Why is losing weight so hard — and keeping it off even harder? Mechanisms in the brain can sabotage efforts to eat less and avoid unhealthy foods, according to research. However, the following strategies may help your body win its battle with your brain to control weight, which is essential for overall health and limiting stress on aching joints.
Recent research suggests that a dip in activity in the brain’s prefrontal cortex may make you crave high-calorie foods. In an experiment, neuroscientist Cassandra Lowe, Ph.D. of the University of Western Ontario, and colleagues let volunteers eat as much snack food as they wished. At a later session, a device was used to quiet prefrontal cortex activity in volunteers. When offered snacks again, their appetite for chocolate and potato chips spiked, while they shunned low-calorie snacks. (Studies also show that weight gain causes structural changes in the brain that further weaken resolve when choosing between a cheeseburger and a salad, creating a vicious cycle.)
Eating treats like pizza and cookies also activate “reward centers” in the brain, making you desire them more. “But we’re not purely driven by rewards,” says Lowe. “We have other processes that allow control over our behavior.”
STOP THE CYCLE
Exercise boosts activity in the prefrontal cortex, and Lowe showed in another study that volunteers’ appetites for unhealthy snacks decreased after brisk walking. She adds that practicing mindfulness meditation can help you stay focused on choosing healthy foods.
When you eat a meal, fat cells produce the hormone leptin, which travels to the hypothalamus in the brain. When you have consumed enough food to keep your body functioning, leptin delivers a signal to the hypothalamus: “Stop eating, you’re full.” However, brain cells may become less responsive to these signals, which can lead to overeating and weight gain, says endocrinologist Benjamin O’Donnell, MD, of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, in Columbus.
“You don’t feel the usual signals of satiety if you’re eating rapidly,” says Dr. O’Donnell. He suggests keeping a 30-second hourglass by your plate. When you take a bite, flip the timer and let it run out before you take another bite. Over time, you’ll learn the difference between feeling satisfied and stuffed, he says.
When you polish offa pint of Chunky Monkey ice cream at the end of a stressful day, blame your brain’s amygdala. Chronic stress causes it to signal the adrenal glands to churn out cortisol, which (among other roles) increases appetite, usually for high-calorie comfort foods. Studies link persistent stress to obesity, especially belly fat.
Find a way to relax – whether it’s meditation, yoga, prayer or fly fishing – and stick with it.
No, the whitening mouthwashes and toothpaste don’t work as advertised. The color of our teeth is actually determined by dentin, which is found below the enamel that is translucent. In other words, whitening paste only cleans the layer it covers, but it is impossible to solve the real problem.
Over the years, everyone’s teeth turn yellow. This can be caused by a variety of factors such as food or drinks that depigment, the passage of time, or genetic causes. The truth is that the Internet abounds with miracle cures and homemade to end this oral problem, such as whitening toothpaste.
Although they sound like a quick, effective and even reliable solution, the truth is that they are not. Studies affirm that these pastes do not bleach and do not achieve the effect they promise their buyers. What does exist are professional post bleaching pastes. These have the function of keeping the pigmentation in your teeth of a healthy tone.
WHAT IS RECOMMENDED FOR WHITER TEETH?
If whitening toothpaste isn’t doing the job, you could try a whitening treatment but see your dentist first. They can advise whether your teeth are suitable for whitening — enamel thickness, receding gums, existing sensitivity, tooth decay, restorations such as fillings, crown and veneers and any other oral diseases or conditions are all factors that need to be taken into account.
More than aesthetics
There’s more to looking after your oral health than just having a beautiful smile. Neglecting your teeth and gums can also affect your general health so here we look at what you need to know to give yourself the best chance of having a healthy mouth and body – for life.
Poor oral health is mostly preventable, yet it is one of the most common chronic health problems in this country.
Certain medications, teeth grinding, and careless brushing and flossing can all compromise the condition of our teeth and gums.
THE LINK BETWEEN ORAL HEALTH AND DISEASE
Most of the bacteria in your mouth — and other areas of your body are harmless but when you neglect your oral hygiene, where they cause infections that lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
With research pointing to oral bacteria and the inflammation associated with periodontitis — a severe form of gum disease as potential contributors to serious diseases, it pays to give your mouth some attention.
Your dentist is someone you’ll see on a regular basis over many years so it’s important to pick the one you feel comfortable with. When you see the same dentist year after year, you get a consistently high level of care that you get if you regularly change dentists. Don’t wait until you crack a tooth to find a dentist — an emergency is not the time to start your research.
Your hardworking teeth are susceptible to wear and tear and other problems. We find out what you need to look for to give them the best care possible.
