Globally, nearly half of deaths due to cancer can be attributable to preventable risk factors, including the three leading risks of: smoking, drinking too much alcohol or having a high body mass index, a new paper suggests.
The research, published Thursday in the journal The Lancet, finds that 44.4% of all cancer deaths and 42% of healthy years lost could be attributable to preventable risk factors in 2019.
“To our knowledge, this study represents the largest effort to date to determine the global burden of cancer attributable to risk factors, and it contributes to a growing body of evidence aimed at estimating the risk-attributable burden for specific cancers nationally, internationally, and globally,” Dr. Chris Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, and his colleagues wrote in the study.
The paper, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, analyzed the relationship between risk factors and cancer, the second leading cause of death worldwide, using data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s Global Burden of Disease project.
The project collects and analyzes global data on deaths and disability. Murray and his colleagues zeroed in on cancer deaths and disability from 2010 to 2019 across 204 countries, examining 23 cancer types and 34 risk factors.
The leading cancers in terms of risk-attributable deaths globally in 2019 was tracheal, bronchus and lung cancer for both men and women, the researchers found.
The data also showed that risk-attributable cancer deaths are on the rise, increasing worldwide by 20.4% from 2010 to 2019. Globally, in 2019, the leading five regions in terms of risk-attributable death rates were central Europe, east Asia, North America, southern Latin America and western Europe.
“These findings highlight that a substantial proportion of cancer burden globally has potential for prevention through interventions aimed at reducing exposure to known cancer risk factors but also that a large proportion of cancer burden might not be avoidable through control of the risk factors currently estimated,” the researchers wrote. “Thus, cancer risk reduction efforts must be coupled with comprehensive cancer control strategies that include efforts to support early diagnosis and effective treatment.”
The new study “clearly delineates” the importance of primary cancer prevention and “the increasing cancer numbers related to obesity clearly demands our attention,” Dr. William Dahut, chief scientific officer for the American Cancer Society, who was not involved in the new study, wrote in an email to CNN.
“Modifying behavior could lead to millions more lives saved greatly overshadowing the impact of any drug ever approved,” he wrote, adding, “The continued impact of tobacco despite approximately 65 years of a linkage to cancer remains very problematic.”
Although tobacco use in the United States is less than in other countries, tobacco-related cancer deaths continue to be a major problem and disproportionately impact certain states, Dahut wrote.
A separate study, published earlier this month in the International Journal of Cancer, found that the estimated proportion of cancer deaths in 2019 attributable to cigarette smoking in adults ages 25 to 79 ranged from 16.5% in Utah to 37.8% in Kentucky. The estimated total lost earnings due to cigarette smoking-attributable cancer deaths ranged from $32.2 million in Wyoming to $1.6 billion in California.
“In addition, it is no secret that alcohol use as well as the dramatic increase in the median BMI will lead to significant numbers of preventable cancer deaths,” Dahut added. “Finally, cancer screening is particularly important in those at increased risk as we move to a world where screening is precision based and adaptable.”
In an editorial that was published alongside the new study in The Lancet, Dr. Diana Sarfati and Jason Gurney of Te Aho o Te Kahu Cancer Control Agency in New Zealand wrote that preventable risk factors associated with cancer tend to be patterned according to poverty.
“Poverty influences the environments in which people live, and those environments shape the lifestyle decisions that people are able to make. Action to prevent cancer requires concerted effort within and outside the health sector. This action includes specific policies focused on reducing exposure to cancer-causing risk factors, such as tobacco and alcohol use, and access to vaccinations that prevent cancer-causing infections, including hepatitis B and HPV,” Sarfati and Gurney wrote.
“The primary prevention of cancer through eradication or mitigation of modifiable risk factors is our best hope of reducing the future burden of cancer,” they wrote. “Reducing this burden will improve health and wellbeing, and alleviate the compounding effects on humans and the fiscal resourcing pressure within cancer services and the wider health sector.”
A weight loss fruit that makes you feel full, improves your gut health, and reduces absorption of fats.
Having an avocado every day as part of your diet will increase healthy gut bacteria and reduce the absorption of fat.
The fruit is rich in fibre and monounsaturated fat, a healthy fat that lowers “bad” LDL cholesterol in the blood.
