One Thing Pumpkins Really May Scare Away: Diabetes

October 31, 2014 7:39 am 0 comments

jackolantern_770Boo! OK, maybe Halloween is no longer scary for people of a certain age, but researchers at the University of Nottingham are convinced that pumpkins may have the power to stave off one thing: diabetes. Futurity reports that researchers have found that pumpkins’ fruit pulp, oil from ungerminated seeds, and protein from germinated seeds have hypoglycemic properties that could help our bodies maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Dr Gary Adams, from the university’s School of Health Sciences, has this to say: “There are many different types of insulins available to treat diabetes, but there are still physiological consequences for such use. Alternatives are, therefore, required and this includes herbal preparations as well as dietary plants in the form of curcubitaceae (pumpkin).”

High Protein Diet Keeps Blood Pressure Low

October 29, 2014 8:13 am 0 comments

imagesCan a high protein diet help to keep your blood pressure low? Researchers at Boston University think so, and their conclusion is based on data from the long-running Framingham Offspring Study. A BU Research story reports that the researchers found that adults who consumed more protein, whether from dairy, eggs, meat, or plant sources, had lower blood pressure levels after four years of follow-up than those who ate less protein. People with the highest protein intake—on average 102 grams a day—saw the biggest benefit, with a 40 percent lower risk of developing high blood pressure. The researchers also found that when the higher protein-eaters ate lots of fiber, the benefit was even more dramatic: a 40 to 60 percent reduction in risk of developing high blood pressure. While plant proteins did have a slightly stronger benefit, all types of proteins seemed to work. Lynn Moore, the study author and co-director of the nutrition and metabolism graduate programs at BU’s School of Medicine, says dietary variety is important, so people should try to eat protein from many different sources. For example, a tuna fish sandwich for lunch, a small handful of nuts or yogurt as a snack, and grilled chicken for dinner is a better choice than 17 eggs or 5 protein bars.

The New York Times’ Seven-Minute Workout

October 28, 2014 10:17 am 0 comments
From the New York Times

From the New York Times

No, you don’t need exotic machineries; you don’t even need a gym. Here’s what you need: a chair, a wall, and gravity, which is widely available at no cost. Wait, you also need seven minutes. That’s how long it takes, according to New York Times Health columnist Gretchen Reynolds, to stay is shape, but you have to be willing to really put out during those seven minutes. Writing in the Times, Reynolds gives us 12 exercises recommended by Chris Jordan, the director of exercise physiology at the Human Performance Institute in Orlando, Fla. Jordan says the exercises should be performed in rapid succession, allowing 30 seconds for each, with a 10-second rest between them. He recommends an intensity of 8 on a discomfort scale of 1 to 10. He also says the 12-exercise workout benefits from alternating an exercise that emphasizes the large muscles in the upper body with those in the lower body. Seven minutes of pain, and you’re done. Ready to start? Here you go.

How To Lose Weight: Stay Cold and Hungry

October 27, 2014 10:07 am 0 comments

There are some very pleasimagesant ways to keep the weight off–playing tennis or swimming–and then there are two much less pleasant conditions that researchers at Yale believe could do the same thing, by turning white fat (bad) into brown fat (good.) Cold and hunger. Yes, staying cold and hungry could keep us thin. Maybe.  Yale News reports that researchers at the Yale School of Medicine have uncovered a molecular process in the brain known to control eating that transforms white fat into brown fat, and yes, the same process impacts how much energy we burn and how much weight we can lose. The researchers learned how energy-storing white fat, the flabby stuff that’s bad for our health, turns into energy-burning brown fat, the kind of fat you don’t see, but helps you burn energy, keeping you thin. When the researchers stimulated the fat browning process in mice they found that it protected the animals from becoming obese, even while they ate a high-fat diet. “We observed that food deprivation dominates over cold exposure in neural control of white fat browning,” say the study authors. “This regulatory system may be evolutionarily important as it can reduce heat production to maintain energy balance when we are hungry.”

Knowing How You Really Feel Is Good For Your Health

October 24, 2014 7:39 am 0 comments

images-1How do you feel, really? And why, do you think, you feel that way? If you can answer those questions in a thoughtful, honest way, you’re probably in good shape, physically. That’s a recent conclusion from researchers at Brown University, who attempted to correlate “dispositional mindfulness” with seven indicators of cardiovascular health. What’s dispositional mindfulness? The researchers define it as an awareness of present feelings and experiences. A Brown University news release reports that the researchers asked 382 participants to answer the 15 questions of the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), which rates answers on a six-point scale from “almost always” to “almost never” include “I find it difficult to stay focused on what’s happening in the present” and “I tend not to notice feelings of physical tension or discomfort until they really grab my attention.” The participants were also rated on seven indicators of cardiovascular health: smoking avoidance, physical activity, body mass index, fruit and vegetable consumption, cholesterol, blood pressure, and fasting blood glucose. Ready? The envelope please… The researchers found that people with high MAAS scores had an 83 percent greater prevalence of good cardiovascular health, compared to those with relatively low MAAS scores. High vs. low MAAS scores were associated with significantly higher cardiovascular health on four of the seven individual indicators: BMI, physical activity, fasting glucose, and avoiding smoking. But wait: higher mindfulness did not associate with higher scores for blood pressure or cholesterol, perhaps, the researchers think, because neither of those health indicators directly affect how someone feels in a typical moment, whereas smoking, obesity (and closely related fasting glucose), and physical activity are all much more explicitly evident experiences for the self. Wait, there’s more: fruit and vegetable consumption, an indicator of diet quality, showed a positive association with higher MAAS scores, but with too wide a range of uncertainty to be considered statistically significant.