1. SENSITIVE TEETH
If you experience occasional discomfort or pain when eating or drinking cold, hot, sweet and sticky or acidic foods, you probably have sensitive teeth. Even breathing in cold air or brushing your teeth can cause discomfort. Tooth sensitivity can cause occasional mild twinge or severe pain that lasts for hours. Don’t ignore it, though, because it can be a warning sign that something isn’t right.
Sensitive teeth can be caused by:
Incorrect brushing — excessive and overly vigorous brushing can wear away enamel exposing the underlying dentine, which contains nerve branches.
Tooth erosion and/or decay.
Tooth grinding — grinding your teeth will wear away enamel.
Some dental procedures can result in temporary sensitivity.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Gently brushing with desensitizing toothpaste can reduce sensitivity within a few weeks, in most cases. If you have used the toothpaste consistently for one month and your teeth are still sensitive, consult your dentist.
2. CRACKED TEETH
While some cracks and chips are obvious, a condition called ‘cracked tooth syndrome‘ might mean fractures are too small to be seen even on x-rays. Sometimes the crack is below the gum line. The first sign of cracked tooth syndrome sot is usually a sore or sensitive tooth somewhere in your mouth.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Looking after your teeth to preserve their strength so they are not so susceptible to fracture is your best plan of action. You can do this by. frying to eliminate grinding and clenching habits during waking hours. Relaxation exercises may help and See your dentist for a nightguard or splint if you think you’re a night-grinder. frying to prevent dental decay a having it treated early – heavily decayed and heavily filled teeth are weaker than healthy teeth. Not chewing hard objects or foods, like bones and ice cubes.
3. TEETH GRINDING
Teeth grinding is also known as bruxism and is excessive grinding, gnashing or teeth clenching. You could be grinding your teeth at night or unconsciously clenching your teeth during the day.
Watch out for signs like
Cracked tooth enamel
Excessive wear and tear on the teeth
Broken fillings and crowns
Strains on the joints and soft tissue of the jaw
WHAT CAUSES IT?
Anxiety, stress, or tension
Abnormal anatomy of the teeth or jaws that can cause an improper occlusion (or bite)
Medications and your teeth Certain medicines and some supplements can cause tooth erosion. either because they are acidic or because they reduce saliva, which means that your natural defense against acid won’t be as effective.
Some examples include:
Chewable Vitamin tablets
Frequent use of aspirin
Liquid iron supplements
Certain asthma and cough medications
YOU’LL KNOW YOU’RE DOING TEETH GRINDING IF…
Usually your sleeping partner — or even someone who sleeps in a nearby room — will first notice the grinding and gnashing sounds you make while you sleep.
Other signs include:
Headache, jaw or ear pain
Aching teeth, particularly on waking
Aching and/or stiffness of the face and temples
Tightness in jaw muscles
Clenching the jaw when angry, anxious or concentrating
Tooth sensitivity Broken, cracked or chipped teeth
Abnormal alignment of teeth caused by uneven tooth wear
Flattened and worn tooth surfaces
Bite marks on the tongue
Damage from chewing the inside of your cheek
Loose or wobbly teeth.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
If you think you grind your teeth, See your dentist as soon as possible for treatment. A bite splint that’s worn at night can help alleviate some of the symptoms. You can also try stress management therapy, relaxation techniques, and regular exercise. Biofeedback is another treatment option — electronic monitors are used to measuring tension in the jaw muscles, which in turn helps you learn how to relax muscles and reduce tension.
The rising level of obesity in the world is a huge concern and yet we’re struggling to reverse the trend. While the causes of this epidemic are multi-faceted, our tendency to overeat is definitely a key factor. We’ve managed to create an ‘obesogenic environment’ which drives us towards overeating so that our willpower alone just can’t cope. We grab a coffee and are asked if we want a pastry or a muffin. Indulging in a fast food meal means we’re given the opportunity to supersize. Even purchasing a magazine brings with it an offer of a family-sized bar of chocolate! It’s clear the environment we live in is not helping our drive to overeat and a lot needs to change. But as individuals, there are steps we can take to curb our overeating and take control of our diet and health.
LEARN ABOUT FOOD
It’s important to know about the food you’re eating – what does it contain? What nutrients will it offer your body? How many calories will it provide? Knowing that an apple will provide you with fiber, vitamin C, water, natural sugars and a little protein, whereas a biscuit will give you saturated fat, added sugars and twice as many calories, can help you to see your food differently and make better choices for yourself. We need food, it’s essential for life as it gives us the energy we need to function, but also the nutrients our body needs to stay healthy. Think about why you’re choosing a certain food – is it for nourishment or satisfaction, or both? We all need treats from time to time, but the bulk of our diet should be focused around foods rich in important nutrients – think good quality calories! Start checking labels and using the traffic light food labels on food packaging to make better choices.