A study by Ahmed et al. (2019) suggests that avocados contain a fat molecule that could help prevent diabetes and maintain a healthy weight by improving blood glucose levels, glucose metabolism, and insulin sensitivity.
A new study has found that people who eat avocados have higher levels of gut microbes responsible for breaking down fibres and producing a number of metabolites (short-chain fatty acids) that improve gut health.
Ms Sharon Thompson, the study’s first author, said:
“We know eating avocados helps you feel full and reduces blood cholesterol concentration, but we did not know how it influences the gut microbes, and the metabolites the microbes produce.
Microbial metabolites are compounds the microbes produce that influence health.
Avocado consumption reduced bile acids and increased short chain fatty acids.
These changes correlate with beneficial health outcomes.”
Bile acids are produced by the liver, stored in the gallbladder, and released into the intestine for breaking down fats from foods we eat.
Western diets are higher in fats causing more production of bile acids which can alert the gut microbiota population and cause intestinal inflammation.
The study recruited 163 overweight or obese participants and divided them into two groups receiving a normal diet.
The only difference was that one ate fresh avocados (175 g for men or 140 g for women) as part of a meal every day for 12 weeks and the other group had a similar diet but no avocados.
Dr Hannah Holscher, study co-author, said:
“Our goal was to test the hypothesis that the fats and the fiber in avocados positively affect the gut microbiota.
We also wanted to explore the relationships between gut microbes and health outcomes.
Despite avocados being high in fat, the avocado group absorbed less fat compared to the other group.”
Dr Holscher said:
“Greater fat excretion means the research participants were absorbing less energy from the foods that they were eating.
This was likely because of reductions in bile acids, which are molecules our digestion system secretes that allow us to absorb fat.
We found that the amount of bile acids in stool was lower and the amount of fat in the stool was higher in the avocado group.”
Types of fats found in foods affect the gut microbiome differently, for example, avocados contain monounsaturated fats which are considered heart-healthy.
On top of that, avocados are high in soluble fibre: an average avocado contains 12 g of fibres which is a big portion of the daily recommended fibre intake (28 to 34 g).
Dr Holscher said:
“Less than 5% of Americans eat enough fiber.
Most people consume around 12 to 16 grams of fiber per day.
Thus, incorporating avocados in your diet can help get you closer to meeting the fiber recommendation.
Eating fiber isn’t just good for us; it’s important for the microbiome, too.
We can’t break down dietary fibers, but certain gut microbes can.
When we consume dietary fiber, it’s a win-win for gut microbes and for us.”
People shouldn’t worry that avocados are high in calories as it is more important that it is a nutrient-dense food that contains micronutrients like fibre and potassium that we don’t get enough of.
About the author Mina Dean is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.
Unlike the Western diet, this diet naturally puts you off overeating.
No matter how much you like to eat, a Mediterranean-style diet can protect you from overeating.
According to a study, a Mediterranean diet stops the feeling of hunger and over-consumption, unlike the Western diet that causes prediabetes, obesity, and liver disease.
However, a Mediterranean diet can have similar amounts of carbohydrates, fat, and protein to other types of diets because what we eat is important.
Generally, vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, seeds, nuts, olive oil, fish, and seafood are plentiful in the Mediterranean diet.
Researchers have found that animals on a Mediterranean diet didn’t eat all the available food and so didn’t put on weight.
Professor Carol Shively, the study’s first author, said:
“By comparison, the animals on a Western diet ate far more than they needed and gained weight.”
The study compared the impact of consuming a Mediterranean diet with a Western diet on monkeys.
The Western diet was mainly from animal sources, whereas the Mediterranean diet was from plant products but with the same amount of carbohydrates, fat, and protein.
Professor Shively said:
“What we found was that the group on the Mediterranean diet actually ate fewer calories, had lower body weight and had less body fat than those on the Western diet.”
The results show that in contrast to a Western diet, a Mediterranean diet averted binge eating, prediabetes, and obesity.
Moreover, the Mediterranean diet was shown to protect the subjects from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
The build up of excessive fat in the liver causes this condition which leads to cirrhosis and liver cancer.
NAFLD is a consequence of obesity and sadly it is predicted that one-third of the United States population will have the disease by 2030.
NAFLD is becoming a more frequent reason for liver transplants in young American adults.
