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Folate (also known as viatmin B9) actually relates to a collection of folates; both natural dietary folates and synthetic forms, primarily folic acid. This folate/folic acid that is consumed via the diet or supplementation is a precursor for the formation of tetrahydrofolate (THF), which is a carbon donor and acts a cofactor for a number of enzymes that play important roles in several processes. In this episode, Alan and Danny discuss the role of folate in the methlyation cycle, the impact of folate insufficiency/deficiency, genetics variatnts of the MTHFR gene (and other genes) that impact folate metabolism, and the impact of folate on health outcomes; including heart disease, birth defects, cancer, and brain health & cognition. Detailed study notes and transcript to this episode
A recently published study by Klatt and colleagues examined the impact of choline supplementation alongside DHA supplementation, versus DHA supplementation alone, on DHA status in pregnancy. It is known that DHA is a critical nutrient at this time for healthy development of the child. And through a number of mechanisms discussed later, it has been hypothesized that choline could lead to greater DHA status. We discuss: What is the connection between choline and DHA? What is the PEMT pathway? Study design for the choline + DHA trial Are there risks of high-dose choline? Main findings of the trial How DHA status is not just a function of DHA intake, but also methyl metabolism too Issues with omega-3 trials; e.g. not taking baseline status into account Pragmatic recommendations for health professionals and patients Different forms of choline supplements Choline supplementation vs. food-derived choline Access the show notes here   Subscribe to Premium here
In this episode Alan and Danny aim to address the idea that you shouldn’t eat vegetables, or that they aren’t beneficial. We will specifically look at a number of claims that relate to: The claim that vegetables aren’t beneficial for health, or that there is no health benefit to high vegetable intake. The claim that vegetables are actually detrimental to health, and their removal improves health. This episode was orignally published to Sigma Nutrition Premium. If you wish to get more of these Quack Asylum episodes (and lots of other features, including detailed study notes) then subscribe to Sigma Nutrition Premium. Click here to access show notes
This is an "ask me anything" (AMA) episode, with Prof. Stuart Phillips of McMaster University. Prof. Phillips takes questions on protein intake, sources, muscle function, and healthy ageing. To listen to the full AMA, click here to subscribe to Sigma Nutrition Premium. Questions answered:   [04.28] What is muscle protein balance? [05.32] Why is the focus always on muscle protein synthesis? [07.14] Is MPS a good proxy measure for outcomes we care about (e.g. muscle growth/repair)? [10.37] What's the difference between 'whole body protein synthesis' and 'muscle protein synthesis'? [12.57] We're starting to see commercially available whey that has been produced by bacteria engineered to synthesize whey protein directly from nutritional substrate. It seems like we should expect this to have directly comparable effects given the identical molecular structure. Is there any reason to think this bacterially synthesized whey will have any different effects that whey from dairy? [15.50] Does the literature still show that an additional dose of plant-derived protein is required to equate a similar response from animal protein? [26.39] During post-exercise conditions does protein ingestion stimulate MPS for longer than the usual 2-3 hour period reported in rested conditions? [27.49] Considering the growing interest in fasting protocols (both TRF and longer fasting protocols) - what would you recommend in these circumstances for the preservation / growth of muscle mass. Would it differ between IF/TRF and longer (1-3 day) fasts? [34.58] Is it a waste to take too much protein powder at once because some of it won't get absorbed? [42.50] Does protein powder lose some of its quality if boiling water is added due to protein denaturation? [47.05] Would you please share your opinion about how you evaluate protein status in the body? [50.51] I am now over 60 and lift heavy twice a week. What would be a reasonable body fat % for me to aspire to and how much daily protein should I be targetting in my diet? Subscribe to Premium  