TRACK YOUR CALORIES
Use a food diary to track what you eat each day. Logging exactly what you’re eating has been proven to help people change their eating habits. It’s incredibly powerful to see everything there in black and white. This is the best way to see where you can make some changes – either to cut calories or make healthier choices. It’s really easy to do using a calorie-counting mobile app such as Nutracheck – you can scan barcodes and track what you eat and drink on the go. It’s important to be completely honest and accurate – no missing that mid-afternoon biscuit, as your body will still be keeping an accurate record! By logging everything, you can check you are staying within an appropriate calorie allowance and getting a good balance of nutrients, rather than guessing at what and how much you’re eating.
MANAGE YOUR FOOD ENVIRONMENT
While it’s not possible for us to change the way our society revolves around food, we can take steps to change our own food environment as best we can. Keep treat foods hidden away, so they’re not the first thing you see when you open the cupboard or fridge – or better still, don’t have them in the house at all. Keep a large bowl of fresh and colorful fruit in a place you walk past regularly, to encourage you to eat more of it. Keep healthy snacks such as crudities handy in the fridge, and prepare pre-portioned out nuts so it’s easy to make healthier choices when hunger strikes. Plan your meals in advance and stock up your freezer with healthy dinners for when you’re in a rush. Try to prepare healthy lunches and snacks to take to work with you – it’s easier to avoid the vending machine if you’ve got food prepared.
GET ENOUGH SLEEP
Striking the right balance in your life is so important for your overall energy levels and motivation to eat well. Getting good quality and enough shut-eye is vital! Neglecting your sleep needs can leave you feeling foggy, lethargic and moody, which can all increase the chances of you reaching for sugar-laden snacks to pick you up. When you’re tired, you also feel less inspired to cook dinner in the evening, increasing the likelihood of you ordering a takeaway! Try to get at least 6-8 hours of sleep a night and stick to a routine of going to bed and rising at a similar time. This will improve the quality of your sleep and boost your overall energy levels and motivation to eat well
PRACTICE MINDFUL EATING
It’s easy to grab a sandwich and eat it in the car, or pick up a couple of biscuits let over from a meeting without thinking. This kind of eating can lead to overconsumption as half the time we don’t even remember what we’ve eaten. A couple of interesting studies by the University of Surrey found that how we eat and view our food, significantly impacts how much we consume across the day. Researchers found that participants eating a pasta pot labeled as a ‘snack’ standing up, versus eating the same pasta pot as a ‘meal’ sitting down, led to the consumption of more food and calories later in the day. Another study found that eating a cereal bar while walking around, versus sitting down, leads to the consumption of more food in a subsequent taste test. This suggests that eating on the move and viewing food as a snack can mean we don’t fully register it – which encourages us to eat more than we need to across the day.
ADDRESS YOUR EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS
Pay attention to your personal triggers – do you know that you always reach for food when you’re feeling sad? Or do you constantly open the fridge when bored? Has it become a habit to graze on the sofa while watching TV in the evening? Identifying your eating triggers is the first step to beating them as you’ll be more aware of what you’re doing. There are distraction techniques you can use when you’re feeling blue or bored – it’s all about replacing the habit with a non-food related activity. Reprogramming your brain takes time and effort – remember that it takes three weeks for a new habit to form. But deciding in advance what course of action you are going to take instead is crucial – keep repeating it until it becomes your natural healthier response.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that involves lifestyle modification, adequate nutrition, physical exercise and the use of drugs. For its treatment, it is essential that people learn to manage it correctly with the aim of having a good quality of life and avoiding possible complications.
Mercedes Galindo, the advisor to the Diabetes Foundation, offers us a series of recommendations to maintain optimal control with diabetes:
1. Learning to live with diabetes
It is important to know what diabetes is, the main cares and to make the necessary changes for good control. The person with diabetes and their family members should receive diabetes education and emotional support. Stressing the importance of the role of the diabetes educator and the commitment to the education of the person as an indispensable tool to facilitate self-care, adherence to treatment and metabolic control.
2. Adapting the diet
Diet is an essential part of diabetes management and helps to delay or prevent complications. The diet of the person with diabetes is similar to that of any other person: food should be distributed throughout the day, i.e. 3 to 5 meals according to personal characteristics and treatment guidelines (breakfast, mid-morning, lunch, snack and dinner), avoiding foods with a high amount of carbohydrates or that are quickly absorbed, as they raise glucose considerably. Taking care of your diet is part of your treatment, therefore, you can not talk about types of food and quantities without also talking about the physical activity you do, the medicines you take or whether or not you suffer from other diseases such as cholesterol or hypertension. In short, it is a set of factors that must be considered globally and that make each person with diabetes have a unique and personalized diet, which must be made with the support of the healthcare team.
