Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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Why Cinnamon Is Insanely Good for You

Scientists have long suspected that cinnamon can help prevent blood-sugar spikes and protect against insulin resistance, a risk factor for diabetes. But how, exactly, has remained a mystery—and while some studies have suggested a strong effect, others have been inconclusive.

New research presented Saturday at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual meeting suggests a potential mechanism for these effects, lending support to the idea of cinnamon as a metabolic powerhouse. In fact, researchers say, the spice’s benefits may extend far beyond blood-sugar control.

Amy Stockert, associate professor of biochemistry at Ohio Northern University Raabe College of Pharmacy , has been studying cinnamon for years. In 2015, her research showed that type 2 diabetics who took daily cinnamon supplements saw greater reductions in blood sugar than those who took a placebo.

Some of these effects lasted even after participants stopped taking the supplements, says Stockert, which suggested that lasting changes had been triggered at the cellular level. “We started to suspect that one of the proteins involved in gene expression was being influenced by cinnamon,” she says.
Her new research, which has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, focuses on Sirtuin-1 (also called Sirt-1)—a protein that’s active in insulin regulation. “We know that Sirt-1 acts on another protein that affects how glucose is transported,” says, “so it made sense that it might be the key player.”

Scientists know that Sirt-1 is activated by resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red wine that’s been touted for its anti-aging and cholesterol-lowering properties. Cinnamon contains similar compounds, known as phenols, which Stockert thought might also bind to Sirt-1 molecules in the same way. She and her colleagues used a computer model to test this hypothesis, and discovered that the cinnamon phenols had similar, sometimes even stronger interactions with the protein.

This suggests that the phenols in cinnamon also activate Sirt-1, providing a possible explanation for their beneficial properties. “If that’s true, it means cinnamon is doing more than just lowering blood sugar,” says Stockert. “It’s acting on a protein that affects lipid metabolism, cell growth changes, and the expression of a variety of genes.”

Stockert’s previous research found that people who consumed 1 gram a day of cinnamon saw blood sugar reductions comparable to what would be expected from prescription drugs. But she believes that even smaller quantities—like those used in cooking and seasoning—could also have benefits.
“If cinnamon interacts with this enzyme in the way our model suggests, it could possibly be linked to anti-aging, antioxidant control, a lot of really important health benefits,” she says. “And it shouldn’t take one gram a day to see those effects.”

Stockert recommends buying cinnamon—whole or ground—from reputable spice companies. Her team is now studying the effects of cinnamon on fat cells, and hope to expand their research to muscle and liver cells, as well.

Nancy Farrell, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says that while the research on blood sugar is still inconclusive, it’s encouraging that the topic is being studied further.

“Cinnamon, in moderation and in daily foods, is generally a good habit,” says Farrell.
Farrell recommends adding cinnamon to oatmeal, toast, butternut squash, chili, and more. She cautions that above-average doses can worsen liver function for people with existing liver damage, and “use of cinnamon supplements should always be discussed with your physician.”This isn’t the first time cinnamon’s been touted for its health benefits beyond blood sugar control—and it’s certainly not the final word. But given the low risk and reported benefits, it seems a worthwhile addition to your diet, if you like the taste.

Amanda MacMillan   Apr 24, 2017    TIME Health
source: time.com


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Are Eggs Healthy?

In some ways, eggs are very good for you.

First of all, they are a nutrient-dense food. They contain high-quality protein, meaning eggs offer all nine essential amino acids that can’t be made by humans and therefore must come from our diets. Protein in eggs can help build and preserve muscle as well as boost satiety, both of which are important for weight control.

Eggs are also one of the few food sources of vitamin D and a source of the nutrient choline, which may help protect against birth defects in infants. They contain vitamin A, vitamin B12, riboflavin (B2) and the antioxidant selenium, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin, which help keep our eyes healthy.

Most of an egg’s calories, vitamins and minerals are found in the yolk.

