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Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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This Food May Help You Sleep Better

Forget warm milk. A new study from the University of Pennsylvania says that fish may be the key to a good night’s sleep.

The paper, published Thursday in Scientific Reports, found an association between regular fish consumption and high sleep quality among Chinese schoolchildren, likely thanks to the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish. Largely as a result of that improved sleep, the researchers found, the children also scored higher on IQ tests.

“There’s a relationship between fish consumption and higher cognitive functioning. What what we document here is that it’s the better sleep that explains the relationship,” says Adrian Raine, one of the paper’s authors and a professor of criminology, psychiatry and psychology at Penn. “From A to B to C: From fish consumption to better sleep to higher cognitive functioning.”

The researchers asked 541 schoolchildren in China between ages 9 and 11 to describe their eating habits, including how often they ate fish. Their parents, meanwhile, were asked to answer questions about the kids’ sleep patterns. Researchers then administered IQ tests when the children turned 12.

They found links between eating fish regularly — the more, the better — and both improved sleep and higher IQ scores. But, Raine explains, it appears that many of the cognitive benefits can be traced back to bedtime. “The brain is so much more plastic early on in child development,” he says. “We might anticipate that fish consumption earlier in life may be particularly beneficial for a child’s sleep and cognitive functioning.”

While the study focused on kids, Raine says “it’s quite reasonable to imagine that these findings can also apply to adults,” citing studies that have shown that omega-3 fatty acids can alter psychological functioning in adults.

Eating fish just a few times a month may improve your brain functioning, Raine says. (Fish and omega-3s have also been shown to be good for your heart.)

“The important thing is really having a balanced diet. It needn’t be a lot,” Raine says. “Even if parents could just get fish on the table once a week, that could be enough to make a bit of a difference over at school and in long-term performance, and especially sleep.”

By JAMIE DUCHARME       December 22, 2017      TIME Health
source: time.com


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Can Eating Fish Make Kids Smarter?

Myth has it that fish is brain food – but it just might be more than myth, a new study suggests.

Kids who ate fish at least once a week had intelligence quotients, or IQs, that were nearly 5 points higher than the IQs for kids who ate less fish or none at all, the study found. Fish eaters also slept better.

Though the study was done among Chinese children, American kids are just as likely to benefit from fish, according to lead researcher Jianghong Liu, an associate professor of nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing in Philadelphia.

“We need to modify the American diet for the betterment of our children,” she said.

“If parents want their children to be healthy and higher-performing, they should put fish on the table once a week,” Liu said. “That is not too much to ask.”

Although the study cannot prove that eating fish accounted for the higher IQs and better sleep, they do seem to be associated, she said.

According to the researchers, the benefit in IQ can be pinned to the better sleep afforded by omega-3 fatty acids found in many types of fish.

Good foods for brain health

To find out if fish was linked to benefits in children’s health, Liu and her colleagues studied the eating habits of more than 500 boys and girls in China, 9 to 11 years old. The children completed a questionnaire about how often they’d eaten fish in the past month, with options that ranged from never to at least once a week.

The kids also took the Chinese version of an IQ test that rates verbal and nonverbal skills, called the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised.

In addition, the children’s parents answered questions about their child’s sleep quality. The information collected included how long kids slept, how often they woke during the night and whether they were sleepy during the day.

Liu’s team also took into account other factors that could influence the findings, such as the parents’ education, occupation and marital status and the number of children in the home.

The team found that children who ate fish at least once a week scored 4.8 points higher on the IQ tests than those who seldom or never ate fish. Kids whose meals sometimes included fish scored slightly more than 3 points higher.

Moreover, eating more fish was linked with better sleep.

One U.S. nutritionist, however, says that advice to eat fish should be taken with a grain of salt.

“It’s not that eating fish is unhealthy per se, but there are issues that need to be considered before parents go overboard feeding fish to their kids to make them smarter and sleep better,” said Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Medical Center in New York City. She was not involved with the study.

