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Can Marijuana Be The Answer For Pain?

Like many of her friends, Alexandra Callner, now 58, experimented with recreational marijuana when she was younger.

“I had tried it, and hated it, in my 20s,” Callner says. “When I was around pot smokers, I thought, ‘Ugh, losers.’ ”

But, that was before her knee arthritis became so bad, it robbed her sleep, night after night. She took two over-the-counter pain pills a day, but the pain would wake her up at night. And the drugs were hard on her stomach.

“It was making me kind of nauseous,” she says of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories. Plus, she needed to stay active to manage her dog boarding service in Pasadena, CA.

Then came another solution. “A neighbor said, ‘Try this,’ ” Callner says. It was a joint.

Callner got a medical marijuana card, and then she tried it. “I slept through the night.”

That was a year ago, and it’s now her nightly ritual. “Every night, I get into bed, read about an hour, take one or two puffs, and then I am off to sleep,” she says. “The pain is much lighter.”

About 50 million Americans like Callner live with chronic or severe pain. Patients and doctors are seeking treatments besides the potent prescription painkillers like opioids and the nonprescription medicines that Callner found tough to tolerate.

So could marijuana be the next pain reliever of choice?

Lack of Research

Donald Abrams, MD, a professor of clinical medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, helped review research on marijuana for a 2017 report from the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

There is a lack of evidence about the health effects of marijuana, he says.

Adds Angela Bryan, PhD, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Colorado, Boulder: “The evidence we have thus far suggests that cannabis is moderately effective for pain relief.” But most studies haven’t compared marijuana with other ways to relieve pain, she says.

Cannabis is the scientific name for the marijuana plant. Researchers prefer to use “cannabis” instead of “marijuana” because marijuana is associated with recreational use, Abrams says.

Why the lack of evidence from research in the U.S.?

Although medical marijuana in some form is legal in 30 states and Washington, D.C., it’s still illegal on the federal level. It’s classified as a Schedule I drug — putting it in the same category as other drugs of “high potential for abuse” that have ”no currently accepted medical use,” such as heroin and LSD.

That means federal rules put limits on what researchers can do.

“In the state of Colorado [which allows medical and adult private use], I can go to any dispensary and buy whatever I want to treat whatever I want,” says Bryan, who’s also co-director of the CU Change Lab, which explores health and risk behavior. “You would think that means researchers can, too. The problem is, researchers are in a federal institution [at the University of Colorado]. If we do anything in violation of federal law, we could have all federal funding withdrawn.”

Bryan’s team has grants for four research studies on marijuana, including one on lower back pain. Participants come to the university for their initial assessment, but then must go to the dispensary on their own to buy the marijuana, she says. Declassifying marijuana as a Schedule I drug would make her research easier, Bryan says, or at least as easy as alcohol research.

“If I want to do a study on alcohol, I bring someone in, give them wine, get blood [samples], and see what happens when they use alcohol.”

Bryan says she could use marijuana supplied by the government. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a license to the University of Mississippi to cultivate marijuana for research. The marijuana from dispensaries is different and more potent  than that supplied by the National Institute on Drug Abuse farm, she says.

Patient groups, including those for veterans, are among those pushing for more research. Nick Etten, a former Navy SEAL, founded the Veterans Cannabis Project in 2017. “We are bringing stories to the Hill,” he says, ”of veterans who have found relief from their health issues through cannabis.” He reaches out to individual U.S. legislators, he says, to elevate marijuana as a health issue and to persuade them to declassify marijuana.

In 2016, the National Football League Players Association created a pain management committee to study ways to help players deal with injuries and chronic pain, says Brandon Parker, a spokesman. “Marijuana is just one of several alternative pain relievers being studied by the committee,” he says.

Research Scorecard

The National Academies’ report looked at data from 1999 on, reviewing more than 10,000 scientific studies, of which only seven were directly related to pain relief. One of the seven looked at data from 28 studies.

Abrams says the evidence on marijuana and pain is strongest for helping nerve pain (neuropathy) and cancer-related pain. The committee also concluded that certain oral cannabinoids improved muscle spasms in patients with multiple sclerosis.

Cannabinoids are one of more than 60 chemicals in the cannabis plant. Abrams says it makes sense that marijuana may help relieve pain because the body has cannabinoid receptors, or places where the chemical attaches to cells.

Cannabinoid
The above wheel serves as a resource to determine which cannabinoids
may help treat symptoms associated with mood, eating/gastrointestinal disorders,
neurological disorders, pain, sleep disorders, and other medical conditions.

