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.

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.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Dance Your Way to Happiness and Good Health

A new study from Australia’s Queensland University partnered with the Queensland Ballet to provide 10 ballet classes for seniors over three months. At the end of the program participants had better posture, improved flexibility, higher energy, and a greater sense of achievement. Happiness, friendship, and sense of community also increased.

A second study from the University of Illinois at Chicago had older-adult participants attend Latin dance classes twice weekly for four months. Various styles of dance from merengue, bachata, salsa, and cha cha cha were taught and choreography increased as the program progressed. At the end of the study participants were walking faster and showed improved physical fitness which may reduce heart disease risk.

Twice weekly dance classes for five months resulted in improvements in balance, gait, and gognitive performance for participants with traumatic brain injury and stroke in one older study from American Dance Therapy Association.

A literature review of 18 studies found evidence that older adults can significantly improve strength and flexibility, aerobic power, lower body muscle endurance, balance, gait, and agility through dance. Dance might also improve muscle power, bone-mineral content, and reduce falls.

Health benefits of exercise have been well documented, however the new Queensland study highlights how exercise through dance can also improve social connections and happiness in aging populations. Participants reported transformational feelings of happiness and positivity which is especially important since depression is common in adults over 65 years of age.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Do we “catch” obesity from our neighbors?

According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, we might “catch” obesity from our neighbors. Researchers focused on 1,300 Army parents and their 1,100 children who were stationed near 38 military bases across the U.S. The Army families relocated based on military requirements rather than personal preference.
Researchers found those families placed near military bases with higher obesity rates were more likely to be overweight or obese themselves. The opposite was also true; families placed near military bases with lower obesity rates reduced the likelihood of their family gaining weight.
Social norms have a large impact on behavior and attitude towards food and exercise habits. Without realizing it, we are often influenced by others around us. Other studies have shown a strong support system of friends and family who encourage healthy eating and exercise habits are powerful motivators for people working on lifestyle change. 
Unfortunately the opposite can be true too. Living in an environment where friends, family members, or coworkers have poor eating and exercise habits can easily rub off on the most well-intentioned person.
Food is a connector. It expresses care, warmth, love, and tradition. Finding the right balance between healthy food for nourishment and small treats for enjoyment is important for overall health. In any  environment staying mindful is helpful. I recommend planning out your week so you can anticipate where challenges might arise. If you go out to eat read the menu ahead of time and stick to the healthy choice you already planned on.
Be firm with food pushers that pressure “treats/cheats” you did not plan for. If they still insist, take a small portion and throw it away after they leave.
If certain friends always influence bad eating behavior find other ways to connect that do not involve food such as going to a concert, hiking, shopping, etc.
Lastly, be the catalyst for change. If everyone always brings junk to the party try something new and healthy. You might be surprised by the positive feedback it brings.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Feeding Fatigue

After a busy day of putting out fires, running around, and dealing with more stress than any one human should endure, how do you cope? Ever find yourself reaching for a cookie, pretzels, chocolate, or some other else!? In a moment of weakness it is so easy to give into temptation. Food  becomes our reward for getting through the day.

Our body is a machine. When we are busy we tend to neglect the most essential part, the power supply; also known as our brain. Our brain obtains power from glucose which comes from carbohydrates. Sufficient glucose supports willpower and sound decision making.

As you start the day you might have great willpower, resisting the urge to eat doughnuts at breakfast and treats around the office at lunch. But as the day progresses each act of resistance challenges your willpower. If you skip meals or go too long without eating your glucose levels can run low and your willpower weakens more, especially late in the day. This explains why people with exceptional willpower in other areas of life might still struggle with weight loss. In order not to eat junk a person needs willpower but in order to have willpower a person needs to eat. 

Fatigue is the biggest enemy when it comes to healthy eating. It increases activity in the brain that seeks out pleasure, while hindering brain function particularly in areas of impulse control and decision making. People who are fatigued or chronically sleep deprived eat more calories and more high-fat and high-sugar foods as a result.

In order to combat fatigue and keep your power supply running strong you need to eat the right food at the right time. Maintaining stable blood glucose will support strong willpower and help you avoid temptations from morning to night.