Fish is a good source of lean protein and is high in omega-3 essential fatty acids, she said. These acids are highly concentrated in the brain and play important roles in neurological function. They are essential for brain, eye and neurological development in fetuses. They are also necessary for eye, heart and brain health in adults and may reduce systemic inflammation, Heller said.

“The concern with eating fish is not only the overfishing of our seas, but the amount of mercury – a neurotoxin – found in fish,” she said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends only one to two 2-ounce servings of low-mercury fish a week for children ages 4 to 7; 3 ounces for children 8 to 10; and 4 ounces for children 11 and older, Heller said.

Five commonly eaten fish that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish, according to the FDA.

“A healthy, balanced diet, plenty of exercise and limited computer and screen time can all help kids sleep better and do better in school,” Heller said.

The study was published online Dec. 21 in the journal Scientific Reports.

By STEVEN REINBERG     HealthDay     December 22, 2017
 


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Reduce The Damaging Effects Of Sugar On Your Brain

9TH MAY 2016    MINA DEAN

In 2014 North Americans consumed an average of about 27 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup each.

Fructose consumption can damage hundreds of genes.

But the good news is that DHA — an omega 3 fatty acid — can reverse this damage, scientists have discovered.

Fructose is a sugar commonly found in the Western diet.

Most of the fructose in the American diet comes from high-fructose corn syrup or is consumed in sweetened drinks, syrups, honey and desserts.

According to the Department of Agriculture, in 2014 each American consumed about 27 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup.

In addition, most baby food and fruit contains fructose.

However, the absorption of the fruit sugar is mostly slowed down by the fibre in fruit.

On top of that there are other healthy components found in fruit which are important for the body and the brain.

Our brain cell membranes naturally contain DHA but this amount is not enough to fight diseases.

A diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids can help to reverse the damage to the genes caused by fructose.

Dr Xia Yang a senior author of the study at UCLA University explained:

“DHA changes not just one or two genes; it seems to push the entire gene pattern back to normal, which is remarkable.
And we can see why it has such a powerful effect.”

Professor Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, the co-senior author of the paper, pointed out that the only way to get DHA is from our diet:

“The brain and the body are deficient in the machinery to make DHA; it has to come through our diet.
DHA strengthens synapses in the brain and enhances learning and memory.
It is abundant in wild salmon and, to a lesser extent, in other fish and fish oil, as well as walnuts and flaxseed.”

drinking a glass of sugar

The study was carried out on rats.

They were divided into three groups for six weeks.

During this period one group only drank water with no fructose and no DHA.

The second group consumed fructose water and a DHA rich diet.

The other group received water with fructose equivalent to a litre of soda per day.

The tests run on the rats showed that a high-fructose diet impaired the rats’ memory.

However, the fructose and DHA group showed similar results to those that drank only water.

This strongly suggested that the harmful effects of fructose were eliminated  by DHA.

The study showed that fructose had altered more than 700 genes in the hypothalamus (the metabolic control centre in the brain) and more than 200 genes in the hippocampus (a brain region for regulating memory and learning).

The alteration in human genes could lead to conditions such as bipolar disorder, Parkinson’s disease, depression and other brain diseases.

More tests on the rats also showed that those on a high-fructose diet had higher triglycerides, glucose and insulin levels.

These are similar indicators associated with obesity and diabetes in humans.

The study was published in EBioMedicine (Meng et al., 2016).


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The Most Healthy Fish And Seafood

 

There are plenty of fish in the sea, but finding the best fish and seafood took thorough analysis. We started with a list of the 20 most popular types of seafood in the U.S. (which explains why hairy anchovies are missing). Using the latest FDA data and a serving size of 3 ounces, we calculated the omega-3 (DHA and EPA) content of each fish, plus other nutritional perks like selenium, a mineral that bolsters cancer-fighting antioxidants, and B12 vitamins, which are crucial to nerve health. Then we factored in average levels of toxins like mercury and PCBs. The result: a safe seafood and fish list that will let you navigate the fish counter like Captain Ahab.

