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The Health Benefits of Tai Chi

This gentle form of exercise can help maintain strength, flexibility, and balance, and could be the perfect activity for the rest of your life.

Tai chi is often described as “meditation in motion,” but it might well be called “medication in motion.” There is growing evidence that this mind-body practice, which originated in China as a martial art, has value in treating or preventing many health problems. And you can get started even if you aren’t in top shape or the best of health.

In this low-impact, slow-motion exercise, you go without pausing through a series of motions named for animal actions — for example, “white crane spreads its wings” — or martial arts moves, such as “box both ears.” As you move, you breathe deeply and naturally, focusing your attention — as in some kinds of meditation — on your bodily sensations. Tai chi differs from other types of exercise in several respects. The movements are usually circular and never forced, the muscles are relaxed rather than tensed, the joints are not fully extended or bent, and connective tissues are not stretched. Tai chi can be easily adapted for anyone, from the most fit to people confined to wheelchairs or recovering from surgery.

Tai chi movement

A growing body of carefully conducted research is building a compelling case for tai chi as an adjunct to standard medical treatment for the prevention and rehabilitation of many conditions commonly associated with age. An adjunct therapy is one that’s used together with primary medical treatments, either to address a disease itself or its primary symptoms, or, more generally, to improve a patient’s functioning and quality of life.

Belief systems

You don’t need to subscribe to or learn much about tai chi’s roots in Chinese philosophy to enjoy its health benefits, but these concepts can help make sense of its approach:

  • Qi — an energy force thought to flow through the body; tai chi is said to unblock and encourage the proper flow of qi.
  • Yin and yang — opposing elements thought to make up the universe that need to be kept in harmony. Tai chi is said to promote this balance.

Tai chi in motion

A tai chi class might include these parts:

Warm-up. Easy motions, such as shoulder circles, turning the head from side to side, or rocking back and forth, help you to loosen your muscles and joints and focus on your breath and body.

Instruction and practice of tai chi forms. Short forms — forms are sets of movements — may include a dozen or fewer movements; long forms may include hundreds. Different styles require smaller or larger movements. A short form with smaller, slower movements is usually recommended at the beginning, especially if you’re older or not in good condition.

Qigong (or chi kung). Translated as “breath work” or “energy work,” this consists of a few minutes of gentle breathing sometimes combined with movement. The idea is to help relax the mind and mobilize the body’s energy. Qigong may be practiced standing, sitting, or lying down.

Getting started

The benefits of tai chi are generally greatest if you begin before you develop a chronic illness or functional limitations. Tai chi is very safe, and no fancy equipment is needed, so it’s easy to get started. Here’s some advice for doing so:

Don’t be intimidated by the language. Names like Yang, Wu, and Cheng are given to various branches of tai chi, in honor of people who devised the sets of movements called forms. Certain programs emphasize the martial arts aspect of tai chi rather than its potential for healing and stress reduction. In some forms, you learn long sequences of movements, while others involve shorter series and more focus on breathing and meditation. The name is less important than finding an approach that matches your interests and needs.

Check with your doctor. If you have a limiting musculoskeletal problem or medical condition — or if you take medications that can make you dizzy or lightheaded — check with your doctor before starting tai chi. Given its excellent safety record, chances are that you’ll be encouraged to try it.

Consider observing and taking a class. Taking a class may be the best way to learn tai chi. Seeing a teacher in action, getting feedback, and experiencing the camaraderie of a group are all pluses. Most teachers will let you observe the class first to see if you feel comfortable with the approach and atmosphere. Instruction can be individualized. Ask about classes at your local Y, senior center, or community education center.

If you’d rather learn at home, you can buy or rent videos geared to your interests and fitness needs (see “Selected resources”). Although there are some excellent tai chi books, it can be difficult to appreciate the flow of movements from still photos or illustrations.

Talk to the instructor. There’s no standard training or licensing for tai chi instructors, so you’ll need to rely on recommendations from friends or clinicians and, of course, your own judgment. Look for an experienced teacher who will accommodate individual health concerns or levels of coordination and fitness.

Dress comfortably. Choose loose-fitting clothes that don’t restrict your range of motion. You can practice barefoot or in lightweight, comfortable, and flexible shoes. Tai chi shoes are available, but ones you find in your closet will probably work fine. You’ll need shoes that won’t slip and can provide enough support to help you balance, but have soles thin enough to allow you to feel the ground. Running shoes, designed to propel you forward, are usually unsuitable.

Gauge your progress. Most beginning programs and tai chi interventions tested in medical research last at least 12 weeks, with instruction once or twice a week and practice at home. By the end of that time, you should know whether you enjoy tai chi, and you may already notice positive physical and psychological changes.

No pain, big gains

Although tai chi is slow and gentle and doesn’t leave you breathless, it addresses the key components of fitness — muscle strength, flexibility, balance, and, to a lesser degree, aerobic conditioning. Here’s some of the evidence:

Muscle strength. Tai chi can improve both lower-body strength and upper-body strength. When practiced regularly, tai chi can be comparable to resistance training and brisk walking.

Although you aren’t working with weights or resistance bands, the unsupported arm exercise involved in tai chi strengthens your upper body. Tai chi strengthens both the lower and upper extremities and also the core muscles of the back and abdomen.

Flexibility. Tai chi can boost upper- and lower-body flexibility as well as strength.

Balance. Tai chi improves balance and, according to some studies, reduces falls. Proprioception — the ability to sense the position of one’s body in space — declines with age. Tai chi helps train this sense, which is a function of sensory neurons in the inner ear and stretch receptors in the muscles and ligaments. Tai chi also improves muscle strength and flexibility, which makes it easier to recover from a stumble. Fear of falling can make you more likely to fall; some studies have found that tai chi training helps reduce that fear.

Aerobic conditioning. Depending on the speed and size of the movements, tai chi can provide some aerobic benefits. If your clinician advises a more intense cardio workout with a higher heart rate than tai chi can offer, you may need something more aerobic as well.

August 20, 2019

 

Tai-Chi-in-Park

11 Ways Tai Chi Can Benefit Your Health

What is tai chi?

Tai chi is a form of exercise that began as a Chinese tradition. It’s based in martial arts, and involves slow movements and deep breaths. Tai chi has many physical and emotional benefits. Some of the benefits of tai chi include decreased anxiety and depression and improvements in cognition. It may also help you manage symptoms of some chronic diseases, such as fibromyalgia or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

1. Reduces stress

One of the main benefits of tai chi is its ability to reduce stress and anxiety, though most evidence is anecdotal.

In 2018, one study compared the effects of tai chi on stress-related anxiety to traditional exercise. The study included 50 participants. The researchers found that tai chi provided the same benefits for managing stress-related anxiety as exercise. Because tai chi also includes meditation and focused breathing, the researchers noted that tai chi may be superior to other forms of exercise for reducing stress and anxiety. However, a larger-scale study is needed.

