What’s the Difference Between Good and Bad Cholesterol?
Matthew Kadey, M.S., R.D.
Be it a visit to your doctor, family reunions with the grandparents, or the ubiquitous pharmaceutical commercials, we hear a lot about cholesterol. We are told that our time spent on the saddle is important not just for heart health, but also for keeping cholesterol under control. But what exactly is cholesterol, and what are the different types?
“Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made by your body and found in animal-based foods that is used for a number of vital functions such as serving as the building block for hormones, helping form the structure of cells, and producing vitamin D,” explains Joyce Oen-Hsiao, M.D., director of clinical cardiology for Yale Medicine. So clearly the body needs some cholesterol to function, but Oen-Hsiao points out that when levels get too high, deposits can accumulate in your blood vessels leading to health concerns–yes, even for us fit cyclists. Here are the guises of cholesterol you need to know about and the steps you can take to make sure to keep levels in your favor.
Types of Cholesterol
Inside you, cholesterol is a passenger on proteins called “lipoproteins,” which serve as a bicycle courier for cholesterol so it can travel from one zip code in your body to the next. There are two main types of lipoproteins, and the differences between “good” and “bad” cholesterol are important to understand.
Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) is not-so-kindly referred to as “bad” cholesterol because is it the type that deposits onto the arteries. “These cholesterol deposits can build up over time and cause potential blockages,” says Oen-Hsiao. She then goes on to add that plaque build-up can lead to increased risk for heart attack and stroke by reducing blood flow. The lower your LDL cholesterol number, the lower your risk. A good goal to shoot for is less than 130 mg/dL if you don’t already have atherosclerotic disease or diabetes. Keep in mind that LDL cholesterol levels tend to increase with age, which is why it’s best to keep tabs on levels with fairly frequent blood tests as the decades roll by.
LDL has a trouble-making sidekick called lipoprotein(a), or Lp(a), which appears to really love sticking to our artery walls. Healthy behaviors like eating a nutritious diet appear to have little impact on Lp(a), meaning that it is largely controlled by genetic factors. So you can blame your parents if this guise of LDL is a problem for you.
Very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) is another type of concerning lipoprotein produced by the liver and released into the blood. Oen-Hsiao explains that the main difference between VLDL and LDL is that they are made up of different percentages of the cholesterol, protein, and triglycerides—a form of fat in foods. “VLDL transports more triglycerides, whereas LDL contains more cholesterol,” she says. So if you eat too many fatty meals it gets absorbed as triglycerides, which can lead to a spike in VLDL.
As with LDL, too much VLDL can be bad news for your ticker. While the triglycerides carried by VLDL are used by cells in the body to generate energy, including what you use to power your pedal stroke, Oen-Hsiao says too much can also lead to the build-up of hard deposits (plaque) in your arteries. “VLDL eventually gets transformed into LDL, so the more VLDL particles in the body, the more LDL the body can make,” Oen-Hsiao adds. There is no simple, direct way to measure your VLDL cholesterol numbers, which is why it’s normally not mentioned during a routine cholesterol screening.
High-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) is consider “good” cholesterol because Oen-Hsiao says it shuttles cholesterol back to the liver which then flushes it from the body and, in doing so, keeps it from building up as plaque in your arteries. So, as with tailwinds, higher levels of HDL cholesterol are desired since it will slash your risk for cardiovascular disease, and doctors will say that a good goal to aim for is 60 mg/dL or higher.
With all this said, what you need to know is that the numbers by themselves are not enough to predict your risk for heart woes. They are, instead, one part of a larger equation that includes many other factors including age, smoking status, and stress. “If a person has elevated cholesterol levels, they can try lifestyle changes for three to six months before having their cholesterol levels checked again,” advises Oen-Hsia.
How to Keep Your Cholesterol In Check
There are two important ways you can work to keep your cholesterol levels in the healthy range giving you a better chance to ride well into your golden years without needing to pop a daily statin.
A study published in JAMA found that a diet that emphasizes known cholesterol-lowering foods brought about a greater drop in LDL numbers than a diet geared toward simply reducing saturated fat intake. While there isn’t one uberfood that can drastically improve your good-to-bad cholesterol ratio and help you sidestep the coronary issues, there are certain eating patterns that can pay off big time. These include:
Eat More Beans, Seeds and Fibrous Fruit
Hailey Crean, R.D., Certified Specialist in Obesity and Weight Management, and founder of Hailey Crean Nutrition, says that soluble fiber binds to bile salts in the digestive tract and ushers them out of the body. “Since bile is made from cholesterol in the liver removing more of it from the body also ultimately results in less cholesterol in circulation.”
Beans and lentils are leading sources of cholesterol-crushing soluble fiber and research shows that noshing on them regularly can help send levels of LDL cholesterol (the “bad” kind) crashing down. Other sources of soluble fiber include oats, barley, flaxseed, chia seeds, and certain fruits such as apples and citrus.
Eat More Healthy Fats
It sounds counterintuitive but eating fat can help keep your cholesterol numbers in check—the right fats, that is. It’s now known that the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel can help reduce triglyceride numbers, which manifests itself as a drop in VLDL levels and a big reason why these mega-healthy fats are considered especially good for your heart. It seems that these fats increase the delivery of triglycerides to the liver for removal from the body.
Crean also focuses on monounsaturated fat (MUFA) as another fat that is a cholesterol crusher. Researchindicates that eating more MUFA at the expense of saturated fat can improve our HDL-to-LDL ratio for better heart health. Harvard researchers found that among nearly 130,000 people, those who replaced 5 percent of the daily calories they ate from saturated fat with calories from MUFA benefited from a 15 percent lower risk for heart disease. “Excellent sources of MUFA include olive oil, avocado, and nuts like almonds,” says Crean.
A review of research published in the journal Nutrientsfound that there is enough evidence to say that adding MUFA-rich hazelnuts to a diet can aid in slashing LDL cholesterol numbers. While another research review showed that eating MUFA-packed avocados can chip away at total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels making the popular food especially ticker-friendly.
Eat Lots of Berries
Here’s more science to take to heart: A higher consumption of anthocyanins, antioxidants found in fruits including blueberries, blackberries, dark grapes, and cherries, have been found to boost HDL cholesterol numbers while simultaneously trimming LDL numbers. It appears that anthocyanins reduce the activity of CETP, a protein that transfers cholesterol from HDL to LDL molecules, which is not what your heart wants.
Increase Plant Proteins
To keep heart disease at bay, consider implementing meatless Mondays. When researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Purdue University analyzed the diets of 1,800 individuals, they found that higher intakes of plant proteins such as tofu, beans, lentils, and seeds resulted in lower levels of both total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol compared to diets that included more red meat. More generous intakes of red meat were linked to higher levels of triglycerides, which can drive up the amount of VLDL moving around in the body.
“As for eating more plant-based proteins in place of red meat, this benefit can be two fold,” says Crean. “Plant-based proteins are naturally lower in saturated fat and diets high in saturated fat like that found in red meat can increase LDL cholesterol.” She adds that eating more plant proteins also comes with the added benefit of being higher in fiber, which we know can help lower cholesterol. A Mediterranean-style diet that emphasizes plant-based foods with smaller allowances for meat than the typical American diet is a good place to start.
Reduce your sugar intake
It’s OK to fuel your big rides with sugary gels and chews, but your overall diet should be light in added sugars. When you flood your system with simple sugar (glucose) some is used to generate energy, but Crean cautions that the excess is used to make triglycerides, which can raise your risk for heart disease and insulin resistance, a contributing factor to diabetes. The best way to lower your VLDL levels is to lower your triglycerides, and slashing the added sugar in your diet is a good first step.
More fruit and cereal fiber tied to less risk of common bowel disease
(Reuters Health) - Women who get more fiber from fruits and cereals may be less like to develop diverticulitis, a common and painful bowel problem, though vegetable sources of fiber don't make much difference, a U.S. study suggests.
A low fiber diet has long been linked to an increased risk of diverticulitis, which occurs when small pockets or bulges lining the intestines become inflamed. But research to date hasn't offered a clear picture of whether some forms of fiber might be better than others for minimizing the risk, researchers note in the American Journal of Gastroenterology. For the current study, researchers followed 50,019 women who were 43 to 70 years old at the outset, and didn't have a history of diverticulitis, cancer or inflammatory bowel disease. Over 24 years, 4,343 women developed diverticulitis. Compared to those with the lowest amounts of fiber in their diet - around 13 grams a day - women who consumed the most fiber - closer to 27 grams a day - were 14% less likely to develop diverticulitis.
"People concerned about developing diverticulitis, particularly those with a history of the disease (who) are worried about another episode, might want to consider increasing their intake of fiber, particularly from fruits," said Dr. Andrew Chan, senior author of the study and a researcher at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Women who consumed the most fruit fiber - around 1.7 grams a day - were 17% less likely to develop the condition than their counterparts who ate the least, at around 1.4 grams daily. Every additional daily serving of whole fruits and specific fruits like apples, pears and prunes was associated with a 5% lower risk of diverticulitis, the study also found. Some other fruits, including bananas, peaches, plums and apricots, didn't appear to help reduce the risk.
Women who had the most cereal fiber each day - around 9.8 grams - were 10% less likely to develop diverticulitis than those who ate the least, at about 2.9 grams. While consuming more vegetable fiber also seemed connected to a lower risk of diverticulitis, the difference between low and high amounts of this fiber in the diet was small and could have been due to chance. Overall, the study participants consumed an average of 18 grams of fiber a day, less than the 25 daily grams recommended for optimal health in adult women. Women who did get at least 25 grams of fiber a day were 13% less likely to develop diverticulitis than women who consumed less than 18 grams a day. The study wasn't designed to prove whether or how fiber intake might directly impact whether women developed diverticulitis. One limitation of the study is that researchers relied on women to report their own eating habits and diverticulitis diagnosis. Another drawback is that researchers lacked data on the duration or severity of diverticulitis episodes. Even so, the results offer fresh evidence of the importance of dietary fiber for optimal health, Chan said.
Do you wake up at 4 am? Scientists know what might be causing it
If you drop off to sleep very early at night, and find yourself up before the larks as early as 4 am, scientists might have worked out what makes you tick.
Researchers from University of California, San Francisco studied people with ‘advanced sleep phase’ - and say that the quirk of the body clock is far more common than believed.
In fact, up to one in 300 adults may suffer from ‘advanced sleep phase’, the researchers found.
Advanced sleep phase means that the body's clock, or circadian rhythm, operates on a schedule hours earlier than most people's, with a premature release of the sleep hormone melatonin and shift in body temperature.
'While most people struggle with getting out of bed at 4 or 5 a.m., people with advanced sleep phase wake up naturally at this time, rested and ready to take on the day,' said the study's senior author, Louis Ptacek, professor of neurology at the UCSF School of Medicine.
'These extreme early birds tend to function well in the daytime but may have trouble staying awake for social commitments in the evening.'
Additionally, 'advanced sleepers' rouse more easily than others, he said, and are satisfied with an average of an extra five-to-10 minutes of sleep on non-work days, versus the 30-to-38 minutes' more sleep of their non-advanced sleeper family members.
Ptacek and his colleagues at the University of Utah and the University of Wisconsin evaluated data from patients at a sleep disorder clinic over a nine-year period.
The Health Benefits of Stair Climbing Exercise
Dr. Kenneth Hunt vividly remembers how, as a high school football player in the 1990s, he and his teammates often ran up and down stadium stairs during practice. Their coach made the players run the steps as part of the team's conditioning regimen to strengthen their legs, improve their cardiovascular systems and boost their balance.
As a player, Hunt experienced how the workouts made him stronger. Today, as the medical director of the UCHealth Foot and Ankle Center -- Stapleton in Denver, Hunt advises patients that climbing stairs -- whether you're working your way up and down actual steps or exercising on a stair climbing machine -- can be an efficient and safe way to exercise multiple muscle groups.
"Climbing stairs can be an effective exercise for strengthening muscles, improving your balance and boosting your cardiovascular health," Hunt says. This form of exercise is typically safe for most healthy people, though it can pose a health risk for some, he says. For example, if you have trouble with your balance and are prone to falling or have weakness, stiffness or pain in your feet, ankles, knees or hips, any kind of stair climbing may not be right for you. The same holds true if you have an inflammatory condition like arthritis, bursitis or degenerative joint disease. If you have these issues, you should check with a physical therapist or your primary care physician before initiating a stair climbing regimen, Hunt advises.
By strengthening leg muscles and joints, stair climbing can translate into improved function with daily activities, says Eric Sampsell, a physical therapist for The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics in Hagerstown, Maryland. Stair climbing can also improve energy levels and lower the risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and osteoporosis, Sampsell says.
Here are five health benefits of stair climbing exercise:
-- It engages multiple muscles.
-- It improves balance.
-- It's an efficient, low-impact cardio workout.
-- It boosts fitness.
-- It lowers mortaility risk.
Weightlifting better at reducing heart fat than aerobic exercise
By Linda Carroll
Obese people who engaged in resistance training were more likely to see reductions in a type of heart fat that has been linked to cardiovascular disease, a new study finds. In the study, researchers determined that a certain type of heart fat, pericardial adipose tissue, was reduced in patients who did weight lifting, but not in those who worked on increasing their endurance with aerobic exercise, according to a report published in JAMA Cardiology. Both forms of exercise resulted in the reduction of a second type of heart fat, epicardial adipose tissue, which has also been linked with heart disease.
"We were surprised by this finding," said the study's lead author, Dr. Regitse Hojgaard Christensen, a researcher at the Center of Inflammation and Metabolism and the Center for Physical Activity Research at the Copenhagen University Hospital.
While the study doesn't explain why weight training would have a different effect from endurance training, "we know from other studies that resistance training is a stronger stimulus for increased muscle mass and increased basal metabolism compared to endurance training and we therefore speculate that participants doing resistance training burn more calories during the day - also in inactive periods-compared to those engaged in endurance training," Christensen said in an email.
To explore the impact of different types of exercise on heart fat, Christensen and her colleagues recruited 32 adults who were obese and sedentary but did not yet have heart disease, diabetes, or atrial fibrillation.
The participants were randomly assigned to a three-month program of aerobic exercise, weight training or no change in activity (the control group). Each person had an MRI scan of the heart done at the beginning of the study and at the end.
Both types of exercise training reduced epicardial adipose tissue mass compared to no exercise: endurance training, by 32% and weight training, by 24%. However, only weight training had an impact on pericardial adipose tissue, which was reduced by 31% compared to no exercise.
"The resistance exercise training in this study was designed as a 45-minute interval type, medium load, high-repetition, time-based training," Christensen said. "Participants performed three to five sets of 10 exercises and the sessions were supervised. This specific exercise intervention alone was effective in reducing both fat depots of the heart. We did not combine resistance and endurance training, which would have been interesting to reveal their potential additive effects."
While there are plenty of studies looking at the impact of reducing abdominal obesity, the new study is interesting because it looks specifically at the relation between exercise and fat (around the heart)," said Dr. Chadi Alraeis, a staff interventional cardiologist and director of Interventional Cardiology at Detroit Medical Center's Heart Hospital.
Alraeis suspects, based on the new study, that the best way to combat heart fat is to do both endurance and weight training. "Along with the time you spend on the treadmill, you might want to add some work with dumbbells, or some lunges, sit-ups or pushups," Alraeis said. "It might even be enough to bring some weights to the office so you can use them there. "
While the findings are interesting, "we don't know what the implication of this is 10 years later," Alraeis said. "We don't know if outcomes are really being changed. We need some long-term studies to look at that."
A compound in broccoli sprouts may not only help prevent cancer but also treat it.
Sulforaphane is found in vegetables such as kale, cauliflower, and cabbage—and in particularly high concentrations in young broccoli sprouts. Sulforaphane also is available as a dietary supplement called BSE.
Researchers at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Institute of Biosciences and Technology, along with collaborators in Oregon, had previously found that sulforaphane could inhibit colon and prostate cancer cells in the laboratory. They’ve now shown that it seems to help humans as well.
A paper published in the journal Clinical Epigenetics hints at the biological pathways involved and suggests BSE is generally safe.
“We have not seen any serious adverse events in healthy volunteers who consumed BSE pills for seven days,” says Praveen Rajendran, an assistant professor at Texas A&M University, although some people did experience mild abdominal discomfort.
He cautions, however, that not all broccoli supplements are necessarily as effective as the one tested.
“We have used a standardized broccoli extract in our study provided by Johns Hopkins University. This BSE supplement is being evaluated in several other clinical trials around the country, but I’m not sure other, similar supplements available to the public have the same level of active ingredients, including sulforaphane.”
In a separate clinical study, 28 human volunteers over the age of 50, who were undergoing routine colonoscopies, were surveyed for their cruciferous vegetable-eating habits. When their colon biopsies were examined, those who ate more servings were found to have higher levels of expression of the tumor suppressor gene p16 than those who ate few or no cruciferous vegetables.
This effect on p16 held even for people who didn’t eat these vegetables every single day, which may seem strange, as a single serving of sulforaphane is generally cleared from the body in less than 24 hours.
“This hints at the possibility that epigenetic mechanisms are initially triggered by sulforaphane and its metabolites, and downstream mechanisms could be sustained, at least in the short-term, even after compounds are eliminated from the body.”
In other words, eating vegetables containing sulforaphane may change your genes and help your body fight tumor growth.
However, it’s not all good news. In animal models, sulforaphane was shown to generally inhibit the development of colon cancer, but it’s a bit of a two-edged sword. Sulforaphane induces a protein called Nrf2, which has beneficial antioxidant and detoxifying effects—and is obviously good for fighting cancer. Later in the development of cancer, though, Nrf2 can also have a role in tumor growth and can even enhance the buildup of plaque in the arteries.
“Because of all this, we believe that Nrf2 status is worthy of further investigation,” Rajendran says, “not just for cancer treatment but for its role in modulating cardiovascular disease.”
New Study Finds Frightening Connection Between Weight Gain and Brain Health
It is pretty easy t0 gain weight as you grow older. Metabolisms slow, hormones shift, and people generally become less physically active as they age. But just because getting fatter may be inevitable doesn’t mean it doesn’t carry serious risks. Besides the increased likelihood of heart disease (the number one killer of men and women in America), gaining weight can do some serious damage to another arguably more essential organ — your brain. As bodies get bigger, a new study finds, brains actually shrink.
Cortical thinning, the phenomenon named in the study, refers to atrophy of the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain where almost all information processing occurs. The thinner the cortex, the greater the risk of Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases. Scientists have understood that there is a link between healthy body weight and optimal brain health, but few studies have looked at the direct role weight might play. Based on what is already known about the cerebral cortex, study author and neurologist Dr. Tatjana Rundek believed that obesity could be connected to cortical thinning and overall brain atrophy.
To test this, Rundek and her team recruited 1,289 people to compare their bodies and brains over time. At the start of the study, their BMI and waist circumference were measured and six years later, the participants’ brains were scanned using an MRI, in order to measure the thickness of the cortex and brain volume. Out of everyone, 571 people had BMIs in the 25 to 30 range, which is considered overweight, and 371 people were considered obese with BMIs 30 and higher. The higher the BMI, the thinner the cortex, results revealed. Even after Rundek controlled for variables that could change the cortex such as high blood pressure, alcohol use and smoking, every unit increase in BMI was linked with a 0.098 millimeter thinner cortex for overweight individuals and a 0.207 mm thinner cortex for obese ones.
“These associations were especially strong in those who were younger than 65, which adds weight to the theory that having poor health indicators in mid-life may increase the risk for brain aging and problems with memory and thinking skills in later life,” she warned. Having a larger waist was similarly associated with a thinner cortex, strengthening the link. To put it in perspective, in normal aging adults the overall thinning rate of the cortical mantle is between 0.01 and 0.10 mm per decade, but these findings indicate that being overweight or obese might speed up this process by another 10 years at least.
It is worth noting that the study demonstrates a correlation between weight and cortical thinning, but scientists are not at the point where they can confidently say putting on pounds causes brain thinning directly, or Alzheimer’s for that matter. The study also focused primarily on older participants with an average age of 64, but the data does give the younger man another reason to start and maintain healthy habits early on. It’s not just about looking good, it’s about having a big beautiful brain too.
“These results are exciting because they raise the possibility that by losing weight, people may be able to stave off aging of their brains and potentially the memory and thinking problems that can come along with brain aging,” Rundek said. “However, with the rising number of people globally who are overweight or obese and the difficulty many experiences with losing weight, obviously this is a concern for public health in the future as these people age.”
Chicken Is Just As Bad for Your Heart As Beef, Study Claims. Here’s the Real Deal
What the Study Found
Led by researchers at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI), the study looked at about 100 healthy men and women aged 21 to 65 over a four-year timespan. Participants were assigned to four-week cycles of eating either a high-saturated or low-saturated fat diet, with different tests of red meat, white meat, and plant-based protein sources like beans and legumes.
Expecting a surge mainly in the red-meat group, they were surprised to find that effects on cholesterol were identical in the white-meat group, according to study senior author Ronald Krauss, M.D., director of atherosclerosis research at CHORI.
On average, LDL cholesterol—the “bad kind”—were about 5 to 6 percent higher on each of the meat diets compared to the non-meat diet.
“This could translate to a several percent higher heart disease risk,” he told Runner’s World. “However, there was a wide range of variation in response, so the clinical effect could be greater for some. In general, the takeaway here is that if you want to control blood cholesterol levels, diets with a high proportion of plant protein are to be preferred to those with high amounts of either red meat or white meat.”
Sounds pretty ominous, but what does that really mean for healthy, active adults who turn to a piece of chicken in their salad or on their dinner plate for their protein fix?
Like with other nutrition studies—similar to the recent research on eggs, for example—you have to look at it in context to get the real picture. Otherwise, you’d be scrapping food from your diet left and right whenever the next new study comes along.
With this study, it’s important to keep in mind that researchers measured blood cholesterol levels, not actual incidents of heart issues or development of heart disease. These cholesterol levels are seen as markers of potential risk, not an indication of cause-and-effect, according to Stuart Phillips, Ph.D, director of the McMaster University Centre for Nutrition, Exercise, and Health Research.
Although it’s worth paying attention to cholesterol, he noted, its relationship to heart disease and death isn’t a one-to-one relationship. There are many other contributing factors in addition to cholesterol numbers, said Phillips, such as family history of heart disease.
When studies did look at red meat and white meat and health risk, they found some important differences: A 2014 review of 13 studies concluded that while red meat consumption was linked to a 16 percent increased risk of dying of heart disease, there was no link found with white meat consumption or overall meat consumption. Plus, a 2017 meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that red meat and processed red meat were linked to an 11 percent and 17 percent increase in chances of stroke, while white meat was associated with a 13 percent decrease.
So taking into account actual health associations versus associations with health markersmatters, but that’s not the only reason you should take this newest study with a grain of salt.
There were also study limitations you should consider before you toss your chicken, added dietician Maya Feller, R.D., C.D.N. These include the small sample size, brief time period, and use of just chicken and corn-fed beef, as opposed to a wider variety of meats, including pork, grassfed beef, and pasture-raised poultry. Feller said more research is needed over a longer time period, and with a broader array of meat types, to get a clearer picture of cholesterol effects.
Another variable this latest study didn’t consider is exercise, Phillips added. A frequently used bit of wisdom is that “you can’t outtrain a bad diet.” But when it comes to cholesterol, that may not be completely true.
Previous research has suggested there’s a direct relationship between regular fitness and reduced cholesterol levels. That means even if eating meat does give a slight boost to your cholesterol levels, your regular workouts might mitigate that to some degree.
“This current study is good, even though four weeks is short term when looking at the effects of dietary data,” he said. “However, keep in mind that all of this may change if folks were regular runners, bicyclists, or lifters. Basically, exercise forgives a lot of sins.”
Whether you exercise or not, though, the main takeaway from this study shouldn’t be to ditch meat altogether, Feller believes. Both red and white meats are great source of protein, a macronutrient vital for muscle building and recovery.
Instead, what people should consider is a strategy that’s emphasized again and again: Eat more plants, too.
“If someone wants to continue to eat meat, they should do so,” she said. “But they also need to be exposed to an abundance of plants on a regular and consistent basis.”
Congestive Heart Failure Statistics
About 6 million adults in the U.S. have heart failure, according to the CDC. Older adults are hardest hit. "Heart failure is the most frequent reason for hospitalizations in adults who are 65 years or older," says Dr. Paulino Alvarez, a heart failure cardiologist and clinical assistant professor with University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Age, hypertension, diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome -- a cluster of symptoms including high blood pressure, low levels of (good) HDL cholesterol, high blood glucose and a large waist size -- all increase heart failure risk, and many chronic conditions can contribute to people developing heart failure, Alvarez emphasizes. In a way, Alvarez says, increasing prevalence of heart failure is a testament to medical progress: With advances in medical therapies, patients are now living longer with once-lethal conditions and so more are likely to eventually develop heart failure.
"The main thing with heart failure is, first, to be diagnosed correctly and exclude potentially reversible causes of heart dysfunction, for example, valvular disease, heart rhythm or coronary artery disease," Alvarez says. Once heart failure is established, he says, the next step is identifying which type a patient has. Heart failure with preserved ejection fraction and heart failure with reduced ejection fraction are the two broad categories.
"Ejection fraction is a measure of how well your pump function is, in terms of ability to pump blood," Alvarez explains. "In those patients with preserved ejection fraction, one of the main factors is the capacity of the heart to relax." If the heart can't relax properly with each beat, patients build up fluid and have shortness of breath.
Heart failure with preserved ejection fraction is the most common type of heart failure in the elderly, affecting more than 2 million Americans, according to a review article co-authored by Alvarez and published in the May 2019 Journal of Geriatric Cardiology.
"When you look at the echocardiogram, you see that the heart is squeezing OK, but it's not relaxing fine," Alvarez says. With these patients, he says, treatment is focused on closely controlling symptoms and underlying conditions. If patients suffer from fluid overload, diuretic medications (like Lasix) are used to keep the fluid at bay.
With reduced ejection fraction, the heart's pumping function has decreased. The body no longer receives the amount of oxygen-rich blood that it needs. Medications called ACE inhibitors, given along with beta blockers, are standard treatments for patients with low ejection fractions to reduce disease progression and ease the workload of the heart. A combination of blood pressure medications, hydralazine plus nitrate therapy, has been shown to help certain people with heart failure. All patients with heart failure are encouraged to follow a low-sodium diet.
In some cases, implanted devices such as pacemakers, defibrillators or mechanical pumps are needed, and heart transplant becomes a consideration.
"For select patients, devices like defibrillators and pacemakers are shown to decrease mortality," Alvarez says. Some patients with advanced heart disease benefit from having a surgically implanted, mechanical pump called a left ventricular assist device. In some cases, the LVAD is considered a bridge to a transplant for people waiting for a donor heart.
A team approach including psychologists, social workers, pharmacists, nutritionists and others is important for heart failure patients, Alvarez says. Patients who develop depression may benefit from counseling, he adds. Family support is essential, as well, to help patients have the best quality of life possible. "That's our main objective," he says.
Smith has heart failure with preserved ejection fraction. "I'm able to manage mine with diuretics and diet, staying off salt and getting exercise," she says. She feels fortunate to have a "really great" doctor working with her. Of course, her condition and treatment present challenges.
"I travel a lot," Smith says. "So it's hard to take a diuretic in the morning when you're getting on an airplane and going to be flying. You can't just get up at any time and go to the bathroom. But when you take a diuretic, you gotta go when you gotta go." Unfortunately, she says, people may stop taking diuretics because of the inconvenience. "That's something they need to discuss with their doctor," she adds.
Following a low-salt diet isn't too difficult at home, says Smith, whose husband also needs to do so because of kidney disease. When going out to eat, however, it's sometimes hard to find places willing to make dishes without adding extra salt.
Exercise is essential for people with heart failure. "Walking is the best exercise," Smith says. "It doesn't cost a thing, other than a pair of shoes." She's also been through cardiac rehab, which is a structured, medically supervised program to help heart patients become physically active. "It really helps," she says. "When I had my last surgery, I couldn't even walk without my husband supporting me. By the end of my time at cardiac rehab, I was running."
Research confirms gut-brain connection in autism
People with autism often suffer from gut problems, but nobody has known why. Researchers have now discovered the same gene mutations -- found both in the brain and the gut -- could be the cause.
The discovery confirms a gut-brain nervous system link in autism, opening a new direction in the search for potential treatments that could ease behavioural issues associated with autism by targeting the gut.
Chief Investigator Associate Professor Elisa Hill-Yardin, RMIT University, said scientists trying to understand autism have long been looking in the brain, but the links with the gut nervous system have only been recently explored.
"We know the brain and gut share many of the same neurons and now for the first time we've confirmed that they also share autism-related gene mutations," Hill-Yardin said.
"Up to 90% of people with autism suffer from gut issues, which can have a significant impact on daily life for them and their families.
"Our findings suggest these gastrointestinal problems may stem from the same mutations in genes that are responsible for brain and behavioural issues in autism.
"It's a whole new way of thinking about it -- for clinicians, families and researchers -- and it broadens our horizons in the search for treatments to improve the quality of life for people with autism."
The autism gene and the gut-brain link
The study reveals a gene mutation that affects neuron communication in the brain, and was the first identified as a cause of autism, also causes dysfunction in the gut.
The research brings together new results from pre-clinical animal studies with previously unpublished clinical work from a landmark 2003 study led by Swedish researchers and a French geneticist.
The study of two brothers with autism by Professor Christopher Gillberg (University of Gothenburg), Professor Maria Råstam (Lund University) and Professor Thomas Bourgeron (Pasteur Institute) was the first to identify a specific gene mutation as a cause of the neurodevelopmental disorder.
This mutation affects communication by altering the "velcro" between neurons that keeps them in close contact.
While the 2003 study was focused on identifying the genetic basis for autism, Gillberg and Råstam also took detailed clinical notes of the brothers' significant gastrointestinal problems.
Researchers in the Gut-Brain Axis team at RMIT have built on this clinical work with a series of studies on the function and structure of the gut in mice that have the same "velcro" gene mutation.
They team found this mutation affects: gut contractions - the number of neurons in the small intestine - the speed that food moves through the small intestine - responses to a critical neurotransmitter important in autism (well known in the brain but not previously identified to play any major role in the gut)
Collaborator Associate Professor Ashley Franks (La Trobe University) also found significant differences in the gut microbes of mice with the mutation and those without it, even though both groups were kept in identical environments.
While this specific "velcro" mutation is rare, it is one of more than 150 autism-related gene mutations that alter neuronal connections, Hill-Yardin said.
"The link we've confirmed suggests a broader mechanism, indicating that the mutations that affect connections between neurons could be behind the gut problems in many patients."
New research horizons on the gut-brain axis
Hill-Yardin, an ARC Future Fellow and Vice-Chancellor's Senior Research Fellow in the School of Health and Biomedical Sciences at RMIT, said the work identifies a new a target for the development of therapies specifically designed to work on neurotransmitters in the gut.
"We've also identified that there's a need to better understand how existing autism medications that target neurotransmitters in the brain are affecting the gut," she said.
"Another promising path for future research is investigating how gene mutations in the nervous system relate with microbes in the gut.
"We know these microbes interact with the brain via the gut-brain axis, so could tweaking them improve mood and behaviour?
"While this wouldn't reverse the gene mutation, we might be able to tone down its effects, and make a real difference in the quality of life for people with autism and their families."
The research, with collaborators from University of Gothenburg and Lund University (Sweden), Baylor College of Medicine (US), University of Minho (Portugal), La Trobe University, The University of Melbourne, Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health and Monash University (Australia), is published in a forthcoming edition of Autism Research.
The work was supported with funding through an Idea Development Award from the United States Department of Defense (DoD) Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) Autism Research Program, the Victorian Government through the Operational Infrastructure Scheme, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), and the Royal Melbourne Hospital Neuroscience Foundation.
How inflammation and gut bacteria influence autism
The gut and the immune system
Recently, researchers from the University of California, Davis MIND Institute in Sacramento set out to investigate the relationships between gut bacteria, immunity and autism. Led by first authors Paul Ashwood and Destanie Rose, their results were published recently in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.
The scientists examined 103 children, aged 3–12. The participants were split into four groups:
children with ASD and GI problems (ASD+GI)
children with ASD but without GI problems (ASD)
TD children with GI problems (TD+GI)
TD children without GI problems (TD)
To assess both the immune response and gut bacteria, the researchers analyzed blood and stool samples.
Children in the ASD+GI group showed a number of differences compared with the other three groups. For instance, they had higher levels of inflammatory cytokines — which are signaling molecules that promote inflammation — such as interleukin 5 (IL-5), IL-15, and IL-17.
Both the ASD+GI and ASD children had lower levels of TGF beta 1, a protein that helps regulate the immune system and keep it in check. The fact that this change was measured in both groups is an interesting finding; it suggests that children with ASD but no GI symptoms could be experiencing other inflammatory conditions.
