Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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5 Non-Diet Ways to Trick Yourself into Losing Weight

June 8, 2015    By Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD

Convenient. Attractive. Normal. These three words (which are the basis for the even easier to remember acronym C.A.N.) may be the key to eating healthier without really trying, according to a new paper from Cornell University. The review of 112 studies concluded that eaters make good choices when healthy foods are visible and within reach; they’re displayed enticingly; and they’re set up as the most obvious choices compared to other food options. It just makes sense: When you place gorgeous pieces of fresh fruit in a pretty bowl on your counter, you’re more likely to take one than if they’re hidden away—especially if the chips or cookies are even easier to grab. Bottom line, make it handy to eat healthfully and you’ll follow through, no “diet” or willpower required.

In addition to remembering C.A.N., there are plenty of other research-backed strategies for not dieting, and still shedding pounds. Here, four more easy tactics you can adopt.

Plate your veggies artistically

In a University of Oxford study, subjects in one group received salads arranged to resemble an artistic painting; a second group was provided with salads featuring vegetables lined up in neat rows, and salads in a third group were served in a typical piled-up fashion. While all the salads contained identical ingredients, dressing, and condiments, the artistic salad was rated the best by subjects, by a nearly 20 percent margin. In fact, people reported that they’d be willing to pay twice as much for the painting-like versions. The takeaway: We eat with our eyes as well as our stomachs, so if you’re trying to reach for healthy foods more often, put some effort into how you present them. (I think this study demonstrates one reason why Mason jar salads—and the myriad of photos of them on social media—have become so popular.)

Nosh before you shop

You’ve heard this one before, but it’s worth repeating: A 2013 study, also from Cornell University, found that skipping meals before heading to the supermarket is a surefire way to sabotage healthy shopping. Volunteers were asked to fast for five hours, then either given nothing to eat or crackers, and asked to make purchases at a simulated food market. The fasting group bought 18.6% more food—including  a whopping 44.8% more calorie-packed items, like chips and ice cream—than the cracker eating crowd. In a follow-up study, researchers observed shoppers at an actual supermarket just after lunch and in the late afternoon. Compared to post-lunch shoppers, those who strolled the aisles in the late afternoon—when they were way more likely to be hungry—bought over a quarter fewer low-calorie foods like vegetables. To prevent hunger from keeping healthy food items out of your grocery cart, eat something to take the edge off pre-shopping. Stash a golf-ball sized portion of nuts or seeds in your bag, and try to finish them before you walk through the entrance of the supermarket.

shopping

 

Spend a little time in the morning sun

The timing, intensity, and length of your exposure to light during the day may significantly affect your weight. In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers at Northwestern University found that compared to people who got most of their light exposure later in the day, those who enjoyed even moderately bright light in the morning had significantly lower BMIs. In fact, the later the hour of light exposure, the higher a person’s BMI, and vice versa. The numbers held true independent of an individual’s exercise regime, calorie intake, sleep timing, and age. The powerful effect, researchers say, is due to how light influences our body’s circadian rhythms, which regulate metabolism and weight regulation. To keep those rhythms in sync and your weight in check, researchers advise getting 20 to 30 minutes of bright light exposure between 8:00 a.m. and noon. And no, you don’t have to be outdoors—a room brightened by natural sun (versus a room with no windows and only artificial light) will do.

Don’t dine while distracted

Bringing your lunch to work is a smart way to control your calories. But if you surf the Web while you eat, you may consume more than you would’ve if you’d focused on your meal, both during eating and later in the day. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who played a computer game while lunching felt less full, snacked more, and had more trouble recalling what they had eaten than those who’d eaten without distractions. So while it may feel weird to sit at your desk without checking email or doing anything but eating, that’s the best lunchtime strategy for your waistline. Bonus: You’ll actually enjoy your lunch.

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 New York Yankees MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Cynthia is a three time New York Times best selling author, and her brand new book is Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast. 


