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Links: Show notes page (incl. study links & related episodes) Subscribe to Sigma Nutrition Premium Live event in London, UK About this episode: Over the past decade, the increasing uptake and acceptance of the Nova food processing classification system has placed focus on one of the categories in Nova; ultra-processed foods (UPFs). Ultra-processed foods (UPFs) are products created from deconstructed (and recombined) food components, usually with the goal of creating a highly palatable, convenient, and profitable product. This typically means such products are high in nutrients of content (e.g. sugar, sodium, saturated fat, etc.). But in addition, they have other characteristics that may make them detrimental to health, particularly when they replace unprocessed or minimally processed foods in the diet. There is now clear evidence showing that when such products make up a large proportion of the diet, such a dietary pattern has negative health effects. However, there are still many unanswered questions and many debates within nutrition science about how to best classify UPFs, to what degree they need to be limited, whether some can be beneficial, and what to do with policy going forward. To offer one perspective on this issue, Associate Professor of Food Politics and Policy at the University of Melbourne, Dr. Gyorgy Scrinis, is on the podcast to discuss his work in the area. While we have discussed the problem of reductionism in nutrition science previously on the podcast, Dr. Scrinis’ use of the term ‘reductionism’ does differ a bit from the way others use the term. For example, he suggests that nutrition science has been too reductive even at the food-level and dietary-pattern level. His work on ultra-processed foods and the Nova classification system has attempted to understand the technological and corporate character of ultra-processed foods, the power of food corporations, and how food corporations shape and capture nutrition science for the purposes of promoting and defending their products.
Research has shown that food marketing strongly impacts children’s eating behaviour. Marketing influences food purchase requests, purchases, and preferences. And the evidence of a relationship between food marketing exposure and obesity meets epidemiological criteria for causality. The evidence suggests that the impact of food marketing is a function of both exposure to the marketing message and its persuasive power. What does the current evidence tell us about the exact effect of marketing on food choices? And beyond that, what strategies are likely to yield the best results in terms of mitigating the harms of food marketing on eating behaviour, particularly in children and adolescents? To help answer these questions, subject area expert Prof. Emma Boyland is on the podcast to discuss what is currently known. Links:  Episode page, resources & links Subscribe to Premium
Never before has there been greater access to information about nutrition and health. But never before has there been such a low barrier to being seen as an “expert”. There are large numbers of people getting information from, and basing their health decisions on, people who don’t have direct expertise in the field in which they are talking about. Moreover, some promote the lack of domain expertise as a feature, not a bug. They claim that those that were conventionally seen as domain experts are either brainwashed, lazy in their thinking, or outright corrupt. And the solution is instead to look to those with a fresh perspective that can illuminate us on the “truth”. In this episode, Alan and Danny discuss this “death of domain expertise”, how it plays out online, and its ramifications for people’s ability to get good information. This is a Premium-exclusive episode. To listen to the full episode and access the transcript, you must subscribe to Sigma Nutrition Premium. Links:  Episode page Subscribe to Premium
Obesity increases the risk of a range of chronic diseases and negative health outcomes. And trials where a sufficient amount of weight loss is achieved show health improvements. However, despite the “straightforward” nature of causing weight loss through a hypocaloric diet, it is clear that most people who lose weight will regain some or all of the weight. This is a result of both the physiologic control of intake and expenditure (i.e. homeostatic regulation by the body to avoid staying at a lower body or fat mass), and environmental factors. Diet-induced weight loss is followed by a number of hormonal change that encourage weight regain. So how do we tackle this problem? In this episode, Dr. Priya Sumithran discusses this physiologic control of body mass, in addition to environmental and behavioural factors that make weight loss maintenance difficult. Dr. Sumithran also discusses what this means for setting weight loss targets, choosing the correct intervention, and looking to non-weight-centric approaches for certain individuals. We also discuss the evidence on GLP-1 receptor agonist drugs, such as Semaglutide, as a treatment for obesity. Links: Episode page Subscribe to Premium Sigma live event - Berlin Sigma recommended resources
The endocrine system plays a central role in growth, development, metabolism, reproduction, and physical well-being throughout life. Hormones interact in complex networks, orchestrating a range of critical functions. Over the life course, we experience various changes in hormone levels, fluctuations, patterns, and actions. Additionally, lifestyle factors and disease processes can impact the levels and functions of hormones. In this episode, Dr. Nicky Keay, a medical doctor with expertise in the field of exercise endocrinology, is on the podcast to discuss a variety of endocrine-related issues, including: hormone diurnal variation, bone health, amenorrhoea, HRT, perimenopause, and thinking about hormones and aging. Links: Episode page Subscribe to Premium Sigma live event in Berlin Sigma recommended resources