"It's significant that the regulatory aspect of the immune system is decreased, which puts them at risk for inflammation," says Rose. "Many studies point to different types of inflammation, and I think this one kind of summarizes why all those other findings can be true at the same time."
TGF beta 1 is also known to be important in neurodevelopment, so this protein could potentially be the link between neurological symptoms and immune system dysfunction. However, much more study will be needed to get to the bottom of this relationship.
Similarly, children in the ASD+GI group tended to have lower levels of the protein zonulin, which helps to regulate how permeable the intestinal wall is.
Earlier studies have demonstrated that children with ASD have "leaky" guts, meaning that toxins and undigested food are able to cross from the intestine to the bloodstream.
As mentioned earlier, children with ASD and GI issues tend to display worse behavior than children with ASD but no GI problems. This relationship needs to be explored further. As Ashwood says:
"This immune activation is not helping these children. It might not be causing autism — we don't know that yet — but it's certainly making things worse."
ASD and gut bacteria
Children with ASD, whether with or without GI symptoms, had different gut flora populations than the TD groups. However, the ASD+GI group also differed from the ASD group.
Interestingly, the researchers noted differences between the ASD+GI and TD+GI children
Ashwood continues, "It's a step toward understanding co-morbidities that are present in at least half of children with ASD, and working out which of these children may respond well to certain types of therapies. Although it's still early, this work suggests we need to find ways to ease inflammation to help these children."
Though there are plenty of questions left to answer, this study fills in some blanks and shows that the relationships are complex. Hopefully, the findings might help to guide and develop future treatments.
Gastrointestinal Problems Common in Autism Linked to Gene Mutation that Affects Behavior
A new study suggests that the gastrointestinal problems common in autism may stem from gene mutations that are also linked to the behavioral symptoms of the condition.
Kara Gross Margolis and colleagues studied mice carrying a mutation also seen in some individuals with autism. The mutation reduces the activity of the neurotransmitter serotonin by increasing the activity of the serotonin reuptake transporter (SERT), which ferries serotonin back into neurons after it is released.
While serotonin transmits signals in the brain, the brain contains only five percent of the body’s serotonin. Most of the remainder is active in the GI system, and the researchers note that gene mutations that affect serotonin activity will affect the gut as well as the brain.
Previously, the researchers found that mice with the SERT mutation exhibited behaviors very similar to those seen in children with autism—for instance, repetitive behaviors, avoidance of contact with other mice, and reduced vocalizations. In the new study, they found that mice with the mutation have fewer gut neurons, a badly maintained gut lining, and slow gut activity. These changes persisted throughout the mice’s lives.
“Basically,” study coauthor Michael Gershon says, “the gut goes slower and the mice were constipated, which is a common complaint in kids with autism.”
The researchers also found that GI changes related to the SERT mutation could be prevented during prenatal development if the mothers of the mice received the drug prucalopride, which mimics the ability of serotonin to stimulate nerve cell development.
Study coauthor Kara Gross Margolis says, “We see that we can prevent gastrointestinal changes in mice with the SERT mutation, but we still need to learn if we can reverse these changes once they appear.”
Margolis says that parents and doctors need to be aware that GI problems are common in autism. She notes, “The difficulty is that these kids present in a different way. Often they’re not verbal or they have sensory issues so they can’t pinpoint where the pain is coming from. So it’s important that when these patients present with distress or behavioral problems, a gastrointestinal source is considered.”
The researchers conducted a separate experiment to see how increasing serotonin levels in the mice before birth would affect their development. When they did this by giving the mothers of the mice Prozac during pregnancy or knocking out the SERT gene, they found that the offspring had too many neurons, a gut that moved too fast, and a gut lining that was too thick. The researchers say that while they are not recommending that pregnant women stop taking SSRIs, these women need to be aware of their potential effects.
Insomnia Symptoms, Shorter Sleep Time In Children Linked To Screen Time
BALTIMORE —Parents of children who struggle with sleeping problems may want to consider cutting back on the iPad and Netflix time. A recent study found a positive correlation between screen time and insomnia symptoms, as well as overall shorter duration of sleep in adolescents.Researchers say the greater the total time spent social messaging, web surfing, and TV/movie watching in a day, the more insomnia symptoms — which, in effect, also led to more depressive symptoms in children.The study used data from 2,865 adolescents, about 15-16 years old on average, who participated in Princeton and Columbia universities’ Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. Researchers keyed on in data that monitored sleep struggles and symptoms of depression in participants.
Teens in the study reported their typical daily time spent on four screen-based activities in hours. The four main screen-based activities were social messaging, web surfing, television and movies, and gaming.
“These results suggest that parents, educators and health care professionals could consider educating adolescents and regulating their screen time, as possible interventions for improving sleep health and reducing depression,” says principal investigator Dr. Lauren Hale, Professor of Family, Population, and Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University Medicine, in a statement. “We’re very interested to see whether the adverse influences of social media and screen use on sleep and mental health persist during the transition to adulthood.”
The research was presented at the 32nd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC (APSS) in Baltimore, a joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society.
NEW TREATMENTS IN FIGHT AGAINST MELANOMA
by Chuck Norris
More Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer each year than all other forms of cancer combined. Even though incidence rates continue to climb, skin cancer remains one of the more survivable forms of cancer. Early detection is key. Much of what was covered last week related to nonmelanoma skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma, which accounts for about 80 percent of all skin cancers in the U.S. and is rarely fatal.
As Skin Cancer Awareness Month draws to a close, let us not ignore melanoma, the most deadly type of skin cancer. It is estimated that more than 96,000 new cases of melanoma can be expected in 2019, taking the lives of more than 7,000 Americans. Experts believe the increased incidence is due to a combination of high levels of unprotected skin exposure, the use of tanning beds (despite warnings) and advanced-stage detection.
Skin cancer, when it is caught early, is treatable. It is recommended that people regularly check their skin for any new moles or growths and any existing growths that begin to grow or change significantly in any other way. Keep in mind the A, B, C, D and E of melanoma: asymmetry, border irregularity, color variation, diameter and evolution (change).
One thing that makes melanoma so deadly is that, unlike other cancers, it does not respond well to chemotherapy or radiation therapy. The important news is that, for the first time, the survival rate is improving due to advances in treatment involving immunotherapy. Over the past several years, immunotherapy to stimulate a patient’s immune system to attack melanoma is generating improvements in survival. There are at least 10 such new treatments developed to date.
It is also an opportune time to recognize the power of the immune system and to enhance our understanding of how it functions.
These new melanoma treatments are but one example of how immunologists are advancing medical breakthroughs while also illuminating the close connection between the immune system and mental and physical health.
As Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the New York Times Matt Richtel recently noted, the goal is not to “boost” your immune system. Instead, the goal should be to support it. It is all about balance, he says.
The job of the immune system is to take stock, monitor, assess and judge potential threats. Says Richtel, we live in a sea of organisms. Bacteria, viruses, parasites and other life forms great and small occupy our surroundings, cover our skin and inhabit our gut. Most of them mean us no harm. While modern life has freed us from many of the diseases that plagued humans in the past, it also puts unprecedented stress on the very system that keeps us healthy in the midst of the challenging, complex environment in which we now live. The best way to keep it in balance is through a good diet and sleep, as well as living a healthy lifestyle.
The Late Tim Conway's Testimony of Faith in God
Tim Conway wrote about his Christian faith in his memoir:
"During my high school years, I was playing in a football game when I got hit full force in the center of my back." He writes in his book that he lay on the ground for quite some time, unable to talk or “feel anything below my neck let alone move.” Nobody seemed too concerned about him, though, since they told him to just “walk it off.”
When he was unable to stand up without collapsing, his team members grabbed his arms and legs and carried him off the field (“no stretchers in those days”). A doctor eventually took an X-ray, found nothing broken, and put him in a neck brace for a few weeks.
Many years later, when Tim was already living in California, he visited a doctor due to back spasms. Tim was “dumbstruck” when the doctor told him his “spasms were a residual effect stemming from a broken vertebra.” Tim insisted he’d never broken a vertebra, so the doctor asked him if he ever had a sports injury. Tim told him about the football incident in high school.
The doctor replied, “You may not realize it, but you are one lucky man. Here’s what I think. Your vertebra probably was broken when you were hit, but when they picked you up and carried you to the locker room, your back got stretched out. I’d guess that the vertebra went back into place. The X-ray may not have shown anything at the time but, I assure you, you came very, very close to being permanently disabled. If they hadn’t moved you, it might have been a different story.”
That was a watershed moment for Tim, spiritually speaking. He writes, “Ever since that incident on the football field, which might have altered the course of my life, Jesus and I have stayed in constant touch. I never stop saying thank you.”
Though Tim, who converted to Catholicism in college because of a girl he liked, doesn’t wear his faith on his sleeve, his relationship with God remains important to him until his death. He admits that his journey of faith hasn’t always been a straight line, but adds, “All straight lines get a little crooked from time to time, but I tried to maintain a decent life.”
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him…
God loves you and keeps you, Tim Conway. Thanks for so much joy.
Want to Live Longer? Science Says to Do These 5 Things
When it comes to staying healthy, most people have the same motivation: living as long and fulfilling a life as possible. And while science has yet to find a true fountain of youth, researchers have identified certain behaviors that can increase longevity.
One study, published in the journal Circulation last year, even argued that adhering to just five healthy habits could extend your lifespan by roughly a decade. Here’s what they are, and what research to date says about living your longest life.
Eating a healthy diet
Diet is strongly linked to longevity. Research has long suggested that following a Mediterranean diet — which includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and healthy fats, and not much sugar, red meat or processed food — brings a host of health benefits, including a longer life.
Even if your diet isn’t perfect, research suggests that making smart changes can add up to sizable benefits. One paperpublished in 2017 concluded that people who ate 20% more healthy foods than they had at the beginning of the study, over the course of 12 years, decreased their risk of early death by up to 17%.
Working out regularly is a boon for both your physical and mental health, boosting everything from cardiovascular fitness to mood and energy — so it’s no surprise that it can also extend your life. Federal physical activity guidelines recommend aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week, plus twice-weekly muscle-strengthening sessions, to reap health and longevity benefits.
But you don’t have to go overboard. Even short bouts of light physical activity, such as walking and cleaning, increased the lifespans of older men and women in studies from 2018 and 2017, respectively. And a study published in January found that simply moving instead of sitting for 30 minutes each day could reduce early death risk by 17%. If you do opt for a more vigorous workout, some research suggests that team sports like tennis and soccer are best for longevity, because they encourage social interaction as well as exercise. And if you don’t exercise now, you can still start. A recent studyfound longevity benefits associated with both life-long and later-in-life exercise.
Maintaining a healthy body weight
Diet and exercise habits help people maintain a healthy body weight, which the Circulation study defined as a body mass index between 18.5 and 24.9. Obesity is associated with chronic conditions including Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, all of which can shorten your life. A 2018 studyfound that widespread obesity shaved a year off the U.S. life expectancy and is responsible for up to 186,000 deaths per year.
Drink alcohol only in moderation
For years, moderate drinking was touted as a harmless — and maybe even healthy — habit. But recently, scientific opinion has begun to shift toward a more cautious stance on alcohol.
Last year, a large meta-analysis of prior alcohol studies concluded that there is no safe amount of drinking, because the net risks to a population — addiction, cancer, traffic accidents and so on — outweigh any potential benefits, such as improved cardiovascular and cognitive health. And while each person’s risk-benefit analysis depends on his or her family and medical history, research is increasingly supporting the idea that people should limit their alcohol consumption to avoid health problems and increase longevity. Moderate drinking, according to federal dietary guidelines, means that women should have no more than a drink per day, and men should have no more than two per day.
In addition to causing lung cancer, cigarette-smoking is associated with serious health problems including heart attack, stroke and mouth and throat cancers, making it a significant threat to longevity. The best way to reduce your risk, of course, is never to smoke at all — but if you do, experts advise quitting as soon as possible to minimize threats to your health.
Regular Exercise Can Double Your Chances of Making It to 85
People with the highest levels of fitness at the age of 75 were more than twice as likely to survive 10 years or more compared to those with poorer fitness, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
The most-fit group had the fitness level equivalent to running at a pace of a 10-minute mile.
Here’s another reason you don’t want to slack off on your workout routine as you get older: High levels of fitness in your senior years can help predict your lifespan, a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiologyfound.
Researchers had over 6,500 patients with an average age of 75 perform a treadmill stress test, where they ran as hard as they could until exhaustion. Their stress test results were measured in metabolic equivalents (METs), or the energy cost of an activity, and divided into three groups: most fit (10 or more METs), moderately fit (6 to 9.9 METs) and least fit (6 or fewer METs). For context, a 10-minute mile is roughly 10 METs.
Researchers tracked the participants for 10 years, until they would’ve been about 85. They found that 39 percent of the participants died. And their fitness levels 10 years earlier were predictive of who would survive: Individuals from the most-fit group-those at the fitness equivalent of running a 10-minute mile-were more than twice as likely to be alive 10 years later compared with the individuals in the least fit group, or those who would only been able to sustain a 15-minute mile.
Fitness level is very strongly associated with a patient’s risk for both cardiovascular disease, something which can obviously affect your risk of premature death, Seamus Whelton, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, told Runner’s World. Higher fitness levels can also lower traditional stroke risks like high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity, while also helping strengthen your immune system and lower inflammation
The study did not take into account a change in fitness levels, but there’s no harm in improving your fitness, no matter your age. (Still, you should always consult with your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen.)
In fact, research has found that becoming more fit as you age can reduce your risk of stroke and improve your health in general. Individuals who started with low fitness level and became fitter cut their stroke risk by 60 percent and were 34 percent less likely to die over the course of the 35-year study.
How to beat diabetes: What's good for your heart may also prevent diabetes
Twenty million more people are projected to develop diabetes over the next 20 years. Is there any way to prevent it? Lee Miller and his doctor think there may be. For 10 years, Miller has maintained a 40 pound weight loss, but Lee got a shock at his yearly checkup.
"I had gone to a physical and had blood work done and came back with higher blood sugar levels than were good," Miller said. The man who used to train for triathlons, was diagnosed with pre-diabetes and he worried that full-blown diabetes could be next. Dr. Joshua J. Joseph of Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and his colleagues assessed the heart health of more than 7,000 people who did not have diabetes. The researchers then used the American Heart Association's measure of heart health, called Life's Simple Seven. For starters, did they have blood pressure of less than 120 over 80? Fasting glucose less than 100, total cholesterol less than 200, and BMI of less than 25? Did they exercise for 150 minutes a week and eat well with two servings of fish weekly? Finally, if they had ever smoked, did they quit? "People who had four or more of those compared to 0-1, had a 70-80 percent lower risk of diabetes over 10 years," Joseph explained.
Miller did develop diabetes, but believes shedding about 20 more pounds and increasing his exercise again could be the key to keeping the symptoms under control.
"My doctor feels if I can get there, I may have a chance with exercise," he said. Miller says he has cut out all soda and limits his carb intake to 45 grams per meal. He's also planning to start training for a triathlon again as motivation. In addition to the other heart-healthy recommendations for preventing diabetes, Joseph suggests limiting sugar-sweetened beverages to only 36 ounces or less every week.
14 Most Dangerous Foods That Can Kill You
When you think of what a dangerous food might be, you may consider obscure foods like pufferfish (yes, that’s on the list), but do you think about hot dogs, cheese, or even your basic chicken breast? Likely not. However, as it turns out, some of the most dangerous foods in the world seem quite innocuous—and they may be in your fridge right now.
Why Do We Need Sleep? Israeli Scientists Solve the Mystery
Groundbreaking research shows that when a zebrafish sleeps, so do its nerve cells – freeing them to focus on repairing their DNA.
We all sleep. From jellyfish to frilled-neck lizards to flying squirrels to humans, the need for sleep is universal. But the biological reason why sleeplessness ultimately leads to death has always been a mystery.
Now a paper from Bar-Ilan University published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications presents a groundbreaking theory: that when we sleep, our nerve cells take a break from their usual function, freeing their resources to reduce DNA damage that was accumulated during wakefulness.
Sleep makes no evolutionary sense in that it’s an insanely vulnerable time for the slumberer. You’re more likely to get eaten by a predator than when you’re awake. So why would we evolve to need sleep? It’s well established that loss of sleep affects brain performance such as memory and learning, from fruit flies to humans. This strongly argues that sleep is biochemically essential, and that sleep deprivation causes some kind of gradual systems collapse in the brain.
Now Prof. Lior Appelbaum – of Bar-Ilan University’s Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences and Gonda (Goldschmied) Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center – believes he and his colleagues have discovered the biological why. Appelbaum supervised the study led by grad student David Zada.
Based on observing single neurons in live transparent fish during sleep and wakefulness, they concluded that if the organism doesn’t sleep, its nerve cells don’t “power down” and can’t efficiently perform DNA maintenance. Accruing neuronal DNA disrepair may explain how sleep and sleep disturbances affect brain performance, even aging and various brain disorders, the team postulates.
When the organism whole sleeps, we can now define single sleeping cells,” Appelbaum told Haaretz. “Here for the first time we show how the sleep of the organism affects movement of chromosomes and DNA maintenance in specific single neurons.”
Sleep and the single cell
The fish in question were zebrafish, stripy freshwater minnows that originally hailed from the Himalayas and, being appropriately hardy, have become a popular aquarium pet – and research subject. Fortunately for brain researchers, when zebrafish are young, they’re transparent. Even their skulls are transparent, rendering them ideal for observational research of what’s happening in their little brains. Importantly, like humans, zebrafish sleep during the night.
All our cells have DNA, with the exception of red blood cells in humans and some other animals. From the moment each cell comes into being, its DNA starts to suffer damage. All sorts of things can damage DNA, such as oxidants, sunbathing (in the case of skin cells) and even neuronal activity itself.
But the damage should be repaired by DNA repair enzymes, in theory.
Asked how exactly they could see when a zebrafish neuron was online or offline, Appelbaum says the researchers developed a method to mark chromosomes in the fish’s DNA and track their movement inside the neuron. Their imaging achieved the resolution of seeing these chromosomes in the individual fish brain neurons.
Using 3D time-lapse photography and live baby zebrafish with marked chromosomes, the researchers discovered that when the fish is awake, chromosome movement in the cell nuclei is diminished and DNA damage accumulates. If wakefulness persists, this damage can reach unsafe levels.
After prolonged sleep deprivation, neuronal cells can die. But during sleep, chromosome movement is faster. This fast movement is the expression of efficient nucleus maintenance.
In other words, sleep normalizes the levels of DNA damage in each individual neuron, the researchers say.
DNA maintenance isn’t efficient enough when the organism and its nerves are awake; the organism requires an offline sleep period with reduced input to the brain for the repair to be proper.
“It’s like potholes in the road,” Appelbaum says. “Roads accumulate wear and tear, especially during daytime rush hours, and it’s most convenient and efficient to fix them at night, when there’s light traffic.”
What about non-neuronal cells? Do they also fix their DNA when the animal is sleeping? Possibly not.
The researchers tested two other cell types, Appelbaum says: endothelial cells (vascular system) and glial cells. They didn’t find differences in chromosome dynamics and DNA damage between day and night. “We suggest that this mechanism is specific to neurons. However, future work should test these processes in other cell types, such as muscles,” he says.
When neurons go offline
The bottom line is that when the fish sleeps, movement surrounding the chromosomes escalates, and that increase in activity was shown to be essential to efficient DNA repair. There is some movement in the nucleus during the day; there is evidently some DNA repair in the neurons. But the balance tilts toward repair only when the zebrafish sleeps.
Experiments bolstered the finding; for instance, by making the fish sleep in the middle of its daytime wakefulness period by putting melatonin in the water, and filming the sleep-dependent increase of chromosome movements and efficient repair. Or by chemically inducing DNA damage in the fish – which was followed by increased sleep and normalization of this damage.
Appelbaum notes that we’ve known for a hundred years that sleep aids memory and learning, and brain performance in general, but the question remained what it did at the level of the single neuron. Now we know.
“We believe that under normal conditions, when we’re tired, the accrued damage to the neuronal DNA somehow signals the brain to go to sleep,” he says.
Asked if all neurons sleep when the organism does, and if they all probably sleep similarly, Appelbaum points out that our brains don’t shut down during sleep; they enter another state.
“Maybe different neurons need different amounts of sleep,” he says. “Also, it’s likely that not every neuron can go to sleep when it feels like. This would cause chaos, and the brain has to function properly during the day. Evolution developed the brain with a consolidated, synchronized period of sleep dedicated to cellular maintenance.”
The next phase of the research will be to look for neurons that are especially active during sleep, region by region of the brain. Another question is what happens to our DNA repair kits during dream states – and we aren’t the only ones dreaming. Research published last year concluded that animals as far down as lizards can dream too.
Aspirin is out. Here's how healthy older adults can prevent heart attacks, strokes without pills
After new recommendations reversed years-old advice on daily aspirin use, doctors tell older adults that lifestyle changes can help prevent heart attacks and stroke. The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association said a daily 75 to 100 milligrams of aspirin should no longer be given as a way to prevent atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease in people older than 70 or any adult at an increased risk of bleeding. Research suggests continued aspirin use can cause severe bleeding and hemorrhaging.
“Clinicians should be very selective in prescribing aspirin for people without known cardiovascular disease,” cardiologist Roger Blumenthal said in a statement. “It’s much more important to optimize lifestyle habits and control blood pressure and cholesterol as opposed to recommending aspirin."
Older adults taking a daily low-dose aspirin should contact their health care provider before stopping or altering their regimen, Blumenthal told USA TODAY.
Select people with high risk of cardiovascular disease and a "very low risk of bleeding" might still be advised by their doctor to take aspirin, Blumenthal said. Aspirin will still be recommended to some people who've had a heart attack, stroke, open-heart surgery or stents.
The ACC and AHA say these are the best ways to avoid heart attacks and strokes:
Eat these foods
A diet full of vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, whole grains and fish is best for overall cardiovascular health, according to the ACC. Limit eating salt, saturated fats, fried foods, processed meats and drinking sweetened beverages.
Adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. This could include brisk walking, swimming, dancing or cycling.
Keep a healthy weight
For people who are obese or overweight, losing 5 to 10 percent of body weight can decrease their risk of heart disease, stroke and other health issues, according to the ACC.
It’s Never Too Late to Start Exercising, According to This Study
What did this study find?
Through March 2017 to February 2018, researchers looked at data from a health study conducted between 1995 to 1996, in which adults aged 50 to 71 were asked questions about their lifestyle and workout habits throughout their lives. The researchers compared these to mortality records available up to 2011. They grouped the 312,059 participants into 10 different “exercise trajectories,” showing patterns for those who had maintained their exercise habits their whole lives, those who had increased the amount they did (whether consistently or by returning to exercise as an adult), and those who had decreased the amount of hours they spent working out as they aged. The researchers focused on “vigorous activity,” including tennis, basketball, football, cheerleading, hiking, fast walking, and weightlifting.
On average, those who were classified as “maintainers” saw a 29 to 36 percent lowered risk for all-cause mortality compared to people who regularly got no vigorous exercise a week. This group included people who had worked out for seven to eight hours a week their whole lives; people who worked out for seven hours a week in their teens, let it drop off in their early 20s, and then picked it up again in their 30s and later; and people who had consistently worked out for five to seven hours a week, with the exact amount of time varying depending on their age. The “maintainers” also saw a 34 to 43 percent decrease in their risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and a 14 to 10 percent decrease in their risk of dying from cancer.
The other group that saw the benefits of exercise for health were the “increasers.” These were people who started out doing two or fewer hours of vigorous exercise a week in their late teens, who then either became committed exercisers working out seven hours a week from their early 20s, or gradually increased the number of hours they committed over a period of a few decades. If that latter description sounds like you — and you’ve always felt like you came late to the party — take heart: Those who came to exercise relatively late and increased throughout their lives decreased their risk of death from all causes by 35 percent (measured against those who did no exercise), compared to 32 percent for those who started doing seven hours from their 20s on.
What does this mean?
The ultimate takeaway is that it’s never too late to start exercising if you want to improve your health. Dr. Jennifer Haythe, MD, a New York-based cardiologist and co-director of the Women’s Center for Cardiovascular Health and Columbia, explains, “The heart is a muscle and can always be trained like any muscle. Picking up exercise at any time has been shown to improve blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol, mood, and sleep. So it’s no surprise that adopting exercise at any stage will have a mortality benefit.”
The other good news is that you don’t need to be spending hours exercising every day to get the benefits. Although people who did six to eight hours a week decreased their risk the most on average, starting at two hours a week and gradually increasing was enough to make a difference. Anthony McClain, a Chicago-based fitness consultant and host of podcast Bout That Time, explains, “Six to eight hours of vigorous activity sounds nice to me, yet studies have shown as little as 30 minutes of moderate/vigorous activity five days a week yields consequential qualitative and quantitative health benefits.”
More important than time, McClain adds, is intensity — and that depends on you. “Any activity can be vigorous, it all depends on how hard the individual is working,” he says. “Typically, the terms vigorous/moderate/mild/low are connected to the intensity at which someone performs said activity. Intensity is usually defined as a percentage of one’s maximum heart rate.” To work out if what you’re doing counts as “vigorous,” monitor your breathing. “You’ll be breathing hard and breaking a sweat, but should still manage to converse for most of the exercise,” advises Lydia Noyes, a reporter for the health section of consumer research website HighYa.com. If you have a heart rate monitor, Noyes says you’re looking to get “your heart rate elevated to zones three to four: 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate.” You can work out your approximate maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220.
If you’ve been thinking about exercise but worried that you’ve already been left behind, or that you won’t measure up, this study is another reminder that now is as good a moment as any to start. McClain adds that exercise isn’t about what other people think or expect of you: It’s about making a choice that suits you so you can reach your own goals. “A good place for people to start or restart their exercise regimen is squarely within their limits,” he says. “The key, in my opinion, is reconnecting with your physical self. Your strengths and limitations, and areas that you need to improve upon before jumping all the way in head first.” Dr. Haythe agrees: “I always advise people to start slowly so that they are not overwhelmed,” she explains. “A brisk walking routine five days a week for 30 to 45 minutes is a great place to start, and once they feel better and stronger, escalation is easier and advised.” Slow and steady is more effective than never starting out at all.
Scientists Discover Hormone Produced By Exercise May Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
NEW YORK — Endorphins are a well-known exercise by-product, the result of hormones being released that can significantly boost one’s mood. Now scientists say exercise also releases another hormone that may protect the brain against Alzheimer’s disease later in life. Previous research has long shown that regular physical activity improves memory and may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, but researchers didn’t understand why. Researchers at Columbia University sought to shed light on the mystery, honing in on a hormone produced by exercise that was only discovered a few years ago.
Scientists studying the effect of exercise on the body discovered the hormone, called irisin, and believed it was primarily involved in energy metabolism. But more recent research showed that the hormone could also improve the hippocampus area of the brain, a region needed for learning and memory.
“This raised the possibility that irisin may help explain why physical activity improves memory and seems to play a protective role in brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease” explains Dr. Ottavio Arancio, lead researcher and professor of pathology and cell biology and of medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, in a university release.
After examining human samples from brain banks and finding high irisin levels in individuals who didn’t suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and low levels in Alzheimer’s-affected brains, the research team tested their hypothesis on mice. Their experiments showed that irisin protected the brain synapses of the mice and their memory. When the researchers disabled the effects of irisin, their synapses and memory weakened. In another experiment involving mice, Dr. Arancio’s team found that mice that swam nearly every day for five weeks did not suffer from memory impairment in spite of beta amyloid infusions, a neuron-clogging, memory-robbing protein thought to be a cause of Alzheimer’s. Blocking irisin with another drug was found to eliminate the positive effects from the swimming.
Arancio and his team are now looking to create drugs that could increase levels of the hormone or mimic its effects.
“In the meantime, I would certainly encourage everyone to exercise to promote brain function and overall health,” he says. “But that’s not possible for many people, especially those with age-related conditions like heart disease, arthritis, or dementia. For those individuals, there’s a particular need for drugs that can mimic the effects of irisin and protect synapses and prevent cognitive decline.”
The study was published in the journal Nature Medicine.
Scientists develop 'world's first Alzheimer's treatment
Scientists have developed a new way of battling Alzheimer’s. In research being hailed as a world first, they aim to target toxic particles that trigger the brain disease. Their work could lead to tests on new drug treatments by 2020. Experts at Cambridge University and from Sweden have identified these particles as the prime cause of Alzheimer’s and worked out a formula for targeting them. Until now, drugs have tackled Alzheimer’s symptoms and attempts to discover medicines to prevent or slow it have failed. But in findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Cambridge researcher Michele Vendruscolo says: “We’ve devised the first strategy to go after the cause.” “The hope is that new drugs can be developed.” A healthy brain has a quality control system that gets rid of any excessive amounts of these proteins.
In Alzheimer’s, proteins called oligomers that usually help brain cells to function normally “go rogue” by forming clumps that kill healthy nerve cells.
A separate study, by the University Hospital of Tubingen in Germany, has shown that two and a half hours a week of exercise can delay the effects of Alzheimer’s. The brain scores of people who did physical activity like swimming and running for 150 minutes a week were better.
Over time, the brain begins to shrink, causing memory failure and personality changes.
New compound shows promise in treatment of Alzheimer's
Alzheimer’s disease could be caused by a gum infection, according to a new study.
The study, published this week in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances, suggests the bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis that destroys gum tissue in the mouth is linked to dementia and Alzheimer's.
Researchers observed the bacteria in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease. They also conducted tests on mice that showed the gum infection led to an increased production of amyloid beta, a part of the amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease.
"Despite significant funding and the best efforts of academic, industry, and advocacy communities, clinical progress against Alzheimer's has been frustratingly slow," Casey Lynch, author on the paper and CEO of pharmaceutical company Cortexyme, said in a statement. "The Science Advances publication sheds light on an unexpected driver of Alzheimer's pathology."
Cortexyme, which funded the research, is designing a series of therapies to treat the gum infection that plan to go to Phase 2 and 3 clinical trials.
While there have been previous studies linking periodontal disease and Alzheimer’s, researchers who aren't affiliated with the paper say there isn't clear enough evidence linking the two.
"In research we’ve supported to uncover the key risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, gum disease hasn’t emerged as a major cause for concern," James Pickett, the head of research at Alzheimer’s Society who was not involved in the paper, said in a statement.
No cure currently exists for Alzheimer's disease, the most common type of dementia. The disease that begins with memory loss affects as many as 5 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Almost Half of All U.S. Adults Have Heart Disease or High Blood Pressure
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.—and it seems as if the problem is only getting worse. Nearly half of American adults have some form of cardiovascular disease, according to a new report released by the American Heart Association.
The report, the AHA’s annual Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics update, was published in the journal Circulation on Thursday. For the gigantic report, a panel of experts looked at data from a range of sources (including government reports and clinical trials) to find statistics on cardiovascular disease, which was defined as coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, or high blood pressure.
The results showed that 48 percent of American adults (which is about 121.5 million people) have some form of heart disease, and that heart disease is also contributing to an increasing number of deaths. For instance, the report found that that there were 840,678 deaths from the disease in 2016, which is up from 836,546 in 2015.
This reality is something we should all be thinking about, Mariell Jessup, M.D., chief science and medical officer of the American Heart Association, tells SELF. “People need to see that number of 48 percent and realize the odds of an individual having some form of cardiovascular disease is very high,” she says.
Experts say there are a few factors that could be contributing to this trend.
The major issues often come down to lifestyle factors: lack of exercise, smoking, obesity, and not making lifestyle changes when other risk factors for heart disease are present. “The fact that humans have embraced an unhealthy lifestyle contributes to the fact that cardiovascular disease is the scourge of the United States and the rest of the world,” Dr. Jessup says.
That said, people are more active than they’ve been in the past. Adults reported that they’re moving more: In 2016, just 26.9 adults reported being inactive, compared to 40.2 percent in 2005. Unfortunately, they’re still not moving as much as they should. For instance, only 27.1 percent of high school students reported getting at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity, which the authors said in the report is “likely an overestimation of those actually meeting the guidelines.” Federal guidelines recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise of 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise and do muscle strengthening activities at least twice a week—and only 22.5 percent of adults said they’re actually doing that.
Rates of smoking, a habit that’s a known risk factor for heart disease, still have a way to go, too, Helene Glassberg, M.D., an associate professor of clinical cardiovascular medicine at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, tells SELF. While adult smoking rates are dropping—nearly 80 percent of adults said they were nonsmokers between 2015 and 2016, up from 73 percent in 1999 to 2000—there are still plenty of people who are engaging in the habit. That may change in the future, though: Nearly 95 percent of kids between the ages of 12 to 19 were nonsmokers in 2015 to 2016, which is a huge change from 76 percent reported between 1999 and 2000.