Tai chi is very accessible and lower impact than many other forms of exercise. The researchers found it to be safe and inexpensive, so it may be a good option if you are otherwise healthy and experiencing stress-related anxiety.

2. Improves mood

Tai chi may help improve your mood if you are depressed or anxious. Preliminary research suggests that regularly practicing tai chi can reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. It’s believed that the slow, mindful breaths and movements have a positive effect on the nervous system and mood-regulating hormones. Further research is being done to establish a clear link between tai chi and improved mood.

3. Better sleep

Regularly practicing tai chi may help you to have more restful sleep.

One study followed young adults with anxiety after they were prescribed two tai chi classes each week, for 10 weeks. Based on participant reporting, the individuals who practiced tai chi experienced significant improvements in their quality of sleep compared to those in the control group. This same group also experienced a decrease in their anxiety symptoms.

Tai chi can improve sleep for older adults, too. In a study published in 2016, researchers found that two months of twice-weekly tai chi classes was associated with better sleep in older adults with cognitive impairment.

4. Promotes weight loss

Regularly practicing tai chi can result in weight loss. One study tracked changes in weight in a group of adults practicing tai chi five times a week for 45 minutes. At the end of the 12 weeks, these adults lost a little over a pound without making any additional lifestyle changes.

5. Improves cognition in older adults

Tai chi may improve cognition in older adults with cognitive impairment. More specifically, tai chi may help improve memory and executive functioning skills like paying attention and carrying out complex tasks.

6. Reduces risk of falling in older adults

Tai chi can help improve balance and motor function, and reduce fear of falling in older adults. It can also reduce actual falls after 8 weeks of practice, and significantly reduce falls after 16 weeks of practice. Because fear of falling can reduce independence and quality of life, and falls can lead to serious complications, tai chi may offer the additional benefit of improving quality of life and general well-being in older adults.

7. Improves fibromyalgia symptoms

Tai chi may compliment traditional methods for management of certain chronic diseases.

Results from a 2018 study showed that a consistent tai chi practice can decrease the symptoms of fibromyalgia in some people. Participants in the study who practiced tai chi for 52 weeks exhibited greater improvements in their fibromyalgia-related symptoms when compared to participants practicing aerobics. Learn about other alternative treatments for fibromyalgia symptoms.

8. Improves COPD symptoms

Tai chi may improve some of the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In one study, people with COPD practiced tai chi for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, they have improvements in their ability to exercise and reported an overall improvement in their quality of life.

9. Improves balance and strength in people with Parkinson’s

In a randomized, controlled trial of 195 participants, regular practice of tai chi was found to decrease the number of falls in people with Parkinson’s disease. Tai chi can also help you to increase leg strength and overall balance.

10. Safe for people with coronary heart disease

Tai chi is a safe form of moderate exercise you can try if you have coronary heart disease. Following a cardiovascular event, regular tai chi practices may help you:

  • increase physical activity
  • lose weight
  • improve your quality of life

11. Reduces pain from arthritis

In a small-scale 2010 study, 15 participants with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) practiced tai chi for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, the participants reported less pain and improved mobility and balance.

A larger, earlier study found similar results in people with knee osteoarthritis (OA). In this study, 40 participants with knee OA practiced 60 minutes of tai chi, two times a week for 12 weeks. Following the study, participants reported a reduction in pain and an improvement in mobility and quality of life.

When compared to physical therapy, tai chi has also been found to be as effective in the treatment of knee OA.

Always talk to your doctor before starting tai chi if you have arthritis. You may need to do modified versions of some of the movements.

Is tai chi safe?

Tai chi is generally considered to be a safe exercise with few side effects. You may experience some aches or pains after practicing tai chi if you’re a beginner. More rigorous forms of tai chi and improper practice of tai chi are associated with increased risk of injury to joints. Especially if you’re new to tai chi, consider attending a class or working with an instructor to reduce your risk of injury.

If you’re pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider before beginning a new exercise program.

How to start tai chi

Tai chi focuses on proper posture and exact movements, something that is difficult to learn on your own. If you’re new to tai chi, take a class or get an instructor.

Tai chi is taught in studios all over the United States and other countries. Larger gyms, like the YMCA, sometimes offer tai chi classes as well.

Choosing a tai chi style

There are five different styles of tai chi, and each style can be modified to suit your goals and personal fitness level. All styles of tai chi incorporate continuous movement from one pose to the next.

  • Yang style tai chi focuses on slow, graceful movements and relaxation. Yang style is a good starting point for beginners.
  • Wu style tai chi places an emphasis on micro-movements. This style of tai chi is practiced very slowly.
  • Chen style tai chi uses both slow and fast movements. This style of tai chi might be difficult for you if you’re new to the practice.
  • Sun style tai chi shares a lot of similarities with Chen style. Sun style involves less crouching, kicking, and punching, making it less physically demanding.
  • Hao style tai chi is a lesser-known and rarely practiced style. This style of tai chi is defined by a focus on accurate position and internal strength.

How does tai chi differ from yoga?

Tai chi emphasizes fluid movement and has roots in Chinese culture. Yoga focuses on posing and originated in Northern India.

Both tai chi and yoga are forms of exercise that involve meditation and deep breathing, and they have similar benefits, such as:

  • relieves stress
  • improves mood
  • Improves sleep

Takeaway

Tai chi is an exercise that can benefit both healthy adults and adults living with a chronic condition.

The benefits of tai chi include:

  • better sleep
  • weight loss
  • improved mood
  • management of chronic conditions

If you’re interested in trying tai chi, an instructor can help you get started. Classes are offered in specialized studios, community centers, and gyms.

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Nicotine in Nightshade Vegetables Linked to a Lower Risk of Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s disease is a movement disorder striking 1 percent of our older population and is the 14th leading cause of death in the United States. While we don’t really know what causes it, we do know that people with a smoking history only appear to have about half the risk. Of course, “[s]moking is hugely damaging to health; any benefit derived from a reduction in risk of Parkinson’s disease is outweighed by the increased risks of cancer and cardiovascular disease,” as well as lung disease, but this shouldn’t stop us from “evaluating tobacco components for possible neuroprotective effects.”

Nicotine may fit the bill. If nicotine is the agent responsible for the neuroprotective effects, is there any way to get the benefit without the risks?

Well, where does nicotine come from? The tobacco plant. Any other plants have nicotine? Well, tobacco is a nightshade plant, so it’s in the same family as tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and peppers. And guess what? They all contain nicotine as well.

That’s why you can’t tell if someone’s a smoker just by looking for the presence of nicotine in their toenail clippings, because non-smokers grow out some nicotine into their nails, as well. Nicotine is in our daily diet—but how much? The amount we average in our diet is hundreds of times less than we get from a single cigarette.

