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The Vitamin That Reduces COVID-19 Risk By 50%

A sufficient level of this vitamin could halve the risk of catching coronavirus and protect COVID-19 patients from the worst of the disease.

Vitamin D supplementation reduces the risk of COVID-19 infection and the severity of the disease, if it is caught, research finds.

Professor Michael Holick, study co-author, said:

“Because vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency is so widespread in children and adults in the United States and worldwide, especially in the winter months, it is prudent for everyone to take a vitamin D supplement to reduce risk of being infected and having complications from COVID-19.”

A blood level of 30 nanogram per millilitre of vitamin D has been shown to protect patients with COVID-19 against complications and death, as well as reducing the risk of getting ill by a large amount.

According to a new study, COVID-19 patients with adequate levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D are less likely to have severe clinical problems from the illness.

These outcomes include hypoxia — poor oxygen supply to the body — being unconscious, and death.

25-hydroxyvitamin D is produced in the liver and it is a major form of vitamin D3 and vitamin D2.

Also, patients with a sufficient amount of vitamin D have higher levels of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell which fights infection, and their blood shows a lower level of C-reactive protein, an inflammatory indicator.

Professor Holick said:

“This study provides direct evidence that vitamin D sufficiency can reduce the complications, including the cytokine storm (release of too many proteins into the blood too quickly) and ultimately death from COVID-19.”

The study examined 235 hospitalized coronavirus patients to see if serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels can change the severe clinical outcomes from the disease.

Vitamin D status, numbers of lymphocytes, and C-reactive protein were analysed from patient’s blood samples.

The patients were also checked for severity of the infection, breathing difficulties, unconsciousness and hypoxia.

The analysis showed that patients with a blood level of at least 30 ng/mL of 25-hydroxyvitamin D had a 52 percent higher chance of surviving the infection than those with lower levels of vitamin D.

Professor Holick, in a recent study, revealed that an adequate amount of vitamin D can lower the odds of becoming infected with COVID-19 by 54 percent.

Vitamin D sufficiency helps to overcome the coronavirus disease and other types of upper respiratory infections such as influenza.

Professor Holick pointed out:

“There is great concern that the combination of an influenza infection and a coronal viral infection could substantially increase hospitalizations and death due to complications from these viral infections.”

Vitamin D is a cheap but effective way to boost people’s immune system against the virus and can decrease health-related issues such as needing ventilatory support and immune system overactivity resulting in cytokine storm.

The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE  (Maghbooli et al., 2020).

About the author
Mina Dean
is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.

October 7, 2020

Source: PsyBlog

 

“The sun is not strong enough for the body to make vitamin D from October to May,
especially for those living north of Atlanta,”       Althea Zanecosky, RD

 

15 Foods That Are High in Vitamin D

Eating plenty of vitamin D foods strengthens your bones, regulates your immune system, and more—but chances are, you’re not getting enough.

Vitamin D may be known as the sunshine vitamin, but too few of us think to look for it in the fridge—and that’s a big mistake. “The sun is not strong enough for the body to make vitamin D from October to May, especially for those living north of Atlanta,” says Althea Zanecosky, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. That’s probably why nearly half of people tested at winter’s end had a vitamin D deficiency, according to a University of Maine study. Compounding the problem is our vigilant use of sunscreen; SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays, the type our bodies use to make D. Skin also has a harder time producing vitamin D with age.

Back up: What is vitamin D, and why is it so important?

Your body creates vitamin D on its own after being exposed to sunlight. It helps the body absorb calcium, one of the main building blocks of bones. If you’re low on D, then you’re at increased risk for bone diseases like osteoporosis.

Evidence continues to mount that vitamin D also helps to regulate the immune system, lower blood pressure, protect against depression, and reduce risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and several kinds of cancer. A 2014 study from the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine also found that people with low vitamin D levels were twice as likely to die prematurely.

So, are you getting enough vitamin D?

Probably not. The Institute of Medicine has set the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of vitamin D at 600 international units (IU) for everyone under the age of 70. (It’s 800 IU for adults 70+.) But many experts believe that’s too low. “There is talk that the RDA may be increased,” says Zanecosky. “Many physicians are now advising 2,000 milligrams daily for those with low blood levels.”

The Top Vitamin D Foods

In a recent nutrient survey, many respondents were rightfully concerned they weren’t getting enough D, with 22% actively looking for it in foods. But just 9% knew that salmon is a good natural source of the vitamin, and only 5% recognized fortified tofu as one, too. Here are some other ways to get more foods with vitamin D in your diet:

Wild-caught fish   (425 IU in 3 oz salmon, 547 IU
in 3 oz mackerel)

Beef or calf liver   (42 IU in 3 oz)

Egg yolks   (41 IU per egg)

Canned fish   (154 IU in 3 oz tuna, 270 IU in 3.5 oz sardines)

Shiitake mushrooms   (40 IU in 1 cup)

Milk: whole, nonfat or reduced fat   (100 IU in 8 oz)

Yogurt   (80–100 IUs in 6 oz)

Almond milk   (100 IU in 8 oz)

Pudding made with milk   (49-60 IUs in ½ cup)

Orange juice   (137 IU in 1 cup)

Breakfast cereals   (50–100 IUs in 0.75–1 cup)

Fortified tofu   (80 IU in 3 oz)

Oatmeal   (150 IU in 1 packet)

Cheese   (40 IU in 1 slice)

Eggnog   (123 IU in 8 oz)

 

By Aviva Patz    Jun 10, 2018

source: www.prevention.com


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Social Connection May Be Strongest Protection Against Depression

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have found that social connection may be the strongest protective factor against depression, and suggest that reducing sedentary activities such as TV watching and daytime napping could also help reduce the risk of depression.

The team identified a set of modifiable factors from a field of more than 100 that could represent valuable targets for preventing depression in adults.

The findings are published in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

“Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, but until now researchers have focused on only a handful of risk and protective factors, often in just one or two domains,” says Karmel Choi, Ph.D., investigator in the Department of Psychiatry and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and lead author of the paper. “Our study provides the most comprehensive picture to date of modifiable factors that could impact depression risk.”

The researchers took a two-stage approach. The first stage drew on a database of more than 100,000 participants in the UK Biobank to systematically scan a wide range of modifiable factors that might be linked to the risk of developing depression, including social interaction, media use, sleep patterns, diet, physical activity, and environmental exposures.

This method, known as an exposure-wide association scan (ExWAS), is comparable to genome-wide association studies (GWAS) that have been widely used to identify genetic risk factors for disease.

The second stage took the strongest modifiable candidates from ExWAS and applied a technique called Mendelian randomization (MR) to investigate which factors may have a causal relationship to depression risk.

MR is a statistical method that treats genetic variation between people as a kind of natural experiment to determine whether an association is likely to reflect causation rather than just correlation.

This two-stage approach allowed the MGH researchers to narrow the field to a smaller set of promising and potentially causal targets for depression.

“Far and away the most prominent of these factors was frequency of confiding in others, but also visits with family and friends, all of which highlighted the important protective effect of social connection and social cohesion,” said senior author Jordan Smoller, M.D., Sc.D., associate chief for research in the MGH Department of Psychiatry.

“These factors are more relevant now than ever at a time of social distancing and separation from friends and family.”

The protective effects of social connection were found even among individuals who were at greater risk for depression as a result of genetic vulnerability or early life trauma.

On the other hand, factors linked to depression risk included time spent watching TV, though the authors note that more studies are needed to determine if that risk was due to media exposure or whether time in front of the TV was representative of being sedentary.

Perhaps more surprising, the tendency for daytime napping and regular use of multivitamins appeared to be tied to depression risk, though more research is needed to determine how these might be linked.

The study demonstrates an important new approach for evaluating a wide range of modifiable factors, and using this evidence to prioritize targets for preventive interventions for depression.

“Depression takes an enormous toll on individuals, families, and society, yet we still know very little about how to prevent it,” says Smoller.

“We’ve shown that it’s now possible to address these questions of broad public health significance through a large-scale, data-based approach that wasn’t available even a few years ago. We hope this work will motivate further efforts to develop actionable strategies for preventing depression.”

By Traci Pedersen Associate News Editor      15 Aug 2020

Source: Massachusetts General Hospital   psychcentral.com

elder friends

3 Mental Problems
Linked To Vitamin B12 Deficiency

The deficiency is easy to rectify with diet or supplementation.

Mental confusion can be a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency, research suggests.

People with a B12 deficiency can have problems with their memory and concentration.

Depression symptoms like low mood and low energy are also linked to the deficiency.

Low levels of vitamin B12 can even contribute to brain shrinkage, other studies have suggested.

Around one-in-eight people over 50 are low in vitamin B12 levels, recent research finds.

The rates of deficiency are even higher in those who are older.

Fortunately, these deficiencies are easy to rectify with diet or supplementation.

Good dietary sources of vitamin B12 include fish, poultry, eggs and low-fat milk.

Fortified breakfast cereals also contain vitamin B12.

People who may have difficulty getting enough vitamin B12 include vegetarians, older people and those with some digestive disorders, such as Crohn’s disease.

One study has found that high doses of B vitamins can help reduce the symptoms of schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia is one of the most serious types of mental illness.

It can cause delusions, hallucinations, confused thinking and dramatic changes in behaviour.

The study reviewed 18 different clinical trials, including 832 patients.

It found that high doses of B vitamins helped reduce the symptoms of schizophrenia.

The vitamins were particularly effective if used early on in treatment.

Dr Joseph Firth, the study’s lead author, said:

“Looking at all of the data from clinical trials of vitamin and mineral supplements for schizophrenia to date, we can see that B vitamins effectively improve outcomes for some patients.

This could be an important advance, given that new treatments for this condition are so desperately needed.”