Although the link between heart disease and excess weight is incredibly complicated and poorly understood, the AHA consistently names obesity as a major risk factor for cardiovascular issues. And obesity rates may be contributing to the rates of cardiovascular disease, Dr. Glassberg says. Nearly 40 percent of adults and 18.5 percent of kids were classified as obese during the report period, and 7.7 percent of adults and 5.6 percent of children were classified as severely obese.
People also aren’t being proactive about their heart disease risk the way they should. “Many Americans have at least one of the major risk factors that cause heart disease, and many are controllable or at least manageable,” Dr. Glassberg says, citing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, inactivity, being overweight, and smoking among them. “When they’re treated, this significantly lowers the risk of having a heart attack. But many people aren’t doing that.”
If you take high blood pressure out of the equation, 9 percent of American adults (or 24.3 million) qualify for having cardiovascular disease, the report says. However, high blood pressure shouldn’t be discounted: It’s a major risk factor for developing stroke, heart failure, and coronary heart disease, Sanjiv Patel, M.D., a cardiologist at MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif., tells SELF. “High blood pressure creeps up on you and many people don’t know they have it until it causes a stroke or heart attack,” he says.
If you’re worried about your own risk for heart disease or high blood pressure, there are a few things you can do.
First off, it’s important to note that the AHA and American College of Cardiology changed the definition of high blood pressure in their hypertension guidelines in 2017 (after much of the data in the report was collected). Previously, people were classified as having hypertension if they had a blood pressure reading of 140/90 or above, but it’s now defined as 130/80 or above. So, if you haven't gotten your blood pressure checked recently, now is the time to do that—even if it hasn't changed much, you might be in a different hypertension category now.
The report points out that about 80 percent of all heart disease can be preventing by controlling high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol, as well as living a healthy lifestyle. That includes not smoking, eating a healthy diet, being active, and doing your best to keep a healthy weight.
If your job makes it tough to be active during the day, it’s crucial to find time to work out around that, even if it’s going for a brisk walk, Dr. Patel says. “You need to move,” he says. “It can make a big difference in your health.”
It’s also crucial to “know your numbers,” Dr. Glassberg says, which means blood pressure but also cholesterol. “Doing regular cholesterol and blood pressure checks can bring your risk factors to your doctor's attention long before a heart attack happens.”
Getting a general physical exam (where these things are usually monitored) regularly is also important, Dr. Jessup says. (Exact recommendations on how often you should get one vary by age, but MedlinePlus suggests that you see your doctor for a physical every one to two years if you’re between 18 and 39, and every year if you’re over 40.)
If your doctor does find that you have a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, take their advice to follow steps to make a change, whether it’s through lifestyle changes or medication. “The good news is that a significant percentage of cardiovascular disease is totally preventable with lifestyle changes and modern medicine,” Dr. Jessup says
Dermatologists Say Aloe Vera Gel Works Wonders on Annoying Signs of Aging
When you skimp on the sunscreen (unintentionally, of course) and end up with a monster sunburn, chances are you turn to aloe vera gel to soothe your scorched skin. Because it brings so much relief during the healing process-almost like a gooey superhero-you’ve probably wondered what else aloe vera gel is capable of.
“Aloe vera is a cactus-like plant known for its healing and medicinal properties,” says Joel Schlessinger, MD, Omaha-based board-certified dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon. “Its stems store water, creating a clear, gel-like substance in the leaves, which contains vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and amino acids.” The gel from aloe has been used throughout history to treat a variety of skin conditions, such as burns, frostbite, psoriasis, and cold sores, research shows.
Benefits of aloe vera for skin
Aloe vera gel contains compounds called polysaccharides that encourage skin repair and new skin cells to set up shop, says Kenneth Mark, MD, New York-based board-certified dermatologist and Mohs skin cancer surgeon. The gel also contains a pain reliever called carboxypeptidase, which may be why aloe vera is so soothing.
Relieve skin irritation
Inflammation underlies many skin conditions (think: psoriasis, eczema, and lichen planus), says Jennifer Gordon, MD, board-certified dermatologist at Westlake Dermatology in Austin, Texas. Aloe vera gel contains compounds, such as acemannan, that suppress inflammation by showing the enzymes that trigger it who’s boss. (Make sure to do a patch test before putting it on inflamed skin, as aloe vera can cause allergic contact dermatitis in some people.)
Because aloe vera gel is mostly water, it helps to hydrate the skin without that post-application greasy feeling, says Dr. Schlessinger. It helps lock moisture into the skin, while also acting as a glue that makes the top layer of skin cells stick together, ultimately smoothing and softening your skin.
Besides having serious antibacterial skills, aloe vera gel contains salicylic acid, which is an exfoliant that helps to unclog pores, making it especially helpful if you deal with pimples and blackheads. Bonus: It also acts as an anti-inflammatory on the oil glands that cause acne, says Dr. Mark.
Treat cold sores
“Aloe vera is an antiseptic, containing six agents known to help inhibit fungi, bacteria, and viruses, including salicylic acid, phenols, and sulfur,” says David Lortscher, MD, California-based board-certified dermatologist and CEO of Curology. It may help speed up the healing process too, by creating antibodies the immune system can use to fight the cold sore virus.
Slow signs of aging
Aloe stimulates fibroblast activity, says Dr. Mark, which creates an uptick in collagen production and elastin fibers that make the skin less wrinkled and more elastic. Meanwhile, zinc acts as an astringent to tighten pores, and antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, help prevent the formation of free radicals (aka, molecules that can do a number on your cells).
Prevent (and maybe even fade) dark spots
Aloe vera gel prevents tyrosinase, the enzyme responsible for skin discoloration, from doing its thing, essentially suppressing UV-induced hyperpigmentation and the skin-damaging effects of sunburns, says Dr. Gordon. This mechanism may also help in the prevention of dark spots, while the various antioxidants it contains (such as glutathione peroxide) may fade sun damage that’s already formed.
What Is a Normal Heart Rate?
Blood pressure vs. heart rate
Some people confuse high blood pressure with a high heart rate. Blood pressure is the measurement of the force of the blood against the walls of arteries, while pulse rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute. There is no direct correlation between the two, and high blood pressure, or hypertension, does not necessarily result in a high pulse rate, and vice versa. Heart rate goes up during strenuous activity, but a vigorous workout may only modestly increase blood pressure.
The Average Resting Heart Rate in the U.S.
Bad news: Research from Fitbit shows that the average resting heart rate in the United States does not bode well for the country's overall health. The wearables company tapped into their giant user database of more than 108 billion hours of heart-rate data to analyze resting heart rates around the world. Of the 15 different countries the company reviewed, the U.S. and Singapore had the highest resting heart rates, at 65.9 beats per minute (bpm), while Italy had the lowest, at 61.8 bpm.
"If you think about it, the U.S. also seems to be ranked highly for a lot of the variables that negatively affect resting heart rate: overall stress, work-related stress, obesity, poor diet, inactivity, etc.," says McLean.
The few points between the U.S.'s (65.9) and Italy's (61.8) scores may not seem like a huge difference, but those few bpms are significant over a lifetime: "We pulled from so much data that even though the difference seems small, it's actually statistically significant and it can also be clinically significant," says McLean. That means the difference is important for both research and IRL health concerns. "Even a 3 or 4 bpm difference in resting heart rate can have a huge impact over time on someone's general health, well-being, and morbidity." In fact, resting heart rate has been linked directly to your risk of death. Paying attention now?
Why You Have a High Resting Heart Rate—and How to Lower It
The biggest culprits that increase your resting heart rate: Lack of sleep, tobacco use, being overweight or obese, dehydration, and stress, says McLean.
The easiest way to improve (i.e., lower) your resting heart rate is to literally get your blood pumping. Your heart is a muscle, and if you want to get it in good shape, you have to work it out. (Yes, that means doing cardio—even if it isn't necessary for weight loss or for your specific fitness goals.)
You don't have to go crazy, though: McLean says you can see significant improvements in your RHR just by increasing your overall activity levels each day—no marathon training necessary. However, you may want to give HIIT workouts a try: A study published in the Journal of Human Hypertension found that 55-year-old adults who did just one hour per week of high-intensity aerobic training (about 66 percent of maximum effort) lowered their resting heart rate more efficiently than they did through low-intensity effort (33 percent of max effort).
Fitbit's research yielded other interesting results, too. Resting heart rates gradually increased with age up until the 40 to 49 age group (which had the highest RHR for both sexes), then started to decline again. Because Fitbit's huge selection of RHR data is the first of its kind, this finding is pretty novel. Researchers aren't entirely sure why your RHR goes down after peaking sometime in your 40s, although McLean says it may have to do with age-related changes in heart mechanics.
The health tech company also noticed that female users had a higher average RHR overall than male users by 3 bpm. Before you panic, listen up: This doesn't have any health indications, but rather is a result of anatomical differences in heart size and hormone levels. (Really, don't worry: Women consistently live longer than men.)
How to Measure Your Resting Heart Rate
The best way to get your RHR is to wear a heart-rate monitor (like a Fitbit or other activity tracker) while you sleep. No device? To measure it yourself:
Consider making note of your RHR on two or three different mornings and averaging your results, says Cary Raffle, a certified personal trainer and exercise science pro in NYC, as we reported in How to Find (and Train In) Your Personal Heart-Rate Zones. This can ensure you didn't just record a number on a particularly stressful day or after a rough night's sleep.
Keep an eye on your RHR over time to know what's normal and abnormal for you, said Harley Pasternak, celebrity trainer and Fitbit ambassador, in a press release about the Fitbit study. That way, you can monitor how your health is changing, and know if you're ever in a situation where you need to seek advice from your doc.
How Much Salt Is Actually Bad for You?
In health circles, salt has long been considered a dirty four-letter word. When we eat salt-which typically contains 40 percent sodium and 60 percent chloride-it’s the sodium that concerns many health experts. Eat too much, and experts say it can cause blood pressure numbers to boil over, setting the stage for health woes. But not all research decries the crystals used so liberally to season our food as the ultimate health pariah.
It’s important to remember that despite its association with poor health, sodium does play a vital role in proper bodily functioning. It helps regulate dozens of biological processes, including muscle contraction (think of your pumping heart and moving quads during a ride), fluid balance, and nervous system functioning.
Why Is Sodium Bad For You?
Excess consumption of sodium beyond what our bodies require (at the bare minimum, 500 milligrams a day) is what really keeps many health professionals up at night.Experts and researchers stress that eating too much salt makes it harder for your kidneys to remove fluid, and excess fluid buildup can increase blood pressure. Over time, this stiffens and narrows blood vessels to reduce blood and oxygen flow to key areas such as your heart and brain, ultimately raising the risk of stroke and heart disease. Indeed, a study in the journal Circulation demonstrated that those with the highest urinary sodium excretion, an indication of higher salt intake, had on average the highest blood pressure levels.
An international team of researchers found evidence based on more than 100 prior studies that there could be 1.65 million fewer deaths per year worldwide from cardiovascular causes if the average sodium intake was closer to 2,000 mg a day.
Furthermore, an analysis of about 3,000 subjects published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology showed that the higher participants’ sodium intake was during the study period, the greater their 20-year mortality risk. Adults who consumed less than 2,300 mg per day had a lower death risk from maladies like heart disease than those with higher sodium intakes. For each 1,000 mg per day increase in sodium consumption, there was a 12 percent increase in the chance of early mortality. There is also research to suggest that salty diets can raise the risk for stomach cancer, but only at very high intakes–more than 5,000 mg per day.
In addition to these warnings about sodium’s negative health effects, some cyclists simply don’t appreciate that eating too much salt can make them feel like the Pillsbury dough boy. “Salt attacks liquid, so eating a high amount can cause your body to retain water, which leads to bloating,” explains Lauren Antonucci,
How Much Sodium Is Too Much?
The American Heart Association recommends adults consume no more than 2,300 mg per day, with an ideal limit for most people of 1,500 mg per day, a number they suggest could bring about $26 billion in health care savings. To put this in perspective, a single teaspoon of salt has 2,300 mg of sodium, and two slices of pizza can clock in at more than 1,000 mg. So you can see how easy it is to go overboard based on these guidelines. Americans typically consume an average of 3,400 mg/day.
Perhaps most notably, a diet with a tsunami of sodium is likely an indication that you’re eating too many restaurant foods and packaged, processed foods. According to a study in the journal Circulation, about 70 percent of the sodium in the typical American diet doesn’t hail from what’s naturally present in foods or the use of the salt shaker to season home-cooked meals. Instead, it comes from convenience foods like deli meats where liberal amounts of salt can be added as a preservative and flavor booster. It should be noted, however, that it’s not just salt in processed foods that may play a role in health concerns like high blood pressure, but other undesirables such as added sugars, preservatives, unhealthy fats, and refined grains.
Be your own chef.
One of the best ways to keep the amount of sodium in your diet in a healthy range is to control what goes into your food by cooking it yourself at home. A British study involving more than 11,000 adults found that those who prepared their meals at home more frequently had lower body fat levels and better overall diet quality including eating less sodium than people who ate fewer meals at home. If you do most of your own cooking with a focus on whole foods, this should automatically lower the amount of sodium in your diet, even if you season foods judiciously with salt. Taking the time to meal plan will make it less tempting to rely on salty takeout food and frozen meals.
Eat more potassium.
A New England Journal of Medicinestudy involving more than 100,000 men and women in 18 countries found that while high intakes of sodium may raise blood pressure numbers, particularly in those already with hypertension and those consuming more than 5,000 mg per day, higher intakes of potassium can work to lower numbers. “Potassium increases your kidney's ability to flush out excess amounts of salt to help maintain fluid balance,” Antonucci explains.
Potassium may also relax the walls of the blood vessels, lowering blood pressure in the process. Yet, few Americans eat enough potassium causing the sodium-to-potassium ratio to be lopsided. Good sources of potassium include fruits, vegetables, potatoes, and legumes.
What to Do When You Get the Flu
Every winter and spring, influenza rips through the nation, sickening up to 20 percent of the population. And because this all-encompassing respiratory virus is so contagious, it can knock down even the healthiest of us, leaving you coughing, sneezing, aching, shaking, and sweating from a fever.
So if you do get the flu, what should you do? First, know there is no quick fix. Your immune system needs time to fight it off naturally, usually about seven to ten days, although it can take up to three weeks to get back to full strength. But in the meantime, there are a few things you can do to help your body do battle, ease those miserable symptoms, possibly shorten the duration of illness, and stop from spreading the flu to others.
To See Your Doctor or Not to See Your Doctor
Flu symptoms tend to come on abruptly and all at once, which is why you’ll hear people say they feel like they got hit by a train. While the sudden sickness can be alarming and make you think you need immediate medical care, doctors actually caution most people against coming into urgent care or the emergency department. Many cases of the flu are mild and don’t require medical attention at all, says Eduardo Lopez, M.D., head of the nephrology department at Kaiser Permanente’s Panorama City Medical Center in California. But even for severe symptoms, the best course of action is usually to stay home and call your doctor instead.
“It’s often best to reach out over the telephone to receive treatment because you are most contagious from one day before symptoms start to three to four days afterward, so if you come into the hospital, you can spread the virus to others,” Lopez explains. “That’s why Kaiser Permanente has physicians available via video and telephone, which also helps to avoid clogging up emergency services.” However, the individual is always the best judge of their symptoms, so it is up to them to decide if an in-person or telephone visit with a doctor is a better fit for their circumstances.
While many cases of the flu can be treated remotely, Lopez says certain people should, in fact, seek urgent in-person care. This includes those with a high risk of flu-related complications: children under age 5, pregnant women, the elderly, and anyone with asthma, diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung disease, chronic kidney disease, or a compromised immune system. Additionally, anyone experiencing diarrhea or vomiting, which can cause dehydration and further complications, should be seen by a doctor.
Stay Home, Sleep In, and Drink Up
Once you’ve consulted with a doctor, your best plan of action is to stay home and keep your distance from others to prevent infecting them. “Do not go to work, and if you live with others, wear a mask and avoid close contact,” Lopez says. “Wash your hands multiple times a day, and try not to touch your nose, mouth, or eyes.” How long you need to remain cooped up depends on the severity and duration of your symptoms, but as a guideline, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests staying away from work at least until 24 hours after your fever has subsided.
Also get plenty of rest, which means both sleeping soundly and not straining your body with rigorous movement. “Rest helps the body with repair, so you need your rest in order to recover from the flu,” Lopez says.
Drink plenty of fluids as well, he adds. Along with rest, staying hydrated is the most important thing you can do to help your immune system fight off the virus. Plain water is a must, but hot herbal teas and broth-based soups can also help with hydration — and possibly provide some relief for sinus congestion. For example, chicken soup, while it won’t cure the flu, is an excellent source of fluid, as well as electrolytes to help your body retain that fluid. If you have trouble keeping down fluids, suck on ice chips or electrolyte pops. As for over-the-counter remedies, Lopez suggests taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen as needed to reduce fever and ease headaches and body aches. To get temporary relief from common flu symptoms, it’s generally fine for adults and children over age six to take decongestants for a stuffy nose or head, antihistamines for a runny nose, and a cough suppressant to tame the hacking. But consult a health care professional first and always follow the dosing instructions on the package.
As for dietary supplements such as vitamin C, zinc, or echinacea, don’t bother. They likely won’t hurt you if you stay within recommended amounts, but there is very little evidence that they do much of anything for the flu.
Eating These Foods Will Actually Help You Sleep Better
We're told time and again to stop eating at a certain point in the evening for weight-loss purposes, but what if that little snack actually better prepared you for bedtime? Just imagine: no sleeping pills, no drowsy p.m. cold medication, just some healthy, good-for-you quick bites that will help your head hit the pillow faster. Jason Wrobel, raw vegan chef and author of the newly released cookbook Eaternity has found that certain foods with components like potassium, magnesium, calcium, and, of course, tryptophan, can help you catch more z's in no time. Well+Good outlined these slumber-inducing foods to help you fall asleep faster tonight and each night thereafter while still feeling light and getting nutritional benefits. These 7 foods (pictured below) will put your insomnia to bed—literally! According to Cynthia Pasquella, CCN, CHLC, CWC, the grains found in oatmeal trigger insulin production which then makes you feel sleepy—so consider forgoing it for breakfast to avoid slumping at your desk and having as a post-dinner snack. Almonds—while also packed with protein, making them a filling post-dinner snack—contain melatonin to help you drift off to sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, fruits rich in antioxidants, like berries, are rich in melatonin and also have the potential to counteract oxidative stress caused by certain sleep disorders
List of sleep inducing foods: Bananas, Chick peas, Cherries, Turkey, Oat Meal, Almonds, Berries
The diet that may help treat joint stiffness and pain
People with chronic illnesses often search for alternative ways to help their condition, and rheumatoid arthritis patients are no different. Some insist that following an anti-inflammatory diet can help with symptoms of the autoimmune disease.
Rheumatoid arthritis causes pain, swelling, stiffness, and loss of function in the joints, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. It differs from osteoarthritis — the more common arthritis that people develop as they age. With rheumatoid arthritis, however, the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues.
What are anti-inflammatory diets, exactly?
These diets promise to help combat inflammation in the body and there may be something to them, Alissa Rumsey, New York City-based dietitian and nutrition therapist, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Chronic low-level inflammation has been linked to many diseases including type 2 diabetes, allergies, autoimmune conditions, heart disease, cancer, and stroke,” she says. “Diet, exercise, stress, and smoking all contribute to chronic inflammation.”
But while many anti-inflammatory diets have similar food restrictions, they’re not typically a one-size-fits-all approach to wellness. “Everyone reacts to different foods and chemicals,” registered dietitian Sonya Angelone, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “One food that might cause inflammation for one person may not be a problem for another person.”
In general, though, “a diet that includes plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, omega-3 fats, and antioxidants is your best defense against inflammation,” Rumsey says.
How do these diets work?
Overall, anti-inflammatory diets focus on reducing inflammation in the body, through eliminating foods that are thought to be inflammatory, as well as adding in foods that have anti-inflammatory properties. “It is best for people to add foods that are high in antioxidant compounds and can reduce inflammation, while reducing excess refined oils, sugar, and trans fats,” Angelone says. Specifically, “omega-3 fats decrease the production of pro-inflammatory molecules in the body and stimulate the production of anti-inflammatory compounds called eicosanoids,” Rumsey says. Fruits and vegetables are also anti-inflammatory, especially green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes, berries and cherries, and tomatoes, she says. Whole grains are a good source of fiber, which is linked with lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers in the body, notes Rumey.
Anti-inflammatory diets have been researched before. A review article published in the journal Frontiers specifically listed foods that scientists believe can help reduce the progression and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, including dried plums, blueberries, pomegranates, whole grains, spices like ginger and turmeric, and specific oils and teas. The researchers say these foods can provide many benefits, including lowering inflammatory cytokines (chemicals released by the immune system that can cause rheumatoid arthritis symptoms), reducing joint stiffness and pain, and lowering oxidative stress — aka your body’s ability to fight harmful chemicals.
There is also a diet followed by some patients with rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune conditions known as the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), which is an extension of the paleo diet that also focuses on reducing inflammation. The AIP has an initial elimination phase of food groups including grains, legumes, nightshade vegetables (e.g. tomatoes, eggplants), dairy, eggs, coffee, alcohol, nuts and seeds, refined/processed sugars, oils, and food additives, according to a 2017 study on the diet.
It also stresses eating and preparing fresh, nutrient-dense foods, bone broth, and fermented foods while encouraging followers to get better sleep, reduce stress, and exercise regularly. After the elimination phase, followers are asked to maintain the diet for a bit before gradually reintroducing food groups in stages to help see if any one in particular aggravates their symptoms.
Given that rheumatoid arthritis causes bodily inflammation, it seems that an anti-inflammatory diet would be a good treatment option. But doctors still say it still shouldn’t replace conventional medications.
“This is very difficult to study and there are no clinical data to help tell us about whether this works,” arthritis expert Joshua Baker, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “What is known is that patients with rheumatoid arthritis do report a correlation between their diet and symptoms, suggesting there might be a link. There are also some reasons to believe that your diet may affect your immune system. However, it’s difficult to predict which dietary approach would have the best effect on arthritis.”
There is some anecdotal evidence, at least, that anti-inflammatory diets help. “I have patients who have told me that these diets have been helpful for them,” Orrin Troum, MD, a rheumatologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., tells Yahoo Lifestyle, noting that includes patients who follow the AIP. The AIP in particular, though, “is a very restrictive diet and there’s not much literature to suggest that it is of merit,” Troum notes.
When patients say they want to try an anti-inflammatory diet, “my approach is to not discourage those who would like to try,” Baker says. “However, I typically do not make dietary recommendations. My opinion is that the effects are likely to be small (if any) and I don’t want to distract my patients from the proven benefits of medications that are available for the disease.”
Both Baker and Troum say they wouldn’t recommend using any diet as the sole response to rheumatoid arthritis. “Rheumatoid arthritis may be so aggressive at times that unless you get it under control quickly, there may be damage within weeks that’s irreversible,” Troum says. “I recommend to patients that they try to avoid refined sugars and greasy, fatty meats, but that they also take medications that have been proven to be effective for rheumatoid arthritis.”
Baker agrees: “I think diet might end up being a helpful adjunctive therapy, but it is unlikely that people will be able to stop all other treatments as a result.”
Harvard Scientists Say These 5 Things Can Prolong Your Life by a Decade
Want to live 10 years longer? You may have to revamp your lifestyle.
There are five habits that, when done together, could add more than a decade to your life expectancy, according to a study released this year by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The good news: 10 years is a lot of extra time. The bad news: You’ll have to cut out junk food and stop being a couch potato.
Here’s what the study recommends you do:
• Eat a healthy diet
• Exercise 30 minutes or more a day
• Maintain a healthy weight (specifically, a body-mass index between 18.5 and 24.9
• Don’t drink too much alcohol (No more than one 5 oz. glass of wine a day for women, and two glasses for men)
• Don’t smoke (ever)
Men and women who followed the healthiest of lifestyles were 82% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and 65% less likely to die from cancer compared with people who lived unhealthy lifestyles over the course of 30 years, according to the study, published online in the journal Circulation.
The researchers analyzed 34 years of data from more than 78,000 women and 27 years of data from more than 44,000 men. The researchers estimated the women who adopted these five habits would see 14 more years of life, and men would add 12 year.
The healthy habits that the Harvard researchers pinpointed may sound obvious, but they’re not easy to adopt. For starters, that recommended BMI might be difficult for many Americans. The average BMI for the average American man is 28.6, up from 25.1 in the early 1960s. Anything over 24.9 is considered overweight and a BMI over 30 is regarded as obese.
There are a few ways to slowly make them a part of your life, however, according to the National Institutes of Health. Become aware of your bad habits, whether they’re dipping into the office vending machine at 3 p.m. or staying out late and giving the gym a miss the next morning.
Also, don’t do it alone. Ask friends and family to try these healthy challenges with you. The National Institutes of Health also suggests looking ahead and imagining how you’ll feel when you accomplish your goals. “You’re never too out of shape, too overweight, or too old to make healthy changes,” the organization’s monthly newsletter suggests.
There are other factors to consider if you want to add years to your life or, at the very least, not shorten it. Along with exercising and eating nutritious meals, people need to have active social lives and get enough sleep, studies suggest. More than 40% of adults in the U.S. suffer from loneliness, which is linked to depression, dementia, anxiety and cardiovascular diseases. Insufficient sleep also leads to hypertension, diabetes, and obesity.
Take into consideration what happens when you do the opposite of the Harvard study’s recommended habits:
• Poor diet leads to one in five deaths, according to a study by researchers at the University of Washington and published by the journal Lancet. A poor diet can also cause high blood pressure and diabetes, which are linked to eating the wrong foods. (The right diet, the study found, is one that incorporates whole grains, fruit, nuts, and seeds).
• Not exercising also leads to high blood pressure and diabetes, and people who are physically inactive are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, coronary heart disease, and even cancer, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
• Falling below or above your proper BMI isn’t safe. Being underweight, where your BMI is below average, signals malnutrition and increases the risk of osteoporosis, decreased immune function, and fertility issues, according to Healthline. Having a higher BMI or having obesity causes chronic health conditions, such as asthma and bone problems.
Given all that, those five good habits may not seem so bad, after all.
Should You Take Magnesium Supplements? Here’s How the Benefits Stack Up to the Risks
If you’ve found yourself browsing the supplement section of the drugstore lately, you may have come across bottles of magnesium tucked between the maca and the melatonin. But before you throw one in your basket in hopes of reaping some of the awesome benefits touted on the label, it’s important to understand what the stuff actually is, as well as what it can actually do for you Fortunately, we did the legwork and talked to an expert who helped us divide the fact from the myth. Here’s what you need to know about magnesium supplements and your health.
What is magnesium, and what does it do?
The quickest answer: A whole lot of important stuff. “Magnesium is all over the place in our body and involved in almost every system,” certified dietitian-nutritionist Gina Keatley tells Allure. In fact, she says, it plays a role in everything from cardiac health and metabolism to the quality of your sleep.
“You will find magnesium facilitating the creation of proteins, helping our nerves and muscles work, keeping our blood pressure in check and modifying blood glucose levels,” Keatley says. She adds that it also plays a part in helping to maintain a healthy heart rhythm.
Magnesium is an essential element in our bodies, especially when it comes to the creation and maintenance of bones. It's even involved in the processes that allow us to create DNA, according to Keatley. Further, our metabolism relies on this important element. “We require magnesium to create energy from carbs, protein, and fats,” Keatley explains. Magnesium’s effects can be seen on the outside of the body, as well, where it is used to create strong bonds between proteins in the hair.
What are the common sources?
Fortunately, magnesium is present in a wide variety of foods we eat, including leafy greens, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and dairy, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It's also readily available in products specifically fortified with magnesium, like cereal. Registered dietitian Amy Gannon, department manager of eCoaching at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, has a few top picks, including spinach, swiss chard, avocados, cashews, peanuts, almonds, quinoa, black beans, plain yogurt, and — those with a sweet tooth will be happy to hear — dark chocolate. As with most nutrients, it’s ideal if you get your magnesium intake from these whole food sources, according to Gannon. That’s because these foods will not only provide you with magnesium, but a slew of other beneficial nutrients, including antioxidants, fiber, phytochemicals, and other vitamins and minerals vital to your health.
What's the right dose for me?
“Most Americans do not get the recommended amount of magnesium per day,” Keatley says. Gannon adds that it varies based on gender, age, and life stage, but says, "For adults, the recommendation is 310 to 420 milligrams per day.” The NIH suggests most women aim for about 310 to 320 milligrams a day, although pregnant women may need a little more. And though that may sound high if you're not used to thinking about magnesium, it's pretty easy to hit that dose if you're eating the right foods. Gannon adds, “As a point of reference, one ounce of almonds contains about 80 milligrams.”
How can I tell if I'm magnesium deficient?
Not getting enough magnesium typically doesn’t result in any obvious side effects initially, because if that starts to happen the kidneys step in to keep the vast majority of our reserves up. “Only one to two percent of the magnesium in our bodies is in our blood with the rest kept highly regulated by the kidneys,” Gannon explains. “If we don’t get enough magnesium from outside sources [...] our kidneys will restrict how much is excreted through urine. Because our bodies keep levels of magnesium in the blood so tightly controlled, true magnesium deficiency is not common.”Over time, though, habitually low intakes and/or health issues — more on that in a minute — can lead to a true deficiency. This can cause negative side effects like fatigue, appetite loss, nausea, and vomiting. And in extreme cases, numbness, muscle cramping, and truly scary symptoms like heart rhythm abnormalities, seizures, and changes in personality can occur. Unfortunately, there is no single reliable test for a magnesium deficiency. Assessing magnesium levels can be difficult because most of it is found inside of our cells or our bones. You can take a blood test, for example, but the NIH reports, “Serum levels have little correlation with total body magnesium levels or concentrations in specific tissues." That’s why experts warn that accurately diagnosing a deficiency requires both lab tests and a clinical assessment. If you’re having any of the symptoms described above, see your doctor in order to figure out what’s going on. Keep in mind, however, that there are quite a few things that could be causing those symptoms other than a magnesium deficiency. For instance, Lyme disease can also be a cause of fatigue, and fibromyalgia can lead to muscle cramping.
3 Things You Don’t Know About Olive Oil—But Should
You probably don’t lump olives in with other fall fruit (yep, they're a fruit!), but right now is prime harvest time for oil producers. They’re busy picking, pressing, and bottling the green gold in your pantry, with its rich stores of monounsaturated fat that have been linked to heart health and may help defend against age-related illnesses like dementia. But not all EVOO is created equal. Before you buy your next bottle, hear what a certified oleologist has to say about misleading labels, what a harvest date is, and why you probably don’t know how non-rancid oil really tastes.
1. “Cold-Pressed” Oil...Isn’t
Back in pre-Industrial times, oil was made by literally pressing crushed olives, sometimes with giant stone wheels pulled by donkeys. But today, producers use a much more efficient centrifugal machine to separate oil, water, and solids. The modern technique has the added advantage of limiting the oil’s exposure to oxygen, the number one thing that can degrade it. Neither process uses heat, but the older terminology somehow stuck, so people still look for the words “cold pressed” on labels as a sign of quality, says Meagan Cole, a certified oleologist. Oil is not juice; no cold pressing needed.
2. It’s Got a Shelf Life
Oil doesn’t tend to be a food we think of as highly perishable, like milk. But it’s probably more fragile than you think. Light, heat, and oxygen can all chip away at its freshness, which is why good oil is sold in opaque bottles, not clear ones. But even under optimum storage conditions, oil will eventually go rancid. Most people aren’t even aware that producers print the harvest date on bottles, or what those numbers signify: namely, when the fruit was harvested and milled into oil. That date should be within the last year; otherwise the oil could already be rancid. “A sealed bottle of extra-virgin olive oil has a shelf life of 18 to 24 months,” says Cole. And an opened bottle should be used within a month or two.
3. You’ve Probably Been Drinking Rancid Oil Your Whole Life
You might assume rancid oil would be obvious, but odds are, you’re just used to the flavor. Good oil has a distinctive spicy burn that lets you know its polyphenols are still alive and well. (Among Italian producers, there’s even a saying that when tasting oil, one cough is good, two coughs is very good, and three coughs is excellent.) “A high-quality, extra-virgin grade olive oil should taste like fruit and fresh herbs,” says Cole. And its mouthfeel should be clean, not greasy. You don’t have to pay a lot for this kind of quality either; bottles can run between $15-$25.
Is there plastic in your poop? New study on microplastics in stool raises concerns
There's a good chance a dose of tiny plastic particles has taken up residence in your gut, a new, small study argues.
Microplastics, as they are called, were found in stool samples from a handful of volunteers located across Europe and Asia, researchers report.