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Supplement Linked to Reduction in Skin Cancer Risk

Preliminary Australian study saw association between nicotinamide and lower rates

WebMD News from HealthDay   By Dennis Thompson    HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, May 13, 2015 (HealthDay News) – A cheap and easily available vitamin supplement appears to reduce a person’s risk of skin cancer, new research contends.

A form of vitamin B3 called nicotinamide is linked to a reduction of non-melanoma skin cancers by 23 percent when taken twice daily, according to Australian researchers.

“It’s safe, it’s almost obscenely inexpensive, and it’s already widely commercially available,” said senior author Dr. Diona Damian, a professor of dermatology at the University of Sydney.

Nicotinamide costs less than $10 for a month’s supply and is available at pharmacies and health food stores, she said.

However, more study is needed before researchers can say whether everyone would benefit from the supplement. “It’s not something we’d recommend at this stage for the general population,” Damian said.

The study is slated for presentation May 30 at the upcoming annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Findings presented at meetings are generally considered preliminary until they’ve been published in a peer-reviewed journal. Funding for this study was provided by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with about 5 million cases treated every year at a cost of about $4.8 billion, Damian said.

Common skin cancers tend to grow slowly and can be cured if found and treated early, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). These types of skin cancer include basal and squamous cell carcinoma. A more dangerous type of skin cancer called melanoma accounts for just 73,000 cases a year, according to the ACS.

Sunshine

Ultraviolet rays from the sun cause most skin cancers by damaging the DNA of skin cells, Damian said.

UV radiation also hampers the body’s ability to fight off cancer, depleting the energy that skin cells need to repair damaged DNA and profoundly suppressing the skin’s immune system, she said.

Earlier studies indicated that nicotinamide can provide skin cells with an energy boost, enhancing DNA repair and strengthening the skin’s immune system, Damian said.

However, those benefits quickly disappeared during the study’s follow-up period. “When people stopped taking their tablets after 12 months, the benefit was no longer seen,” Damian said. “In other words, you need to continue taking the tablets in order for them to be effective.”

Nicotinamide did not appear to cause any more adverse events than the placebo, researchers said.

Damian said that nicotinamide is very different from a more commonly known form of B3 called niacin. People who take high doses of niacin can suffer from headaches, flushed skin and low blood pressure. “These side effects are not and were not seen with nicotinamide,” she said.

Further studies are planned to determine if nicotinamide can help reduce skin cancers in people with suppressed immune systems, such as organ transplant recipients who have to take lifelong immune suppressive medications, researchers said. People with suppressed immune systems have skin cancer rates up to 50 times higher than those with normal immune systems, the researchers noted.

ASCO President Dr. Peter Yu said that the new study may provide doctors with a tool to head a major form of cancer off at the pass.

“We all know that we clamor for preventing rather than treating diseases, and this is a major advance for us,” said Yu, director of cancer research at Palo Alto Medical Foundation. “With just a daily vitamin pill, along with sun protection and regular skin cancer screenings, people at high risk for these types of skin cancers have a good preventive plan to follow.”

source: HealthDay 

 


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4 Tricks to Avoid the Afternoon Slump

How to steer clear of the late afternoon coffee and cookie trap

By Natalie Ruskin, CBC News       Posted: May 08, 2015 

CBC Health spoke with registered dietitian Cara Rosenbloom and naturopath Hilary Booth.

Choose your lunch wisely

What you eat for lunch directly impacts how you feel later in the afternoon. Many people eat a high carbohydrate lunch but don’t include enough protein. You’ll experience a slump and feel more fatigue later if you’re just eating carbs. Protein is the nutrient that makes you feel fuller longer and also helps carbs break down more slowly so that you feel energized longer.

When you choose your lunch, consider including a good source of protein such as lean chicken, fish or tofu.  Try to include a healthy source of fat, like avocado or almonds. And equally important, select complex carbs like brown rice or sweet potatoes to provide sustained energy rather than white rice or refined carbs like pasta or bread.