Here is a sampling of research or reviews published in the past year:

  • Israeli researchers found marijuana gave substantial pain relief to more than half of 1,200 cancer patients who used it for 6 months.
  • In a review of 16 published studies including more than 1,700 participants with chronic nerve pain, German researchers found that marijuana-based remedies increased the number of people who reported a 50% or more reduction in pain relief. But they also concluded that the risks may outweigh the benefits. People taking marijuana-based remedies were more likely to have sleepiness, dizziness, and confusion.
  • In a small study of 47 patients with Parkinson’s disease, Israeli researchers found a 27% improvement in pain with marijuana use.
  • Medical marijuana helped to ease pain in 26 patients with fibromyalgia, a condition in which the body has ”tender” points. Half the patients stopped taking any other medicines for fibromyalgia, but 30% did have mild side effects.
  • A study from the European Academy of Neurology found that cannabinoids given at various doses eased pain in migraine patients by 40% or more. It helped cut pain in people with cluster headaches, too, but only if the patient had a history of childhood migraine.
  • Marijuana and cannabinoids may have modest effects on the pain and muscle spasticity that come with multiple sclerosis, according to an Australian review that looked at 32 studies.

Not for Everyone

Experts also saw potential downsides to marijuana. The European Academy report found that marijuana use may:

  • Make you more likely to be involved in a car accident
  • Raise the chance of unintentional marijuana overdose injuries among children, something that has happened in states where marijuana use is legal
  • Lead to more frequent bronchitis if smoked on a regular basis
  • Raise the odds of having schizophrenia and, to a lesser extent, depression

Smoking marijuana is also linked to delivering a lower birth weight baby, although the relationship with other pregnancy and childhood outcomes is not clear, the report says.

Abrams says marijuana can raise heart rate and either raise or lower blood pressure. Frail older people with balance issues have a risk of dizziness and falling.

Will Marijuana Replace Opioids?

Some research suggests that marijuana could take the place of opioids. Two recent studies found that states with medical marijuana laws or legalized recreational use may have a decline in opioid prescriptions.

In another study, researchers polled nearly 3,000 medical marijuana patients, including about a third who said they had used opioid pain medicines in the past 6 months. Most said the marijuana provided relief equal to their other medications, but without the side effects. While 97% said they were able to lower the amount of opioids they took if they also took marijuana, 81% said that taking marijuana alone was more effective than using both marijuana and opioids.

That finding makes sense to Alex Jordan, 29, an artist who works at the Green Valley Collective, a marijuana dispensary in the Los Angeles area. She manages her chronic pain with daily use of marijuana joints and products that contain cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid.

Her experience helps her guide her customers, who range from young adults to those over age 80, to an effective remedy. “I would say 60% of our users use [marijuana] to manage some kind of pain, whether it be physical or mental,” she says.

Without it, her pain is severe – usually a 4 to 7 on a 10-point scale, she says. It started after she was in a car accident in 2011. The van she was riding in hit black ice and flipped seven times. The accident left her with a broken sternum (breastbone), six broken ribs, six crushed vertebrae, and collapsed lungs, making breathing difficult. Morphine helped relieve the pain in the hospital. Later, she says, “I could get any pill I wanted” for pain relief. She wore a neck brace for 2 months and a back brace for 6, but the pain persisted.

She wanted off the potent painkillers and had used marijuana recreationally in years past. She experimented with different options until she found her current regimen. And to make access easier, she and her husband moved from New York City to Los Angeles, where recreational marijuana is legal, last year. Before the move, the pain had gotten so bad, she had trouble putting on a shirt. These days, she’s working regularly and branching out as a freelance artist.

“The lack of pain is a wonderful thing,” she says. “It brings me to tears.”

 

By Kathleen Doheny        April 20, 2018
WebMD Article Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on April 20, 2018

Sources

Article: Can Marijuana Be The Answer For Pain?
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine: The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendation’s for Research,” January, 2017.
National Conference of State Legislatures: “State Medical Marijuana Laws.”
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML): “Legalization.”
Donald Abrams, MD, oncologist and professor of clinical medicine, University of California, San Francisco.
Angela Bryan, PhD, professor of psychology and neuroscience, University of Colorado, Boulder; co-director, CU Change Lab.
Nick Etten, founder, Veterans Cannabis Project.
Brandon Parker, spokesman, National Football League Players Union.
Alexandra Callner, owner, Spoiled Dog Pet Care, Pasadena, CA.
Alex Jordan, artist; budtender, Green Valley Collective, North Hollywood, CA.
JAMA Internal Medicine: “The Role of Cannabis Legalization in the Opioid Crisis.”
European Journal of Internal Medicine: “Prospective analysis of safety and efficacy of medical cannabis in large unselected population of patients with cancer.”
Cochrane Database System Review: “Cannabis-based medicines for chronic neuropathic pain in adults.”
Clinical Neuropharmacology: “Medical Cannabis in Parkinson Disease: Real-Life Patients’ Experience.”
Journal of Clinical Rheumatology: “Medical Cannabis for the Treatment of Fibromyalgia.”
Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports: “The Use of Cannabis and Cannabinoids in Treating Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis: a Systematic Review of Reviews.”
World Health Organization: “Cannabidiol (CBD) Pre-Review Report,” Expert Committee on Drug Dependence Thirty-ninth Meeting, Geneva, Switzerland, Nov. 6-10, 2017.