Every single person out of the group of 8 had microplastics in their stool, on average about 20 particles for every 3.5 ounces of stool, said study author Dr. Philipp Schwabl, a researcher with the Medical University of Vienna. More than 95 percent of the particles came from plastics used in food packaging and storage. They included polypropylene used in bottle caps, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) used in drink bottles, polystyrene found in plastic utensils and cups, and polyethylene used in plastic bags and storage containers.Schwabl said he found the data "astonishing."
"I believe that trying to reduce plastic usage and plastic-packed food might be beneficial for nature and for us," Schwabl said. "Certainly, plastic is a very useful material and has a lot of clever applications. But maybe we should try to rethink about the necessity of abundant plastic use, and search for and support ecological and sustainable alternatives."
It's too soon to tell whether these plastic particles could harm people, Schwabl and other experts said.
"We're seeing increasing evidence that it's in people. Now we need to think about how it will impact human health," said Dr. Kenneth Spaeth, chief of occupational and environmental medicine at Northwell Health in Great Neck, N.Y. "We know that plastics contain an array of potentially harmful substances that in other contexts we know can leach out and potentially affect human health."
The new study follows a report last week that microplastics can be found in 90 percent of table salt. Salt samples from 21 countries in Europe, North and South America, Africa and Asia were analyzed; of 39 salt brands tested, 36 contained microplastics, the National Geographic reported.
For the stool study, Schwabl and his team recruited one test subject each from Finland, the Netherlands, Poland, Austria, Italy, the United Kingdom, Russia and Japan. The group consisted of three women and five men ranging in age from 33 to 65.
Each person kept a food diary during the week before they provided a stool sample. The diaries showed that all participants had consumed plastic-wrapped foods or drank from plastic bottles. Six had consumed ocean fish. Lab tests found microplastic particles from 9 out of 10 plastic types, with sizes ranging from 50 to 500 microns. A human hair has a diameter of about 50 microns. Other plastic types included polyoxymethylene (car parts and food industry), polycarbonate (construction and electronics), nylon (rope, fishing nets and textiles) and polyurethane (ship varnish, construction and auto parts).
There are a couple of ways these plastic particles could be winding up inside of people, Schwabl suggested.
Microplastics to wind up in food through plastic packaging, or could enter the food chain by being eaten by sea life, he said.
"In our study, most participants drank liquids from plastic bottles, but also fish and seafood ingestion was common," Schwabl noted.
There are no human studies that show how microplastics might affect human health, Schwabl said. But animal studies have shown that microplastic particles are capable of entering the blood stream, lymphatic system and liver. Inside the gut, the microplastics could cause intestinal damage or alter the shape of the villi that line the intestinal wall, said Dr. Arun Swaminath, director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. There's also some concern regarding the endocrine-disrupting chemicals contained in these plastics, Spaeth said. Human studies have found that these chemicals can leach from plastics into the food people eat or into the dust in the air. "Obviously, having it in our digestive tract, the potential for direct exposure could potentially be greater," Spaeth said.
The findings were presented Monday at the United European Gastroenterology annual meeting in Vienna. Such research is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Vitamin D: how to hack the sunshine vitamin
Nicknamed the sunshine vitamin, our main source of vitamin D comes from sunlight directly on the skin. But, according to government research, approximately 10 million people in the UK have low vitamin D stores, thanks to a conspicuous lack of sunshine during the winter months.Vitamin D is an essential building block for growth and development, and if one in five of us aren't getting the right amount, this can lead to serious health implications. The good news is, if you make a few simple adjustments, you can sidestep the inclement weather and stay in optimum health.
Why do we need vitamin D?
Vitamin D is produced when sunlight is absorbed by the skin, and is used to regulate your calcium and phosphate levels. These two minerals are essential for keeping your bones and muscles in good shape.‘The two main roles of vitamin D in the body are bone health and immune function,’ says Sophie Medlin, registered dietitian and owner at City Dietitians. ‘Vitamin D has an impact on bone health; cancer; heart disease; autoimmune disease and infections,’ she adds.
Are you vitamin D deficient?
If you’re constantly tired, achy, or always getting ill, it’s possible you could be vitamin D deficient. In the worst-case scenario, vitamin D deficiency can increase the risk of rickets in children and osteoporosis in adults. ‘Because we are now mostly indoor creatures and we live in parts of the world that don’t get reliable sunlight all year round, we are certainly at risk of deficiency,' says Medlin. If you are experiencing vitamin D deficiency symptoms, visit your doctor and ask for a blood test. If results show that you are deficient then it’s worth taking vitamin D supplements.
How much vitamin D do we need?
The recommended daily dosage for the general population is: 600 IU per day of vitamin D between 1 and 70 years of age.800 IU above this age. When supplements are administered, the recommended doses are 400 or 1000 IU/day of vitamin D with or without calcium, 10 000 IU every 7 or 10 days, or 50 000 IU per month. According to Public Health England 10 micrograms of vitamin D are needed daily to help keep your bones, teeth and muscles healthy. Speak to your GP if you’re not sure about the correct vitamin D dosage, as it is possible to take too much.
Which foods contain vitamin D?
While sunshine and supplements are the easiest ways to ensure you receive sufficient levels of vitamin D, you can also derive it from certain foods. Add the following foods to your diet to ensure you hit your vitamin D quota: Milk: 115-124 IU per 250ml Mackerel 345 IU per 100g Eggs 25 IU per egg
Codliver Oil 1360 IU per 5ml Mushrooms 7 IU per 100 grams Sardines in oil 500 IU per 100g Salmon 360 IU per 100g
Declining Trust Among Americans May Be Sending Many To Grave Sooner
STOCKHOLM — Trust in America is on the decline, and it may be preventing many people from living longer lives. A new study finds that people who are more trusting of others tend to have longer lifespans than those mired in suspicion. Researchers from Stockholm University and Lund University turned to data from a nationally representative survey of more than 25,000 Americans between 1978 and 2010 for their work. Participants took part in the U.S. General Social Survey between, which measured individuals’ levels of trust through questions such as, “Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted, or that you cannot be too careful in dealing with other people?” The authors then checked to see which participants were still living by the end of the study period in 2014, and found 6,424 participants had passed away. They found that people who exhibited higher levels of trust tended to enjoy longer lives.
“Whether or not you trust other people, including strangers, makes a difference of about 10 months in terms of life expectancy,” says study co-author Alexander Miething, a researcher at Stockholm University, in a statement.
The study also showed that Americans were generally more likely to be suspicious of others, with distrusters outnumbering trusters 62 percent to 38 percent. They also found overall trust decreased from 43 percent of people in the 1980s to 34 percent in the 2000s. Miething says that people who live in communities where more residents tend to show distrusting attitudes were also likely to have shorter lifespans. “In those contexts, your risk of dying is higher than in places with more community trust,” he notes.The results were similar for both men and women, and didn’t seem to change much regardless of socioeconomic status or education level.The authors conclude that because trust can be associated with the lifespan of Americans, the decline seen in recent decades could be considered a public health concern to some degree. “If higher trust levels are a potential resource to increase individuals’ resilience towards health hazards arising from social disadvantage, then the decline in trust seen across the U.S. over past decades is of concern,” they write. “Decision makers, therefore, should consider any impact that policies may also have on trust, with the view to halting or even reversing this decline.”
New treatment offers up to ten months extra life for women with deadly breast cancer
A new treatment could offer up to ten months extra life for women with one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer, following a successful British trial.
Using a combination of immunotherapy and chemotherapy, the body’s own immune system can be tuned to attack triple-negative breast cancer, scientists found.The research, carried out by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and St Bartholomew’s Hospital, also showed that the combined treatment reduced the risk of death or the cancer progressing by up to 40 per cent. Professor Peter Schmid, a professor of cancer medicine at QMUL and the author of the trial, described the results as a “massive step forward”. “Triple-negative breast cancer is an aggressive form of breast cancer; we have been desperately looking for better treatment options,” he said. “It is particularly tragic that those affected are often young, with many themselves having young families.”Triple-negative breast cancer is one of the most deadly forms of the disease and nearly one quarter of patients diagnosed will not survive for more than five years. The standard treatment for it is chemotherapy, which most patients quickly develop resistance to. If the disease spreads to other parts of the body, survival is typically only 12 to 15 months. But with the new treatment, researchers say that survival could be extended by up to ten months. Prof Schmid, who is clinical director of the Breast Cancer Centre at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, explained that he new treatment will “significantly extend lives compared to the standard treatment of chemotherapy alone.” “We are changing how triple-negative breast cancer is treated in proving for the first time that immune therapy has a substantial survival benefit,” he said. “In a combined treatment approach, we are using chemotherapy to tear away the tumour’s ‘immune-protective cloak’ to expose it as well as enabling people’s own immune system to get at it.” The new treatment combines the standard weekly chemotherapy with the immunotherapy medication atezolizumab which once every two weeks. The combination works by chemotherapy “roughening up” the surface of the cancer, which enables the immune system to better recognise and therefore fight the cancer as a foreign object. Following the results of this trial, which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the new treatment is now under review by health authorities who will decide whether to offer it on the NHS. Patients at St Bartholomew’s Hospital with triple-negative breast cancer are offered immunotherapy as part of ongoing trials.Triple negative breast cancer is more common in women under 40 and black women, according to Macmillan Cancer Support. It is one of the rarer forms of breast cancer, with around 15 per cent of breast cancers classified as triple negative.
Chuck Norris on how to live long and prosper
In 2015, I reported on the sleeping habits of three tribal groups whose lifestyles roughly match up with living conditions found during the Paleolithic period. Like the ancient tribes of 40,000 years ago, while awake, they were hunting, gathering and eating a diet rich in fish and vegetables, not unlike the Mediterranean diet of today. In addition to having no problems sleeping, this group of people had virtually no obesity and tended to live long lives.
Diet must have contributed something to such positive results. At the time, a study by Columbia University published in the journal Neurology took the idea a bit further than that. Their findings suggested that a Mediterranean diet could improve brain health. Having fish regularly, eating a little meat, along with vegetables, legumes and nuts is good for your brain, they said. People who follow such a diet slow down the aging process. The report stated that their eating habits might help forestall shrinkage of the brain for as long as five years. Shrinkage of the brain happens naturally as we age and can lead to dementia.
Not so fast, other experts at the time responded. Dr. James Pickett, the head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, said, “This study delves further into the potential benefits that diet could have, but it does not prove that a Mediterranean-style diet can stop your brain from shrinking as you age.”
Even the authors of the study cautioned their findings do not prove conclusively that the Mediterranean diet prevents brain shrinkage. It merely has what they call an “association” with such an outcome.
A few years earlier, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine was called into question for its claim that a Mediterranean diet lowered the combined risk for heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular disease by as much as 30 percent, when looking at those at high cardiovascular risk. A statistical review of the study revealed that participants were not exactly randomly distributed among the three groups studied: One followed a Mediterranean diet with four tablespoons of olive oil; a second group added one ounce of mixed nuts; and a third group ate a low-fat diet. The authors ultimately retracted the original study and published a “re-analysis” of it.
Once again, conflicting or inconclusive information on nutrition left us scratching our heads, wondering what to make of it all. One minute they have us tossing out the butter, the next they are praising it as “good fat.” The next minute, they have us abstaining from drinking coffee. Then, before you know it, they’re advising us to have a couple of cups and soak up its rich antioxidants. No wonder folks get confused.
No expert will dispute that diet and exercise are important to sustaining good health, but lack of scientific consensus makes it hard for us to count the ways and to faithfully follow a plan. The only consistent point of agreement seems to be that public health professionals can agree on very little.
As to the benefits of a Mediterranean-style diet, we do not seem to hear much these days about it preventing brain shrinkage, but there seems little debate about claims that a diet rich in vegetables, protein and healthy fats is good for your brain and body.
A growing amount of research suggests the best way to eat to maximize your chances of a long and healthy life is to seek out whole foods in general. One study recently published in the British Journal of Nutrition looked at data on close to 12,000 people and found that those who ate the most like people from the Mediterranean region were significantly less likely to die from any cause than their peers who did not.
According to a study published last summer in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, in addition to potentially prolonging life, eating like a Mediterranean does indeed appear to help protect against some of the mental declines that come with age, including slowed cognitive performance.
According to the Mayo Clinic, research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet also reduces the risk of heart disease. It has been associated with a lower level of oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, also known as the “bad” cholesterol that is likely to build up deposits in your arteries.
A meta-analysis of more than 1.5 million healthy adults demonstrated that following a Mediterranean diet led to a reduced risk of cardiovascular mortality as well as overall mortality.
The Mediterranean diet is also associated with a reduced incidence of cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. According to a Mayo Clinic report, women who eat a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts may have a reduced risk of breast cancer.
For these reasons, most if not all major scientific organizations today encourage healthy adults to adapt an eating style like the Mediterranean diet for prevention of major chronic diseases.
Scientists develop 'world's first Alzheimer's treatment
Scientists have developed a new way of battling Alzheimer’s. In research being hailed as a world first, they aim to target toxic particles that trigger the brain disease. Their work could lead to tests on new drug treatments by 2020. Experts at Cambridge University and from Sweden have identified these particles as the prime cause of Alzheimer’s and worked out a formula for targeting them. Until now, drugs have tackled Alzheimer’s symptoms and attempts to discover medicines to prevent or slow it have failed. But in findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Cambridge researcher Michele Vendruscolo says: “We’ve devised the first strategy to go after the cause.” “The hope is that new drugs can be developed.” A healthy brain has a quality control system that gets rid of any excessive amounts of these proteins.
In Alzheimer’s, proteins called oligomers that usually help brain cells to function normally “go rogue” by forming clumps that kill healthy nerve cells.
A separate study, by the University Hospital of Tubingen in Germany, has shown that two and a half hours a week of exercise can delay the effects of Alzheimer’s. The brain scores of people who did physical activity like swimming and running for 150 minutes a week were better.
Over time, the brain begins to shrink, causing memory failure and personality changes.
Chuck Norris powers up important health benefits of faith
A recent report from Blue Cross Blue Shield Health of America confirms that major depression is on the rise among Americans. It found a 33 percent jump in diagnoses of major depression from 2013 to 2016.
As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention back in June, the rate of death by suicide in the United States has risen by roughly 25 percent in the last couple of decades. Suicide among young people is now a growing public health crisis, as the suicide rate for teenage girls in the United States is at a 40-year high.
Researchers have proposed everything from the role of technology and social isolation to a decline in empathy as possible prevailing reasons for this disturbing trend. But it remains unclear why these rates continue to rise. Even if you know nothing about these statistics, my guess is that we all share the feeling that things are not quite right in the world.
Another sign of the times, associations with traditional religions are on the decline in America. According to a Pew Research study, the share of Americans who identify as atheists has roughly doubled in the past several years. A recent ABC News poll put the percentage of Americans who say they go to religious services at least once a week at 38 percent – among 18- to 30-year-olds, 28 percent.
This slide has happened even though scientific studies have found again and again that those with spiritual practices or who follow religious beliefs tend to be happier than those who do not. Studies find religious people to be less depressed and less anxious than those who do not follow religious practices.
As an example, a 2015 survey by researchers at the London School of Economics and the Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands found that, of the social activities identified in the study, participating in a religious organization was the only one associated with sustained happiness.
Now comes even more proof, provided by the folks at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
A study released this month and published online in the American Journal of Epidemiology has now put numbers to the health benefits of being part of a religious group. The study found that, in general, having a religious upbringing is linked to better health and well-being during early adulthood. According to a Harvard news release reporting the study’s findings, participating in spiritual practices during childhood and adolescence may also be a protective factor in one’s health and well-being in early adulthood.
The researchers at Harvard found that people who attended weekly religious services or practiced daily prayer or meditation in their youth reported greater life satisfaction and positivity in their 20s. They were also less likely to later have depressive symptoms or to smoke or use illicit drugs than people raised with a less regular spiritual way of life.
The results showed that people who attended religious services at least weekly in childhood and adolescence were approximately 18 percent more likely to report higher happiness as young adults (ages 23 to 30) than those who never attended services. They were also 29 percent more likely to volunteer in their communities and 33 percent less likely to use illicit drugs.
The authors of the report do not suggest they know exactly why being active in a religious group works, but they do know that practicing one’s beliefs with other people is a major factor. Scientists have long known that having strong social ties is one of the greatest guarantors of happiness. A sense of community is seen as one of the strongest protective social qualities of religion. Conversely, many surveys have shown it is unhappy people who tend to be most self-focused and often socially withdrawn and brooding.
Postdoctoral fellow Ying Chen, the lead author of the report, said, “Many children are raised religiously, and our study shows that this can powerfully affect their health behaviors, mental health, and overall happiness and well-being.”
As English evangelist and philanthropist George Muller once said long ago, “The only way to learn strong faith is to endure great trials.” Maybe that best encapsulates where we are today and the challenges we currently face.
'Amazing' treatment helps paralyzed people walk again
Homosassa, Florida (CNN)Kelly Thomas inches across the soft grass, using a walker to navigate her way. Each step is exhilarating and exhausting. She pauses amid the 90-degree Florida heat and smiles.
"It only takes a little bit of try -- and by a little, I mean a lot," she says.
Thomas, 24, is one of three paralyzed patients who can now walk again, thanks to a stimulation device implanted in her lower back coupled with intense physical therapy. News of the patients' progress -- considered an important medical advancement -- was published in separate studies in two scientific journals on Monday. On a recent sunny day, Thomas returned to the spot that took so much from her on July 19, 2014. It's where the truck she was driving came to a halt after flipping four times around a bend on Halls River Road and smashing into a tree. Her body was motionless, hanging halfway out of the mangled wreckage. She was blue and getting cold. She has driven past the scene of the crash many times since then to try to jar her memory. To help remember what happened that night. To piece together the moment that changed everything. Nothing seems to work.
The scene of the accident that left Kelly Thomas paralyzed.
Visiting this time, she walks toward the tree, talking to her legs to motivate them to keep moving. "One foot in front of the other," she says. "Slowly but surely." At 5 feet, 1 inch tall, she is a spitfire of inspiration. Her grit shows immediately, not just from when she walks, but also when she talks.
"Paralysis isn't in my dictionary." "Don't call me handicapped, because I'm not."
"Thank God, I was raised cowboy tough." It takes several minutes for her to walk the 40 feet from her car to the tree. Every step is worth it: Today is about triumph rather than a search for lost memories. "I tell you what," she says. "It does feel good to be standing where I thought my life ended." She woke in a hospital a couple of weeks after the accident, with tubes and wires seemingly hooked up to everything. At 19, she was paralyzed from the chest down.
In a study published Monday in the New England Journal of Medicine, two of four patients with "motor complete spinal cord injury" -- meaning no voluntary movement below their injury -- were able to walk again after being implanted with a spinal cord stimulation device and then undergoing extensive physical therapy. They walk with the aid of walkers.
Thomas became paralyzed at the age of 19. Always active in life, she made a pledge to herself that she'd walk again, no matter the odds.
"This should change our thinking about people with paralysis," said Susan Harkema, one of the lead researchers on the project and a professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Louisville. "It's phenomenal. This new knowledge is giving us the tools to develop new strategies and tools for recovery in people with chronic spinal injuries."
Claudia Angeli, the other lead researcherand a senior researcher at the Human Locomotion Research Center at Frazier Rehab Institute in Louisville, said it's a fascinating time to be involved in spinal cord research, bringing together decades of investigations culminating in modern-day breakthroughs.
"It just shows the capacity of the spinal cord and how much we're learning about using the epidural stimulation in combination with therapy," Angeli said.
Over the years, their research has involved14 paralyzed people who have received what is called an epidural stimulator implanted over a portion of the lower spinal cord, enabling neurons below their injuries to receive signals the brain used to send before their accidents.
All 14 patients have experienced voluntarily movement with the implant, the researchers said. They also showed improvement in bowel and bladder function.
The latest study focused on four patients, including Thomas who underwent therapy twice a day for five days a week for many months. A morning therapy session would involve working on stepping; an afternoon session would focus on standing. Thomas's therapy lasted 10 months after receiving the implant.
Chick-fil-A Manager Stops Service To Pray for Employee Having Surgery for Breast Cancer
Chick-fil-A has always been known for its religious spirit, and has never been shy about letting it be known. The company is so serious, it provides its employees time off on Sundays so they can spend time resting and with their family as the Lord intended.
But that spirit doesn’t end there: Chick-fil-A employees and locations are praised on a consistent basis for upholding their values, with countless guests praising their kindness, their willingness to go the extra mile and so much more.
Most recently, a North Carolina Chick-fil-A took time out of a busy day at the restaurant to ask God to watch over a beloved coworker.
The manager of the location asked co-workers and customers to join him in prayer.
Ms. Trish, a team member at the location, needed some support, as she was undergoing surgery for breast cancer at that very moment.
When the manager asked everyone inside the restaurant to take part in the prayer for Ms. Trish if they wanted to, customers that filled the restaurant didn’t hesitate to do so.
The manager humbly remarked that he wasn’t the best at praying aloud, but he was going to do his best.
“Dear Lord, please protect Ms. Trish as she gets her surgery today,” he began.
The restaurant fell silent as customers and employees alike came together to send Ms. Trish the support and light she needed on such a trying day.
The manager at Chick-fil-A showed his appreciation for his coworker and all that she does at the restaurant, and asked God to make sure the surgeons had steady hands and clear minds that day.
“We need her back,” he continued. “She is our light, and she is part of the community here, and everyone loves her so much.”
Everything You Should Know Before Taking Fish Oil Supplements
Fish oil has claimed top-tier supplement status in recent years. The pharmacy aisle darling’s mainstream popularity (it was the most popular natural productused by adults in the United States in 2012) has been buoyed by claims it can nurture everything from your brain function to your heart health. While the product has become haloed in an aura of general well-being, there is still a fair amount of misinformation out there about what exactly fish oil supplements can do for you, so it’s important to dissect what’s real and what’s not.
Perhaps you’re one of the millions of Americans who stocks your medicine cabinet with bottles of fish oil supplements but you’re not quite sure what you’re taking and why, or maybe you’ve yet to hop on the fish oil bandwagon and you’d like to learn more. We spoke to a couple of dietitians about what fish oil supplements are, how they can benefit you, who should take them, and more.
What are fish oil supplements?
Okay, let’s get a little technical for a minute here. Simply put, fish oil supplements are a way to increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “Omega-3s are important components of the membranes that surround each cell in your body,” including cells in your eyes and brain, and play many roles in our health, such as supporting functions in the heart, lungs, blood vessels, immune system, and endocrine system. Basically, they’re incredibly important for a healthy human body.
The annoying thing is that our body doesn’t make omega-3s, meaning we have to get them from our diet, certified dietitian-nutritionist Gina Keatley tells Allure. “The issue is that there are only specific foods [like seafood and shellfish] that supply the two essential types of omega-3s," Keatley explains. These two omega-3s are EPA, which stands for eicosapentaenoic acid, and DHA, which stands for docosahexaenoic acid.
The third type of omega-3, ALA, alpha-linolenic acid, comes from plant sources, like flaxseed and canola oil. But the conversion rate of ALA into EPA and then DHA is pretty inefficient, according to the NIH. “Therefore, getting EPA and DHA directly from foods and/or dietary supplements is the only practical way to increase levels of these fatty acids in the body.” (Keatley notes there is also less research on ALA.)
For people who don’t eat any (or enough) fish and seafood — the FDA recommends two to three servings or eight to 12 ounces a week — there are fish oil supplements. Fish oil supplements are capsules containing oil derived from the tissue of fatty fish (like salmon, mackerel, or sardines), where high concentrations of EPA and DHA are found.
What are the health benefits of fish oil supplements?
If you took every fish oil headline at its word, then we’d truly have a miracle pill on our hands. In reality, the research is a little all over the place. “The challenge that can come with any supplement is that newer studies may contradict earlier studies on the benefits,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Kristin Kirkpatrick, continuing “[Omega-3s] are a great example of this.”
Take heart health, one of the areas where the most research regarding fish oil has been done. Kirkpatrick says the research is clear that omega-3 fatty acid supplements can help reduce triglycerides, “which can contribute to hardening of the arteries or thickening of the artery walls (atherosclerosis) which increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart disease,” Keatley explains. However, Kirkpatrick also points out that “recent studies have come out questioning the benefit to heart health and reducing the risk of myocardial infarction or heart attack.” In other words, there is good research showing these supplements can reduce your triglyceride levels, but whether or not they ultimately lowers your risk of negative health events is debatable.
Another commonly touted benefit is an anti-inflammatory impact, an area where Kirkpatrick sees some of the most convincing evidence. Inflammation in the body is linked to a number of illnesses and poor health outcomes, including heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Studies demonstrate that omega-3s help reduce inflammation on a cellular level. Teasing out how that effect enacts itself in the body is trickier. According to the NIH, clinical trials suggest fish oil can help people manage their rheumatoid arthritis — by, say, decreasing their need for pain meds — when taken along with their regular medications.
There are a few more inflammation- and aging-related conditions that some research suggests could be helped by fish oil supplements, maybe most notably age-related macular degeneration, according to Keatley. Studies show people who get a lot of omega-3s in their diet may be less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration in the first place — although supplements are not shown to slow it down once it starts, according to the NIH.
When it comes to brain health, especially in aging adults, the evidence is promising but again disappointingly spare. “Some people believe that fish oil supplements can improve memory as well as prevent brain or nervous-system related issues such as Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis, but the research is not clear on these ailments,” Keatley says. However, some studies have suggested that omega-3 consumption lowers your risk of developing cognitive function issues like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Who should be taking fish oil?
If you are vegetarian or vegan or you just don't like eating seafood, then you may be lacking in omega-3s and could stand to benefit more than most. (Kirkpatrick notes that for strict vegans, there are plant-based sources of omega-3s derived from things like algae.) Pregnant and breastfeeding women might also want to consider supplements if they are not eating at least the recommended 2 to 3 servings a week. Kirkpatrick says that these fatty acids are essential to the healthy brain development of babies.
“EPA and DHA are important for the normal development of the brain, eyes, and nerves in children under two years old,” Keatley explains. While the NIHsays it is unclear if supplementation during pregnancy and breastfeeding has any effect on children’s development, it also says that, “some studies show that taking these supplements may slightly increase a baby’s weight at birth and the length of time the baby is in the womb.”
If I eat fish regularly, do I need fish oil supplements?
No, not necessarily, says Keatley. “If you are eating at least 250 to 500 mg of combined EPA and DHA each day via fish and shellfish, then you're in the clear,” she explains. Further, she adds that you should avoid taking supplements unless they're prescribed by your physician.
In fact, making fish a regular part of your diet is actually preferable to taking supplements, similarly to how getting vitamin C and fiber from real whole fruit is generally better than taking them in pill form. “I can't speak for all dietitians, but most of those I know are pro-real-food before going down the supplement route,” says Keatley. In fact, Kirkpatrick says she always tries to recommend food over supplementation to her clients.
The idea is that there could be other beneficial nutrients in real fish that you’re missing out on in pill form. For instance, while people who regularly eat fish have a lower risk of developing several chronic diseases, “it is not clear whether these health benefits come from simply eating these foods or from the omega-3s in these foods,” the NIH reasons.
Is there such thing as taking too much fish oil, and are there any side effects?
Actually, yes, although it’s hard to do. “For a healthy person, there is little evidence that overdosing is common,” says Kirkpatrick. If you do go overboard with the fish oil, the side effects are relatively mild. “They include unpleasant taste, bad breath, bad-smelling sweat, headache, and gastrointestinal symptoms such as heartburn, nausea, and diarrhea,” Keatley says. Even if you don’t ingest enough to cause you problems, though, taking excessive amounts of fish oil is likely a waste of money. “The most recent research seems to show that there is a point of diminishing returns where more omega-3s do not provide increased benefits,” Keatley explains. More is not always better.
Is there anyone who shouldn’t be taking fish oil?
Yes. Large doses of omega-3s may cause bleeding for those with an already-elevated risk. “Many older patients on blood thinners should not be put on omega-3 supplementation due to risk of bleeding,” Keatley explains.
Insulin Resistance and a Plant-Based Diet: What You Need to Know
Insulin resistance may or may not be familiar to you but its repercussion certainly is. As a precursor to a disease that up to 40 percent of Americans will develop during their lifetime, chances are that you or someone you love is currently experiencing symptoms related to this issue.
In fact, some estimates suggest that around 100 million people in America are suffering from diabetes and prediabetes. These statistics are sobering but here are some good news: insulin resistance — the biggest risk factor — is treatable and reversible in most cases.
How? You’ve guessed it: a plant-based diet. Recent research has discovered that eating patterns that include plant-based proteins, unrefined carbohydrates, and polyunsaturated fats play a major role in preventing and managing type 2 diabetes.
Want to know more about insulin resistance and how it relates to one of the leading causes of death in America? Read on to find out how you can protect yourself against the disease (hint: delicious recipes from the Food Monster App are involved)!
What Is Insulin Resistance?
As you’re likely aware, our bodies require insulin for carbohydrate (sugar) metabolism. In healthy adults, the hormone is secreted by the pancreas after a meal is eaten in order to signal to our cells that they need to uptake and store the sugar molecules circulating in our bloodstream.
In the case of insulin resistance, cells fail to respond to the insulin secretion sent by the pancreas and don’t absorb the sugar in the bloodstream. As a consequence, the pancreas starts to produce larger and larger amounts of insulin until, overtime, the organ can’t take it anymore or pancreatic cells are damaged. This leads to high blood sugar levels and the eventual development of type 2 diabetes.
Insulin Resistance Vs. Insulin Sensitivity
Insulin sensitivity is the flip side of insulin resistance.
In a healthy body, cells are sensitive to the influx of insulin secreted by our pancreas. In that insulin sensitive state, glucose molecules enter our cells freely and are stored as energy for later use.
While genetic predispositions dictate in part how our bodies metabolize sugar, diet and lifestyle choices can help prevent the development of insulin resistance.
Why a Plant-Based Diet Is the Best Option for Improved Insulin Sensitivity
No surprise, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is healthy for you.
Recent research suggests that a plant-based diet which centers around the consumption of legumes, whole grains, vegetables, nuts and seeds is the number one way to manage your blood sugar.
A few components distinctive of this kind of diet promote insulin sensitivity.
Only found in plant foods, fiber plays an important role in the glucose response after a meal is consumed. Intestinal bacteria in our gut ferment the fiber and produces short-chain fatty acids that mediate insulin signals.
Fiber also promotes insulin sensitivity through its positive effect on satiety. Fiber-rich foods are filling and have a lower caloric density. This helps with maintaining a healthy weight, a key factor in reducing insulin resistance.
Polyphenols, a class of phytochemicals found in foods like greens and berries, have an impact on carbohydrate metabolism.
These antioxidants activate insulin receptors and promote glucose uptake in tissues.
They also reduce inflammation and oxidative stress related to obesity, two aspects that are thought to play a role in insulin resistance.
As a micronutrient, magnesium plays multiple roles in maintaining healthy functions.
Recent studies point out its particular involvement in keeping our glucose levels steady. A diet high in magnesium impacts insulin receptors sensitivity.
Interestingly, this positive effect is magnified in overweight individuals having symptoms of insulin resistance.
New research finds significant link between Omega-3 Index and depression
New research published in the August edition of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology's Heart Failure issue found significant correlations between blood levels of EPA plus DHA omega-3s in "cognitive" (as opposed to "somatic") depression among heart failure subjects. (Cognitive depression would include symptoms like sadness and pessimism, whereas somatic would include manifestations such as fatigue and sleep disturbances.)
This randomized controlled pilot study was designed to investigate the effects of supplemental omega-3s (EPA and DHA) on depressive and psychomotor symptoms in people with chronic heart failure and depression.
The study included 108 subjects who were assigned to one of three groups each taking 2 grams per day of either 1) a 2:1 mg EPA/DHA supplement; 2) a high EPA product; or 3) a placebo. The study lasted 12 weeks with blood testing (i.e., Omega-3 Index, RBC levels of EPA and DHA) completed pre- and post-supplementation.
he Omega-3 Index reached 6.79% in the 2:1 EPA/DHA group, 6.32% in the EPA only group, and 4.61% in the placebo group. In those who were determined to have taken at least 70% of their capsules and finish all testing (n=80), these values were 7.32%, 7.11%, and 4.42%, respectively. This indicates that the dose (and compliance) were both adequate to significantly improve the Omega-3 Index in only three months.
The social functioning sub-score of the SF-36, a short general health survey, was significantly improved on the 2:1 EPA/DHA supplement and tended to improve with the high EPA supplement.
Significant correlations between the Omega-3 Index and measures of cognitive depression where also found. More specifically, a higher Omega-3 Index was related to lower cognitive depression scores on the Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II), which is the most widely used instrument for detecting depression.
While these findings are of interest, there are a few caveats. First, this was a pilot study, so the p-values weren't adjusted for multiple comparisons, meaning that there is a higher likelihood that these were chance findings, (i.e. 1 of 19 outcomes was different between intervention and placebo arms). Second, possibly because the study was relatively small with limited power, there was no significant effect of either omega-3 formulation on a variety of psychological measurements, in particular on the Hamilton Depression Score (HAM-D). So the primary findings related to correlations between changes in the Omega-3 Index and the BDI-II cognitive depression metric.