Plan ahead for snacks

Steer clear of the late afternoon coffee and cookie trap by preparing your snack in anticipation of the slump. We automatically crave sugar when we feel depleted because sugar provides instant energy. For a snack that sustains energy and delivers better nutrition, think along the lines of raisins with almonds, Greek yogurt with fruit, or hummus with vegetables.

yawn

Increase your water intake

Hydrate! People often confuse hunger cravings with actual thirst. Staying hydrated helps you avoid that sleepy feeling. Adequate water intake is important for cognitive performance, weight loss and chronic disease prevention among other benefits. Make a cup of tea or enjoy water with cucumber, lemon or mint. Keep the beverage unsweetened.

There is not a single level of water intake that can be recommended for everyone: the amount depends on several factors such as metabolism and environmental conditions. What’s important is to remember your body needs water so don’t neglect this vital fluid.

Get outside and move your body

Sitting indoors all day drains energy. Make sure to get up and stretch every hour — stand up during phone calls or do a few stretches at your desk. Step outside even for five minutes to get some fresh air and take a walk. Fresh air, natural light and movement improves cardiovascular and cognitive function so that when you’re back in the office you’ll be more energized and creative.

What is it about natural light that makes us feel better? Direct sunlight exposure increases vitamin D which improves mood. The Canadian Cancer Society suggests that a “few minutes a day of unprotected sun exposure is usually all some people need to get enough vitamin D.”

source: www.cbc.ca


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15 Keys to Living a Long and Happy Life

The U.S. centenarian population has been on the rise the past few decades, growing from 32, 194 people who lived to see their 100th birthday in the 1980s to 53, 364 centenarians in 2010, according to the Census Bureau. So, what secrets does this relatively small group of people harbor for accomplishing the incredible feat of living to such a ripe age?

Many of them credit these habits for granting them a long, happy, healthy life:

1. Cultivate a positive attitude.

In a 2012 study published in the journal Aging, researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that out of 243 centenarians assessed, all of them had upbeat, optimistic, easygoing personalities. However, this one should come as no surprise – a pessimistic attitude drains you of vital energy and can even decrease your lifespan due to the shortening of telomeres, or the “end caps” of DNA strands. If you don’t already, practice developing a positive outlook on life if you want to increase your longevity and possibly become a centenarian yourself!

2. Laugh often.

In the same journal referenced above, researchers from several prestigious universities discovered that the same 243 centenarians did more than just have a good attitude – they considered laughter an important part of life, too. Find reasons to laugh on a daily basis; not taking life so seriously could actually add some years to your lifespan.

3. Follow your unique life purpose.

People in Costa Rica call this a “plan de vida,” or reason to live. They feel that a strong sense of purpose and desire to contribute to a greater cause played a huge role in a small group of Costa Ricans living to 100. According to the website Blue Zones, people living in this area of Central America have twice as much likelihood as Americans of living to the age of 90.

4. Adopt a plant-based diet.

A study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine revealed that vegetarians have a 12 percent lower risk than their meat-eating counterparts of suffering a premature death. Switching to a plant-based diet offers a slew of health benefits as well, which may explain why this group of people enjoys, on average, a much longer, vibrant life.

5. Get enough shut-eye.

Sleeping for at least seven or eight hours a night will leave you feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day, not to mention that sleep allows your body to produce important hormones as well. A Penn State study found that men who slept less than six hours a night had a four-fold increase in their chance of dying over a 14-year period. Prioritize sleep over staying up late surfing the web or partying with friends to join the growing number of centenarians on the planet.