But what about the cholesterol in eggs? It’s true that eggs are high in dietary cholesterol, which is also found in the yolk, but they’re low in saturated fat, which is the bigger culprit when it comes to raising blood cholesterol levels. Because of this, eggs get the green light according to the government’s 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

In fact, one recent meta-analysis found that higher consumption of eggs (up to one egg per day) is not associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease or stroke. And a 2016 Finnish study involving more than 1,000 men concluded that egg or cholesterol intakes are not associated with increased risk of coronary artery disease, even in those who are genetically predisposed to experience a stronger effect of dietary cholesterol on blood cholesterol.

What is more likely to affect your health is how eggs are prepared, as well as which other foods you combine with them. One large poached egg has 71 calories and 2 grams of saturated fat, and an omelet made with spinach and one yolk is also a lean choice. But a serving of eggs Benedict with bacon and Hollandaise sauce has about 800 calories and 26 grams of saturated fat.

So feel free to enjoy eggs, but watch how you eat them. And balance eggs with other healthy fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

By Lisa Drayer, CNN     Fri April 14, 2017
 
Lisa Drayer is a nutritionist, author and health journalist.
 
source: www.cnn.com


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Omega-3s May Protect Against Schizophrenia

Omega-3 supplements may help keep young people with a high risk of schizophrenia from getting the condition, according to a small study.

Back in 2010, Australian researchers reported that taking the supplements for 12 weeks prevented a first episode of a psychotic disorder for up to a year in high-risk study participants ages 13-25. Now, in a follow-up study, the team checked on how 71 of the 81 volunteers were doing.

They found that:

  • 9.8% of the group given omega-3 supplements (4 of 41) developed psychosis, an episode where you lose touch with reality. It’s a symptom of different illnesses, including schizophrenia.
  • 40% of the group given a fake placebo supplement (16 out of 40) developed psychosis.
  • The group not given omega-3s also developed psychosis more quickly and had a higher overall risk of getting other psychiatric disorders.

The study is published in Nature Communications.

 

fish oil

Omega-3 essential fatty acids are widely seen as “good fats.” They can help improve cholesterol balance and lower the risks of heart and joint disease, among other health perks.

Previous research has pointed to a lack of omega-3s and omega-6s being linked with mental health conditions. Some trials have shown that fatty acid supplements can reduce psychotic symptoms.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists in the U.K. says omega-3s have already been linked with improving learning, and may help with mental stability. Doctors sometimes try them as supplements for people with mood problems and schizophrenia, and they may help prevent relapses with bipolar disorder. Talk with your doctor before you start taking any supplement, though.

The college says there is not enough evidence to recommend omega-3s as an alternative to antidepressants or mood-stabilizing medications.

By Tim Locke    WebMD Health News     Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH    Aug. 11, 2015
 
sources : Amminger, G.P. Nature Communications, 2015.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists: “Eating well and mental health.”
Amminger, G.P. Archives of General Psychiatry, February 2010.
 


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A Handful of Walnuts a Day May Help Lower Cholesterol: Study

Relaxnews    Published Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Results of a study published in the journal BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care showed that adding walnuts to the daily diet of those at high risk of developing diabetes lowered cholesterol and improved blood vessel cell wall function while also boosting overall quality of diet.

Researchers followed 31 women and 81 men, all varying in age between 25 and 75, and all at a high risk of developing diabetes. Participants were in two groups, with one group following a calorie-controlled diet complete with dietary advice, while the other group followed a diet with no calorie control or advice. Randomly selected participants were chosen from both groups and instructed to include 56g (2 oz) of walnuts in their diet on a daily basis, with the rest of the particpants completely avoiding walnuts for a period of 6 months.

At the end of the study participants who had been eating walnuts showed a significant decrease in both ‘bad’ and total cholesterol, as well as an improvement in blood vessel cell wall function, key for allowing oxygen and carbon dioxide to pass between the blood and body tissues. However, improved cholesterol levels were also seen in the group avoiding nuts, possibly due to the placebo effect, according to the team.

While results across both groups showed no improvement in blood pressure, blood glucose, or ‘good’ HDL cholesterol, researchers did conclude that the quality of participants’ diets improved overall in the walnut-eating group, with a healthier diet associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

walnuts
Just a handful of walnuts a day
can lower cholesterol and improve the quality of your diet.

 

Too much of a good thing?

