Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness

Leave a comment

The Truth About the Health Benefits of Tea

Does it really fight cancer? Lower cholesterol? We filter the research to find out which health claims actually hold water.

The way scientific studies and health gurus alike have touted the perks of tea over the past few years, you’d think the stuff was some kind of all-powerful magical elixir. Improving heart health, reducing cancer risk, warding off dementia and diabetes—there’s barely a health benefit that hasn’t been credited to tea. It’s true that the brew has disease-fighting antioxidants, and, as far as anyone can tell, should be great for us. “The science is certainly promising,” says David L. Katz, MD, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center. “But the hype goes beyond it and tends to make promises which the science can’t yet deliver.” (No, tea probably will not cure depression, eliminate allergies, or boost your fertility!) We talked to the experts and weighed the studies to separate the truth from the hype.

Why tea is so hot

First, a definition: When scientists talk about tea, they mean black, green, white, or oolong teas—all of which are made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Herbal brews, like chamomile and peppermint, are not technically considered tea; they’re infusions of other plants with different nutritional characteristics. If you’re not sure what kind you’re drinking, check the ingredients for the word “tea.”

What makes the four tea types different from each other is the way the leaves

are prepared and how mature they are, which affects both flavor and nutritional content. Black tea is made from leaves that have been wilted (dried out) and then fully oxidized (meaning that chemicals in the leaves are modified through exposure to air). Green tea’s leaves are wilted but not oxidized. Oolong tea is wilted and then only partially oxidized, and white tea is not wilted or oxidized at all.

All four types are high in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that seems to protect cells from the DNA damage that can cause cancer and other diseases. It’s the polyphenols that have made tea the star of so many studies, as researchers try to figure out whether all that chemical potential translates into real disease-fighting punch. Most research has focused on black tea, which is what about 75% of the world drinks, and green tea, the most commonly consumed variety in China and Japan. Green tea contains an especially high amount of antioxidants—in particular, a type of polyphenol called a catechin, the most active and abundant of which is epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). That’s why there are five times more studies on green than black tea each year—and likely why you’re always hearing about the power of the green stuff, says Diane L. McKay, PhD, assistant professor of nutrition at the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

Boiling down the hype

The most promising claims about tea drinking include these perks:

Cancer prevention: A 2009 review of 51 green tea studies found that sipping three to five cups a day may lower the risks of ovarian, colorectal, lung, and prostate cancers, but not breast or other cancers, says lead author Katja Boehm, research fellow at the Center of Integrative Medicine at the University of Witten/Herdecke in Germany. As for black tea, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) deems it “possibly effective” for reducing the risk of ovarian cancer, and “possibly ineffective” for lowering the risk of stomach and colorectal cancers.

Brain benefits: Downing from one to four cups of black or green tea a day has been linked with a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease, according to the NIH.

Heart help: “Drinking tea may be helpful in preventing or delaying certain risk factors of cardiovascular disease, and lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides,” says McKay. One Japanese study found that adults who drank five or more cups of green tea per day had a 26% reduction in death from heart attack or stroke compared with those who had one cup or less; the effect was greater in women than in men.

More research needs to be done on other potential benefits. One small study suggested that the catechins and caffeine in green tea may give dieters a small metabolic boost that could amount to burning a few dozen extra calories per day. There’s also a slim file on how drinking tea may help ward off osteoporosis and reduce the incidence of cavities, due to the fluoride it contains. And EGCG, that green-tea antioxidant, has been found to increase the number of important immune-boosting cells (called regulatory T-cells)—but only in one animal study.

Smart sips
All this sounds pretty compelling. So why aren’t major health organizations advising us to drink tea like crazy? It’s a matter of needing more hard-core evidence. “There are pearls of real promise here, but they have yet to be strung,” Dr. Katz says. “We don’have clinical trials in human patients showing that adding tea to one’s routine changes health outcomes for the better.” The vast majority of the research conducted has been observational, meaning scientists can’t know if the medical boosts seen in tea drinkers are definitely a result of that habit, or some other factor that makes these people healthier. And many of the studies that have looked at specific compounds in tea have been conducted in labs or on animals, not on people. “These chemicals act as antioxidants in a test tube, but they may not do the same in your body,” explains Emily Ho, PhD, associate professor in the department of nutrition and exercise science at the School of Biological and Population Health Sciences at Oregon State University. “You have to take the claims with a grain of salt.”

