Can cinnamon help diabetes patients? | MNN – Mother Nature Network

Cinnamon might improve not only the taste of apple pie and oatmeal but also the health of people with diabetes, a new review study suggests.

Researchers found that people with type 2 diabetes who took cinnamon supplements had lower fasting plasma glucose levels compared with people who didn’t take cinnamon.

The review also found that cinnamon benefited several important measures of heart health: It reduced total cholesterol, LDL “bad” cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and increased HDL “good” cholesterol.

In the review, researchers looked at data collected from 10 randomized control led trials involving 543 patients with type 2 diabetes. These studies compared people who took cinnamon in a pill form, in doses ranging from 120 milligrams to 6 grams a day, for a period of four to 18 weeks, to people who did not take cinnamon.

“When we combined the results of all the trials, we found that in patients with type 2 diabetes, there was a benefit on blood glucose and cholesterol levels,” said study researcher Olivia Phung, an assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, Calif.

The study is published online on Monday, Sept. 9, in the journal The Annals of Family Medicine.

Better glucose control

Previous studies of cinnamon’s effect on blood sugar have shown mixed results.

In fact, when these same researchers published a review study of the supplement in 2008, they found it had no effect on blood sugar or cholesterol levels. But in their latest analysis, they included data from the most recent trials of cinnamon in diabetes patients.

Preliminary studies have suggested that the compound in cinnamon that’s responsible for its health effects is a substance known as cinnamaldehyde. Although it’s not clear how cinnamon may work to improve blood sugar, researchers suspect this substance may stimulate the release and effect of insulin.

“By enhancing insulin activity, it’s assumed there’d be better control of blood glucose,” Phung told LiveScience.

In the study, people who took cinnamon supplements — usually in addition to their diabetes medication — lowered their fasting glucose levels by nearly 25 milligrams/deciliter. This is less than the reduction people typically achieve by taking the diabetes drug metformin (58 mg/dL), but slightly better than the reductions seen in patients who take some of the newer drugs, such as sitagliptin (16 to 21 mg/dL), the researchers said.

More research needed

The researchers said they don’t know the exact dose of cinnamon that may be helpful for people with type 2 diabetes, or the length of time or frequency the supplement should be taken. And it’s still unclear which patients may benefit the most from taking the cinnamon, or exactly how cinnamon might fit best into diabetes treatment options.

Phung said more research is needed to determine whether there is a true cause-and-effect relationship between cinnamon intake and improved diabetes control, or if the results found in this review study were just an association seen when the findings from a bunch of smaller studies were combined.

However, she said that based on this current analysis, it looks like cinnamon may be useful for diabetes.

Nonetheless, “It’s not going to replace your diabetes medications,” Phung said, “so if you’re thinking about taking cinnamon [for diabetes control], definitely talk to your doctor or a pharmacist about it.”

KS

How To Improve Your Immunity Against Colds, Flu, and Viruses

How To Improve Your Immunity Against Colds, Flu, and Viruses

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I’ve hardly lived a sheltered life. I’ve eaten at dodgy road side street vendors in Laos, drank juice from questionable water sources at family homes in Peru, slept in tiny villages surrounded by farm animals in Ecuador, ate from plates and silverware that were rinsed in the same bucket as 40 others before me at a food co-op in Venezuela, hiked in mosquito-ridden jungles in Mexico, and snorkeled near fishing villages with inadequate sewage treatment in Panama. None of these so-called risky behaviors have resulted in any illness. I’ve never had a flu shot in my adult life, never taken malaria pills, and avoid prescription drugs whenever possible.

At the same time, almost all the people around me complain about getting the flu every year. Even worse, many of my friends complain about colds that “never go away” or “linger for weeks”. I’ve never experienced this, but my guess is that their immune system has been compromised.

The reasons for a compromised immune system can range from eating “dead” or inadequate food sources, excessive use of antibiotics, vaccinations, prescriptions drugs, or other environmental poisons like heavy metals and chemicals. A lack of exercise, poor sleeping habits, and stressful lifestyles can also challenge our immune system.

Your Immune System Is Your Only Defense

I am a firm believer that our own immune system is easily the best flu shot. Our immune system is truly our only form of defense against illness.

Our immune system is constantly defending us against all kinds of pathogens, bacteria and viruses, and if we keep our immune system strong and functioning correctly, it is by far our best chance at maintaining good health.

Unfortunately, flu shots, antibiotics and other “treatments” prescribed the “sick care” industry effectively weaken your immune system. Antibiotics literally wipe out the bacteria in your body – both bad and good bacteria. Without good or “friendly” bacteria, your body is completely vulnerable to becoming re-infected by the same or a different infection. This is why I avoid antibiotics whenever possible, and I avoid flu shots like, well, I avoid flu shots like the PLAGUE!! For further reading about the dangers of vaccinations check out vran.org (Vaccination Risk Awareness Network).

I also avoid the suddenly very popular “anti-bacterial” or “sanitizing” creams, soaps and other products. When you “sanitize” your hands throughout the day, not only are you exposing yourself to harmful chemicals, you are removing your body’s exposure to viruses and bacteria so that it can develop its own natural and effective immune response. (2)

Consider vaccines – the whole idea of a vaccine is to give the body a small enough dose so that it can develop its own immunity to that particular virus or bacteria. “Sanitizing” might temporarily reduce the amount of bacteria or viruses in a particular location, but overall it weakens your immunity, and it does not strengthen your ability to fight disease.

