Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


Leave a comment

Artificial sweeteners tied to obesity, Type 2 diabetes

High-intensity sweetener changes metabolic responses
CBC News      Feb 17, 2013

Diet pop and other artificially sweetened products may cause us to eat and drink even more calories and increase our risk for obesity and Type 2 diabetes, researchers are learning.

Former McGill University researcher Dana Small specializes in the neuropsychology of flavour and feeding at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. Small said there’s mounting evidence that artificial sweeteners have a couple of problematic effects. Sugar substitutes such as sucralose and aspartame are more intensely sweet than sugar and may rewire taste receptors so less sweet, healthier foods aren’t as enjoyable, shifting preferences to higher calorie, sweeter foods, she said.

Small and some other researchers believe artificial sweeteners interfere with brain chemistry and hormones that regulate appetite and satiety. For millennia, sweet taste signalled the arrival of calories. But that’s no longer the case with artificial sweeteners.

“The sweet taste is no longer signalling energy and so the body adapts,” Small said in an interview with CBC News. “It’s no longer going to release insulin when it senses sweet because sweet now is not such a good predictor of the arrival of energy.”

Susan Swithers, a psychology professor at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., studies behavioural neuroscience. “Exposure to high-intensity sweeteners could change the way that sweet tastes are processed,” she says.

“A number of epidemiological studies show that people who do consume high intensity sweeteners show differences in metabolic responses, have an increased risk for things like Type 2 diabetes and also have an increased risk for overweight and obesity.”

Exposure to high-intensity sweeteners
could change the way that sweet tastes are processed.

This week, researchers in France who followed the drinking habits of 66,000 women for 14 years reported that both regular and diet pop increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, but the risk was higher among diet drinkers — 15 per cent higher for consumption of as little as 500 ml per week and 59 per cent higher for those having 1.5 litres per week.

Writing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the researchers said the women’s age and body size were taken into account but eating habits may have changed over time and factors besides consumption of artificially sweetened drinks couldn’t be ruled out.

Scientists in the U.S. have also found this association.

More difficult to manage weight
No longer being able to rely on the body’s built-in and subconscious process for regulating eating makes it more difficult for people to manage their own weights, Small and Swithers agreed.

“They might actually have to read labels, pay attention to how many calories are in things because they’ve lost this easy process,” Swithers said.

Last month, Nicola Kettlitz, president of Coca-Cola Canada, told CBC News that artificial sweeteners are safe and approved by Health Canada, adding aspartame has been used for 30 years.

“If you have to pick an evil, I’d pick the diet pop over the regular pop,” said Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, director of the Bariatric Medical Institute in Ottawa. “But ideally it shouldn’t be either.”

Small said she tells everyone she knows not to use artificial sweeteners. “It’s better to use a small amount of regular sugar than it is to use artificial sweeteners in your foods.”

At a food court in Toronto, patrons recognized that diet drinks aren’t ideal.

“It’s good for people who are watching their weight,” said Withya Ganeshalingam, who was sipping a diet Sprite, which she considers a “free drink” because of the zero calories.

“I feel like it kind of goes back and forth, this one’s bad, this one is better for you,” said Jason Costa. “Regular is what I do if I am going to drink it.”

With files from CBC’s Kelly Crowe and Pauline Dakin         source: CBC


Leave a comment

Chemicals in Cookware, Carpets Linked to Arthritis Risk

By Alan Mozes  HealthDay Reporter        February 14, 2013

THURSDAY, Feb. 14 (HealthDay News) — In what researchers are calling a first, a new analysis suggests that the greater a woman’s exposure to a type of common chemical compound called PFCs, the greater her risk for developing osteoarthritis.

Researchers did not find a similar risk among men regarding these chemicals, which are now found in everything from nonstick cookware to take-out containers and carpeting.

Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, causes pain and stiffness and involves degeneration of the cartilage in the joints.

And the study authors stressed that while their investigation identified a robust link between osteoarthritis and exposure to two specific PFC chemicals — known as PFOA and PFOS — for now the finding can only be described as an association, rather than a cause-and-effect relationship.