Commenting on the treatment vs. prevention dilemma frequently faced by nutritionals like omega-3s was Dr. Bill Harris, one of the study's authors and the co-inventor of the Omega-3 Index test. "This was a study in already depressed individuals, which meant the researchers are looking to high-dose (although it could have been higher) omega-3 supplements to improve depressive symptoms, like a drug," he said.
"Generally, we think of the function of omega-3s as preventative rather than as treatment. If used as treatment, the dose must be fairly high (4 grams is a typical 'drug' dose) and blood levels must be measured," Dr. Harris continued. "In their larger follow-up study, I would recommend they choose just one of the supplements (probably the pure EPA product) and increase the dose and duration of the study." The authors were also exploring a few different supplement options, focusing on recent evidence that EPA might be more effective for treating depression while DHA may be better for general cognition. "From this study, it's not clear to me that one supplement type was better than the other," Dr. Harris said, adding, "However, linking higher blood levels of omega-3s to improved depression symptoms in people with both depression and heart failure is encouraging and hopefully leads to better treatment for their conditions."
How to Fall Asleep at Night With These Easy Methods
The serious consequences of sleep deprivation perennially capture society’s attention. And, as kids head back to school, sleep and a lack of it are of particular concern.
Compared to historical norms, how have our contemporary expectations of sleep changed? What are the effects of inadequate sleep? What can be done to optimize the experience of sleep, especially in the context of insomnia?
I am a clinician and sleep researcher who treats people with sleep problems. I think there is little reason to suspect that our collective sleep needs have dramatically changed in the recent past, rooted as they are in immutable physiological processes. We should, however, be paying attention to our sleep needs, and that isn’t as hard as it sounds.
What Is Sleep Anyway?
From a clinical perspective, sleep is defined as a reversible behavioral state of unresponsiveness and perceptual disengagement from the environment. It is dependent on the balance between sleep drive — the desire for sleep that builds during wakefulness and is linked to the accumulation and clearance of chemicals within the brain like adenosine — and the circadian alerting signal. The circadian rhythm coordinates processes of the body to the environmental patterns of light and darkness. Adequate sleep is and always has been restorative to the body. Giving sleep respect, and preserving it to the benefit of health, has not been so permanent.
Researchers have learned more about sleep in the past 100 years than in all the preceding millennia combined.
The advent of, and inexpensive access to, artificial light no doubt marked a significant shift in this history. Scientific understanding of sleep continues to evolve and remains incomplete.
Nevertheless, it does seem that people are sleeping less now than they have in the past several decades. Recent self-reported national polling among American adults consistently suggests that Americans are not getting adequate sleep. This begs the question: How much sleep do people really need?
Sleep Needs Change Over the Lifespan
The need for sleep changes over the lifespan. Babies need the most sleep.
Sleep needs change over one’s lifetime. Toddlers may require 11 to 14 hours of sleep to feel rested and typically take naps.
Surveys suggest that 35 to 40 percent of the adult population sleeps less than seven to eight hours on weekdays. This self-reported sleep data may overestimatethe objectively measured sleep obtained by up to one hour due to time spent falling or getting back to sleep. We are in trouble.
If someone eats too many calories, or too few, the effects on the body become apparent. Unfortunately, there is no “sleep scale” to step onto to gauge the physical tolls of sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation, either from not allotting enough time to get sufficient sleep or due to sleep disorders like insomnia, may have important consequences.
Using a laptop and other digital devices before going to bed can be harmful to your sleep.
How can we avoid the perils of inadequate sleep?
First, prioritize sleep and ensure that you are obtaining sufficient hours to feel rested. Ensure an easy transition to sleep by maintaining an hour to unwind with relaxing activities before going to bed.
Reserve the bedroom as a space for sleep: leave electronic devices elsewhere.
Keep a regular sleep-wake schedule, especially fixing the wake time, including on weekends.
Get 15 to 30 minutes of sunlight upon awakening, or at sunrise.
Always go to bed feeling sleepy, even if that means delaying bedtime a little.
As needed, consider reducing the time in bed if more than 30 minutes is consistently spent awake.
Be physically active.
Moderate the use of alcohol and caffeine.
If these do not work, consider an evaluation by a board-certified sleep physician. Chronic insomnia may respond well to cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia. This treatment is increasingly accessible via trained therapists, workshops, online courses, and books.
Symptoms such as frequent or early awakenings, excessive daytime sleepiness, snoring, witnessed pauses in breathing, frequent peeing at night, night sweats, teeth grinding, and morning headaches may suggest the presence of sleep apnea. A comprehensive evaluation and appropriate testing may lead to an effective treatment.
Sleep should come naturally. It should never become an additional source of stress. Simple adjustments can yield benefits quickly.
Fortunately, the first step to better sleep is recognizing its importance — an objective that has hopefully been achieved. Now, consider making a few changes and, as necessary, access further resources to yield the long-term benefits to health and well-being that only sleep may provide.
New anti-cancer drugs put cancers to sleep—permanently
In a world first, Melbourne scientists have discovered a new type of anti-cancer drug that can put cancer cells into a permanent sleep, without the harmful side-effects caused by conventional cancer therapies.
Published today in the journal Nature, the research reveals the first class of anti-cancer drugs that work by putting the cancer cell to sleep – arresting tumour growth and spread without damaging the cells' DNA.
The new class of drugs could provide an exciting alternative for people with cancer, and has already shown great promise in halting cancer progression in models of blood and liver cancers, as well as in delaying cancer relapse.
Research led by Associate Professor Tim Thomas and Associate Professor Anne Voss from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Professor Jonathan Baell from the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Dr. Brendon Monahan from Cancers Therapeutics CRC investigated whether inhibiting KAT6A and KAT6B could be a new approach to treating cancer.
Associate Professor Thomas said the new class of drugs was the first to target KAT6A and KAT6B proteins. Both are known to play an important role in driving cancer. KAT6A sits at number 12 on the list of genes most commonly amplified in cancers.
"Early on, we discovered that genetically depleting KAT6A quadrupled the life expectancy in animal models of blood cancers called lymphoma. Armed with the knowledge that KAT6A is an important driver of cancer, we began to look for ways of inhibiting the protein to treat cancer," Associate Professor Thomas said.
The compounds had already shown great promise in preclinical testing, he said.
"This new class of anti-cancer drugs was effective in preventing cancer progression in our preclinical cancer models. We are extremely excited about the potential that they hold as an entirely new weapon for fighting cancer.
"The compound was well tolerated in our preclinical models and is very potent against tumour cells, while appearing not to adversely affect healthy cells," Associate Professor Thomas said.
No more DNA damage
The research efforts were almost a decade in the making, requiring strong collaboration between experts in cancer research, medicinal chemistry and drug discovery.
There is a critical difference between this new class of drugs and standard cancer therapies.
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy work by causing irreversible DNA damage. Cancer cells are unable to repair this damage, and die. The downside is that the therapies cannot be targeted only to cancer cells, and cause significant damage to healthy cells as well. This causes well-known short-term side effects, such as nausea, fatigue, hair loss and susceptibility to infection, as well as long-term effects such as infertility and increased risk of other cancers developing.
"Rather than causing potentially dangerous DNA damage, as chemotherapy and radiotherapy do, this new class of anti-cancer drugs simply puts cancer cells into a permanent sleep," Associate Professor Voss said.
"This new class of compounds stops cancer cells dividing by switching off their ability to 'trigger' the start of the cell cycle," she said. "The technical term is cell senescence. The cells are not dead, but they can no longer divide and proliferate. Without this ability, the cancer cells are effectively stopped in their tracks."
Associate Professor Voss said the team believed the drugs might be effective in delaying cancer recurrence.
"There is still a lot of work to be done to get to a point where this drug class could be investigated in human cancer patients," she said. "However our discovery suggests these drugs could be particularly effective as a type of consolidation therapy that delays or prevents relapse after initial treatment."
"The possibility of giving clinicians another tool that they could use to substantially delay cancer recurrence could have a big impact for patients," Associate Professor Voss said.
'Undruggable' no more
Professor Baell said the project was particularly significant because the scientific community had coined the gene family 'undruggable'.
"There were many hurdles to overcome with this project; this compound certainly didn't fall into our laps, requiring dedicated Ph.D. students and NHMRC-supported postdoctoral medicinal chemists to drive the chemistry forward," Professor Baell said. "But with perseverance and commitment, we are excited to have developed a potent, precise and clean compound that appears to be safe and effective in our preclinical models. Our teams are now working on developing this compound into a drug that is appropriate for human trials."
Professor Baell said the project was indebted to funding from the Australian Government and proved that public research could be an effective translational vehicle.
"It can be difficult to secure funding for medicinal chemistry and higher-risk drug discovery projects," he said. "We are grateful to the Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) Program and National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) for the early funding that supported this project."
Dr. Ian Street, chief scientist at Cancer Therapeutics CRC said it had been a great collaboration between the three organisations.
"This has been a very tough nut to crack," Dr. Street said. "There is no doubt that the KAT6 inhibitors have played an important role in elucidating the potential of this new and exciting strategy to treat cancers."
The top anti-aging, nutritionist-recommended foods to add to your diet now
If you've noticed that what you eat affects not only your waistline but also your skin, hair and nails, you are not alone.
There is even a specialty within the nutrition industry for helping people heal themselves from the inside out: Beauty nutrition.
“The most important thing you can do is eat foods that feed your features with optimal nutrition," said Lisa Drayer, a New York City-based registered dietitian nutritionist who specializes in beauty nutrition. “You can use all the moisturizer and makeup you want, but unless your features are getting the nutrients you need, you’re not going to look your best.”
Drayer lays out the best foods to eat to make your skin, hair and nails strong and glowing. “It’s an anti-aging approach to eating,” she said. “You’re not only helping yourself today but for weeks, months and years to come.”
Drayer said you can see expect to see changes in your skin in about a month once you incorporate the right foods into your diet. For hair and nails, it can take a few months to see changes. The life cycles of the skin, hair and nails vary from one month, three months, and six to 12 months, respectively.
Drayer says her clients who upgrade their nutrition walk away with not just better skin, but improved energy and overall health too.
"It's really amazing to see," she said. "As people are increasingly looking for natural ways to age gracefully, the notion of beauty and nutrition together continues to grow and gain in popularity."
What can you eat to improve your skin? Drayer recommends these 10 foods.
Top 10 beauty foods
1. Wild salmon: Omega-3 fatty acids provide moisture to skin and help reduce inflammation, which helps prevent dry scaly skin, redness and acne.
2. Low-fat yogurt: The calcium will give you strong bones, beautiful nails, good posture and a beautiful smile. 3. Oysters: Rich in zinc which helps build collagen and speed up skin renewal. 4. Blueberries: Antioxidants in blueberries help prevent long-term cell damage and aging.
5. Kiwi fruit: The potassium and vitamin C promote glowing skin. 6. Sweet potatoes: Rich in beta-carotene which keeps skin soft and smooth. 7. Spinach: The beta-carotene and lutein in spinach helps protect eyes, keeping them healthy and bright. 8. Tomatoes: The lycopene in tomatoes can help protect against sunburn. 9. Walnuts: Omega-3's in walnuts can help fight psoriasis and eczema. 10. Dark chocolate: Choose chocolate with at least 60 percent cocoa to get the antioxidants and beneficial nutrients that help boost hydration, skin smoothness and protect against sun exposure.
Getting enough vitamin D? You need far less sun than you might think
The summer weather has surprised us and made getting your daily dose of vitamin D that much easier. But the sunny weather always prompts questions about how to enjoy it safely.
Most people know there's a balance to be struck when it comes to spending time out in the sun. Its UV rays that are the main cause of skin cancer, but we also need some sunshine to generate vitamin D.
Although the number of children getting rickets from low vitamin D levels is still relatively small, in recent years it has increased slightly, suggesting some people may not be spending enough time outside. But skin cancer is also on the increase, for example almost 16,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma every year.
The amount of sun you need to generate enough vitamin D varies depending on your skin. But it has been unclear how long people might need to spend in the sun to generate enough vitamin D while minimising their skin cancer risk.
That's where research from Professor Lesley Rhodes, at the University of Manchester, comes in.
Is there a safe level of sun exposure?
In an in-depth Cancer Research UK-funded study, Rhodes and her team looked at the impact of exposing 39 people of different skin types to low levels of UV. Would that be enough to generate vitamin D? And will this cause DNA damage in their cells that could lead to skin cancer?
Unlike previous studies, Rhodes gave participants UV doses related to their burning risk.
As the dose of UV increased towards their individual burning level, there was an increase in both vitamin D levels and DNA damage seen in skin samples. For all skin types these factors seem to be completely intertwined.
What about different skin types?
One motivation for Rhodes is understanding more about difference between skin types. "Quite a lot of information has been gathered on white-skinned people, but there's been very little for people with darker skin. We needed to firm up our knowledge by looking at the major benefit and the major harm of sunlight at the same time in each person."
Interestingly, the findings differed by skin type when the researchers looked at the lower layer of the skin, where damage is most dangerous. For darker skin types DNA damage wasn't detected at this lower level, it was mostly at the surface. In lighter skin types DNA damage was found throughout the layers, meaning there was more potentially dangerous damage lower down.
"This was a really novel discovery, that the darker the skin colour the closer the DNA damage was to the surface" says Rhodes.
Regardless of dose or skin type, the DNA damage was no longer present 48 hours later. Our bodies can deal with some level of DNA damage and the level of damage in the study seemed to be low enough to be cleared shortly after. Although this is reassuring, the study can't rule out the possibility that damage like this could go on to cause problems. And Rhodes is keen to study this more in the future.
What does this mean for people?
The findings suggest there's DNA damage happening before skin burns and that it may be more likely to lead to problems in lighter skin types than darker ones. Larger studies will be needed to confirm those results.
"People with darker skin can be encouraged to expose their skin to the sun, without burning, to get vitamin D with very low risk of skin cancer," says Rhodes. "However, for people with lighter skin who are easy burners we've shown even very low doses of UV radiation, down to one fifth of their sunburn threshold, can unfortunately damage the cells in lower layers of the skin."
There may not be a totally safe level of exposure to the sun when it comes to DNA damage and skin cancer risk, but we also need some sunshine to make vitamin D. Rhodes' next question was how long do we need to spend in the sun to make enough?
Minutes not hours
"We wanted to define a fairly straight-forward formula for how much sunlight people would need in the UK to get enough vitamin D," says Rhodes. "People are always asking 'how much?', but it's not quite as simple as just talking about minutes, you also need to look at what area of skin you need to expose and at what time of day."
To do this, she teamed up with Professor Ann Webb, a physicist with expertise in the atmosphere and sunlight. Together, they modelled the level needed by the end of summer for most people to have enough vitamin D throughout winter, when the sun isn't strong enough for us to make vitamin D in the UK.
They estimated that 9 minutes of lunchtime sunlight each day would be enough for Caucasians to stay above the 'deficient' category of vitamin D level throughout the year. This figure assumes that people would be in shorts and t-shirts for June to August, while only having their hands and faces exposed from March to June and for September.
Our bodies start to break down vitamin D when we're generating a lot of it so you can't do a week all in one go. Little and often does seem to be the key.
With the same conditions, even people with darker brown skin that hardly ever burns and easily tans – such as people of South Asian origin –and may only need 25 minutes.
Obese people can reduce risk of atrial fibrillation with exercise
Atrial fibrillation is an irregular and often rapid heart rate that can increase the risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications. It's more common in older people, and as it happens, in obese people.
But new research suggest that exercise can have a moderating effect on the risk of developing this problem.
"The risk of atrial fibrillation was lower the more physically active a person was. This turned out to be especially true for people with obesity," says Lars Elnan Garnvik, a Ph.D. candidate at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's (NTNU) Cardiac Exercise Research Group.
Garnvik has just published his results in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
Risk doubles for inactive obese individuals
Atrial fibrillation is the most common form of heart fibrillation, and more than 100,000 Norwegians have the disease. Primarily older people are affected, and given the aging population, twice as many Norwegians as today may well have atrial fibrillation in a few decades.
Obesity is also a well-known risk factor for atrial fibrillation. Garnvik's study showed that people with a BMI greater than 30 have a significantly higher risk than normal weight individuals. It turns out that the activity level of obese participants plays an important role.
"People who reported that they didn't exercise at all had about double the risk of developing fibrillations, when compared to those who were physically active whose body weight was normal," Garnvik said. "However, people who were obese but who exercised a lot limited the increase in risk to no more than approximately 50 percent. This suggests that physical activity is good for limiting the increased risk of atrial fibrillation in obese people."
Why is exercise protective?
Garnvik emphasizes that the study can't guarantee that physical activity is actually the factor that protects against atrial fibrillation. However, the analysis takes into account several other factors that could potentially explain the link. These factors include smoking, alcohol use and previous cardiovascular disease. Garnvik also provides several possible explanations as to why exercise can counteract atrial fibrillation in obese people.
"Physical activity and exercise reduce a lot of the known risk factors for atrial fibrillation, like high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and chronic inflammation. Physical activity can also improve a person's fitness level, and we know that people in good shape have a reduced risk of heart failure," says the Ph.D. candidate.
More than 43,000 participants
The study is based on information from 43,602 men and women who participated in the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study (the HUNT Study) between 2006 and 2008. Nearly 1500 of them developed atrial fibrillation by the end of 2015.
"One strength of our study is that doctors confirmed the participants' atrial fibrillation diagnosis, and unlike many previous studies, we didn't solely rely on the participants themselves telling us they had the condition," says Garnvik.
Several well-known athletes have had episodes of atrial fibrillation, and some have suggested that exercise can increase the risk. But that's a qualified truth, Garnvik said.
"Athletes and others who've built up a lot of stamina over many years may have an increased risk of atrial fibrillation. But both our study and many others show that physical activity is healthy in the amounts that are relevant for most people. This is also true when we talk about the danger of atrial fibrillation," he says.
This is the Best Dose of Exercise to Add 10 Years to Your Life
When it comes to exercise, one of the most common questions asked is, “Am I doing enough?”
There is no denying that regular exercise paired with a good diet can help fend off illness and disease in your old age. But how many extra years do all those runs and trips to the gym actually earn you? The Westmead Institutefor Medical Research interviewed 1,500 Australian adults over 50 and followed them for a decade. The results, published in Nature, revealed that those who did more than roughly 10 hours of moderately intense exercise a week, could survive an extra 10 years free from chronic diseases. According to the research, fitness fanatics who engaged in the highest levels of physical activity were twice as likely to avoid stroke, heart disease, angina, cancer and diabetes, compared with those who do no exercise. The high-exercise individuals were also in optimal physical and mental shape 10 years later. Lead researcher, associate professor Bamini Gopinath from the University of Sydney, said the data showed that adults who did more than 5,000 metabolic equivalent minutes (MET minutes) a week, which is about 10 hours, saw the greatest reduction in the risk of chronic disease.
“Essentially we found that older adults who did the most exercise were twice as likely to be disease-free and fully functional,” she said.
“Our study showed that high levels of physical activity increase the likelihood of surviving an extra 10 years free from chronic diseases, mental impairment and disability.”
Currently, the World Health Organisation recommends at least 600 MET minutes of physical activity each week. That is equivalent to 150 minutes of brisk walking or 75 minutes of running.
But the Westmead Institute’s findings suggest that physical activity levels need to be several times higher to significantly reduce the risk of chronic disease.
“Some older adults may not be able to engage in vigorous activity or high levels of physical activity,” Gopinath said.
“But we encourage older adults who are inactive to do some physical activity, and those who currently only engage in moderate exercise to incorporate more vigorous activity where possible.”
If pounding the pavement each week does not sound enticing, weight training and cardio exercises are other options with equal benefits.
According to an exercise list from Harvard Medical School, a 60-minute strength training session burns an average of 266 calories per hour for a 185-pound person.
Lucky Scalone, a personal trainer and owner of Bodyline Fitness studio in Sydney, who has more than 30 clients aged 45 to 60, mixes 35-minute weights sessions (five exercises) with 20 minutes of high-intensity cardio — depending on each client’s limit.
“Many of them came to me overweight, had complained about lower back problems and other aches and pains, fatigue (broken sleep) and poor diet,” Scalone said.
“Through changing and coaching them on proper eating habits and introducing regular exercise, they say it has reduced a lot of those aches and pains, while feeling more energized and in control of their health.”
Lowering blood pressure cuts risk of memory decline: U.S. study
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Aggressively lowering blood pressure significantly reduced the risk of mild cognitive impairment and dementia among hypertension patients in a large government-backed clinical trial, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday.
The results, presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Chicago, offer some of the first tangible steps individuals can take to reduce their risk for dementia, experts said.
The results come from a landmark 2015 trial dubbed SPRINT involving of more than 9,300 hypertension patients which showed significant cardiovascular benefits in people whose systolic blood pressure - the top number in a blood pressure reading - was lowered aggressively to below 120, compared to a higher target of under 140.
The Sprint MIND study looked specifically at the implications of aggressive blood pressure lowering on symptoms of dementia from any cause, and mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, a precursor to dementia.
It found that people whose blood pressure was lowered to below 120 had a 19 percent lower rate of new cases of mild cognitive impairment and a 15 percent reduction in MCI and dementia combined.
The takeaway of the study, said Dr. Keith Fargo, director of scientific and outreach programs at the Alzheimer's Association, is "see your doctor and know your numbers," and if individuals have hypertension, get it treated.
"Not only do we already know that it reduces the risk for death due to stroke and heart attacks but we now know it supports healthy brain aging," he said in an interview.
Although the study showed effects on MCI and combined dementia plus MCI, it did not show an overall reduction in dementia alone, at least not yet.
Fargo said it takes longer for people to develop dementia, but as the study continues, he expects more people treated to the higher target of 140 will develop dementia.
"Since it's too early, too few people have developed dementia," he said.
The study looked at all causes of dementia, including Alzheimer's, the most common form marked by clumps of amyloid in the brain, and vascular dementia, which is caused by blocked blood flow to the brain.
Fargo said the result most likely affects the impact of blood pressure lowering on vascular dementia but noted that many people with Alzheimer's also have some degree of vascular disease, and reducing the total dementia risk could delay the onset of memory problems.
High-protein diets are trendy, but how much protein do you really need?
High-protein diets are all the rage. Look on grocery shelves and you will probably find protein bars, protein powder or other foods with labels proclaiming it is "high-protein." But what exactly does protein do for your body and how much of it do you really need? Joey Thurman, a Chicago-based celebrity trainer and certified fitness nutrition specialist, is here with everything you need to know about protein.
What is protein's role in the body?
You need protein for just about every function in your body, from brain cell communications to building and repairing muscle.
Protein is key in our bodies by providing structure and strength to our cells and tissues, controlling biochemical reactions to helping our immune systems. Our metabolism is regulated by proteins as well as hormones and the many things they control. Proteins also help cell division which will help with replenishing aged or damaged cells to provide a constant supply of healthy cells.
How much protein do I need?
Protein needs vary based on activity level and gender. In general, men weigh more than women and require more calories to maintain weight, so basic protein requirements for men are higher. But everyone is different and you can calculate your own needs based on your weight and activity level.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance, or RDA, which describes the minimum amount of a nutrient recommended for health, for protein is .36 grams per day, per pound of body weight.
o if you weigh 150 pounds and work in a desk job, which is considered sedentary, that’s about 54 grams of protein per day. That translates to 216 calories, or 10 percent of a 2,000-calorie daily diet.
To calculate how many grams of protein you need each day, just multiply your weight in pounds by .36.
Women who are pregnant or nursing and people with kidney or liver disease may have different protein needs and should, as always, consult with their doctors.
Do I need more protein as I get older?
Protein requirements don’t change much based on your age, but there is increasing evidence that we may need more protein as we get older to prevent muscle and bone loss, accompanied by a weight-bearing exercise program.
A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed evidence that adults over 50 should aim for about double the RDA amount, so around .68 grams of protein per pound.
What if I exercise?
If you are more active, these requirements will need to be higher as your body will need to build and repair your muscle tissue to make up for the stress of activity to your body.
If you are very active and get at least 35 to 40 minutes of exercise four to five days a week, including resistance training twice a week, you should bump up your protein intake to .5 to .9 grams per pound of body weight per day.
There are exceptions to this rule, like professional athletes and bodybuilders, who will need to go higher than these levels to upwards of two grams of protein per pound, but use these as a general guideline.
What are the best sources of protein?
Now that you have figured out how much protein you need, where should you get it from?
Protein can come from many sources and you should try to choose several sources to get a variety of nutrients. A common misconception is that people need to only eat animal products to get protein.
There is protein in all sorts of plants, even things that are green. In fact, you tend to get a high protein/calorie ratio in plant-based proteins over meat equivalents. Yet another reason to try a Meatless Monday
, or even add more days with alternatives to meat proteins.
It is important to eat healthy protein-rich foods, including fish. A six-ounce serving of wild salmon has 34 grams of protein and only 1.7 grams of saturated fat.
The Many Benefits of Cherries for Your Heart Health, Weight, and More!
If life’s a bowl of cherries, then you’re in good shape – at least when it comes to taking care of your heart and warding off those aches and pains. Both dark and sweet cherries offer a large amount of sweet flavor, antioxidants and are a good source of fiber. They’re also a healthier choice of sugar than refined sweeteners and processed foods. If you’ve ever had the luxury of eating a cherry straight off the tree, you know there’s nothing like a fresh cherry’s flavor, however, you can still buy frozen cherries and fresh from the supermarket when they’re in season during the early spring and summer.
Cherries for Your Heart
Though berries are a great sources of antioxidants that ward off heart disease; cherries also offer a high dose of anthocyanins that lower cholesterol and reduce inflammation. These antioxidants are evident by the rich hue of color found in cherries, which is a key sign they’re incredible for you. In fact, studies show that tart cherries lower high cholesterol and triglycerides, which can do everything from improving your weight to improve your arterial health. This also reduces your risk of stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. Dark, sweet cherries also come with these same benefits, though tart cherries are said to be slightly more beneficial. Cherries’ antioxidant content is so high, they’re even higher in these specific antioxidants than red wine or dark chocolate!
Cherries also fight oxidative stress that can cause muscle and joint pain. Cherries are also one of the most recommended foods for those with exercise-related muscle pain. Use a few cherries in your post-workout smoothie or use them as a form of a healthy dessert. You can also eat them for breakfast if you wake up sore in the mornings after a hard workout or strenuous day.
Cherries and Your Sleep
Cherries are also one of the best foods to promote melatonin production in the body. This hormone is necessary for not just sending you to sleep, but also helping you stay asleep and wake up around the same time each day. It helps to set your internal clock so that your sleep health becomes more regulated. A good night’s rest isn’t just important for your busy days, but also so your body can recover properly overnight, and to prevent excess cortisol (stress) that can lead to heart disease, weight gain, and even muscle and joint pain.
Cherries and Your Weight
Cherries have also been shown to reduce belly fat due to the way they lower inflammation, reduce stress, improve cholesterol levels, and aid in helping you achieve a healthy sleep cycle. Their specific antioxidant compounds are also directly linked to a lower waistline. Though tart cherry juice and dried cherries are often recommended, be sure to choose whole food cherries when you can, since dried and juice forms are always higher in sugar. Go for the whole, natural fruit the way nature created it whenever possible!
Cherries and Your Blood Sugar
Despite being higher in sugar than fruits like fresh cranberries or raspberries, whole (especially tart) cherries are really very low on the glycemic index. They’ve been shown to improve blood sugar for those with diabetes, and can be eaten with whole grains or nuts and seeds to lower the glycemic spike even more.
Benefits of Nutritional Yeast for Your Blood Sugar
Nutritional yeast is perhaps one of the most life-changing foods for plant-based eaters. These affordable, easy-to-use flakes can be sprinkled on anything to produce an authentic cheese flavor without the need for any processed vegan cheese alternatives. It might not melt the same way on a pizza, but it will produce a cheese flavor so amazing, you won’t even care. Its commonly used in everything from salads, to wraps, sandwiches, sauces, dressings, burgers, sprinkled on fries before baking, mixed into salsa for a vegan queso dip, sprinkled on roasted veggies, used in hummus, and just about any other way you can think of.
But nutritional yeast isn’t just beneficial for flavoring your food. While it’s definitely an all-star in that department, it’s also one incredibly healthy food for anyone, especially those on a plant-based diet or those with testy blood sugar levels.
First though: What are the requirements for healthy blood sugar levels? Eating enough fresh food, low-glycemic foods, eating regular meals, getting adequate anti-inflammatory proteins in the diet, and consuming a little fat throughout the day are all crucial for taking care of your blood sugar.
These are the main principles that will help prevent those blood sugar swings, intense sugar cravings, and prevent symptoms associated with blood sugar imbalances such as moodiness, anxiety, fatigue, and headaches. However, you also need to focus on specific nutrients to take care of your blood sugar too.
Most nutrients needed for healthy blood sugar levels are found abundantly in normal, everyday plant-based ingredients. A few others, such as nutritional yeast, also happen to contain the right nutrients, all in just a couple tablespoon servings.
Check out what nutritional yeast can do for you besides satisfy those cheesy cravings:
1. Complete Protein Source
Amino acids are said to be the building blocks of life; they form proteins in our body that support nearly every single aspect of our mental health and metabolism. Amino acids also help work with blood glucose levels to prevent blood sugar swings and can help the carbohydrates we eat digest more slowly when we combine protein with carbohydrates in a meal. Nutritional yeast is not only a great source of amino acids, but also a complete protein source. It contains all the essential amino acids that the body can not produce on its own, along with all the amino acids that the body can produce on its own. Nutritional yeast boasts a whopping 8 grams of protein in 2 tablespoons, which is the same amount found in 1/2 cup of most types of beans and legumes! It’s also only 45 calories per 2 tablespoons, making it one of the lowest calorie sources of protein out there.
Fiber is another helpful nutrient that slows down the absorption of natural sugars from our food into the bloodstream. In the meantime, it also sweeps out harmful fats and cholesterol, along with toxins in our bloodstream that keep our hearts healthy too. Nutritional yeast contains 4 grams of fiber in just 2 tablespoons, which is equivalent to 1/3 cup oatmeal, 1/2 cup broccoli, and 1 1/4 cup cooked kale. Not too shabby, right? You should be sure to still eat your vegetables too, of course, since we need between a minimum of 25-30 grams a day to stay healthy.
B vitamins not only help our bodies use carbohydrates for energy, but they also help prevent blood sugar swings as a result. One of the most well-known benefits of nutritional yeast is its wealthy stores of B vitamins. Two tablespoons of nutritional yeast contains: 9.6 milligrams of Thiamin (640 percent) , 9.7 milligrams of Riboflavin (570 percent), 56 milligrams of Niacin (280 percent), 9.6 milligrams of Vitamin B6 (480 percent), 240 micrograms of Folate (60 percent), 1 milligrams of Pantheonic Acid (10 percent), and 7.8 micrograms of Vitamin B12 (130 percent). This should come as no surprise, since all soil-based yeasts (versus air-born yeasts) are rich sources of natural B vitamins since they are grown on B-rich bacteria within the soil (such as Vitamin B12). Please be warned, however, you should not look to obtain your Vitamin B12 from nutritional yeast alone. Everyone should be taking a sublingual or liquid form of vitamin B12, which your body absorbs more easily since these enter the bloodstream directly and don’t have to go through digestion first. However, it’s a smart choice to eat as many other B vitamins as you can instead of relying on lots of supplements to give you what you need. See more sources of food-based B vitamins here if you’d like to see just how easy that really is!
5. Low Glycemic
Finally, nutritional yeast contains no added sugars and is a very low carbohydrate food. It contains 5 grams of carbs, 4 of which are fiber (which has no negative impact on blood sugar levels and leaves the body undigested). Low glycemic foods are important to manage blood sugar since the body can only use so much of one nutrient at any given time. What it can’t use ends up remaining in the bloodstream and cause the pancreas to produce too much insulin as result to try and get rid of those glucose stores. This is essentially what leads to blood highs and lows, though skipping meals, and eating unhealthy foods can also cause these issues. To best manage your blood sugar, eat a variety of whole food, fiber-rich, plant-based foods and leave processed foods out of the equation as much as possible.
10 Magnesium-Rich Foods for a Healthier Heart
Magnesium tends to get overlooked when the spotlight shines on better-known minerals such as calcium and potassium, but it plays a crucial role in keeping your heart, muscles, and bones healthy and strong! It is one of the body’s most important electrolytes and has been proven to help with insomnia, depression, migraines, and more.
Check out this article to learn even more about the importance of magnesium. Here are 10 magnesium-rich foods that you should include in your diet on a regular basis, along with several delicious recipe ideas.
