the innate immune system represent the first line of defence against (virus-) infected and malignantly transformed cells. The emerging field of nutritional immunology focuses on compounds featuring immune-modulating activities in particular on NK cells, which e.g. can be exploited for cancer prevention and treatment. The plant-based nutrition resveratrol is a ternary hydroxylated stilbene, which is present in many foods and beverages, respectively. In humans it comprises a large variety of distinct biological activities. Interestingly, resveratrol strongly modulates the immune response including the activity of NK cells. This review will give an overview on NK cell functions and summarize the resveratrol-mediated modulation thereof.

Natural Killer Cells - Immunity - Resveratrol

Resveratrol can affect immune cells #resveratrol #phytochemical #nutrition #immune #cancer Click To Tweet

Excessive folic acid intake and relation to adverse health outcome.


  • This review article which was written in response to the 2015 guidelines from the World Health Organization that: “high folic acid intake has not reliably been shown to be associated with negative health effects”.
  • It describes peer reviewed publication showing that excessive folic acid intake is not always safe.
  • In particular excessive intake of folic acid could have adverse health outcome in the elderly with vitamin B12 deficiency, particularly with respect to cognitive function and anemia.
  • Other studies show diverse adverse effects, including lower natural killer cell activity in elderly women, increase in insulin resistance in offspring of mothers from India with high folic acid intake and increase in incident of breast cancer and other cancers in women with polymorphism of the dihydrofolate gene (19bp deletion).

The recent increase in the intake of folic acid by the general public through fortified foods and supplements, has raised safety concern based on early reports of adverse health outcome in elderly with low B12 status who took high doses of folic acid. These safety concerns are contrary to the 2015 WHO statement that “high folic acid intake has not reliably been shown to be associated with negative health effects”. In the folic acid post-fortification era, we have shown that in elderly participants in NHANES 1999-2002, high plasma folate level is associated with exacerbation of both clinical (anemia and cognitive impairment) and biochemical (high MMA and high Hcy plasma levels) signs of vitamin B12 deficiency. Adverse clinical outcomes in association with high folate intake were also seen among elderly with low plasma B12 levels from the Framingham Original Cohort and in a study from Australia which combined three elderly cohorts. Relation between high folate and adverse biochemical outcomes were also seen in the Sacramento Area Latino Study on Aging (High Hcy, high MMA and lower TC2) and at an outpatient clinic at Yale University where high folate is associated with higher MMA in the elderly but not in the young. Potential detrimental effects of high folic acid intake may not be limited to the elderly nor to those with B12 deficiency. A study from India linked maternal high RBC folate to increased insulin resistance in offspring. Our study suggested that excessive folic acid intake is associated with lower natural killer cells activity in elderly women. In a recent study we found that the risk for unilateral retinoblastoma in offspring is 4 fold higher in women that are homozygotes for the 19 bp deletion in the DHFR gene and took folic acid supplement during pregnancy. In the elderly this polymorphism is associated with lower memory and executive scores, both being significantly worse in those with high plasma folate. These and other data strongly imply that excessive intake of folic acid is not always safe in certain populations of different age and ethnical/genetic background.

Too much folic acid may not be a good thing #folicacid #supplement #moreisnotalwaysbetter Click To Tweet

Vitamin supplementation for preventing miscarriage.

What is the issue?

Miscarriage occurs frequently among pregnant women but it is often difficult to know the factors responsible. Poor diet, without enough vitamins, has been associated with an increased risk of women losing their baby in early pregnancy. Does vitamin supplementation taken by women before pregnancy and during pregnancy decrease the risk of spontaneous miscarriage? Does supplementation improve maternal, birth and infant outcomes, and are there any side effects?

Why is this important?

Vitamin supplementation is commonly recommended for pregnant women and women planning to conceive. Considering the widespread use of vitamin supplementation before and during pregnancy, it is important to study the relation between vitamin supplementation and early pregnancy outcomes, particularly since the causes of miscarriage are unknown and the nutritional status of a mother can affect her baby’s development.

What evidence did we find?

This review included 40 randomised controlled trials involving 276,820 women and 278,413 pregnancies. Supplementing women with any vitamins does not reduce the number of women who have miscarriages. However, the risk for stillbirth was reduced among women receiving multivitamins plus iron and folic acid compared with iron and folate only groups. Although total fetal loss was lower in women who were given multivitamins without folic acid and multivitamins with or without vitamin A, these findings included one trial each with small numbers of women involved. Also, they include studies where the comparison groups included women receiving either vitamin A or placebo, and thus require caution in interpretation.

What does this mean?

Taking vitamin supplements before pregnancy or in early pregnancy may be beneficial; but this review did not show sufficient evidence that taking vitamin supplements prevents miscarriage.