Stable isotopes have been used as tracers in human nutritional studies for many years. But what are they? Why do we use ‘tracers’ in nutrition studies? And what are some practical examples? A chemical element can have different forms or ‘isotopes.’ These different isotopes have the same atomic number and position in the periodic table but have different atomic masses and physical properties. An isotope that is not radioactive is said to be ‘stable’. In physiology and metabolism research, stable isotopes are used as ‘tracers.’ As the name implies, it allows us to ‘trace’ the fate of compounds, thus giving a very detailed insight into the metabolism of nutrients and the regulation of many disease processes. In this episode, Dr. Alan Flanagan explains what stable isotope tracers are, how they are used to answer nutrition science questions and some examples that you may come across. This is a ‘Nutrition Science Explained’ episode. These episodes are exclusive to Sigma Nutrition Premium. To listen to the full episode and access the transcript, you must subscribe to Sigma Nutrition Premium.  
Given the negative consequences of consistent overconsumption of food (leading to a caloric surplus), having a dietary intake that is of appropriate calorie intake is an important aspect of long-term health. Therefore, thinking about which foods and diets can help promote appropriate satiety to keep calorie intake in check is a key focus for many researchers and practitioners. There is a complex system of human appetite control. This appetite system influences food consumption and associated motivational drives such as hunger, as well as interacting with and being influenced by energy expenditure. Satiety is an important psycho-biological process involved in the expression of human appetite, inhibiting hunger and intake following food or beverage consumption. In this episode, the Sigma team discusses the human appetite system, how different nutrients and foods impact satiety, and the implications of this research. Links: Subscribe to Premium Show notes for this episode Live event in Berlin, Germany Sigma Recommended Resources
Hypertension (elevated blood pressure) is a condition that significantly increases the risk of several diseases and is a major cause of premature death worldwide. In the US, recent estimates suggest that about half of the adult population has hypertension. At a population level, high sodium intake is one of the main dietary risk factors. All population health guidelines recommend keeping sodium intake below certain levels. While, on average, blood pressure correlates with sodium intake, there is a wide range of responses on an individual level. People who see increasing sodium intake lead to increased blood pressure are termed “salt sensitive”. Others, however, don’t see much change in blood pressure with increased dietary sodium. Such individuals are classed as “salt resistant”. In this episode, Assistant Professor at Auburn University, Dr. Austin Robinson, is on to discuss whether people who are salt resistant need to keep their sodium intake low or not. And other individual and group differences that exist for hypertension risk and sodium physiology? Links: Subscribe to Premium Episode overview Live event in Berlin Recommended Resources
Exercise improves metabolic control both via increasing muscle glucose uptake during muscle contractions by insulin-independent mechanisms and by increasing skeletal muscle insulin sensitivity after physical activity. A reduction in skeletal muscle insulin sensitivity is an early event in the development of not only prediabetes, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes but is also associated with other conditions such as cardiovascular disease and some cancers. One of the researchers that has been at the forefront of research in this area for many years is Professor Glenn McConell. In this episode we discuss glucose uptake during and after exercise, looking at both insulin-dependent and insulin-independent mechanisms. In addition we discuss the crucial importance of muscle insulin sensitivity and some important research breakthroughs on the topic. Links: Subscribe to Premium Episode show notes Live event: Berlin
The term ‘tactical populations’ has been applied to those working in law enforcement, fire, first responders, and military. In addition to the importance of their work, the work they do itself presents some challenges for health and nutrition. Despite the fact that such individuals make up a significant number of the population and their work plays a crucial role in society, there is currently very little research on fire and law enforcement nutrition. Most research is on the prevalence of disease and the occupational risk factors and related pathophysiology. Lifestyle research, descriptive and interventions, is way behind. Dr. Jill Joyce is the co-director of the OSU Tactical Fitness and Nutrition Lab at Oklahoma State University. She does research looking at real-world interventions in these populations, particularly firefighters, in an attempt to improve their diets and health. In this episode, we look at both the theoretical and pragmatic realities of improving diet and health in firefighters and some other tactical populations. Links: Subscribe to Premium Access show notes Live event in Berlin
In this Premium-exclusive ‘Ask Me Anything’ episode, Alan & Danny answer a range of listener questions. Topics include obesity rates, lowering blood pressure, cholesterol drugs, PCOS, and what issues they have changed their minds on. See the full list of questions below. [02.37] Do you feel that there is hope (or an effective way forward) for obesity rates to come down? Based on your response, why/why not? [11.28] In this field, it seems like so many of us have had positions we’ve held very seriously that we now see as poorly supported by research, or just have a significant paradigm change. It would be great to hear you look back to how your views have evolved over the years. [30.34] Apart from lowering salt intake and eating foods high in potassium are there other things you can take or do to reduce blood pressure? [40.34] What is the best ratio of DHA vs EPA to increase my Omega 3 index? [46.20] Statins v Ezetimibe: Differences between the two? Mechanism of action? Are there situations, conditions, genetic markers where one may work better than the other? [56.20] I’m starting a PhD in the fall concerning the pathophysiology of metabolic diseases and I’d like to take some courses that would help me in my research. Would you have any recommendations for a beginner scientist? [59.01] Is astaxanthin a good substitute for algae oil for someone who follows a vegan diet? [60.45] Do you have any suggestions how to better manage hunger in obese women with PCOS? [64.33] Do you have any recommendations for anyone wanting to get involved in chrononutrition research? Links: Subscribe to Premium Live Event: Berlin, Germany on November 26th 2022 Episode transcript Resources mentioned in this episode