 

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50 Ways to Have A Happier Life

Most of us want to live a happier life, but we get lost in the daily grind of responsibility and adulthood. While we all have to make sacrifices in life, no one should stay in a situation that makes them perpetually unhappy. On the other hand, you also have to evaluate if it really is the circumstance making you unhappy, or simply your attitude about life. Many people forget that happiness is not a destination, but a choice. If you’ve been searching for more happiness but have come up short, we have a few ideas to put a smile back on your face.

HERE ARE 50 WAYS TO HAVE A HAPPIER LIFE:

1. BUY SOME FLOWERS (OR LOOK AT THEM IN NATURE)
If you have found yourself down in the dumps lately, looking at flowers can make you happier, according to a study done by Harvard. If you want to add more nature into your life, buy some flowers or take the scenic route to work.

2. TAKE A SELFIE
Taking a happy or silly picture can make you happier, according to research published in The Psychology of Well Being. Smiles are contagious, even if you’re just looking at your own happy face!

3. DAYDREAM
If you want to have a happier life, imagining yourself in a different situation could do the trick, says a study published in Frontiers in Psychology. Called “self-guided positive imagery,” this technique can help dispel negative emotions in the short-term and even change the structure of your brain over the long-term.

4. TAKE A SOCIAL MEDIA SABBATICAL
People who spend more time on social media are less happy in real life, says a study published in Depression and Anxiety. Don’t aimlessly scroll through your social media feed; instead, only get on when you have something important to update your friends about. This way, you will compare yourself less to others’ “perfect” lives and spend more time living yours.

5. WALK IN NATURE
A study published in Environmental Health and Medicine found that walking through forests increases your health and well-being. So, get outside and explore when you can!

6. MAKE A DECISION
Using your free will, even for a small decision, can make you happier, according to research in Frontiers in Psychology. Yogurt or ice cream? Take your pick!

7. DONATE TO A CHARITY YOU SUPPORT
Giving money or supplies to a cause you truly support can help you live a happier life, according to research done by Harvard Business School.

8. BE THE BEARER OF GOOD NEWS
In a study done by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, researchers found that sharing even little positive things helped both the sharer and receiver feel happier.

9. SPEND TIME WITH YOUR KIDS
Sure, parenting comes with a lot of challenges, but when things seem tough, remember that your kids will grow up someday. Truly relish the moments you have with them now and don’t take any moment for granted.

10. LEARN ABOUT YOUR HERITAGE
People who know where they come from have a better sense of identity, which promotes feelings of happiness.

11. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH POSITIVE PEOPLE
You’ve heard that happiness is contagious, so having happy friends can boost your mood, say researchers at Harvard’s Medical School.

12. BE INTIMATE WITH YOUR PARTNER
Couples who were intimate at least once a week were happier than those who had less physical contact, but being intimate more frequently didn’t produce any more happiness than once per week contact, according to a study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science.

13. MAKE A CHANGE
Making a positive life change will help you live a happier life due to altering your routine, but remember to appreciate your new life for a while instead of constantly needing a change.

14. CATCH YOUR SMILE IN THE MIRROR
Just like looking at a silly picture of yourself, smiling in the mirror will instantly make you happier.

15. COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS
If your happiness depends on anything outside yourself, it will never last. Learn to be happy with what you have rather than focusing on all the things you don’t have.

16. REMEMBER TO TAKE BREAKS
To live a happier life, you need to take short breaks to give your mind a rest, according to a study published in Work and Stress.

17. TREAT YOURSELF
Reward your hard work with something you enjoy, such as a cookie or a new pair of shoes. Everyone deserves a treat from time to time.

18. EAT A BALANCED DIET
You can’t feel happy if your brain and body don’t get the nutrition they need to function. Eat plenty of fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and lean meats and dairy if you wish.

19. DON’T WORK TOO HARD
If you make a lot of money but work all the time, you’ll have no time to spend that hard-earned money. Having free time and less money is better than being overstressed and overpaid.

20. LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS
Having too much debt can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety, so to combat this, try not to buy anything you can’t pay off in a few months. Or, pay down your existing debt faithfully over time without making other large purchases to add on top of it.

21. NURTURE YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
A happier life depends on us forming and maintaining connections with others. After all, we need other people to survive, so human connection can’t be emphasized enough.

22. BE KIND TO YOURSELF
Accepting and loving yourself as you are right now can make you happier and more confident, say researchers at the University of Hertfordshire.

23. OFFER HELP TO THE HOMELESS
Whether you give someone spare change, a blanket, or a hot meal, you will feel much better caring about the well-being of your community instead of just worrying about your own needs.

24. FIND HAPPINESS IN THE SMALL THINGS
Happiness exists all around you all the time; you just have to remember to open your eyes and notice it. The breeze on your skin, a child laughing at the park, and the sound of the rain are all reasons to smile.

happy

25. MOVE YOUR BODY
The effects of exercise are well-documented, so make sure to add some sort of movement to your daily routine. Exercise doesn’t just affect your physical health; it boosts your mental and emotional health as well.

26. REMEMBER TO BREATHE
Mindful breathing practices, such as Sudarshan Kriya yoga, can help to alleviate severe depression, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

27. ADD POSITIVE THINKING TO YOUR LIFE
Focus on all the good things in your life instead of ruminating on the bad things. You’ll have a brighter outlook and be able to live a happier life.