6. Live in a sunny, tropical climate.

Not surprisingly, Hawaii comes in first for the happiest, least-stressed state in the U.S., as well as the state with the greatest longevity. On average, a 65 year old living in Hawaii will live another 16.2 years, in comparison to another 10.6 years in the state with the lowest life expectancy, Mississippi.

sun

7. Move your body.

A 123 year old Bolivian man, Carlos Flores Laura, credits his longevity to taking daily walks. Others like Tao Porchon-Lynch, a 95 year old yoga instructor, say that a regular yoga practice influenced their long lives. Whatever activity you choose to take part in, make sure you really enjoy it and can incorporate it into your routine regularly.

8. Help other people.

Yep, altruism can actually lead to a longer life. According to a University of Michigan study, volunteering for the purpose of helping others, not helping oneself, led to an increased lifespan on average.

9. Take more vacations.

Make sure to allot some vacation time into your busy work schedule; it could actually save your life. The Framington Heart Study followed about 12,000 middle aged men for nine years; the results of their study? The men who took more time off work actually lived longer than the workaholics. So, booking more vacations might not make your wallet too happy, but a longer life doesn’t sound too shabby, either.

10. Stay close with family.

According to government research, Hispanics actually live 2.5 years longer than Americans on average, and researchers suspect that having a close-knit family may have something to do with it. We can learn from all cultures, and the Latino community proves that family bonding can play a huge role in having a long, enjoyable life.

11. Stay in touch with your spirituality.

Whether you choose to attend church services or keep up a regular meditation practice, WebMD’s 2008 survey of centenarians showed that 84 percent of them viewed a healthy spiritual life as an important part of aging well. Take it from the centenarians – exploring your spirituality can lead to a better, longer life in the long run.

12. Tell yourself positive affirmations.

Yogi Tao Porchon-Lynch, the lady mentioned earlier in the article, also accredited positive self-talk to her long, healthy life. Even in her 90s, she wakes up every day and tells herself that each day will be the best day of her life. Repeating mantras like these to yourself can help instill a positive mindset and totally transform your outlook on life.

13. Keep your mind active.

Continual intellectual stimulation can add years to your life – in fact, 89 percent of centenarians do things to keep their brains busy, according to a 2008 WebMD survey.

14. Live conscientiously.

By far, researchers have found that being conscientious is one of the best indicators of how long a person will live. The book The Longevity Project talks about this in depth, and explains that conscientious people have a higher likelihood of adopting healthier lifestyles and have more successful relationships and careers on average.

15. Develop a resilient mindset.

Researchers at the Al Siebert Resiliency Center found psychologically resilient adults coped much better with life’s challenges and aged more gracefully. In other words, don’t ever stay down too long after an upsetting event – rather, talk about your feelings openly and get back up on your feet quickly to avoid falling into depression or stagnation. Easier said than done, but it could tack on a few years to your lifespan, after all.


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7 Ways To Boost Testosterone and Sex Drive Naturally

BY DR. ROBIN BERZIN      AUGUST 29, 2014 

Do you find yourself too busy, too tired, or too distracted for sex? Or does your drive just not seem to be there like it used to?

Testosterone is not responsible for libido alone. Especially for women, desire stems from a much more complicated set of hormonal and emotional interactions. But for men, while testosterone is not the whole story, it does play a leading role and the modern lifestyle may be your T’s worst enemy.

There is a new syndrome called Irritable Male Syndrome, or IMS, that’s due to testosterone deficiency. It goes beyond low libido, and includes emotional withdrawal, lack of motivation, aggression, personality changes, and anxiety. It can also present as self-destructive behaviors like gambling, alcoholism and workaholism.

If this sounds like you or your man, you’re not alone. Low testosterone affects at least 13.8 million men, with a significant number of those being men in their 30s.

The impact of low T is not just low sex drive or even mood issues. Testosterone deficiency leads to higher rates of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and bone fractures, projected to cost upward of $500 billion in the US in the next 20 years.