This ubiquitous breakfast staple is a superstar in more ways than one, despite its humble-looking appearance. Oats come in multiple varieties depending on how processed they are: oat bran, steel-cut, Scottish, rolled/old-fashioned, and quick-cooking. They are technically gluten-free but are frequently processed in facilities that also manufacture wheat-based products. So if you have celiac disease, or are gluten-intolerant, it’s best to buy oats that are certified gluten-free. Oats (the scientific name being Avena sativa) have been around since the Bronze Age (roughly 2300 BC), and started to be mass-produced in the 18th and 19th centuries.
This versatile green veggie is packed with nutrients, and, when cooked properly (soggy, slimy greens are no fun to eat), can, in fact, be delicious! The spinach plant was first referred to in Sasanian Persia between 226 and 640 A.D., and in 647 was taken from Nepal to China. It later became popular in the Mediterranean and other countries in Europe and Asia. Spinach can be consumed either raw or cooked–some of its nutrients (e.g. vitamin C and potassium) are better absorbed when it is raw, while others (e.g. vitamins A and E) are more available when cooked. As a result, it’s best to have a variety! As with most fruits and veggies, the fresher the spinach, the more nutrients it will contain. So avoid purchasing spinach that is wilted or turning brown.
These small seeds are dense in nutrients and can be purchased already roasted and seasoned, or you can choose to indulge in the messy–yet highly satisfying–process of scooping the flesh out from a pumpkin and removing/roasting the seeds yourself! Check out this article for more detailed instructions on how to prepare and cook your own pumpkin seeds. Either way, pumpkin seeds are a valuable and healthy addition to your diet, especially if you’re looking to increase your consumption of some vital minerals. A mere 1/4 a cup of pumpkin seeds contains nearly 50% of the RDA for magnesium, as well as high amounts of zinc and omega-3 fatty acids.
These rich and tasty nuts come from a tree that is native to Brazil and produces red and yellow “pseudo-fruits” on which the cashew nut attaches. The nut is surrounded by a double shell that in fact contains toxic and corrosive ingredients (including urushiol, found in poison ivy). However, once cashews are roasted and heated, they are perfectly safe to eat, meaning that even cashews labeled “raw” have been heated to some degree.
Due to the toxic ingredients in the shell, it is important to purchase fair-trade certified cashews, as many workers in countries such as India obtain severe burns on their hands from the acid when they are not provided with the proper equipment or protection.
Cashews are rich in healthy fats, copper, and phosphorus, and 1/4 a cup of cashews contains nearly 30% of the RDA of magnesium, making them a nutritious and heart-healthy snack. They are quite versatile and, when soaked overnight, can be used as the basis for many creamy vegan desserts and sauces. For recipe ideas, try these Spicy Golden Turmeric Cashews as a tasty snack, or make some Curried Rice with Raisins and Cashews.
5. Flax Seeds
This nutrient-packed seed originated in Babylon as early as 3000 B.C., and in the 8th century, King Charlemagne required his subjects to consume flaxseed due to his firm belief in the health benefits. Talk about a royal plant! It is best to consume flaxseeds in their ground form (AKA flax meal), as the body does not completely digest whole flax seeds, which prevents you from absorbing all the nutrients.
Turns out dark chocolate isn’t only beneficial for its high levels of antioxidants (and its ability to produce feel-good endorphins)! Although chocolate may seem like a strange addition to this list, what makes chocolate a “junk food” is usually all the additional milk fats and sugar that are added to candy bars and chocolate chips. The cacao tree (Theobroma Cacao) originated in South America and it is from this tree that we harvest the beans that are eventually processed and turned into chocolate. The raw cacao bean is packed with nutrients, including several antioxidants, iron, calcium, and many of the B vitamins.
Dark chocolate retains many of these nutrients since it has a relatively high percentage of cacao and less sugar and fat than milk chocolate. A single square of dark chocolate contains approximately 95 milligrams of dark chocolate, or 24% of the RDA. However, it’s still best to consume dark chocolate in moderation, given that it does contain some processed sugar and fats. Even better, buy some raw cacao powder as well and use that in smoothies or oatmeal to get even more nutrients!
Increased physical activity more important for heart disease patients than weight loss
Increased physical activity, not weight loss, gives individuals with coronary heart disease a longer lease on life, according to a new study conducted at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).
NTNU researchers have found that heart disease patients can gain weight without jeopardizing their health, but sitting in their recliner incurs significant health risks.
Weight loss seems to be associated with increased mortality for the participants in the study who were normal weight at baseline. The survey, which is an observational study based on data from HUNT (the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study), was recently published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC).
Researcher Trine Moholdt in NTNU's Department of Circulation and Medical Imaging collaborated on the study with cardiologist Carl J. Lavie at the John Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute in New Orleans, and Javaid Nauman at NTNU.
They studied 3307 individuals (1038 women) with coronary heart disease from HUNT. Data from HUNT constitute Norway's largest collection of health information about a population. A total of 120,000 people have consented to making their anonymized health information available for research, and nearly 80,000 individuals have released blood tests.
HUNT patients were examined in 1985, 1996 and 2007, and followed up to the end of 2014. The data from HUNT were compared with data from the Norwegian Cause of Death Registry.
During the 30-year period, 1493 of the participants died and 55 per cent of the deaths were due to cardiovascular disease.
"This study is important because we've been able to look at change over time, and not many studies have done that, so I am forever grateful to HUNT and the HUNT participants," said Moholdt.
Exercise and live longer
The study revealed that people who are physically active live longer than those who are not. Sustained physical activity over time was associated with substantially lower mortality risk.
Participants in the study were divided into three categories: inactive; slightly physically active, but below recommended activity level; and physically active at or above recommended activity level.
The recommended activity level is at least 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity or 60 minutes per week of vigorous physical activity.
A little is better than nothing
The risk of premature death was higher for the group of patients who were completely inactive than for either of the other groups. The prognosis for people who exercise a little bit, even if it is below the recommended level, is better than not exercising at all.
"Even being somewhat active is better than being inactive, but patients have to maintain the activity level. Physical activity is perishable - if you snooze you lose its benefits," Moholdt says.
HUNT participants were asked how hard the exercise activity was for them. Moholdt points out that this is a good way to determine the intensity of the exercise. A half-hour walk can be experienced very differently depending on how fit the person is.
The question then becomes how to translate these findings into practical guidelines.
"The clinical guidelines for heart disease patients currently include having normal weight and being physically active. I would put more emphasis on the exercise aspect. When it comes to physical activity, you have to do what gets you in better shape. That means training with high intensity. Do something that makes you breathe hard, so that it's hard to talk, but not so hard that you can't do it for four to five minutes," says Moholdt. She adds that heart disease patients are often in poor shape, so it often doesn't take much to get into high intensity mode.
Is the Anti-Inflammatory Diet for You? Why You Should Try It & How to Start It
Most of us are always on a mission to find the healthiest way of eating that helps us feel good and live without pain — and the anti-inflammation diet may do just that. You see, chronic inflammation is pretty much the root of almost all our health problems. Arthritis, IBS, asthma, allergies, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's and even diabetes all come down to inflammation — and can become better or worse depending on what a person is eating, according to Karen Lamphere, MS, CN, a nutritionist based in Edmonds, Washington. Lampere always recommends a diet of anti-inflammatory foods to her clients as a way for them to heal — and the anti-inflammation diet is actually pretty uncomplicated and intuitive.
What is an anti-inflammation diet?
The anti-inflammation diet is comprised of healthy, wholesome, unprocessed foods.
As Lamphere and many other nutritionists have recognized when working with their clients, the phrase "you are what you eat" could not ring truer. The purpose of eating anti-inflammatory foods and removing processed foods from the diet is to calm down inflammation in the body. Research confirms two important things that make the anti-inflammatory diet so critical and so effective for so many people struggling with health issues, as well as those who hope to improve their general health.
First, a 2015 study by the British Journal of Nutrition linked unresolved inflammation to early development of chronic disease. And second — according to University of Alabama at Birmingham Employee Wellness director and adjunct professor of personal health, Lauren Whitt — eating the right foods (namely, anti-inflammatory foods) can help to fight this disease-causing inflammation in the body.
That's where the anti-inflammatory diet comes in, built on basic principles like:
Anti-inflammatory fats are a cornerstone of this diet. Lamphere recommends foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as wild salmon, sardines, herring, anchovies, flaxseed, hempseed and walnuts. In addition, other anti-inflammatory fats include extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil, flaxseed oil, hempseed oil and walnut oil.
Fruits and vegetables are high in inflammation-reducing antioxidants. "Fruits and vegetables with high antioxidants are important, especially onions, garlic, peppers and dark leafy greens," says Lamphere. She adds, "These are high in inflammation-fighting carotenoids, vitamin K and vitamin E."
Herbs and spices include compounds to fight inflammation. Lamphere explains, "Turmeric, oregano, rosemary, ginger and green tea contain bioflavonoids and polyphenols that reduce inflammation and limit free radical production." She adds, "Some of the most potent anti-inflammatory vegetables are peppers and the spices derived from them, such as cayenne pepper. All chili peppers include capsaicin (the hotter the pepper, the more capsaicin it has), which is a potent inhibitor of substance P, a neuropeptide associated with inflammatory processes."
Some healthy proteins can be anti-inflammatory. "There is a difference in the saturated fat and omega-3 fat content in grain-fed versus grass-fed beef, with the latter being a more healthful choice for an anti-inflammation diet." She adds, "In addition, organic pasteurized eggs have a better anti-inflammatory fatty acid profile than factory-farmed eggs." Choose your proteins wisely and aim to reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet.
The standard American diet is a culprit in inflammatory conditions.
Unhealthy fats promote inflammation. "Most people eating a Western diet high in processed food or fast food consume a lot of omega-6 fats and not enough of the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats — and it is this imbalance between the two that promotes inflammation [in the body]."
Omega-6 fats found in corn, safflower, sunflower, peanut and soybean oils. "[These fats] are inflammatory because they are metabolized into hormone-like compounds that actually promote inflammation," says Lamphere. Have you ever wondered why trans fat is unhealthy? Lamphere explains, "Another fat that is highly inflammatory is trans fat. This fat is found in processed or fast foods, especially those that are fried." She warns, "It is best to avoid trans fat entirely."
Refined carbohydrates are pro-inflammatory. Refined flour, sugar and foods high on the glycemic index exacerbate inflammatory conditions. Lamphere warns, "These foods elevate insulin and glucose levels, which raise levels of pro-inflammatory messengers."
Food allergies or sensitivities can play a role in inflammation. "Many people are intolerant to the proteins in wheat and dairy, and this can initiate an inflammatory cascade that starts in the gut but can have far-reaching [systemic] effects," says Lamphere.
How to start an anti-inflammatory diet
Lamphere recommends the anti-inflammatory diet for people with inflammatory conditions as well as healthy people who are looking for a healthy diet. When starting out, Lamphere emphasizes that it is important to reduce your unhealthy fat intake by eliminating oils high in omega-6 while increasing your intake of healthy fats, including more extra-virgin olive oil and omega-3 fatty acids.
Dr. Joe Feuerstein, associate professor of clinical medicine at Columbia University and director of integrative medicine at Stamford Hospital, takes it one step further — he says the easiest way to approach the anti-inflammatory diet is by focusing on what you can have instead of what you can't. In his nutritional work with his patients, where he often incorporates an anti-inflammatory diet, Feuerstein says that it's as easy as using a simple food pyramid.
Here's his approach, from the bottom of the pyramid to the top:
BottomLevel — Enjoy all the colors of the rainbow as veggies or salad, 2 – 3 servings for lunch and 2 – 3 servings for dinner. This is combined with 2 – 3 fruit and berry snacks per day.
Level II — In more limited amounts, enjoy healthy carbohydrates and whole grains, like quinoa, yams, plantains al dente and whole grain pasta.
Level III — Next are nuts and seeds, like almonds as well as hemp, avocado and olive oils.
Level IV — Eat anti-inflammatory proteins moderately, like whole soy, including tofu and tempeh, and cold-water fish, like herring, mackerel, sardines, sockeye or salmon.
Level V — Include small amounts of other proteins, like eggs, skinless poultry, natural cheese or bison.
Top Level — The tip of the pyramid is dark chocolate, green tea, spices and a little red wine.
Researchers use x-ray crystallography to reveal how curcumin inhibits cancer
Through x-ray crystallography and kinase-inhibitor specificity profiling, University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers, in collaboration with researchers at Peking University and Zhejiang University, reveal that curcumin, a natural occurring chemical compound found in the spice turmeric, binds to the kinase enzyme dual-specificity tyrosine-regulated kinase 2 (DYRK2) at the atomic level. This previously unreported biochemical interaction of curcumin leads to inhibition of DYRK2 that impairs cell proliferation and reduces cancer burden.
But before turning to curcumin or turmeric supplements, Sourav Banerjee, PhD, UC San Diego School of Medicine postdoctoral scholar, cautions that curcumin alone may not be the answer.
"In general, curcumin is expelled from the body quite fast," said Banerjee. "For curcumin to be an effective drug, it needs to be modified to enter the blood stream and stay in the body long enough to target the cancer. Owing to various chemical drawbacks, curcumin on its own may not be sufficient to completely reverse cancer in human patients."
Writing in the July 9 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Banerjee and colleagues report that curcumin binds to and inhibits DYRK2 leading to the impediment of the proteasome -; the cellular protein machinery that destroys unneeded or damaged proteins in cells -; which in turn reduces cancer in mice.
"Although curcumin has been studied for more than 250 years and its anti-cancer properties have been previously reported, no other group has reported a co-crystal structure of curcumin bound to a protein kinase target until now," said Banerjee, first author on the study. "Because of their work on the crystallography, our collaborators at Peking University, Chenggong Ji and Junyu Xiao, helped us to visualize the interaction between curcumin and DYRK2."
"The enzyme kinases IKK and GSK3 were thought to be the prime curcumin-targets that lead to anti-cancer effect but the co-crystal structure of curcumin with DYRK2 along with a 140-panel kinase inhibitor profiling reveal that curcumin binds strongly to the active site of DYRK2, inhibiting it at a level that is 500 times more potent than IKK or GSK3."
Working alongside Jack E. Dixon, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology, Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Chemistry and Biochemistry at UC San Diego, Banerjee and team have been looking for regulators of proteasomes to inhibit tumor formation by proteasome-addicted cancers like triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) and the plasma cell malignancy called multiple myeloma.
Using biochemical, mouse cancer models and cellular models the team found that curcumin is a selective inhibitor of DYRK2 and that this novel molecular target has promising anticancer potential for not only chemo-sensitive but also proteasome inhibitor resistant/adapted cancers.
"Our results reveal an unexpected role of curcumin in DYRK2-proteasome inhibition and provide a proof-of-concept that pharmacological manipulation of proteasome regulators may offer new opportunities for hard-to-treat triple-negative breast cancer and multiple myeloma treatment," said Dixon, who was co-senior author with Zhejiang University's Xing Guo, PhD, on the paper. "Our primary focus is to develop a chemical compound that can target DYRK2 in patients with these cancers." DYRK2 depletion impairs proteasome activity and exhibits slower cancer proliferation rates and significantly reduced tumor burden in mouse models. In combination with the FDA-approved multiple myeloma drug, carfilzomib, curcumin induced a much higher cancer cell death while normal non-cancerous cells were less affected. This suggest that targeting proteasome regulators (such as DYRK2) in combination with proteasome inhibitors may be a promising approach of anticancer therapy with less side-effects but further work is needed, said Banerjee.
Study: Eating Meals Earlier In The Day Can Cut Diabetes Risk And Lower Blood Pressure
In our ongoing dieting dialogue we spend a lot of time talking about what to eat, but what if we’re leaving out something just as important? What if changing when we eat could significantly improve our health? For the first time, a study offers hard data supporting precisely that argument, showing that eating earlier in the day could affect our health as much as what we're eating.
Animal studies have found that time-restricted diets can reduce diabetes risk by stabilizing blood sugar. To see if the same holds true for humans, a research team from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) recruited a group of overweight men, all nearly diabetic, to participate in a controlled 10-week study. Half of the group ate three meals a day within a six-hour period starting around 6:30 am and ending by 3 pm (in effect, they fasted for 18 hours a day). The other half ate three meals during a typical 12-hour day. The groups swapped eating regimens at the end of the first five weeks.
By the end of the study, it was clear that eating within a six-hour window versus a 12-hour window produced three big benefits. First, the participants’ insulin sensitivity increased, resulting in better blood sugar control (insulin is the hormone that keeps blood sugar in check; reduced sensitivity to insulin is a hallmark of prediabetes and diabetes). Their blood pressure also improved as much as if they’d been taking an average dose of blood pressure medication. And their appetite was reduced (a paradoxical outcome considering how many hours a day they weren’t eating, but predictable because their blood sugar had leveled out).
The researchers think that the results come from aligning eating times with natural circadian rhythms.
“If you eat late at night, it’s bad for your metabolism,” said lead study author Courtney Petersen, assistant professor in the UAB Department of Nutrition Sciences. “Our bodies are optimized to do certain things at certain times of the day, and eating in sync with our circadian rhythms seem to improve our health in multiple ways.”
Importantly, the benefits didn’t come from weight loss, because all of the participants ate enough calories to maintain their bodyweight. Rather, the results seemed to come directly from changing when they consumed the same amount of calories.
“Our body’s ability to keep our blood sugar under control is better in the morning than it is in the afternoon and evening,” added Petersen, “so it makes sense to eat most of our food in the morning and early afternoon.”
This was a small study of just eight participants and far from the last word on this topic, but as an initial proof-of-concept, the results are important. As diabetes continues to explode across an increasingly obese population, strategies like shifting eating times to stabilize blood sugar could make a big difference. Same for blood pressure – reducing the amount of medication patients take by changing when they eat is an approach that makes sense.
Having said that, time-restricted diets aren’t easy to follow. Compressing every meal between 6:30 am and 3 pm takes commitment and more than a little willingness to endure stomach grumbles, at least initially before blood sugar spikes level out. We’re accustomed to eating dinner in the 5 - 7 pm window, often followed by a snack or two later at night. Changing that mindset takes work.
Further complicating matters is the growing popularity of fasting diets, mostly unsupported by evidence-based science, but fueled, as all diet fads are, by public demand to conquer our bodies’ worst tendencies. The latest study uses a fasting method (since the participants didn’t eat for 18 hours instead of a typical 10 or 12), but the focus wasn’t on restricting calories via fasting, but rather shifting when they’re eaten.
More research with more participants is needed, no doubt, but these preliminary findings are worth some attention. Food choices matter, but when we consume the food we choose may matter just as much.
The study led by researchers from Peking University Health Science Center was then narrowed down to people who did not have prior cancer, cardiovascular disease or diabetes.
The results showed people who consumed one egg a day carried a lower risk for cardiovascular disease and strokes compared to those who didn't eat eggs at all.
"Among Chinese adults, a moderate level of egg consumption (up to <1 egg/day) was significantly associated with lower risk of (cardiovascular disease), largely independent of other risk factors," reads an excerpt from the study.
The study didn't explore health risks associated with people who eat more than one egg daily.
Eggs have long received a bad rap over concerns it could boost cholesterol, but have been recommended more frequently by dietary experts for their high protein and other nutrients like Vitamins D and K as well as omega-3 fatty acids.
In 2015, an expert panel advising the federal government on nutrition updated its dietary guidelines to remove daily limits on dietary cholesterol, including eggs, saying dietary sources don't really affect the amount of cholesterol in the blood.
4 Everyday Foods That Can Make Your Cholesterol Levels Skyrocket
According to Mayo Clinic, people with high cholesterol should do their best to consume no more than 200 daily milligrams of dietary cholesterol.
An ounce of full-fat soft cheese adds about 20 extra milligrams to your daily total — and you know you’re going to eat more than an ounce in one sitting. It’s probably better to stay away from it, if you can’t limit your consumption.
There are 10 milligrams of cholesterol per tablespoon of light mayonnaise, even though that fact might surprise you.
If you’re looking for a healthier spread to spice up your sandwiches, go with mashed avocado, hummus, olive oil, or almond butter instead.
Red and processed meats notoriously put people with high cholesterol at higher risk for heart disease. Land animals, however, aren’t the only types you need to watch out for. Three ounces of cooked shrimp almost puts you above your daily limit at 170 milligrams. You might have to cut back on other shellfish as well to avoid raising your LDL levels.
A little bit of red meat every once in awhile isn’t all bad. You don’t have to give it up completely if you have high cholesterol. However, eating it every day might be a bad idea. Three ounces of cooked lean beef steak provides 60 milligrams. If you tend to eat more than that in one sitting, or you grill steak more than a few times per month, you might want to consider cutting back.
A food-poisoning expert reveals 5 things he never orders at restaurants — and it's not what you'd expect
A deep knowledge of thousands of food poisoning cases across the US means that there are some things that Bill Marler just won't order when he goes out to eat. With more than two decades working as a food poisoning advocate and attorney, there are simply some things that Marler has cut out of his diet. Marler has won more than $600 million for clients in foodborne-illness cases — and seen how restaurants are being forced to change to prevent more sicknesses.
"Chain restaurants, post-Jack-in-the-Box, they went through a sort of rethinking about how they do stuff," Marler said.
Today, many of the biggest risk for food poisoning at chain restaurants come from an individual worker who "picked his nose then made your burrito," Marler said. The action of a rogue restaurant worker can make a handful of people sick — but usually won't spark a huge outbreak.
However, there are some foods that Marler avoids when he goes out to eat.
Here are the foods that Marler said scare him the most on the menu:
Your healthy choice is actually one of the riskier options on the menu at chain restaurants.
"I'd eat sushi before I ate a salad," Marler said. "I wouldn't eat it at a 7-11, but I've eaten sushi at a good sushi restaurant."
While cooking veggies and meat can kill germs, salads bring together a lot of raw foods that have had countless opportunities for contamination. Restaurants that buy pre-chopped lettuce from suppliers put themselves at even greater risk.
"Not every lettuce leaf in the field is contaminated E. coli, but some of them are," Marler said of the risks of pre-washed, bagged lettuce. "And when you mix and match it at a processing facility and chop it up, you get what you get."
Soft-serve ice cream
Cleanliness of ice and ice cream machines can cause huge problems when workers aren't following safety guidelines. There's a grossness factor of finding mold in soft-serve ice cream machines — but there are also real risks.
"There have been a number of cases linked to listeria, where listeria will get into the inner workings of these ice cream machines and kill people," Marler said.
Marler agrees with known-germaphobe President Trump on at least one thing: well-cooked meat is the way to go.
"Skip the medium hamburger and get it well done, and just add a little ketchup like the president," he said.
According to the expert, meat needs to be cooked to 160 degrees throughout to kill bacteria that could cause E. coli or salmonella.
"I never eat a buffet," Marler said. "I'll order off the menu."
Buffets have a heightened risk of exposure to the lines of people who might touch or sneeze on food, contaminating the dish for anyone else. Then, there is the temperature issue, as dishes are better able to host bacteria when kept at room temperature
Food shipped internationally
In general, Marler says people can best avoid food poisoning by simply eating food handled by as few people are possible and only eating at restaurants with strict food safety practices. While chain restaurants tend to have strict safety policies, if they serve food from suppliers that got contaminated at some point along the supply chair, there is little they can do. And, those risks are exacerbated in the cases of food that is being imported from a significant geographical distance.
"You can get Hepatitis from scallops from the Philippines, but you probably shouldn't be eating scallops from the Philippines," Marler said. "You can get Hepatitis A from strawberries from Egypt, but you probably shouldn't be getting strawberries from Egypt."
A possible cancer vaccine breakthrough!
A recent Stanford cancer study that cured 97 percent of mice from tumors has now moved on to soliciting human volunteers for a new cutting-edge medical trial.
The trial is part of a gathering wave of research into immunotherapy, a type of treatment that fights cancer by using the body's immune system to attack tumors.
"Getting the immune system to fight cancer is one of the most recent developments in cancer," Dr. Ronald Levy, a Stanford oncology professor who is leading the study, told SFGATE. "People need to know that this is in its early days and we are still looking for safety and looking to make this as good as it can be." he treatment is not a true vaccine that creates lasting immunity, but it does feature a vaccine-like injection carrying two immune stimulators that activate the immune system's T cells to eliminate tumors throughout the body.
Each test subject receives a low dose of radiation plus two rounds of the injected agents, Levy said. No chemotherapy is involved. The treatment does not work on all types of cancer, Levy said, because each type of cancer has a different set of rules regarding how it can be affected by the immune system.
For the current trials, he is only looking for people with low-grade lymphoma regardless if they have been previously treated. He said Stanford is planning on running two trials by the end of the year with a total of about 35 test subjects.
The two drugs we are injecting are made by two different companies and have already been proven safe for people," Levy said. "It's the combination we are testing."
Side effects at this point include fever and soreness at the injection site but no vomiting, Levy said.
He said if the FDA does end up granting final approval, he wouldn't expect it any sooner than a year or two from now.
hile the vaccine approach to cancer is unique, Levy noted that one approved cancer drug for injection already exists for melanoma skin cancer.
Other limited approaches also currently exist in the expanding landscape for cancer immunotherapy. In 2017, the FDA approved a type of cell therapy for some types of leukemia and lymphoma known as CAR-T where a patient's immune cells are removed from the body, genetically engineered and reintroduced to attack the tumor cells.
Dr. Michelle Hermiston directs the pediatric immunotherapy program at UCSF, the first hospital in California to implement the treatment. She told SFGATE that CAR-T is currently being used as a third option for lymphoma and leukemia patients who have failed standard treatments like chemotherapy.
She said CAR-T is both labor intensive and very expensive — drugs alone cost half a million dollars — but that the new immunotherapy treatment has raised survival rates from about 10-15 percent to more than 60 percent.
"The thing to understand is how much of a game changer this is," she said. "If it's your kid, it makes a huge difference."
But CAR-T comes with its fair share of side effects: fever, confusion, organ failure and the chance of permanent loss of one's B cells — responsible for producing antibodies. "It's not a trivial therapy," Hermiston said.
Hermiston said she is very interested in Levy's injection trials as well as other future advances in immunotherapy. One biological area of importance that demands further study, she said, was the difference between "hot" and "cold" tumors with respect to the body's immune system.
She said research has shown that unlike hot tumors, the immune system does not detect cold tumors — often associated with colon cancer. However, sometimes a combination of hot and cold may be at play. One main question, Hermiston said, is whether cold tumors can be transformed into hot tumors so that the immune system can first recognize and then destroy them.
"Can we make the tumor more visible to the immune system?" Hermiston said. "We are at the tip of the iceberg right now."
Levy, along with Stanford instructor of medicine Idit Sagiv-Barfi, published their study on the cancer-curing effect of immunotherapy on January 31 in Science Translational Medicine. Levy is a pioneer in the field of cancer immunotherapy having contributed to the development of rituximab, one of the first monoclonal antibodies approved for use as an anti-cancer treatment in humans. In 2009 he received the King Faisal International Prize — often known as the "Arab Nobel Prize"— for this achievement.
"We have a huge problem in cancer and we will never be satisfied until we find solutions for everyone," Levy said.
One type of exercise is the closest thing to a miracle drug that we have — and new research suggests intense workouts aren't the only option
o walk, or to run? That is often the question.
In other words, if you're looking to improve your health, is it better to commit to an occasional all-out sweat fest, or incorporate more walking and moving into your day?
A new study suggests there's an answer to this years-old conundrum: It doesn't matter.
For better health and a reduced risk of death from any cause, any kind of movement is better than little or none. That means that any effort that gets you moving and breathing — whether it's a twice-weekly heart-pounding kickboxing class or a 30-minute walk to work — has measurable benefits for your brain and body.
The authors sorted activity into two categories: total minutes of activity per day, and total minutes of "bouted" — intense or concentrated — activity per day.
To count as a bout, an exercise spell had to last at least five minutes, but one- to two-minute breaks in between were allowed. Examples included workouts like cycling classes, interval training, and marathon training.
The researchers then looked for links among subjects' activity levels, types of activity, and chances of dying at their age from any cause.
You may assume that people with more bouted activity fared better than people who just walked or moved around a lot. But the study found that neither type of activity had a significant edge over the other.
Overall, participants who clocked roughly 30 minutes a day of moderate or vigorous exercise were significantly less likely to die from any cause than people who got none. Those who accumulated an hour or more of movement daily fared even better.
"The key message based on the results presented is that total physical activity (i.e., of any bout duration) provides important health benefits," the authors wrote. The most recent study didn't examine in detail participants' types of activity, but plenty of other research has extolled the benefits of cardio or aerobic workouts, defined as any movement that raises your heart rate and gets you moving and sweating for a sustained period.
Why cardio exercise is so good for the brain and body
Unlike weight or strength training, which involves working specific muscle groups, cardio raises your heart rate, thereby improving heart and lung health.
Cardio workouts have "a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress," an article in a Harvard health blog says.
The reason they lift our spirits seems related to their ability to reduce levels of natural stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, according to a study in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science.
Activities like running and swimming also increase overall blood flow and provide our minds fresh energy and oxygen — another factor that could help us feel better.
So whether you're looking for benefits related to mood, memory, or overall health, the take-home message is clear: The more you move, the healthier you're likely to be.
Gut bacteria determine speed of tumor growth in pancreatic cancer
The population of bacteria in the pancreas increases more than a thousand fold in patients with pancreatic cancer, and becomes dominated by species that prevent the immune system from attacking tumor cells.
These are the findings of a study conducted in mice and in patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA), a form of cancer that is usually fatal within two years. Led by researchers at NYU School of Medicine, Perlmutter Cancer Center, and NYU College of Dentistry, the study published online March 22 in Cancer Discovery, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
Specifically, the study found that removing bacteria from the gut and pancreas by treating mice with antibiotics slowed cancer growth and reprogrammed immune cellsto again "take notice" of cancer cells. Oral antibiotics also increased roughly threefold the efficacy of checkpoint inhibitors, a form of immunotherapy that had previously failed in pancreatic cancer clinical trials, to bring about a strong anti-tumor shift in immunity.
Experiments found that in patients with PDA, pathogenic gut bacteria migrate to the pancreas through the pancreatic duct, a tube that normally drains digestive juices from the pancreas into the intestines. Once in the pancreas, this abnormal bacterial mix (microbiome) gives off cellular components that shut down the immune system to promote cancer growth, say the authors.
"While combinations of changes in genes like KRAS cause cells to grow abnormally and form pancreatic tumors, our study shows that bacteria change the immune environment around cancer cells to let them grow faster in some patients than others, despite their having the same genetics," says senior study co-author George Miller, MD, co-leader of the Tumor Immunology Research Program at Perlmutter, the H. Leon Pachter, MD, Professor in the Department of Surgery, and professor of Cell Biology at NYU Langone Health.
"Our results have implications for understanding immune-suppression in pancreatic cancer and its reversal in the clinic," says senior co-author Deepak Saxena, PhD, associate professor of Basic Science and Craniofacial Biology at NYU College of Dentistry. "Studies already underway in our labs seek to confirm the bacterial species most able to shut down the immune reaction to cancer cells, setting the stage for new bacteria-based diagnostic tests, combinations of antibiotics and immunotherapies, and perhaps for probiotics that prevent cancer in high-risk patients."
On the one hand, the research team theorizes that changes in the genes that cause abnormal cell growth in the pancreas might also change the immune response in ways that favor the growth of different bacterial species than are found in normal individuals.
Alternatively, environmental factors like diet, other diseases, or common medications might cause bacterial changes in the gut that are reflected in the pancreatic microbiome.
Whatever the cause, the new study found that bacteria that are more abundant in pancreatic cancers - including groups of species called proteobacteria, actinobacteria, and fusobacteria - release cell membrane components (e.g. lipopolysaccharides) and proteins (e.g. flagellins) that shift macrophages, the key immune cells in the pancreas, into immune suppression.
Experiments showed that eliminating bacteria using antibiotics restored the ability of immune cells to recognize cancer cells, slowed pancreatic tumor growth, and reduced the number of cancer cells present (tumor burden) by 50 percent in study mice.
The researchers found that "bad" bacteria in pancreas tumors trigger immune cell "checkpoints" - sensors on immune cells that turn them off when they receive the right signal. These checkpoints normally function to prevent the immune system from attacking the body's own cells, but cancer cells hijack checkpoints to turn off immune responses that would otherwise destroy them. Checkpoint inhibitors are therapeutic antibodies that shut down checkpoint proteins to make tumors "visible" again to the immune system.
"Adding antibiotics improved the performance of a checkpoint inhibitor in a mouse model of PDA, as shown by an increase in T cells that could attack the tumors," says first co-author Mautin Hundeyin, MD, a postdoctoral fellow in Miller's lab. "Our study confirmed that, similar to what has been observed in patients with pancreatic cancer, checkpoint inhibition alone did not protect mice. This may be because, in the immunosuppressive environment of the tumor, there are too few immune cells around to be activated."