When it comes to eating to promote muscle hypertrophy, muscle repair/recovery and maintenance of mass and function, protein has been an obvious focus. Indeed muscle mass and quality are dependent on the continuous remodeling of skeletal muscle proteins. This is related to the amount of muscle protein balance, i.e. the net difference between muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and muscle protein breakdown (MPB). Because of this, MPS has long been used as a proxy measure for muscle repair and/or growth of muscle. Protein feeding increases MPS, with the amino acid leucine having a specifically strong impact on MPS. Therefore both the dose of protein and the amino acid profile of the protein have been looked at to assess which protein sources are “superior” for muscle mass and function. This has typically led to viewing animal proteins as better than plant proteins. But many assumptions are layered into conversations on the topic. In this episode we explore some important points that are often neglected. Is MPS as reliable as we assume? Does the amino acid profile tell us everything about the anabolic effect of a protein? Does dose and timing matter as much as we think? How does the picture change when we look at whole foods or mixed meals? Link: Subscribe to Premium Go to show notes Live Event: Berlin, Germany MASS Research Review Muscle & Strength Pyramids: Training & Nutrition Books
The brain plays a central role in both physical and psychological function and performance. The brain also has a very high energy demand. In addition, fatiguing conditions can cause impairment of cognitive performance. One area of research in neurometabolism related to the potential use of nutrients on improving cognitive function, as well as “rescuing” the fatigue-related declines in performance. Nick Gant is Director of the Exercise Neurometabolism Laboratory at the University of Auckland. His group uses interdisciplinary approaches from the nutritional sciences and neurosciences to investigate the role of nutrition in brain health and performance. Nick is particularly interested in foods and supplements that prevent brain fatigue and improve physical and cognitive function. Subscribe to PREMIUM
This episode was oringally published as one of our “Expert – ask me anything” (AMA) episodes, which we published for Premium prescribers. In such bonus episodes, we collect questions from Premium subscribers and ask them direct to a world-class expert and past podcast guest. If you’re interested in subscribing to Sigma Nutrition Premium, then check all the details here. In this episode Prof. Stu Phillips takes questions about synethized whey protein, plant proteins, post-exercise MPS, and many other topics related to protein, muscle function and ageing.
It has been consistently shown in research that elevated dietary sodium consumption is associated with high blood pressure and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition, low levels of dietary potassium intake are associated with these same risks. However, there is some debate on how to characterize these relationships. In a study published in European Heart Journal in July 2022, using data from the EPIC-Norfolk study, researchers attempted to answer whether the associations between potassium and both blood pressure and cardiovascular disease: 1) differ between men and women? and 2) depend on daily sodium intake. In this episode Dr. Alan Flanagan and Danny Lennon discuss the details of this study and then link it to the overall evidence base and what this may mean for potassium (and sodium) intake considerations. Access show notes Subscribe to Premium
With the advances in understanding the importance of the gut (including its bacterial contents) for human health, much interest and attention has been placed on how to eat to promote positive ‘gut health’. This has led to many exciting research questions and labs doing fascinating work. However, on the opposite side, it has led to a spike in opportunistic quacks to jump on the wave of enthusiasm and promote diets, supplements, testing kits and products that don’t reflect the current evidence base. So what do we actually know? What aspects of diet should we focus on to improve gut health? For those with gut symptoms (bloating, pain, irritable bowel, etc.) is it possible to include more vegetables and fiber without the pain? In this episode, gut health researcher at King’s College London, Dr. Megan Rossi, discusses some simple heuristics to follow that will likely improve overall health, and promote positive gut health. Access show notes here   Subscribe to Premium
A study published in March 2022 suggested that consumption of artificial (non-nutritive) sweeteners is associated with a 13% increase in risk of cancer. And so in this episode, Dr. Alan Flanagan, Dr. Niamh Aspell, and Danny Lennon discuss this specific study and give their thoughts on what are fair conclusions to come to. Access show notes here Subscribe to Premium here
While we’ve never known more about diet and health, there remain many unanswered questions in nutrition science. However, there is often disagreements on how best to answer these questions, particularly in relation to informing practical diet advise that meaningfully improves health. Prof. Norman Temple is one academic who has written on a number of these issues. One issue he highlights is the large discrepency in the practical value we have attained from cohort studies and RCTs, relative to mechanistic research. Another is the limitations of RCTs for nutrition-specific research questions. In this episode, Prof. Temple discusses these issues, as well as what strategies can actually improve population diet, and thus health. Access show notes here Subscribe to Premium here