So, though we’ve known for more than 15 years that there’s nicotine in ketchup, it was dismissed as insignificant. We then learned that even just one or two puffs of a cigarette could saturate half of our brain’s nicotine receptors, so it doesn’t take much. Then, we discovered that just exposure to second-hand smoke may lower the risk of Parkinson’s, and there’s not much nicotine in that. In fact, one would only be exposed to about three micrograms of nicotine working in a smoky restaurant, but that’s on the same order as what one might get eating food at a non-smoking restaurant. So, the contribution of dietary nicotine intake from simply eating some healthy vegetables may be significant.

Looking at nightshade consumption, in general, researchers may have found a lower risk compared to other vegetables, but different nightshades have different amounts of nicotine. They found none in eggplant, only a little in potatoes, some in tomatoes, but the most in bell peppers. When that was taken into account, a much stronger picture emerged. The researchers found that more peppers meant more protection. And, as we might expect, the effects of eating nicotine-containing foods were mainly evident in nonsmokers, as the nicotine from smoke would presumably blot out any dietary effect.

This could explain why protective associations have been found for Parkinson’s and the consumption of tomatoes, potatoes, and a tomato- and pepper-rich Mediterranean diet. Might nightshade vegetables also help with treating Parkinson’s? Well, results from trials of nicotine gum and patches have been patchy. Perhaps nicotine only helps prevent it in the first place, or could it be that it isn’t the nicotine at all, but, instead, is some other phytochemical in tobacco and the pepper family?

Researchers conclude that their findings will be need to be reproduced to help establish cause and effect before considering dietary interventions to prevent Parkinson’s disease, but when the dietary intervention is to eat more healthy dishes like stuffed peppers with tomato sauce, I don’t see the reason we have to wait.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

By: Dr. Michael Greger   November 22, 2017
About Michael Follow Michael at @nutrition_facts


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Traffic exposure may increase risk of dementia, study finds

Dementia affects tens of millions of people worldwide. Common risk factors include age, family history, and genetics. But new research points to an additional factor that might affect the chances of developing dementia: living near a major, busy road.

Living next to a major roadway may increase the chances of developing dementia.

Dementia describes a wide range of brain illnesses that progressively lead to the loss of cognitive functioning. It affects reasoning, memory, behavior, and the ability to perform daily tasks.

The World Health Organization (WHO) report that approximately 47.5 million adults are currently affected by dementia worldwide.

The most common risk factors are age, family history, and hereditary background. While these are outside of one’s control, there are additional risk factors that could be controlled. These include avoiding head trauma and other conditions that damage the heart and blood vessels, such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

Emerging research highlights a new element that might influence the chances of developing dementia – living close to major, busy roads, such as highways or motorways.

Examining the link between major road proximity and dementia

Researchers from Public Health Ontario, Canada – in collaboration with several Canadian universities and Health Canada – have set out to examine the link between residential proximity to major roads and the incidence of dementia in Ontario.

Their results were published in The Lancet.

More specifically, the team, led by Dr. Hong Chen, looked at three major neurodegenerative diseases: dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis (MS).

The scientists were motivated by existing research that has previously linked living near a major road to negative effects on the residents’ cognition. Some studies have suggested that exposure to traffic and its side effects, such as noise and pollution, might contribute to neurodegenerative pathology.

In this new study, the Canadian researchers followed a total of 6.6 million Ontarians aged between 20 and 85 for over a decade, between 2001 and 2012.

The team used postcodes to determine the proximity of the residents to major roadways. The researchers also used the participants’ medical records to see if they developed dementia, Parkinson’s, or MS over the years.

Almost everyone (95 percent of the participants) in the study lived within 1 kilometer of a major road. Over the 10-year period, the researchers identified 243,611 cases of dementia, 31,577 cases of Parkinson’s disease, and 9,247 cases of MS.

traffic proximity

One in 10 dementia cases attributable to traffic exposure

Researchers found no association between living next to a major roadway and developing Parkinson’s disease or MS. However, dementia was found to be more common among people who lived closer to busy roads.

The study revealed that up to 1 in 10 cases of dementia among residents living within 50 meters of a major road could be attributed to traffic exposure. Additionally, the closer people lived to the busy roads, the higher their risk of developing dementia was. 

Between 7 and 11 percent of the dementia cases identified were attributable to major road proximity.

The risk decreased the farther away people lived from the main road. The results suggest that the risk of dementia was 7 percent higher for those living within 50 meters of a major roadway. This dropped to 4 percent for those living within 50-100 meters, 2 percent for those at 101-200 meters, and there was no increase in risk for those living more than 200 meters away.

Dr. Chen and team also found a link between long-term exposure to two common pollutants – nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter – and the incidence of dementia.

Although the link between dementia and road proximity weakened when researchers adjusted for these two pollutants, this association did not fully account for the entire near-road effect. This suggests that other pollutants, or even factors such as noise, could play a role.

Findings ‘open up crucial global health concern’

Strengths of this study include its large scale, as well as the access that researchers had to detailed medical and residential information over a period of 10 years. The study also adjusted for factors including socioeconomic status, education, body mass index, and smoking.

Limitations of the study include its observational nature, which means that it could not establish causality. Furthermore, the pollution exposure was estimated based on the postcode, so the study could not consider the pollution that each individual may have been exposed to.

The authors highlight the significance of their study in light of the growing prevalence of dementia, and the limited information researchers and healthcare professionals have on its causes and prevention.

“Our study suggests that busy roads could be a source of environmental stressors that could give rise to the onset of dementia. Increasing population growth and urbanization have placed many people close to heavy traffic, and with widespread exposure to traffic and growing rates of dementia, even a modest effect from near-road exposure could pose a large public health burden. More research to understand this link is needed, particularly into the effects of different aspects of traffic, such as air pollutants and noise.” Dr. Hong Chen

Dr. Lilian Calderón-Garcidueñas from the University of Montana – who did not collaborate with researchers on this study but who has conducted extensive research on the link between air pollutants and brain pathology – also weighed in on the findings.

The mounting evidence linking dementia and road traffic, she says, “opens up a crucial global health concern for millions of people […] The health repercussions of living close to heavy traffic vary considerably among exposed populations, given that traffic includes exposures to complex mixtures of environmental insults […] We must implement preventive measures now, rather than take reactive actions decades from now.”

BY JOYO TENANAN · JANUARY 6, 2017
Written by Ana Sandoiu
source:      www.medicalnewstoday     baetrice.org


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Coffee vs. Tea: Is One Better for Your Health?

A hot cup of coffee can perk you up in the morning. A soothing cup of tea can help you relax after a stressful day. And the latest research about the health benefits of each might help you feel a little better about them, whichever beverage you drink.

After years of studies that seemed to swing between dire warnings and cheery promises about what our favorite caffeinated beverages do and don’t do, much of the recent science regarding coffee and tea is generally positive.