3. Maintain adequate hydration
People with diabetes have an increased risk of dehydration because an elevated blood glucose level causes the kidneys to try to eliminate it in the form of urine. For this reason, people with diabetes tend to be more thirsty when hyperglycemia occurs. Water should be the basis of hydration for a person with diabetes. There are other drinks that help to improve hydration such as natural juices or without added sugars, “light” or “zero” soft drinks that contain sweeteners instead of sugar and therefore do not increase blood sugar, sports drinks or infusions, but always on an occasional basis.
4. Regular exercise
Exercise is one of the cornerstones of diabetes management and prevents associated complications. Its benefits occur at many other levels: it improves blood pressure, cholesterol levels and cardiovascular function. The type of exercise and intensity should be adapted to the age and physical condition of each person with diabetes.
5. Frequent and structured glucose testing
The analysis of blood glucose levels carried out by the person or a relative makes it possible to know the blood glucose figures at any time and to detect possible acute complications, hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) or hyperglycemia (high blood glucose). It is recommended to carry out between 5 and 6 controls a day, before each meal and before going to bed in order to have information and to adjust the insulin pattern or the treatment in general, if necessary. If exercise is practiced, it is recommended to perform an analysis before the beginning of the activity, some extra measurement while practicing exercise of long duration, as well as once finished.
6. Act quickly when faced with hypoglycemia
It is common during hypoglycemia to eat uncontrollably and voraciously. This leads to a total intake of carbohydrates greater than the grams indicated, which is usually the cause of a rebound or hyperglycemia in the hours after.
7. Avoid the complications of diabetes
It is important to keep your blood glucose numbers at the optimal level before and after meals. Blood pressure and cholesterol levels also need to be controlled.
8. Have ophthalmological check-ups
It is essential that people with diabetes have regular check-ups, especially of the state of the retina, to prevent, detect and successfully treat any type of complication.
9. Taking care of your feet
People with diabetes may have impaired sensation and circulation. It is important to carry out a daily inspection of the feet checking the absence of injuries and to visit the podiatrist regularly.
10. Better adherence to medications
Medication is a part of the treatment which, together with diet and exercise, are fundamental pillars. For this reason, it is necessary to agree and follow the recommendations that are prescribed together with health professionals. Insulin is the pharmacological basis in the treatment of type 1 diabetes, and different oral drugs and/or insulin in type 2 diabetes.
Tempted to splash out on the latest anti-aging elixir? Are your shelves packed with supplements that promise to ease aches and pains? You’re not the only one. According to data, US women spend $70,294 on their appearance in their lifetime. And that’s not all – 23 percent of us would consider youth-boosting cosmetic surgery, while 67 percent would opt for a non-invasive treatment. But what if the fountain of youth wasn’t lurking on the beauty and health counters but among the details of your exercise regime? Sound too good to be true? Actually, it’s not.
THE EXERCISE EFFECT
In recent years, science has shown that many of the physical effects we once thought were caused by aging – weaker muscles, wider waists, easy-to damage bones – are partially the result of inactivity. Indeed, sporty people have thicker bones than those who sweat less, and they also have longer telomeres (the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes, which protect DNA from deterioration and get shorter as you age). ‘You can lose up to 10 percent muscle mass every decade after 50, but exercise can counteract it,’ says Dr. Mary Robinson MD, consultant physician in Sports Medicine. ‘Older people can get the same response to exercise that a much younger person might have.’
WHY RUNNING MATTERS
Clearly, exercise helps in the quest for a youthful body but does the type of activity you do matter? A bank of science suggests it does. In fact, the latest research published in the European Heart Journal reveals that running offers big benefits when it comes to building an ageless body. The German scientists compared different types of workouts – endurance training (distance running), HIIT training (interval running) and resistance training (circuit exercise on gym machines) – and found that running slowed or reversed cellular aging, even when weight training did not.
‘Metabolically, running is really good for you,’ adds Dr. Robinson. ‘It’s important to maintain heart- and lung-based fitness as you age and running is great for the cardiovascular system.’ Further science shows that satellite cells, which help repair and regenerate muscle tissue, are hardier among runners. Plus, runners’ muscles are more densely packed with motor units (the muscles’ control mechanisms, which can reduce in number as we age) than sedentary types.
GIVE ME STRENGTH
It’s important not to discount other forms of activity. ‘After women go through the menopause, they lose the protective effect that hormones have on bone strength, and running can help boost bone density,’ adds Dr. Robinson. ‘However, bones like to be loaded in different directions, so supplementing some runs with resistance exercise or Pilates is a really good idea.’ Been avoiding pounding the pavements because you believe it can cause boob drooping, saggy jowls or joint pain? Let’s put those rumors to rest: ‘Running gets a bad reputation for causing things such as joint pain when it’s simply a matter of being holistically strong by complementing runs with strength work,’ explains Dr. Robinson. And as for saggy skin? ‘There are some things we need to be mindful of, such as ensuring our bra fits, because running can cause some stretching of the ligaments around the breast, but the rest simply isn’t true.’