Vitamin supplementation and miscarriage #multivitamin #iron #folicacid #miscarriage #stillbirth Click To Tweet


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Diseases/Conditions and Prevention/Treatments

Recent progress in genetics, epigenetics and metagenomics unveils the pathophysiology of human obesity.

In high-, middle- and low-income countries, the rising prevalence of obesity is the underlying cause of numerous health complications and increased mortality. Being a complex and heritable disorder, obesity results from the interplay between genetic susceptibility, epigenetics, metagenomics and the environment. Attempts at understanding the genetic basis of obesity have identified numerous genes associated with syndromic monogenic, non-syndromic monogenic, oligogenic and polygenic obesity. The genetics of leanness are also considered relevant as it mirrors some of obesity’s aetiologies. In this report, we summarize ten genetically elucidated obesity syndromes, some of which are involved in ciliary functioning. We comprehensively review 11 monogenic obesity genes identified to date and their role in energy maintenance as part of the leptin-melanocortin pathway. With the emergence of genome-wide association studies over the last decade, 227 genetic variants involved in different biological pathways (central nervous system, food sensing and digestion, adipocyte differentiation, insulin signalling, lipid metabolism, muscle and liver biology, gut microbiota) have been associated with polygenic obesity. Advances in obligatory and facilitated epigenetic variation, and gene-environment interaction studies have partly accounted for the missing heritability of obesity and provided additional insight into its aetiology. The role of gut microbiota in obesity pathophysiology, as well as the 12 genes associated with lipodystrophies is discussed. Furthermore, in an attempt to improve future studies and merge the gap between research and clinical practice, we provide suggestions on how high-throughput ‘-omic’ data can be integrated in order to get closer to the new age of personalized medicine.

Obesity - the role of gut microbiota and genetics #obesity #gutmicrobes #gutbacteria #genetics… Click To Tweet

Challenges in the Management of Geriatric Obesity in High Risk Populations.

The global prevalence of obesity in the older adult population is growing, an increasing concern in both the developed and developing countries of the world. The study of geriatric obesity and its management is a relatively new area of research, especially pertaining to those with elevated health risks. This review characterizes the state of science for this “fat and frail” population and identifies the many gaps in knowledge where future study is urgently needed. In community dwelling older adults, opportunities to improve both body weight and nutritional status are hampered by inadequate programs to identify and treat obesity, but where support programs exist, there are proven benefits. Nutritional status of the hospitalized older adult should be optimized to overcome the stressors of chronic disease, acute illness, and/or surgery. The least restrictive diets tailored to individual preferences while meeting each patient’s nutritional needs will facilitate the energy required for mobility, respiratory sufficiency, immunocompetence, and wound healing. Complications of care due to obesity in the nursing home setting, especially in those with advanced physical and mental disabilities, are becoming more ubiquitous; in almost all of these situations, weight stability is advocated, as some evidence links weight loss with increased mortality. High quality interdisciplinary studies in a variety of settings are needed to identify standards of care and effective treatments for the most vulnerable obese older adults.

Geriatric obesity - a growing problem - #moreresearchneeded #geriatric #elderly #obesity Click To Tweet

Obesogenic behaviours and depressive symptoms in children: a narrative literature review.

This review examines peer-reviewed, published articles exploring the role of obesogenic behaviours, including physical activity, screen time, and diet, and depressive symptoms, in 6- to 12-year-old children. Searches were conducted March-May 2014 and in August 2015 using PubMed, PsychInfo, and Embase. Eligible studies published between January 1990-August 2015 included 8- to 12-year-old children, any of the three previously identified obesogenic behaviours, and a measure of depressive symptoms. The search yielded 415 articles that were screened and assessed for eligibility; 21 were retained. Some studies included depression and a single obesogenic behaviour, while others included multiple obesogenic behaviours. Fifteen studies assessed physical activity, twelve assessed screen time, and five assessed dietary intake. Lower physical activity was associated with higher depression in 80% of studies. Higher screen time was associated with higher depression in all studies. Poor dietary intake was associated with higher depression in 60% of studies. Significant associations were found between depression and all three obesogenic behaviours. Stronger associations were found between depression and physical activity and screen time than between depression and dietary intake. This review broadens the understanding of the relationship between obesogenic behaviours and depression, and shows outcome consistency despite the lack of a consistent measurement technique

Childhood depression associated with more screen time and decreased exercise #child #children… Click To Tweet

Soy-based renoprotection.