The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer recently took coffee off its list of suspected carcinogens, and some research suggests it could help keep colon cancer from coming back after treatment. Other studies suggest drinking coffee might stave off Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Various studies have pointed to tea drinkers having lower odds of skin, breast, and prostate cancers. Researchers are still trying to pinpoint the exact ways that happens. But tea, particularly green tea, is rich in compounds like antioxidants, which can limit cell damage and boost the immune system; and polyphenols, which have been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. It also may help stave off Alzheimer’s disease through a polyphenol known as EGCG, which prevents the formation of plaques that are linked to that brain-damaging illness.

Is one better for you than the other?

Experts say that’s hard to say. That’s because it’s difficult to separate out their different ingredients, their role in your diet, and their effects on different body systems.

“I think people are looking at both coffee and tea and how they affect everything, including cancer and GI disease and cardiovascular diseases,” says Elliott Miller, MD, a critical care medicine specialist at the National Institutes of Health.

Miller and his colleagues recently looked at signs of heart disease in more than 6,800 people from different backgrounds across the country. About 75% drank coffee, while about 40% reported drinking tea. Drinking more than one cup of tea regularly was linked to less buildup of calcium in arteries that supply blood to the heart, a development that can lead to heart disease.

Coffee didn’t have an effect either way on heart disease, but that was significant in itself, Miller says.

“Very often patients will ask their doctors, ‘Hey, doc, I’ve got coronary artery disease, or I’ve got risk factors like high blood pressure or cholesterol. Is it safe for me to drink coffee?’ Because everyone thinks drinking coffee makes your heart excited and is potentially bad,” Miller says. “So finding that it’s neutral, I think, is pretty important.”

Researchers say it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how both drinks affect health. Both coffee and tea are “complex beverages” that contain a variety of ingredients. They include caffeine, polyphenols, and antioxidants – compounds researchers are studying for their potential cancer-fighting properties, says Lisa Cimperman, a clinical dietitian at University Hospitals Case Medical Center.

“It’s more of a dynamic interaction than one single compound,” Cimperman says. Some people have tried to isolate one element in tea or coffee that they think is the secret to one effect or another, “and then they realize that it doesn’t have the same effect.”

 © Johnfoto | Dreamstime.com © Johnfoto | Dreamstime.com Title: Coffee mug Description: Coffee mug on white background. Photo taken on: December 21st, 2010 * ID: * 17527982 * Level: * 3 * Views : * 252 * Downloads: * 17 * Model released: * NO * Content filtered: * NO Keywords (Report | Suggest) bean beverage breakfast cafe ceramic coffee cup drink handle hot mug relax

Cimperman said drinking tea has been linked to lower risks of cancer and heart disease, improved weight loss, and a stronger immune system. Meanwhile, studies point to coffee as a potential way to head off not just Parkinson’s but type 2 diabetes, liver disease, and heart problems, Cimperman says.

Another recent study, led by Charles Fuchs, MD, director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, found regular coffee drinking may help prevent colon cancer from coming back after treatment.

In his study of nearly 1,000 patients, Fuchs says, there was a “significant and linear” association between drinking coffee and lower risk of colon cancer returning in those who drank four or more cups a day. “The more coffee they drank, the lower risk of recurrence.” But the researchers aren’t clear on which element of the drink contributed to that result, and there didn’t seem to be any effect from drinking tea, he says.

“I think you can have two or more cups a day without any concern, and certainly that may benefit you,” Fuchs says. But what about for those who don’t drink coffee? “If it was somebody who hates the stuff and asks, ‘Should I drink it?’ I’d say no. I’d counsel them about diet and exercise and avoiding obesity as measures I think would have a similar benefit.”

Other researchers are asking questions about what role genetics and lifestyle play into the effects of drinking coffee or tea. For instance, coffee and cigarettes once went together like … well, like coffee and cigarettes, which cause cancer and heart disease.

Some people’s bodies process coffee differently than others, says Martha Gulati, MD, head of cardiology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix. Meanwhile, a preference for tea over coffee might reflect other healthier behaviors, she says.

“Does someone who drinks tea do yoga or meditation more?” Gulati says. “I’m not necessarily saying they’re associated, but do they exercise more? Are they drinking things like green tea to maintain their weight better than other types of drinks?”

And Robert Eckel, MD, an endocrinologist at the University of Denver, says an overall heart-healthy diet is “probably the most important aspect” of preventing heart disease.

“We’re talking about fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean poultry, fish, legumes, nuts, and avoiding saturated fat. That nutritional message is unchanging,” Eckel says.

There are other variables. The WHO’s ruling on coffee nonetheless cautioned that any kind of extremely hot drinks could raise the risk of esophageal cancer, while Cimperman says dumping a lot of cream and sugar into your drink can blunt any benefits.

“No one beverage or food will make or break your diet,” she says. “The quality of your diet is always the sum of all the parts.”

By Matt Smith      Dec. 23, 2016         WebMD Health News Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

Sources:
International Agency for Research on Cancer: “Evaluation of drinking coffee, maté, and very hot beverages.”
American Journal of Medicine: “Associations of Coffee, Tea, and Caffeine Intake with Coronary Artery Calcification and Cardiovascular Events.”
Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease: “Caffeine as a protective factor in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”
News release, American Academy of Neurology.
Journal of Clinical Oncology: “Coffee Intake, Recurrence, and Mortality in Stage III Colon Cancer: Results From CALGB 89803 (Alliance).”
National Cancer Institute: “Tea and cancer prevention.”
Current Pharmaceutical Design: “Reported Effects of Tea on Skin, Prostate, Lung and Breast Cancer in Humans.”
Critical Reviews in Food and Science Nutrition: “Tea and its consumption: benefits and risks.”
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Catechin- and caffeine-rich teas for control of body weight in humans.”
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Tea and flavonoid intake predict osteoporotic fracture risk in elderly Australian women: a prospective study.”
The Journal of Nutrition: “Coffee and tea consumption are inversely associated with mortality in a multiethnic urban population.”
The Journal of Nutrition: “Effect of increased tea consumption on oxidative DNA damage among smokers: a randomized controlled study.”
The Journal of Nutrition: “Black Tea Consumption Reduces Total and LDL Cholesterol in Mildly Hypercholesterolemic Adults.”
Diabetes Journals: “Coffee, Caffeine, and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes.”
European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology: “Coffee consumption and risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis.”
Circulation: “Long-Term Coffee Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease.”
Journal of Clinical Oncology: Coffee Intake, Recurrence, and Mortality in Stage III Colon Cancer: Results From CALGB 89803 (Alliance).”
Neurotoxicology:  “Onset and progression factors in Parkinson’s disease: A systematic review.”
Nature: “Effect of green tea consumption on blood pressure: A meta-analysis of 13 randomized controlled trials.”
Elliott Miller, MD, critical care medicine specialist, National Institutes of Health.
Lisa Cimperman, dietitian, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Robert Eckel, MD, former president, American Heart Association; University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Martha Gulati, MD, head of cardiology, University of Arizona College of Medicine, Phoenix.Charles Fuchs, director, Gastrointestinal Cancer Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston.