YOUR RUN-YOUNGER PLAN
Did you know that you can boost heart, lung, muscle and bone strength as efficiently as a younger person? With the right training, running could hold the key to turning back the clock. Follow this expert advice…
START SLOWLY Whether you’re new to running or returning to the sport, it’s important to start slowly and build up the mileage gradually. Programs such as the Couch to 5K challenge and park run events make really great goals.
RECOVER PROPERLY You could get away with things in your 20s that you can’t now, and bouncing back from exercise is one of them. Aim to do fewer run sessions per week and schedule in a bit more time for recovery than you used to – running every other day is sensible.
RUN UPHILL Running uphill is a great way to build strength and balance. We already know that people lose muscle strength as they age but many forget that we also lose balance. Keep challenging your balancing ability by building proprioception skills through running off-road or uphill.
STRENGTH TRAIN Resistance exercise offers even more benefits for older runners than it does for younger ones – it can help maintain muscle mass, as well as ease the stress on joints. Add leg and core exercises – squats, planks, deadlifts, push-ups and lunges – to your training.
STAY FLEXIBLE Everyone’s muscles and tendons lose elasticity with time, and you may find that you feel particularly tight around the backs of your legs, glutes and shoulders after a run. Stretching and yoga can help.
A global study showed that joint pain affects more than 40% of the population aged 18 onwards, severely impacting their ability to work, exercise and go about their daily routines. For almost half of us, joint pain is a weekly occurrence, making it hard to spend time on hobbies and to enjoy the shared passions that really matter with our friends and family.
Worryingly, the study also reveals that about 47% of the population with joint pain hide it from their loved ones, often waiting for days before taking action to relieve their pain.
What is joint pain?
It is pain that arises from problems within the joint. A joint is a junction between two bones. There are various types of joints, but the ones we are all familiar with are called synovial joints, which are joints that facilitate movement. The name derives from the word ‘synovium,’ which is the lining of the joint which allows it to move smoothly. Movement is aided by the production of synovial fluid, which is the lubricating fluid found at the joint.
Who suffers from joint pain?
Unfortunately, everybody will suffer from joint pain at some point in their lives. This can vary from minor, temporary pain, like knee aches from a game of football with the kids, to more persistent or debilitating pain, which may require medical attention.
In general, the older we are, the more likely we are to suffer from joint pain. This is because, as we age, our bones may become thinner due to the loss of calcium and other minerals. Other factors that contribute to joint pain include joints becoming stiffer and less flexible, loss of cartilage in hip and knee joints, and reduced muscle strength.
What are the causes of joint pain?
Joint pain can be caused by wear and tear around the joint, or ‘degenerative’ joint pain. It can also be due to injuries.
Also, there are two main categories of diseases that can cause joint pain. Osteoarthritis is the primary condition associated with degenerative joint pain, occurring when the cushioning material or cartilage between joint breaks down to cause pain, stiffness and swelling.
In comparison, there are an array of conditions which can result in inflammatory joint pain, such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout. The level of joint pain very much depends on its cause.
When is joint pain a problem?
In many cases, joint pain is temporary and goes away once the body has had time to heal. However, if the joint pain or problem is substantial enough to impair our function or if the problem persists, we should seek medical attention.
What are the longterm effects of joint pain?
If the pain is severe or causes ongoing functional difficulties, it may become a disability, resulting in long-term impairment.
Suffering from any type of joint pain can have a significant impact on our quality of life – the discomfort and reduced function can affect our ability to easily go about our daily routine, prevent us from enjoying activities with friends and family or even from making a living. All this can take a toll on us both physically and emotionally. Joint pain can also have an indirect effect on the economy in terms of affecting employee productivity, impacting companies and organizations on a broader scale.
How can joint pain be managed?
There are a range of steps we can take to relieve ourselves from the everyday joint pains that many of us experience. Paracetamol is a recommended form of treatment for short-term joint pain and is often used by patients as a first step, effectively reducing pain for between 4-6 hours when taken at the recommended dose. Extended-release paracetamol can also be useful in pain management as the slow-release formula reduces the number of pills people need to take a day, providing both immediate and sustained pain relief for several hours.
Other methods such as massage, plasters, gels or other topicals (medicines applied on the surface of the body) are also available to help ease joint pain.