1. Salmon (the wild kind) wins by a waterslide, and is a healthy fish you can count on to pack in nutrition. Most varieties, including coho and sockeye, provide more than three times the 250-mg recommended minimum daily dose of omega-3s. Wild Atlantic salmon is king of the sea with a mighty 1.6 g of the good stuff and a mini mercury count of 0.01 ppm. A serving also gets you 72 percent of your 55-mcg RDA of selenium. Avoid Farmed salmon, which may contain PCBs from polluted water.

Fish Habit May Reduce Breast Cancer Risk, Study Suggests

 

2. Rainbow trout (the farmed kind) gets the silver medal for a full gram of omega-3s. Tests on mixed varieties of trout show only 0.07 ppm of mercury, and farmed may contain even less. It also boasts more than twice the 2-mcg RDA for B12 and half the 15-mg RDA for niacin, which lowers bad cholesterol and plays a key role in metabolism.

3. Oysters (from the Pacific) are almost devoid of mercury (0.01 ppm) and pack 1.2 g of omega-3s per 3 oz. Each slippery serving also delivers more than twice the 12-mg RDA of immunity- and libido-boosting zinc. Avoid Wild Eastern and American oysters — they may contain PCBs.

4. Striped bass (if farmed) is not known to contain mercury in any measurable quantity, and packs 0.8 g of omega-3s, more than twice the suggested minimum. Bonus nutrients include about double the RDA of B12 and 72 percent of your daily selenium. Avoid Mercury-laden wild striped bass (0.22 ppm).

5. Pollock (from the Atlantic) — often used to make filet-o-fish, fish sticks, and imitation crab (aka surimi) — is rich in B12 (3 mcg) and selenium (40 mcg) and extremely low in mercury (0.04 ppm). And its 0.5 g of omega-3s is nothing to shake a fin at. Avoid Pacific pollock — it’s more likely to contain PCBs.

6. Flounder and sole are nutritional twins and contain a healthy 0.4 g of omega-3s and just 0.04 ppm of mercury. A single serving has nearly 100 percent of your daily RDA of selenium and B12. Avoid Blackback and Summer varieties — they can pack PCBs.

7. Alaskan king crab deserves its crown as the crustacean with the biggest omega-3 bang (0.4 g) and a piddly 0.06 ppm of mercury. It’s low cal (82 calories per 3 oz), and it contains 50 percent of your zinc RDA and — check it out — five times your B12 RDA. Avoid Blue crab, which has higher levels of PCBs and mercury.

8. Perch (freshwater). One serving provides over 100 percent of your omega-3 minimum, almost all of your selenium (47 mcg), and half of your B12, with no measurable mercury. So eat up!

9. Clams score you 0.2 g of omega-3s (some tests reveal that they can contain as much as 0.5 g). A single serving also has 350 percent of the 15-mg RDA for iron and a colossal 84 mcg of B12. All that with a mere 0.02 ppm of mercury.

10. Scallops have a meaty texture even steak lovers can appreciate. Both the bay and sea varieties are heart friendly, with 0.3 g of omega-3s, more than half your B12 RDA, and only a hint of mercury (0.05 ppm).

11. Shrimp are a dieter’s dream at only 84 calories per serving, with 0.3 g of omega-3s and a super-safe mercury level of 0.05 ppm. The drawback: A serving of shrimp has 166 mg of cholesterol (almost as much as an egg), so if you’re watching your cholesterol, don’t eat the pink critters more than once a week.

12. Catfish (if farmed) has 0.2 g of healthy fats, over 100 percent of your B12 RDA, and only 0.05 ppm of mercury. But the whiskered fish’s biggest claim to fame is 14.3 mcg of muscle- and bone-building vitamin D — almost three times your RDA.

13. Haddock gives up a good bit of omega-3s (0.2 g), 63 percent of your selenium, and over half of your B12 RDA. And barely-there mercury (0.03 ppm) makes it an anytime entr?

14. Tilapia is a freshwater dweller similar to catfish. Though it has only 0.1 g of omega-3s, tilapia is nearly free of mercury (0.01 ppm) and contains 84 percent of your daily selenium and 79 percent of your B12. So you can eat it till the sharks come home.