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Where Neuroscience is Making the Impossible, Possible

Glimpse a revolutionary future enabled by neuroscience

Recently, while preparing to deliver a TED talk on Broadway, “What Will Be the Next Big Scientific Breakthrough?,” I thought a lot about the impossible.

Once, human flight was impossible. Instant communication anywhere, anytime was impossible. Leaving Earth was impossible. Seeing farther than the naked eye was impossible.

Scientific revolutions have turned a long list of impossibilities into everyday possibilities. And science is far from finished transforming absurd fantasies into everyday realties.

Nowhere is this more true than with neuroscience.

Thanks to functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) we can already see living brains think, we can relieve Parkinson’s tremors with the flip of a switch through brain implants, and we can beam thoughts instantly across the planet from one person to another via sensitive scalp probes and superconducting brain stimulators.

Where is neuroscience poised to elevate the art of the possible and change our lives?

Here are three of the most tantalizing possibilities. Some of these seem far-fetched at best and absurd at worst, but that is always true of revolutionary advances just before they happen. Physicians thought Ignaz Semelweiss was insane for believing microbes caused disease. Ditto for Wegener who postulated that continents drift and for Barry Marshall, who argued that the bug h pylori causes ulcers. The list of insane ideas that ultimately proved correct goes on and on: a meteor wiped out the dinosaurs, humans descended from primitive species, Earth revolves around the sun.

Buckle your seat belts for a wild ride through a (possibly) revolutionary future, brought to you courtesy of modern neuroscience. Some of this work may fizzle out, but some will dynamite our concept of what is impossible.

  • Implanting and triggering false memories. MIT neuroscientists Liu and Ramirez (see TED talk) injected mice with nanoscopic optical switches that are absorbed by neurons in the hippocampus while the neurons are form new memories. The MIT scientists then trained these mice to fear a particular environment through mild shocks. Using implanted lasers to turn on optical switches can excite the same hippocampal neurons that recently formed the “fear” memories. Liu and Ramirez got mice to “replay” fear memories in new environments that the rodents had no reason to fear. This was an astonishing accomplishment at multiple levels. Tagging and identifying nerve cells that hold specific memories was once thought to be impossible. Selectively activating such a small population of neurons to replay the memories was believed to be even more improbable.

Why should we care?

If this technique were to work in humans, it might be possible to create and stimulate positive memories to overwrite bad memories, such as those of PTSD sufferers. Or, as Steve Ramirez himself has speculated, perhaps we can someday erase the pain of bad romances!

brain

 

  • Bring the dead back to life. Recent advances in stimulating growth of new brain cells using stem cell implants, genetic switches, and other tricks, raise the possibility of reviving patients who are clinically “brain dead.” Through the “ReAnima” project, biotech companies BioQuark and Revita Life Sciences received approval to attempt to revive 20 patients declared brain dead using a combination of peptides and mRNA that stimulate new nerve growth, stem cell implants, optical and electromagnetic brain stimulation, and other techniques to kickstart stalled brains. Finally, cryopreservation of brain tissue shows some promise in cats, rodents, and other mammalian species. For example, cat brains frozen for years, then carefully thawed, exhibit measurable neural activity. Perhaps, someday, even after brains “die” they can be frozen and later brought back to some semblance of  life.

Why should we care?

Apart from giving new hope to deep coma victims and their families, the combination of neural regeneration and revitalization techniques could help treat Alzheimers, Parkinson and stroke patients. The methods may even restore healthy “older” brains to youthful vigor. And the possibility that we might succumb to an incurable disease, be frozen (or preserved some other way), and later be resurrected when the disease becomes curable, cannot be completely ruled out. It sounds crazy and probably is crazy, but based on the cryo-neuroscience, I would never say such a thing is impossible.

  • Making animals as smart as humans. Rash and colleagues at Yale University discovered that they could make embryonic mouse brains more human-like by delivering fibroblast growth factor to the animals’ developing brains. Rash succeeded in inducing mice brains to develop gyri and sulci typical of more “advanced” mammals such as cats, monkeys, and humans. As shown in the photo, mouse brains are normally smooth, lacking the complex folds that allow human brains to pack in hundreds of billions of neurons into a small volume. But Dr. Rash induced “gyrification” in mouse brains that gave these normally unfolded brains folds. Other researchers have achieved similar results by activating the Trnp1 gene in mice (a gene shared with humans) permitting embryonic rodent brains to develop and grow longer than they normally would.

Why should we care?

I am not eager to have a pet mouse or dog that is as smart—or even smarter—than I am. I like  dogs who are loving, uncomplicated, and not prone to argue with me about when to take a walk.  But, if the early promise of “induced gyrification” pans out, someone is bound to create smarter animals to perform tasks that were once the sole province of humans. This will reduce payroll costs, employee medical insurance costs, and get around unions (unless the newly intelligent creatures decide to unionize, demand the right to vote and so forth). Perhaps we will need smarter humans just to cope with the smarter animals we create!

This raises a question: if increased gyrification produces smarter animals, why not smarter humans? Countries wishing to field smarter soldiers, or smarter scientists might be tempted to turbocharge human brains.

Taken together, if all three of these impossible neuroscience advances make the impossible possible, what will our future hold?

  • Can we learn new things simply by going to a memory salon for treatments?
  • Can we regrow lost brain tissue and recover from “incurable” neurodegenerative diseases?
  • Can we come back to life after leaving it?
  • Can we discuss Proust and Goethe with our Labrador retriever and seek his opinion on our troubled relationships?
  • Can we ask this same canine where he believes science will next make the impossible, possible

 Possibly!

To have more fun with neuroscience, learn more about my new book, Brain Candy.