The way joint pain is managed is dependent on the severity and cause of the pain. It is also down to the patient’s personal experience; often, patients will experience varying degrees of pain, and it is up to the sufferer to determine just how much pain or discomfort they are willing to put up with.
What are the challenges or misconceptions associated with paracetamol use?
Paracetamol is one of the most widely used of all medicines and is commonly available. Because of this prevalence, individuals may be unaware of, or occasionally, may overlook how much paracetamol they should be taking, and may consequently exceed the recommended dose.
Using all medicines carries a certain degree of risk and so it is important to ensure that we always read and follow the label. When taken at the recommended dose – that is, 500 mg to 1,000 mg every 4 to 6 hours as needed (but not exceeding 4 g a day) for adults and children over 12 years – paracetamol has a low rate of side effects and rarely causes serious interactions with other medicines. This is particularly important as people grow older and may use multiple types of medication at the same time.
Another challenge associated with paracetamol in pain management is the persistent myth amongst certain individuals that paracetamol causes dependency or “accumulate” in the body, a misconception which may prevent them from managing their joint pain appropriately. In actual fact, studies have shown that, when taken as directed, 85-90% of ingested paracetamol is expelled from the body within 24 hours in most healthy people.
What should I do if my joint pain doesn’t go away?
Joint pain is a problem that many of us will suffer from at some point, but one which can usually be managed easily. If our joint pain persists, seek advice from our doctor to ensure that your joint pain is managed effectively and appropriately.
One of the vital functions of B vitamins is to help us turn food into energy. However, as recent research shows, eating a range of foods rich in B vitamins can have substantial benefits, throughout our life, from the cradle to a healthy old age.
Way back in 1970 the first study to conclusively confirm the link between folate (vitamin B9) deficiency and neural-tube defects such as spina bifida was published. This led to the now widespread practice of folic acid supplementation before and during pregnancy. However, emerging research points to lesser-known benefits of some of the other B vitamins during pregnancy.
One such vitamin is vitamin B3, known as niacin, and found in fish, beans, nuts and mushrooms. An Australian study on mice found that a higher intake of B3 may reduce the incidence of miscarriages and birth defects in specific cases. The research followed observations of major birth defects in human babies with a specific genetic mutation that affects the body’s ability to make a molecule called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD). The team’s subsequent studies on mice discovered that added B3 in the diet during gestation prevented the malformations in offspring. However, more human studies would be needed.
In the UK, scientists at the University of Southampton have also studied the impact of vitamin B3 during pregnancy, and found that women with a higher blood level of a particular type of B3 called nicotinamide (one of the components of NAD), were less likely to have babies with eczema than those with lower levels.
While more research is needed to determine the safe dosage and any possible side effects of B3 during pregnancy, current advice remains to eat foods rich in B vitamins and to take multivitamins specially formulated for pregnancy.
The importance of a good balance of B vitamins was also highlighted by a study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition, which found that pregnant women with high levels of folate but low levels of vitamin B12 were significantly more likely to develop gestational diabetes. The study mostly observed this nutrient imbalance in vegetarian women, particularly of Asian descent. (Vitamin B12 is found in foods such as meat and fish. Vegetarian sources include fermented foods such as kefir, kimchi and Marmite, and some types of mushroom.)
Anti-aging and Mental Health
A 2016 paper describes vitamin B12 deficiency as a “missed opportunity to prevent dementia and stroke”; and research certainly shows a strong link between a good intake of B vitamins and the prevention of dementia and mental deterioration as we age. For example, a study from France evaluated the diets of around 1,300 people and found that lower intake of folate was associated with a higher risk of dementia. In the UK, a study sponsored by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and carried out over four years found that low vitamin B6 was linked to a 3.5 times higher risk of accelerated cognitive decline, and on February 2017 a review of studies by the University of Manchester found that high doses of B vitamins significantly reduced symptoms of schizophrenia.
So why are B vitamins linked so strongly with anti-aging and mental health? Some of the answers can be found from a major clinical trial undertaken at Oxford University in 2010, and findings on homocysteine — an amino acid derived from protein-rich foods such as meat, fish and eggs. Although homocysteine plays an important role in many metabolic functions, high levels are associated with cardiovascular disease and increased risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
However, a good dietary supply of B vitamins, particularly B6, folate and B12, as found in foods such as almonds, eggs, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, lean meat, fish and dairy products, can keep homocysteine in check. Data from the Oxford University study show that B vitamin supplementation for two years improved mental performance in people with high levels of homocysteine, and also that supplementation reduced brain shrinkage in areas particularly affected by Alzheimer’s disease by 30 percent.
