Monday, August 13, 2018

Probiotics Can Reduce Bone Loss

Probiotics found in supplements, yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and miso have shown a  positive benefit to the GI tract by improving intestinal function and maintaining  integrity of the intestinal lining. Research is showing the GI track plays an important role in proper digestion, nutrient absorption, removing harmful pathogens from the body, and immunity. A wide range of studies support regular consumption of probiotics as treatment for a variety of conditions including chronic constipation, antibiotic associated diarrhea, IBS, IBD, UTI’s, eczema, and modestly reducing blood pressure and cholesterol.

A new study from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden found women who took a daily probiotic supplement to promote healthy bacteria in the GI track also experienced less bone loss compared to women taking a placebo.

A double-blind, randomized study of 90 women aged 76 and older consumed a probiotic supplement or a placebo daily over the course of 1 year. Measurements of the women’s bone mass were taken with a CT scan at the start of the study and a year later to compare results. Researchers found in women taking the probiotic supplement, bone loss was halved compared to women taking the placebo.

Previous studies have suggested healthy intestinal bacterial benefit the skeleton in mice, but this is the first study to show probiotics reduce bone loss in humans.  Researchers are optimistic probiotics can have a number of health benefits to both men and women while being safe with few side effects.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Could Meditation Win Wars?

Scientists from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and University of North Texas collaborated to develop a data processing technique to monitor the state of the brain based on heart rate variability. The new technique gives a better view of how the heart responds to external disturbances, such as stress.

Using the new technique it was determined that Yoga meditation was more effective in reducing stress over Chi medication, and that long-term meditators displayed better    cognitive abilities, better ability to carry out goal-oriented behavior, and better use of complex mental processes. It has also been found that when yoga integrates meditation and breathing techniques it can relax the mind, increase body awareness, and sharpen concentration.

Psychological warfare describes actions intended to reduce an opponent’s morale. Used since prehistoric times by many including the Persian Empire, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Hitler, and today on social media, getting into an opponents psyche is nothing new. Military historians believe  battles and possibly wars have been won or lost based on    warrior’s mindset, before physical combat ever begins. Developing techniques to accurately measure stress are important to quantify how effective different types of meditation interventions are, and how they can be harnessed to benefit  soldiers.

The U.S. Army also states a long term goal of identifying meditation interventions to reduce post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Currently the new technology is being utilized to measure the efficacy of mindfulness meditation interventions.

Many health professionals recognize how damaging stress can be physically and mentally on someone's health. Meditation can be an effective intervention to promote optimal well-being.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Walnuts and GI Health

The microbiome is the environment within your intestines where 100 trillion microorganisms live. These gut dwelling bacteria contribute to immune function and are necessary for proper digestion, nutrient absorption, and removing harmful pathogens from the body.

Diet plays a significant role in which microorganisms thrive in the microbiome. Foods rich in fiber have been of interest to researches since fiber is the main food source. Numerous studies examining the impact of diet, the microbiome, and overall health have been conducted with promising results.

Walnuts have been known for their heart health benefits, but as a good source of fiber researchers were interested in their role in GI health. A new study published in The Journal of Nutrition followed 18 healthy adults who consumed either no walnuts or a handful of walnuts during two, three-week periods. At the end of the study the group that consumed walnuts had higher levels of healthy bacteria in their GI tract.

The group that ate walnuts also had a reduction in LDL “bad” cholesterol and a reduction in secondary bile acids. Secondary bile acids can be damaging to the GI tract and high levels have been found in people with higher rates of colorectal cancer.

Incorporating one handful of walnuts daily could be beneficial for cardiac, GI, and colon health along with a healthy lifestyle and a well-balanced diet.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Minimize Vacation Weight Gain

Most summer vacations center around food and treats, which can pack on the pounds once you come back home. Studies show 61% of American adults gained weight while on vacation. Some gained as much as 7 pounds due to higher calorie intake, especially from alcohol. The average weight gain was 0.7 pounds, which is not too shocking, however the weight tended to stay on after returning home.

Weight creep is when people gain small amounts of weight over a long period of time. What might not seem like too much weight gain over vacation can add up after several years. Unless you weigh yourself regularly people don’t realize subtle weight gain is happening. Follow these tips to minimize vacation weight gain this summer:
  • Weigh yourself before and after vacation 
  • Go hiking, swim, plan physical activities, and exercise during your trip 
  • Pack healthy snacks and sandwiches in a cooler for road trips 
  • Don’t load up at breakfast, instead set the tone for the rest of the day by practicing portion control 
  • Pick healthy menu items at restaurants such as baked poultry, fish, salads, and vegetable based dishes 
  • Treat yourself in moderation, but not every day 
  • Enjoy small portions and eat slowly 
  • Order wisely from the bar, fruity drinks can have over 500 calories. Stick with wine, light beer, white wine spritzers, vodka soda, and champagne.