Low testosterone also increases a man’s chance of death. One study tracked 800 men for 50 years and showed that the group with the lowest testosterone levels had a 33% greater chance of death from all causes than the group with the highest testosterone levels. And another study showed that men with testosterone deficiency had 88% higher mortality levels than men with normal testosterone.

So how do you know where you stand when it comes to T? If you’re a man experiencing IMS symptoms, or noticing weight gain, fatigue, muscle loss, male pattern baldness, or changes in libido, get tested by a functional medicine doctor who can help you address the root cause of the problem.

While hormone replacement is an option for some, men who take the following seven steps are often able to rehab their testosterone, their sex drive, and the many other symptoms of T deficiency that go along with it.

1. Stay trim.

Belly fat and obesity are testosterone killers. One study showed that obese teen boys have up to 50% less testosterone than their non-obese peers. One reason for this may be that fat cells contain more aromatase, an enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen.

Unfortunately, obesity and low testosterone reinforce each other, leading to a spiral of weight gain and hormone imbalance in men. The good news is that reversing the spiral is mutually reinforcing as well.

obesity

2. Get eight hours of sleep.

One study showed that after only one week of just five hours of sleep nightly, testosterone levels dropped 10-15%. While surviving on only a few hours may sound macho to some, it’s actually eroding your most important male hormone.

3. Avoid toxins that harm the testicles.

Phthalates and parabens in personal care products like lotions and shaving creams, and BPA in plastic bottles and on store receipts, are anti-androgens, meaning they disrupt the production and function of multiple hormones including testosterone.

So, green your bathroom cabinet, use stainless-steel reusable water bottles, and say no thanks to receipts at stores to avoid these chemicals.

4. Relax like a pro.

Stress is a major driver of low T. Ultimately your adrenal hormones, thyroid hormones and sex hormones are all interconnected in a beautiful but complicated dance.

A stress-driven phenomenon called “cortisol steal” can lead to a hormone imbalance where the production of testosterone is decreased in favor of cortisol. Stress also increases the production of aromatase and 5-alpha-reductase, two enzymes that break down testosterone.

If you relax and breathe, meditate, do yoga or otherwise boost your parasympathetic nervous system, even for just 10 minutes a day, you give your hormone system a chance to reboot and rebalance, lowering cortisol and increasing testosterone.

5. Avoid statins and eat more fish oil.

Not only do statin drugs negatively impact mitochondria, the energy powerhouses of your metabolism, they have been shown to lower free and total testosterone. This is most likely because cholesterol is the building block of all of your steroid hormones: cholesterol becomes DHEA, which in turn becomes testosterone.

Eating more fish oil will lower inflammation (inflammation lowers testosterone) and will also support the production of healthy cholesterol, the ultimate building block for T. As a bonus, fish oil also lowers sex-hormone binding globulin, the school bus-like protein that ferries testosterone around the body, so that more testosterone is free and available.

6. Take your vitamins seriously.

Vitamins A and E, and minerals zinc and selenium are like fertilizer for androgen production and testicular function. While in the developed world we may eat a lot of food, most of it is low or totally missing these important micronutrients.

Supplements are one targeted way to get more of these critical nutrients, or, eat more shellfish for zinc and selenium, carrots and kale for vitamin A, and almonds and sunflower seeds for vitamin E.

7. Get some sun!

The male reproductive tract is a target for vitamin D, and vitamin D supplementation has been shown to increase total testosterone, bioavailable testosterone and free testosterone. We have an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency in the U.S. If you aren’t sure of your level, get tested, and in addition to supplements, be sure to get your 15 minutes of direct sunshine a day.


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Sunny Regions Reflect Lower ADHD Rates: Study

By Brenda Goodman, HealthDay News

TUESDAY, Oct. 29, 2013 (HealthDay News) — Sunny days can be a big distraction for those who are tethered to their desks, but a new study suggests that sunlight may actually lower the prevalence of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Scientists mapped the number of ADHD diagnoses across the United States and in nine other countries. They compared those rates to the intensity of sunlight those regions receive year-round.