You May Want To avoid-tilapia-and-farmed-fish

15. Lobster (the spiny kind). Spiny lobster doesn’t have claws like the monsters from Maine, but its tail has tons more omega-3s (0.4 g vs. 0.07 g) and a lot less mercury (0.09 ppm vs. 0.3 ppm). Other highlights include 50 percent of your zinc RDA, 91 percent of your selenium, and nearly twice your RDA of B12.


16. Canned tuna (light). It’s saddled with more mercury (0.12 ppm) than most fish on this list, but it has the least of all other types of tuna and still provides 0.2 g of omega-3s. Eat it no more than eight times a month and feel good about getting 75 percent of your niacin RDA and more than 100 percent of your selenium and B12.

17. Cod (from the Pacific) supplies almost twice the omega-3s of Atlantic cod (0.2 g vs. 0.1 g) and racks up 72 percent of your selenium for just 89 calories a serving. But don’t dine on it more than twice a week, because its mercury count is on the high side (0.1 ppm).

18. Halibut is a very good source of omega-3s (0.4 g) and provides more than 40 percent of your RDA of niacin, 72 percent of your selenium, and 58 percent of B12, so eating it every once in a while is a healthy option. Just keep it to no more than four meals per month because its 0.2-ppm mercury count is twice as high as cod’s.

19. Skipjack tuna is smaller than bluefin or yellowfin and therefore soaks up fewer toxins. It delivers an impressive 0.3 g of omega-3s, 72 percent of your selenium RDA, and 93 percent of B12. Still, it has 0.2 ppm of mercury, so limit it to four meals a month.

20. Orange roughy has two strikes against it: minimal omega-3s (0.02 g) and way more mercury (0.6 ppm) than any other fish listed here. But it’s low in calories and high in protein and selenium (75 mcg). So if you’re craving it, go ahead — just not more than once a month.

WH Ranks The Most Healthy Fish And Seafood Safe seafood        March 10, 2007


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How To Choose The Healthiest Seafood

Choosing the healthiest seafood can be tricky: While many fish are high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, some contain unwanted levels of toxins. These tips will make your decision easier.

The Usual

Shrimp They’re loaded with protein and vitamin D. Too bad that a 2014 Oceana study found that 30 percent of shrimp in stores and restaurants were mislabeled or misrepresented–e.g., some were sold as wild-caught Gulf shrimp when they were actually farmed. (Most farmed shrimp come from polluted waterways in Asia and are heavily treated with antibiotics.)

The Fresh Pick

Oysters These low-calorie morsels are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids as well as iron. And thanks to their short life cycle and algae-based diets, oysters are less likely to pick up harmful pollutants from their environment or their food. This makes them one of the healthiest types of seafood you can eat–cooked or raw.

The Usual

Swordfish It may be hearty and satisfying, but swordfish has been found to contain high levels of the industrial pollutant mercury, which it picks up by eating smaller contaminated fish. Mercury can harm development of the nervous system. That’s why the FDA recommends that women who are pregnant or planning to conceive, as well as children, avoid swordfish altogether.

The Fresh Pick

Rainbow Trout Protein-packed rainbow trout has flaky white or pink flesh and an almost nutty flavor; the freshwater variety tends to have a milder taste than seagoing trout (also known as steelhead). Either way, trout is a safe pick: The type you see at the market was likely raised in man-made rivers (called raceways) where it has little to no contact with pollutants like mercury.

trout_fish

The Usual

Atlantic Salmon Salmon is a healthy-diet staple, but because it’s raised in crowded offshore pens, farmed Atlantic salmon is sometimes given antibiotics to prevent disease. It’s often imported (the name now refers to the species, not the ocean it came from); some nations may have looser restrictions on antibiotic use.

The Fresh Pick

Wild Alaskan Salmon All types of salmon are high in omega-3 fatty acids, as well as phosphorous and the essential vitamins D and B12. But most domestic salmon is wild Alaskan salmon, which swims free. Unlike its farmed cousin, this type of fish doesn’t need a protective dose of antibiotics (or an artificial boost in color).