Interestingly, there appears to be an added advantage to eating good fats with your B vitamins. Two studies found that the action of B vitamins to improve the mental health in the elderly was much more dramatic when the participants had good levels of omega-3 fats in their bloodstream. This is a good reason to combine those oily fish, nuts and seeds with whole grains and leafy vegetables. (For an exemplar serving suggestion: think of salmon, brown rice and spinach! Or a vegetable stir fry with nuts on brown rice!)
One area of research where the picture is less clear is that relating to lung health.
Many people may have taken fright at recent headlines claiming that vitamin B supplements increased the risk of lung cancer in men. However, what those headlines did not mention was that the risk was specifically found in male smokers.
The story related to the findings of a study published in August 2017, which analyzed data from a 10-year study of around 78,000 people. The analysis found that male smokers taking 20 milligrams (mg) of vitamin B6 per day for 10 years were three times more likely to go on to develop lung cancer, while male smokers taking 55 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B12 per day for 10 years were around four times more likely to develop the disease.
It should be noted that the study found that only smokers were affected and that they were taking high doses of B vitamins: for adult men, the NHS recommends 1.4 mg of vitamin B6 and 1.5 mcg of B12.
Further research is underway to find out why the B vitamins may have this effect, and there is no evidence that a diet rich in B vitamin foods has the same impact.
There is also some evidence to show that B vitamins protect the lungs against pollution, in particular, a type of pollution known as particulate matter, which comprises tiny particles that can enter the bloodstream via the lungs, and cause damage to DNA, leading to inflammation. One Canadian study found that a combination of folate, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 protected the lungs by preventing the particles from causing damage to DNA.
If you are concerned about your own vitamin levels, tests for deficiencies (e.g. vitamin B12) can be carried out via a GP or nutritional therapist. It is always recommended to seek professional advice as not all individuals will need to supplement above the dietary intake.
Found in products ranging from soap to snacks and labeled under AKAs such as palmate or sodium lauryl sulfate, palm oil is controversial vegetable oil. Not only have great swathes of Indonesian and Malaysian forests been destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations, but subsequent deforestation has also endangered the orangutan.
Along with its environmentally unfriendly reputation, the health impact of palm oil has also been questioned. As a versatile saturated fat, palm oil is found in various foods including peanut butter, ice cream and biscuits. In fact, it is responsible for 30 percent of the world’s vegetable oil supply. Despite this, however, some products such as nut butter are now being specifically manufactured and marketed as “palm oil-free”. Consumers could be forgiven for wondering why.
It is easy to assume that any move away from palm oil is driven by health concerns; usually, when a product is free from any ingredient it is for health reasons. However, the companies we spoke to said that the move had been to support sustainability. This has been, in part, due to a significant push from environmentally- aware consumers. One manufacturer of palm oil-free peanut butter explained that while palm oil can make the end product more consistent, as a company they were aware of environmental concerns and so now produce two types of peanut butter: one made with sustainable palm oil and one that is palm oil-free.
Health Benefits A rich source of saturated fat (called palmitic acid), palm oil has, perhaps unsurprisingly, divided opinion as to whether it can be considered a healthy choice. However, it does contain micronutrients with associated health benefits. Palm oil contains tocotrienols, powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties, that belong to the vitamin E family — although red palm oil (which has not been bleached) contains more antioxidants because of its color. Consumption of tocotrienols is thought to lower risk of cancer, stroke and oxidative stress. For the palm oil industry, this potentially bodes well as palm oil’s total vitamin E content is made from 70 percent tocotrienols. In addition, one human trial has demonstrated that red palm oil helps down-regulate inflammation in patients with liver cirrhosis, indicating other possible health benefits. Because of its color, red palm oil is high in carotenoids. These are pigments that are associated with a reduced risk of cancers and eye disease, because of their light-absorbing properties Furthermore, certain carotenoids can be converted to vitamin A, and so it has been suggested that red palm oil supplementation could be a potential intervention in reducing the incidence of vitamin A deficiency at global levels. Red palm oil is also high in phytosterols; which are occasionally known as plant cholesterol. This compound has been shown to be remarkably similar to cholesterol at a chemical level, and studies have found that it can regulate cholesterol metabolism by increasing absorption efficiency, biosynthesis and excretion of LDL (so-called ‘bad’ cholesterol), although these findings were limited to supplements and have not been shown to have cardioprotective effects. Other research has been dedicated to finding the effect of red palm oil on sperm motility in a diabetic population. The results have been rather encouraging in animal models and are another example of the possible health benefits of red palm oil.’