Computer Brain Games Are For Losers

October 23, 2014 10:42 am 0 comments

imgresBrain games, the computer based mental challenges that promise to boost the brain power of older adults, are an excellent way to waste time, but they do almost nothing to make us smarter. That’s the opinion of 69 scholars, including many cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists from around the world. A Stanford University news release reports that the scholars, who have jointly issued a statement expressing their skepticism, say that while people who play computer brain games may improve their scores on those games, there is very little evidence that any improvement in game playing transfers to more complex skills that really matter, like thinking, problem solving and planning, according to the scholars. Wait, there’s more. The scholars argue that the time spent on computer games takes away from other activities like reading, socializing, gardening and exercising that may benefit cognitive functions. The statement, known as the Stanford-Planck consensus statement has this to say: “We object to the claim that brain games offer consumers a scientifically grounded avenue to reduce or reverse cognitive decline when there is no compelling scientific evidence to date that they do. … The promise of a magic bullet detracts from the best evidence to date, which is that cognitive health in old age reflects the long-term effects of healthy, engaged lifestyles.”

Even Intense Exercise Gets Boost From Music

October 22, 2014 8:36 am 0 comments

images-1Sure, listening to music can make moderate exercise like jogging seem a little easier, but what can it do for seriously intense exercise? That’s was the question asked by researchers at McMaster University, who have spent years studying the rewards of interval training. Gretchen Reynolds reports in the New York Times that the researchers worked with 20 young people who had no experience with high intensity exercise. Pedaling on stationary bikes, the exercisers did four 30-second bouts of “all-out” pedaling, each of which was followed by four minutes of recovery time. Reynolds tells us that throughout the all-out intervals, researchers tracked the volunteers’ pedaling power output and asked them how hard the exercise felt and whether they were having fun. Next, the researchers made playlists of the volunteers’ favorite songs, and sent the cyclists back for two more intervals, one while listening to their favorite music, one with no music. The envelope please…. Both groups found the ordeal equally difficult, but when it came to power output, those who had been listening to music won the day. Easily. Read more in the New York Times.

Exercise Pain Predicts Broader Pain Threshold

October 21, 2014 7:47 am 1 comment

images-1How much you hurt after exercise is a good predictor of how much you hurt in life, according to research conducted at the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine, where they know a thing or two about pain. Researchers have known for years that exercise generally helps us tolerate pain. They even have a name for the phenomenon; it’s called “exercise-induced hypoanalgesia” or (EIH), but you knew that. Researchers have also known that some people respond better to the pain-diminishing influence of exercise than others do. What researchers didn’t know is whether the same insensitivity to pains carries over into the rest of our lives. Now they do. Maybe. A Rutgers news release reports that the researchers found that rats displaying the least sensitivity, after running on a treadmill were also less likely to develop pain after a nerve injury. What good is that? The researchers think it might be useful in patient profiling, and may help treat people who suffer from chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia, migraine, chronic low back pain and temporomandibular disorder.

Happy Walk Can Lift Our Mood

October 20, 2014 8:16 am 0 comments

You can sing hallelujawalkingh, come on get happy, or you may be able to get happy just by walking a happy walk. That, at least, is the suggestion of research conducted recently at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. How do they know? Because when researchers asked subjects to walk in a more depressed style, with less arm movement and their shoulders rolled forward, those subjects reported being in a worse mood than subjects who were asked to walk a spritely happy walk. A CIFAR news release reports that the researchers showed subjects a list of positive and negative words, such as “pretty,” “afraid” and “anxious” and then asked them to walk on a treadmill while they measured their gait and posture. A screen showed the subjects a gauge that moved left or right depending on whether their walking style was more depressed or happier. But the subjects didn’t know what the gauge was measuring. Researchers told some subjects to try and move the gauge left, while others were told to move it right. The subjects were then told to write down as many words as they could remember from the earlier list of positive and negative words. Those who had been walking in a depressed style remembered many more negative words. Yes, the difference in recall suggests that the depressed walking style actually created a more depressed mood. The researchers think that just walking a happy walk may lift some people to a more pleasant place. Could be true.

Sugar-Sweetened Soda Makes Your Body Older Faster

October 17, 2014 7:58 am 1 comment

imagesWe’ve known for years that drinking lots of sugar-sweetened soda can make you fat; now comes research from UC San Francisco suggesting that it can also make you old. It’s true. A news release from UCSF reports that when researchers at the school measured telomeres from 5,309 people between the ages of 20 and 65, they found that the amount of sugar-sweetened soda they drank was associated with telomere length, and not in a good way. The telomeres — the protective units of DNA that cap the ends of chromosomes in cells — were shorter in the white blood cells of those who reported drinking more soda. Yes, that’s a bad thing, because short telomeres are associated with the development of chronic diseases of aging, including heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer. Based on the way telomere length shortens on average with chronological age, the UCSF researchers calculated that daily consumption of a 20-ounce soda could lead to 4.6 years of additional biological aging. That’s comparable to the effect of smoking, or to the effect of regular exercise in the opposite, anti-aging direction.

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