Professor Jerome Sarris, study co-author, said:

“This builds on existing evidence of other food-derived supplements, such as certain amino-acids, been beneficial for people with schizophrenia.”

About the author

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.

He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. 

The study was published in the journal Psychological Medicine (Firth et al., 2017).

August 20, 2020

source: PsyBlog


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This Popular Vitamin Is Linked To Weight Loss

High levels of this vitamin are associated with 20 pounds more weight loss.

Higher levels of vitamin D are linked to more weight loss, research finds.

People who are dieting have been shown to lose 20 pounds more when they have high vitamin D levels.

Vitamin D at higher levels in the body is also associated with burning belly fat.

The conclusions come from a study of 4,421 people whose total body fat and belly fat was measured.

Across men and women, higher vitamin D levels were linked to less belly fat, the results showed.

However, women with higher vitamin D levels also had less total body fat.

One reason for the beneficial effect of vitamin D may be its connection with the neurotransmitter serotonin.

Serotonin can affect everything from sleep to mood.

High levels of vitamin D may suppress the storage of fat.

Over half the people in the world may be deficient in vitamin D.

Foods that are rich in vitamin D include oily fish and eggs, but most people get their vitamin D from the action of sunlight on the skin.

That is why levels are typically lower in the body through the winter months in more Northern climes.

Dr Rachida Rafiq, the study’s first author, said:

“Although we did not measure vitamin D deficiency in our study, the strong relationship between increasing amounts of abdominal fat and lower levels of vitamin D suggests that individuals with larger waistlines are at a greater risk of developing deficiency, and should consider having their vitamin D levels checked.”

The study does not prove causation, though, Dr Rafiq explained:

“Due to the observational nature of this study, we cannot draw a conclusion on the direction or cause of the association between obesity and vitamin D levels. However, this strong association may point to a possible role for vitamin D in abdominal fat storage and function.”

About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.

The study was published in the journal Clinical Nutrition (Rafiq et al., 2018).

 

source: PsyBlog

 

vitamin D

Netflix and Eat? Here’s How To Stop Overindulging During Pandemic Isolation

Spending way too many hours in front of the TV?

Indulging in way too many salty snacks?

You’re not alone.

A recent Bloomberg report cited data showing sales were up — way up — for all types of comfort foods, including popcorn (48 per cent), pretzels (47 per cent) and potato chips (30 per cent) compared to a year ago.

This doesn’t come as a surprise to Kira Lynne, a life coach and counsellor in Vancouver. During stressful or anxious times, such as what we’re experiencing right now with the COVID-19 pandemic, people will reach out for things that bring them comfort, whether it be certain junk foods, TV shows or video games.

“It’s a scary time.”

Lynne said its important you don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself giving in to these temptations.

“Be gentle with yourself on that.”

That said, there are some practical things you can do if you’re worried about overindulging. She suggests, for instance, delaying the snacking and the Netflix-watching to the end of the day as sort of a “reward” to yourself.

Another piece of advice: eating “mindfully.” Get rid of distractions, such as the TV. You’ll enjoy the food more and won’t need to eat as much to feel satisfied.

Amy Bondar, a nutritional therapist and certified eating psychology coach in Calgary, agrees.

To slow down the binge eating, she recommends that her clients “see, taste, smell and hear each bite of food,” they take in. In other words, “experience the experience of eating.”

“Unwanted eating behaviours only happen in the stress response and the more heightened your stress and anxiety, the more likely you are to eat unconsciously and stand in front of the pantry or fridge gnawing on your worries,” she wrote in a recent blog post.

With so much uncertainty in the world right now and things that are beyond our control, experts recommend focusing on finding things that you can control. That includes building a daily routine for yourself so you have some predictability and structure to your day.

Lynne says in the first part of her day, she takes her dog for a walk, comes home and meditates, makes breakfast, devotes a couple hours to work and then takes a lunch break.

Adrienne Clarkson, Canada’s former governor general, even weighed in this week on the importance of establishing a routine, tweeting: “It is so good for the morale to dress every day as though going to the office, or a meeting. For heaven’s sake wash your hair and don’t wear pyjamas or a sweat suit all day! And, guys, SHAVE!”

On the question of whether it’s OK to keep the PJs on throughout the day, Lynne prefers not to make a blanket rule. Instead, she might ask her clients, “how do you feel different if you are in PJs?” or “are you glad you got out of PJs?” and then letting their answers guide their clothing choices.

With many people no longer having to deal with commutes and appointments, both experts suggest taking advantage of this free time to try new hobbies or to set new goals.

Go online and find a home workout routine that you like. Start an online business. Catch up with old friends over the phone or video chat. Do some spring cleaning around the house.

“Use this time as an opportunity to redefine your health, not decline your health,” Bondar said.

Lynne also suggests limiting your intake of coronavirus news each day.

“I check it once a day. Just as much as I need to stay healthy — nothing additional,” she said, adding that she’s “asked people in my life not to send me gloom and doom.”

“I need to keep my mental health in a good place.”

Experts say another way to lessen anxiety is to find ways to help others. Make an online donation to a charity, Lynne said. Or help deliver food to people who can’t get out of the house.

“It gives a sense of purpose.”

By Douglas Quan       Vancouver Bureau       Thu., March 26, 2020

 

snack

How To Combat Weight Gain During The Pandemic
(beyond Diet And Exercise)

Quarantine life is challenging, to say the least, and all of us are struggling mentally, emotionally and physically. And no one would blame you for being tempted to abandon your diet and exercise plan and reach for the tub of ice cream while binge-watching that tiger show that everyone is talking about.But health experts strongly recommend you do your best to prevent excess weight gain during this historic and scary time.

Dr. David Buchin, director of bariatric surgery at Huntington Hospital, is seeing that a large percentage of the patients battling Covid-19 in the medical center’s intensive care unit are obese. Patients who are obese are especially challenging to care for, he said, as treatment involves rolling them from their back to their front regularly to optimize lung function. In addition, a recent study found that in patients under the age of 60, obesity doubled the risk of Covid-19 hospitalization.

I’m not suggesting starting a strict diet or intense exercise program while sheltering in place, but there are some simple things you can do to prevent weight gain and protect yourself not only from Covid-19-related complications, but also from diseases such as diabetes and heart disease that will remain two of the top causes of death after we get through this pandemic.

Shop smart

When it comes to quarantine shopping, it’s important to be organized, especially when it comes to eating enough fruits and vegetables (aim for five servings per day if you can). Buy a combination of fresh, frozen and canned to last you at least a week or more.

Consume fresh products first and then move on to frozen and canned. Rinse canned vegetables to reduce sodium, and be sure to consume fresh or frozen fruit daily as the vitamin C content of canned fruits and vegetables, which is important for immunity health, is lower than fresh or frozen.

Chef Devin Alexander, who has maintained a 70-pound weight loss for decades, has some terrific tips for shopping on a budget and managing quarantine cravings. When buying produce, for example, unlike most other items, she suggested looking for the items on sale.

Watermelon and berries go on sale in the summer because they’re in season and thus very plentiful. That’s also when they taste the best, so you can make amazing desserts without the need for a ton of added sugar.

Alexander also recommended having coleslaw on hand for when the salty cravings hit. Her recipe for Orange Cilantro Cole Slaw, available on her website, satisfies that salty, crunchy hankering in a way that’s actually good for you. It helps get in a serving or two of vegetables, and just might keep you from “needing” to eat a bag of chips. In addition, cabbage and carrots are budget-friendly, last for weeks and are loaded with immune-supporting nutrients.

When you come home from the store, make sure to put the healthier foods in more easily seen locations in your kitchen. Food cravings and hunger can be triggered by just seeing food, so keep more indulgent foods out of sight – and hopefully out of mind – on upper shelves in your cupboard, in the back of the fridge or the bottom of the freezer.

Manage stress

During this global crisis it’s even more important than ever to find ways to conquer stress and manage anxiety.

I know, it isn’t easy. Balancing homeschooling, financial challenges, cabin fever, social isolation and illness is stressful, but stress can contribute to poor eating choices and increase fat deep in your belly (underneath the muscle) that can contribute to heart disease and diabetes even more than the pinchable fat that lies directly underneath your skin.

Practice mindfulness, meaning doing your best trying to live in the present versus worrying too much about the future. That’s the advice from Joanne Koegl, a licensed marriage and family therapist who tells clients to take time out of their day to focus on simple things such as the warmth of the sun, the beauty of a flower, the taste of a bite of chocolate or the laugh of a child.

Koegl recommended apps and websites such as Headspace, Calm, The Tapping Solution (a self-administered therapy based on Chinese acupressure that can help calm the nervous system) and Breathe by anxiety expert Dr. Jud Brewer. These resources and others are offering free services focused on managing Covid-19-related anxiety and stress.

You can also practice basic self-care to manage anxiety and relieve stress. Take a hot bath, find a quiet place in your house and sip a cup of tea, exercise, call an old friend or consider volunteering if it’s safe. Helping others also gives you a sense of purpose and joy.

If you are really struggling with anxiety, there are mental health telemedicine options such as Doctor on Demand and crisis hotlines available in major cities across the country. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to reach out for professional help.

Sleep right

Both excess sleep and inadequate sleep have been linked to weight gain, increased appetite and worsening blood sugar control, so try your best not to completely abandon your sleep schedule by staying up late, sleeping until noon or staying up all night watching television.

Try to stay on a relatively normal sleep schedule, experts recommend. This is much easier to do if you follow basic sleep principles including avoiding excess alcohol before bed, keeping your room as dark as possible and at about 65 degrees Fahrenheit and exercising regularly. And turn off the news (and put down your phones) in the hours before bed.

Move more

Spending so much time at home has another unforeseen consequence. You are burning far fewer calories going about your daily life than you were pre-quarantine, regardless of whether you exercise daily.

