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.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Are Eggs Safe to Eat?

Eggs are the gold standard for protein quality. They are easy to digest and contain all essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Both the yolk and the white contain protein, but the yolk also contains B vitamins, calcium, iron, vitamins A, D, E, choline, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium. The entire egg is a nutrient powerhouse, but is the egg yolk safe to eat?

Egg yolks are high in cholesterol; about 212mg per yolk. Old recommendations were for healthy people to limit daily cholesterol intake to no more than 300mg a day or about 3 egg yolks per week...and only 200mg a day for people with high cholesterol and other health conditions. At the time researchers believed dietary cholesterol negatively impacted blood cholesterol levels and heart disease risk.

New research is showing different results. A new study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition followed 128 overweight and obese people with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes over three months. Participants consumed 12 eggs per week and findings showed no adverse effect on lipid profiles. What is important to note is the high egg diet included healthy unsaturated fats as well.

Unhealthy saturated fats and trans fats have a greater correlation with  raising LDL“bad cholesterol” and heart disease risk. We find saturated fats and trans fats in fried foods, hydrogenated oils, bacon, sausage, cheese, red meat, ice cream, whole milk, chips, and baked goods; many of which often accompany eggs at breakfast.

Not all eggs are created equal. Brown shelled eggs come from brown  chickens, and white shelled eggs come from white chickens. The color makes little difference, but the farming practices and diet of the chickens does. Chickens raised in cages are often fed a low quality diet of genetically engineered corn and soy-based feed, resulting in eggs with lower nutrient value. Organic eggs that are pasture-raised on a diet of insects, worms, seeds, and plants just the way nature had intended offer higher nutrient quality. Some research shows pasture-raised eggs have lower cholesterol, more vitamin A, more vitamin E, and a higher amount of healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Could dietary cholesterol raise heart disease risk? It might; some studies show up to 30% of the population may be genetically predisposed and   react to dietary cholesterol intake resulting in a rise in LDL “bad cholesterol.” To be conservative it might be best to eat egg yolks in moderation, limit saturated fats, and target a well-balanced healthy diet most of the time.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Are You Hangry?

Have you ever snapped at someone, then realized you are probably just hungry? Hangry describes the feelings of anger or irritability as a result of hunger. While hunger is a natural instinct, some people have stronger reactions than others when it comes time for a meal.

Glucose is the main source of fuel for your brain and central nervous system. After a meal blood glucose levels rise and then start to fall. Hormones such as ghrelin play a role in producing a feeling of satiation after eating. As time passes ghrelin decreases and you start to feel hungry again. If you wait too long between meals your blood glucose will fall too low and you will start to feel changes in your mood and mental function.

Serotonin, the feel good chemical, can also decrease when you are hungry which could contribute to feelings of irritability and anger. Sleeping less than 7 hours each night can impact the hormones that regulate appetite and hunger, making hunger more difficult to manage. Sleep deprivation can also impact someone's mood.

Waiting too long to eat and feeling hangry often leads to picking the wrong foods out of desperation. It might also lead to binge eating. Blood sugar spikes after eating too many refined carbs and junk food causing a rollercoaster of blood glucose throughout the day.

The best way to prevent feeling hangry is to plan 4-5 small well-balanced meals/snacks throughout the day. Carry healthy portable options when you are on the go. Don’t skip meals or crash diet. Pair fiber with protein to keep you satisfied longer.

Some healthy snack ideas are:
· 100 calorie pack of almonds and 1 piece of fruit
· KIND bar, Balance bar, Kashi granola bar, Simple Protein bar
· 1/4 cup hummus with baby carrots
· 1 low fat string cheese and 1 pear
· 1 brown rice cake with 1 tbs natural peanut butter

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Too Many Drinks Per Week May Lower Life Expectancy

A new study published in the Lancet medical journal found five  to six drinks per week was the safe upper limit for alcohol.  Higher consumption was associated with higher risk of aneurysm, stroke, heart failure, and death.

Data from 83 studies following 600,000 drinkers across 19 countries found deaths rose when more than five to six glasses of wine or pints of beer were consumer per week. Findings were significant and showed consuming 10-12 drinks per week may lower life expectancy by six months. Consuming 18-21 drinks per week may lower life expectancy by one to two years. And consuming more than 21 drinks per week may lower life expectancy by four to five years.

There may be a small benefit to drinking. Some studies show moderate amounts of alcohol might decrease inflammation, increase good cholesterol, and lower risk of non-fatal heart attack. There have also been some studies showing moderate consumption of red wine may lower diabetes risk as well.

The benefits of alcohol should be balanced against the higher risks it has, especially when it comes to quantity consumed. Currently the U.S. defines moderate alcohol consumption to be less than 7 drinks per week for women and less than 14 drinks per week for men; over twice as high as the study found to be safe. Researchers from the study encourage countries such as the U.S., Italy, Portugal, and Spain to revise their alcohol limits to better match the results of this study.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Yoga Can Reduce Stress for Kids Too

The American Osteopathic Association along with many other health organizations and professionals encourage yoga as a great way to increase flexibility, balance, muscle strength, circulatory health, athletic performance, and respiration as well as support weight management and stress reduction.

Yoga integrates meditation and breathing techniques which can relax the mind, increase body awareness, relieve chronic stress patterns, and sharpen concentration. Most yoga classes are for adults, however a new study published in the journal Psychology Research and Behavior Management from Tulane University highlights the benefits of yoga for kids.

Researchers focused on third graders at a New Orleans public school who showed symptoms of anxiety at the beginning of the school year. 32 students received counseling and other activities from the school’s social worker while 20 students participated in an 8 week mindfulness yoga class. Sessions included breathing exercises, several traditional yoga poses appropriate for kids, and guided relaxation.

At the end of the study students who participated in the mindfulness yoga classes showed improved emotional and psychosocial quality of life compared to the students who received the standard care from the social worker.

Following the results of the study teachers in the school started using yoga in the classroom throughout each day in class an reported benefits with their students. Researchers state kids even younger than third grade can experience stress and anxiety, especially around test time, and yoga may be therapeutic for kids of all ages.