Health Deficits However, there is conflicting evidence too, as other research has indicated that palm oil could actually increase the risk of inflammation. One study on mice found that when different oils were added to mouse feed when compared to intake of milk fat, rapeseed oil, or sunflower oil, palm oil resulted in higher levels of inflammation. It is worth noting that this particular study was on fat-rich diets (the lipid content of each diet, apart from the control which was a low-fat diet, was set at 22.4 percent), but the findings were enough to flag up palm oil as being potentially more harmful than the other fats tested. However, this was one study with one set of conditions, and so further studies would be needed before drawing any conclusions. In the meantime, however, it is worth noting that in the Western diet, palm oil is almost exclusively found in processed foods that may be less healthy overall — as it is heavily-processed foods that have been associated with diseases such as cancer. But it is for the possible association with inflammation that the Human Food Project writes: “In either case, thinking twice about palm oil might please the orangutans”.
The World Health Organisation defines probiotics as live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host. In other words, probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that when taken, give your body good health benefits. Probiotics supplements that are now widely available mainly support the digestive system. However, researchers are still trying to figure out how exactly probiotics work to benefit the body. It is also unsure which probiotics are most helpful for specific health problems and what the ideal amount or dose is taken should be. That said, there is evidence to show that some probiotics can help prevent diarrhea caused by antibiotics and diarrhea caused by infections; probiotics are also known to alleviate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and help restore a healthy balance between “good” and “bad” bacteria in the gut.
2. PROBIOTICS ARE COMMONLY REFERRED TO AS “GOOD BACTERIA”
Although bacteria are notoriously known for causing disease, some bacteria are dubbed “good” bacteria because they help ensure healthy functioning of the body. Lots of “good” bacteria live in our digestive system, and they aid us in the process of digesting food, destroying disease-causing microorganisms and producing vitamins. Most of the microorganisms found in probiotics supplements are the same or similar to those good bacteria found naturally in our bodies.
3. YOU DON’T JUST GET THEM FROM SUPPLEMENTS
Probiotics don’t just exist in neatly packaged sachets or bottles found at the pharmacy. Certain foods are known to be rich in probiotics. Probiotics can be found in many fermented products, for example, yogurt, kefir, kimchi, tempeh, pickles and more.
4. NOT ALL PROBIOTICS SUPPLEMENTS ARE THE SAME
There are a couple of things that can differ greatly from one probiotics supplement to another. These include colony forming units (CFUs), suitability for children, required mode of storage (some need to be stored in the freezer) and the number of strains of bacteria. Different strains of bacteria give different health benefits, but generally, there are two groups of bacteria commonly found in probiotics: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. If you are unsure which probiotics are best for you, seek the advice of your physician.
5. PREBIOTICS ARE NOT PROBIOTICS
Probiotics supplements are often packaged with prebiotics, and for good reason. Prebiotics are nondigestible food substances that support the growth of “good” bacteria in the digestive system. When prebiotics are combined with probiotics, they are known as synbiotics.
Here are some simple tips to curb your sweet tooth:
1. Choose cream or white-hued crockery
One study published in the Journal of Sensory Studies found that participants thought hot chocolate tasted sweeter in a cream-coloured cup. The article also shared that people thought strawberry mousse appeared to be sweeter on a white plate than a black one.
2. Eat a protein-rich breakfast
A protein-rich breakfast promotes satiety and reduces brain activity that compels cravings, so you won’t feel as compelled to eat high-fat or high-sugar foods later in the day, says one US study.
3. Pick a decaf drink
The bitterness of tea and coffee makes one more likely to reach for sugar or a sweet treat, and a recent study by Cornell University in the US also found that caffeine tends to hamper your ability to detect sweetness, making you want to load up on sugar.
4. Add cinnamon and vanilla
If you can’t ditch your morning cuppa, try adding cinnamon or vanilla. Just as how adding spices and herbs to dishes help you cut down on adding salt, the two fragrant ingredients are often associated with sweetness, tricking your body into thinking a food or drink is sweeter than it really is.
5. Be aware of your stress levels
Sweetened beverages reportedly help suppress stress levels, which is why we crave them when deadlines are looming. Something to think about before downing that next cup of sweetened tea or soda.
6. Eat dark chocolate
If you love chocolate, have some of it, but go for the dark variety. Besides the rich chocolaty flavor, healthy fats and antioxidants it delivers, dark chocolate supposedly makes you feel more satisfied, so you’re less likely to go for sweet, salty and fatty foods afterwards.
7. Avoid Processed foods
Even if they don’t taste sweet, there’s a lot of sugar hidden in these snacks, which add to their addictive quality. Eating them often desensitizes you to the taste and effects of both salt and sugar, so don’t make it a regular habit.
8. Go to sleep
As you stay up into the later hours of the night, your self-control for salty and sweet foods goes down, shares a report published in Obesity. These unnecessary calories then get stored as fat and contribute to weight gain. If you have trouble sleeping, switch to warmer lights and put away your gadgets. Also, skip the midnight snack as it might lead to indigestion and poor quality of sleep.