Sitting at the computer for hours, whether doing Zoom work calls or socializing, and staying inside on evenings and weekends binge-watching television, along with shopping and socializing online, easily all add up to several hundred fewer calories burned per day through non-exercise activity, which is often higher than intentional exercise for most people. It’s essential to incorporate more movement and less sitting every day.

Buchin tells his patients to commit to a certain amount of exercise to “earn” their television viewing. For example, for each movie they watch they should incorporate 20 minutes of some form of activity which could be cleaning, playing with your family, gardening or even simply standing while talking on the phone or participating in a Zoom call.

I have been using my Apple Watch more than ever lately. I appreciate the reminder to stand up every hour for at least one minute and the ability to track my general daily activity in addition to exercise.
If you don’t have a fitness device, set a timer on your phone or even your microwave to remind you to get up every hour and walk around the house, up and down the stairs a few times or just do some stretching in place before sitting down again.

As we hear repeatedly on the news, we are all in this together, and my hope is that with these tips, you and your loved ones can maintain your weight and stay fit, healthy and maybe even a little less stressed during this global pandemic.

Dr. Melina Jampolis is an internist and board-certified physician nutrition specialist and author of several books, including “Spice Up, Slim Down.”

By Dr. Melina Jampolis, CNN                Thu April 30, 2020
 
source: www.cnn.com


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Weight Loss: The Best Meal Timings To Slim Down

The meal timings that increase weight loss, lower blood sugar and fight diabetes.

Starting the day with an energy-boosting breakfast, having a medium-sized lunch and ending with a humble dinner might be the answer to weight loss, research finds.

The study shows that a high-energy breakfast, when added to the meal schedules of obese and type 2 diabetes patients, improves blood glucose levels, and boosts weight loss.

The results revealed that people who ate a high-energy breakfast lost 5 kg (11 pounds) but those in a comparison group put on 1.4 kg (3.1 pounds).

Professor Daniela Jakubowicz, the study’s first author, said:

“The hour of the day — when you eat and how frequently you eat — is more important than what you eat and how many calories you eat.
Our body metabolism changes throughout the day.
A slice of bread consumed at breakfast leads to a lower glucose response and is less fattening than an identical slice of bread consumed in the evening.”

Professor Jakubowicz and colleagues recruited a group of obese and diabetic patients who were on insulin therapy.

The participants were divided randomly into two groups to take the same number of daily calories but with two different diets.

The meal schedule for the first group was a large breakfast, an average lunch, and a light dinner for three months.

The total amount of daily calories was 1,600, in which breakfast made up 50 percent of this number, lunch 33 percent, and dinner 17 percent.

The other group had six meals designed for diabetes and weight loss, consisting of six meals which were distributed evenly during the day.

This group also consumed 1,600 kcal a day, but breakfast made up 20 percent of the proportion, lunch 25 percent, dinner 25 percent — plus they had three snacks, which each counted for 10 percent of total daily calories.

The study compared the impact of each diet plan on appetite, insulin level, weight loss, and concentration of glucose in the blood (overall glycemia) of participants.

After three months, the high-energy breakfast group lost 5 kg (11 pounds) but those who were in the the six-meal group put on 1.4 kg (3.1 pounds) more weight.

Overall, glucose levels in the first high-energy breakfast group decreased by 38 mg/dl but this was 17 mg/dl for the six-meal group.

The insulin dosage in the high-energy breakfast group reduced by 20.5 units per day, but the other group required 2.2 units per day more insulin.

Moreover, the hunger and cravings for carbs reduced a lot in the high-energy breakfast group, while it was the opposite for the other group.

Professor Jakubowicz, said:

“This study shows that, in obese insulin-treated type 2 diabetes patients, a diet with three meals per day, consisting of a big breakfast, average lunch and small dinner, had many rapid and positive effects compared to the traditional diet with six small meals evenly distributed throughout the day: better weight loss, less hunger and better diabetes control while using less insulin.”

The other improvement was a large decrease in overall glycemia within 2 weeks for the high-energy breakfast group.

This was only due to changes in meal timings, suggesting a correct meal schedule itself can positively affect blood sugar levels.

The study was presented at the Endocrine Society Annual Meeting 2018 in Chicago.

About the author
Mina Dean is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.
source: Psyblog
breakfast

The Weight Loss Diet That Cuts Belly Fat

The diet helps people control their blood sugar more effectively.

Going on a vegan diet accelerates weight loss and reduces harmful belly fat, new research suggests.

People following a plant-based, vegan diet for 16 weeks lost an average of over 12 pounds, including almost 9 pounds of fat mass and belly fat.

More fibre is the most critical element of the diet, researchers think.

Plant-based diets contain plenty of fibre which helps to boost healthy bacteria in the gut.

The study included 147 overweight people who were randomised to a vegan diet or no change for 16 weeks.

The results revealed that a vegan diet reduced weight significantly.

A vegan diet also helped people control their blood sugar more effectively.

The study’s authors write:

“A 16-week low-fat vegan dietary intervention induced changes in gut microbiota that were related to changes in weight, body composition and insulin sensitivity in overweight adults.”

The diet also increased the health of the gut.

People with a greater abundance of critical healthy bacteria in the gut lost more weight.

Bacteria that a vegan diet boosts include Faecalibacterium prausnitzii and Bacteroides fragilis.

The authors conclude:

“A plant-based diet has been shown to be effective in weight management, and in diabetes prevention and treatment.
We have demonstrated that a plant-based diet elicited changes in gut microbiome that were associated with weight loss, reduction in fat mass and visceral fat volume, and increase in insulin sensitivity.”

Fibre is the key to weight loss and a healthy gut, the authors write:

“The main shift in the gut microbiome composition was due to an increased relative content of short-chain fatty acid producing bacteria that feed on fibre.
Therefore, high dietary fibre content seems to be essential for the changes observed in our study.”

About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) .

The study was presented at the Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) in Barcelona, Spain (Kahleova et al., 2019).

source: Psyblog

 

veggies

Is a Vegan Diet Healthy?

People might change to a plant-based diet because of concerns about animal welfare, the environment or their own health.

But can you be truly healthy on a diet that excludes both meat and dairy?

The answer is a definite yes — but it takes some effort.

Transcript
Dr Karl: G’day, Dr Karl here.

Way back in 1925, Donald Watson was just 14 years old and living with his family on a farm in Great Britain. One day, he saw a pig being slaughtered.

The pig was terrified and screaming.

This moved Donald so much that he stopped eating meat, and then eventually avoided dairy as well. A few decades later, in 1944 he invented the word “vegan” — by joining together the first and last syllables of the word “vegetarian”.

People sometimes wonder if you can be truly healthy on a diet that excludes both meat and dairy. The answer is definitely yes — but you have to understand your food much more deeply than the person living on meat-and-three-veg.

There are many reasons for changing to a plant-based diet. Some include concerns about animal suffering and cruelty, or about health, while other reasons relate to the environment.

From a health point-of-view, plant-based diets have been linked to lower risks of obesity and many chronic diseases, such as type II diabetes, heart disease, inflammation and cancer. And the evidence does link colorectal cancer with red and processed meats.

But these benefits don’t come without risk.

Clare Collins, Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Newcastle, says there are four essential nutrients that have to be especially considered if you choose to go vegan. They are vitamin B12, iron, calcium and iodine. If you’re not eating meat or dairy products, you’ll struggle to get a decent supply of them.

Let’s start with vitamin B-12. It’s essential for making DNA, fatty acids, red blood cells and some neurotransmitters in the brain.

A deficiency of B12 can cause a fast heart rate, palpitations, bleeding gums, bowel or bladder changes, tiredness, weakness, and light-headedness — which doesn’t make for a healthy lifestyle.

Vitamin B12 is easily found in animal foods such as meat, milk and dairy products.

But vegans can get only traces of vitamin B12 in some algae and plants that have been exposed to bacteria contaminated by soil or insects, and in some mushrooms or fermented soybeans. So vegans really need to consume foods with vitamin B12 specifically added, like fortified non-dairy milks.

The second micronutrient, calcium, is essential for good bone health – as well as for proper function of the heart, muscles and nerves.

Calcium is abundant in milk and milk-based foods. Vegans can get calcium from tofu, some non-dairy milks with added calcium, as well as nuts, legumes, seeds and some breakfast cereals.

But both vegans and vegetarians usually need a higher calcium intake than meat eaters. That’s because vegetarians and vegans usually eat more plant foods containing chemicals that reduce the absorption of calcium into your body.

These chemicals include oxalic acid (found in spinach and beans) and phytic acid (found in soy, grains, nuts and some raw beans).

Surprisingly, vegans can also be deficient in iodine – which is essential for making thyroid hormones, and the developing central nervous system.

Vegans don’t eat the usual sources of iodine – seafood, dairy products and eggs — but they do eat seaweed, and foods that have added iodine such as salt, some breads, and some non-dairy milks.

So why would vegans be prone to iodine deficiency? Well swallowing iodine is only half the battle — like with calcium, some other foods can reduce your absorption of iodine. If you love your Brassicas – things like cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts — you’re also getting a dose of chemicals in these vegetables that can interfere with the production of the thyroid hormones.

And finally, we come to iron. Most people know that iron can be a problem on a vegetarian or vegan diet. Iron is essential to make the haemoglobin in your red blood cells, which carry oxygen around your body.

It is easy to get enough iron if you eat wholegrain cereals, meats, chicken and fish. And there is iron in some plants — but your body can’t absorb this type of iron as well as it absorbs iron from meat.

You can boost your absorption of plant iron (or ‘non-haem’ iron) by eating vegetables and fruit that are rich in vitamin C. Just don’t have a cuppa at the same time — tea contains chemicals that can reduce your absorption of plant iron even more!