The Usual

Tuna Although it’s a tasty and affordable source of lean protein, tuna has gotten a bad rap. The FDA does recommend that women limit consumption of albacore tuna, which can be high in mercury, to 6 ounces a week. Ahi, bigeye and yellowfin can also have unhealthy levels of toxins. However, canned light tuna, if not mercury-free, is still considered to be relatively low in mercury.

The Fresh Pick

Flounder High in omega-3s and protein, yet low in calories, flounder is an ideal but often overlooked fish. Like other types of flatfish, flounder has niacin, B vitamins and phosphorus. It’s also an excellent source of selenium, an essential mineral that works as an antioxidant to help fight damaging free radicals. As for mercury, flounder’s levels are very low.

By Suzannah Evans, SELF      10/09/2015 


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Omega 3s for Weight Loss: Timing is Everything

Michelle Schoffro Cook      January 17, 2014

You’ve probably heard that Omega 3 fatty acids are good for you. You may even know they help with weight loss. But, timing when you ingest them plays a huge role in how much fat you’ll burn or whether you’ll burn fat at all.

walnuts


When researching my book 60 Seconds to Slim, I discovered that when people take Omega 3 fatty acids, or ingest them from food sources, plays a significant role in whether they’ll lose weight. By taking Omega 3s or eating Omega-3 rich foods within one hour of working out, the body will burn 14% more fat than through exercise alone.

It’s easy to obtain Omega-3 fatty acids from diet if you consume the following foods on a daily basis:

  • A handful of raw, unsalted walnuts
  • A tablespoon of freshly-ground flaxseeds two times daily or a tablespoon of flaxseed oil drizzled on food
  • Fatty fish like wild salmon, flounder, catfish, sardines, mackerel, herring, kipper, or whitebait. Tuna also contains high amounts of Omega 3s but is frequently contaminated with high levels of mercury.

If you’re supplementing with Omega 3s, 2000 milligrams of eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA) is a typical daily dose.

Omega 3 fatty acids have many other health benefits too, including:

  • Reducing the risk of heart disease
  • Brain disease prevention
  • Preventing diabetes
  • Pain-reduction
  • Joint healing and arthritis-prevention


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Vitamin B May Lower Stroke Risk

September 19th, 2013

New evidence suggests taking vitamin B supplements may help reduce the risk of stroke.

A study, published this week in the online issue of Neurology, analyzed 14 randomized clinical trials of vitamin B that included a total of 54,913 participants. All of the studies compared the supplement use with a placebo or a very low-dose B vitamin. The patients were then followed for a minimum of six months.

The purpose of this meta-analysis was to see if vitamin B lowered homocysteine levels in the blood, which are associated with atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries), as well as an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, blood clot formation and possibly Alzheimer’s disease.

“Previous studies have conflicting findings regarding the use of vitamin B supplements and stroke or heart attack,” said study author Dr. Xu Yuming, with Zhengzhou University in Zhengzhou, China. “Some studies have even suggested that the supplements may increase the risk of these events.”

The data showed vitamin B lowered homocysteine levels and, therefore, the risk of stroke overall by 7%. But, researchers noted, taking vitamin B supplements did not appear to affect the severity of those strokes or the risk of death from stroke.

Vitamin B is an important nutrient for the body. It can be found naturally in a variety of foods such as beef liver, certain beans, bananas, light turkey meat, halibut and potato skins.


“B vitamins are essential for living,” notes Katherine Tallmadge, a registered dietician and the author of “Diet Simple.” “They produce energy in your cells. They are water-soluble vitamins, which means if you take in too much, they are usually excreted by the kidneys. The exception is B12.”

The study authors also found that folic acid, a supplemental form of folate (vitamin B9), which is often found in fortified cereals, appeared to reduce the effect of vitamin B. Researchers did not find a reduction in stroke risk for vitamin B12.

“Based on our results, the ability of vitamin B to reduce stroke risk may be influenced by a number of other factors, such as the body’s absorption rate, the amount of folic acid or vitamin B12 concentration in the blood, and whether a person has kidney disease or high blood pressure,” said Yuming.