A Natural Approach To Immunity

So, here is how I work with my immune system. First, I recognize that a healthy immune system starts with a healthy body. If you are eating right, exercising and getting enough sleep (this is “health 101” people) you have already given your immune system a better chance of fighting off whatever it encounters out there in the world.

Secondly, I recognize the importance of being aware of how my body feels. I can tell within a few minutes if I am suddenly feeling unhealthy. This might be a small scratch in my throat, some sinus pressure, a small headache, a sneeze, a cough or (most commonly) just feeling extra tired. In fact, I usually notice this “extra tired” feeling even before any of the typical symptoms that lead to a full blown illness.

Here is what I do immediately after feeling the early signs of any kind of illness:

1. Acidophilus – Acidophilus and probiotics are live friendly bacterial cultures you can find in most health food stores. The most effective kinds should be refrigerated when you buy them, and you must keep them refrigerated to keep them alive! My strategy here is to take high doses immediately when I feel anything remotely close to a cold or illness. I will keep taking a total of 8-12 tablets per day until I feel 100% healthy again. Remember to drink LOTS of water if you take Acidophilus, and LOTS of water throughout the day while on this treatment.

2. Vitamin C – Both in a supplement form (raw powder with no sugar or other additives), and in the form of unprocessed, unsweetened, organic orange juice. There are other juices that have high levels of vitamin C but orange juice works best for me. In supplement form, make sure you get 100% pure vitamin C, not this “flavored” junk that is half sugar or half artificial sweetener. This is not about tasting good, this is about staying healthy!

3. Echinacea – I find it works best if I take high doses only when I feel I need it. I take 2-3 times the recommended daily dose IMMEDIATELY whenever I feel anything a bit “off” in my body. I don’t wait a day or two to see what happens, I react quickly to what my body is telling me.

4. Sleep – Extra sleep, even a 20-30 mid-day nap, can have a powerful impact toward helping your immune system regain control of the situation. When you sleep, your etheric body which serves as your cosmic shield is able to rebuild itself. When you awake, your etheric body feeds re-aligned positive energy back into your body.

Let The Body Rebalance On Its Own

Normally after using the above immunity formula I feel 100% well the next day. I will usually follow up with another round of doses the following day or two after, just to make sure whatever it is fully gone. However, once I feel that the symptoms are totally gone, I stop taking my immunity supplements and let my body rebalance itself on its own.

I’ve found this combination to be “highly successful” in ridding myself of any type of cold or flu before it ever really takes hold. The key is to act fast, literally within a few minutes or an hour after feeling any kind of negative symptom.

On the rare occasion when I do catch something, the above combo helps me recover quickly without taking any drugs, medications, or shots. I NEVER buy ANY of the store bought cold and flu pills. I rely 100% on natural remedies and it has worked very well for me so far.

By Michael Manville

KS

Ask Well: Is It Better to Bike or Run? – NYTimes.com

By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS

Q

How does bicycling or spinning compare with running or walking as an exercise for health or weight loss?

A

“Both running and cycling are excellent forms of exercise,” said Hirofumi Tanaka, a professor of kinesiology and director of the Cardiovascular Aging Research Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin. “Both are rhythmic aerobic activities that involve large muscle mass.”

But there are differences, which could sway you toward one activity over the other. In general, running burns more calories per minute than cycling, Dr. Tanaka said, although the differential slims if you cycle vigorously. According to broad calculations from the American College of Sports Medicine, someone weighing 150 pounds who runs at a brisk seven minutes per mile will incinerate about 1,000 calories per hour. That same person pedaling at a steady 16 to 19 miles per hour will burn about 850 calories. Meanwhile, walking requires far fewer calories, only about 360 per hour at a 4-mile-per-hour pace.

Strenuous running and cycling also can equivalently dull appetite, at least temporarily. In a study published earlier this year, healthy, active men were assigned to run for an hour on one day and on another, to ride vigorously for the same amount of time. During both activities, the men’s blood levels of ghrelin, a hormone known to stimulate hunger, fell, compared with when they sat quietly.

But running has a downside: Injuries are common. Biking, meanwhile, is gentler. “Cycling is a nonweight bearing activity, so it is better for your knees and joints,” Dr. Tanaka said, “and it does not cause much muscle soreness.” Walking, likewise, results in few injuries, unless, like me, you are almost comically clumsy.

Any of these activities, however, will improve your aerobic fitness, and greater aerobic fitness is closely linked to a reduced risk of chronic disease and a longer life span.

“There is no easy answer to say which exercise is better, because it depends on individuals,” Dr. Tanaka said. “Personally, I have an iliotibial band problem and cannot do cycling. So I run.”

But any physical activity will improve health compared with performing none, he said. So walk one day, maybe jog another, and borrow a bicycle or join a spinning class on still another. Whichever activity you enjoy the most and will stick with is the best activity for you.

KS

As antibiotics continue to fail, use garlic instead to kill MRSA and superbugs

Garlic has been used as an antibiotic, antiviral and antifungal for centuries. But most probably consider it a lightweight, outdated folk medicine against serious bacterial infections. Antibiotics gave modern allopathic pharmaceuticals an illusion of legitimacy from 1928, when penicillin was discovered, until today.