I did say vegans need to understand food much more deeply than meat-eaters!

And if you’ve been a vegan for long time, the list of nutrients you need to keep an eye on gets longer. You also need to watch your vitamin D, omega-3 fats and protein intake.

Finally, vegans have to take even more care with their diet plans if they are pregnant or breastfeeding, or bringing up the children as vegans. In this case, it’s very worthwhile to get the advice of a professional dietician.

So it does take a bit of effort to get all your nutrients from a vegan diet. But take a look around – it’s not like eating meat and animal products is a sure-fire guarantee of healthy eating!

Credits
Presenter Dr Karl Kruszelnicki            Producer Bernie Hobbs
Tuesday 12 November 2019


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2 Supplements That Prevent Heart Disease And Cancer

The most recent trial confirms that two nutrients can reduce deaths from heart attacks and cancer.

Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil can significantly reduce heart attacks and vitamin D supplementation can significantly lower the number of deaths caused by different types of cancer.

Researchers studied 26,000 American adults in the VITAL clinical trial for five years to see if fish oil or vitamin D would definitely ward off cardiovascular disease or cancer.

The outcomes were reassuring: marine omega-3 fatty acid intake was linked to a significant drop in heart attacks.

One-and-half servings per week of dietary fish intake showed the maximum heart health benefits, but higher dietary fish intake didn’t help more.

The greatest decrease in heart attacks was seen in African-Americans.

The benefit of 1 gram of omega-3 fish oil supplementation showed a small decrease in major cardiovascular events like stroke and death from cardiovascular disease.

Vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol intake at a dose of 2000 IU per day showed a significant decrease of death from cancer for those who took it for at least two years.

However, supplementation with vitamin D3 capsules didn’t significantly lower incidence of any type of cancer or cardiovascular disease.

Dr. JoAnn Manson, the study’s first author, said:

“The pattern of findings suggests a complex balance of benefits and risks for each intervention and points to the need for additional research to determine which individuals may be most likely to derive a net benefit from these supplements.”

Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director, said:

“With heart disease and cancer representing the most significant health threats to women, it is imperative that we continue to study the viability of options that prevent these diseases and help women survive them.”

The 1 gram omega-3 fish oil supplementation used in the VITAL clinical trial was Omacor, a prescription medicine for adults.

The capsule contains 840 milligrams marine omega-3 fatty acids, of which 465 mg is eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and 375 mg is docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

About the author
Mina Dean is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.

The study was presented at the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) Annual Meeting in Chicago (Manson et al., 2019).

source: PsyBlog
suppliments

2 Supplements That Double Weight Loss

Many overweight people are deficient in this essential nutrients.

A vitamin D supplement combined with calcium supplementation can help weight loss, research suggests.

People in the study who took vitamin D and calcium supplements lost more belly fat and experienced greater loss of fat mass.

One study has shown that people drinking more milk, which contains vitamin D and calcium, can double weight loss.

Up to half the world’s population may be deficient in vitamin D.

A deficiency in vitamin D could help to increase people’s appetite, research suggests.

Foods that are rich in vitamin D include oily fish and eggs, but most people get their vitamin D from the action of sunlight on the skin.

Around half of people who are obese have a calcium deficiency.

The body cannot produce calcium, so relies on it from food intake.

Foods high in calcium include dairy products, seeds, nuts and dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale.

The study included 53 overweight or obese people.

They were split into two groups with one put on an energy-restricted diet, that included 500 calories per day less than required.

The rest were put on the same diet, but also given calcium and vitamin D supplements.

The calcium supplement was 600 mg, while the vitamin D3 supplement was 125 IU.

The results showed that people taking calcium and vitamin D together lost 6 pounds of fat, while those in the comparison group only lost 4 pounds of fat.

The study’s authors write:

“Calcium plus vitamin D3 supplementation for 12 weeks augmented body fat and visceral fat loss in very-low calcium consumers during energy restriction.”

Although the exact mechanism for how calcium and vitamin D aid weight loss is not known, the authors speculate:

“The greater decrease in fat mass observed in the calcium+D group of the current study could result from several factors attributing to calcium metabolism.

First, a calcium-rich diet is shown to increase fat oxidation, promote fat cell apoptosis, and reduce lipid absorption due to the formation of insoluble calcium-fatty acid soaps in the intestine, which are eventually excreted in the feces.

Second, high dietary calcium intake is associated with suppression of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (1,25-(OH)2D) levels which in turn act to decrease calcium influx into the cell.”

About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.

He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003).

The study was published in the Nutrition Journal (Zhu et al., 2019).

source: Psyblog


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The Vitamin That Quadruples Weight Loss

Taking vitamin D supplements can significantly increase weight loss, according to a recent study.

People who took vitamin D supplements had over four times the weight loss as those that did not, researchers found.

obese

Vitamin D also doubled the number of inches taken off their waistlines.

Low levels of vitamin D is repeatedly linked to being overweight and obese.

Almost 40 percent of obese people are deficient in vitamin D.

The study included 400 obese and overweight people with vitamin D deficiency.

They were put on a low-calorie diet and split into three groups.

One group took 25,000 IU of vitamin D per month, the second took 100,000 IU of vitamin D per month and the control group took none.

Six months later the results showed that both vitamin D groups had lost more weight than those who were not taking the vitamin.

Those taking 100,000, or around 3,000 IU per day, had 12 pounds of weight loss.

People taking 25,000 IU, or around 800 IU per day, lost 8 pounds.

In comparison, those only following the calorie restricted diet had just 2.6 pounds of weight loss over the six months.

The study’s authors write:

“The present data indicate that in obese and overweight people with vitamin D deficiency, vitamin D supplementation aids weight loss and enhances the beneficial effects of a reduced-calorie diet.”

Measurements of dieters’ waistlines also revealed vitamin D had had an effect.

Those taking 100,000 IU lost an average of two inches from their waistline compared to just over 1 inch in the control group.

The researchers conclude:

“All people affected by obesity should have their levels of vitamin D tested to see if they are deficient, and if so, begin taking supplements.”

vitamin d

About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:

  • Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
  • The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
  • Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
  • Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do

The study was presented at the European Congress on Obesity, 2015 (Vigna et al., 2015).

source: PsyBlog

 

obesity

Gut Bacteria is Key Factor in Childhood Obesity



Summary:
Scientists suggest that gut bacteria and its interactions with immune cells and metabolic organs, including fat tissue, play a key role in childhood obesity.


New information published by scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Health suggests that gut bacteria and its interactions with immune cells and metabolic organs, including fat tissue, play a key role in childhood obesity.

“The medical community used to think that obesity was a result of consuming too many calories. However, a series of studies over the past decade has confirmed that the microbes living in our gut are not only associated with obesity but also are one of the causes,” said Hariom Yadav, Ph.D., lead author of the review and assistant professor of molecular medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine, part of Wake Forest Baptist.

In the United States, the percentage of children and adolescents affected by obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity is increasing at 2.3% rate each year among school-aged children, which is unacceptably high and indicates worrisome prospects for the next generation’s health, the article states.


Yadav’s manuscript, published in the current issue of the journal Obesity Reviews, reviewed existing studies (animal and human) on how the interaction between gut microbiome and immune cells can be passed from mother to baby as early as gestation and can contribute to childhood obesity.


The review also described how a mother’s health, diet, exercise level, antibiotic use, birth method (natural or cesarean), and feeding method (formula or breast milk) can affect the risk of obesity in her children.

“This compilation of current research should be very useful for doctors, nutritionists and dietitians to discuss with their patients because so many of these factors can be changed if people have enough good information,” Yadav said. “We also wanted to identify gaps in the science for future research.”

In addition, having a better understanding of the role of the gut microbiome and obesity in both mothers and their children hopefully will help scientists design more successful preventive and therapeutic strategies to check the rise of obesity in children, he said.

Journal Reference:
Halle J. Kincaid, Ravinder Nagpal, Hariom Yadav. Microbiome‐immune‐metabolic axis in the epidemic of childhood obesity: Evidence and opportunities. Obesity Reviews, 2019; DOI: 10.1111/obr.12963
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Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
Source:
Materials provided by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

 
ScienceDaily               30 October 2019
 www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/10/191030132704.htm


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Common Nutrient Supplementation May Hold The Answers To Combating Alzheimer’s Disease

Summary:
In a new study, researchers reveal that a lifelong dietary regimen of choline holds the potential to prevent Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

In a new study, Biodesign researchers reveal that a lifelong dietary regimen of choline holds the potential to prevent Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Choline is a safe and easy-to-administer nutrient that is naturally present in some foods and can be used as a dietary supplement. Lead author Ramon Velazquez and his colleagues at the ASU-Banner Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center (NDRC) looked into whether this nutrient could alleviate the effects of Alzheimer’s.

Earlier this year, Velazquez and colleagues found transgenerational benefits of AD-like symptoms in mice whose mothers were supplemented with choline. The latest work expands this line of research by exploring the effects of choline administered in adulthood rather than in fetal mice.

The study focuses on female mice bred to develop AD-like symptoms. Given the higher prevalence of AD in human females, the study sought to establish the findings in female mice. Results showed that when these mice are given high choline in their diet throughout life, they exhibit improvements in spatial memory, compared with those receiving a normal choline regimen.

Notably, findings published in July 2019 from a group in China found benefits of lifelong choline supplementation in male mice with AD-like symptoms. “Our results nicely replicate findings by this group in females,” Velazquez says.

Intriguingly, the beneficial effects of lifelong choline supplementation reduce the activation of microglia. Microglia are specialized cells that rid the brain of deleterious debris. Although they naturally occur to keep the brain healthy, if they are overactivated, brain inflammation and neuronal death, common symptoms of AD, will occur.