Professor Shively said:
“Diet composition is a critically important contributor to the U.S. public health, and unfortunately those at the greatest risk for obesity and related costly chronic diseases also have the poorest quality diets.
The Western diet was developed and promoted by companies who want us to eat their food, so they make it hyper-palatable, meaning it hits all our buttons so we overconsume.
Eating a Mediterranean diet should allow people to enjoy their food and not overeat, which is such a problem in this country.
We hope our findings will encourage people to eat healthier foods that are also enjoyable, and improve human health.”
About the author
Mina Dean is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.
You may have heard of the FODMAP diet from a friend or on the internet. When people say “FODMAP diet,” they usually mean a diet low in FODMAP — certain sugars that may cause intestinal distress. This diet is designed to help people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and/or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) figure out which foods are problematic and which foods reduce symptoms.
“The low FODMAP diet is a temporary eating plan that’s very restrictive,” says Johns Hopkins gastroenterologist Hazel Galon Veloso, M.D. “It’s always good to talk to your doctor before starting a new diet, but especially with the low FODMAP diet since it eliminates so many foods — it’s not a diet anyone should follow for long. It’s a short discovery process to determine what foods are troublesome for you.”
What is FODMAP?
FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols, which are short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) that the small intestine absorbs poorly. Some people experience digestive distress after eating them. Symptoms include:
Gas and flatulence
How does the low FODMAP diet work?
Low FODMAP is a three-step elimination diet:
First, you stop eating certain foods (high FODMAP foods).
Next, you slowly reintroduce them to see which ones are troublesome.
Once you identify the foods that cause symptoms, you can avoid or limit them while enjoying everything else worry-free.
“We recommend following the elimination portion of the diet for only two to six weeks,” says Veloso. “This reduces your symptoms and if you have SIBO, it can help decrease abnormally high levels of intestinal bacteria. Then every three days, you can add a high FODMAP food back into your diet, one at a time, to see if it causes any symptoms. If a particular high FODMAP food causes symptoms, then avoid this long term.”
What can I eat on the FODMAP diet?
Foods that trigger symptoms vary from person to person.
To ease IBS and SIBO symptoms, it’s essential to avoid high FODMAP foods that aggravate the gut, including:
Dairy-based milk, yogurt and ice cream
Wheat-based products such as cereal, bread and crackers
Beans and lentils
Some vegetables, such as artichokes, asparagus, onions and garlic
Some fruits, such as apples, cherries, pears and peaches
Instead, base your meals around low FODMAP foods such as:
Eggs and meat
Certain cheeses such as brie, Camembert, cheddar and feta
Grains like rice, quinoa and oats
Vegetables like eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini
Fruits such as grapes, oranges, strawberries, blueberries and pineapple
Get a full list of FODMAP food from your doctor or nutritionist.
Who should try it?
The low FODMAP diet is part of the therapy for those with IBS and SIBO. Research has found that it reduces symptoms in up to 86% of people.
Because the diet can be challenging during the first, most restrictive phase, it’s important to work with a doctor or dietitian, who can ensure you’re following the diet correctly — which is crucial to success — and maintaining proper nutrition.
“Anyone who is underweight shouldn’t try this on their own,” says Veloso. “The low FODMAP diet isn’t meant for weight loss, but you can lose weight on it because it eliminates so many foods. For someone at an already too low weight, losing more can be dangerous.”
How a Doctor Can Help
Dietary changes can have a big impact on IBS and SIBO symptoms, but doctors often use other therapies as well. Antibiotics can quickly reduce small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, while laxatives and low-dose antidepressants can relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
A combination of dietary changes, medications and stress management techniques is often the best approach. Learn how you can work with a doctor to find the SIBO and IBS treatments that work well for you.
The company that makes snacks like Oreos and Ritz Crackers is having a very good year. Sales in North America have leapt more than 16% over 2019. And there’s one big reason: When we started to go into lockdown, Americans stocked up on comfort food.
Why not? We thought it would be a matter of weeks. Seven months on, that includes some extra pounds for many of us. A survey done for Nutrisystem found that 76% of Americans have gained weight, as much as 16 pounds between March and July. Another survey, done in August by RunRepeat, found that 41% of the 10,000+ respondents in the U.S. had gained more than 5 pounds since quarantine began — and those are people visiting a website devoted to running.