So the mindset became why bother with that nasty tasting foul smelling garlic stuff when you could pop some antibiotic pills or be injected with the latest new miracle drug that seemed to work well without much fuss.

But there has been much fuss

The first fuss was how antibiotics didn’t distinguish between good and bad bacteria. Synthetic pharmaceuticals are equal opportunity killers.

So much of the intestinal flora, containing billions of beneficial bacteria for digestion, protection, vitamin production and total body immunity signaling, were neutralized along with the infectious bacteria.

During and after a round or two of antibiotics, supplementing with probiotics became a ritual among those who knew about synthetic antibiotics’ dangers.

Fluoroquinolone-based synthetic antibiotics also create neuropathy. Sometimes neuropathy would manifest as mild nerve problems and insomnia, but too often very painful and crippling long term side effects occurred, leaving victims without hope.

Major fluoroquinolone antibiotics are Cipro, Leviquin, Avelox, and Floxen (http://www.naturalnews.com/032337_quinolone_antibiotics_dangers.html).

The final blow is the superbug scare. The most common superbug is Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Due to extreme overuse of antibiotics over decades, 70% of which is used for livestock, bacteria learned how to defeat essentially simple chemical compound antibiotics by gene swapping among them.

MRSA started out in hospitals and nursing homes, but soon spread into community contagion. MRSA likes to infect nostrils and skin. There are several carriers of MRSA whose immune systems prevent their becoming infected. But carriers can spread what they’re carrying. If MRSA gets into the blood, it can be fatal.

At first the antibiotic vancomycin was about only the super hero antibiotic that could stop MRSA. But now, those clever little MRSA critters have developed a strain, CC5, which is able to dupe and get around even vancomycin (http://www.naturalnews.com/036031_MRSA_antibiotics_infections.html).

Time to get back to garlic

Garlic allicin extracts have recently been used successfully on MRSA victims. Allicin is the main active compound in garlic. It is released upon crushing or chewing raw garlic, but unfortunately it oxidizes rapidly and much of its bacteria killing ability is lost.

Garlic antibiotic solutions: Be unafraid and chew raw garlic directly or quickly after crushed if using as an antibiotic; or simply use a supplement or cream (for external MRSA sores) that contains allicin in a preserved state. These are available and recommended for serious bacterial issues.

Results obtained in the UK using allicin supplement creams took slightly longer than what synthetic antibiotics used to do, but were very effective. Garlic contains other sulfur compounds that bolster the immune system. Big Pharma products either dampen or overexcite the immune system. Overexciting the immune system results in cytokine storms that often cripple or damage with various neurological autoimmune diseases.

Since allicin and garlic’s other compounds are more complex than synthetic antibiotics, bacteria strains becoming resistant to garlic or allicin is unlikely. The complexity is too much for infectious bacteria to handle, and garlic overuse in livestock is also unlikely.

Another issue resolved by using garlic-based concentrated allicin is nerve damage from fluoroquinolones. There are no known side effects, other than the occasional mild allergic reaction, from garlic.

Allicin leaves friendly gut flora bacteria alone. So garlic’s allicin offers an effective solution away from Big Pharma antibiotic’s side effect issues, while offering other health benefits (http://www.naturalnews.com/029701_garlic_superfood.html).

KS

How Exercise Can Help Us Sleep Better – NYTimes.com

By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS

Getty Images

Gretchen Reynolds on the science of fitness.

As a clinical psychologist and sleep researcher at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, Kelly Glazer Baron frequently heard complaints from aggrieved patients about exercise. They would work out, they told her, sometimes to the point of exhaustion, but they would not sleep better that night.

Dr. Baron was surprised and perplexed. A fan of exercise for treating sleep problems, but also a scientist, she decided to examine more closely the day-to-day relationship between sweat and sleep.

What she and her colleagues found, according to a study published last week in The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, is that the influence of daily exercise on sleep habits is more convoluted than many of us might expect and that, in the short term, sleep may have more of an impact on exercise than exercise has on sleep.

To reach that conclusion, Dr. Baron and her colleagues turned to data from a study of exercise and sleep originally published in 2010. For that experiment, researchers had gathered a small group of women (and one man) who had received diagnoses of insomnia. The volunteers were mostly in their 60s, and all were sedentary.

Then the researchers randomly assigned their volunteers either to remain inactive or to begin a moderate endurance exercise program, consisting of three or four 30-minute exercise sessions per week, generally on a stationary bicycle or treadmill, that were performed in the afternoon. This exercise program continued for 16 weeks.

At the end of that time, the volunteers in the exercise group were sleeping much more soundly than they had been at the start of the study. They slept, on average, about 45 minutes to an hour longer on most nights, waking up less often and reporting more vigor and less sleepiness.

But had the novice exercisers experienced immediate improvements in their sleep patterns, Dr. Baron wondered? And, on a day-to-day basis, had working out on any given day produced better sleep that night?

Boring deep into the data contained in the exercising group’s sleep diaries and other information for the new study, Dr. Baron discovered that the answer to both questions was a fairly resounding no. After the first two months of their exercise program, the exercising volunteers (all of them women) were sleeping no better than at the start of the study. Only after four months of the program had their insomnia improved.