The observed reductions in disease-associated microglia, which are present in various neurodegenerative diseases, offer exciting new avenues of research and suggest ways of treating a broad range of disorders, including traumatic brain injuries, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

The findings appear in the current issue of the journal Aging Cell.

Supplementing the brain with additional choline

Choline acts to protect the brain from Alzheimer’s disease in at least two ways, both of which are explored in the new study. First, choline blocks the production of amyloid-beta plaques. Amyloid-beta plaques are the hallmark pathology observed in Alzheimer’s disease.

Secondly, choline supplementation reduces the activation of microglia. Over-activation of microglia causes brain inflammation and can eventually lead to neuronal death, thereby compromising cognitive function. Choline supplementation reduces the activation of microglia, offering further protection from the ravages of AD.

Mechanistically, the reductions in microglia activation are driven by alteration of two key receptors, the alpha7 nicotinic acetylcholine and Sigma-1 receptor. A new report this year found that choline can act as an agonist for Sigma-1 receptors. These results confirm that lifelong choline supplementation can alter the expression of the Sigma-1 receptor, which thereby attenuates microglia activation. (An agonist is a substance that activates a given receptor.)

The devastating decline

In the scientific community, it is well understood that Alzheimer’s disease causes harm to the brain long before clinical symptoms are made evident. And once these symptoms are identified, it is too late — the disease has become irreversible. In addition to causing disorientation and memory loss, the disease causes loss of motor control in those who are afflicted.

Approximately 6 million individuals are living with AD in the U.S. currently, and the disease is projected to afflict 14 million Americans in the next four decades. Economically, the costs associated with managing Alzheimer’s are expected to exceed $20 trillion in the same time span.

To develop more effective treatments, we first need to understand the disease itself, which is one of the tallest orders facing modern medicine today.

Women are at a particular increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. This study shows that the simple addition of choline in the diet throughout life may reduce AD pathology in those most affected by the disease. Additionally, these results have implications for other neurodegenerative afflictions where activated microglia are rampant says Velazquez.

Guidelines for dietary choline

Prior research concerning Alzheimer’s has indicated that there is no one factor at play. Rather, a multitude of factors that are believed to contribute to the development of the disease, including genetics, age and lifestyle. Additionally, studies suggest that diet can have a significant effect in increasing or lowering the risk of cognitive decline.

A recent report suggested that plant-based diets may be determinantal due to the lack of important nutrients, including choline. Another recent report found that the increase in cases of dementia in the United Kingdom may be associated with a lack of recommendations for choline in the diet throughout life. In fact, as of August 2019, AD and other forms of dementia are now the leading cause of death in England and Wales.

The current established adequate intake level of choline for adult women (>19yrs of age) is 425mg/day, and 550mg/day for adult men. A converging line of evidence indicates that even the current recommended daily intake (RDI) may not be optimal for a proper aging process, especially in women. This is relevant, given the higher incidence of AD seen in women. This suggests that additional choline in diet may be beneficial in preventing neuropathological changes associated with the aging brain.

The tolerable upper limit (TUL) of choline unlikely to cause side effects for adult females and males (>19yrs of age) is 3500mg/day, which is 8.24 times higher than the 425mg/day recommendation for females and 6.36 times higher than the 550mg/day recommendation for males. “Our choline supplemented diet regimen was only 4.5 times the RDI, which is well below the TUL and makes this a safe strategy,” Velazquez says.

Choline can be found in various foods. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), high levels of choline are found in chicken liver (3oz; 247mg), eggs (1 large egg with yolk;147mg), beef grass-fed steak (3oz; 55mg), wheat germ (1oz toast; 51mg), milk (8oz; 38mg), and Brussel sprouts (1/2 cup; 32mg). Additionally, vitamin supplements containing choline, for example choline bitartrate and choline chloride, are widely available at affordable costs. The vitamin supplements containing choline are particularly relevant for those who are on plant-based diets.

Effects of choline

All plant and animal cells require choline to maintain their structural integrity. It has long been recognized that choline is particularly important for brain function.

The human body uses choline to produce acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter responsible for functioning memory, muscle control and mood. Choline also is used to build cell membranes and plays a vital role in regulating gene expression. Additionally, a new report in Jan 2019 found that choline acts as an agonist for Sigma-1 receptors, which are implicated in AD pathogenesis.

In this study, researchers used a water maze to determine whether the mice with AD-like symptoms that received lifelong supplemental choline exhibited improvements in spatial memory. It was found that this was indeed the case, and subsequent examination of mouse tissue extracted from the hippocampus, a brain region known to play a central role in memory formation, confirmed changes in toxic amyloid-beta and reductions in microglia activation, which reduces brain inflammation.

Due to alterations of key microglia receptors induced by choline, the improvements in behavior may be attributed to reduced microglia activation. “We found that lifelong choline supplementation altered the alpha7 nicotinic acetylcholine and Sigma-1 receptor, which may have resulted in the reduction of diseased associated activated microglia,” Velazquez said. These receptors regulate CNS immune response and their dysregulation contributes to AD pathogenesis.

The study’s significance establishes beneficial effects of nutrient supplementation in females throughout life. “Our work nicely complements recent work showing benefits in male AD-mice on a lifelong choline supplementation regimen.” “No one has shown lifelong benefits of choline supplementation in female AD-mice.” “That’s what is novel about our work.”

Choline is an attractive candidate for prevention of AD as it is considered a very safe alternative, compared with many pharmaceuticals. “At 4.5 times the RDI (recommended daily intake), we are well under the tolerable upper limit, making this a safe preventive therapeutic strategy.”

Although the results improve the understanding of the disease, the authors suggest that clinical trials will be necessary to confirm whether choline can be used as a viable treatment in the future.

Source:
Materials provided by Arizona State University. Original written by Richard Harth. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:
Ramon Velazquez, Eric Ferreira, Sara Knowles, Chaya Fux, Alexis Rodin, Wendy Winslow, Salvatore Oddo. Lifelong choline supplementation ameliorates Alzheimer’s disease pathology and associated cognitive deficits by attenuating microglia activation. Aging Cell, 2019; DOI: 10.1111/acel.13037

ScienceDaily,         27 September 2019. 

 

The Best Supplements

 

These Are The Supplements Health Experts Actually Use

Rule number one: ignore hype.

Taking supplements you don’t need can be dangerous.

Flick through social media and you’ll come across countless supplements that people swear by — turmeric pills, maca pills, goji berry juice powder, spirulina, kale powder — you name it.

With so many supplements out there which are simply gimmicks, it’s tricky knowing the good ones from the useless ones.

Well, we asked four health experts which supplements they actually use and recommend, and importantly, in what circumstance you truly require them.

According to Alexandra Parker and Anna Debenham, accredited practising dietitians from The Biting Truth, the first and best way to get nutrients is from your food.

“As dietitians who focus on wholefoods for optimal nutrition and wellbeing, vitamins and micronutrient supplementation are not generally our initial recommendation,” Parker told The Huffington Post Australia.
Get your nutrients from whole foods first, then supplement if required.
“Food first, always. Food provides vitamins in the most biologically available form, in the right quantities and combined with other complementary nutrients.”

“We’re big believers that if you’re otherwise healthy, a healthy eating pattern should never be replaced by a supplement. More and more often we’re seeing people who are eating a poor diet, drinking and smoking, and believe everything will be okay if they take a supplement.”

Pharmacist and personal trainer Holly Vogt, The Fit Pharmacist, agrees.

“Vitamin supplements should not be used as a substitute for a balanced diet and if you do take them, make sure you do not exceed your daily requirement. Choosing a good health supplement should be an informed and wise decision,” Vogt said.

Food first, always. Food provides vitamins in the most biologically available form, in the right quantities and combined with other complementary nutrients.

Although supplements may be marketed as ‘magic bullets’, unfortunately they don’t provide equal nutrients to those found in foods, nor do they counteract a poor diet.

“A piece of fresh fruit, for example, contains antioxidants, phytochemicals, fibre and many other nutrients that do not make it into the vitamin jar but play a huge role in our health,” Debenham told HuffPost Australia.

“Saying that, there is a time and a place for supplements and there’s good evidence to suggest that if a vitamin or mineral supplement replaces a deficiency, it will have beneficial outcomes. But aside from a few specific groups of people and situations, most people who eat a balanced diet have no need for supplementation.”

Who needs supplementation?

The main instances and stages of life where people may need to genuinely supplement is when food alone is simply not enough to meet an individual’s nutrient needs, and supplementation becomes integral to that person’s wellbeing. Some examples include:

  • Those trying to conceive and pregnant women (one month prior to conception and three months after) — folate has been shown to reduce risk of neural tube defects.
  • People on a strict vegan or vegetarian diet, and elderly people who may be eating poorly and/or absorbing less from their food — iron, and vitamin B12 as this is found almost exclusively in animal products.
  • People with an allergy or intolerance such as lactose intolerance — calcium
  • Autoimmune disease e.g. Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis or coeliac disease — supplementation may be required at some stage to correct any nutrient deficiencies.
  • People who did not receive enough sunlight (e.g. bed bound, elderly, covered/veiled women and men) — vitamin D
  • Following a course of antibiotics — probiotics may be beneficial in restoring gut health after a round of antibiotic treatment.
  • People with specific hormonal imbalances such as PCOS.
  • – Parker and Debenham.

“It is important to note that we all have specific nutritional requirements and health concerns at different stages of life, and it is ideal to choose supplements that target those specific needs,” Vogt said.

So, how do you tell when you need to supplement?

“If you are fatigued, training hard, have a restricted diet or limited food options available, say, when you are travelling, this is a good time for supps,” celebrity trainer Tegan Haining said.

“When it comes to supplements, it’s often difficult to decipher which protein powder, omega 3 oil or multivitamin to trust. It’s very important to understand that supplements should not be a free-for-all,” Parker explained.