Consuming a healthy diet during pregnancy is an obvious and accepted recommedation. However, what exactly is a "healthy diet" in this context? In addition, there are specific nutrients which are crucial for the healthy development of the child, including nutrients which may be difficult to consume enough of. In addition there are nutrients and foods that need to limited or avoided during this period. In this episode, researcher and dietitian Dr. Julie Abayomi discusses important nutrients in pregnancy (e.g. iodine, DHA, and folic acid), as well as potentially problematic nutrients/foods (e.g. high-mercury fish and caffeine). In addition, she discusses the current debates about weight gain/loss during pregnancy, as well as what supports are needed for health professionals supporting pregnant women. Click here for show notes Subscribe to Premium
It has become common rhetoric for those promoting various types of diets to suggest that dietary guidelines published by government departments are at best, unhealthy, or at worst, causative in driving obesity and chronic disease in the population. While different countries and organizations produce their own guidelines, with slight differences, most of the conversation has focused on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, that are created by the USDA. Often the claims is that following these guidelines actually harms health, rather than promote it. And the guidelines are simply a result of industry forces, long-standing bias, and shoddy science. But do these claims hold up to scrutiny? In this episode Alan and Danny look at some of the arguments put foward, and take a look at the science underpinning dietary guidelines in a number of countries. In this episode: [0.01.46] Examples of arguments put forward stating that it’s not healthy to follow dietary guidelines [0.12.50] History of the development of guidelines in the US & narratives around Ancel Keys [0.23.50] Misrepresentation of what the guidelines say [0.30.49] What are actually in the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans? [0.33.10] Changes to guidelines over time [0.36.05] Other countries’ guidelines: UK, Canada, Nordic countries [0.40.50] Investigating the rise in obesity/disease prevalence with the roll out of the guidelines [0.56.34] Do people follow the guidelines? [1.00.01] The negative role of the food industry [1.03.50] Potential issues with dietary guidelines Links: Subscribe to Premium Show notes to this episode
There have been many claims made about the benefits of a detoxification "protocol" or "plan", based on specific dietary and supplemental regimens. Many of the arguments propose that many things we come into contact with are toxins and they can accumulate and compound in effect over time, causing a range of issues. Therefore, by removing these toxins (via a “detoxification protocol”), we can have better health. And indeed it is well known that there are a large number of toxins in the environment, many of which can potentially be deleterious to health. And it also known that many nutrients are involed in processes of the body's detoxification pathways. However, is there any evidence that a detoxification diet, plan or "protocol" improves health? Is there any reason to suggest targeting certain nutrients or supplements leads to "better detoxification"? And do we need to avoid non-organic food, toothpaste and non-stick frying plans in avoid to avoid these toxins? This Quack Asylum episode evaluates these claims. Study notes available at Subscribe to Premium at
With elevated LDL-cholesterol being a causal risk factor for atherosclerotic heart disease, having interventions to lower blood lipids, and in particular LDL-C, are crucial for population health. A number of drugs are now incredibly effective for this, with statins being the most widely used. However, for those who do not wish to take a medication and/or have only a mild elevation, there may be potential for dietary intervention to lower LDL-C to a point where a statin (or other drug) is not needed. A number of aspects of healthy dietary patterns have been known to reduce the liklihood of elevated blood lipids. Most notably perhaps, the ratio of polyunsaturated to saturated fat in the diet (P:S ratio). And an absolute low level of saturated fat in the diet (e.g. < 10% of calories). However, work by Dr. David Jenkins and collegegues put forward the idea of a “portfolio” of specific nutrients/foods that could additionally lower LDL-C. This became known as the Portfolio Diet. The four primary pillars of this portfolio diet are: soy protein, viscous fibers, nuts, and plant sterols. In this episode, Danny talks to the originator of this work, Dr. Jenkins. Links: Episode show notes Subscribe to Premium Attend Sigma Conference in Dublin