Although the scientists admit more research needs to be done, many stroke specialists feel this is a positive step forward.

“I think this is an exciting study, because we need more treatments for stroke,” says Dr. Teshamae Monteith, an assistant professor of clinical neurology at the University of Miami School of Medicine and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

“I believe safe options are necessary,” Monteith continued, “and this indeed could be that. But I don’t think people should start ingesting large amounts of vitamin B to avoid strokes. We just aren’t there yet.”

Yuming agrees. “Before you begin taking any supplements,” he warns, “you should always talk to your doctor.”

source: CNN


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Omega-3s tied to lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis

By Veronica Hackethal, MD      NEW YORK       Thu Aug 22, 2013 

(Reuters Health) – Women who have diets high in omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish are less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than those who skimp on fish, new research suggests.

Researchers surveyed Swedish women about their diets and found over the course of more than seven years, long-term consumption of more than one serving of fatty fish each week was tied to a lower risk of developing the condition.

“This study is the first to attribute the protective effect of fish against rheumatoid arthritis to its content of omega-3 fatty acids,” Daniela Di Giuseppe, a doctoral student at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and lead author of the study, told Reuters Health in an email.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes joint inflammation, deformities and disability. People with the condition also have a higher risk of heart disease, some infections, anxiety, depression and blood cancers like leukemia.

According to the American College of Rheumatology, between 0.5 and 1 percent of the U.S. population has rheumatoid arthritis. Women are two to three times more likely than men to develop the disease, which most commonly starts affecting people in their 60s.

Di Giuseppe and her colleagues followed over 32,000 women born between 1914 and 1948 who were part of the Swedish Mammography Cohort. Information about fish consumption was gathered from diet questionnaires sent to women in 1987 and 1997.

National registries were used to identify new diagnoses of rheumatoid arthritis between 2003 and 2010.

The researchers separated women into five groups based on the amount of fish-based omega-3 fatty acids in their diet, ranging from 0.21 grams or less per day to at least half a gram daily.

Eating 0.21 grams per day of omega-3 fatty acids equates to about one serving per week of salmon and other fatty fish, or four servings per week of lean fish such as cod.

During follow-up, 205 women developed rheumatoid arthritis, the researchers reported in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.


Long-term consumption of any fish at least once per week, compared to less than one weekly serving, was tied to a 29 percent lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis. However, that finding could have been due to chance, the researchers found.

Women who reported getting more than 0.21 grams of omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish per day both in 1987 and 1997 had a 52 percent decreased risk of developing the disease, compared to those who ate the least.

The researchers found a threshold effect, suggesting more omega-3s may not always be better. Below 0.35 grams per day, the risk of rheumatoid arthritis increased, but above it, the benefits seemed to taper off.

The results are consistent with other studies that have found threshold effects, and with recommendations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services, which advise eating at least two servings of fish per week.

The researchers concluded that “moderate consumption of fish is sufficient to reduce risk of diseases.”

Genes and lifestyle may both play a role in rheumatoid arthritis. Dr. Simon Helfgott, a rheumatoid arthritis researcher at Harvard Medical School in Boston, said the top three things people can do to prevent the disease are not smoke, avoid gum disease by having good oral hygiene and improve their diet.

“When we say diet there’s really only one influence that seems to affect rheumatoid arthritis and that’s fish consumption,” Helfgott, who was not involved in the new research, told Reuters Health.

Omega-3 fatty acids are used by the body to make molecules that help regulate inflammation, known as eicosanoids. The current thinking is that eicosanoids derived from essential fatty acids in meat promote more inflammation than those from omega-3 fatty acids in fish, researchers said.

“This study lends credence to a strongly considered hypothesis in rheumatology circles, which is that we might be able to intervene in preventing rheumatoid arthritis in some individuals,” Helfgott said.

Source: bit.ly/172ipzX Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, online August 12, 2013      www.reuters.com


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Stay energized: How to boost your alertness

by Michele Borboa, MS    Nov 14, 2008  

TIPS TO
STAY SHARP

Your mind and body are closely interconnected – when one is revved to go, the other is usually as pumped. However, when your body tires, your brain typically follows, and vice-versa. Here are five tips to ensure your physical and mental energy stays strong all day long.
 