“But we did find a clear and strong association between exposure to [these] compounds and osteoarthritis, which is a very painful chronic disease,” said study lead author Sarah Uhl, who conducted the study while working as a researcher at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in New Haven, Conn.

“This adds to the body of information that we have suggesting that these highly persistent synthetic chemicals are of concern when it comes to the public health,” she said.

The new study appears in the Feb. 14 online issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.

Uhl noted that exposure to PFCs is nearly universal, given their inclusion in a vast array of products to enable (among other things) the grease-proofing of food packaging, waterproofing of rain gear, and textile stain protection.

Previous research has linked PFC exposure to a higher risk for the premature onset of menopause in women, higher levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol in men and women, and reduced effectiveness of routine vaccinations among children.

To explore a potential PFC-osteoarthritis connection, the authors looked at PFOA and PFOS exposure data collected between 2003 and 2008 by the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The analysis covered more than 4,000 men and women between the ages of 20 and 84 for whom osteoarthritis status information was available.

The team found “significant associations” between osteoarthritis incidence and exposure to PFOA or PFOS among women but not men.

Women exposed to the highest levels of either chemical seemed to face up to nearly double the risk for developing osteoarthritis, compared to women exposed to the lowest levels.


The osteoarthritis-PFC connection also appeared to be stronger among younger women (between 20 and 49) than among older women (between 50 and 84). But the team said more follow-up research is needed to confirm the observation.

While the biological reason behind the potential connection remains unclear, the team suggested that the chemicals may have a particularly profound impact on hormonal balances for women.

“Our hormone systems are incredibly delicate and can be thrown off by tiny doses of hormone-disrupting chemicals,” Uhl said. “And processes like inflammation and cartilage repair are associated with our hormones, and are also associated with osteoarthritis.”

Whatever the culprit, Uhl cautioned that the problem is likely to persist for years to come despite a safety-driven downward trend in global PFOA/PFOS use.

“Once they get into the environment they just don’t go away,” she noted. “In people, they last years. So even if we were to reduce the use of these chemicals right away, they’re still going to be around and in our bodies for a long time,” she explained.

“Not being exposed is not an option, which is frustrating,” Uhl added. “But as consumers, I would say that one of the best things to do is to lead a healthy lifestyle, and get exercise and eat well. Because we’re finding that those steps can reduce susceptibility to factors that are outside our control.”

Commenting on the study, Dr. Joseph Guettler, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., suggested that PFC exposure should be put in context as one of a wide number of variables that can potentially drive osteoarthritis risk.

“There’s genetics, weight and obesity, and previous injuries,” he noted. “There are some people who are biomechanically built in a certain way that predisposes them. And then others with certain [jobs] who put a lot of wear and tear on their body,” Guettler pointed out.

“And now this study seems to add an environmental factor, PFCs, to the list of traditional risk factors,” he continued.

“The fact that they didn’t find this association among men surprises me,” Guettler added. “They hypothesize that this may be due to hormonal differences, but I would expect that the main mechanism for PFCs influencing osteoarthritis would be through their effect on the inflammatory process. Because PFCs have been linked to inflammation, and we are well aware that inflammation has a significant negative impact on cartilage. So there definitely needs to be more research.”

Source: Healthday  news.health.com


Leave a comment

Regulate antibiotics not recreational drugs, ethicist argues

CBC News       Feb 21, 2013

Governments worldwide should stop wasting money on criminalizing recreational drugs and use those funds to curb antibiotic misuse, a medical ethicist suggests.

Philosophy Prof. Jonny Anomaly of Duke University in Durham, N.C., called the war on drugs “unwinnable and morally dubious,” in his paper published this week in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

“Most of the violence and crime associated with narcotics is caused by laws that prohibit drug use, rather than drug use itself,” Anomaly wrote.

Anomaly defines recreational drugs as illegal narcotics such as heroin and marijuana, illegal stimulants such as cocaine, and legal drugs that people take to relieve pain, reduce anxiety, induce euphoria etc.

The claim that stimulants tend to make people violent has little evidence, Anomaly said. In contrast, when Portugal decriminalized recreational drugs, there was not a big increase in consumption.