“Back then it was a shock to the system, the challenge of staying home,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, a dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic. “Now we’re seeing people struggling with stress, boredom, and the inability to focus on making a lifestyle change when there are so many other things going on.”
So, does that mean we should just keep going the way we have been? Not so fast, says Kirkpatrick: “Some people are changing the narrative, looking at this as an opportunity.” Not going to the workplace means there’s no long commute, which makes space for exercising and cooking healthy meals. “While about half of my patients are saying this is the worst thing ever, the other half say, ‘There’s so much I can’t control, I’ll control making a true lifestyle change.’ They’ve finally got the time to do it,” she says.
Such was the case for Dianne Simmons of Frederick, MD, who has lost 40 pounds on WW (formerly Weight Watchers) during the pandemic. “COVID made me look differently at how there are some things I can control, and some I have no control over whatsoever,” she says. “I think I needed something to focus on that allowed me little victories going along. It makes 2020 feel a bit less dire.”
How to Lose Weight in Quarantine
Kirkpatrick says there’s not a single “pandemic diet” that will help shed those pounds. But she does offer some suggestions – including specific ways of eating – that take into account the times we’re living in. Complicated diets that require extensive shopping and meal prep may be too difficult or stressful to tackle right now.
To start, all the usual weight loss advice still applies: Focus on healthy eating, regular exercise, and a good night’s sleep. But given the realities of pandemic life, that may not be enough. Here’s what Kirkpatrick suggests:
Take baby steps. We’re all stressed right now, so trying to overhaul your lifestyle completely might be asking too much of yourself. Instead, start with one small step. “What’s something you can change right now?” says Kirkpatrick. “It’s too hard to make five different changes when you can just pick one to start.” For many of her patients, that means experimenting with intermittent fasting, in which you eat only during a set number of hours each day. (More on that below.)
Embrace semi-homemade. Yes, you have more time to cook. But if you just don’t have the mental energy to choose recipes and shop for specific ingredients, stock your kitchen with ready-to-use items that are easy to transform into a nutritious meal. “Now isn’t the time to become a grand chef,” says Kirkpatrick. “Learn to be a great short-order cook.” Frozen chicken breast + frozen broccoli + a pouch of pre-cooked quinoa or brown rice = dinner.
Eat on a schedule. Working from home means you’ve got food accessible 24/7, and your days probably have less structure than they used to. Plan when you’ll take a coffee break and eat lunch, and stick to it.
Consider intermittent fasting. “Even a Mediterranean or low-carb diet takes planning, and most of my patients can’t wrap their heads around that right now,” says Kirkpatrick. Intermittent fasting limits your eating to a set window of hours each day. The idea isn’t to gorge on cookies during those hours – you should still aim for healthy meals and snacks — but you don’t have to count calories or nutrients. Simply by not eating early in the morning and late at night, you’ll probably find you’re eating less. Pre-pandemic, Rachel Kahan of Brooklyn, NY, was doing a 12-hour intermittent fast, largely because her commute required eating breakfast early and dinner late. In lockdown, her family ate breakfast later in the morning and had dinner earlier in the evening, which left her with a 10-hour window for eating. She’s lost 5 pounds, and her husband has lost 10.
Or maybe go vegan. Many of Kirkpatrick’s patients have adopted a vegan lifestyle during the pandemic, which they hope will be better for their immune systems. Experts say a plant-based diet supports your immune system. “It’s transformed how they eat,” she says. “A lot have lost weight without that being the goal.”
Lock the liquor cabinet. Not only does alcohol provide excess calories, it also takes away your ability to regulate your food intake, Kirkpatrick says. “If you start drinking while you’re cooking, you stop caring about what you’re eating.” You don’t have to give up alcohol entirely, but drink more consciously.
Start the day ready to play. Get dressed every day, but skip the comfy sweats. Opt for clothing that encourages you to move. “Loungewear doesn’t foster physical activity,” says Kirkpatrick. “Whatever clothes make you more likely to go for a walk, choose that.”
Use your commute time for exercise. Now that you don’t have to leave home by 8, you can spend that time moving your body. “The intensity of your workout doesn’t have to change, but you might have 90 minutes now, instead of 45 minutes during your lunch break on the job,” says Kirkpatrick.