28. DON’T BUY THINGS; BUY EXPERIENCES
Studies have shown that experiences, not things, make people happier. While you still have to spend money on experiences, you’ll have memories and connections to show for it instead of just a physical object.

29. LEARN TO SAY NO
You can’t do everything and be everywhere at once, so don’t try. Saying no will free up your schedule and help to eliminate stress, which will bring you more happiness.

30. KEEP AN OPEN HEART
This world can be a scary place, but not everyone has evil intentions. Trust people until they give you a reason not to, because you can’t form any connections in life without some level of trust.

31. EAT YOUR VEGGIES
Eating your fruits and veggies boosts both physical and mental health, says a study published in the American Journal for Public Health. The study found that people felt happier with each serving of fruits and veggies eaten, up to eight per day.

32. GO OUTSIDE
If possible, try to get out into the country every once in a while where the air is purer. Breathe in deeply and enjoy the fresh air in your lungs!

33. HUG SOMEONE!
Physical contact helps promote happiness and releases feel-good hormones such as oxytocin, a hormone associated with bonding.

34. GIVE THANKS
Remembering what you’re grateful for will help keep things in perspective and help you stay focused on the positive things in your life.

35. TURN OFF THE TECH
It seems that depression and anxiety are on the rise in part due to the rampant use of technology, according to a study published in Computers in Human Behavior. Take a tech break for a couple hours a day to live a happier life.

36. DO YOGA
Because yoga combines deep breathing, exercise, meditation and stretching, it’s the perfect recipe for happiness.

37. CUT OUT ALCOHOL
Or, try to cut back on it, at least. One drink a day won’t hurt you, but any more than that can cause depression and other health problems in the long run.

38. SPREAD KINDNESS WHENEVER YOU CAN
However, don’t just do it for likes on a video or to brag to your friends. Show people kindness because it’s the right thing to do, and you’ll notice it’s easier to live a happier life.

39. WAKE UP WITH THE SUN
This might be hard for night owls, but not impossible. Getting up earlier will help you accomplish more during the day; it just takes time to establish a routine.

40. GIVE UP SMOKING
Ditching cigarettes improves both your physical and mental health, according to a study published in the Annals of Behavioural Medicine. Two-thirds of people in the study who quit smoking reported having a better mood and fewer episodes of depression.

41. MAKE NEW FRIENDS
Friends are vital for our health, and making new ones can boost happiness levels due to forming bonds and sharing experiences.

42. COOK AT HOME INSTEAD OF EATING OUT
Eating at home is not only healthier for you, but more relaxing as well. You don’t have a bunch of people talking, dishes clattering, and that overall hectic feeling when you dine in at home.

43. FOCUS ON SOLUTIONS INSTEAD OF PROBLEMS
If you wallow in negative thinking, you won’t be able to see the solutions available to you. Acknowledge the problems and then brainstorm ways to solve them so you can live a happier life.

44. PRACTICE ACTIVE LISTENING
If you want people to listen to you, start listening to them. Don’t just wait to respond so you can make your voice heard; really hear what the other person is saying, because listening is one of the greatest ways to show respect.

45. GIVE AWAY THINGS YOU NO LONGER USE
To live a happier life, try giving away items to the less fortunate. You’ll not only help out other people who can’t afford to buy everything brand new; you’ll also gain physical space and mental freedom.

46. DON’T BE SO HARD ON YOURSELF
Everyone makes mistakes in life, so don’t expect perfection from yourself. Embrace your failures and learn the lessons from them. Show yourself compassion and take it one day at a time.

47. DRINK PLENTY OF WATER
Living a happier life isn’t possible without taking care of your physical body first. Stay hydrated by keeping a reusable bottle with you at all times and filling it up throughout the day.

48. AVOID COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS
When you strive to be like others or get jealous of their lives, you fail to see your unique beauty and can’t appreciate your own life. Enjoy what you have and who you are instead of getting sucked into the toxic world of social media comparisons.

49. DO SOMETHING YOU’RE AFRAID OF
Nothing boosts your confidence like conquering a long-time fear! If you’ve always wanted to go skydiving, for instance, but have allowed your fears to stop you, just book an appointment to get the ball rolling! You can always cancel if you truly don’t feel ready, but remember – now is as good a time as any.

50. VISIT YOUR GRANDPARENTS
Older people can get lonely, and nothing makes them happier than to see their grandchildren. Knowing that you have brought a smile to their faces will help you feel good and live a happier life, too.

Final thoughts

Living a happier life comes down to changing your mindset, utilizing positive thinking, and taking care of your mind, body, and soul.


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Household Cleaners May Alter Kids’ Gut Flora And Contribute To Being Overweight, Says Study

Commonly used household disinfectants could increase the risk of young children becoming overweight by altering the makeup of their gut bacteria during the first few months of life, a study suggests.

The study, published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, analyzed the gut flora of 757 infants at age three to four months and their body mass index, or BMI, at one and three years old, looking at exposure to disinfectants, detergents and eco-friendly products used in the home.