These Are The Supplements Health Experts Actually Recommend

“It’s best to avoid going to the supermarket or searching online when you don’t know what you’re looking for or if you’re self-diagnosing.

“Blood tests can be useful, however are not always necessary. We highly recommend speaking to your doctor or accredited practising dietitian to determine your need for supplementation.”

On top of this, not all supplements are required to be taken long term and dosages will vary depending on your specific needs.

“Some supplements have adverse effects, like toxicity or interference with nutrient absorption when taken in excess. For example, vitamin A, B or zinc,” Parker said.

A few key things to consider when purchasing supplements:

  • Start out with the low dosage recommendation first and increase as required.
  • Look for supplements without added fillers, colours or unnecessary ingredients.
  • Think of supplementation as an investment to your health and always choose quality. Try not to choose a product for its logo, price or marketing.
  • Ensure you continue to eat real food.

– Parker and Debenham.

Here are five supplements health experts actually use.

1. Fish oil

“One of the key nutrients many of us don’t get enough of is long chain omega 3 fats (which are found naturally in oily fish, for example, salmon),” Debenham told HuffPost Australia.
“There is solid evidence to show that omega 3 fatty acids are necessary for a healthy heart and brain, and play a role in reducing inflammation throughout the body.”

Fish oil is rich in omega 3 fatty acids which include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

“We cannot produce these in our bodies so it is essential that we receive them through our diet or supplementation,” Vogt said. “Ensure that you choose a supplement with a high concentration of EPA and DHA, and one that has purity and sustainability certifications.”
“I also like cod liver oil tablets, which are high in Vitamin D and A,” Haining added.

Flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, walnuts and chia seeds are other good sources of omega 3s.

2. Probiotics
Probiotics are ‘good’ bacteria that line our digestive tracts and support our body’s ability to absorb nutrients and fight infection.

“I always take a probiotic to ensure my gut health,” Haining said.
“There is mounting scientific evidence to show that the health of our gut directly affects our immune system. Taking a daily probiotic can be a simple way to help keep your gut healthy and your immune system strong,” Parker said.

“Whether you take it as a capsule, drink or powder, the choice is yours. If you’ve taken a course of antibiotics, supplementing with probiotics will also be beneficial to your gut.”

It’s important to note that there are different types of strains of probiotics, Vogt explained.

“Certain strains of probiotics support immunity, others digestion, and some even help to regulate weight and balance hormones,” Vogt said.

Kombucha, yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso and tempeh all contain probiotics.

3. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is important for strong bones, muscular and overall health.

“Vitamin D is a fat soluble nutrient and is one of the 24 micronutrients essential for human survival. Due to the increasing rates of vitamin D deficiency and the implications, supplementation is encouraged if optimal levels are not present in the body,” Vogt said.

“Most of us probably get enough vitamin D from the sun during the summer months (you only need about 15-20 mins of exposure). However, during winter, if you tend to spend a lot of time indoors, some of us may benefit from a vitamin D supplement,” Parker added.

4. Magnesium
Magnesium is an important nutrient which plays a role in hundreds of enzymatic bodily reactions, including metabolising food, synthesis of fatty acids and proteins, and transmission of nerve impulses.

“Magnesium is also great to take in the evening for a better night’s sleep and managing stress levels,” Haining said.

5. Protein
While most people can obtain adequate protein through their diet (it’s found in both plant-based foods and meat), select population groups can benefit from protein supplementation — namely athletes or those who have an intense training regime.

“When it comes to muscle gain and fat loss, protein is the king of nutrients. Protein has been proven to help weight loss by boosting metabolism and reducing hunger and appetite,” Vogt said.

“Whey protein is ideal, however if you have issues with lactose intolerance, then plant-based proteins are still highly effective.”

 

By Juliette Steen          10/01/2017


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What Is Folic Acid, Why Do You Need It And What Foods Have It?

What Is Folic Acid?

Folic acid is the synthetic version of the folate, a B vitamin that’s vital for the formation of red blood cells. It also plays a part in helping the body’s nerves function properly. The vitamin is essential in helping DNA form within cells, “allowing each cell to replicate perfectly”, according to the BDA, the association of British dieticians.

If you don’t have enough folic acid in your body, it can cause a form of anaemia – where blood cells have reduced ability to carry oxygen around the body – which causes tiredness, weakness and fatigue. People with a deficiency might also suffer from diarrhoea, loss of appetite, weight loss, headaches, heart palpitations, a sore tongue and behavioural disorders.

Why Is It Important For Pregnant Women?

Folic acid fortification – the process of folic acid being added to grain products – has already been adopted in more than 60 countries worldwide, including Australia, Canada and the US.

The government’s 12-week consultation on whether folic acid should be added to flour follows years of campaigning by charities including Shine, which represents people with the birth defect spina bifida.

Pregnant women are advised to take a folic acid supplement before conceiving and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy to cut the risk of birth defects. But some women forget to take the supplement, do not follow advice or do not discover they are pregnant until it is too late.

Neural tube defects (NTDs) – birth defects of the brain, spine or spinal cord – occur when an opening in the spinal cord or brain remains from early on in human development. “Folic acid can prevent NTDs, but only if taken very early in the pregnancy, and really before conception,” says Clare Murphy, director of external affairs at Bpas.

“Currently, women are advised to take folic acid supplements during the early stages of pregnancy, but around half of UK pregnancies are unplanned, which means that many women have already missed the window to take folic acid by the time they realise they are pregnant.”

Around 1,000 pregnancies are affected by NTDs each year in the UK and more than 40% of cases are fatal. Under plans to fortify flour, experts predict that around 200 birth defects a year could be prevented.

Public health minister Seema Kennedy said the move would also help women from the poorest areas who are less likely to take folic acid supplements. “It is right that we do all we can to protect the most vulnerable in society,” she added.

 

Do Men Need It Too?

Folic acid is important for everyone, regardless of their sex. According to the BDA, men, children and women who are not likely to become pregnant should be able get sufficient amounts of folate (the form of folic acid occurring naturally in food) by eating a healthy diet.

It’s been reported that folic acid can help protect the heart and cardiovascular system, boost sperm count, and decrease the risk for certain cancers. Some evidence suggests it might even reduce the risk of mood disorders.

What Foods Contain Folate (Folic Acid)?

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Beans and legumes (ie. peas, blackeye beans)
  • Yeast and beef extracts
  • Oranges and orange juice
  • Wheat bran and other whole grain foods
  • Poultry
  • Pork
  • Shellfish
  • Liver
  • Fortified foods (ie. some brands of breakfast cereals – check the label).

How Much Should You Have?

Adults and children over 11 years old are recommended to have 200μg (micrograms) of folate daily, according to the BDA. You can get enough folic acid from food alone – many cereals have 100% of your recommended daily value of folic acid. Look on the outside of packets for the nutritional chart or the ‘contains folic acid’ symbol.

Women trying for a baby are advised to have 200μg plus a supplement. For pregnant women, the advice is to take 300μg plus a 400μg supplement during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy – but consult your doctor first, especially if you’ve had a pregnancy previously affected by neural tube defects or if you have diabetes.

Breastfeeding mothers are advised to make sure they’re having 260μg a day, to help their child’s development.

Should You Take Folic Acid Supplements?

While pregnant women are strongly advised to take folic acid supplements, the rest of the population should be able to get enough providing they eat a balanced, nutritious diet. BDA suggests those aged over 50, or those with a history of bowel cancer, should take no more than 200μg/day per day.

Potential side effects of taking additional supplements daily include nausea, loss of appetite, trapped wind or bloating – although the NHS notes these symptoms are usually mild and don’t last long.

If you have any of the following, you should speak to your doctor before having folic acid supplements:

  • An allergic reaction to folic acid or any other medicine
  • Low vitamin B12 levels or pernicious anaemia
  • Cancer
  • Kidney dialysis
  • A heart stent

 

By Natasha Hinde        13/06/2019


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17 Food Combinations that Can Boost Your Health

Hard boiled egg + salad
Out of all the numerous topping options at the salad bar, pick up a hard boiled egg. The fat in the egg yolk helps your body best absorb carotenoids, disease-busting antioxidants found in veggies, according to 2015 research in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Count it as one more reason you should definitely eat the yolks.

Fries + veggies
You don’t want to have to choose between the steamed veggie or fries as a side. Why not get them both? Pairing a nutritious and less-nutritious food choice (officially called a ‘vice-virtue bundle’) can help you stick to your health goals, suggests research in the journal Management Science. One tip to balance the calories—keep your portion of fries/dessert/onion rings small or medium, suggest researchers. If you can order only one size and it’s jumbo, ask for half to be packed upie immediately in a to-go box—or portion out half the plate for a companion. The researchers found that people didn’t actually want to eat enormous piles of treats anyway.

Marinade + steak
Grilling is a quick and healthy way to get dinner on the table, no doubt. However, cooking meat at high temps (a la grilling) creates potentially cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). The delicious solution: marinate your meat. Especially when you use certain herbs and spices in your marinade, including rosemary, it can reduce HCAs by up to 88 percent, according to a study from Kansas State University.

Olive oil + kale
Even though the buzz around heart-healthy fats like olive oil is good, you may still be trying to cut down on oil in an effort to save calories. But it’s time to start sauteeing your veggies again. ‘Vegetables have many fat-soluble vitamins, like A, D, E, and K, which means they need fat to be absorbed,’ explains culinary nutrition expert and healthy living blogger Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RDN, of Nutritioulicious. In addition to kale, make sure you cook carrots, sweet potatoes, and broccoli with a little fat too.