But antibiotic resistant infections often kill people or impair their health making the infections much more expensive to treat, Anomaly wrote.

The collective harms of antibiotic use pose a serious threat. Although individual patients and doctors perceive benefits from antibiotics,it would be better to reserve them for serious infections, he claims.

“My use of antibiotics may lead to an increased risk of infection by another person by subtly influencing the composition of our microbial environment,” he wrote.

“Instead of a fully free market for antibiotics, I have argued that we should think hard about how to regulate them in a way that carefully balances individual liberty and public health.”

Anomaly explains that adding user fees on use of antibiotics promotes social benefits by conserving existing treatments. The revenue could also fund costly research into new antibiotics that are not patentable in the short-term — a public good.

He acknowledged that a user fee would not be a panacea but argued it could be part of a multi-pronged approach that includes:

  • Phasing out the use of these drugs in farming.
  • Cash incentives for pharmaceutical companies to conserve existing drugs.
  • Banning over-the-counter sales of antibiotics in developing nations.
  • Global surveillance of resistant bacteria, spearheaded by wealthy countries.
source: CBC


Leave a comment

8 Tips for Feeling Happier During an Unhappy Time

Dr. Neala Peake, selected from AllThingsHealing.com                      February 22, 2013

At some points in life, it’s not possible — or at least not easy — to feel happy. However, even then, it’s sometimes possible to feel happier. By taking the steps you can manage to give yourself whatever happiness boost is possible, you give yourself a deeper reservoir to deal with your challenge. Here are some strategies to consider:

1. Remind yourself of reasons to be grateful. When things look really dark, it’s hard to feel grateful, but remembering what’s good in your life can help put problems into perspective. I have a friend who recently suffered a big disappointment at work. She said to me, “As long as my family is healthy, I can’t get too upset about anything.” This may sound like hackneyed advice, but it’s really true.

2. Remember your body. Take a twenty-minute walk outside to boost your energy and dissolve stress. Don’t let yourself get too hungry. Get enough sleep. Manage pain. When you’re anxious, it’s easy to stay up late and eat ice cream — and that’s going to make you feel worse in the long run. It’s very tempting to run yourself ragged trying to deal with a crisis, but in the long run, you just wear yourself out.

3. Do something fun. Temporarily distract yourself from the stress, and re-charge your battery, with an enjoyable activity. Watching a funny movie is a reliable way to give yourself a pleasant break, and listening to your favorite music is one of the quickest ways to change your mood. When my older daughter was in the intensive-care unit as a newborn, my husband dragged me off to a movie one afternoon — and that few hours of distraction made me much better able to cope with the situation. Be careful, however, not to “treat” yourself by doing something that’s eventually going to make you feel worse (taking up smoking again, drinking too much, indulging in retail therapy). My comfort-food activity is reading children’s literature.


4. Take action. If you’re in a bad situation, take steps to bring about change. If you’re having trouble with your new boss, you could decide to try to transfer. Or you could change your behavior. Or you could find ways to pay less attention to your boss. Ask yourself, “What exactly is the problem?” It’s astounding to me that often, when I take time to identify a problem exactly, a possible solution presents itself.

5. Look for meaning. Re-frame an event to see the positive along with the negative. Maybe getting fired will give you the push you need to move to the city where you’ve always wanted to live. Maybe your illness has strengthened your relationships with your family. You don’t need to be thankful that something bad has happened, but you can try to find positive consequences even in a catastrophic event.

6. Connect with friends and family. Strong relationships are a KEY to happiness, so fight the impulse to isolate yourself. Show up. Make plans. Ask for help, offer your help to others. Or just have some fun (see #3) and forget your troubles for a while.

7. Make something better. If something in your life has gotten worse, try to make something else better – and it doesn’t have to be something important. Clean a closet. Organize your photographs. Work in the yard.