Anita Kozyrskyj, professor of pediatrics at the University of Alberta, is shown in a handout photo. The high use of household disinfectant cleaners is changing the gut flora in babies, leading to them becoming overweight as three-year-olds.

“We found that infants living in households with disinfectants being used at least weekly were twice as likely to have higher levels of the gut microbes Lachnospiraceae at age three to four months,” said principal investigator Anita Kozyrskyj, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Alberta.

Lachnospiraceae is one of many non-pathogenic bacteria that naturally inhabit the human gut.

“When they were three years old, their body mass index was higher than children not exposed to heavy home use of disinfectants as an infant,” she added.

Researchers from across Canada looked at data on microbes in infant fecal matter among children enrolled in the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) birth cohort. They used World Health Organization growth charts for BMI scores.

Associations with altered gut flora in babies three to four months old were strongest for frequent use of household disinfectants such as multi-surface cleaners, which showed higher levels of Lachnospiraceae.

Kozyrskyj said researchers also found there was a greater increase in levels of those bacteria in children whose parents reported more frequent cleaning with disinfectants.

“As the microbiome develops over the first year of life, these microbes increase in their abundance. So it was a matter of dose,” she said in an interview, noting that studies of piglets have found similar changes in the animals’ gut microbiome when they were exposed to aerosol disinfectants in their enclosures.

However, the same association was not found with detergents or eco-friendly cleaners, the CHILD study found. Babies living in households that used eco-friendly cleaners had different microbiota and were less likely to be overweight as toddlers.

 

“Those infants growing up in households with heavy use of eco cleaners had much lower levels of the gut microbes Enterobacteriaceae (a family of bacteria that includes E. coli). However, we found no evidence that these gut microbiome changes caused the reduced obesity risk,” Kozyrskyj said.

One reason could be that the use of eco-friendly products may be linked to healthier overall maternal lifestyles and eating habits, contributing in turn to the healthier gut microbiomes and weight of infants.

“Antibacterial cleaning products have the capacity to change the environmental microbiome and alter risk for child overweight,” write the authors. “Our study provides novel information regarding the impact of these products on infant gut microbial composition and outcomes of overweight in the same population.”

There are many findings that point to a possible causative role for disinfectants in altering gut flora and subsequently leading to a higher childhood BMI, said Kozyrskyj, noting that in studies of mice, Lachnospiraceae has been shown to cause insulin resistance and increased fat storage.

“I would be comfortable in saying the high use of disinfectants had a contributory role … My advice would be to not overuse them,” she said.
“Some people might say maybe go for an alternative, go for the eco product instead of the disinfectants as a cleaning agent.”

In a related CMAJ commentary, epidemiologists Dr. Noel Mueller and Moira Differding of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health write: “There is biologic plausibility to the finding that early-life exposure to disinfectants may increase risk of childhood obesity through the alterations in bacteria within the Lachnospiraceae family.”

They call for further studies “to explore the intriguing possibility that use of household disinfectants might contribute to the complex causes of obesity through microbially mediated mechanisms.”

Kozyrskyj agreed, saying there is a need for further research that classifies cleaning products by their ingredients, with an analysis of their potential individual effects.

Mon., Sept. 17, 2018
 
By SHERYL UBELACKER     The Canadian Press
 


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Blueberries May Help Reduce Your Risk Of Alzheimer’s Disease: It’s All About The Anthocyanins

Blueberries deliver the most delicious wallop of vitamin C found on the planet (in my humble opinion). One serving supplies 25 percent of your daily C requirement plus additional heart-healthy fiber and manganese, important to bone health. A super-achiever when it comes to antioxidant strength, this fruit may also lower your risk of heart disease, cancer, and, new research suggests, even Alzheimer’s disease.

A team of University of Cincinnati scientists led by Dr. Robert Krikorian says the healthful antioxidants within blueberries provide a real benefit in improving memory and cognitive function in some older adults. Based on their work, they believe adding blueberries to your diet may help you prevent neurocognitive decline.

Blueberries acquire their deep color from anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid that acts as an antioxidant within the fruit, explains the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council. Generally, antioxidants help to prevent age-related damage at the cellular level within the plants. While some scientists believe consuming foods rich in antioxidants will help delay aging, not all scientists, including those at the National Institutes of Health, entirely support that theory.

Still, eating a diet rich in fruits and veggies is unquestionably good for your health with many scientists analyzing and testing specific foods to understand whether they might prevent a particular illness. Quite a few studies, Krikorian and his colleagues note, have found blueberries beneficial in preventing dementia.

 

blueberries
Anthocyanins within blueberries provide a real benefit in improving memory
and cognitive function in some older adults: study.

Silver Tide
One type of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. This neurodegenerative disorder develops in a healthy brain, its symptoms appearing slowly and then worsening over time. Eventually, this disease becomes severe enough to interfere with daily tasks and in the end disrupts even the autonomic nervous system, which controls heart rate and breathing. If they live long enough, Alzheimer’s patients die because their breathing stops. Currently 5.3 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, yet as the nation’s population grows older, that number will almost inevitably rise. The Alzheimer’s Association calculates that the number of Americans with this disorder will reach more than seven million by 2025.