1. DIET RIGHT
A common side-effect of weight-loss diets is overall fatigue, typically because of insufficient calories or lack of key nutrients. If you are aiming to “lose a few,” do it sensibly by eating three well-balanced meals – starting with breakfast – and a small snack or two. Make sure your meals provide a combination of protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats – you’ll feel more satisfied and stay full and energized longer. If you aren’t sure you are getting enough calories or your recommended intake of nutrients, talk to a registered dietician. 
 
2. INCREASE YOUR INTAKE OF BRAIN FOOD
In addition to a well-balanced diet, eating foods especially good for your brain can give you a mental recharge. Studies show that choline, an essential nutrient found in eggs, can improve memory and reaction times as well as increase physical endurance. Omega-3 fats, found in fatty fish, nuts and flax, are also stellar nutrients to include in your daily diet – omega-3s nourish the brain cells, decrease inflammation, and can increase cognitive function. 

 

3. BREATHE DEEP FOR ENERGY
Like your muscles, your brain thrives on oxygenated blood. Not only does breathing increase the circulation of fresh oxygen and vital nutrients to your brain and body, it reduces energy-sapping stress and tiresome tension. When you start feeling drowsy, have trouble concentrating, or feel physically fatigued, take 10 minutes to close your eyes and breathe deeply, filling your lungs to capacity and then fully exhaling the air. Meditation and exercise are also easy ways to invigorate your mind and body. 
 
4. PLAY BRAIN GAMES
Staying cognitively sharp requires mental training, much like staying fit requires exercise. Research indicates that brain games can improve memory, concentration, cognitive processing, reaction times and ward off dementia and Alzheimer’s. Mental challenges like crossword puzzles, riddles, strategic board games, and interactive online games will pique your brain and help keep you alert. To combat the mid-morning or mid-afternoon mental fatigue, take a break from tiring work and reward yourself with brain play. 
 
5. USE CAFFEINE STRATEGICALLY
Though too much caffeine can give you the scatter-brained jitters, a judicious amount can perk you up and keep you sharp. Caffeine causes a release of dopamine in your brain, which stimulates the area responsible for alertness. Research shows that a cup of coffee can improve your mental performance for up to 45 minutes – meaning a cup right before a big exam or presentation can work to your advantage. Other research shows that drinking a cup right before a nap can result in you waking up rested and cognitively sharp, granted you only power snooze for 20 minutes. Limit your caffeine intake to one or two cups daily so you don’t end up interrupting your nightly sleep, which is truly key to keeping you alert. 


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5 Foods to Make You Happy (Hint: Omega-3s)

By Sherry Guastini   June 13, 2012

Do you ever feel depressed or disconnected from your daily life, as if you’re just going through the motions? Are your relationships suffering because you feel numb and joyless? Do you forget appointments or events and then wonder why? Do you have a child who seems to cry easily, feel sad a lot or just seems withdrawn?

If so, you are not alone. Depression rates in the U.S. “have roughly tripled over two decades,” according to several studies and reported in CBS News TV show “Sunday Morning,” which aired on March 18. That translates to 27 million Americans taking pharmaceuticals such as Wellbutrin, Celexa, Pristiq, Cymbalta, Lexapro, Paxil, Zoloft, Effexor and Prozac. Studies show that these antidepressants work for only 30 to 45% of people and many of these drugs come with serious side effects such as suicide, violence, psychosis, abnormal bleeding and brain tumors.

There are many valid reasons why people could become depressed, such as the financial impact of the economy, the death of a loved one, foreclosure and abuse to name a few. However, turning to these mood-altering drugs doesn’t appear to offer a healthy solution. In fact, most of those drugs target Serotonin (the feel-good hormone) uptake while new studies show that depression is linked more closely to too much Cortisol (the stress hormone) in our system.