As a next step, the research team plans to soon begin recruiting patients into a clinical trial at Perlmutter Cancer Center to test whether a combination of antibiotics (ciprofloxacin and metronidazole) can improve the effectiveness of a checkpoint inhibitor (an anti-programmed death receptor 1 (PD-1) antibody) in PDA patients.
The link between your gut health and autoimmune diseases
One in five Americans — about 50 million people in the United States — have an autoimmune disease. These include conditions such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis which occur when the immune system begins attacking the body’s own organs, tissues, and cells. Research suggests that these diseases are on the upswing, with reports showing that Type 1 diabetes, lupus, and celiac disease, for example, are being diagnosed more frequently.
Medical experts are still mystified about what exactly causes autoimmune diseases and why some people are more susceptible to them. But now, fascinating new research shows that your gut bacteria — yup, you read that right — may play an important role.
A 2017 study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine found that mice carrying a mutated gene that made them more susceptible to autoimmune disorders also showed changes in gut bacteria at around the same time they began to develop autoimmune symptoms. But when researchers gave the mice a probiotic to “reset” their gut, the mice’s digestive systems returned to normal, and they had decreased inflammation and a longer lifespan.
“Eighty percent of your body’s immune system is located in your gut, so if you don’t have a healthy gut, you can’t have a healthy immune system,” Amy Myers, MD, an Austin, Texas, specialist in autoimmune diseases and author of The Autoimmune Solution, points out to Yahoo Lifestyle.
How your gut affects your health
Your gut does more than just digest your food. It’s home to trillions of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that make up your stomach’s microbiome. While some of these bugs are bad, some are also good, helping your gastrointestinal (GI) tract run smoothly by breaking down food, synthesizing vitamins and other nutrients, and helping fight against germs that can cause infections, Shajan Sugandha, MD, a GI specialist at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
When your microbiome is in tiptop shape, your digestion works well. But if it’s thrown off — which can happen due to anything ranging from a poor diet to medications like antibiotics to stress or a bout of the stomach flu — then some undigested toxins and unfriendly bacteria can stray from your GI tract, causing inflammation throughout your body, explains Myers. This may help explain why research is now increasingly linking the microbiome to conditions such as obesity, Parkinson’s disease, and depression. Another theory is that some people’s bodies respond by sending their immune system into overdrive, so that anytime you come into contact with these bad bugs, your immune system fires off a cascade of inflammatory chemicals that cause you to develop chronic inflammation, and in time, an autoimmune disease, notes Myers.
This may be particularly true when it comes to multiple sclerosis, a type of autoimmune condition in which the body begins to attack the central nervous system — the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. This disorder, which affects over two million people worldwide, can be devastating, causing symptoms like trouble walking, muscle weakness, and vision, bowel, and bladder problems. But a University of California, San Francisco study published in 2017 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencessheds new light on the disease. When researchers analyzed the microbiomes of 71 people with MS versus 71 healthy controls, they found that patients with MS had four times the amount of two types of bacteria: Acinetobactercalcoaceticus and Akkermansiamuciniphila. In addition, they had one-quarter of another type of bacteria, Parabacteroidesdistasonis, compared to people without the disease.
Researchers then took the study one step further, injecting gut bacteria from the MS patients into mice and then inducing brain inflammation in mice that received gut bacteria from healthy individuals. Within three weeks, the MS-infused mice had developed much more severe brain inflammation than those given the normal gut bacteria.
In a second German study published in October 2017, also in PNAS, researchers examined 34 pairs of twins in which only one of each had MS. They then took samples of their gut microbes and injected them into mice already predisposed to develop a disease like MS. More of the rodents who got the MS microbiome ended up developing MS-like symptoms, such as brain inflammation, than those who got the healthy microbiome.
Most of this research has been done only in mice, and experts caution that it needs to be replicated in humans before coming to firm conclusions. But, “I think all of these studies lend credence to the belief now that keeping your microbiome healthy, with a diversity of bacteria, is important for overall health, especially if you have a genetic predilection or other risk factors for developing an autoimmune disease,” Daniel Freedberg, MD, a gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
How to keep your gut in tiptop shape
The best way to keep your microbiome healthy is through a good diet, says Freedberg. The good bacteria in your gut thrive on high-fiber foods (think: lentils, green peas, and raspberries), as well as fermented foods, such as plain yogurt with active cultures, sauerkraut, miso, and pickled vegetables.
A 2016 study in the journal Science found that plentiful consumption of those foods — as well as, surprisingly, coffee, tea, and wine — helped keep gut bacteria healthy.
Foods high in sugar, on the other hand, such as whole milk and sodas, had the opposite effect. A 2013 Harvard study also found that an animal protein-rich diet filled with meat and cheese dramatically alters your microbiome, and not in a good way: It promotes the rise of certain types of bacteria linked to inflammation.
Certain drugs, such as antibiotics, can also harm your microbiome. These meds kill the good bacteria in your gut along with harmful ones, and your microbiome may not recover for months after a course of antibiotics. That’s one reason why you shouldn’t take those drugs unless you really need them, notes Sugandha. Other drugs that can impact your gut microbiome are medicines that kill off stomach acid, like antacids and protein pump inhibitors, and the diabetes drug metformin.
The research on probiotics is murky, according to Sugandha, and it’s not quite clear yet which strains are best for your microbiome and who might need them. That’s why most doctors recommend trying to get most of your probiotics through food. That said, if you’re on antibiotics or another drug that can kill off stomach bacteria, two types that have the most research behind them are Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (aka LGG) and Saccharomyces boulardii. And although probiotics are considered safe for healthy people to take, it’s always best to check with your doctor first.
Fiber supplement increases insulin secretion in type 2 diabetic patients
University at Buffalo researchers have found that taking a fiber supplement can help patients with type 2 diabetes boost their insulin secretion even after eating a high-fat, high-carbohydrate meal. The research was presented on March 20 at ENDO 2018, the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in Chicago.
The study was led by Paresh Dandona, MD, Ph.D., SUNY Distinguished Professor and chief of the Division of Endocrinology in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB. Dandona, who sees patients at UBMD Internal Medicine, is an expert in diabetes research and treatment, and a pioneer in exploring novel ways that patients with both Type 1 and type 2 diabetes can achieve better blood sugar control.
The current work builds on his team's previous research, published last year in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, showing that adding fiber to the diet after a high-fat, high-carbohydrate meal, which is known to increase inflammation, will have beneficial anti-inflammatory and metabolic effects.
"Dietary fiber is known to reduce the incidence of diabetes and cardiovascular disease in large epidemiological studies," said Dandona. He noted that his team at UB provided the first mechanistic evidence—meaning evidence aimed at determining a mechanism—at cellular and molecular levels that fiber exerts an anti-inflammatory effect, lowering glucose levels and boosting insulin concentration in normal subjects.
The current study was aimed at finding out how fiber might function in patients with type 2 diabetes.
Dandona and his colleagues studied 12 patients at the Clinical Research Center, a part of the UB Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism.
Levels of blood sugar, insulin and proteins involved in inflammation were measured in the patients after they consumed a high-fat, high-carbohydrate meal. The same patients consumed the same meal a week later, but this time they also consumed Fiber One (a commercially available supplement) before and after the meal.
"After eating the meal, diabetics' insulin secretion increased significantly after the fiber. However, this increase wasn't sufficient to reduce their glucose levels," said Dandona.
The fiber supplement also resulted in suppressing comprehensively inflammation and oxidative stress in these patients.
"An increase in dietary content of fiber, whether through food or a supplement, should be encouraged in order to reduce oxidative and inflammatory stress and hence, a tendency to induce insulin resistance," said Dandona.
The Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting was one of the most talked-about diet trends in 2017, and now new research from the University of Surrey suggests that following such a diet could have real health benefits.
In a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, researchers assigned 27 overweight participants to either the 5:2 diet or a daily calorie-restriction diet, and told to them to lose 5% of their weight.
The study aimed to look at the effects of the 5:2 on the body's ability to metabolize fat and glucose following a meal and compared it to the effects of weight loss achieved by a daily calorie-restriction diet.
The participants on the 5:2 followed the regime of eating normally for five days and restricting their calories to 600 calories on their two "fasting days."
Meanwhile those on the daily diet were required to eat 600 calories less each day than their estimated requirements for weight maintenance — women ate about 1,400 calories and men ate about 1,900 calories a day.
It's important to note the study was relatively small and that 20% of each participant group dropped out because they either "could not tolerate the diet or were unable to attain their 5% weight loss target."
However, of the participants who did complete the experiment, those on the 5:2 reached their goal of 5% weight loss in 59 days compared to those on the daily calorie-restriction diet who achieved it in 73 days.
The researchers found that those on the 5:2 cleared the fat (triglyceride) from the blood after meals quicker than those on the daily calorie-restriction diets.
They found no differences in the handling of glucose, but said they were "surprised to find variations between the diets in C-peptide (a marker of insulin secretion from the pancreas) following the meal, the significance of which will need further investigation."
Retinal patch with stem cells treats macular degeneration
March 19 (UPI) -- Researchers in California have developed a retinal patch with stem cells to improve the vision of people with age-related macular degeneration.
In a clinical trial, researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara implanted the stem cell-derived ocular cells in two patients over the course of 12 months, publishing the results of the study Monday in the journal in Nature Biotechnology.
Macular degeneration, which affects the central, or reading, vision while leaving the surrounding vision normal, usually affects people over 50 years of age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1.8 million Americans aged 40 years and older have AMD, and it's the leading cause of permanent impairment of close-up vision among people aged 65 years and older.
People usually start with dry macular degeneration, which causes blurred or reduced central vision because of thinning of the macula. The dry condition, which accounts for 70 percent to 90 percent of all cases, can develop into the wet type, which is marked by abnormal blood vessels leaking fluid or blood into the region of the macula in the center of the retina.
Researchers hope the new procedure will help treat dry AMD before it progresses to the wet version.
In July 2015, 86-year-old Douglas Waters developed the disease and struggled to see things, even up close.
The researchers implanted a retinal eyepatch, which is composed of retinal pigment epithelium cells derived from stem cells, at Moorfields Eye Hospital, a National Health Service facility in Waters' hometown of London, England. They used microsurgical tools to implant the patch into the subretinal space of one eye.
After the surgery, he said he could read the newspaper with regular reading glasses and help his wife with gardening.
A woman in her early 60s with a severe form of wet AMD and declining vision also had a patch implanted, reporting the same kind of improvement -- she went from not being able to read at all to reading 60 to 80 words per minute with normal glasses.
"This study represents real progress in regenerative medicine and opens the door on new treatment options for people with age-related macular degeneration," Peter Coffey, a professor at UCSB's Neuroscience Research Institute and co-director of the campus's Center for Stem Cell Biology & Engineering, said in a press release.
"We hope this will lead to an affordable 'off-the-shelf' therapy that could be made available to NHS patients within the next five years."
High-energy breakfast promotes weight loss
"This study shows that, in obese insulin-treated type 2 diabetes patients, a diet with three meals per day, consisting of a big breakfast, average lunch and small dinner, had many rapid and positive effects compared to the traditional diet with six small meals evenly distributed throughout the day: better weight loss, less hunger and better diabetes control while using less insulin," said lead study author Daniela Jakubowicz, M.D., professor of medicine at Tel Aviv University.
"The hour of the day—when you eat and how frequently you eat—is more important than what you eat and how many calories you eat," she noted. "Our body metabolism changes throughout the day. A slice of bread consumed at breakfast leads to a lower glucose response and is less fattening than an identical slice of bread consumed in the evening."
Jakubowicz and her colleagues studied 11 women and 18 men who had obesity and type 2 diabetes, being treated with insulin and averaged 69 years of age. The patients were randomly assigned to consume one of two different weight-loss diets, which contained an equal number of daily calories, for three months. One group (Bdiet) ate three meals: a large breakfast, a medium-sized lunch and a small dinner. The second group (6Mdiet) ate the traditional diet for diabetes and weight loss: six small meals evenly spaced throughout the day, including three snacks.
Overall glucose levels and glucose spikes were measured for 14 days at baseline, during the first two weeks on diet, and at the end of the study by continuous glucose monitoring (CGM). Glucose levels were tested every two weeks and insulin dosage was adjusted as needed.
At three months, while the Bdiet group lost 5 kilograms (11 pounds) the 6Mdiet group gained 1.4 kg (3 lb).
Fasting glucose levels decreased 54 mg/dl (from 161 to 107) in the Bdiet group but only 23 mg/dl (from 164 to 141) in the 6Mdiet group. Overall mean glucose levels dropped in the first 14 days by 29 mg/dl (from 167 to 138 mg/dl) and 38 mg/dl (from 167 to 129 mg/dl) after three months in the Bdiet group. Overall mean glucose levels dropped only 9 mg/dl (from 171 to 162 mg/dl) in the first 14 days and only 17 mg/dl (from 171 to 154 mg/dl) in the 6Mdiet group.
Mean glucose levels during sleep dropped only in the Bdiet group, by 24 mg/dl (from 131 to 107), but not in the 6Mdiet group.
The Bdiet group needed significantly less insulin (-20.5 units/day, from 54.7 to 34.8) while the 6Mdiet group needed more insulin (+2.2 units/day, from 67.8 to 70).
Carbohydrate craving and hunger decreased significantly in Bdiet group but increased in the 6Mdiet group.
Importantly, the researchers found a significant reduction of overall glycemia after as little as 14 days on Bdiet, when the participant had almost the same weight as at baseline. This finding suggests that even before weight loss, the change in the meal timing itself has a quick beneficial effect on glucose balance that is further improved by the important weight loss found in the 3M diet.
"A diet with adequate meal timing and frequency has a pivotal role in glucose control and weight loss," Jakubowicz observed.
The Ministry of Health of Israel supported the study.
Exercise Your Brain to Improve Memory in Retirement
By MARY KANE, Associate Editor March 17, 2018 From Kiplinger's Retirement Report
When retired professor Darlene Howard taught in the psychology department of Georgetown University, she often had to remember the names of as many as 50 students a semester. So Howard used a memory trick: She created an association with a student's name or face. A student with the last name of Brady might make her think of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. The next time she saw the student, she would tap that image to remember his name.
If you struggle to recall a word that's on the tip of your tongue, or have trouble putting names to faces, you may think memory decline is a normal part of aging you have to accept. But you can strengthen certain memory skills, and improve your overall brain health and cognitive function. "There are a lot of ways you can facilitate the health of your brain," says Howard, now age 70. "What we need to do is not get worried so much about the fact we're not remembering something, and instead think of ways we can remember it."
Start with techniques to help you improve specific skills. When meeting someone for the first time, repeat the name when introduced, to make sure you've got it, Howard says. Then create an association to help you remember–and practice it. "Even something ridiculous is good, and it will work," Howard says. Take notes on your phone after the introduction to refer to later.
If you can't recall a word, that's generally because it's a word you don't use that often, says Lise Abrams, a University of Florida psychology professor who has studied word-finding problems for 20 years. But consciously using other words that start with the same syllable as the word you forgot may be helpful in the future. For example, if you intended to use the word denote but couldn't remember it, try frequently using words such as decide or debate, and it may help you recall the missing word the next time around.
Boost Brain Health
Brain training games are widely advertised, but the benefits are limited. Memory games may improve your memory slightly, and language games may boost your language ability a bit, but there's no proof yet of any major changes beyond that, says D.P. Devanand, director of geriatric psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. "There simply isn't enough evidence to recommend this strategy as a means to reverse memory impairment and decline," he says.
But research does prove that taking care of your overall brain health helps improve your brain function and memory. A healthy brain actually begins with your heart, Devanand says. Older people sometimes suffer small strokes without realizing it, so stopping smoking, lowering your cholesterol and getting hypertension treated can reduce that risk. "What's good for the heart is good for the brain," he says.
Add in exercise, but an occasional stroll isn't enough. You need to combine aerobic and resistance exercises, such as using weights, Devanand says. Or walk for 45 minutes at least three days a week, and push yourself to go faster. If that's too much, "any exercise or activity is better than none," Howard says.
Being social helps, because social interaction stimulates the brain. Ask a friend to join you on a walk or at the gym. Or consider volunteering for a cause you care about. A recent Johns Hopkins University study showed that seniors who tutored in Baltimore schools had improved brain performance.
Opioids or cannabis for pain management? Montel Williams has strong opinions
After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis around 1999 and struggling with opioid addiction to manage the pain, Montel Williams says that finding cannabis was a game-changer.
Williams shares with Yahoo Lifestyle that he “took a journey down opioid lane for a year and a half, just trying to shut the pain down to the point that I was walking around in a pseudo-suicidal state.”
After two suicide attempts, Williams decided to turn his diagnosis from a “death sentence” into something he could “thrive at.”
He said shifting from opioids to cannabis was what that turned his life around. “The journey that I took with cannabis — it changed my life,” he says.
Williams adds: “That was probably one of the greatest things that happened in my life because that made me understand that I don’t need to take a pill. I was able to function on a daily basis and still mitigate my pain.”
And he’s clearly onto something. An eye-opening study published in the Journal of the American Medical Associationcompared opioids, such as Vicodin and oxycodone, to non-opioid pain relievers, such as Tylenol and ibuprofen, to see whether the prescription drugs were better at treating chronic back, hip, or knee pain. Surprisingly, they were not.
In addition, a March 2018 study published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine found that cancer patients who participated in a medical marijuana treatment program for chronic pain found significant relief. The study revealed that nearly 96 percent reported an improvement in their condition, with the vast majority experiencing a dramatic reduction in pain, as well as lower levels of anxiety and depression.
Williams, who has relied on cannabis for 17 years, is not only an advocate for the drug, he also founded Lenitiv Labs, a medical cannabis company, to help others.
While he understands that cannabis isn’t for everyone, Williams believes the drug should be made available to anyone who might benefit from it. “For every person with MS, marijuana isn’t a savior,” he says. “If you’re a person who has no benefits and has found no benefits, I’m not trying to force it on you. But therefore, you shouldn’t be denying me the opportunity to do the same.”
Vitamin D reduces mortality
A normal intake of vitamin D can reduce the risk of death substantially in people with cardiovascular disease, a Norwegian study shows.
A study from the University of Bergen (UiB) concludes that people who have suffered from cardiovascular disease, and have a normal intake of vitamin D, reduce their risk of morality as a consequence of the disease by 30 per cent.
"We discovered that the right amount of vitamin D reduces the risk of death substantially. However, too much or too little increase the risk," says Professor Jutta Dierkes at the Department of Clinical Medicine, UiB, which lead the study.
The study followed as many as 4 000 patients with cardiovascular diseases from year 2000, for a period of 12 years. The average age of the participants was 62 years old at the start of the study.
The study showed that it is favourable to have blood values around 42 to 100 nmol/l. If you have higher or lower values, you are at greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
According to Dierkes, it is difficult to give general a recommendation of how much vitamin D supplementation one should take.
"The optimal amount of vitamin D-supplement varies from one person to another. It depends where you live, and what kind of diet you have," Dierkes points out.
For example, the Nordic countries recommend an intake of 10 microgram per day from all vitamin D-sources, USA recommends 15 micrograms and Germany 20.
"Even if Norwegians receive less sun then the Germans, the Norwegians have more fish in their diet. Fish and cod liver oil are important sources to vitamin D during the winter, in addition to physical activities outdoors during the summer," Dierkes explains.
Dierkes advices all who have experienced cardiovascular diseases to measure their levels of vitamin D, so that these can be better regulated, and the need for supplements assessed. This can usually be done by your local doctor.
"It is, however, important to take in account that the levels vary seasonally A measurement in September will not show the same results as in January, in the Nordic countries."
"The levels in January or February are often lower because of the lack of sunlight, which induces the skin form to vitamin D," says Jutta Dierkes.
Healthy diet linked to lower hip-fracture risk in U.S. women
By Mary Gillis
(Reuters Health) - Eating an overall healthy diet is tied to a lower risk of hip fracture among women over age 50, a U.S. study suggests.
Researchers analyzed decades’ worth of dietary and health data for more than 100,000 U.S. men and women. They found that women who scored highest on the American Healthy Eating Index-2010 (AHEI) scale were about 13 percent less likely to experience a hip fracture than those whose diets over time scored lowest on that quality measure.
There was no clear association between diet and hip fracture risk among men, the authors report in Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“We often find differences between men and women when it comes to the effect of diet on osteoporosis and hip fractures,” said lead author Diane Feskanich of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.
“Women have less bone to begin with and go through an early bone loss around menopause. Men lose bone more slowly and experience hip fractures - on average - at a later age. So, it is quite possible that diet may be more important in women for preserving bone,” she said in an email.
Past research has often focused on particular nutrients or certain foods when examining the effect of diet on osteoporosis and resulting hip fractures, Feskanich noted. In recent years, the emphasis has shifted towards examining eating patterns as a whole.
“This is important because we do not eat particular nutrients and foods in isolation,” she said. Thus, understanding the combination of nutrients and foods and how they interact may be more informative, she added, and may yield better advice on how people should eat, which may benefit not only bone health but many other conditions.
The researchers looked at data on 74,446 postmenopausal women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study between 1980 and 2012 and 36,602 men age 50 or older who took part in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study between 1986 and 2012. Both groups completed yearly health surveys plus questionnaires on diet every four years.
There were 2,143 hip fractures among the women and 603 among the men across the study period. (Fractures resulting from car crashes and other traumatic accidents were excluded from this calculation). Feskanich and colleagues rated the study participants’ diets over time according to three well-regarded scales of diet quality: The AHEI, the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) and The Alternative Mediterranean Diet Score. All three scales award points for fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and other healthy foods. Points are withheld or even deducted if a diet includes high levels of red and processed meats, sodium or sugar-laden beverages.
When they compared these diet-quality scores to the incidence of hip fractures over the years, the study team found a significant difference in risk between women who scored highest on the AHEI scale and those who scored lowest. There was a similar overall pattern among women based on their DASH and Alternative Mediterranean diet scores, but once researchers adjusted for other factors like body mass and physical activity, the difference was too small to rule out the possibility it was due to chance. Among women younger than 75, however, there were statistically meaningful differences in fracture risk tied to the highest versus lowest scores on all three diet indices.
Among the study’s limitations, the small number of hip fractures in men might have reduced the researchers’ ability to identify associations between fractures and diet. In addition, all the study participants in the analysis were white, which may make the results less generalizable to people of other ethnicities, the authors acknowledge.
The study was not a controlled experiment designed to prove that diet quality influences hip fracture risk directly. The study team adjusted for many other lifestyle and health factors that might play a role, and they note that people with higher diet-quality scores tended to have lower body mass and higher leisure time physical activity.
“Vitamins and minerals including calcium, vitamin D and vitamin K are essential for maintaining bone hardness and structure throughout the lifespan,” said Priya Khorana, an independent nutrition consultant in New York City who wasn’t involved in the study.
“Sure, bone integrity declines and composition weakens as people age, but this rate of decline can be attenuated with proper diets that include these key nutrients - among other foods,” she said in an email.
Diabetes Has Five Distinct Types, Not Two: Study
Most diabetes cases are split into two groups: type one and type two. A new study including nearly 15,000 diabetic patients suggests this decades-old distinction only tells part of the story. A new report divides diabetes mellitus into five separate conditions.
The advancement that could improve patient care. Because each group has different causes and complication risks, the authors of the study, published Thursday in the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, believe the results are a “first step” towards precision medicine in diabetes.
Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder characterized by high blood sugar. Over time, it can lead to heart attack, limb amputation and blindness.
Almost 10 percent of the U.S. population—30.3 million people—has a form of diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Type 2 diabetes accounts for between 90 and 95 percent of these cases, and roughly 5 percent are type 1. Less common forms of the disorder include gestational diabetes and neonatal diabetes. Some diabetic patients use insulin to control their disorder. In the picture above, a medical assistant administers a insulin to a patient in New Dehli.
A complex picture
In type 1 diabetes, the body’s own immune system attacks beta cells, which produce insulin. This malfunction leaves the body without enough insulin to regulate blood sugar levels effectively.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when either the body does not produce enough of the hormone, or its insulin fails to work properly. Usually linked to obesity and a lack of exercise, type 2 diabetes may also have underlying genetic factors. Researchers analyzed data including long-term blood glucose control for 14,775 diabetic patients. They identified five genetically distinct diabetes subgroups. Three were classified as “severe”, while two were “mild.”
In the report, the authors identified these groups as clusters. The first cluster includes severe autoimmune diabetes, which is similar to traditional type 1. Patients with this form of diabetes are usually young and generally healthy but they struggle to make insulin as the result of an errant immune system.
Cluster 2 patients have what the authors call severe insulin-deficient diabetes. Similar to cluster 1 patients, this group includes young people of a healthy weight whose bodies do not produce insulin properly. The distinguishing feature in this cluster is that the problem is not triggered by a problem in the immune system. In addition, these patients have a higher risk of diabetic eye disease.
In cluster 3—severe insulin-resistant diabetes—patients are often overweight and their bodies have stopped responding properly to insulin. These patients are at a greater risk of kidney and liver disease. Clusters 4 and 5 include mild diabetes. The former group includes patients who are very overweight but whose metabolism functions more normally. The latter group of patients develop a milder form of diabetes at an older age than the other groups.
More effective treatment prospects
“More accurately diagnosing diabetes could give us valuable insights into how it will develop over time,” said lead author, Leif Groop, who studies diabetes and endocrinology at Lund University Diabetes Centre in Sweden, in a statement, “allowing us to predict and treat complications before they develop.”
Victoria Salem, who researches investigative medicine at Imperial College London, told the BBC that specialists have long recognized that type 1 and type 2 were not particularly accurate classifications. The new study, she said, could help lead scientists towards a diabetes cure by changing the way they approach future study. “What we need to start doing is thinking less about treating the end problem, which is high blood sugar, and more about what’s causing you to have your diabetes,” Salem said, according to the BBC. “Once we really understand that then we can start targeting the disease better with new drugs.”
The study did have limitations. Most notably, the population on which the findings are based does not necessarily represent the population of people diagnosed with the disease in real life. In the U.S., diabetes disproportionately affects Native Americans, Asian Indians and other ethnic minority groups. This paper was based in Scandinavian countries with relatively homogenous populations.
The CDC has an infographic that charts the symptomatic variances between the common cold and influenza, and the difference is more subtle than you might think. For instance, while sore throats, stuffy noses, and sneezing can be present in both viruses, they’re more common in colds than flus. Conversely, headaches, chills, and chest discomfort are more common in the flu.One telltale sign that you have the flu is the onset of symptoms, which come on abruptly in flu viruses as opposed to gradually with colds. In the end, colds and flus are both respiratory illnesses, and it can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference based on symptoms alone, the CDC says. Often, a lab test can tell you for sure.
Here's What a Doctor Has to Say About All That Protein You're Eating
High-protein, low-carb diets are often touted as magic cures for those who want to drop a little (or a lot) of extra weight. The Atkins rave of the early 2000s and the more recent hype around the Paleo lifestyle have driven a high-protein movement that gained momentum with media attention and celebrity endorsements. Though some research does suggest that high-protein diets lead to weight loss in the short term, the greater body of evidence indicates that in the long term, these diets may do more harm than good.
One recent study of 34 overweight women asked half the group to eat a typical weight-loss diet containing a standard amount of protein and the other half to follow an otherwise identical diet that contained 50 percent more protein than usual. Both groups succeeded in losing 10 percent of their body weight. But the high-protein group showed no increase in insulin sensitivity, a typical benefit of weight loss that can help decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In other words, the high-protein diet eliminated one of the major favorable side effects of weight loss.
Another much larger study raised even more concerns about the effects of high-protein diets. Researchers in Spain asked over 8,000 men and women - most of whom were already following a Mediterranean diet - to recall, in detail, their daily protein intake. Not only were those who consumed the most protein more likely to gain weight, but they were also twice as likely to die from cardiovascular causes and 48 percent more likely to die from cancer. In an even larger study, in which over 100,000 postmenopausal women were asked to self-report their daily diets, researchers noted that as protein intake increased, the incidence of heart failure doubled.
According to Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN of Real Nutrition NYC, "Eating too much of any food group can be harmful to your health and diet goals. It's about balance." She also points out that Americans eat "way more" protein than they need to; although current recommendations state that the average woman should eat about 45 to 50 grams of protein per day, the typical American woman actually eats around 70 grams daily. And since many of the dangers of excessive dietary protein are thought to be due to animal protein, Shapiro said, "don't underestimate the power of plant protein. Plants provide adequate amounts of protein for any diet if eaten and combined correctly." As a doctor, I caution my patients against high-protein diets, as I do with any fad diets that are not supported by high-quality clinical studies. Long-term weight loss, and its attendant health benefits, comes from a diet containing a balanced breakdown of macronutrients. Don't overdo it on protein or any food group. Nicole Van Groningen, MD, is an internal medicine physician at the University of California, San Francisco.
Woman, 67, who battled blood cancer for five years 'recovers after treating it with TURMERIC' in the first recorded case of its kind
A woman who battled blood cancer for years without success finally halted the disease with turmeric, it has been reported.
Dieneke Ferguson is now leading a normal life after giving up on gruelling treatments that failed to stop it.
Doctors say her case is the first recorded instance in which a patient has recovered by using the spice after stopping conventional medical treatments.
With her myeloma spreading rapidly after three rounds of chemotherapy and four stem cell transplants, the 67-year-old began taking 8g of curcumin a day – one of the main compounds in turmeric.
The cancer, which has an average survival of just over five years, was causing increasing back pain and she had already had a second relapse
But it stabilized after Mrs Ferguson, from north London, came across the remedy on the internet in 2011 and decided to try it as a last resort.
The tablets are expensive – £50 for ten days – but as kitchen turmeric contains just 2 per cent curcumin it would be impossible to eat enough to get the same dose.
Mrs Ferguson, who was first diagnosed in 2007, continues to take curcumin without further treatment and her cancer cell count is negligible.
Her doctors, from Barts Health NHS Trust in London, wrote in the British Medical Journal Case Reports: ‘To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report in which curcumin has demonstrated an objective response in progressive disease in the absence of conventional treatment.’
The experts, led by Dr Abbas Zaidi, said some myeloma patients took dietary supplements alongside conventional treatment but ‘few, if any, use dietary supplementation as an alternative to standard antimyeloma therapy’.
ut they added: ‘In the absence of further antimyeloma treatment the patient plateaued and has remained stable for the past five years with good quality of life.’
Since the turn of the century, more than 50 studies have tested curcumin – the pigment in turmeric that gives it that bright yellow colour.
They suggest the spice can protect against several cancers, as well as Alzheimer’s, heart disease and depression.
It has also been shown to help speed recovery after surgery and effectively treat arthritis.
But although it is widely used in Eastern medicine, and has been studied for its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic effects, curcumin is not widely prescribed because it has never been tested in large-scale trials.
The doctors wrote that the ‘biological activity of curcumin is indeed remarkable’, including its ‘anti-proliferative effects in a wide variety of tumour cells’.
But Professor Jamie Cavenagh, one of the authors of the paper, stressed it may not work for all patients. He said: ‘A lot of my patients take curcumin at different stages of their treatment. I don’t object to it.
‘Dieneke’s is the best response I have observed and it is clear-cut because we had stopped all other treatment.’
Mrs Ferguson, who runs Hidden Art, a not-for-profit business helping artists market their work, is frustrated doctors cannot recommend the spice and wants more research carried out.
She said: ‘I hope my story will lead to more people finding out about the amazing health benefits of curcumin.’
Myeloma affects some 5,500 people in the UK every year, killing nearly 3,000.
It's Not Just A Cold, It's 'Sickness Behavior'
It's just a cold. But even though I know I'm not horribly ill, I feel this overwhelming need to skip work, ignore my family and retreat to the far corner of the sofa.
I'm not being a wimp, it turns out. Those feelings are a real thing called "sickness behavior," which is sparked by the body's response to infection. The same chemicals that tell the immune system to rush in and fend off invading viruses also tell us to slow down; skip the eating, drinking and sex; shun social interactions; and rest.
"Those messages are so powerful they can't be ignored," says Philip Chen, a rhinologist at the University of Texas, San Antonio. But that doesn't mean we don't try. Symptoms like a stuffy nose are obvious, Chen notes, but we're less aware that changes in mood and behavior are also part of our bodies' natural response to infection.
It might behoove us to pay attention. There is plenty of evidence that having a cold impairs mood, alertness and working memory and that brain performance falls off with even minor symptoms.
But for most people, having a cold does not equal "take the week off." And that means many people work sick, even when it can put others in danger.
A 2015 survey of food workers found that half "always" or "frequently" went to work while sick. And a survey of doctors and other health care providers at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia found that even though 95 percent of them thought showing up to work sick puts patients at risk, 83 percent of them did it anyway. Colds were the most common cause of working sick.