How can science slow this trend?

Following up on earlier clinical trials showing blueberries boost cognitive performance, Krikorian and colleagues conducted two new studies. The first involved 47 adults, 68 years old or older and beginning to show signs of mild cognitive impairment — a risk factor for Alzheimer’s. First, the researchers conducted tests and a brain scan for each participant. Then, after forming two groups, one group of participants ate a placebo powder once a day for 16 weeks, while the other consumed a freeze-dried blueberry powder (equivalent to a single cup of berries).

Conducting the same tests and comparing the groups, Krikorian and his colleagues observed comparative improvement in cognitive performance and brain function among the adults who ate blueberry powder.

“The blueberry group demonstrated improved memory and improved access to words and concepts,” said Krikorian in a statement to the press. Additionally, a second scan showed increased activity in the brains of those in the blueberry group.

The team’s second study included 94 people between the ages of 62 and 80, all confessing to some memory problems. The researchers believed these participants to be in better cognitive “shape” than the first group, however no objective measurements verified this. For this study, the researchers divided the participants into four groups. Each group received either blueberry powder, fish oil, fish oil and powder, or placebo.

A hoped-for replication of the first study did not occur. Cognition proved somewhat better for those taking either blueberry powder or fish oil separately, yet memory barely improved, certainly not as much as in the first study, Krikorian noted. Even the scans showed similar lukewarm results. The team believes participants’ less severe cognitive impairments contributed to this weakened effect.

Blueberries may not show measurable benefit for those with minor memory issues or who have not yet developed cognitive problems, the combined results of the two studies suggest. Perhaps blueberries effectively treat only those patients who already show signs of mental impairment.

Nevertheless, Krikorian says, the very same ingredient that bestows color may provide blueberries with their brain benefits; in past animal studies, scientists have shown anthocyanins improve cognition.

By Susan Scutti      Mar 13, 2016
 
source:    Krikorian R, et al. Blueberry Fruit Supplementation in Human Cognitive Aging.
Meeting of the American Chemical Society. 2016.


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4 Science-Backed Health Benefits of Eating Organic

The organic food industry is a booming business, and with the recent sale of natural-foods giant Whole Foods to Amazon, it’s expected to grow even larger in the near future. While some consumers buy organic because they believe it’s better for the environment, even more do so for health-related reasons, according to one 2016 survey.

What, exactly, are the health benefits of going organic? That depends on who you ask and which studies you consult. But if you do choose to buy organic foods, here are some science-backed bonuses you’re likely to get in return.

Fewer pesticides and heavy metals
Fruits, vegetables and grains labeled organic are grown without the use of most synthetic pesticides or artificial fertilizers. (The National Organic Standard Board does allow some synthetic substances to be used.) While such chemicals have been deemed safe in the quantities used for conventional farming, health experts still warn about the potential harms of repeated exposure.

For example, the commonly used herbicide Roundup has been classified as a “probable human carcinogen,” and the insecticide chlorpyrifos has been associated with developmental delays in infants. Studies have also suggested that pesticide residues—at levels commonly found in the urine of kids in the U.S.—may contribute to ADHD prevalence; they’ve also been linked to reduced sperm quality in men.

A 2014 meta-analysis in the British Journal of Nutrition found that organically grown crops were not only less likely to contain detectable levels of pesticides, but because of differences in fertilization techniques, they were also 48% less likely to test positive for cadmium, a toxic heavy metal that accumulates in the liver and kidneys.

More healthy fats
When it comes to meat and milk, organic products can have about 50% more omega-3 fatty acids, a type of unsaturated healthy fat, than conventionally produced products, according to a 2016 study in the British Journal of Nutrition. Organic milk tested in the study also had less saturated fat than non-organic.

These differences may come from the way organic livestock is raised, with a grass-fed diet and more time spent outdoors, say the study’s authors. They believe that switching from conventional to organic products would raise consumers’ omega-3 intake without increasing overall calories or saturated fat.

dirty dozen

No antibiotics or synthetic hormones
Conventional livestock can be fed antibiotics to protect against illness, making it easier for farmers to raise animals in crowded or unsanitary conditions. The FDA limited the use of certain antibiotics for livestock earlier this year, but loopholes in the legislation still exist. And with the exception of poultry, conventionally raised animals can also be injected with synthetic growth hormones, so they’ll gain weight faster or produce more milk.

But traces of these substances can make their way to consumers, says Rolf Halden, professor and director of the Biodesign Center for Environmental Security at Arizona State University. Drug residue is believed to contribute to widespread antibiotic resistance, he says, and organic foods—which are produced without antibiotics—“are intrinsically safer in this respect.” Organic meat and dairy also cannot contain synthetic hormones, which have been linked to an increased risk of cancer.

More antioxidants, in some cases
In a recent six-year study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers found that organic onions had about a 20% higher antioxidant content than conventionally grown onions. They also theorized that previous analyses—several of which have found no difference in conventional versus organic antioxidant levels—may have been thwarted by too-short study periods and confounding variables like weather.