References


https://www.ted.com/talks/steve_ramirez_and_xu_liu_a_mouse_a_laser_beam_…
Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2014 Jan 5; 369(1633): 20130142.
Xu Liu,† Steve Ramirez,† and Susumu Tonegawa, Inception of a false memory by optogenetic manipulation of a hippocampal memory engram
Negishi T, Ishii Y, Kawamura S, Kuroda Y, Yoshikawa Y. Cryopreservation of brain tissue for primary culture. Exp Anim. 2002;51:383–390. doi: 10.1538/expanim.51.383
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/341/6144/387
http://www.nicolelislab.net/?p=369
http://www.nicolelislab.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/SREP-12-04012-5e8…
Trnp1 Regulates Expansion and Folding of the Mammalian Cerebral Cortex by Control of Radial Glial Fate Ronny Stahl,Tessa Walcher, Camino De Juan Romero,5 Gregor Alexander Pilz,3 Silvia Cappello,3 Martin Irmhttp://www.cell.com/abstract/S0092-8674(13)00349-8
http://www.jneurosci.org/content/33/26/10802.full
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/repairing-the-damaged-spinal-c…
http://www.mayo.edu/research/departments-divisions/department-neurology/…
http://www.medicaldaily.com/smart-drug-modafinil-improves-memory-and-cog…
http://www.alternet.org/personal-health/can-pill-make-you-smarter-brave-…
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/meet-two-scientists-who-implant…
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/nov/20/brain-damage-nerve-cells…
http://www.mayo.edu/research/centers-programs/center-regenerative-medici…
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/05/03/dead-could-be-brought-back…
http://www.alcor.org/Library/html/caseforcryonics.html 
Trnp1 Regulates Expansion and Folding of the Mammalian Cerebral Cortex by Control of Radial Glial Fate, Ronny Stahl et al
Cytotechnology. 2015 May; 67(3): 419–426.
Freshly frozen E18 rat cortical cells can generate functional neural networks after standard cryopreservation and thawing proceduresKim Quasthoff, Stefano Ferrea, Wiebke Fleischer, Stephan Theiss, Alfons Schnitzler, Marcel Dihné, and Janine Walter [Description: orresponding author]

Eric Haseltine Ph.D. Eric Haseltine Ph.D.      Long Fuse, Big Bang      Jul 09, 2016


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The Health Benefits of Drinking a Little Pinot Noir Wine Everyday

by Ireland Wolfe, Demand Media

Instead of drinking soda, consider drinking wine nightly with your dinner. Like all red wines, pinot noir contains polyphenols, antioxidants that can protect your heart. A specific type of polyphenol, resveratrol, is likely responsible for many of the health benefits. The resveratrol content varies depending on the region where the pinot noir is produced, but generally, the wine is high in this vital antioxidant.

Heart Benefits
Much research suggests that resveratrol may have a number of heart-healthy benefits, according to the Mayo Clinic. Resvaratrol may help to lower your bad cholesterol, raise good cholesterol, prevent blood clots and reduce inflammation. Although most studies have been animal-research or in vivo studies, a 2012 article published in “Pharmacological Research” examined the link between red wine and cardiovascular disease in 1,000 high-risk human subjects. The cross-sectional study looked at subjects with resveratrol in their bloodstream and compared their consumption of wine to their cardiovascular risk factors. Researchers found that subjects who drank wine had better heart rates and lower fasting blood glucose and cholesterol levels than those who did not.

Cancer Prevention
Drinking moderate amounts of pinot noir may help to inhibit the development of certain types of cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. Researchers have examined resveratrol on many different types of cancer, such as leukemia, skin and prostate cancers, through in vivo and animal studies. A 2008 study published in “Cell Death and Differentiation” looked at resveratrol on breast cancer cells. Researchers found that resveratrol could contribute to cell death in breast cancer cells. However, more research, especially on human subjects, is needed.

wine
Pinot noir is a type of red wine.

Neurological Benefits
Pinot noir also may have neurological advantages. The resveratrol in pinot noir may help to prevent neurological diseases. A 2011 review published in the “Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences” examined stilbenoid compounds, which are found in resveratrol. Researchers stated that resveratrol showed favorable results in the treatment and prevention of degenerative diseases, such as Huntington’s, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Precautions
Despite these promising health benefits, alcohol, including red wine, can cause health problems. Drinking too much alcohol can contribute to high blood pressure, liver disease, obesity and high cholesterol. Alcohol can be addictive, and you should drink red wine only in moderation. The Mayo Clinic states that drinking in moderation means only one glass of red wine for women. Pregnant women, people with certain chronic diseases or those who take some types of medication should avoid alcohol. Talk to your doctor for specific recommendations.

References

  • MayoClinic.com Red Wine and Resveratrol: Good for Your Heart?
  • Wellness Made Natural: Oregon Pinot Noir and Resveratrol: A Match Made in Wine Heaven
  • Pharmacological Research: High Urinary Levels of Resveratrol Metabolites are Associated With a Reduction in the Prevalence of Cardiovascular Risk Factors in High-Risk Patients
  • National Cancer Institute: Red Wine and Cancer Prevention: Fact Sheet
  • Cell Death and Differentiation: Role of Non-Canonical Beclin 1-Independent Autophagy in Cell Death Induced by Resveratrol in Human Breast Cancer Cells
  • Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences: Neuroprotective Properties of Resveratrol and Derivatives

About the Author
Ireland Wolfe has been writing professionally since 2009, contributing to Toonari Post, Africana Online and Winzer Insurance. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts in psychology and Master of Arts in mental health counseling. She is also a licensed mental health counselor, registered nutritionist and yoga teacher.


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5 Reasons to Love Cinnamon

November 21, 2014      By Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD

Cinnamon is one of my feel-good foods. The scent reminds me of fall, my favorite time of year, and brings back memories of making apple pies with my mom, and celebrating the holidays.

While I’ve always been a fan of its flavor and aroma, as a nutritionist, I’m also thrilled to spread the news about cinnamon’s health benefits. For example, one teaspoon of cinnamon packs as much antioxidant potency as a half cup of blueberries, and cinnamon’s natural antimicrobial properties have been shown to fight strains of E. coli, as well as Candida yeast. Also, while technically not sweet, “sweet spices” like cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger have been shown to boost satiety and mimic sweetness, which allows you to cut back on sugar in nearly anything, from your morning cup of Joe to a batch of homemade muffins.

Pretty impressive, but that’s not all.
Here are five more potential health benefits of spicing things up!

Better heart health
In a recent study from Penn State, researchers found that a diet rich in spices, like cinnamon and turmeric, helped curb the negative effects of downing a fatty meal. After a high-fat meal, levels of fats in your blood known as triglycerides rise, and chronically high triglycerides raise the risk of heart disease. In this small study (in just six overweight but otherwise healthy men between 30 and 65) the results of adding spices were significant. On two separate days, volunteers added two tablespoons of spices, including cinnamon, to a fatty meal, which was tested against an identical control meal without spices. Blood samples drawn after meals revealed that in addition to 13% higher blood antioxidant levels, the spices reduced triglycerides by about 30%.

Blood sugar regulation
In research led by U.S. Department of Agriculture, scientists found that antioxidant-rich cinnamon extract helped reduce risk factors associated with diabetes and heart disease. In the study, 22 obese volunteers with prediabetes were divided randomly into two groups. One was given a placebo, the other a dose of dried water-soluble cinnamon extract twice a day, along with their usual diets. Fasting blood samples collected at the beginning of the study, and after six and 12 weeks revealed that the cinnamon extract improved antioxidant status, and helped reduce blood sugar levels.