Some cognitive decline is normal with age. However, more significant cognitive decline is primarily due to disease-induced dementias (such as Alzheimer’s Disease). It also results from neurodegenerative disorders and chronic, prolonged degeneration of our neuronal pathways and functions. Drug discovery for dementias have been largely unsuccessful, leaving no good treatments for this collection of diseases. This had led to research examining areas that may aid in preventing (or more accurately, slowing) cognitive decline. In this episode the Sigma team look at the published data on a variety of nutrients, foods and dietary patterns, including: vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, caffeine, flavanoids, coffee and green leafy vegetables. Subscribe to Premium   [00:02:01] Definitions [00:08:40] What causes cognitive decline? Dementia? Mechanisms of ND pathogenesis. [00:11:33] Why might nutrition play a role? [00:18:18] Dietary patterns [00:26:30] Diet interaction with APOE genotype [00:31:18] Alcohol [00:36:36] Polyphenols - mechanisms [00:43:05] Coffee & Caffeine [00:45:03] Flavanoids [00:51:04] Vitamin D [01:04:22] Omega 3 fatty acids [01:21:42] B vitamins & green leafy veg [01:30:35] Vitamin E [01:38:24] How to assess cognitive health in ageing intervention studies [01:45:28] Concluding thoughts   Show notes to this episode Subscribe to Premium
The issue of genetic enginnering in the food system is one that is often charged with emotion and strong opinion. Indeed, there has been much concern voiced over the years about the potential harms to both human health and the environment of genetically-modified (or more accurately, genetically-engineered) crops. Some concern takes the form of outright hysteria, while other concerns are more nuanced and subtle. Among these concerns, which have good evidence to support them? What regulation is currently in place? Why are their differences between the US and the EU? On the opposite side, there are clear advantages to GE crops; including disease resistance, herbicide tolerance, and even enhanced nutritional content. But are these advantages possible without harm? Do the pros outweigh the cons? In this episode, Alan and Danny discuss the current evidence on genetically engineered crops (or GMOs) and their effect on human health, biodiversity, and the economy. 02:02 – Framing of the GMOs debate 13:52 – Key definitions 20:34 – Where do GMOs show up in the food supply? And jurisdiction differences 33:40 – Impacts on human health and nutritional differences 45:16 – Impact on biodiversity 1:01:57 – What’s the deal with glyphosate herbicide? 1:05:34 – Concluding thoughts Access show notes for this episode Subscribe to Premium
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disorder stimulated by the ingestion of gluten, a protein found naturally in wheat, barley and rye. The condition affects approximately 1% of the Western world. However, currently the only approved treatment for coeliac disease is adherence to a gluten-free diet for life. Therefore there is much research underway to develop alternative treatment options that may help these patients. One novel antigen-focused therapy that has been hypothesised is the use of plant bioactives. Specifially, in vitro work by Dr. Charlene Van Buiten has looked as whether there is a mechanism by which polyphenols from green tea could be of benefit. Her work shows that these polyphenols can mitigate gliadin-mediated inflammation and intestinal permeability in vitro. Click here for show notes. Click here to subscribe to Premium.
Current discussions relating to health focus on longevity. This may include some who look at lifespan extension, some who talk of delaying or “treating” ageing or those who focus on reducing morbidity within the parameters of normal lifespan. One propsed intervention that has garnered a lot of excitement, owing to some interesting research, is the potential use of fasting to increase longevity and/or healthspan. Within this broad category, various different dietary interventions have been suggested, including various forms of intermittent fasting, time-restricted eating, dietary restriction of certain nutritients, calorie restriction or a “fasting-mimicking” diet. But what does the current evidence tell us? Does the evidence actually match the hype? In this episode Dr. Niamh Aspell, Alan Flanagan and Danny Lennon discuss some of the data on fasting and longevity. Go to show notes Subscribe to Premium
While dietary guidelines universally include fish as a food group that can be consumed regularly in a healthy dietary pattern, there are some potential risks of fish consumption that get raised. Some have some legitimacy, for example the frequency of consumption of high-mercury fish. However, other claims can go to extremes ("eating fish is bad for you") that are based in ideology rather than evidence. In this Quack Asylum episode, we use a video made by a medical doctor as an example of where quackery can raise its head on this topic. Specifically, there are four claims made in the video that we investigate and see if there is any basis to them. This is a Premium-exclusive episode. In order to listen to the full episode and access the show notes, you will need to subscribe to Sigma Nutrition Premium.