The research was “very well done,” says Guy Crosby, adjunct associate professor of Nutrition at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health. But he points out that this specific study “takes just one aspect of phytochemicals and shows they can be improved under organic conditions.” The question of whether organic foods are truly more nutritious is still debatable, he adds. “Had the researchers chosen to measure a different vitamin or mineral, they may have found a different result.”

The bottom line
Organic products are more expensive than conventional ones, and whether they’re really worth the extra cost is certainly a matter of choice. “If you can afford all organic, that’s fantastic, but it’s not feasible for most people,” says registered dietitian Cynthia Sass. “If it’s not, the most important groups to buy organic, in my opinion, include foods you eat daily and produce on the Dirty Dozen list—those with the highest pesticide residues.” If people eat eggs, dairy and meat, she also recommends buying those organic.

Halden says that vulnerable groups—including pregnant women, young children, the elderly and people suffering from allergies—may benefit the most from choosing organically produced foods. He also points out that a strictly organic diet can still be plenty unhealthy: “Eating too much sugar and meat and too few vegetables is risky, regardless of whether the shopper picks from the conventional or organic grocery selection,” he says.

It’s also important for consumers to make educated decisions about why they choose to buy organic, says Crosby—and not to get hung up on individual studies that haven’t been supported by additional research. If you’re trying to reduce exposure to pesticide residues, organic is a good choice, he says. “On the other hand, if you’re buying them because they’re more nutritious, the evidence doesn’t broadly support that,” he says.

By AMANDA MACMILLAN AND JULIA NAFTULIN        July 27, 2017
source: time.com       #OrganicWeek   September 8-16, 2018


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Science Proves That Gratitude Is Key to Well-Being

Acting happy, coaxes one’s brain toward positive emotions

“Building the best life does not require fealty to feelings in the name of authenticity, but rather rebelling against negative impulses and acting right even when we don’t feel like it,” says Arthur C. Brooks, author of Gross National Happiness, in a column in the New York Times. In the article, from 2015, he argues that “acting grateful can actually make you grateful” and uses science to prove it.

A 2003 study compared the well-being of participants who kept a weekly list of things they were grateful for to participants who kept a list of things that irritated them or neutral things. The researchers showed that the gratitude-focused participants exhibited increased well-being and they concluded that “a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.”

The participants didn’t begin the study any more grateful or ungrateful than anyone else, and they didn’t change their lives during the study so that they’d have more to be thankful for. They just turned their outlook to one of gratitude, and they were happier for it.

How does gratitude do this? One way is by stimulating two important regions in our brains: the hypothalamus, which regulates stress, and the ventral tegmental area, which plays a significant role in the brain’s reward system that produces feelings of pleasure.

One 1993 study revealed another way to boost happiness even when you’re not feeling happy. Researchers found that both voluntary and involuntary smiling had the same effect on brain activity. You can convince your brain and body that you’re happy even when you’re not just by forcing yourself to smile. “Acting happy, regardless of feelings, coaxes one’s brain into processing positive emotions,” explains Brooks. In other words, “fake it ‘til you make it” works.

In his column, Brooks suggests adopting three strategies to harness the positive health effects of gratitude. One, practice “interior gratitude.” Keep a daily or weekly list of the things you are grateful for. For example, I might write: I am grateful that I have a job that I love and that through my job as a therapist in Santa Monica I get to help people. Two, practice “exterior gratitude.” Write thank-you notes and put your gratitude to others on paper. For example, you could write a thank-you email to your best friend for supporting you through a bad breakup. And three, “be grateful for useless things.” In other words, express thanks for the everyday stuff you usually overlook such as fresh fruit and air-conditioning.

Are you worried that writing a spontaneous thank-you note to a friend will make them feel awkward? Or that it won’t mean much to them?

GRATITUDE

Science says you’re wrong.

A study published in Psychological Science in June 2018 reveals that people often miscalculate how a heartfelt thank-you note will be received. Researchers asked a group of 100 participants to write letters of gratitude to someone whom they were thankful for, like a friend or teacher. While these weren’t just quick “thanks for my Christmas present” notes, researcher Dr. Amit Kumar observed that the gratitude letters took less than five minutes to write.

Participants were then asked to rate how surprised, happy, and awkward they predicted the participant would feel. And finally, the recipients were asked to assess how the letter actually made them feel. It turns out the note writers greatly overestimated how awkward recipients would feel and how insincere the notes would seem, and they greatly underestimated the positive effects they would have. New York Times science reporter Heather Murphy writes, “After receiving thank-you notes and filling out questionnaires about how it felt to get them, many said they were ‘ecstatic,’ scoring the happiness rating at 4 of 5. The senders typically guessed they’d evoke a 3.”

If expressing gratitude even when nothing especially gratefulness-triggering is going on can increase your well-being and help regulate stress, and even a small amount of effort to express gratitude can have a meaningful effect on the recipient of your thanks, why not make gratitude a part of your daily life? Do as the father of positive psychology Martin Seligman recommends in his book Authentic Happiness and write daily letters of gratitude. Spend five minutes every morning or evening writing a gratitude email to a loved one. Science says you’ll feel awkward, and science says to do it anyway.