The health benefits from walnuts can be attributed to them being a rich source of essential fatty acids as well as a good source of important vitamins and minerals such as folate and vitamin E. However like other nuts, walnuts are high in calories and experts have cautioned against eating the snack to excess so as not to increase weight. Results of this study also cautioned against excessive walnut consumption, as those that consumed nuts without any calorie control showed a significant increase in body fat. However when consumed more moderately and with calorie restriction, waist circumferance decreased.

The team suggested that further studies in more diverse groups of people were in order.
Meanwhile a study published last week in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, partly funded by The International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research and Education Foundation, found that tree nuts such as walnuts may help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. After looking at the results from 61 controlled trials, with walnuts investigated in 21 of the 61 trials, researchers concluded that consuming walnuts and tree nuts in general lowers total cholesterol, a key factor when assessing a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease.


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5 Reasons To Eat A Handful Of Walnuts A Day

By Diana Kelly And Sarah Klein      January 6, 2016

Serious snackers know there’s nothing like a good nut, and science agrees: Adding walnuts to your diet—even just a handful—has a whole host of benefits.

They can lower your cholesterol.
About a handful of walnuts, or 2 ounces, was linked to lowering total cholesterol numbers and LDL or “bad” cholesterol as well as improved blood vessel cell wall function in a recent study of 112 people between the ages of 25 and 75. The people randomized in the study to enjoy that daily snack saw improvements to their overall diets, compared with those randomized to go without walnuts. Added bonus: When they also were given a little dietary counseling, their waistlines shrank. Walnuts are loaded with monounsaturated fats, including known heart protectors omega-3 fatty acids.

They can improve your memory.
A 2012 Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease report found that eating walnuts as part of a Mediterranean diet was associated with better memory and brain function. The antioxidants in walnuts may help counteract age-related cognitive decline and even reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s.

They can reduce inflammation.
You’ve likely heard of the inflammation-fighting powers of those all-mighty omega-3s. And while the most powerful of them all—docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)—come from fish, the plant variety, alpha-linolenic acid or ALA, shouldn’t be totally written off. Walnuts are one of the richest sources of ALA, which may not carry all the health effects of its fishy compatriots but does still seem to fight inflammation. Experts think a diet higher in omega-3s may simply mean we’re not eating as many inflammation-provoking omega-6 fatty acids.

walnuts

They tackle PMS symptoms.
Just an ounce of walnuts—that’s about 14 halves, if you want to get ultra specific—contains nearly 50% of your daily recommended intake of a mineral called manganese and about 11% of your allotment for the day of magnesium. Both have been examined in preliminary research that suggests they can help temper some of your worst PMS symptoms, including mood swings, insomnia, stomach discomfort, and low back pain.

Earlier research suggests this mineral magic might be due to the way levels of both naturally fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle.

They can lower blood pressure.
In studies of how people respond to stressful situations—like plunging your foot into an ice bath or delivering a speech in front of your peers—those who eat walnuts seem to have lower blood pressure, both in response to that stress and when not under stress. Since walnut oil, as well as flax oil, produced similar results, researchers believe the perks may be due to that same ALA that reduces inflammation, this time exerting its do-good properties on BP.

The best news: Getting an additional ounce of walnuts a day happens to be crazy easy. Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RD, author of The SuperFoodsRx Diet, likes to add chopped walnuts to her oatmeal, sprinkle them on salads, add them to a bread-crumb crust for fish or chicken, and throw walnut halves in the blender with her smoothies after soaking them in water.

More of a baked goods lover (and really, who isn’t)? Enjoying walnuts in baked items like banana bread still has health benefits and could help with critical thinking, according to research in the British Journal of Nutrition.  The study found that eating half a cup of walnuts per day (ground up in banana bread!) for 8 weeks led to an 11.2% increase in inferential reasoning skills (the ability to deduce info based on prior experiences) among college students.

To keep shelled nuts from going rancid, store them in the fridge for up to a month or in the freezer for up to a year.


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Health Benefits of Eating Olives

What Are Olives Good For?