Start by eating breakfast within 2 hours of waking up. Plan for a mid-morning snack 2-3 hours after breakfast if you wake up early, otherwise aim for lunch about 4 hours after breakfast. Many hours can span between lunch and dinner so a mid-afternoon snack is very important. Eat enough calories early in the day when you are most active. Aim for 2/3 of your calories before dinner, including complex sources of carbohydrates to fuel your brain such as fruit, vegetables, beans, and whole grains.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Reduce Chronic Pain with the Mediterranean Diet

Chronic pain interferes with daily life and is a big problem, with over 3 million cases in the US each year. Dealing with constant pain can lead to lack of energy, feeling tired, mood changes, and difficulty sleeping. The cause of chronic pain is not always obvious but the daily struggle is real.

Some evidence suggests long-term inflammation in the body can be a trigger for chronic pain. As can being overweight since more stress is placed on joints. According to the CDC more than 70% of American adults are overweight which is a big concern for health and well-being.

Taking a closer look at chronic pain, researchers from Ohio State studied men and women ages 20-78 and found those who followed the Mediterranean Diet rich in fish, olive oil, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans had less pain regardless of how much the participant weighed. The Mediterranean Diet is known for its anti-inflammatory benefits as well as for its anti-aging and disease fighting powers.

More research is needed on blood markers of inflammation and long term dietary choices before cause-and effect can be confirmed, but researchers are encouraged by their findings and the association between diet and pain management.

Charles Emery, Ph.D., director, Cardiopulmonary Behavioral Medicine Program, Department of Psychology, Ohio State University; Connie Diekman, M.Ed., director of university nutrition, Washington University in St. Louis; February 2017, Pain

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Eat Out Italian, and Lose Weight

Our culture loves to eat. Dining out is a social event where we relax, enjoy food good, and enjoy great conversations with friends. American’s are eating out more than ever and unfortunately it is resulting in an obesity epidemic. We all know eating at home is more calorie conscious, but it also is not always feasible. Is it possible to eat out regularly and still lose weight?

Let’s say you want to be weight conscious Friday night when eating at an Italian restaurant. You are going out with friends so you want to enjoy yourself but you still want to make health choices. 

You arrive at the restaurant hungry and fresh bread is placed on the table so you enjoy just one piece (80 calories) with a small amount of butter (40 calories). You practice good willpower and  resist a second piece of bread.

You skip the heavy appetizers and order a Caesar salad. Recognizing it has a lot of oil and cheese you only eat half (200 calories). Your plan is to limit starches so you order Chicken Marsala with steamed vegetables and no pasta. It is so good you eat three-quarters (575 calories).

You are having a great time with friends and enjoy 2 glasses of wine (250 calories). Your friends want to order dessert but you resist. You made some great decisions to cut out calories, but your total intake was still 1145 calories, way over your goal.

People following a 2000 calorie diet need about 500-600 calories at meals. People trying to lose weight with lower calorie goals need even less. Is it possible to eat out and still lose weight? It is if you stick to your calorie goals. Try this approach the next time you go out for Italian…

Eat an apple or another small healthy snack 1-2 hours before dinner so you don’t arrive at the restaurant starving. Skip the bread altogether and enjoy only 1 glass of wine (125 calories). If you feel the need for an appetizer try a bowl of minestrone soup (110 calories). Order a grilled salmon salad (without cheese, avocado, nuts, or dried fruit) with clear dressing on the side to use sparingly. Plan to eat about 1/2 the salmon and most of the salad (350 calories). Skip dessert and you are at 585 calories for the night. Skip the wine or soup and you are even less!

Many restaurants are now offering entrees under 600 calories which are great choices to select. Restaurants such as Harvest and Season’s 52 pride themselves in offering entire menu’s under 500 calories making them wonderful options for a night out with friends. Learning to eat all foods in moderation is important for a healthy lifestyle, and selecting smaller portions and lower calorie menu items sets you up for success in fitting the battle of the bulge.