8. Act toward other people the way you wish they’d act toward you. If you wish your friends would help you find someone to date, see if you can fix up a friend. If you wish people would help you find a job, see if you can help someone else find a job. If you can’t think of a way to help someone you know, do something generous in a more impersonal way. For instance: commit to being an organ donor! When you’re feeling very low, it can be hard to muster the energy to help someone else, but you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel. Do good, feel good; it really works

source: care2.com


Leave a comment

Switching Kids Away From Violent TV May Lower Aggression

Two studies suggest television can have a profound impact on children’s behavior

By Randy Dotinga   HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Feb. 18 (HealthDay News) – Two studies, one from the United States and the other from New Zealand, add more fuel to the long-standing claim that exposure to television – especially violent TV – can harm children.

The studies aren’t definitive, however, and each offers a different view of TV’s impact on kids.

The New Zealand study, for example, looked at a group of children who grew up to have a high rate of criminal convictions and found those who watched the most TV had the most problems.

In the American study, however, preschool children randomly assigned to watch educational and “pro-social” shows appeared later to be better behaved than kids who watched regular programming.

“It’s not just the bad behaviors that they get from TV. They can get good behaviors, too,” said the U.S. study’s lead author, Dr. Dimitri Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

For a variety of reasons, researchers have had a hard time figuring out whether TV is actually harmful to kids. If children watch a lot of violent TV and then misbehave or become violent, it could be because they’re naturally drawn to that kind of programming and not directly influenced by it, experts say. Or something else, such as parenting or genetics, could explain things.

The New Zealand study tracked 1,037 children into adulthood (age 26) to see what happened to them. They were born in 1972 and 1973 in Dunedin on New Zealand’s South Island.

The investigators found that those who watched the most TV when they were between the ages of 5 and 15 grew up more likely to have a criminal conviction or have an antisocial personality disorder. The study doesn’t definitively prove that watching TV caused criminal activity or aggression, but the researchers found that other factors (including poverty levels and IQ) didn’t play a role.

“The findings support a lot of other research that indicates that watching a lot of television in childhood can lead to antisocial behavioral problems later in life,” said study co-author Dr. Bob Hancox, an associate professor in the department of preventive and social medicine at the University of Otago in Dunedin.

The study is unusual because 27 percent of the males had a criminal conviction by age 26, and a remarkable 19 percent of them were convicted of a violent crime. Hancox, however, said the researchers don’t think these numbers are especially high.


The study authors don’t know if the television that the children watched was especially violent; the country only had two channels at the time, and many shows were from overseas, Hancox said. “We cannot say from our study whether it is the violent content or just watching TV that is most important,” he added.

In the U.S. study, the Seattle researchers analyzed what happened to 565 kids aged 3 to 5 who were randomly assigned to watch either regular programs on TV or educational and “pro-social” programming. In essence, the idea was to substitute shows like “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” for “Power Rangers,” Christakis said.

After six months, those who watched the educational programming scored better on a test of “social competence and behavior” that was given to their parents.

It’s not clear what the score difference made for the children in real life. However, the tests aimed to examine things such as whether kids are cooperative, non-aggressive and non-argumentative.

Christakis noted that these traits aren’t signs of docile children. “I view them as desirable,” he said.

The big message is that the kind of television that kids watch matters, he added.

“All television is educational. It’s just a matter of what it’s teaching,” Christakis said.

In an editorial accompanying the studies, which are scheduled for publication in the March issue of the journal Pediatrics, Dr. Claire McCarthy of Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, echoed that thought.

Reiterating the American Academy of Pediatrics’ long-standing recommendation of limiting kids’ TV time to no more than two hours a day, she said, “It is time to change our approach.”

McCarthy explained that “We need to switch our emphasis to outcomes and not screen time, because it is outcomes that matter. . . . It is a variation on the ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’ idea. If the screens are going to be on, let’s concentrate on the content, and how we can make it work for children.”

More information
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about television watching.
SOURCES: Dimitri Christakis, M.D., M.P.H., director, Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development, Seattle Children’s Research Institute, and professor, pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle; Bob Hancox, M.D., associate professor, department of preventive and social medicine, University of Otago, New Zealand; March 2013 Pediatrics

Feb. 18, 2013      source: HealthDay


2 Comments

Amazing Amaranth

Try this gluten-free grain
by Pamela Durkin

         Does your intake of whole grains consist of the reliable, but rather mundane duo, whole wheat and brown rice? Or do you find that gluten-containing grains wreak havoc with your digestive system? If you answered yes to either question, consider adding amaranth and its health benefits to your culinary repertoire.