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a significant public health problem as risk factors such as advanced age, obesity, hypertension and diabetes rise in the global population. Currently there are no effective pharmacologic treatments for this disease. The role of diet is important for slowing the progression of CKD and managing symptoms in later stages of renal insufficiency. While low protein diets are generally recommended, maintaining adequate levels of intake is critical for health. There is an increasing appreciation that the source of protein may also be important. Soybean protein has been the most extensively studied plant-based protein in subjects with kidney disease and has demonstrated renal protective properties in a number of clinical studies. Soy protein consumption has been shown to slow the decline in estimated glomerular filtration rate and significantly improve proteinuria in diabetic and non-diabetic patients with nephropathy. Soy’s beneficial effects on renal function may also result from its impact on certain physiological risk factors for CKD such as dyslipidemia, hypertension and hyperglycemia. Soy intake is also associated with improvements in antioxidant status and systemic inflammation in early and late stage CKD patients. Studies conducted in animal models have helped to identify the underlying molecular mechanisms that may play a role in the positive effects of soy protein on renal parameters in polycystic kidney disease, metabolically-induced kidney dysfunction and age-associated progressive nephropathy. Despite the established relationship between soy and renoprotection, further studies are needed for a clear understanding of the role of the cellular and molecular target(s) of soy protein in maintaining renal function.

Soy for your kidneys #soy #protein #kidney #kidneydisease #renal #CKD #nephropathy Click To Tweet

A Comparative Study on Cancer Prevention Principles Between Iranian Traditional Medicine and Classic Medicine.

Cancer is one of the three main causes of mortality in most human communities whose prevalence is being increased. A significant part of health budget in all countries has been allocated to treat the cancer, which is incurable in many cases. It has led the global health attitude to cancer prevention. Many cancer-related risk factors have been identified for which preventive recommendations have been offered by international organizations such as World Health Organization. Some of the most important of these risk factors are smoking and alcohol consumption, hypercaloric and low-fiber diet, obesity, inactivity, environmental and industrial pollution, some viral infections, and hereditary factors. Exact reviewing of Iranian-Islamic traditional medicine (IITM) resources determines that preventive rules, which named as six essential rules (Sitteh-e-Zarurieah) are abundantly found, including all identified cancer-related risk factors. These preventive rules are: Air (Hava), body movement and repose, sleep and wakefulness, food and drink, evacuation and retention, and mental movement and repose (A’raz-e-Nafsani). The associated risk factors in classic medicine are: Smoking and air pollution, sedentary life, sleep disturbance, improper nutrition and alcohol, chronic constipation, and psychoneurotic stresses. Moreover, these rules are comprehensive enough to include many of the other harmful health-related factors whose roles have been confirmed in the occurrence of different diseases, except cancer. Apparently, cancer prevention in Iran would be more successful if the sextet necessary rules of IITM are promoted among the populations and health policy makers.

Cancer prevention via traditional medicine #cancer #preventcancer #traditionalmedicine Click To Tweet


Anatomy & Physiology

Adipose Tissue Remodeling: Its Role in Energy Metabolism and Metabolic Disorders.

The adipose tissue is a central metabolic organ in the regulation of whole-body energy homeostasis. The white adipose tissue functions as a key energy reservoir for other organs, whereas the brown adipose tissue accumulates lipids for cold-induced adaptive thermogenesis. Adipose tissues secrete various hormones, cytokines, and metabolites (termed as adipokines) that control systemic energy balance by regulating appetitive signals from the central nerve system as well as metabolic activity in peripheral tissues. In response to changes in the nutritional status, the adipose tissue undergoes dynamic remodeling, including quantitative and qualitative alterations in adipose tissue-resident cells. A growing body of evidence indicates that adipose tissue remodeling in obesity is closely associated with adipose tissue function. Changes in the number and size of the adipocytes affect the microenvironment of expanded fat tissues, accompanied by alterations in adipokine secretion, adipocyte death, local hypoxia, and fatty acid fluxes. Concurrently, stromal vascular cells in the adipose tissue, including immune cells, are involved in numerous adaptive processes, such as dead adipocyte clearance, adipogenesis, and angiogenesis, all of which are dysregulated in obese adipose tissue remodeling. Chronic overnutrition triggers uncontrolled inflammatory responses, leading to systemic low-grade inflammation and metabolic disorders, such as insulin resistance. This review will discuss current mechanistic understandings of adipose tissue remodeling processes in adaptive energy homeostasis and pathological remodeling of adipose tissue in connection with immune response.

Adipose Tissue Image

Eating too much can trigger inflammation and metabolic disorders #inflammation… Click To Tweet

Inflammation Meets Metabolic Disease: Gut Feeling Mediated by GLP-1.