Get Help Losing Weight
If the DIY approach doesn’t feel right to you, virtual help is right at your fingertips. To decide what kind of plan will work best for you, ask yourself a few questions:
What’s realistic in your current environment? A young person quarantining with roommates probably can’t ask everyone else to adopt the same approach to eating, but you can be honest with them and ask for their support. A parent with small children, on the other hand, has more control over what food comes into the house — but less time to focus on your own needs, so a health-oriented meal-delivery program might do the trick. And a senior living alone might want the sociability and group support of a plan like WW.
What kind of communication do you prefer? If you’re just looking for structure and guidance, a tracking app or website might do the trick. For structure as well as support from others, a formal weight loss program could be a good fit. Or if you’d prefer a one-on-one approach, opt for Zoom sessions with a dietitian.
How much support do you need? Maybe you already understand what changes you need to make, but don’t have people in your life who’ll support you. Thanks to the pandemic, neighborhood groups have sprung up on sites like Facebook and Nextdoor. “People share ideas about what to make for dinner, or say, ‘Hey, I’m going for a socially distanced walk at noon. Who wants to join?’” says Kirkpatrick. “They’re supporting one another, and they don’t necessarily have to see each other.”
When it comes to measuring your progress, Kirkpatrick says you can aim for one-half to one pound a week – but in terms of your overall health, keeping track of your waist measurement might be the better bet. Studies have shown that central obesity (carrying more weight around your middle) has a higher risk of chronic illness and death.
“Waist size also matters because central obesity is more inflammatory, which may have a worse effect on COVID compared to someone who is holding weight in the butt or thigh area,” Kirkpatrick says. “This is the time to focus on accurate, measurable indicators for health, and studies show that waist is a better predictor.”
By Debbie Koenig Oct. 29, 2020
WebMD Health News Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on October 29, 2020
Article: The Pandemic Diet: How to Lose the ‘Quarantine 15’
Mondelēz International: “Mondelēz International Reports Q2 2020 Results.”
SWNS Digital: “Americans have gained up to 16 pounds while quarantining.”
Not sleeping enough or getting a bad night’s sleep over and over makes it hard to control your appetite. And that sets you up for all sorts of health problems, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.
The link between poor sleep and a greater body mass index (BMI) has been shown in study after study, but researchers typically relied on the memories of the participants to record how well they slept.
Sleep apps on fitness trackers, smartphones and watches have changed all that. In a new study, published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers tracked sleep quality for 120,000 people for up to two years.
The results showed sleep durations and patterns are highly variable between people. Despite that, the study found people with BMIs of 30 or above – which is considered obese by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – had slightly shorter mean sleep durations and more variable sleep patterns.
It didn’t take much less sleep to see the effect. People with BMIs over 30 only slept about 15 minutes less than their less weighty counterparts.
There were some limitations to the study. Naps were excluded, other health conditions could not be factored in, and people who use wearable tracking devices are typically younger, healthier and from a higher socioeconomic status than those who do not wear trackers.
“These are quite pricey devices, and remember, they are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,” said sleep specialist Dr. Raj Dasgupta, the associate program director of the Sleep Medicine Fellowship at Keck Medicine of the University of Southern California.
“The results would need to be validated by the appropriate FDA-approved devices, and because the study is likely on younger people who are more economically well off, does that really apply to older folks we worry about with poor sleep?” said Dasgupta, who was not involved in the study.
However, Dasgupta added, a major plus for the study is that it did monitor people for over two years, and the results corroborated prior research and were “not surprising.”
“While we cannot determine the direction of association from our study result, these findings provide further support to the notion that sleep patterns are associated with weight management and overall health,” the authors wrote.
“The findings also support the potential value of including both sleep duration and individual sleep patterns when studying sleep-related health outcomes.”
LINK BETWEEN SLEEP AND EATING
There is a scientific reason why a lack of sleep is linked to appetite. When you’re sleep deprived, research has shown, levels of a hormone called ghrelin spike while another hormone, leptin, takes a nosedive. The result is an increase in hunger.
“The ‘l’ in leptin stands for lose: It suppresses appetite and therefore contributes to weight loss,” he said. “The ‘g’ in ghrelin stands for gain: This fast-acting hormone increases hunger and leads to weight gain,” Dasgupta said.