Many different diets have been put forward as solutions that treat type 2 diabetes. Some will claim the diet “reverses” diabetes, some say it puts it into “remission”, while others more conservatively recommend a diet to manage diabetes symptoms in a healthy way. There has been some debate on the use of terms like reversal, cure or resolution. And recently more clarity has been found in defining each. One of the diets that has been recommended by some for the purposes of “reversing” or treating diabetes is a low-fat, whole food plant-based (WFPB) diet. Specifically, there is a claim that it is superior to other diets in treating diabetes. Some of these claims relate to popular online diet & lifestyle programs that use such a diet. While there is also a number of studies that are commonly cited in support of the claims. In this episode, we evaluate these claims by looking at the published research in this area, across epidemiology, human intervention trials and mechanistic rationale. We also ponder what it means for something to be the “best” diet to treat a chronic disease. Access show notes Attend Sigma event in Dublin, May 2022 Subscribe to Sigma Nutrition Premium
The relationship between our diet and sleep is bi-directional; i.e. sleep impacts diet and diet impacts sleep. Therefore, we can examine the impact of sleep timing, duration and other dimensions on our dietary intake. And then also examine the impat of both overall diet and specific nutrients on improving/worsening sleep. The is clear evidence of distinct, acute effects of restricted sleep time on food preferences, eating behaviour, energy intake, and our underlying metabolic physiology. When it comes to the ability of certain foods or nutrients to improve sleep, often many claims are based on weak evidence or mechanistic reasoning. But there is evidence showing some impacts of certain compounds to either positively or negatively impact sleep. So what is the accurate way to look at this bi-directional relationship? In this episode, Greg Potter, PhD discusses the evidence to date. Dr. Potter received his PhD from the University of Leeds, where his research focused on circadian rhythms, sleep, nutrition, and metabolism. In this episode: 03:15 - Sleep architecture and dimensions of sleep 10:29 - Influence of sleep on diet 35:11 - Chronotypes 53:26 - Impact of diet/meals on sleep 59:50 - Supplements like melatonin and tryptophan 1:20:27 - Rescuing a poor night's sleep - caffeine and nootropics 1:40:31 - Key Ideas segment (Premium only) Click here for show notes.   Click here to subscribe to Sigma Nutrition PREMIUM.
Omega-3 fatty acids have long been associated with various health outcomes. A type of omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is found in various plant foods such as flax seeds or chia seeds. Other omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are found typically in marine food sources such as oily fish (e.g. salmon, mackerel) and algae. And while higher intakes of such foods have shown benefit, there has been some confusion over the benefit of such nutrients due to some large omega-3 supplementation trials reporting null findings. So what should we make of the current evidence base? Does supplementation lead to heart disease risk reduction or not? Do we need direct sources of EPA and DHA in the diet? Does ALA have unique benefits? What is an omega-3 index and why is it important? In this episode, fatty acid expert Dr. Bill Harris dives into each of these questions and clarifies what the current evidence tells us about the effect of these fatty acids on our health. Overview: 04:02 - Fatty acid definitions/subtypes 09:14 - Omega-3 status & the Omega-3 Index (O3I) 20:03 - Omega-3 supplementation trials for CVD 41:15 - DHA, brain health, cognition in later life, development, etc 49:45 - Should we be concerned about omega-6 fatty acids? Show note available at: Subscribe to Sigma Nutrition Premium here:
There is now widespread use of various "artificial sweeteners" in foods and beverages. Most commonly non-nutritive sweeteners are used to sweeten a products, whilst having less sugar and calories than a traditionally sugar-sweetened version of that product. For example, diet drinks (e.g. diet soda) are most commonly associated with artificial sweeteners. However, they are also in a wide variety of food products and supplements. For a long-time there has been skepticism and alarm raised about their potential health effects. From claims of them increasing our food intake, all the way to causing cancer. And food safety authorities have conducted rigorous examinations of the safety data on each of these compounds. In this episode, the Sigma team discuss the initial research that raised alarm bells, the current process of safety evaluation for non-nutritive sweeteners, the amounts they are consumed in, and the studies published thus far examining their health impacts. Access show notes here. Subscribe to Premium here.