Jul 30, 2018      Andrea Brandt Ph.D. M.F.T.       Mindful Anger


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Easy Tricks To Teach Kids How To Deal With Stress Through Mindfulness

But experts say if you want to teach your children to be mindful, you have to be mindful, too.

The back-to-school season brings its own unique stressors to just about everyone: young children starting school for the first time, older kids dealing with longer days and social pressures, teenagers who have to make decisions about their futures, and of course to parents who might also feel overwhelmed. But researchers at Vancouver’s Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre have suggested strategies to deal with back-to-school stress.

“Mindfulness” has become a bit of a buzzword recently, along the lines of “radical wellness” and “living your best life.” But beyond the context of GOOP, there’s a lot of value in the idea that we could all focus more on the present moment.

The basic tenet of mindfulness is the idea that stress and pain is often the result of thinking about past regrets or worrying about the future, and that can be combated by coming up with strategies that focus on remaining in the present moment. HuffPost Canada spoke to Dr. Dzung Vo, an adolescent medicine specialist and pediatrician at British Columbia’s Children’s Hospital, about how kids can implement those strategies.

“I define mindfulness as paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and with unconditional love,” Dr. Vo says. “It’s not meant to be something that you succeed or fail at, it’s more of an intention and an attitude that we orient ourselves to when we practice being in the present moment.”

Studies have shown that mindfulness can reduces stress and anxiety, improve attention and memory, and encourage empathy and monitor your emotions. It’s also been shown to be beneficial physically by lowering blood pressure and heart rate. And new research is currently underway to determine whether it can be a helpful tool to fight against depression.

Vo’s pediatric practice focuses primarily on teenagers, but he says there are effective strategies that can help just about every age group understand their feelings, process their reactions, and live a healthier emotional life.

Babies and toddlers
By far the most important factor in teaching very young children to be mindful is to have a parent or caregiver who is mindful themselves.

“What we know from neuroscience is that the parent’s own mental and neurologic state has a profound influence on regulating the child,” Vo told HuffPost Canada. “If the parent or caregiver can be mindful, present, attentive, and attuned with unconditional love and presence, then that will affect the child in very deep and healthy ways.”

One of the principles of mindfulness is approaching a subject with “beginner’s mind” — a sense of curiosity and presence you might use if you were trying something for the first time. This is something young children generally do anyways. “Kids are actually pretty naturally in the moment, so it’s not too hard to do,” Vo says.

Studies have shown that mindfulness can reduces stress and anxiety

School-age kids
Vo suggests adding brief mindfulness exercises into the routine of slightly older children, maybe at bedtime or when they get home from school. One idea is to get them to lie with a teddy bear on top of their belly and ask them to slowly breathe in and out, he says. Watching the teddy bear go up and down with their breath will put them in tune with their bodies, and put them in a state of calm.

Another useful activity can be to sing songs with lyrics that remind kids to think about where they are and how they feel — he suggests “Planting Seeds” by Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. “As kids go through their day, when they need a mindful moment, they just sing the song,” he says. “Singing it actually is a practice, because it cultivates that mindful attitude.”

Crafts and artwork, approached with the “beginner’s mind,” are another helpful way to practice mindfulness. Vo suggests gently guiding children to be curious and really focus on their surroundings and what they might be engaging in.

“Maybe they’re drawing a flower in front of them,” he says. “Encourage the child to really pay attention to it by asking them: What are you seeing there? What are you noticing? What are the colours? What are the shapes?”

It isn’t particularly important that children understand the idea of mindfulness, he says.

“It’s more important to have experiences than to talk too much about the concepts.” And again, he stresses that the most important way to teach mindfulness to kids is the mindful presence of the parent or caregiver.

Teenagers
In his sessions with teens, Vo will often get them to try out their “beginner’s mind” by slowly eating one single raisin. “That might seem very simple and boring, but when you bring curious attention to it, you find experiences that seem tedious or boring may be quite interesting, or quite relaxing, or quite enjoyable in ways that we hadn’t considered when we go through them in autopilot mode.”

Many teenagers will bring what Vo calls “informal meditation” to a wide variety of day-to-day activities: breathing deeply and considering their senses while walking the dog, or waiting for the bus, or washing dishes. It can particularly help before a stressful situation at school — right before writing an exam, for instance.

There isn’t a lot of research on the benefits of mindfulness for teens, but Vo says that he believes that’s the time of life when those practices would be most beneficial.

Studies of adults have demonstrated that mindful practices can actually change the parts of the brain linked to memory, self-image, and emotional regulation. Because adolescent brains are changing quickly and profoundly, Vo says he thinks the effects would be even more significant. One of the biggest adolescent brain changes involves the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for emotional regulation and executive functioning, which develops throughout the teenage years up until the early 20s. It develops through focused attention and concentration, he says, which suggests that the more that they use these neurologic pathways to help regulate their brains, the stronger those connections will get.

By Maija Kappler                 08/22/2018