They also rarely reported sleeping better on those nights when they had had an exercise session. And perhaps most telling, they almost always exercised for a shorter amount of time on the days after a poor night’s sleep.

In other words, sleeping badly tended to shorten the next day’s workout, while a full-length exercise session did not, in most cases, produce more and better sleep that night.

At first glance, these results might seem “a bit discouraging,” Dr. Baron said. They also would seem to be at odds with the earlier conclusion that four months of exercise improved insomniacs’ sleep patterns, as well as a wealth of other recent science that typically has found that regular exercise lengthens and deepens sleep.

But, Dr. Baron pointed out, most of these other studies employed volunteers without existing sleep problems. For them, exercise and sleep seem to have a relatively uncomplicated relationship. You work out, fatigue your body and mind, and sleep more soundly that night.

But people with insomnia and other sleep disturbances tend to be “neurologically different,” Dr. Baron said. “They have what we characterize as a hyper-arousal of the stress system,” she said. A single bout of exercise on any given day “is probably not enough to overcome that arousal,” she explained, and potentially could even exacerbate it, since exercise is itself a physical stressor.

Eventually, however, if the exercise program is maintained, Dr. Baron said, the workouts seem to start muting a person’s stress response. Her or his underlying physiological arousal is dialed down enough for sleep to arrive more readily, as it did in the original 2010 experiment.

Of course, both of these studies were small, involving fewer than a dozen exercising volunteers, all of them middle-aged or older women. “We think the findings would apply equally to men,” Dr. Baron said. But that idea has yet to be proven.

Likewise, it is impossible to know yet the sleep-related impacts of workouts of different types (like weight training), intensities or timing, including morning or late-evening sessions.

Still, the preliminary message of these findings is heartening. If you habitually experience insomnia and don’t currently exercise, Dr. Baron said, start. Don’t, however, expect that you will enjoy or even complete workouts that occur on the day after a broken night’s sleep, or that you will sleep better hours after you’ve exercised.

The process is more gradual and less immediately gratifying than the sleep-deprived might wish. But the benefits do develop. “It took four months” in the original study, Dr. Baron said, but at that point the exercising volunteers “were sleeping at least 45 minutes more a night.” “That’s huge, as good as or better” than most current treatment options for sleep disturbances, including drugs, she said.

KS

How Exercise Can Help Us Learn – NYTimes.com

How Exercise Can Help Us Learn

By GRETCHEN REYNOLDSElhenyo’s Pictures

Phys Ed

Gretchen Reynolds on the science of fitness.

Over the past decade, in study after study in animals and people, exercise has been shown to improve the ability to learn and remember. But the specifics of that process have remained hazy. Is it better to exercise before you learn something new? What about during? And should the exercise be vigorous or gentle?

Two new studies helpfully tackle those questions, with each reaching the conclusion that the timing and intensity of even a single bout of exercise can definitely affect your ability to remember — though not always beneficially.

To reach that conclusion, scientists conducting the larger and more ambitious of the new studies, published in May in PLoS One, first recruited 81 healthy young women who were native German speakers and randomly divided them into three groups. Each group wore headphones and listened for 30 minutes to lists of paired words, one a common German noun and the other its Polish equivalent. The women were asked to memorize the unfamiliar word.

But they heard the words under quite different circumstances. One group listened after sitting quietly for 30 minutes. A second group rode a stationary bicycle at a gentle pace for 30 minutes and then sat down and donned the headphones. And the third group rode a bicycle at a mild intensity for 30 minutes while wearing the headphones and listening to the new words.

Two days later, the women completed tests of their new vocabulary. Everyone could recall some new words. But the women who had gently ridden a bicycle while hearing the new words — who had exercised lightly during the process of creating new memories —performed best. They had the most robust recall of the new information, significantly better than the group that had sat quietly and better than the group that had exercised before learning. Those women performed only slightly better than the women who had not exercised at all.

That result contrasts tellingly with the findings of another new study of memory formation and exercise, presented in May at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in Indianapolis. During this study, 11 female collegians read a dense chapter from a college textbook on two occasions: once while sitting quietly and, on a separate day, while exercising vigorously on an elliptical machine for 30 minutes. Immediately after each session, the students were tested on the material they’d just read. They were then retested the next day.

In this study, exercise did not help the women’s memories, at least in the short term. Their test scores were actually worse on the memory test conducted immediately after they’d exercised while reading compared with their scores taken soon after they’d been sitting quietly and studying.

But the recall gap disappeared the next day, when the women were retested. At that point, there were no differences in their scores, whether they’d vigorously exercised while learning the new material or not.

The message of these studies would seem to be that exercise timing and intensity interact to affect memory formation, said Maren Schmidt-Kassow, a professor at the Institute of Medical Psychology at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, who led the study of gentle bicycling and memory. Exercising during learning was, in her study, significantly more effective than exercising beforehand or not exercising at all.

But that beneficial impact probably depended on the mildness of the workout, she said. Light-intensity exercise will elicit low but noticeable levels of physiological arousal, she said, which, in turn, presumably help to prime the brain for the intake of new information and the encoding of that information into memories.

If the exercise is more vigorous, however, it may overstimulate the body and brain, she said, monopolizing more of the brain’s attentional resources and leaving fewer for the creation of robust memories.