Chronic diseases, such as obesity and diabetes, cardiovascular, and inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) share common features in their pathology. Metabolic disorders exhibit strong inflammatory underpinnings and vice versa, inflammation is associated with metabolic alterations. Next to cytokines and cellular stress pathways, such as the unfolded protein response (UPR), alterations in the enteroendocrine system are intersections of various pathologies. Enteroendocrine cells (EEC) have been studied extensively for their ability to regulate gastrointestinal motility, secretion, and insulin release by release of peptide hormones. In particular, the L-cell-derived incretin hormone glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) has gained enormous attention due to its insulinotropic action and relevance in the treatment of type 2 diabetes (T2D). Yet, accumulating data indicate a critical role for EEC and in particular for GLP-1 in metabolic adaptation and in orchestrating immune responses beyond blood glucose control. EEC sense the lamina propria and luminal environment, including the microbiota via receptors and transporters. Subsequently, mediating signals by secreting hormones and cytokines, EEC can be considered as integrators of metabolic and inflammatory signaling. This review focuses on L cell and GLP-1 functions in the context of metabolic and inflammatory diseases. The effects of incretin-based therapies on metabolism and immune system are discussed and the interrelation and common features of metabolic and immune-mediated disorders are highlighted. Moreover, it presents data on the impact of inflammation, in particular of IBD on EEC and discusses the potential role of the microbiota as link between nutrients, metabolism, immunity, and disease.

Intestine as crossroad of metabolism and inflammation

Microbiota link between nutrients, metabolism, immunity and chronic inflammation #gutmicrobiota… Click To Tweet

Chemicals, Nutrition, and Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Mini-Review.

The rapid increase of the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) suggests that exposure to chemicals may impact the development of ASD. Therefore, we reviewed literature on the following chemicals, nutrient to investigate their association with ASD: (1) smoke/tobacco, (2) alcohol, (3) air pollution, (4) pesticides, (5) endocrine-disrupting chemicals, (6) heavy metals, (7) micronutrients, (8) fatty acid, and (9) parental obesity as a proxy of accumulation of specific chemicals or nutritional status. Several chemical exposures such as air pollution (e.g., particular matter 2.5), pesticides, bisphenol A, phthalates, mercury, and nutrition deficiency such as folic acid, vitamin D, or fatty acid may possibly be associated with an increased risk of ASD, whereas other traditional risk factors such as smoking/tobacco, alcohol, or polychlorinated biphenyls are less likely to be associated with ASD. Further research is needed to accumulate evidence on the association between chemical exposure and nutrient deficiencies and ASD in various doses and populations.

Chemicals and deficiencies possibly associated with autism? #autism #pesticides #BPA #mercury… Click To Tweet

Impact of early gut microbiota on immune and metabolic development and function.

Microbial colonization of the infant intestine occurs in the first two years of life. Symbiotic host and microbe interactions are critical for host metabolic and immune development. Emerging evidence indicates that early microbiota colonization may influence the occurrence of metabolic and immune diseases. Further understanding of the importance of environmental factors, including fetal microbial exposure, diet, delivery mode, pre- and probiotic consumption, and antibiotic use on immune and metabolic programming will provide new opportunities for the development of therapeutic and prophylactic measures to improve infant health and reduce the risk of disease in post-infancy years.

Infant gut microbiota in health #infant #gutmicrobiota #metabolicdisease #immunedisease Click To Tweet


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Inclusion Criteria for This Week in Science for Holistic Health posts:

  • Studies must be published in a peer-reviewed medical journal or highly credible website (e.g. within the last few weeks,
  • Articles must be relevant to a holistic approach to health (specifically nutrition & lifestyle factors),
  • Studies were done on people unless noted otherwise (animal and tissue studies have unknown relevance to people),
  • I also include new science-based books that look interesting (’cause I LOVE reading!).
  • None of the above applies if it’s a response to something in the media. 😉
  • P.S. – The titles are hyperlinked to the actual studies, so feel free to “geek out”. 🙂

Enjoy! 🙂

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What Leesa is reading now:

I love the site, it’s definitely one of my “go-to’s” when it comes to nutrition and health information
How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease by Michael Greger, MD
Part 1 includes chapters for “How not to die from:” heart/lung/brain, etc. diseases with almost 3,000 scientific references; Part 2 has Dr. Greger’s favourite recipes, kitchen gadgets, brands, etc.. I’m looking forward to reading this!

Watch the trailer here:

Buy the book here:

(affiliate link image above)

Leesa Klich is a science-based holistic nutritionist living at the intersection of science and holistic health (it’s really, really interesting here!) 🙂 At NutritionInteractions she helps holistic-minded people taking medications maximize the benefits of good nutrition. She also helps holistic health professionals find and understand science-based health information. She has a MSc in Toxicology and Nutrition, over a decade experience in drug/supplement safety, and is also a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. For a list of free health resources, click here.

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(1) Compound Interest – Rough Guide to Types of Scientific Evidence



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