Almonds + yogurt
Vitamin D is credited with so many health benefits, including boosting your bones, mood, and immune function. Many yogurts supply one-quarter your daily need for D per cup. To make the most of it though, toss some slivered almonds on top before digging in—especially if you’re eating non- or low-fat yogurt. The fat in the nuts helps raise the levels of D found in your blood 32 percent more compared to having no fat at all, reveals research in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Sardines + spinach
The fatty fish is abundant in vitamin D, while spinach offers magnesium. In 2013 research, magnesium was shown to interact with the vitamin to boost levels of D in your body. Long-term, this may even help reduce risk of heart disease and colon cancer.

Turmeric + black pepper
You’ve no doubt heard the buzz around the anti-cancer properties of curcumin, the molecule in turmeric that gives the spice its yellow hue. Problem is, it can be difficult for your body to absorb and truly reap the benefits. Combining turmeric with black pepper—which isn’t hard to do in cooking—is a great way to up your body’s ability to use it by 2,000 percent, research shows.

Avocado + toast
If you’re participating in ‘Toast Tuesdays,’ you might have tried the much-obsessed over avocado toast. And it is delicious, FYI. The foods are a perfect match not just for their taste but because the fat from the avocado will slow the rate at which carbs are broken down, absorbed, and converted into sugar, points out Levinson. It’s simple: just spread avocado on whole grain toast and top with some sea salt and pepper (and even lemon juice or hot sauce) and you’re good to go. Add a fried egg for an extra protein boost.

avocado toast

Tomato sauce + spinach
Might as well pack more veggies into the sauce, right? Spinach contains iron, something you may need more of if you’re not eating meat (which is the most abundant source of the mineral). The catch? Iron is not easily absorbed from plant sources, so to tip the scales in your favor, you need to eat these plants with a source of vitamin C, according to Levinson. In this case, tomatoes provide the kick of vitamin C you need to best absorb your spinach. Try her recipe for tomato sauce with spinach, or opt for these other power duos: spinach salad with strawberries, beans and bell peppers, or tofu and broccoli.

Brown rice + lentils
If you’re vegetarian, you may have heard that you should eat certain foods together to ensure you’re getting a complete protein. It’s actually more important that you get a variety of plant proteins throughout the day rather than in one specific meal, says Levinson. Still, some combos are classics for a reason—together, they form a complete protein. Try a brown rice and lentil bowl, beans wrapped in corn tortillas, or nut butter slathered on whole grain bread.

Salmon + leafy greens
Greens to the rescue once more! Vitamin D and calcium are typically found together in dairy, and for good reason: Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, both of which are critical for bone health, points out Levinson. But if you don’t eat milk or yogurt, what do you do? Buy  salmon and eat it atop a bed of cooked greens of your choice (sauteeing them cooks them down, making it easier to eat a bigger serving).

Brown rice + garlic + onion
Here’s a reason to make a stir-fry tonight: Garlic and onion help increase the availability of iron and zinc in whole grains, according to Levinson. You can thank the sulfur-containing compounds within the stinky alliums (garlic and onion) for the mineral boost, say researchers.

Carbonation + water
Think we’re getting one by you? If you have trouble getting yourself to drink plain H20, hear us out about why bubbles and water make an ideal match. One German study found that people who made carbonated water at home (think SodaStream), drank more water than those who didn’t—and bonus!—consumed less fat during the day, too.

Red wine + black pepper
The spice does it again. Black pepper contains a compound called piperine, which may help improve the bioavailability of resveratrol (the disease-busting antioxidant in red wine) to tissues, suggests an animal study published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. While it doesn’t seem like a natural pairing, simply drink a glass of vino with dinner, and keep the pepper mill handy. Bon appetit!

Green tea + lemon
When you give your cup a squirt of citrus, the vitamin C preserves green tea’s antioxidant catechins, helping them survive the harrowing journey through your digestive tract to where your body can absorb them—so you can reap the benefits from the brew—reveals Purdue University research.

Guacamole + salsa
Pass the chips, please. This is another perfect example of how the antioxidants in certain produce, like tomatoes, need a little fat in order to be absorbed. In fact, a study in the Journal of Nutrition found that eating avocado with salsa improved the absorption of lycopene and beta-carotene in the tomatoes by 4.4 and 2.6 times, respectively. It’s the perfect excuse to go for Mexican tonight.

Pistachios + raisins
When you think about it, trail mix makes lots of sense. Eating dried fruit and nuts together can help improve your metabolic health to help decrease your diabetes risk, suggests a review published in Nutrition Journal. Together, they supply fiber, vitamins, and minerals—and the fat from the nuts helps keep your blood sugar at an even keel. Try making your own custom trail mix instead of paying a premium for the pre-packaged kind.

 

Jessica Migala  2019-01-16
source: www.msn.com


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How to Avoid the Post-Holiday Blues

Simple, healthy choices can decrease the risk of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

The shortest day of the year, the Winter Solstice, is a marker that the darkest days are behind us and the sun is going to be shining longer each of the coming days as we end one year to begin another. Unfortunately, by the time that we reach this milestone and a promise of a less distant Spring, your body may still be suffering ill effects from the recent weeks of decreasing periods of sunlight as well as exhaustion from all of the pre-holiday preparations that so many of us allow to suck up too much of our time.

Staying “Merry and Bright” Takes a Lot of Energy

It makes sense that the human response to the naturally increasing darkness is to fill it with light and activities to combat the gloominess of the late autumn and early winter days. In November, when we really notice that daylight is shifting its balance with the night sky, we are beginning the preparations for family gatherings and keeping the oven humming and the sideboard groaning with rich and decadent foods. We’re eating more simple carbohydrates, often increasing alcohol intake, and spending less time engaged in outdoor activities. Workout regimens also may be more frequently disrupted by lack of motivation or schedule conflicts. Many find it easier to expend calories baking or reaching for another treat than to show up at the gym. And once motivation starts falling, it can take a lot more energy to build it back up than if it had been maintained all along.

The Winter Doldrums Are a Real Thing

The onset of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is ushered in as the level of natural sunlight available each day decreases. Many species in the animal world adapt to this change with hibernation periods. In the US, many humans adapt to this change by spending winters as far south as they can to avoid the bitter cold and the darker days.

Essential Cycle: Sunlight to Serotonin to Melatonin to Sleep to Peace and Contentment

The shortening of our daylight hours can wreak havoc on our Circadian rhythms. Exposure to sunlight positively influences our brain’s production of neurochemicals that keep our moods balanced. Sunlight cues our bodies to produce Vitamin D, which is often found to be deficient in individuals who suffer from depression (Cuomo, Giordano, Goracci, & Fagiolini, 2017). Serotonin production is helped along by natural light exposure and serotonin leads to melatonin production, which helps ensure our sleep-wake cycle stays organized. When there’s less light, there’s less serotonin, which leads to less melatonin, which leads to less sleep, which can lead to feeling tired, cranky, and depressed. Our brains are amazing machines that do their best to keep up with the rapidly changing world, but when we try to force our brain chemistry to respond to unnatural, controlled environments such as work schedules that don’t shift with the seasons, exposure to non-stop electronic entertainment/bombardment, and other treats/risks of modern life, we can end up having to “treat” problems that might not occur if we were able to follow the natural order of things.

Finding the Right Balance/Light Balance

While sunlight encourages the production of serotonin, it’s also tangentially increasing the production of melatonin, the chemical that regulates healthy sleep. One way to handle SAD is to integrate light therapy (bright natural light; lightboxes; high quality, non-flickering fluorescent light bulbs; sunlight-mimicking bulbs) at the start of your morning. This jumpstarts the brain into producing the feel-good, do-good neurochemical serotonin.

While serotonin production is ramping up through light exposure, the production of natural melatonin is kick-started, too. At the end of the day, when you are preparing for sleep, you can take a melatonin supplement to help re-regulate your Circadian rhythm. As the brain’s chemistry is getting back on schedule, your mood will also reflect the balance and symptoms of depression should ease up.

Eat Healthy to Decrease Depression

Avoid simple carbohydrates, processed foods, and sugar. All of these can upset your brain’s delicate neurochemical symphony. Stick to complex carbohydrates that provide better “fuel economy” to your body than junk food can. In fact, a healthy diet has been linked to stronger feelings of optimism (Kargakou, Sachlas, Lyrakos, et al., 2017). Avoiding preservatives and choosing fresh foods will be better for your body and your attitude. Depression is marked by feelings of hopelessness; this suggests that the optimism borne of a healthy diet is worth the effort.

Keep Hydrated with Water, Not Lubricated with Alcohol, or Hopped Up on Caffeine

Dehydration can mimic symptoms of depression, so make sure that you’re taking in an adequate supply of water (Pross, Demazieres, Girard, et al., 2014). Avoid or limit caffeine, alcohol, and other high-sugar or artificially sweetened beverages. These beverages affect sleep, too, which affects mood. No component of our amazing body works independently of any other system – simply being alive is the production of a symphony made up of many players and many well-calibrated movements of every cell.

Out-Run, Out-Stretch, and Outsmart the Winter Doldrums

Physical activity, rather than couch-potato sitting, will help you get through the darkest winter day with as bright a mood possible. Aerobic exercise is especially helpful in getting your brain on track with the production of serotonin and endorphins (Munuswamy, Preetha, & Priya, 2018). Walk the dog, park far away from the grocery store or after-holiday sales, or get on the treadmill. All of these can help stimulate the body’s natural mood-balancing techniques.

Meditation and Yoga balance Moods

Aside from the heavy-duty physical work-outs, you can also exercise your mind and body through more gentle means that can lead to a balanced mood state (Travis, Valosek, Konrad, et al., 2018). Mediation has been proven to enhance well-being and bring calm even in times of catastrophic illness and stress (Lemanne & Maizes, 2018). When your brain is in a meditative state, you’re actually quieting the regions of the brain associated with stress and worry while providing greater opportunities for the work of the regions associated with healthy psychological and physical functioning. Tai Chi is another gentle method for combatting feelings of depression (Zou et al., 2018). Activities that bring a balance between mind and body are highly effective in bringing balance to all aspects of your life.