Another reason we gain weight is due to an ancient body system called the endocannabinoid system. Endocannabinoids bind to the same receptors as the active ingredient in marijuana, which as we know, often triggers the “munchies.”
“When you’re sleep deprived, you’re not like, ‘Oh, you know what, I want some carrots,'” said behavioural neuroscientist Erin Hanlon, who studies the connection between brain systems and behavior at the University of Chicago, in a prior CNN interview.
“You’re craving sweets and salty and starchy things,” she added. “You want those chips, you want a cookie, you want some candy, you know?”
A 2016 study by Hanlon compared the circulating levels of 2-AG, one of the most abundant endocannabinoids, in people who got four nights of normal sleep (more than eight hours) to people who only got 4.5 hours.
People who were sleep-deprived reported greater increases in hunger and appetite and had higher afternoon concentrations of 2-AG than those who slept well. The sleep-deprived participants also had a rough time controlling their urges for high-carb, high-calorie snacks.
GET BETTER SLEEP
Want more control over your appetite? Depending on your age, you are supposed to get between seven and 10 hours of sleep each night.
Getting less has been linked in studies to high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, weight gain, a lack of libido, mood swings, paranoia, depression and a higher risk of diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease, dementia and some cancers.
So sleep a full seven to 10 hours a night, stick to a regular bedtime and get up the same time very day, even on weekends, experts advise.
Adding exercise to your daily routine is a great way to improve your sleep and improve your health. After finishing one 30-minute physical activity, you’ll have less anxiety, lower blood pressure, more sensitivity to insulin and you’ll sleep better that night.
You can also train your brain to get more restful sleep with a few key steps:
During the day, try to get good exposure to natural light, as that will help regulate your circadian rhythm.
Avoid stimulants (coffee, tea) after 3 p.m. and fatty foods before bedtime.
Establish a bedtime routine you can follow each night. Taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, listening to soothing music, meditating or doing light stretches are all good options.
Make sure your bed and pillows are comfortable and the room is cool: Between 60 and 67 degrees is best. Don’t watch TV or work in your bedroom; you want your brain to think of the room as only for sleep.
Eliminate all lights – even the blue light of cellphones or laptops can be disruptive. Dull sounds, too. Earplugs or white noise machines can be very helpful, but you can create your own with a humidifier or fan.
What if someone told you there was a magic potion by which you could prevent disease, improve your intellect, reduce your stress and be nicer to your family while you’re all cooped up together during the pandemic?
It sounds too good to be true, as if solving those problems would really require dietary supplements, workout programs, diets, meditation and a separate room to cry alone.
It turns out that sleep, according to numerous studies, is the answer. It’s the preventive medicine for conditions related to our physical, mental and emotional health. And despite how important sleep is, it can be difficult to make it a priority.
“During a pandemic such as Covid-19, there’s a potential to induce or exacerbate many sleep issues,” Dr. Matthew Schmitt, a doctor of sleep medicine at Piedmont Healthcare in Georgia, told CNN.
“A lack of quality sleep not only affects how we feel during the daytime, but can also impair our immune system function, which is vital in protecting us from common viral illnesses.”
A sleep routine is just one of the behaviors that is part of sleep hygiene, a buffet of efforts needed to sleep well that include eating healthy meals at regular times and not drinking too much coffee, said Dr. Meir Kryger, a professor of pulmonary medicine and a clinical professor of nursing at Yale School of Medicine in Connecticut.
“All of these things are really interconnected in terms of their function. All of them are connected to the body clock,” Kryger said. “The body is like an orchestra where there’s an orchestra leader that’s sort of the main timer, but everybody else is playing it together and they’re optimizing what they are doing.”
Once you’ve developed your sleep routine,
here are 10 benefits you could gain from the regimen.
1. Helps your body heal and repair itself
Our nightly shut-eye is our bodies’ time for healing and repairing itself from performing its taxing daily functions.
“Imagine you’re a car or something that’s running for 16 hours during the day,” Kryger said. “You’re going to have to do stuff to get back to normal. You just can’t keep on running.”