That said, experts agree that a daily cuppa, or five, won’t hurt you, and may well help fight disease. (If you’re trying to limit your caffeine intake, go for decaf—it has antioxidants too, though fewer than the caffeinated kind.) “Tea is probably better than a lot of other beverages,” says Lona Sandon, RD, assistant professor in the department of clinical nutrition at UT South-western Medical Center and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. “Just make sure you’ve got other healthy lifestyle habits—you can’t count on tea alone to prevent cancer.”

Kate Lowenstein

October 06, 2011

source: Health.com

Leave a comment

It’s true: Aging really is all in your mind


Rather than declare failure when they aren’t as nimble on the tennis court or spry on the stairs as they used to be, older people should recognize that anything is still possible; they just may have to try a few different strategies, Langer says.

Photograph by: Digital Vision, Thinkstock

Those of us lucky enough to grow old must contend with the miserable stereotypes of what it’s like: the frailty, the forgetfulness, the early-bird specials.

But in aging, as in many things, attitude can make all the difference. Research has shown that how people feel inside, and their expectations of their capabilities, can have a greater impact on health, happiness and even longevity than the date on their birth certificates.

In her seminal “counterclockwise” study in 1979, Harvard University psychologist Ellen Langer brought men in their 70s and 80s to a weeklong retreat that was retrofitted, from the music to the newspapers, to look and feel like 1959. One group of men was told to reminisce about the era. The other group was told to let themselves be who they were 20 years earlier.

By the end of the experiment, both groups of men, who upon entering had been highly reliant on relatives to do things for them, were functioning independently, actively completing chores and showed significant improvements in hearing, memory, strength and intelligence tests. The group told to behave like they were 20 years younger also showed better dexterity, flexibility and looked younger, according to outside observers who judged photos of the participants taken before and after the retreat.

Expectation, not biology, leads many elderly people to set physical limits on themselves, Langer concluded; they assume they’ll fall apart, so they let it happen.

“What we want to do is not get older people to think of themselves as young, but to change their mindsets about what it means to be older,” Langer said. And being older doesn’t have to equal decay.

Take memory. Thirty-yearolds forget lots of things, but they don’t blame dementia. Older people jump to the conclusion that memory failures are part of their inevitable decline, when in fact, it could be that their values change about what’s meaningful enough to remember, Langer said.

Rather than declare failure when they aren’t as nimble on the tennis court or spry on the stairs as they used to be, older people should recognize that anything is still possible; they just may have to try a few different strategies, Langer says.

Internalizing negative stereotypes about aging can have dire health consequences, even among the young, some studies suggest.

Men and women older than 50 with more positive perceptions of aging lived 7.6 years longer than those with negative perceptions, according to a 2002 study led by Yale University epidemiology and psychology professor Becca Levy. Healthy people younger than 50 who held negative attitudes toward the elderly were more likely to experience a cardiovascular disorder over the next four decades than their peers who had more positive view of the elderly, a 2006 study by Levy found.

Pessimism about elderly decline, the researchers suggest, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Other studies that look at age identity — also known as subjective, or felt, age — have found that feeling younger than you really are is linked to better health, life satisfaction and cognitive abilities.

It’s not clear what comes first: If identifying as younger makes you vital and sharp, or if people who feel vital and sharp associate that with feeling younger, said Markus Schafer, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Toronto, who last year published a study on age identity while a graduate student at Purdue University.

His study, in which people on average felt 12 years younger than their actual age, found subjective age was more important than chronological age in predicting performance on memorization and other mental tasks 10 years later. The cognitive benefits of feeling young were slightly more pronounced among women, he said, perhaps because of greater pressure on women to maintain youthfulness.

Regardless of what causes the correlation, he said, there are benefits to staying engaged.