One of the most-frequently asked questions in regard to olives is the difference between black and green. Green olives are picked before they’re ripe, and black olives are generally picked at peak ripeness. Since most are eaten before being cured (salted, pickled, or soaked in brine, oil, water, or in a strong alkali solution) the texture and color depends on the length of time they’re cured, while the taste depends on the ingredients, method, and variety. And there are a lot of varieties – seven at least in the U.S. – mostly grown in California. Greek Kalamata olives are one of the best-known varieties worldwide.

It’s the pit at the center that makes an olive a “drupe” and places them in the fruit category. Native to Mediterranean regions, short, gnarled olive trees can live for hundreds of years, especially in rocky mountainous areas like Spain, Italy, and Greece.

Green olives are the ones most often seen on a relish tray and dropped into Martinis, while the black variety is usually used in recipes like salad (Greek salad, for instance), chopped in vegetable dips and combined with herbs and spices to make a delicious spread.

Health Benefits of Olives

Olives are as unique as they are extraordinary. They’re loaded with free radical-zapping antioxidants, which plays out in the prevention of a number of different diseases, including heart disease, stroke, DNA damage, and cancer, specifically breast and stomach cancer. Other benefits relate to the health of the nervous system, respiratory system, immunity, and digestion, to name a few. Vitamin E (alpha tocopherol) is another important antioxidant nutrient in olives, along with antioxidant minerals like selenium and zinc.

Interestingly, the vitamin E content of olives may increase in the early stages of ripening, just as the phenolic antioxidants are beginning to lower. As olives continue to ripen, this trend may reverse, which may simply be nature’s way of ensuring that olives at any stage contain beneficial phytonutrients.

One of them is called hydroxytyrosol, which aids in cancer and osteoporosis prevention. Used very early in traditional medicines against pain, medical science shows a strong link between ingesting olives or olive oil and inflammation – even relief from headache pain. Research contains evidence that olive extracts function as antihistamines (histamine being a molecule linked to allergies and inflammation) at the cellular level.

Oleuropein, a compound only found in olives, decreases the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol by scavenging nitric oxide, a reactive oxygen-containing molecule. This lowers the markers of oxidative stress, which simply means the cells don’t have enough protection from potential oxygen damage. Eating foods containing antioxidants, like olives, can help change that.

Olives contain zero sugar, but due to the curing process, one olive equals 39 mg of sodium. While that sounds rather alarming, consider that there’s more salt in a serving of cornflakes than five olives.

It’s also true that olives contain a certain amount of fat, but it’s the type of fat that’s important. The food industry has only recently taken a second look at the decades-long war on fat in foods, because some fats – the natural kind – are absolutely essential to a healthy body. Nearly three-fourths of the fat in olives, for instance, is oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid linked to reduced blood pressure and cardiovascular disease risk. Olives also contain omega-3-rich alpha-linolenic acid.

Olives are a great little snack, salty and satisfying with cheese, crackers, fruit, and other light fare, and a wonderful addition to salads. But the nutritional aspects go far beyond what one might expect, discovered centuries ago throughout Mediterranean regions where the olive tree first grew.


Scientists now know it’s the phytonutrients and antioxidants in olives such as hydroxytyrosol and histamine that can help prevent heart disease, stroke, DNA damage, and cancer, and positively affect the nervous system, respiratory system, immunity, and digestion. Healthy fats in olives, such as oleic acid, linoleic acid, and linolenic acid are linked to reduced blood pressure, inflammation, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease risk. Oleuropein, found only in olives, scavenges nitric oxide. These and other nutritional attributes in olives make them an exceptional addition to your diet.

Olives

Health Benefits of Eating Olives

BY KARINDA RISTICDecember 23, 2014

Did you know that eating olives have a vast number of health benefits. Here are just a few

Not only does olives taste delicious, but it also offers many health benefits for you. We chatted to the South African Olive Industry Association and asked them for some interesting olive health facts. Here are a few:

Health Benefits of Eating Olives

  • Olives eliminate excess cholesterol in the blood.
  • Olives control blood pressure.
  • Olives are a source of dietary fibre as an alternative to fruits and vegetables.
  • Olives are a great source of Vitamin E
  • Olives act as an antioxidant, protecting cells.
  • Olives reduce the effects of degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, benign and malignant tumours, including less serious varicose veins and cavities.
  • Olives help prevent blood clots that could lead to a myocardial infarction or deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
  • Olives protects cell membranes against diseases like cancer.
  • Olives are a great protection against anaemia.
  • Olives enhances fertility and reproductive system.
  • Olives play an important role in maintaining a healthy immune system, especially during oxidative stress and chronic viral diseases.
  • And just in case these benefits weren’t enough they are also a great aphrodisiac.
  • Olives are nutritious and rich in mineral content as sodium, potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus and iodine.
  • Olives provide essential vitamins and amino acids.
  • Olives contain oleic acid, which has beneficial properties to protect the heart.
  • Olives contain polyphenols, a natural chemical that reduce oxidative stress in the brain. So by eating a daily serving of olives helps improve your memory by up to 25%.
  • Just one cup of olives is a great source of iron – 4.4mg.
  • Eating olives can improve the appearance of wrinkles by 20% since they contain oleic acid, which keeps skin soft and healthy.
  • By eating just 10 olives before a meal, you can reduce your appetite by up to 20%. This is because the monounsaturated fatty acids contained in olives slow down the digestion process and stimulate the hormone cholecystokinin, a hormone that sends messages of fullness to the brain. Not only does it do that, but it also helps your body to stimulate the production of adiponectin, a chemical that burns fat for up to five hours after ingestion.

 

For more information please visit http://www.saolive.co.za or find us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/SaOliveIndustryAssociation

 


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Why This Cardiologist Recommends Probiotics For Heart Health

There’s no doubt that when the hottest topics in medicine for 2014 are compiled, the microbiome will be on everybody’s short list. This mass of bacteria has fascinated the nation and filled headlines. The fact that we have perhaps 100 trillion bacteria living in our bodies, estimated to be 10 times the number of cells in our body; the fact that our bacteria weigh at least 5 pounds; the fact that the Human Microbiome Project is completing an analysis of every bacteria in test subjects; all have become almost matter of fact.

For most of my years of practice, the gut and the heart seemed remote. However, the view that systems of the body don’t function alone, but interact in a complex, interconnected web — the foundation of functional medicine — has gained favor. In the last few years I’ve recommended foods and supplements containing probiotics to my heart patients, and the science is demonstrating important benefits to support this.

Here are seven conditions probiotics may help improve:

1. Congestive heart failure

In a study about to be published, 20 patients with this serious disorder were treated with S. boulardii-containing supplements or placebo. Improvements in heart function and a reduction in cholesterol and inflammatory markers were seen in the group treated with probiotics.

2. High cholesterol levels

A number of studies indicate that one of the benefits of a healthier GI tract is a lower blood cholesterol level. A recent analysis of the published data found important support for this observation, and I’ve seen similar improvements in patients I have treated.

yogurt

3. Low vitamin D levels

A benefit of probiotic therapy and a healthier gut is an increase in vitamin D levels in the serum, which has proven essential in heart function.

4. Blood pressure

An analysis of nine studies using probiotics found a reduction in blood pressure compared to placebo. This was particularly true when therapy was continued for over eight weeks with more potent preparations.

5. Diabetes mellitus

Although more studies are needed, improved glucose control and lower measures of inflammation have been seen when probiotics are administered to patients with diabetes.

6. Anxiety

I spend a fair amount of time counseling cardiac patients on measures to manage anxiety and use adaptogens and other nutraceuticals. Data are highlighting the role of the gut in neural pathways to the brain impacting mood and psychological state. Preliminary studies indicate improved mood in subjects given probiotics.

7. Obesity

I see the obesity epidemic in my clinic every day, and excess weight identifies individuals at higher risk for diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Early work suggests that probiotics may make weight loss and management more successful.

It has long been said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and that somewhat dated truth may be prophetic. The updated version is “through his or her microbiome.”

It’s becoming clear that optimal heart health requires optimal GI health, with avoidance of unnecessary antibiotics by prescription and from food sources, along with avoiding excesses of alcohol, sugar, trans fats, and perhaps genetically modified foods. Leighton Meester offered the advice to “Follow your gut and your heart. You’ll almost always make the right choice.” In my cardiology clinic it now appears that the advice is pretty much the same.

by Dr. Joel Kahn   December 24, 2014