Dining Out Strategies

  • Look up the menu and nutrition information before going out to eat
  • Order soup, salad, or healthy appetizers for your main entree
  • Box up 1/2 or 3/4 of your entrĂ©e before you start eating
  • Ask for no cheese to cut out 100 calories per slice
  • Order salad dressing, sauce, and toppings on the side
  • Select items that are baked, grilled, broiled, poached, or steamed

Calories at Popular Italian Restaurants

  • 1 glass wine 125
  • Caesar Salad 400
  • Tiramisu 510
  • Lobster Ravioli 700
  • Chicken Marsala 700
  • Chicken Parmesan 850
  • Salmon with Lemon & Herbs 990
  • Steak & Gorgonzola Salad 1200
  • Lasagna 1820
  • Gnocchi 1870
  • Fettuccini Alfredo 2000
  • Mussels Diavolo 2310

*these are general estimates, portion sizes and cooking methods vary  greatly among restaurants

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Do Cheat Days Work?

People following strict diets often cut out a lot of foods in an attempt to lose weight and be healthier. Stopping your favorite foods cold turkey can be quite a challenge, especially when cravings kick in.

To prevent feeling deprived the idea of a cheat day has emerged. This is typically one day per week or a few days per month when forbidden foods can be consumed. The belief is that a cheat day builds willpower and acts as a reward for following such a strict diet the majority of the time.

One study published in the International Journal of Obesity found participants who took small breaks in their diet kept more weight off over a longer period of time compared to participants who dieted continuously.

While a cheat day makes sense on paper, the reality is that it is very easy to go overboard. One cheat meal can easily turn into an entire cheat weekend and derail all the progress made during the week. In reality, portion control even on cheat days matters greatly.

In order for a nutrition plan to be successful it should be a routine you can stick with long term. State of mind and personality plays a big role too. Some people’s personalities allow them to eat treats in moderation, while others need an all-or-nothing approach to be successful. Understanding the type of mindset, personality, and will-power you have can help you decide if a cheat day is going to help you or not.

If you do believe a cheat day will help you, plan out your indulgence ahead of time. Have a game plan, stick to your portion size, and avoid going overboard. It’s all about self-control and staying on track the majority of the time.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Repair Cardiac Damage with Vitamin D

Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin because the body can produce its own supply from sunlight. Long known for its role in bone health, over 200 genes respond to vitamin D making it a determinant factor in the development of many diseases. In fact, one study following 50,000 men for 10 years found those deficient in vitamin D were twice as likely to have a heart attack compared to men with sufficient vitamin D levels. Low vitamin D levels were also associated with higher risk of heart failure,   sudden cardiac death, stroke, and cardiovascular disease.

A new study published in the International Journal of Nanomedicine highlights the innovative research conducted at Ohio University on vitamin D and cardiac health. Researchers used nanosensors, that are 1,000 times smaller than human hair, to measure vitamin D’s impact on endothelial cells that line the heart and entire circulator system. They discovered vitamin D was a stimulator of nitric oxide which regulates blood flow and can prevent blood clots from forming. Vitamin D also reduced levels of oxidative stress in the cardiovascular system. Researchers found treatment with vitamin D reduced risk of heart attack and restored damaged endothelial cells caused by atherosclerosis, hypertension, and diabetes. To date, no other system has been shown to do that.

42% of US adults are deficient in vitamin D, the highest rates are among African Americans, Hispanics, elderly people, overweight people, those with IBS or Crohn’s, and people who have limited sun exposure. People living in the Northern United States above Richmond, VA are more at risk for developing vitamin D deficiency in the winter due to the angle of the sun preventing UVB rays from being absorbed by the skin.

The recommendation for most people is to obtain sufficient sunlight or to consume 600 IU of vitamin D daily, 800 IU for people over 70 years of age. The author of the study suggests taking vitamin D in even higher amounts might benefit people seeking treatment for damaged cardiovascular cells. Since vitamin D is fat soluble and taking too much could lead to toxicity do not exceed 4,000 IU daily unless under doctor supervision.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Winter Sports Workouts

Is the winter weather giving you cabin fever? We all love to be warm and toasty indoors, but spending time outside in nature can improve cognitive function and overall sense of well-being. Winter sports are a great way to stay active in the cold weather and burn off extra calories from the holidays.