This theory also helps to explain why, in both studies, memory recall was best a day or two after exercise, by which time, Dr. Schmidt-Kassow said, physiological arousal would have dissipated.

Of course, the mysteries of human memory remain, by and large, mysteries. These new studies don’t explain how, for instance, at a molecular level, exercise affects the creation of individual memories. It is likely that, as part of the arousal process, exercise stimulates the release of certain chemicals in the brain that affect memory formation, Dr. Schmidt-Kassow said. But that idea has yet to be proven, although she and many other scientists have applicable studies underway.

For now, though, there is some practical takeaway from the current studies, said Walter Bixby, an associate professor at Elon University in North Carolina, who oversaw the study of vigorous exercise and reading. “If you have an exam” or other activity that involves memorizing and recalling information “in a few hours, you would probably be better off sitting quietly and studying,” he says. “However, if the exam is the next day, it won’t hurt you to study while exercising.” And if your workout is gentle, it could even help.

To Ensure Bone Health, Start Early – NYTimes.com

To Ensure Bone Health, Start Early
By JANE E. BRODY
Yvetta Fedorova

Most people don’t start thinking about the health of their bones until midlife or later, by which time it can be too late to do very much to protect against serious bone loss and resulting fractures.

Researchers who study bone health say concern about the strength of one’s bones should start in childhood and continue through adolescence, when the body builds most of the bone that must sustain it for the remaining years of life.

Once peak bone mass has been reached, further gains are minimal, so childhood through adolescence is the best time to pay attention to bone development. By age 20, girls have gained between 90 and 96 percent of their peak bone mass. For boys, the peak occurs a few years later.

About 26 percent of total adult bone is accrued in two years around the time that bone mass increases the most — at age 12.5 in girls and 14.1 in boys. The amount of bone added during those two years is about the same as what is typically lost in the 30 years between ages 50 and 80.

Lifelong studies have not been done in people, but the best available evidence strongly indicates that increasing peak bone mass in childhood by just 10 percent could delay osteoporosis, especially in postmenopausal women, by about 13 years.

Although nothing can be done about the three factors with the greatest influence on bone mass — age, gender and genetics — two others under personal control can make the difference between suffering crippling fractures in midlife and escaping the effects of osteoporosis until after age 90. Those are physical activity and the bone-building nutrients, calcium and vitamin D.

While the focus here will be on the effects of exercise, it should be noted that calcium consumption by adolescent girls is often seriously inadequate, compromising their ability to build strong bones that will last a lifetime.

Exercise affects bone strength in two ways: in response to the pressure of gravitational forces like those experienced when walking, running or jumping, and in reaction to the stress exerted by muscle contraction.

You might think that any kind of exercise is good for bones, and the more active a child is, the better. That is largely, but not always, true. On average, as with adults, active children have higher bone mineral density and reduced risk of fractures compared with their inactive counterparts, Dr. Kirk L. Scofield noted last year in Current Sports Medicine Reports. But some types of activities are better than others. Studies have found that the bone mineral density of young endurance runners is consistently lower than that of sprinters, gymnasts or ball sports athletes. In fact, those engaged in endurance and non-weight-bearing activities sometimes have weaker bones and a greater risk of fractures, both while actively competing and later in life, than their inactive peers.

“Repetitive stress can tear down bone and is not the best for increasing bone strength,” Dr. Scofield said in an interview. “It’s not that running, walking, cycling or swimming are bad. They’re just not as good for bone strength as other types of athletic activities.”

Bones, he said, seem to respond best to a combination of stress, rest and variety, which suggests that youngsters engaged in endurance activities should also do cross-training to maximize bone strength.

Dr. Scofield, a sports medicine specialist at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, said that the most effective form of stress on bones is that which works against gravity and starts and stops, as happens when playing soccer, basketball, or tennis; doing gymnastics or dancing; using resistance equipment; or lifting weights.

In a study of 99 college women who participated in NCAA Division 1 sports, runners had the lowest bone density values at every site measured except their legs. Swimmers and divers also showed bone deficits when compared with those who played soccer or field hockey, for example.

An earlier study of young female aerobic dancers, squash players and speed skaters found that sports training that involves “high strain rates in versatile movements and high peak forces is more effective in bone formation than training with a large number of low-force repetitions.”

A major bone-robbing issue for some young athletes, especially women, is what sports specialists call “energy availability” — the amount of energy they consume during exercise minus the amount they expend, divided by their lean body mass (muscle and bone). It represents the energy left to support all the body’s functions, including formation of new bone.

Low energy availability can result from insufficient calorie intake, excessive calorie expenditure during exercise, or a combination of the two, even if the athlete does not appear to be underweight and is not undernourished, Dr. Scofield said.

Runners, for example, may burn so many calories there’s not enough energy left to maintain normal bone health. He recommends a nutrition consultation for young athletes who suffer stress fractures, an indication of bone weakness that can be from low energy availability.

A related concern that can result from excessive training is a syndrome called “female athlete triad” — an interrelationship between energy availability, menstrual function and bone density. Girls who overexercise and don’t consume enough calories to support all bodily functions can suffer menstrual irregularity or lose their periods entirely, which can lead to muscle and bone injuries.