Hopefulness about the Future

The frenzy of the winter holidays can lead to an overall post-holiday, gloomy January funk for many. Comparing the “blah” of January with the “bling” of December is not a pleasing thought. Add in a couple of quickly failed New Year’s resolutions and the days seem even more depressing. Recognize that what you’re feeling is a normal reaction to what’s going on around you. Also, recognize that you have the tools needed to ensure that you don’t fall too far into a bout of SAD. For protection against SAD, eat right, drink plenty of healthy fluids, and get active. If you are suffering from seasonal depression, research shows that light therapy is as effective as psychotherapy such as CBT might be (Meyerhoff, Young, & Rohan, 2018). Not only that, light therapy provides more rapid relief to symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, hypersomnia, and social withdrawal. Make healthy choices, keep your body moving, and find the light and you’ll be well prepared to tackle the winter blues.
Feeling hopeful about the future is key to feeling better about the now.

References
Cuomo, A., Giordano, N., Goracci, A., & Fagiolini, A. (2017). Depression and Vitamin D deficiency: Causality, assessment, and clinical practice implications. Neuropsychiatry, 7(5), 606-614.
Kargakou A., Sachlas A., Lyrakos G., Zyga S., Tsironi M., Rojas Gil A.P. (2017) Does Health Perception, Dietary Habits and Lifestyle Effect Optimism? A Quantitative and Qualitative Study. In: Vlamos P. (eds) GeNeDis 2016. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 988. Springer, Cham.
Lemanne, D., & Maizes, V. (2018). Advising Women Undergoing Treatment for Breast Cancer: A Narrative Review. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 24(9/10), 902–909. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2018.0150
Meyerhoff, J., Young M. A., & Rohan K. J. Patterns of depressive symptom remission during the treatment of seasonal affective disorder with cognitive‐behavioral therapy or light therapy. Depress Anxiety. 2018;35:457–467. https://doi.org/10.1002/da.22739
Munuswamy, S., Preetha, S., & Priya, J. (2018). A study on the effects of aerobics on depression. Drug Invention Today, 10(11), 2169–2171. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=132173465&site=ehost-live&scope=site
Pross, N., Demazières, A., Girard, N., Barnouin, R., Metzger, D., Klein, A., Perrier, E., … Guelinckx, I. (2014). Effects of changes in water intake on mood of high and low drinkers. PloS one, 9(4), e94754. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0094754
Travis, F., Valosek, L., Konrad, A., Link, J., Salerno, J., Scheller, R., … Konrad, A. 4th. (2018). Effect of meditation on psychological distress and brain functioning: A randomized controlled study. Brain & Cognition, 125, 100–105. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bandc.2018.03.011
Zou, L., Yeung, A., Li, C., Wei, G.-X., Chen, K. W., Kinser, P. A., … Ren, Z. (2018). Effects of Meditative Movements on Major Depressive Disorder: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 7(8), N.PAG. https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm7080195

Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D.         Dec 18, 2018
 

 

winter

How Can You Cope With Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Does winter bring you down every year? We give you some tips on how to manage seasonal affective disorder.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes with the four seasons, typically manifesting during the cold autumn and winter months, when the days are shorter, darker, and chillier.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the main risk factors for SAD are age, sex, distance from the equator (since regions farther to the north and south tend to have shorter days and less sunlight in winter), and a history of depression or other mood disorders.

Studies have shown that “young adults and women are most likely to experience SAD with the reported gender difference ranging from 2:1 to 9:1.”

People with SAD can experience a range of symptoms, but some of the most commonly reported ones include a sense of fatigue paired with oversleeping, chronically low moods, and strong cravings for carbohydrates, which can lead to excessive weight gain.

SAD can seriously impact productivity and day-to-day lifestyle, as the symptoms — if severe — can prevent individuals from going out, seeing other people, and engaging in some of the normal activities that they would otherwise pursue.

So what can you do if the winter months are getting you down? How can you cope with the lack of motivation, feelings of hopelessness, and debilitating fatigue? Here, we give you some tips on how to tackle SAD head-on.

Hunt down that light

Lack of exposure to natural light is one of the apparent reasons behind winter SAD, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that light therapy — also known as “phototherapy” — would be beneficial in keeping the symptoms at bay.
light box for phototherapy

Many studies have indicated that light therapy is usually helpful in treating this seasonal disorder, and for this purpose, you can use one of the many dedicated light boxes that are now available on the market.

But to be effective, you should make sure that the light box generates at least 10,000 lux — 100 times stronger than a normal lightbulb, meaning that a regular desk lamp won’t do — and that it has white or blue (not yellow) light.

Also, check that the light box was especially made to treat SAD, depression, and other mood disorders, and that it’s not made for a different purpose (such as treating psoriasis or other skin conditions).

Light boxes for skin treatments are another kettle of fish altogether, as they emit ultraviolet (UV) B, which is not safe for the retina. Instead, dedicated SAD treatment light boxes filter out UVs, so they’re safe to use.

Dr. Norman Ronsenthal — who first described SAD’s symptoms and pushed for it to be recognized as a valid disorder — offers some advice on how to use light therapy in his book, Winter Blues: Everything You Need to Know to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder. He writes:

  1.     Obtain a suitable light box.
  2.     Set the light box up in a convenient place at home or at work, or both.
  3.     Sit in front of the light box […] between 20 and 90 minutes each day.
  4.     Try to get as much of your light therapy as early in the morning as possible.
  5.     Be sure to sit in such a way that the correct amount of light falls on your eyes. [Dr. Marlynn Wei says it should be placed at eye level or higher, 2 feet away from you.]
  6.     Repeat this procedure each day throughout the season of risk.

At the same time, you can add to the beneficial effects of light therapy by making a little extra effort to “hunt down” natural daylight, if possible, and take advantage of it as much as you can.

You could do this by waking up earlier in the morning and going outside where the sunshine is, for as long as it lasts, to allow yourself to feel as though you’re soaking in the light and taking advantage of the whole day.

Eat well, and watch out for the carbs

Research has shown that individuals with SAD tend to eat more carbohydrate-rich foods, especially sweets and starchy foods. They also have a tendency to overeat during these periods of “seasonal lows,” so it’s important that they look after their diets in order to feel more energized.
vegan suitable food

Over the winter months, as we get less and less sunlight, vitamin D is insufficiently produced in our bodies. Research has also suggested that ensuring we get enough vitamin D may help to prevent and manage depression.

To make sure that you’re getting enough vitamin D during autumn and winter, you could take dietary supplements. Vitamin D is also found in a range of foods that you can easily incorporate into your daily meals.

Salmon, for instance, is naturally rich in D-3, though some studies suggest that wild-caught salmon contains much larger amounts of the vitamin than farmed salmon.

Eggs are a good source of the vitamins D-2 and D-3, and mushrooms also have a high D-2 content, though research suggests that we should stick to wild mushrooms rather than cultivated ones.

Some studies also suggest that people with mood disorders may have an omega-3 fatty acid deficit, and so supplementation of this nutrient may help to keep symptoms in check.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), some good food sources of omega-3 include various types of fish (salmon, herring trout, and mackerel), chia seeds, flaxseed, and soybean.

Also, research published last year in the American Journal of Public Health points to fruit and vegetables as the foods of choice when it comes to increasing happiness and well-being.

“Eating fruit and vegetables apparently boosts our happiness far more quickly than it improves human [physical] health,” notes study co-author Prof. Andrew Oswald.

The psychological benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption were confirmed by a recent study, from February this year, which focused on the positive effect of a “green” diet on young adults — one of the groups most at risk of SAD.

Make an effort to stay active

Precisely because some of the main symptoms of SAD are fatigue and lethargy, specialists advise that making an effort to stay physically active can offer a boost of energy and improve mood.

A review of existing studies surrounding SAD and the effects of exercise on this disorder suggests that the low moods and other symptoms involved in it may be caused by disruptions to the body’s circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm regulates our sleep, eating, and activity patterns according to day-night cycles.

Review author Benny Peiser — from the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences at Liverpool John Moore University in the United Kingdom — explains that taking part in regular physical exercise during the autumn and winter months can help to maintain an appropriate circadian rhythm, thereby keeping SAD symptoms at bay.

A study recently covered by Medical News Today also demonstrates that even low-intensity exercise done for as little as 1 hour per week can effectively counteract depression.

Don’t give in to reclusiveness

On those dark, cold days, you may be sorely tempted to just stay inside and hide from the weather and world alike. If you have more severe SAD symptoms, going out may seem unachievable, but if you want to keep the low moods and lethargy at bay, then you should do your best to resist these solitary tendencies.

Try not to give up on seeing people and doing things.

Much the same as light exercise, studies show that a leisurely walk in the great outdoors can improve your mood and well-being.

Just taking one moment every day to notice a detail in your natural surroundings, and asking yourself what feelings it elicits, can make you feel happier and more sociable, according to research from the University of British Columbia in Canada.

The American Psychological Association advise that you keep in touch with friends and family, go out with them, and speak to trusted people about what you’re experiencing. Enlisting someone else’s help in keeping you active, and helping you get out of your shell during the cold months, may make it easier to cope with the effects of SAD.

Advice regarding how best to cope with SAD from Johns Hopkins Medicine also includes finding a winter-appropriate hobby that will both keep you busy and give you pleasure, such as a DIY project or a winter sport.

Moreover, don’t forget that there is help available for people who experience SAD. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been proven to be effective in the treatment of this disorder, and a specialist will be able to recommend antidepressants if you find yourself struggling.

Friday 24 November 2017    By Maria Cohut   
Fact checked by Jasmin Collier