Diabetes protection
Cinnamon has been shown to slow stomach emptying, which curbs the sharp rise in blood sugar following meals, and improves the effectiveness, or sensitivity of insulin. A University of Georgia study also found that cinnamon can prevent tissue damage and inflammation caused by high levels of blood sugar. When blood sugar levels are high, sugar bonds with proteins to form compounds called advanced glycation end products, or AGEs. AGEs activate the immune system, which triggers the inflammation and tissue damage associated with aging and diabetes. In the study, researchers found a strong and direct link between the antioxidant content of common herbs and spices, including cinnamon, and their ability to prevent AGEs from forming. This effect also further decrease the risk of heart damage, since AGEs contribute to hardening of the arteries.

cinnamon

Better brain function
Research shows that just smelling cinnamon enhances cognitive processing, but consuming it significantly ups brain function. Scientists at Wheeling Jesuit University asked volunteers to complete computer-based tasks while chewing no gum, plain gum, or gum flavored with cinnamon, peppermint, or jasmine. Cognitive processing was boosted the most in those given cinnamon, which sped up visual-motor responses and improved attention scores. This aromatic spice may also help the brain heal. One study from scientists at the Agricultural Research Service found that cinnamon extract prevented brain cells from swelling in the ways typically seen after a traumatic brain injury or stroke.

Parkinson’s protection
In animal research supported by grants from National Institutes of Health, scientists found that after ground cinnamon is ingested, it’s metabolized into a substance called sodium benzoate, which enters into the brain. In mice with Parkinson’s, the positive effects included neuron protection, normalized levels of neurotransmitters, and improved motor functions.

Plus, 10 ways to use it
To take advantage of cinnamon’s potential benefits, incorporate it into more meals. One of the things I love about this spice is how versatile it is. I use it in both sweet and savory dishes, and I feel like I’m always finding new ways to add it to meals, snacks, and beverages. Here are 10 easy ideas:

  • Sprinkle cinnamon into your coffee, or add it to your coffee grounds before brewing.
  • Add a dash or two of cinnamon to hot oatmeal, overnight oats, or cold whole grain cereal.
  • Fold cinnamon into yogurt, along with cooked, chilled quinoa, fresh cut fruit, and nuts or seeds.
  • Freeze cinnamon in ice cubes to add zest and aroma to water or cocktails.
  • Season roasted or grilled fruit with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
  • Stir cinnamon into almond butter, or any nut or seed butter, and use as a dip for fresh apple or pear wedges or a filling for celery.
  • Add a pinch of cinnamon to lentil or black bean soup, or vegetarian chili.
  • Season roasted cauliflower, sweet potatoes, spaghetti, and butternut squash with a pinch of cinnamon.
  • Sprinkle a little cinnamon onto popped popcorn.
  • Stir a little cinnamon into melted dark chocolate and drizzle over whole nuts to make spicy ‘bark’ or use as a dip or coating for fresh fruit.

NOTE: While cinnamon is healthful, just be sure not to overdo it. Don’t take cinnamon supplements unless they have been prescribed by your physician, and check out this info from the National Library of Medicine about the potential risks for some of consuming too much cinnamon.

Cynthia Sass is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches. 


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Dopamine Deficiency And Your Mental Health

by Deane Alban    ON JULY 11, 2015

If you wake up every morning and feel like “the thrill is gone,” you may have a dopamine deficiency. Dopamine is the main brain chemical responsible for making us feel motivated. Low levels of dopamine can manifest in some very disruptive ways. It can leave you feeling fatigued, apathetic, moody and unable to concentrate. Just as importantly, it plays a role in many mental disorders including depression, addiction of all kinds, Parkinson’s disease, ADHD, and schizophrenia. Understanding how dopamine affects your life is a key to taking control of this neurotransmitter — instead of letting it take control of you.

What Is Dopamine?

Dopamine is considered one of the “feel good” neurotransmitters, along with serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins. It has several distinct major functions. It’s been called the “motivation molecule” for providing the drive and focus you need to be productive. It’s also been called the “reward chemical” since it’s in charge of your brain’s pleasure-reward system. Dopamine plays a role in numerous brain functions involving mood, sleep, learning, the ability to focus and concentrate, motor control, and working memory.

What Does Dopamine Do?

Understanding dopamine’s functions is a work in progress. Over 110,000 research papers have been written about it, yet scientists are still trying to determine exactly what it does. Here are some of the known functions of dopamine: Dopamine is crucial to the feeling of motivation you need to work towards both long-term and short-term goals. It delivers a feeling of satisfaction when you’ve accomplished what you set out to do. Dopamine is released when your needs are about to be met .

Dopamine helped our ancestors survive by giving them an energy boost when presented with a great opportunity, such as locating a new source of food. You wouldn’t think we’d need to be motivated to find food, yet alarmingly, lab mice with dopamine deficiency are so unmotivated they starve to death — even when food is readily available. Our modern lifestyle doesn’t provide the same opportunities for dopamine boosts that our ancestors experienced, like hunting down dinner. But we still seek dopamine because of the way it makes us feel — alive and excited.

There are both healthy and unhealthy ways to get a dopamine lift. You can boost your dopamine watching or playing sports, learning something new, finishing a project, or landing a new account at work. Any form of accomplishment that gives you that “Yes, I did it!” feeling will increase dopamine. The unhealthy way to stimulate dopamine production is with addictive substances of all kinds.

Low Dopamine Symptoms

Dopamine deficiency sucks the zest out of life. It can leave you feeling apathetic, hopeless, and joyless. It makes it hard to start things and even harder to finish them. Common low dopamine symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Lack of motivation
  • Inability to experience pleasure
  • Insomnia
  • Hard time getting going in the morning
  • Mood swings
  • Forgetfulness
  • Memory loss
  • Inability to focus and concentrate
  • Inability to connect with others
  • Low libido
  • Sugar cravings
  • Caffeine cravings
  • Inability to handle stress
  • Inability to lose weight

 

Dopamine Deficiency Related Disorders

When dopamine levels are out of balance, they can be an important factor in many mental health and other systemic disorders. Here are some of the most common conditions that have a dopamine deficiency connection.

Low Dopamine And Depression

Depression is usually thought of as due to a lack of serotonin, another “feel good” brain chemical. But there’s a growing body of evidence that dopamine deficiency is the underlying cause of depression for many people instead. This explains why selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) — depression medications that work by increasing serotonin — work for only 40 percent of those who use them. Bupropion (Wellbutrin) is an antidepressant that works by addressing low dopamine for those who have not been helped by SSRIs. There’s a difference in the symptoms of depression experienced by those with serotonin versus dopamine deficiency. Dopamine-based depression expresses itself as lethargy and lack of enjoyment of life, while serotonin-based depression tends to be accompanied by anxiety.

happy-chemicals-dopamine-serotonin-endorphin-oxytocin

The Dopamine Addiction Connection

People low in dopamine are more prone to addictions of all kinds. People with dopamine addictions often rely on caffeine, sugar, smoking, or other stimulants to boost their energy, focus, and drive. What they are really doing is self-medicating to increase their dopamine levels. Using self-destructive behaviors to overcome dopamine deficiency can lead to addictions of all kinds — video games, shopping, gambling, sex, money, power, alcohol, and drugs.