“Learning new things, reading in a new area, at least trying to become connected with new technologies and platforms: Those are ways people can feel connected with the ebb and flow of the world,” Schafer said.

1 Comment

Simple Lifestyle Changes Can Add a Decade or More Healthy Years to the Average Lifespan, Canadian Study Shows

Simple Lifestyle Changes Can Add a Decade or More Healthy Years to the Average Lifespan, Canadian Study Shows

ScienceDaily (Oct. 21, 2011) — Health prevention strategies to help Canadians achieve their optimal health potential could add a decade or more of healthy years to the average lifespan and save the economy billions of dollars as a result of reduced cardiovascular disease, says noted cardiologist Dr. Clyde Yancy.

Dr. Yancy, who will deliver the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada Lecture at the opening ceremonies of the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Vancouver on October 23, will tell delegates that people who follow seven simple steps to a healthy life can expect to live an additional 40 to 50 years after the age of 50.

“Achieving these seven simple lifestyle factors gives people a 90 per cent chance of living to the age of 90 or 100, free of not only heart disease and stroke but from a number of other chronic illnesses including cancer,” says Dr. Yancy, a professor of medicine and chief of cardiology at the Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. He is also the past-president of the American Heart Association.

“By following these steps, we can compress life-threatening disease into the final stages of life and maintain quality of life for the longest possible time.” He predicts that, if we act now, we can reverse the tide by 2020.
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, every year in Canada about 250,000 potential years of life are lost due to heart disease and stroke, which are two of the three leading causes of death in Canada.

Canadians can achieve optimal health, says Dr. Yancy, by following these steps:

1. GET ACTIVE: Inactivity can shave almost four years off a person’s expected lifespan. People who are physically inactive are twice as likely to be at risk for heart disease or stroke.

2. KNOW AND CONTROL CHOLESTEROL LEVELS: Almost 40 per cent of Canadian adults have high blood cholesterol, which can lead to the build up of fatty deposits in your arteries − increasing your risk for heart disease and stroke.

3. FOLLOW A HEALTHY DIET: Healthy eating is one of the most important things you can do to improve your health — yet about half of Canadians don’t meet the healthy eating recommendations.

4. KNOW AND CONTROL BLOOD PRESSURE: High blood pressure − often called a ‘silent killer’ because it has no warning signs or symptoms − affects one in five Canadians. By knowing and controlling your blood pressure, you can cut your risk of stroke by up to 40 per cent and the risk of heart attack by up to 25 per cent.

5. ACHIEVE AND MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT: Almost 60 per cent of Canadian adults are either overweight or obese − major risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Being obese can reduce your life span by almost four years.

6. MANAGE DIABETES: By 2016 an estimated 2.4 million Canadians will live with diabetes.Diabetes increases the risk of high blood pressure, atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries), coronary artery disease, and stroke, particularly if your blood sugar levels are poorly controlled.

7. BE TOBACCO FREE: More than 37,000 Canadians die prematurely each year due to tobacco use, and thousands of non-smokers die each year from exposure to second-hand smoke. As soon as you become smoke-free, your risk of heart disease and stroke begins to decrease. After 15 years ,your risk will be nearly that of a non-smoker.

A call for focused prevention strategies

While this goal of optimal health has been achieved by fewer than 10 per cent of the population, “it demonstrates the striking potential that prevention has if it is broadly embraced,” says Dr. Yancy. “We know how to prevent heart disease and stroke — we now need to build the tools to empower our citizens to manage their risk and prevent heart disease.”

Dr. Yancy calls on governments to invest in steady and focused prevention strategies. He says that necessary initiatives include a change in current sodium policies, continued progress in tobacco control initiatives, increased green space, and health education.

“Healthy living is key to preventing heart disease and stroke,” says Bobbe Wood, president of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. “The Foundation is committed to raising awareness about heart health and to promoting public policies that facilitate healthy lifestyles and communities.”

She says that the Foundation will continue to build on partnerships and policies that have led to a significant reduction of trans fats in the Canadian food supply; stronger tobacco control initiatives; healthy community design; and a continued reduction in the amount of salt in our food products, which has been achieved in part through Health Check™, the Foundation’s flagship food information program.