Regions that got the most sun had rates of ADHD diagnoses that were about half as high as regions that got the least, according to the research.

“The maps line up almost perfectly,” said study author Martijn Arns, director of Brainclinics, in the department of experimental psychology at Utrecht University in Nijmegen, Netherlands.

In the United States, the sunniest states were in the Southwest and West and included Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. Rates of ADHD diagnoses in those states ranged from 6 percent to 8 percent. In the darkest states, which included a swath of the Northeast, rates of ADHD ranged from 10 percent to 14 percent.

The relationship between ADHD and sunlight held steady even after researchers adjusted their data to control for other factors that might account for differing rates of ADHD diagnoses, such as race, poverty and the male-to-female ratio in each area.

Researchers even considered whether vitamin D, which is produced in the body after exposure to sunlight, might account for the differences, but they said a prior study ruled that out.

They also examined whether more sunlight might be tied to lower rates of other kinds of mental disorders, including depression and autism. It wasn’t.

sun

The researchers admitted that the link could just be a coincidence, and there isn’t necessarily a cause-and-effect relationship between sunny climates and lower rates of ADHD diagnosis. But since some children and adults with ADHD have disrupted body clocks, which are regulated by light, they believe the relationship deserves further investigation.

Arns said about 80 percent of adults and about one-third of children with ADHD have trouble falling asleep at night. Some studies have found that these night-owl tendencies are driven by a delayed peak in the sleep hormone melatonin.

Melatonin seems to be especially disrupted by the blue wavelengths of visible light, Arns said. Energy-saving LED light bulbs, as well as the screens of tablets, smartphones and computers emit blue light. When people use those devices in the evening, it can delay melatonin release and disrupt sleep.

But Arns said people who live in sunny climates may get some natural protection from this sleep upset because they get a healthy dose of bright light in the morning, which keeps their body clocks on track.

He’s currently exploring ways to test his theory.

An expert who was not involved in the study, which was published in the Oct. 15 issue of the journal Biological Psychiatry, said he’s not sure melatonin is the best explanation.

Children in sunny climates may spend more time playing outside, for example, said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

“There’s a small but growing literature talking about exercise as a way to moderate ADHD and hyperactivity,” Adesman said. “There could be other variables that are responsible.”


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The Surprising Impact Sunlight Has On Your Weight

Brandi, selected from Diets in Review

For the first time, a study reports the timing, intensity, and duration of your light exposure throughout the day is linked to your weight. A team from Northwestern Medicine led the study which was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

The study found people who had the majority of their daily sun exposure to brighter light in the morning had a significantly lower body mass index (BMI) than those who had light exposure later in the day.

Study senior author Phyllis C. Zee, MD said, “Light is the most potent agent to synchronize your internal body clock that regulates circadian rhythms, which in turn also regulate energy balance. The message is that you should get more bright light between 8 a.m. and noon. Those with the study believe around 20 to 30 minutes is enough to impact BMI.

Morning light exposure was found to be independent of an individual’s physical activity level, caloric intake, sleep timing, age, or the season of the year. It also accounted for about 20 percent of an individual’s BMI.

“If a person doesn’t get sufficient light at the appropriate time of day, it could de-synchronize your internal body clock, which is known to alter metabolism and can lead to weight gain,” Zee said. She added that the exact way light affects body fat needs to be examined in further research.

Study co-lead author Kathryn Reid said, “Light is a modifiable factor with the potential to be used in weight management programs. Just like people are trying to get more sleep to help them lose weight, perhaps manipulating light is another way to lose weight.”

Those behind the study suggest getting more light exposure during the day, such as sitting near a window at work or school, if possible. Also, go outside for lunch or on a break. The weather is getting nice since spring is here again, so why not go out and enjoy it?

Light may not be the big weight loss secret, but surely getting a little extra sunshine can be nothing but good.