In a study of 249 females athletes at three high schools published in The Journal of Athletic Training last year, researchers in Provo, Utah, found that nearly 20 percent experienced menstrual irregularities and 63 percent developed musculoskeletal injuries, with the highest percentage of injuries among those with irregular or missing periods.

I asked Dr. Scofield what advice he would give to the parents of young children and adolescents. His response: “Get kids away from electronics and encourage them to play actively and do a lot of different activities. Equally important is to avoid pressuring them to be too thin.”

He also urged adequate consumption of calcium-rich foods, like dairy products and canned salmon and sardines with the bones. An assessment of calcium intake can be determined from a Web-based calcium calculator.

Children ages 4 through 8 should consume 800 milligrams of calcium daily and those 9 through 18, 1,300 milligrams. If children are not getting enough calcium from their diet, Dr. Scofield recommends that they take a calcium supplement with vitamin D.

Vitamin D is needed for the body to absorb and utilize dietary calcium, and children ages 1 through 18 need 800 International Units daily. Most vitamin D is obtained when skin is exposed to sunlight, but the widespread use of potent sunscreens has greatly reduced this source, so a supplement may be essential.

A version of this article appeared in print on 08/06/2013, on page D5 of the NewYork edition with the headline: To Ensure Bone Health, Start Early.

KS

Different kinds of happiness affect genes in different ways, study finds | MNN – Mother Nature Network

Steven Cole, a professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles has spent the last 10 years trying to figure out what makes the human genome tick. Specifically, how our genes respond to stress, misery, fear and various other forms of negative psychology.

But in his latest foray, Cole and his colleagues decided to look on the brighter side; they set out to see what biological implications happiness has on genes.

The researchers assessed and took blood samples from 80 healthy adults who were classified as having either hedonic or eudaimonic well-being. Hedonic well-being is defined as happiness gained from seeking pleasure; eudaimonic well-being is that gained by having a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life.

The study showed that people who had high levels of eudaimonic well-being showed favorable profiles with low levels of inflammatory gene expression and exhibited a strong expression of antiviral and antibody genes. For the pleasure seekers, the opposite was true; those with high levels of hedonic well-being showed an adverse gene-expression profile, giving high inflammation and low antiviral/antibody expression.

The differences in genes persisted even though both groups were happy and felt comparable amounts of well-being.

“Both seemed to have the same high levels of positive emotion. However, their genomes were responding very differently even though their emotional states were similarly positive,” Cole said. “What this study tells us is that doing good and feeling good have very different effects on the human genome, even though they generate similar levels of positive emotion.”

“Apparently, the human genome is much more sensitive to different ways of achieving happiness than are conscious minds,” he added.

This study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

[tag different kinds of happiness]

Why Everyone Should Eat More Plants

Why Everyone Should Eat More Plants

There is a misconception that eating a plant-based diet is unnatural, the purview of activist radicals and the socially marginalized. Instead, I submit that it is beyond a doubt the most natural, healthy, and advisable thing you can possibly do to optimize your wellness and become bulletproof to Western disease.

Outrageous!

What’s truly outrageous is just how sick we’ve become. We live in the most prosperous nation on Earth, and yet overall we’ve never been more unhealthy. Chronic illness is killing us and bankrupting our economy. One out of every three deaths in the US is caused by heart disease, America’s #1 killer. A close second is cancer, killing one out of every four in the U.S. alone. 70% of Americans are obese or overweight. And by 2030, 50% of Americans will be diabetic or pre-diabetic. Total insanity.

How did we get here? Of course the answer is complex, but the biggest contributor is what we eat. Currently, 94% of the calories consumed by the typical American eating the standard American diet are empty, lacking any true nourishment whatsoever, with only 6% of calories coming from fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and seeds.

Natural has become unnatural. Unnatural has become natural. We’re completely upside down when it comes to food and health. And it’s time for a change.

To right the ship, we must begin by confronting the reality that we’re actually addicted to foods that are killing us. Atop the list are processed foods—soda, snacks, desserts and other packaged items laden with preservatives, saturated fat, sugar, fructose corn syrup, sodium, and other unnatural chemicals. Of course, we all know these foods are bad for us. And yet so many are powerless when it comes to giving them up.

Why?

Because many of these foods are specifically devised to activate the pleasure centers in our brain, enslaving us to habitual poor dietary choices—the very essence of addiction. When combined with our national preference for excessive meat and dairy intake, blood cholesterol escalates, clogging our arteries; our cells become cancerous; and our immune systems spiral out of control in response, creating a state of chronic inflammation. This confluence of factors creates a persistent condition in which our bodies become disease incubators, sentencing us to an almost certain future of chronic illness.

Even more outrageous? Standard operating procedure for treating these common chronic conditions—everything from high cholesterol to erectile dysfunction—is to prescribe medications that treat symptoms rather than address the root cause of the issue. Counsel and guidance to improve diet and exercise have been supplanted by Lipitor, Crestor, Viagra and countless other pharmaceuticals designed to quell the symptoms of every conceivable malady.

Taken as a whole, the aforementioned four conditions (hearth disease, obesity, cancer and diabetes) account for approximately 75% of our current health care costs, to the tune of countless billions of dollars annually. This is simply not sustainable.

And yet the great irony is that so many chronic diseases (exempting certain cancers of course)—in fact 90% of all Western disease—need never exist in the first place.