Dr. Yancy adds that improved access to health care that focuses on prevention and control of important risk factors including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes is also key.

Raising the alarm over looming costs of treating heart disease

Dr. Yancy will also raise the alarm over the looming cost of treating heart disease now and in the future.

With predictions that the direct medical cost of treating heart disease in the U.S. alone could climb to $818 billion in 2030, he says there is a health and economic imperative for governments and societies around the world to embrace prevention strategies.

Heart disease and stroke cost the Canadian economy more than $20.9 billion every year in physician services, hospital costs, lost wages and decreased productivity.

“The opportunity for prevention is not an unrealistic expectation,” says Dr. Yancy. “Over the past 40 years the rates of heart disease and stroke have steadily declined.” The rate has declined in Canada by 70 per cent since the mid-1950s. In the last decade alone, the rate has declined by 25 per cent.

Unfortunately, says Dr. Yancy, these benefits may be short-lived if the burden of risk, specifically obesity and diabetes, continues to grow, especially in children. “We need to act now.”

Source: ScienceDaily

Leave a comment

Commercial weight-loss gets best results: study

Research shows that doctor-led programs not as effective

Commercial weight-loss programs such as Weight Watchers and Slimming World are more effective and cheaper than family doctor-based services led by specially trained staff, according to the findings of a study.

With a global epidemic of obesity putting huge pressure on health budgets, researchers at Britain’s Birmingham University wanted to compare the effectiveness of doctorled weight loss programs against several well-known commercial schemes.

The results suggest that while commercial schemes generally help people to lose weight, doctor-led programs do not.

After 12 weeks, people in all the schemes studied had achieved significant weight loss, but the average loss ranged from the highest at 9.7 pounds with Weight Watchers down to 3.1 pounds on a program led by primary care staff.

A control group who were not put on any specific diet program but were given vouchers for free access to a gym for 12 weeks lost just as much weight on average as those using health clinic-based based weight-loss programs. After a year, statistically significant weight loss was recorded in all groups apart from the primary care programs, but Weight Watchers was the only program to achieve significantly greater weight loss than the control group.

Kate Jolly, a clinical senior lecturer in public health and epidemiology at Birmingham who led the research, said primary care-based weight loss services led by specially trained staff are “ineffective” while commercially provided services “are more effective and cheaper.”

Worldwide, about 1.5 billion adults are overweight and another half a billion are obese, with 170 million children classified as overweight or obese. Obesity takes up between two and six per cent of health-care costs in many countries.

This latest research, published in the British Medical Journal, comes in the wake of the first goldstandard randomized controlled trial of Weight Watchers last month that showed the program works far better than getting doctors to tell patients to lose weight.

Another study in the U.S. published in 2003 found that one year’s free access to Weight Watchers resulted in an average weight reduction of 7.7 pounds.

Leave a comment

Faulty Heart Disease Gene Modified By Eating Fruit And Raw Vegetables

Plenty of raw vegetables and fruit can modify faulty genes linked to heart disease
A genetic variant which significantly raises the risk of heart disease can be modified by eating plenty of fruit and raw vegetables so that the carrier’s risk of heart disease is brought down to the same level as those without the faulty gene, researchers from McMaster and McGill universities, Canada, reported in the journal PLoS Medicine.

The long-held belief that you cannot change the genes you inherited from your parents does not appear to hold true, the authors explained.

The 9p21 genetic variants, the strongest marker for heart disease, were found to be modified when large quantities of raw vegetable, berries and fruit were consumed.

Joint lead-researcher, Dr. Jamie Engert, said:

“We know that 9p21 genetic variants increase the risk of heart disease for those that carry it. But it was a surprise to find that a healthy diet could significantly weaken its effect.”

The researchers gathered data on over 27,000 people from various ethnic ancestries, including Arab, Latin American, Chinese, South Asian and European. They studied what effects diet might have on the functioning and behavior of the 9p21 gene. The authors say that theirs is one of the largest gene-diet interaction studies ever carried out on cardiovascular disease.