Healthy Travel Snacks
Baby Carrots
Dried Apricots
Rice Cakes & Nut Butter
Sunflower Seeds
Roasted Chickpeas
Sugar Snap Peas
100 Calorie Nuts

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Getting Your Sleep Number Just Right

Sleep is vitally important for physical and mental well-being. Getting enough sleep but not too much was the focus of a new study from the Seoul National University College of Medicine. The largest study of its kind, researchers followed the sleeping habits of 133,608 men and women aged 40-69 years for 9 years.

The results of the study showed people who slept less than 6 hours were more likely to have a higher waist circumference and more likely to have metabolic syndrome. Sleeping more than 10 hours was also associated with metabolic syndrome, higher triglycerides, lower good cholesterol, higher blood sugar, and higher waist circumference.

Metabolic syndrome is a combination of at least 3 of 5 medical conditions: abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides, and low good cholesterol that increase cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk.

Previous studies have indicated sleeping less than 7 hours per day can interfere with hormones that regulate appetite and metabolism. An elevation in these hormones can lead to greater calorie intake as well as reduced energy expenditure which might lead to a larger waist circumference and obesity.

Improving sleep starts with a good routine. Try to go to sleep and get up at the same time every day. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and stimulants 4-6 hours before bedtime. Eat dinner earlier, allowing at least 3 hours to digest food before bed. Limit blue-light exposure from TVs, smartphones and tablets. Keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and cool. And if you continue to struggle with sleep consult your physician or sleep specialist to rule out sleep disorders.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Could Pesticides Cause Parkinson’s Disease?

A new Canadian study from the University of Guelph, in addition to several older studies, have found an association between two common farming pesticides and Parkinson’s disease. The first pesticide “Paraquat” is used as crops grow and the second pesticide “Maneb” is used after harvest to prevent spoiling. Paraquat is banned in the UK along with 31 other countries but it is still allowed to be used in the U.S.

According to the study, people who were exposed to low-levels of the pesticides had a 250% higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease compared to the general population.

Older studies showing correlation mostly focused on animal subjects as well as epidemiological research on farmers. This new study demonstrates for the first time how the pesticides impact humans on a cellular level. The pesticides appear to disrupt cells similarly to how mutations are known to cause Parkinson’s disease. People with a    genetic predisposition for Parkinson’s disease who are exposed significantly increase their risk of disease onset.

Pesticide use became more prevalent in the 1940’s and throughout most of the 1950’s there was little concern over potential health risk. In 1962 a book called Silent Spring by Rachel Carson was published highlighting health concerns which led to banning of several pesticides such as DDT. Over the past few decades there has been greater development of environmentally conscious products as well as greater safety regulations.

Having said that, there is still work to be done. Researchers from this study urge revision of safety standards particularly for those living near farming areas to help reduce exposure and risk of Parkinson’s disease. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Is Grilling Safe?

The delicious smoky taste and tender juiciness keeps us grilling all summer long. Gas or charcoal, there are some great health benefits to grilling, but also some documented health concerns to be aware of.

Health Benefits: Grilling helps excess fat drip off, which is particularly beneficial when cooking high fat meats such as steak, sausage, and burgers. The high heat provides a shorter cooking time helping vegetables to retain more vitamins and minerals. The heat also seals in moisture helping vegetables stay tender and decrease the use of added fat and sauces.

Health Concerns: High temperature cooking over gas or charcoal can produce Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs) which are documented carcinogens. These can cause cancer in animal studies and could increase the risk of cancer in humans. Inflammatory substances called Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) are also created which speed up oxidative  damage to cells. This can lead to or make worse degenerative diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, kidney failure, and  Alzheimer's. The smoke that comes off a grill, particularly from fat drippings, creates toxic chemicals called Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) which can damage your lungs.

Protect Yourself: There are lots of ways to enjoy grilling while minimizing your exposure to HCAs, AGEs, and PAHs. Coat your meat with a rub or marinade. This can significantly reduce the buildup of carcinogens. Be mindful of the salt content if you are watching your sodium intake. Precook your meats inside to limit the amount of exposure they have on the grill. Reduce the heat by cooking over an indirect flame; the higher the temperature the greater the formation of carcinogens and toxic substances. Finally grill vegetables, they do not develop HCAs or PAHs and their healthy antioxidant properties can help counterbalance your animal protein intake.