This ancient gluten-free grain, once prized by the Aztecs, is experiencing a renaissance fuelled by its remarkable nutritional profile, great taste, and versatility in the kitchen.


History

A relative of the common pigweed, amaranth was a staple in the diets of pre-Columbian Aztecs in Mexico and Peru. There are actually over 50 different plant species in the genus Amaranthus. The tiny seeds the Aztecs prized, now commonly referred to as a grain, played an intricate role in their religious ceremonies and rituals.

The Aztecs believed that consuming amaranth imparted increased energy and strength. When the invading Spanish conquistadors arrived in Mexico in the 1500s they swiftly set about eradicating the Aztecs’ beloved crop—very few plants survived. Thankfully, the plant made a comeback in Mexico, and more recently, its growing reputation as a superfood has ignited interest in amaranth in other parts of the world. It is now cultivated in the US, South America, Europe, and China.


Nutritional profile

What’s in amaranth that garners such attention? Plenty—although tiny in size, the tan-coloured seeds pack a nutritional punch that is unrivalled among cereal grains. Amaranth is loaded with calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, and B vitamins. It is also high in protein and abundant in lysine, an essential amino acid missing from most grains.

Unlike other grains, amaranth is a rich source of essential fatty acids, including the heart-healthy oleic acid normally associated with olive oil. But its nutrient density doesn’t end there—amaranth is also chock full of health-enhancing peptides and phytochemicals such as rutin, nicotiflorin, squalene, and lunasin. This all-star lineup of nutrients can improve your health in several ways.


Cancer prevention

Adding amaranth to your menu may be one of your best defences against cancer. Lunasin, a bioactive peptide in amaranth, has been shown to inhibit the development of cancer cells. While soy also contains lunasin, researchers have found that the lunasin in amaranth penetrates the nucleus of cancer cells more rapidly. There’s more good news—scientists have discovered that squalene, one of amaranth’s antioxidant compounds, may halt the blood supply to tumours.

Knocks out cardiovascular disease

Oats get most of the attention when it comes to heart-healthy grains, but amaranth is equally good for our ticker. Several animal studies have demonstrated amaranth’s ability to lower triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Recently, Russian researchers confirmed amaranth oil’s heart-healthy benefits in humans. They found that amaranth consumption significantly lowered blood pressure, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol; and aided in heart rhythm normalization. Not surprisingly, researchers reached the conclusion that amaranth should be considered a functional food in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease.


Strengthens bones

When it comes to bones, amaranth offers up a payload of minerals renowned for keeping them strong—calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese. Mother Nature also wisely added high amounts of the amino acid lysine to this mix.

What’s lysine got to do with bone health? Plenty—it helps the body absorb calcium and decreases the amount of calcium lost in urine. Lysine also plays a role in the formation of collagen, a substance crucial for sturdy bones. Furthermore, studies indicate lysine and L-arginine, another amino acid, work together to make bone-building cells more active.



Irons out anemia

Anemia makes you pale and weak, and can cause headaches and a poor appetite. Not getting enough iron in your diet can increase your risk for anemia. Amaranth can help. Loaded with 5.17 mg per 1 cup (250 mL) serving, amaranth provides plenty of iron to keep anemia at bay.

Brain food

A bowl of amaranth may be as good for your noggin as it is for your heart. Rutin and nicotiflorin, two polyphenols found in amaranth, have established anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Science has now provided evidence that they also have a neuroprotective effect. A recent study found that they not only decreased inflammatory cytokines, but also aided in the repair of damaged brain cells.

Preparation and serving suggestions


To cook one serving of amaranth: 

Bring 1 cup (250 mL) liquid to a boil, add 1/4 cup (60 mL) amaranth, cover and reduce to simmer. Cook for 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.

For a nutritious breakfast: 

Cook amaranth in milk and top with nuts and dried fruit.