A recent study reported a higher risk of developing melanoma in people who ate a relatively high intake of fish. This study caused headlines and it was picked up by many outlets (including the New York Times, Sky News, etc.). In this episode, Alan and Danny dig into the nuances of this study to see if the headlines are justified. Click here for show notes Click here for Premium
This is an “ask me anything” (AMA) episode, which means a world-class expert and past podcast guest comes on the podcast to answer questions submitted by you, our podcast listeners. Stephan Guyenet spent 12 years in academia studying neurodegenerative disease and obesity neuroscience. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Univeristy of Washington, studying the neuroscience of obesity and eating behavior. Previous to that he completed a PhD in neuroscience. Stephan is the author of the popular and well-received book ‘The Hungry Brain‘, which lays out the science behind the brain’s role in obesity. To subscribe to Premium (and get the full episode) go here. Questions Answered In Full Episode “When someone undergoes liposuction or other surgery that removes adipose tissue, is there a sudden reduction in leptin levels? While this may reduce leptin resistance, could the drop in leptin lead to increased hunger over time?” “What is the current research around how chronic energy restriction (or following crash diets) affects appetite hormones and/ or appetite regulation long term? Is there a physiological mechanism influencing overeating attributable to appetite dysregulation caused by chronic dieting? I ask as this is something I am often tackling in my nutrition consultancy but research in biochemical and physiological mechanisms seems lacking.” “Can you talk about the conditions of anorexia and morbid obesity and how they essentially defy the rules of metabolic compensation? In other words- I understand anorexia to be a mental health condition where the individual starves themselves with a purpose to control weight. And morbid obesity being excessive consumption despite over fatness, etc. If the body has these numerous mechanisms by which calorie restriction or calorie over- consumption results in these compensatory processes-driving us to eat more/less slow us down/speed us up, and many more; do these individuals not “hear” these signals or are they just adept at ignoring them or is it that their bodies have lost the ability to compensate for their under or over consumption? Additionally, can anyone become anorexic or morbidly obese? Or is it merely genetics?” “Why do some SDRIs (serotonin–dopamine reuptake inhibitors) and serotonin precursors reduce hunger/appetite? E.g. 5-HTP and Wellbutrin (Bupropion)” “Question about the ideal weight program: As an iOS developer, my instinct is to assume determinism and quantifiability of the entire universe. I believe this to be fundamentally true. But what is hypothetically possible differs from what we can realistically know. I worry that attempts like yours to quantify some seemingly qualitative measures are doomed. I have similar concerns about happiness research. How do you reassure yourself you can really construct an algorithm that deciphers the “ideal weight program” for any given user – do you rely on averages?” a. Quick explanation of the ideal weight program “In 2018 a poster was presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience titled ‘The human brain microbiome; there are bacteria in our brains!’ which showed bacteria apparently penetrating and inhabiting the cells of healthy human brains. While the work was preliminary, have you heard of any further work in this area? What is your opinion on the possibility that, if bacteria do inhabit the brain, they could play a part in appetite regulation and/or obesity similar to how the gut microbiome can affect our health?” “It seems like there are significant differences in policies put forth between researchers from biomedical backgrounds and ones from public health policy backgrounds. Dr [David] Allison touched on this during recent interviews, noting that there is very little evidence regarding the efficacy of upstream obesity prevention interventions, such community gardens, combatting food deserts, nutrition education, and cooking classes. On the other hand, governments are increasingly turning to such interventions, as well as policies such as front of pack labelling (Canada, 2022), nutrition facts tables, calorie labelling on menus, as well as the aforementioned ones. Given your research on determinants of health and obesity, what are some of the most promising interventions to prevent NCD morbidity, as well as stones unturned in public health policy? Would you agree with individuals such as Dr Allison that in our current environment, the only efficacious interventions are drugs and bariatric surgery?” Question based on your debate on JRE with Gary Taubes: “Would the insulinogenic effect of protein, specifically something like whey protein which causes an insulin response, be something that should automatically refute Taubes arguments about insulins inherent role in increasing adiposity? Second, would overeating on any macronutrient increase insulin simply because you are eating more food (i.e. hypercaloric)?” “Are there best practices for the maximum duration someone should spend in fat loss (or weight gain) phases? Or perhaps an optimal ratio of fat loss phase duration to “maintenance” phase duration? For example, should fat loss phases be for a maximum of 12 weeks followed by maintenance of at least equal duration before resuming a fat loss phase? “I’m a naturally skinny guy who helps other naturally skinny guys bulk up. I think it largely comes down to a blunted pleasure response to food, smaller stomachs, and/or higher NEAT. A lot of us seem to be taller and more thinly built, too. But why do you think things are things so different for us? Why is it so hard to gain weight? And what can we do about it?” To subscribe to Premium (and get the full episode) go here.
Comments (19)