Downhill skiing, also called alpine skiing, is a great way to engage your core, leg muscles, and arms. With mountains less than two hours from Philadelphia it is a great activity for the entire family. The best part is after 60 minutes of moderate downhill skiing a 185 lbs person can burn 530 calories! Are you more of a snowboarder? The same amount of calories are burned per hour making it a great workout as well.

Ice skating is easy on joints because it is low impact. It can also improve balance and coordination by engaging many small stabilizer muscles which are not typically engaged in day-to-day life. Skating can improve strength and help improve performance in other activities such as skiing, running, and yoga. Our same 185 lb person can burn a whopping 615 calories in 60 minutes of  moderate ice skating! The Blue Cross RiverRink is open daily until the end of February so bundle up, get out there, and skate away.

Snow shoeing improves cardiovascular endurance while building strength and agility. Two studies conducted by Ball State University and the University of Vermont found snow shoeing can burn twice the number of calories as walking at the same pace, up to 1,000 calories per hour! The harder the terrain the greater the workout will be.

This winter get out there and have fun with winter sports. Enjoy the fresh air, the beauty of nature, and the calorie burning potential!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Children Eating Fish Weekly Linked to Higher IQ and Better Sleep

New research from the University of Pennsylvania studying 541 children aged 9-11 years old found those who ate fish at least once per week scored 4.8 points higher on IQ exams than those who rarely or never consumed fish. The same group of children had fewer sleep disturbances and better sleep quality.
Fish is a wonderful source of omega-3 fatty acids which is vital for brain function. Other studies have associated omega-3 fatty acids with improved intelligence, reduced brain aging, and lower levels of inflammation throughout the body.
Consuming omega-3 fatty acids is beneficial, but getting kids to eat fish can be a challenge. Experts recommend exposing kids to fish at a young age so they become used to the smell. As long as the fish has no bones and is finely chopped children as young as 8-10 months can begin trying it. Early introduction helps develop taste and preference for fish later on.
For older kids gradually exposing them to fish can be helpful. Try mixing a few clams into spaghetti and tomato sauce, bread white fish fillets with unsweetened bran cereal and bake it in the oven for crunchy tenders, make fish tacos with a tasty mango salsa, or make tuna salad sandwiches and use a cookie cutter to turn the sandwich into fun shapes.
The best fish for omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, trout, sardines, herring, and halibut. Albacore tuna is higher in mercury and children should limit their intake to no more than 12 ounces a week.
Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in smaller amounts of other foods such as walnuts, flaxmeal, chia seeds, eggs, spinach, and Brussels sprouts to name a few.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Fiber, GI Health, and Immune Function

New research on the impact fiber has on GI health and immune function has experts encouraging more fruits and vegetables in our diet. 

Old research has shown high fiber diets are linked to lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension as well as lower mortality rates from all causes. We have known for a while that fiber is great for us, but we are still learning exactly how it generates benefits.

One new study surveying the effects of switching from a high-fiber diet to a low-fiber diet high in protein, fat, and sugar in mice shows the impact of fiber on immune function. Within a few days of the diet change intestines got smaller and the mucus layer covering the intestinal walls was thinner resulting in closer bacterial contact. This led to an immune reaction and inflammation. Mice experienced higher blood sugar levels and  began gaining weight. A second group of mice were fed the same diet but also given a fiber supplement resulting in healthy bacteria populations in their GI tract, normal appearing intestines, and less weight gain. 

Scientists speculate low-fiber diets starve healthy bacteria in the GI tract, intestinal cells slow their mucus production, and as   bacteria moves closer to the intestine's the immune system is  impacted. Furthermore, scientists speculate immune response and inflammation occurs throughout the entire body and not just in the GI tract, which could play a role in heart disease, diabetes, and cancer risk.

It has also been speculated different types of fiber from different plants might play a role in how healthy bacteria in the gut functions.

Studies in humans need to be carried out to better understand the impact of fiber on our immune function, but this promising research is only the beginning of linking our GI tract to our overall health.