As a nutritious topping and snack:

You can pop amaranth seeds just like popcorn. Popped amaranth makes a crunchy topping for salads and soups. It can also be mixed with honey, dried fruit, and nuts to make energy bars. In Mexico it is mixed with molasses to make a crunchy snack called alegria, which means joy or happiness in Spanish.

To make a savoury side dish: 

Cook amaranth in stock or juice; add your favourite seasonings and a dollop of butter. A blend of apple juice, garlic, and ginger makes a perfect simmering medium for amaranth.

As a thickener: 

Add a few tablespoons of amaranth to help thicken soups, stews, or gravies.

As a rice substitute:

Cooked amaranth can be refried in place of rice.

It can also be added to muffins or cookies for added nutrition and texture.

Nutritional all-star
1 cup (250 mL) cooked amaranth contains~
   9.35 g   protein
   5.2 g     fibre
   116 mg  calcium
   364 mg  phosphorus
   332 mg  potassium
   5.17 mg  iron
   2.12 mg  zinc
   0.37 mg  copper
  13.5 mcg selenium 
   0.58 mg  niacin
   0.05 mg  riboflavin 
   0.28 mg  vitamin B6 
   54 m       folate

About the Author

Pamela Durkin is a registered nutritional consultant and freelance writer. She adores all-star grains such as amaranth.

source: Alive.com


Leave a comment

Health Benefits of Cardamom

Cardamom combines health benefits and spicy flavors to Indian dishes.

Growing wild in Sri Lanka and south of India is the cardamom. It is also cultivated in some other tropical areas. Silver Grell, a health author, every cardamom seedpod is usually handpicked. Cardamom belongs to the same family as clove and ginger. Cardamom contains warming properties and it adds spicy warmth to the Indian dishes.
Benefits to digestion
Cardamom is known to stimulate the appetite in the same way in which it spices dishes that are bland. It is known to stimulate the digestive system. It is also able to counteract excessive stomach acid. This is according to the author, Silver Grell. The carminative properties of cardamom help in relieving flatulence and indigestion. Cardamom essential oils studies done on animals have demonstrated the ability of stimulating the production of bile and reduction of gastric juices.
Inhibit Pathogen Growth
Herbal Medicines PDR reports that cardamom is able to inhibit the development and growth of viruses, fungi and bacteria. It may help those individuals who are having little resistance to infections and diseases. Its capacity to fight disease and its stomachic properties help in reducing bad breath.
Benefits in Respiration
Author Silver Grell says that cardamom helps to improve lung circulation. It soothes mucus membranes.
A therapeutic guide to herbal medicine called German Commission E Monographs, verified the safety and efficacy of cardamom for the treatment of colds, bronchitis and coughs. It contains expectorant properties and can lead to a reduction in the production of mucus.
Anti-inflammatory
Tea containing Cardamom may help in reducing sore throats. Herbal Medicines PDR has said that Commission E has approved usage of cardamom for the treatment of pharynx and mouth inflammation. Traditional medicines have been using cardamom oil in the treatment of inflamed nerves, back muscles and joints that are swollen. Cardamom has analgesic properties, as Indian medicine and traditional ayurvedic reports that it eases joint and muscle pain.
Masseuses use cardamom essential oil for massages to relax the muscles and for stimulating the mind.
Antioxidant
The Association of Physician Journal in India published in August 1998 reported a cardamom analysis of flavonoids and phenolics. It rated the antioxidant cardamom properties at 50-100mg medium levels per serving.
Detoxification
Cardamom is used in Indian medicine for treating bladder disorders, urinary tract disorders and the kidney. It also treats other complications such as nephritis and cystitis.
Antispasmodic
A study done on animals which published on the July-August Pharmacological Research edition in 1996 verified the antispasmodic cardamom properties. The properties could validate cardamom use in remedies of folk in stopping convulsions and hiccups, relieving stomach and intestinal cramping, relieving morning sickness and reducing vomiting and nausea.
Anti-depressant
Use of cardamom in the treatment of depression has not been validated. Some herbalists however claim that tea made from cardamom helps in relieving depression.