It’s time to reverse the trend. But how?

Simple. Eat more plants. You might be surprised to learn that a plant-based diet is the only nutritional protocol known to man that has been shown to prevent—and in many cases, actually reverse, these four and many other chronic illnesses that unnecessarily plague us.

In the most simplistic terms, if America flipped the Standard American Diet so that we began getting 94% of our calories from fresh, whole plant-based foods (rather than current levels of 6%), most of our diseases would simply vanish. And our health care crisis would essentially repair itself.

I know it may sound daunting. I can’t imagine life without pizza! How can l possibly live without eggs?

Personally, I cannot emphasize enough how adopting a 100% PlantPower diet revolutionized my life. But I also realize not everyone is ready to jump in with both feet on Day One. I get it. I sympathize.

So I’m here to say, relax. Don’t be afraid. Ease into it. And let go of the idea of perfection. Let it go. This is not about deprivation. Instead, it’s about a willingness to release old ideas you’ve harbored your whole life about what a healthy diet entails. It’s about being open to the adventure of experimentation, exploring and rediscovering whole foods in their natural state. It’s about developing an enhanced connection to and relationship with your body, learning to pay greater attention to the nexus between the foods you eat and how you feel and function. And ultimately, it’s about developing a more acute intuition about what truly serves you, so you can reprogram yourself to make better choices that are in your best long-term interest physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

With each successive step along the path, you’ll begin to notice changes. As your energy levels improve, your preferences will shift from empty calories to foods that actually nourish you. The more whole, plant-foods you incorporate into your routine, the

more likely those unhealthy cravings will subside. And before you know it, that hankering for cheese might just vanish altogether.

Against all odds—and despite being a self-avowed junk-food junkie for most of my life—it happened for me. And I’m here to tell you that it can happen for you, too.

At the end of the day, there is only one rule: eat more plants. Because baby steps move mountains.

I’ll leave you with this: Embracing a plant-based lifestyle didn’t just repair my health. It was the key that unlocked my heart and allowed me to discover, embrace and unleash a better and more authentic version of myself on the world.

I wish only the same experience for you. Because we need more of who you really are.

Peace + Plants,

Rich

The power of omega-3s | MNN – Mother Nature Network

I first became interested in the power of omega-3 fatty acids when psychiatrists I work with began prescribing the nutrient to depressed patients, finding it made positive improvements. Then, I started hearing about the potential benefits of omega-3s for arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. Could it be possible that one nutrient could provide so many benefits?

The connection between omega-3s and health was first observed in the 1970s. Scientists observed that Inuit populations in Greenland had a reduced rate of heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and other ailments even though they ate a high-fat and high-cholesterol diet. The researchers hypothesized that the type of fat — marine-derived — might play a role. Since then, study after study has confirmed that omega-3s in fish have a potent effect on reducing heart disease.

Omega-3s work several ways in the heart. They appear to prevent irregular heartbeat, reduce fatty plaques inside artery walls, decrease blood clotting, decrease triglycerides (blood fat), increase HDL (good cholesterol) and decrease inflammation.

“Omega-3 favorably affects a number of risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and at the top of the list is reducing the risk of sudden death from heart attack,” said Penny Kris Etherton, distinguished professor of nutrition at Pennsylvania State University.

But when it comes to the benefits of omega-3s, that may be just the tip of the iceberg!

Stethoscope among Omega-3 capsules

The two most potent omega-3 fatty acids are known as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). They’re usually found in a 50:50 or 60:40 ratio in fish. These fatty acids are essential nutrients and enter every cell membrane in the human body, serving as a cell lubricant, improving flexibility and communication between cells, and aiding cell metabolism and gene expression.

Researchers have shown that omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat found primarily in seafood, can improve your chances of living longer if you have heart disease. But its healing powers don’t stop there. Other organs may benefit.

While not an answer to every ailment, omega-3s have a positive impact from the womb to old age, with studies showing significant physiological and psychological benefits.

In fact, omega-3s are so important to human health, the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board recently set a minimum daily requirement for the first time. For years, we thought there was only one essential fatty acid, omega-6 fatty acid (found in vegetable and soybean oils), but now scientists have added omega-3 to the list of essential nutrients humans must get from their diets.

But as we’ve discovered in nutrition, balance is everything. The two essential fatty acids, omega-6 and omega-3, must be in harmony with each other for proper functioning. If one or the other is too high or too low, negative consequences result.

“If you eat too much omega-6, as is the case with today’s American diet, this promotes inflammation, blood clotting and constricts blood vessels,” said Artemis Simopoulos, president of the Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health and the author of “The Omega Diet” (Harper Collins, 1999). “When your cells contain equal amounts of omega-6 and omega-3, as was the case with early humans, this promotes less inflammation, less constrictive blood vessels and prevents clot formation, all important functions in preventing many diseases.”

The ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is the hottest debate among omega-3 researchers. If you followed the fatty-acid recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences and had an intake of 12 grams of omega-6 for women (17 grams for men), and an omega-3 fatty acid intake of 1.1 grams for women and 1.6 grams for men, your ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 would be approximately 10 to 1. But many omega-3 researchers say a ratio of 1 to 1, 2 to 1 or even 5 to 1 is ideal. If you’re a typical American, the ratio that you are actually ingesting could be as high as 12 to 1 or 15 to 1. Still others believe a specific ratio doesn’t matter. But, they all agree on the need to get more omega-3s.