Dopamine And Parkinson’s Disease

When dopamine-generating brain cells in one specific part of the brain die, it leads to Parkinson’s, a progressive neurodegenerative disease. Parkinson’s usually starts with a slight tremor in one hand. Patients gradually lose their ability to regulate their movements and emotions. There is no cure but so far the most effective treatment is levodopa, a natural compound that converts into dopamine.

ADHD And Dopamine

The underlying cause of ADHD is still unknown. But it is widely accepted that the root cause of ADHD is probably an abnormality in dopamine function. This seems logical since dopamine is critical for maintaining focus. Most ADHD medications are based on the “dopamine deficiency” theory. Prescription medications used to treat ADHD are believed to work by increasing the release of dopamine and norepinephrine while slowing down their rate of reabsorption.

Schizophrenia And Dopamine

The cause of schizophrenia is unknown, but genetics and environmental factors are believed to play a role. One prevailing theory is that it’s caused by an overactive dopamine system . Supporting evidence for this theory is that the best drugs to treat schizophrenia symptoms resemble dopamine and block dopamine receptors. However, these medications can take days to work, which indicates that the exact mechanism is not yet fully understood.

Dopamine Deficiency Symptoms In Fibromyalgia And Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Both fibromyalgia (FMS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) are associated with low dopamine levels. Low dopamine symptoms experienced by FMS and CFS patients include brain fog, achy muscles, poor concentration, tremors, poor balance and coordination, and walking abnormalities.

How To Increase Dopamine Levels Naturally

If you experience signs of low dopamine, you don’t have to live with it. There are several lifestyle changes that can increase dopamine naturally.

Dopamine Foods

The amino acid tyrosine is a precursor of dopamine. Tyrosine-rich foods provide the basic building blocks for dopamine production. Phenylalanine is an amino acid that converts into tyrosine.

Virtually all animal products are good sources of both tyrosine and phenylalanine. Here are some other foods known to increase dopamine:

  • Legumes
  • Almonds, sesame and pumpkin seeds
  • Apples, avocados, bananas, watermelon
  • Beets, green leafy vegetables, sea vegetables
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee and green tea
  • Oatmeal
  • Turmeric
  • Wheat germ

Dopamine Supplements

Dopamine is a serious medicine used in emergency situations like heart attacks and shock. So while actual dopamine supplements are not available, there are many dopamine boosting supplements you can try. The most obvious dopamine supplement to consider is l-tyrosine. Without it, you can’t make dopamine. Even if you think you get plenty of l-tyrosine in your diet, you may not be converting it effectively.

There are several forms of tyrosine supplements available. Dopamine used by the brain must be produced in the brain, so it’s important that any dopamine enhancing supplement you take gets into the brain. That’s why we recommend acetyl-l-tyrosine, an absorbable form that can readily cross the blood-brain barrier. Next, look into vitamin D, magnesium, and omega-3 essential fatty acids. Deficiencies of all three are extremely common, and each can contribute to dopamine deficiency. Lastly, you can look into taking a dopamine enhancing supplement. Here are some supplements proven to increase dopamine:

  • Mucuna pruriens (velvet bean or cowhage)
  • Phosphatidylserine
  • Ginkgo biloba
  • L-theanine
  • S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e)
  • Bacopa monnieri
  • Curcumin

Some dopamine supplements contain phenylethylamine, the precursor of tyrosine, but we don’t recommend them. Phenylethylamine is pretty useless for increasing dopamine levels. Once it reaches your brain it has a half-life of only 30 seconds.

Activities That Boost Dopamine Levels

Any activity that makes you feel happy and relaxed increases dopamine. Physical exercise increases dopamine and other feel-good neurotransmitters and is responsible for what’s known as “runner’s high”. Get a therapeutic massage. It can boost dopamine by over 30 percent. Meditation increases dopamine. So do mind-focusing hobbies like knitting, home repair, gardening, painting, photography, or woodworking. Playing and listening to music you enjoy releases dopamine . Engage in “seeking and finding” activities. This emulates the hunt that provided our ancestors with their dopamine boosts. Take on new challenges and set small milestones. Accomplishing goals, even small ones, trains your brain to release dopamine.

For more information on increasing your levels of dopamine, read this article “How to Increase Dopamine Naturally.”

Overcoming Dopamine Deficiency: The Bottom Line

Dopamine deficiency can sap the joy from life. It also plays a role in many mental health conditions, including depression and addictive behaviors. Make appropriate lifestyle changes to increase your dopamine levels.

  • Eat a diet high in dopamine boosting foods.
  • Get plenty of physical exercise.
  • Engage in stress-reducing activities.
  • Take appropriate dopamine enhancing supplements.

Deane AlbanThis article was brought to you by Deane Alban, a health information researcher, writer and teacher for over 25 years. For more helpful articles about improving your cognitive and mental health, visit BeBrainFit.com today.


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The Fruit That Fights Alzheimer’s Disease

Shubhra Krishan   June 1, 2014

Confusion, loss of memory, difficulty speaking, disorientation … Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, is traumatic for those who have it and those who see their loved ones suffer from it. The statistics tell a sobering story:

  •     More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s
  •     Every 67 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s
  •     Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th largest cause of death in America

Scientists are not sure when and how the decline begins, but do know that the disease prevents brain cells from running well. While researchers are working day and night to find ways to battle Alzheimer’s, we on our part can keep the brain healthy by eating a balanced diet, including more of one particular fruit … apples.

Although apples have long held a terrific reputation for keeping the doctor away, some specific studies on their brain-boosting benefits are worth noting. A University of Massachusetts-Lowell study led by Dr. Thomas Shea showed that apples and apple juice helped mice with an Ahlzheimer’s-like defect improve memory tasks. In a separate study conducted by Cornell researchers, a chemical called quercetin was found to protect rat brain cells from oxidative stress. “An apple a day may supply major bioactive compounds, which may play an important role in reducing the risk of neurodegenerative disorders,” says Chang Y. “Cy” Lee, Cornell professor of food science.

And in more good apple news, Cornell University professor Rui Hai Liu and his colleague identified 13 compounds in apple peel that (in vitro or animal studies) either inhibited the growth or killed cancer cells of liver, breast and colon.

While scientists caution against believing that apples or apple juice is a definitive answer to Alzheimer or other diseases, they do emphasize that it should fit into part of a balanced daily diet. “Variety is best,” says Dr. Liu, “The thousands of phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables can be looked at as a team.”

Do try to choose locally grown organic apples. The Environmental Working Group, which publishes an annual list of conventional foods with the least and most pesticide residues points out that 99% of apple samples contain at least one type of pesticide. Some of these pesticides have been linked to Parkinson’s disease.

source: www.care2.com