Matt M

A rehash of old episodes

May 13th

Matt M


Jan 26th


"nutrition lore" 🤣🤣 omg such a descriptive little phrase!

Sep 7th


what about choline supplementation for vegan diets, esp during pregnancy??

Jul 25th

Joern Utermann

really really enjoyed this episode! very interesting topic and cool new format!

Apr 26th


very good episode!

Nov 28th

Mason Verkruisen

assume foods are bad for you until proven innocent is a terrible idea.

Oct 11th

Shasa Bolton

Great non biased informative discussions with experts in their fields. Thanks for the show

Sep 19th


Worst podcast EVER. The audio quality is total crap. What a shame

Aug 19th

Bex G

Brilliant episode, thanks.

Jul 31st

Aaron Trowbridge

Very interesting debate, thanks for the quality content.

Jan 13th

Benyamin Asgari

excelent podcast . love it .

Jan 2nd

Maria Kirby

Another brilliant episode !! I wondered if you would consider doing an episode/discussing how to know what probiotics are recommended for different conditions. I have had my gallbladder removed and suffer with poor digestion and would love to hear more about what I can do to help digestion and possibly what probiotics are recommended for this. Thanks, Maria

Nov 29th

Matt M


Sep 18th

Matt M

Great episode 👍🏼

Sep 11th


Love the show!

Jun 8th

Artin Entezarjou

Great show! We use it to get insight into the evidence for our Instagram page @ebtofficial

May 18th


Just found your podcast loving it so far, ATP science is my other favourite but they are also selling products so it is a little bit tainted in that way. your podcast is refreshing because you aren't trying to sell me anything. excepting maybe your guests or sponsors but there's no getting around that. thanks for the hard work love it. p.s. is it possible to have your patreon link in the description on castbox?

May 15th

Andrew Moore

Very informative and enjoyable!

Mar 5th
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