Omega-3 concentrations are highest in the brain and nervous system. The fatty acids are necessary for optimal functioning of the neurons, protect cells, decrease cell death and improve nerve transmission.Emerging research indicates omega-3s may boost levels of the brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine, decreasing depression and violence.

“In 5 out of 6 of the clinical trials where people were given either a placebo or omega-3 fatty acids, on average, the symptoms of depression have been reduced by about 50 percent,” said Joseph Hibbeln, a psychiatrist at the National Institutes for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “This is true even when the subjects were already on antidepressants and failing to respond to them.”

Poached salmon

Hibbeln’s studies found an increase in depression, violence and homicides in countries where people eat less fish as compared with countries where people eat more fish. Omega-3s may even improve conditions such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Bone density may also be enhanced by omega-3 intake. “Osteoporosis is lower in populations who eat more fish, such as Asians, when compared to Europeans who eat more calcium-containing foods,” said Bruce Watkins, nutrition professor at Purdue University. The mechanisms aren’t completely understood, but omega-3s may help support bone formation.

Omega-3 may also benefit the skin.The Greenland studies with Inuit populations found they don’t suffer much from psoriasis, a skin disease that causes painful inflammation, redness and scales. Laboratory studies have found that omega-3s suppress the hyperproliferation of skin cells, which causes psoriasis to spread. When researchers tested the impact of omega-3s on people with psoriasis, after 10 weeks, 60 percent of subjects experienced a decrease in the area of skin affected by the condition and a decrease in cell proliferation and skin inflammation.

Apparently, the dose is essential. As the authors have said, while the work is promising, more research is needed to understand the mechanism and doses, and why it works for some but not others.

Just as omega-3s inhibit proliferation of skin cells which cause psoriasis, new research is finding it inhibits proliferation of cancer cells in the breast, prostate and colon. This is a new area of research that hasn’t been tested widely. But, a new study found breast cancer patients responded better to chemotherapy and the cancer was less likely to spread when patients were given omega-3 fatty acids. And, there is epidemiological evidence that men who eat more fish have a lower risk for prostate cancer. [Omega-3 in Fish May Reduce Breast Cancer Risk]

There is also evidence that omega-3s may help prevent Type 2 diabetes and improve the effects of diabetes by reducing insulin resistance.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved omega-3s for infant formulas because of the overwhelming evidence that it improves cognition and visual functioning in children. (A mother’s breast milk provides it naturally, especially when the mother regularly eats fish.)

Inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease may also improve with omega-3 supplementation.

The studies are just beginning. More research needs to be done to understand who will benefit most from higher levels of omega-3s in their diets. Your genetics and environment play large roles in responsiveness to omega-3s. And while studies are very promising for a wide range of illnesses, the optimal amount of omega-3 and the ideal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 are still hotly debated in the scientific community.

What isn’t debated is that adult women need at least1.1 grams of omega-3s daily, and adult men need 1.6 grams, according to the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board. Unfortunately, Americans don’t come even close to getting their omega-3 requirement. But they used to. Apparently, in humans’ earlier evolutionary stages, plenty of wild greens, lean animals which grazed on high omega-3 grasses, and fish high in omega-3s were consumed, and humans evolved a need for it.

But today, omega-3s have largely been replaced with omega-6s in vegetable oils, especially soybean oil, which is used in large doses in processed foods and fast foods. And no longer do our animals graze on high-omega-3 grasses, but on grains instead. This changes the fatty acid composition of the meat, to our detriment.

Most research studies have found a positive benefit with 500 to 1,000 milligrams of omega-3s per day.The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends all adults eat a variety of fish, particularly oily fish, at least twice weekly, which would provide an average of 500 mg daily. For patients with coronary artery disease, AHA recommends 1,000 mg daily, or double the seafood requirement(but never above 3,000 mg without a doctor’s supervision).

Omega-3 supplements

Supplements are effective and may be used instead of eating the fish. Due to environmental pollutants found in fish, experts recommend women of childbearing age keep fish intake to no more than 12 ounces per week. But omega-3 researchers believe the risk of not getting enough omega-3 in your diet outweighs the potential risk of pollutants.

There are possible dangers to taking too much omega-3 supplement. The human inflammatory response results from a person’s immune system working, or overworking — meaning omega-3s are actually reducing your immune response when they reduce inflammation.

This suppression of the immune system could be an explanation for the recent possible connection between prostate cancer and high omega-3-fatty acid in the bloodstream. However, that is a single study and the issue needs more research.

With high doses of omega-3s, there is also a slight increase in risk for hemorrhagic stroke or excessive bleeding. So, people with compromised immune systems should take large doses only with a doctor’s advice.

As usual, I have to underscore balance. It may be safer to stick with food sources and not supplements so you don’t go overboard and are more likely to stay in balance.

Studies of the vegetable source of omega-3, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), are promising and showing positive benefits. However, the nutrient — found in flaxseed oil, walnuts and canola oil — is not as potent as marine-derived omega-3 from fish. The body has to convert ALA into DHA and EPA, which means vegetable sources are less potent than fish oil. But, it’s still a great idea to include those sources in your diet.

KS