They found that people with the high risk genetic variant which considerably raises heart disease risk, ended up having the same risk of heart disease as the rest of the population if they followed a diet rich in raw vegetables, fruit and berries.

Joint lead-researcher, Sonia Anand, said:

“We observed that the effect of a high risk genotype can be mitigated by consuming a diet high in fruits and vegetables. Our results support the public health recommendation to consume more than five servings of fruits or vegetables as a way to promote good health.”

Lead author, Dr. Ron Do, wrote:

“Our research suggests there may be an important interplay between genes and diet in cardiovascular disease. Future research is necessary to understand the mechanism of this interaction, which will shed light on the underlying metabolic processes that the 9p21 gene is involved in.”

The scientists said that they do not yet know exactly why and how the diet modifies the gene.

The authors concluded in an Abstract in the journal:

“The risk of MI (myocardial infarction) and CVD (cardiovascular disease) conferred by Chromosome 9p21 SNPs appears to be modified by a prudent diet high in raw vegetables and fruits.”

Written by Christian Nordqvist
Source: Medical News Today

Leave a comment

Good foods for a good sleep

Good foods for a good sleep

All of us toss and turn through the occasional sleepless night. At any given time, though, there are those among us struggling with full-blown insomnia. Chronic difficulty in falling or staying asleep can rob you of the nightly rest you need, as well as your ability to concentrate. When you regularly miss out on sleep, don’t be surprised if you experience irritability, exhaustion, and depression.

Insomnia is a message that your body sends to let you know that something is off or out of balance. Certain medications or an underlying illness may be the cause. Oftentimes, insomnia isn’t caused by a medical problem; it’s a condition on its own and certain situations such as chronic stress can trigger it.

It could also be just something you ate – or maybe when you ate it. Think about your eating habits. Making a few adjustments could help you to avoid dragging that drowsy feeling into another day.

What you eat matters

Sleep is a complicated process. That’s why there is no big, super-special secret “sleep ingredient.” Simply eating a nutritious diet will support your body in its nightly rest quest. That said, there are certain foods that make it harder to sleep, and some foods that encourage it.

Sleep stealers

will keep your body and brain too busy to relax into slumber. Plan your coffee breaks early in the day, and watch out for covert caffeine, in pop and chocolate or chocolate-flavoured foods (ice cream, yogurt, smoothies). Warning: Even some decaffeinated coffee contain small amounts of caffeine!

Alcohol may make you feel drowsy, but it can lead to fitful, interrupted sleep. Avoid both caffeine and alcohol 4 to 6 hours before bedtime to ensure a restful slumber.

Downing too much liquid too late in the day will have you up and out of bed to visit the toilet. Big meals or super-sized snacks too close to bedtime set you up for a restless night. Especially avoid items high in protein, fat, or sugar. Spicy foods can trigger heartburn and indigestion, neither of which makes good bedfellows.

Sleep helpers
For a food to support sleep, it needs to either help you fall asleep more easily or stay asleep more soundly. Tryptophan is an amino acid that your body turns into melatonin and serotonin, two very calming compounds. Eating foods containing tryptophan – like soy and dairy products (the classic: a glass of warm milk!), seafood, poultry, many kinds of legumes, and eggs – will help you more easily slip into sleep.

Tryptophan doesn’t take effect immediately – give it an hour. To stay asleep, feed your body smart food combos. Snacks or meals that combine carbohydrates, calcium,and minimal protein work well, such as:

  • whole grain bread or crackers spread with almond butter or paired with a slice of low-fat cheese
  • yogurt sprinkled with granola
  • bowl of oatmeal or cereal with low-fat milk
  • banana spread with peanut butter
  • rice cake topped with slice of tomato or lean turkey breast
  • sliced apple and low-fat cheese

When you eat matters

Jam-packed schedules and long workdays see us sitting down to later dinners or stuffing our meals in on the run. Scarf down a big meal late in the day, and you instigate a cascade of physical process that can keep the body wide awake for hours.