In this Premium episode Alan and Danny aim to address the idea that you shouldn’t eat vegetables, or that they aren’t beneficial. Two related ideas have been circulated in some nutrition/health communities on the internet: Vegetables aren’t beneficial for health (or that there is no health benefit to high vegetable intake). Vegetables are actually detrimental to health, and their removal improves health. Such advice is usually defended through some combination of the following claims, which we examine in this episode: Humans are naturally carnivores, or have evolved to thrive on animal foods, and only turn to plants in times of famine. Certain indigenous populations such as the Inuit or the Masai, eat close to no vegetables, yet have robust health. Many of the nutrients present in vegetables can be obtained from animal foods. And beyond that, these nutrients are more bioavabilable when coming from animal sources. Fibre is not an essential nutrient, and high-fibre diets don’t lead to the health benefits that are typically claimed. Certain compounds in plants are actively harmful to us. Some of these compounds are natural pesticides, aimed to hurt us. Others are anti-nutrients, which decrease absorption of other key nutrients. Plants/vegetables contain compounds/nutrients exacerbate clinical conditions such as IBS or autoimmune disorders, and removing all plants including veg, leads to improved outcomes in these people. There is no benefit to a diet high in vegetables compared to a diet with low/no vegetable consumption. Premium subcribers can access the detailed study notes to this episode here.   Click here to subcribe to Sigma Nutrition Premium.
#430: Soy - Yes, No, Maybe?

#430: Soy - Yes, No, Maybe?


Click here to subscribe to Sigma Nutrition Premium The popularity of soy foods and soy-based products has been increasing in recent times. This has been particularly the case as a dairy alternative, with people switching to using soy ‘milk’ and soy-based yogurts and cheese. Additionally, soy has become popular as a meat alternative in a variety of dishes for those looking to reduce meat intake. Soy foods such as tofu can be used in recipes in place of meat, and soy-based ‘meat alternatives’ that are vegetarian and vegan friendly have been developed. With this increased prevalence, there has been some debate about the health effects of consuming soy foods and products. On one side, there have potential benefits highlighted of inclusion of soy in the diet. It contains phytoestrogens, which may have beneficial effects. Additionally, it is low in saturated fat, and so is potentially beneficial when used in place of saturated fat-rich foods. However, some have claimed that the phytoestrogens (isoflavones specifically) in soy can be a cause for concern due to the ability of these compounds to mimic the effects of the hormone oestrogen. One common claim is that high soy intake is detrimental for men particularly, as it is “feminizing”; causing gynecomastia, loss of libido and erectile dysfunction. So what is the truth? Is soy a health food? A harmful endocrine disruptor? Or simply neutral? In this episode we dive into the research and look at the evidence to date tells us about these questions. We consider two big health outcomes in particular; cardiovascular disease and breast cancer. And then final discuss what this means practically for our dietary choices. Click here for show notes to this episode Click here to subscribe to Sigma Nutrition Premium
Click here to subscribe to Premium The pathogenesis of obesity is clearly complex. And the need to have a comprehensive model to explain this pathogenesis is important. One such model, termed the Energy Balance Model, has largely been the consensus paradigm of obesity scientists to this point. Specifically, a recently published paper in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by Dr. Kevin Hall and his colleagues outlined the various nuances of the model, as well as common misconceptions about the model. However, there are others who propose that this is not the correct model of obesity, but rather that obesity pathogenesis can be better explained by a model called the Carbohydrate-Insulin Model (CIM) of obesity. While this model has been proposed in various forms over the past couple of decades, the most recently published revision/update of this model was that put forward by Dr. David Ludwig and colleagues, in a Perspective published also in the AJCN, in December of 2021. In this episode, Dr. Kevin Hall (lead author of the paper mentioned above) and Dr. Stephan Guyenet are on the podcast to discuss the debate surrounding these two models. Specifically, the discussion will focus in on the Hall et al. (2022) and Ludwig et al. (2021) papers, as well as previous work leading up to both. Click here to access show notes for this episode Click here to subscribe to Premium  
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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