In fact, studies show that there are many lifestyle adjustments that can be applied for free that help to lift our mood from “can’t get off the couch” to moving through our day with a smile of accomplishment. A few changes in your daily routine can make a big difference in your mental/emotional state. Try spending time in nature or with a pet, taking a long walk, moving your body in some form of exercise you enjoy, turning off depressing news reports, finding a spiritual path that speaks to you, mindfulness practices like yoga, tai chi, meditation, and engaging in supportive relationships.

By far, one of the most disturbing facts on depression rates is that pre-schoolers are the fastest-growing market for antidepressants claims a study published in “Psychiatric Services,” April 2004. What?! The preschool years have always been among the most innocent and joyful times of life! At least four percent of preschoolers, over a million, are clinically depressed. The rate of increase in depression among children is an astounding 23% and is currently escalating, claims a Harvard University study reported in “Harvard Mental Health Newsletter”, February 2002.

Some might claim that doctors are simply getting better at diagnosing depression. I have a different opinion and it involves nutrition or the lack thereof.

Our brains, especially our growing brains, need good fats to be healthy. No, wait a second – don’t run to the freezer for ice cream quite yet! While ice cream is fatty and does taste great it will only make you feel good for a little while…. What I’m talking about are Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s).

Of all of our body parts, it’s the brain that’s most in need of high-quality fats. In fact, the brain is made up of 60% fat, mostly an Omega-3 fat called DHA. Its job is to support cellular communication and when present in the right ratio, it produces happiness while increasing learning and memory skills. If our brains are deficient in Omega-3’s we can experience depression, anxiety and bi-polar disorder. Not surprisingly, Americans are deficient in Omega-3’s. Some reports indicating 95% of us lack enough Omega-3’s to support our brains!


One reason for this is our reliance on processed, nutrient-deficient foods. Ask any kid what his favorite foods are and you’ll probably get a long list of junk foods like Cheezits and Ring Dings! Not only are processed foods lacking in Omega-3’s, but are also high in Omega-6’s that unbalances the ratio of EFA’s and is the leading cause of inflammatory issues.

Once again looking to the past to solve a present day crisis provides a solution. In ages past, we had an understanding that food was medicine. When we return to the way our ancestors ate and include many natural whole foods into our diet, the dense nutrition begins to balance our brains and the rest of us as well! The lowest rates of depression are found in societies with the highest consumption of EFA rich foods.

1. Fish.

One of the biggest sources of Omega-3’s is from fish, particularly salmon, sardines and halibut. Wild-caught fish are far healthier than farm-raised. Some people are vegan or don’t like the taste of fish and choose to supplement with fish or krill oils. Choosing a highly purified version of fish oil is wise, as many fish are contaminated with PCP’s and mercury, resulting in a very expensive toxic sludge.

2. Walnuts.

Walnuts are also a good source of Omega-3’s, but be sure to buy them raw for the biggest impact.

3. Soy. 

Soy is also high in Omega-3’s. However, soy is among the most genetically modified (GM) foods on the market. GM foods contain proteins not found in nature and for many they lead to digestive issues as these strange proteins are not easily broken down. The UK experienced a 50% rise in pediatric allergies the year that GM foods were introduced in their markets. Coincidence? I think not.

4. Flax.

Flax seeds are also a great source of Omega-3’s. To access all the nutrition they hold you must be sure to grind them up. Refrigerating Flax is a must because the oil quickly becomes rancid.

5. Chia.

Lastly, chia seeds, nature’s forgotten superfood, are so chock full of Omega-3’s they are sure to put a smile on your face! As a nutrition coach, I feel chia is the superior choice for Omega-3’s. They contain 30% EFA’s and the most antioxidants of any food researched, including blueberries. Not only does that mean the oil stays very stable without the seeds needing refrigeration, but it also imparts anti-aging support to your brain and the rest of your body as well. Because the seeds have an extremely thin outer shell (unlike flax) they needn’t be ground, they are completely bio-available. Another wonderful aspect of chia seeds is that bugs don’t like the plant. This means you needn’t worry about herbicides, pesticides, mercury, PCP’s, rancidity or genetic modification.

How’s that for a superfood? Eat some and get happy – superhappy!

source: mindbodygreen.com