If you were to lie down soon after a meal in hopes of falling asleep, your body has to go against gravity to process the food you’ve eaten. Digestion is hard work, and it’s a job best done vertically!

Should you manage to fall asleep amidst that discomfort, you’re likely to be awakened by gas and heartburn. On the other hand, going to bed on an unpleasantly empty stomach may keep you awake, too.

Sleep schedule

Eat at least a few hours before you plan on bedding down. If you need a snack to soothe a rumbling tummy, opt for a light snack that follows the sleep helpers snack rules. Caffeine can kick around in your body for hours, so avoid coffee, chocolate, pop, and other perk-up treats for at least 6 hours before bedtime.

Amy Toffelmire

source: Canada.com

Leave a comment

Longevity-promoting foods

Eat right, live longer

by Stephanie Raymond

Genes, stress, and environmental factors play a role in aging, but the key to a long, healthy life may be found in certain antiaging foods.

Packed with fibre, essential nutrients, and free radical-fighting antioxidants, the following foods may help put the brakes on aging when eaten regularly.


A daily dose of berries may ward off DNA damage, certain cancers, and age-related cognitive decline. Berries’ many healthy benefits are credited to their abundant antioxidants.

Citrus fruit

Citrus fruits are excellent sources of vitamin C and tumour-inhibiting limonoids. In addition to helping prevent certain diseases, vitamin C is required to produce collagen—a protein essential for the maintenance of skin, tendons, and blood vessels.

Cruciferous vegetables

Brimming with phytochemicals—that are thought to stimulate the enzymes that break down carcinogens as well as prevent cancerous cells from multiplying—crucifers such as broccoli, cabbage, and watercress are cancer-fighting superstars.

Dark chocolate

The flavonols in this sweet treat may help to keep the heart young by keeping blood pressure low. One German study involving adults aged 35 to 65 found that those who consumed the most dark chocolate had lower blood pressure and lower risk of heart disease and strokes. The cocoa in chocolate contains the majority of the flavonols.


Red and purple grapes contain resveratrol, a plant phenol that may combat inflammation, ward off heart disease, and protect the brain from plaque formation that leads to Alzheimer’s disease. Resveratrol is also being studied in preliminary animal studies in regards to extending lifespan.


Packed full of mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega-3s, and arginine, (an amino acid that promotes proper blood vessel function) nuts make one heart-healthy snack. Almonds in particular are high in flavonoids and phenolics, which may reduce the oxidative stress that leads to heart disease.

Oily fish

Oily fish such as salmon are abundant in omega-3s. In addition to warding off heart disease and several cancers, omega-3 fatty acids’ anti-inflammatory properties may slow telomere shortening. Telomeres are DNA sequences that naturally shorten as cells regenerate. Slowing this process may slow aging.


Tomatoes are one of the few foods to contain lycopene—an antioxidant that is thought to protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer, and may even increase the skin’s natural ability to filter out the sun’s damaging rays. Cooking tomatoes in extra-virgin olive oil enhances the body’s ability to absorb lycopene.

Whole grains

Researchers from the National Cancer Institute have found that a diet rich in whole grain fibre may provide significant protection against dying prematurely from a number of ailments including heart disease, infectious disease, and pneumonia. The study found that dietary fibre lowered the risk of heart disease by 24 to 56 percent in men and 34 to 59 percent in women.


A well-known source of bone-strengthening calcium and immune-boosting probiotic bacteria, yogourt may also contain trans-palmitoleic acid, according to researchers. This rare fatty acid has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes in preliminary studies.

Incorporating longevity-promoting foods into your diet is easy with the following recipes.


Recover faster with omega-3s

Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce exercise-induced inflammation markers. A 2011 study in theClinical Journal of Sport Medicine reported that participants who supplemented with only 1.8 g of omega-3 fatty acid per day significantly reduced post-exercise inflammation up to 48 hours after exercise compared to those who did not. The Citrus, Spinach, and Salmon Salad is packed with over 3 g of omega-3s, so load up after a workout for reduced muscle soreness and inflammation.

About the Author

Stephanie Raymond is a Toronto-based freelance writer.

source: Alive.com