The vast majority of health care providers said they were worried about letting down colleagues or patients if they stayed home. Other reasons included fear of being ostracized by their peers or because other people showed up to work sick. "We all feel pressured to deny our own needs (often giving up meals, bathroom breaks, and yes, caring for our own illnesses) in order to meet the high pressure/high demand/productivity of the health care system," one doctor wrote.
And this is despite the fact that numerous outbreaks in health care facilities have been caused by infected workers.
More than half of the people in the Children's Hospital survey, which was published in JAMA Pediatrics in 2015, said they didn't know how sick is too sick to go to work. I share that confusion. Am I just grossing out my co-workers with my hacking and wheezing, or am I endangering their health? Schools and day care centers are also all over the map on this question, though pediatricians point out that most germs are spread before someone starts exhibiting symptoms and that the key question should be whether a child feels well enough to participate and learn.
Animals also exhibit sickness behavior; a pet that stops eating and becomes lethargic is almost certainly a sick pet. Scientists have come to think of this as not just an annoying side effect of illness but a well-evolved survival strategy: hide out, avoid predators and direct energy to fighting off infection. But it's also a strategy that animals will abandon when there is a more pressing need. One study found that sick rodent moms would neglect their pups until the temperature dropped to the point that the pups were imperiled, at which point they went back into mom mode.
"That makes evolutionary sense," says Eric Shattuck, a lecturer in evolutionary medicine and anthropology at the University of Texas, San Antonio. "Being sick is a temporary state. If you can afford to lose the opportunity to take care of your infants or lose a mating opportunity, then you can act on the sickness behavior cues without too much of a loss."
Shattuck has been trying to figure out how people interpret the signals of sickness behavior and how we choose to act on them. It looks like the answer will be: not very well. When he asked students how they respond to feeling sick, "Some people are super-hypochondriac; the minute they're feeling a little under the weather, they're bundled up." But by and large, he says, people try to ignore the cues of sickness behavior unless they are so sick they can't get out of bed. "There's what I suspect is a very cultural pressure to perform and to perform well, especially for what we consider minor illnesses."
Even when our bodies are saying, "Hey listen, it would be really great if you would take a rest."
How to Prevent Blood Sugar and Triglyceride Spikes after Meals
Within hours of eating an unhealthy meal, we can get a spike in inflammation, crippling our artery function, thickening our blood, and causing a fight-or-flight nerve response. But there are foods we can eat at every meal to counter this reaction.
Knowing how your blood sugar responds to certain foods could be a key to weight loss, according to the researchers behind a new diet book.
Drs. Eran Segal and Eran Elinav of Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science tested blood sugar levels in 1,000 people after every meal for one week. They found that foods that created a healthy response in some participants produced an unhealthy blood sugar spike in other participants.
The key to weight loss, according to Segal and Elinav, is watching how your blood sugar reacts to different foods.
“For years, we've been trying to search for that silver-bullet diet that would work for everybody and we've been miserably failing,” Segal told ABC News. “And that's because the best diet for each person really has to be tailored to that individual.”
There is not yet any "evidence-based science" to support the practice of blood sugar monitoring for weight loss, according to ABC News' chief medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton, who also holds an M.S. in nutrition.
"I completely agree with the fact there is no one size fits all for a diet. You have to find what works for you," Ashton said today on "Good Morning America." "But at this time there is no rigorous, peer-reviewed, evidence-based science to support the practice of checking your blood sugar after you eat."
Ashton also stressed that the concept of using blood sugar levels to create an individualized approach to a diet applies to non-diabetics only.
The program laid out in Segal’s and Elinav’s book, “The Personalized Diet,” focuses on finding which carbohydrates are best for each person. Determining that, they say, requires testing your blood sugar via a finger prick after meals.
“Our solution gives you a way to find out which carbohydrates would actually be best for you to integrate into what we believe would be a healthy diet for you,” Segal said.
Segal and Elinav say their algorithm, based on blood sugar reactions, determines what foods you should avoid and what foods to add to your diet.
Some people, for instance, may be able to eat white bread, instead of wheat, while others may need to spread fats like avocado, olive oil or butter on the bread.
“What we were surprised to find out was just like any other food, there is no such thing as a good bread,” Elinav said. “The response to bread was completely individualized.”
Other foods sometimes not associated with diets, like cheese, are fine to eat for weight los
“When you don't have carbohydrates, those foods will not spike your blood sugar levels,” Segal said.
Segal and Elinav also found that traditional pre-competition foods for athletes like bananas and dates, both high in carbohydrates, may actually cause more fatigue.
When it comes to achieving weight loss, Ashton recommends taking an approach that is "safe, simple and sustainable."
She also added a fourth item to the list, saying, "You have to watch the sugar."
s, as long as they are not paired with a carbohydrate, according to the pair’s research.
Calcium and vitamin D supplements may not lower risk of fracture, study finds
Taking calcium and vitamin D supplements may not actually lower fracture risks for elder adults living independently, according to a new analysis of past studies published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The researchers looked at 51,145 participants from 33 clinical trials and found that there was not a significant difference in the risk of hip fractures for those who used calcium supplements, vitamin D supplements, or both, compared to those who took a placebo or no supplements at all.
The participants were all adults who were over 50 years old, not living in a nursing home, not on anti-osteoporosis medications and had no history of steroid-induced bone breakdown.
"No significant associations were found between calcium, vitamin D, or combined calcium and vitamin D supplements and the incidence of nonvertebral, vertebral or total fractures," researchers added as part of their secondary outcomes.
In addition, further analyses found these results to be "generally consistent" regardless of the calcium or vitamin D dose, sex, fracture history, and dietary calcium intake.
Researchers only looked at supplement studies and did not assess studies that looked at dietary intake of calcium and vitamin D.
The chances of breaking a hip increase with age, and approximately 95 percent of hip fractures are caused by falling sideways, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
All of this is not to say that calcium and vitamin D don't have value. Adults need at least 1,000 mg of calcium and 800 IU of vitamin D daily. But the best way to get these nutrients is through food. Dairy products such as cheese, milk, and yogurt are rich sources, says Lipman.
Broccoli, collard greens, kale, canned salmon and sardines (eaten with the soft bones), and white beans are non-dairy sources. (People who don't eat dairy should talk to their doctor about how best to get these nutrients.)
Good sources of vitamin D are mushrooms, eggs, fortified milk, soy beverages, and salmon. Our bodies also make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight, so experts suggest getting 10 minutes of sunshine per day.
Exercise is important, too.
To prevent hip fractures, the CDC recommends talking to your doctor, getting screened for osteoporosis, doing strength and balance exercises, and having your eyes checked. In addition, the CDC recommends taking simple steps to make your home safer, including getting rid of things you could trip over, putting railings on both sides of any set of stairs and making sure your home has lots of light.
Leaving the house linked to longevity in older adults
By Carolyn Crist
(Reuters Health) - For older people, getting out of the house regularly may contribute to a longer life - and the effect is independent of medical problems or mobility issues, according to new research from Israel.
For study participants in their 70s, 80s and 90s, the frequency with which they left the house predicted how likely they were to make it to the next age milestone, researchers report in Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
“The simple act of getting out of the house every day propels people into engagement with the world,” said lead author Dr. Jeremy Jacobs of Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center in Jerusalem in a phone interview.
“We saw similar benefits that you’d expect from treating blood pressure or cholesterol with medicine,” Jacobs said. “Social factors are important in the process of aging.”
Jacobs and colleagues analyzed data on 3,375 adults at ages 70, 78, 85 and 90 who were participating in the Jerusalem Longitudinal Study.
Based on their responses to questions about how often they left the house, participants were grouped into three categories: frequently (six or seven days per week), often (two to five times per week) or rarely (once a week or less).
People who left the house frequently at any of the ages examined were significantly more likely to live to the next age group. For example, among people who left the house frequently, often or rarely at age 78, 71 percent, 67 percent and 43 percent, respectively, survived to age 85. Among people who left the house frequently, often or rarely at age 90, 64 percent, 56 percent and 38 percent, respectively, made it to 95.
At all ages, people who left home less frequently tended to be male, less educated and to have higher rates of loneliness, financial difficulties, poor health, fatigue, poor sleep, less physical activity, bladder and bowel problems, history of falling in the last year, fear of falling, visual and hearing impairments, chronic pain and frailty.
The link between leaving the house and longevity, however, remained after the researchers accounted for medical or mobility issues such as chronic pain, vision or hearing impairment, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and kidney disease.
“We included people who had mobility difficulties, so this isn’t just about people moving their legs up and down,” Jacobs said. “That’s quite exciting. There’s something about interacting with the world outside that helps.”
The study did not examine the effect on participants of leaving the house, such as their sense of well-being or purpose. It also didn’t look at environmental factors that might foster or prevent going out, the authors note. Future studies will look at the oldest cohort (age 95) as they reach 98 to 100 in coming years, Jacobs said. He and his colleagues are also interested in the role that optimism, social engagement and environmental aspects such as community sidewalks play in longer life.
“Studies show that if you create walkways that are friendly for walking, people start walking,” he said. “In neighborhoods with older adults, walkways with benches could encourage them to get out of the house and be social.”
Researchers are interested in finding ways to encourage adults to leave their home more and to develop systems that help them do that, said Dawn Mackey of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, who wasn’t involved in the study.
“It may be helpful for older adults and their caregivers to make plans to go out of the house more often,” she told Reuters Health by email. “And try to build up to going out of the house every day.” They could plan these outings with these questions: When will it work best for me to leave the house? Where do I want to go? Is there someone to go out with or to meet when I am out? What are my options if the weather is bad or if I’m not feeling well one day?
“The well-being of our older adults is of paramount importance for public health and economic viability,” she said. “Going out of the house is an important way to maintain mobility and social engagement and ward off loneliness.”
Green leafy vegetables may make your brain seem 11 years younger
By Melissa Healy / Los Angeles Times
Look into your salad bowl and think: If a fountain of cognitive youth were flowing in there, would you return every day?
In research that gives new meaning to the expression “salad days,” a study published Wednesday finds that older people who ate at least one serving of leafy greens a day had a slower rate of decline on tests of memory and thinking skills than did people who rarely or never ate these vegetables.
The study was published in the journal Neurology.
After almost five years, regular consumers of such veggies as kale, spinach, collard greens and lettuce enjoyed a mental edge that was the equivalent of 11 years in age.
To be sure, the top tier of leafy-vegetable consumers started with cognitive scores that were slightly higher than those in the bottom tier. That’s probably a testament to the power of lifelong eating patterns.
But over five years, the pattern of mental aging differed markedly in these two groups. Study participants who ate an average of roughly 1.3 servings of leafy greens a day experienced a decline in test performance that was about half as steep as that of participants whose daily consumption was near-zero.
Those stark differences were evident even after the researchers took account of a host of factors that are known to affect mental aging, including age, gender, education, exercise, participation in cognitive activities, smoking and consumption of seafood and alcohol.
Let’s say you and your neighbor are both 75 and similar in most every way: You both completed the same amount of school, take regular walks together, don’t smoke, and gather with friends over an occasional beer.
But while you enjoy a little more than a bowl of greens every day, your pal barely touches the stuff.
This long-running study would predict that at 75, your memory and thinking skills are a notch stronger than your neighbor’s. Over the next five years, hers will decline twice as fast as yours.
By the time you’re both 80, a battery of exercises that test several types of memory, as well as the speed and flexibility of your thinking, may show that your mental age is typical of a 75-year-old’s. Meanwhile, your neighbor’s performance on the same cognitive tests may look more like that of an 86-year-old.
“It’s almost unbelievable,” said Martha Morris, the senior author of the study who studies nutrition and brain health at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “Eating these leafy greens was independently associated with slower cognitive decline. That tells you this single food group contains so many nutrients it could be brain-protective.”
Morris and her colleagues identified a small cluster of specific nutrients that appear to offer anti-aging benefits. The leafy greens that participants were asked about are generally rich in vitamin E, folic acid, vitamin K1, lutein and beta-carotene. While inconsistent, research has suggested that some or all of these nutrients may play some role in protecting the brain against inflammation, the accumulation of toxic proteins such as beta-amyloid, and neuronal damage and death.
For lifelong avoiders of leafy greens, the study doesn’t show that a late-life conversion to kale salads and spinach shakes will keep dementia at bay. But Morris said she thinks about nutrition the same way she thinks about exercise.
“You do get immediate benefits from eating healthy foods and exercising,” she said. “And you get long-term benefits.”
Dr. Lon Schneider, a specialist in dementia at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, says the new study offers important insights into which nutrients in the Mediterranean diet help support health in aging. But it also underscores the complexity of dementia and cognitive aging — and the absence of a “silver bullet” to counter them.
“Dementia is a complex illness, as so many chronic illnesses are,” Schneider said. “It’s clearly not caused by one thing, and surely its onset and severity are not caused by one thing. This shows the environment is really important. Diet matters.”
10 minutes of exercise gives brain burst of energy
LONDON, Ontario — For students struggling to focus on that term paper or office workers who need an extra creative boost when tackling a difficult project, a new study finds that a 10-minute burst of exercise can provide a quick mental jumpstart to get the brainwaves moving.
Researchers at Western University in Canada recruited a group of healthy young adults to do one of two activities: either sit down and read a magazine for 10 minutes, or pedal at a moderate-to-vigorous pace on an exercise bike for the same length of time.
After completing their tasks, participants were hooked up to eye-tracking devices that logged the their reaction times during a challenging eye movement task. The task tapped into the frontal lobe of the brain, an area known for overseeing executive functions like problem solving, decision making, and judgment.
“Those who had exercised showed immediate improvement. Their responses were more accurate and their reaction times were up to 50 milliseconds shorter than their pre-exercise values. That may seem minuscule but it represented a 14-per-cent gain in cognitive performance in some instances,” says study co-author Matthew Heath, a kinesiology professor and supervisor in the university’s graduate program for neuroscience, in a news release.
In other words, Heath says that the results showed that just 10 minutes of aerobic exercise can provide a significant spark for the brain — enough to help people focus and perform better on challenging assignments.
“I always tell my students before they write a test or an exam or go into an interview — or do anything that is cognitively demanding – they should get some exercise first,” he adds. “Our study shows the brain’s networks like it. They perform better.”
The researchers hope that in addition to being useful for students or workers, the results may also benefit less mobile elderly adults battling dementia or similar conditions.
“Some people can’t commit to a long-term exercise regime because of time or physical capacity. This shows that people can cycle or walk briskly for a short duration, even once, and find immediate benefits,” he says.
If you’re wondering how long the mental burst lasts, Heath is now working on a new experiment to answer that very question.
The results for his completed study were published in the Jan. 2018 edition of the journal Neuropsychologia.
Rigorous diet can put type 2 diabetes into remission, study finds
Some people with Type 2 diabetes were able to put the disease in remission without medication by following a rigorous diet plan, according to a study published today in the Lancet medical journal.
"Our findings suggest that even if you have had type 2 diabetes for 6 years, putting the disease into remission is feasible," Michael Lean, a professor from the University of Glasgow in Scotland who co-led the study said in a statement.
The researchers looked at 149 participants who have had Type 2 diabetes for up to six years and monitored them closely as they underwent a liquid diet that provided only 825 to 853 calories per day for three to five months. The participants were then reintroduced to solid food and maintained a structured diet until the end of the yearlong study.
The study comes at a time when more than 100 million American adults are living with diabetes or prediabetes, according to a report released earlier this year by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prediabetes was defined by the CDC as a condition that if not treated often leads to Type 2 diabetes within five years.
In addition, approximately 90 to 95 percent of the more than 30 million Americans living with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes, according to the CDC.
Roy Taylor, a professor at Newcastle University in the U.K. who co-led the study said in a statement announcing the findings that the impact that diet and lifestyle has on diabetes are "rarely discussed."
"Rather than addressing the root cause, management guidelines for type 2 diabetes focus on reducing blood sugar levels through drug treatments. Diet and lifestyle are touched upon but diabetes remission by cutting calories is rarely discussed," Taylor said.
He added that the participants were not asked to increase their physical activity at all, but only asked to modify their diet.
"A major difference from other studies is that we advised a period of dietary weight loss with no increase in physical activity, but during the long-term follow up increased daily activity is important," Taylor said.
Taylor also wrote that the study offered a more universal approach to reversing diabetes compared to undergoing bariatric surgery, which can achieve type 2 diabetes remission for some people, but "is more expensive and risky, and is only available to a small number of patients."
Healthy mitochondria could stop Alzheimer's
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia and neurodegeneration worldwide. A major hallmark of the disease is the accumulation of toxic plaques in the brain, formed by the abnormal aggregation of a protein called beta-amyloid inside neurons.
Still without cure, Alzheimer's poses a significant burden on public health systems. Most treatments focus on reducing the formation of amyloid plaques, but these approaches have been inconclusive. As a result, scientists are now searching for alternative treatment strategies, one of which is to consider Alzheimer's as a metabolic disease.
Taking this line of thought, Johan Auwerx's lab at EPFL looked at mitochondria, which are the energy-producing powerhouses of cells, and thus central in metabolism. Using worms and mice as models, they discovered that boosting mitochondria defenses against a particular form of protein stress, enables them to not only protect themselves, but to also reduce the formation of amyloid plaques.
During normal aging and age-associated diseases such as Alzheimer's, cells face increasing damage and struggle to protect and replace dysfunctional mitochondria. Since mitochondria provide energy to brain cells, leaving them unprotected in Alzheimer's disease favors brain damage, giving rise to symptoms like memory loss over the years.
The scientists identified two mechanisms that control the quality of mitochondria: First, the "mitochondrial unfolded protein response" (UPRmt), which protects mitochondria from stress stimuli. Second, mitophagy, a process that recycles defective mitochondria. Both these mechanisms are the key to delaying or preventing excessive mitochondrial damage during disease.
While we have known for a while that mitochondria are dysfunctional in the brains of Alzheimer's patients, this is the first evidence that they actually try to fight the disease by boosting quality control pathways. "These defense and recycle pathways of the mitochondria are essential in organisms, from the worm C. elegans all the way to humans," says Vincenzo Sorrentino, first author of the paper. "So we decided to pharmacologically activate them."
The team started by testing well-established compounds, such as the antibiotic doxycycline and the vitamin nicotinamide riboside (NR), which can turn on the UPRmt and mitophagy defense systems in a worm model (C. elegans) of Alzheimer's disease. The health, performance and lifespan of worms exposed to the drugs increased remarkably compared with untreated worms. Plaque formation was also significantly reduced in the treated animals.
And most significantly, the scientists observed similar improvements when they turned on the same mitochondrial defense pathways in cultured human neuronal cells, using the same drugs.
The encouraging results led the researchers to test NR in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease. Just like C. elegans, the mice saw a significant improvement of mitochondrial function and a reduction in the number of amyloid plaques. But most importantly, the scientists observed a striking normalization of the cognitive function in the mice. This has tremendous implications from a clinical perspective.
According to Johan Auwerx, tackling Alzheimer's through mitochondria could make all the difference. "So far, Alzheimer's disease has been considered to be mostly the consequence of the accumulation of amyloid plaques in the brain," he says. "We have shown that restoring mitochondrial health reduces plaque formation - but, above all, it also improves brain function, which is the ultimate objective of all Alzheimer's researchers and patients."
The strategy provides a novel therapeutic approach to slow down the progression of neurodegeneration in Alzheimer's disease, and possibly even in other disorders such as Parkinson's disease, which is also characterized by profound mitochondrial and metabolic defects.
The approach remains to be tested in human patients. "By targeting mitochondria, NR and other molecules that stimulate their 'defense and recycle' systems could perhaps succeed where so many drugs, most of which aim to decrease amyloid plaque formation, have failed," says Vincenzo Sorrentino.
Researchers Find New Link Between Red Meat and Heart Disease
If you’re concerned about heart disease, here’s another reason to consider setting down your steak knife. A new study adds to a growing body of literature linking red meat consumption with increased heart disease risk.
Researchers have found that when we eat red meat, there is a set of reactions mediated by microbes in our gut. These gut microbe reactions are triggered by carnitine, a nutrient found in red meat. The study found that these reactions, which were previously unrecognized, contribute to the development of heart disease.
A previous study linked carnitine to the development of narrowing or hardening of the arteries, also called atherosclerosis, but this latest research took it a step further. It uncovered more details about a chain of reactions generated when microbes in the gut digest the carnitine in red meat.
Dr. Hazen says the results help us better understand how eating red meat is related to heart disease. It also allows researchers to develop better tools to fight it.
“We are now a step closer to developing drugs or tools to retard or block the development of heart disease by this pathway,” he says.
Past findings related to red meat and heart disease risk include:
Discovery of a biomarker that identifies risk of heart disease: trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO). There is a global hunt in progress using cardiovascular fingerprints — scientists call them biomarkers — to identify the risk of heart disease. The most common biomarker for heart disease is the blood test for cholesterol levels, but a more recent example is C reactive protein (CRP). In 2011, researchers discovered TMAO, which is made by microbes that live in your gut. Read the full story: Finding Heart Risk Through the Gut (Video).
A study of middle-aged Seventh-day Adventists, a group with historically lower rates of cardiovascular disease than the general population, suggests that a more vegetarian dietary pattern may be associated with reduced mortality and increased longevity.
Study finds consuming nuts strengthens brainwave function
A new study by researchers at Loma Linda University Health has found that eating nuts on a regular basis strengthens brainwave frequencies associated with cognition, healing, learning, memory and other key brain functions. An abstract of the study—which was presented in the nutrition section of the Experimental Biology 2017 meetings in San Diego, California, and published in the FASEB Journal.
In the study titled "Nuts and brain: Effects of eating nuts on changing electroencephalograph brainwaves," researchers found that some nuts stimulated some brain frequencies more than others. Pistachios, for instance, produced the greatest gamma wave response, which is critical for enhancing cognitive processing, information retention, learning, perception and rapid eye movement during sleep. Peanuts, which are actually legumes, but were still part of the study, produced the highest delta response, which is associated with healthy immunity, natural healing, and deep sleep.
The study's principal investigator, Lee Berk, DrPH, MPH, associate dean for research at the LLU School of Allied Health Professions, said that while researchers found variances between the six nut varieties tested, all of them were high in beneficial antioxidants, with walnuts containing the highest antioxidant concentrations of all.
Prior studies have demonstrated that nuts benefit the body in several significant ways: protecting the heart, fighting cancer, reducing inflammation and slowing the aging process. But Berk said he believes too little research has focused on how they affect the brain.
"This study provides significant beneficial findings by demonstrating that nuts are as good for your brain as they are for the rest of your body," Berk said, adding that he expects future studies will reveal that they make other contributions to the brainand nervous system as well.
Berk—who is best known for four decades of research into the health benefits of happiness and laughter, as well as a cluster of recent studies on the antioxidants in dark chocolate—assembled a team of 13 researchers to explore the effects of regular nut consumption on brainwave activity.
The team developed a pilot study using consenting subjects who consumed almonds, cashews, peanuts, pecans, pistachios and walnuts. Electroencephalograms (EEG) were taken to measure the strength of brainwave signals. EEG wave band activity was then recorded from nine regions of the scalp associated with cerebral cortical function. Nuts and Brain Health: Nuts Increase EEG Power Spectral Density (μV&[sup2]) for Delta Frequency (1–3Hz) and Gamma Frequency (31–40 Hz) Associated with Deep Meditation, Empathy, Healing, as well as Neural Synchronization, Enhanced Cognitive Processing, Recall, and Memory All Beneficial For Brain Health.
Most Medical Checkups Miss a 30-Second Test That Could Save Your Life
Think back to the last time you visited a doctor's office. Certain things seem to happen by rote. They weigh you. They measure your height. And they nearly always slap a blood pressure cuff around one arm and take a reading.
Right there is where medical providers usually make one of their biggest mistakes. Having taken one blood pressure reading, they go on to the next step in their examination process. They should stop, and spend a few moments testing your other arm as well.
Why bother with two annoying blood pressure tests when most doctors consider one to be sufficient? Because the readings in your two arms might be different. A few points' difference is normal. But a difference of 10 points or more in either the "top" (systolic) number or the "bottom" (diastolic) one could signal an underlying problem that might otherwise go undetected.
What kind of problem? In younger people, it might mean that one of your arteries is being squeezed, perhaps by a muscle. In older people it likely means that one or more of your arteries are blocked, meaning you are at greater risk for heart disease, stroke, and dementia among other things.
Five years ago, researchers in the U.K. found that a 15-point difference in the top number between arms could translate into a 70 percent greater likelihood of dying from cardiovascular disease. Since then, some European nations and some medical organizations in the U.S. have added both-arm-testing to their guidelines, but it's still rare for any nurse or doctor to actually do it. Most seem unaware of the significance that different readings between the two arms could carry.
Having read about the UK study a few years back, I've been asking for two arm readings whenever I encounter a routine blood pressure check. It usually seems like an unexpected request, but it's always granted, and usually adds about 30 seconds to the time it takes to give me the exam. I believe those 30 seconds are very well spent. You never know what you might find.
Spirulina: Little known cancer-fighting sea algae
In the field of nutrition, spirulina is categorized as the best discovery yet of the 21st century (10). It is the wide array of dense nutrients contained in spirulina that has been shown in several studies to provide pharmacological actions such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, as well as cancer-preventative effects.
Today, much of the world around us can cause carcinogenic mutations from the toxins we absorb through our skin to the chemicals contained in our food. Supplementing spirulina into your diet is an effective way to combat the damaging effects of toxins accumulating in our bodies. One of the anticancer effects is attributed to its ability to act as an immunostimulatory agent or a substance which enhances the immune response to defend against abnormal and invasive cell growth. Researchers have shown that spirulina is able to inhibit the growth and development of tumors resulting from overexposure to UVB rays from the sun. In the study, spirulina was shown to promote healthy gene function, inhibit free radical producing enzymes, reduce inflammation and limit DNA damage. Hepatocellular carcinoma is a common form of liver cancer which may be readily influenced by another pigment compound found in spirulina, C-Phycocyanin (C-Pc). C-Pc is found to reduce the rate at which cancerous liver cells multiply. Furthermore, this anti-mutagenic compound stimulates apoptosis in developed cancer cells and may reduce tumor mass.
Individuals with the genetic condition phenylketonuria (PKU) will have trouble digesting the amino acids in spirulina and should avoid it. Spirulina has blood-thinning properties, so it should be avoided by individuals on anticoagulant medications.
Some individuals with leaky gut, food sensitivities, and autoimmunity do not do well with spirulina. If you notice an increase in inflammatory conditions when consuming this, then it is best to avoid.
Be sure to look for a certified organic as other types can be contaminated or have nitrate compounds as additives. You can get this in combination with other greens in a green superfood powder or with other detoxification herbs in a capsule-based supplement.
Most experts believe it is best to get it on its own and take 1-2 tablespoons daily. If fighting cancer, take 3-4 tablespoons daily.
Decongestant 'highly effective' at starving cancer cells
Cancer researchers seeking non-toxic alternatives to harmful chemotherapy are reporting a highly significant result for a humble cold remedy. N-Acetyl cysteine (NAC) is routinely used as a dietary supplement and as a decongestant given to children to ward off a cold.
Now, clinical trials in the US indicate the cheap, over-the-counter drug, is a first rate inhibitor of the tumour stroma, a cell compartment which is fundamental to the spread of cancer. The results, published in Seminars in Oncology, confirm a long-held theory that cancer cells are being sustained and strengthened by the presence of MCT4, a protein which 'brings them' energy, in the form of lactate, from neighbouring cells.
Patients taking high dosages of NAC saw their levels of the 'transporter' protein fall by more than 80%, drastically reducing the ability of the cancer cells to feed off neighbouring cells.
Professor Federica Sotgia of the Biomedical Research Centre at the University of Salford, UK, said, "In cell cultures in the laboratory, we had seen a near complete reduction in MCT4, but to achieve such a substantial result in breast cancer patients is extremely exciting indeed."
The team, which includes Professor Michael Lisanti, of the University of Salford and US-based Ubaldo Martinez-Outschoorn, MD, conducted a 'window trial' on 12 patients awaiting surgery for breast cancer at The Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center (Thomas Jefferson University), in Philadelphia.
Patients were given maximum daily dosages of the over-the-counter drug for three weeks between diagnosis and surgery. Tumour tissue biopsies were then taken before and during surgery and key biomarkers, including MCT4 and K167, were measured post-surgery. K167 levels fell by 25% and MCT4 levels were reduced by approximately 80%.
"High levels of stromal MCT4 are extremely worrying, as they are linked to aggressive cancer behaviour and poor overall survival, so this is very encouraging result," explained Professor Lisanti. "Our idea was to repurpose an inexpensive FDA-approved drug, to examine if its antioxidant properties could target the feeding behaviour of cancer cells. To be able to inhibit MCT4 protein expression, in a non-toxic way, is huge step forward."
The results are published in the clinical journal Seminars in Oncology (Articles In Press): "Pilot study demonstrating metabolic and anti-proliferative effects of in vivo anti-oxidant supplementation with N-Acetylcysteine in Breast Cancer."
Three coffees a day linked to more health benefits than harm: study
LONDON (Reuters) - People who drink three to four cups of coffee a day are more likely to see health benefits than harm, experiencing lower risks of premature death and heart disease than those who abstain, scientists said on Wednesday.
The research, which collated evidence from more than 200 previous studies, also found coffee consumption was linked to lower risks of diabetes, liver disease, dementia and some cancers.
Three or four cups a day confer the greatest benefit, the scientists said, except for women who are pregnant or who have a higher risk of suffering fractures.
Coffee is one of the most commonly consumed drinks worldwide. To better understand its effects on health, Robin Poole, a public health specialist at Britain's University of Southampton, led a research team in an "umbrella review" of 201 studies based on observational research and 17 studies based on clinical trials across all countries and all settings.
"Umbrella reviews" synthesize previous pooled analyses to give a clearer summary of diverse research on a particular topic.
"Coffee drinking appears safe within usual patterns of consumption," Pool's team concluded in their research, published in the BMJ British medical journal late on Wednesday.
Drinking coffee was consistently linked with a lower risk of death from all causes and from heart disease. The largest reduction in relative risk of premature death is seen in people consuming three cups a day, compared with non-coffee drinkers.
Drinking more than three cups a day was not linked to harm, but the beneficial effects were less pronounced.
Coffee was also associated with a lower risk of several cancers, including prostate, endometrial, skin and liver cancer, as well as type 2 diabetes, gallstones and gout, the researchers said. The greatest benefit was seen for liver conditions such as cirrhosis of the liver.
Exactly How Much Turmeric to Have a Day to Reap Its Anti-Inflammatory Benefits
Turmeric root has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine and is most noticeable as the bright yellow coloring in curry powder. "Its ability as an anti-inflammatory agent first gained attention in the study of people who ate curry at least once a week and who had very little risk of Alzheimer's disease, in Indian and Indonesian studies, despite these populations having a high percentage of diabetes," said Dr. Steven Gundry MD, one of the world's top heart surgeons and author of The Plant Paradox. "It was determined that two of the spices in curry powder made all the difference: turmeric and black pepper.
"Turmeric, in turn, became known as the wonder spice. "Turmeric is recommended for many patients with inflammatory conditions such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, autoimmune conditions like psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, dementia, and cancers. Curcumin is the compound found in turmeric," said Atlanta-based integrative medicine physician Dr. Bindiya Gandhi. Arguably, the most powerful aspect of curcumin is its ability to control inflammation. "The journal Oncogene published the results of a study that evaluated several anti-inflammatory compounds and found that aspirin and ibuprofen are least effective, while curcumin is among the most effective anti-inflammatory compounds in the world," said Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, CNS, DC, bestselling author of Eat Dirt. "This news should have reached every household in the world after the study was conducted, because inflammation puts people at risk for almost every disease process known to man," he said.
You can find turmeric in powder culinary spice form and in its whole root form, as well as in tincture, tablets, and capsules. "A good starting dose for its anti-inflammatory benefits is 400 to 600 mg of standardized powder or curcumin turmeric extract three times a day as tolerated," Dr. Gandhi said. "Cut-root dose is 1.5g-3g per day, dried powdered root 1g-3g per day, and tincture (1:2) 15-30 drops up to four times per day, as mentioned by University of Maryland Medical Center."
When taking it for GI issues, you need to find a formula with black pepper or piperine in it, because it is better absorbed. The black pepper stops the turmeric from breaking down as quickly, which keeps it in your system longer. When taking it for any autoimmune issues, you can take the turmeric by itself.
Caution with turmeric should be noted since it can act as a blood thinner and should be avoided before surgery. It can also cause GI upset in some patients and can reduce blood sugars in diabetic patients. "It can increase gallbladder contraction, which is not a good idea for patients suffering with gallstones. I discourage my patients trying to conceive [from taking] it since it can actually act as contraception and advise my nursing and pregnant mothers to use it with caution since it may stimulate uterine contractions," said Dr. Gandhi, who encourages patients to cook with it daily for anti-inflammatory effects, but encourages a supplement if looking for a higher dosage.