During sleep is when we produce most of our growth hormone that ultimately results in bone growth. Our tissues rest, relaxing our muscles and reducing inflammation. And each cell and organ have their own clock that “plays a really important role in maximizing or optimizing how our body works,” Kryger added.
2. Lowers risk for disease
Sleep on its own is a protective factor against disease.
When people get too much or too little sleep, “there appears to be an increased risk of deaths … and other diseases raising their ugly heads,” Kryger said, such as heart problems and diabetes. The healing period during sleep also factors in, as it allows cells that would cause disease to repair themselves.
3. Improves cognitive function
Sleep feeds our creativity and cognitive function, which describes our mental abilities to learn, think, reason, remember, problem solve, make decisions and pay attention.
“As you sleep, memories are reactivated, connections between brain cells are strengthened, and information is transferred from short- to long-term,” said a National Sleep Foundation article on the subject. “Without enough quality sleep, we become forgetful.”
4. Reduces stress
Slumber of great quantity and quality can enhance your mood and also encourage the brain’s ability to regulate emotional responses to both neutral and emotional events.
5. Helps maintain a healthy weight
Getting your beauty sleep can help you to maintain a healthy weight or increase your chances of losing excess fat.
Two hormones control our urge to eat: leptin and ghrelin. Leptin tells us that we’re full, while ghrelin communicates hunger.
When we don’t sleep enough, both hormones veer in the wrong direction, Kryger said — ghrelin spikes while leptin declines, resulting in an increase in hunger and the potential to overeat and gain weight.
Sleep helps our bodies to maintain normal levels of the stress hormone cortisol as well, which determines how we hang on to excess fat.
6. Bolsters your immune system
Kryger has seen the immune systems of patients with sleep disorders fail to normally function. Sleep helps our bodies to produce and release cytokines, a type of protein that helps create an immune response by targeting infection and inflammation.
Additionally, “research done actually years ago showed that when people are sleep deprived, they do not have as vigorous a response to vaccination,” Kryger added.
“As we’re thinking about vaccination that’s being developed” for Covid-19, that kind of research is going to be important.
7. May improve your social life
The emotional benefits of sleep can transfer over into your social life. “Just imagine you don’t sleep enough and you’re cranky,” Kryger said. “Who’s going to want to be around you? Another part of it is being cognitively sharp.”
Adequate sleep can help you to be more confident, be more easygoing and support your efforts to do your part at home, he added.
8. Supports your mental health
Mental health disorders are often associated with substandard sleep and a sleep deficit can lead to depressive symptoms even if the person doesn’t have the chronic disorder, Kryger said.
“Getting the right amount of sleep is really important in possibly preventing a mental illness or the appearance of a mental illness,” he added. And in addition to the benefits for mood and stress regulation, sleeping enough “may make the treatment of the mental illnesses more efficacious if the person sleeps enough.”
9. Reduces pain sensitivity
Extending participants’ sleep time during the night or with midday naps, a 2019 study found, restored their pain sensitivity to normal levels in comparison to sleep-deprived individuals, who had a lower threshold for pain.
How this happens would have to be in the realm of perception, Kryger said, which ultimately traces back to the brain. “The brain is where sleep is,” he explained.
10. Increases your likelihood for overall success
Since sleep can improve our health on all fronts, it consequently can help us be the best versions of ourselves. Healthy cognitive functioning, emotional regulation, coping and social life are all foundational to pursuing and achieving our goals and overall well-being.
People React Better to Both Negative and Positive Events
With More Sleep
New research finds that after a night of shorter sleep, people react more emotionally to stressful events the next day — and they don’t find as much joy in the good things. This has important health implications: previous research shows that being unable to maintain positive emotions in the face of stress puts people at risk of inflammation and even an earlier death.
New research from UBC finds that after a night of shorter sleep, people react more emotionally to stressful events the next day – and they don’t find as much joy in the good things. The study, led by health psychologist Nancy Sin, looks at how sleep affects our reaction to both stressful and positive events in daily life.
“When people experience something positive, such as getting a hug or spending time in nature, they typically feel happier that day,” says Nancy Sin, assistant professor in UBC’s department of psychology. “But we found that when a person sleeps less than their usual amount, they don’t have as much of a boost in positive emotions from their positive events.”
People also reported a number of stressful events in their daily lives, including arguments, social tensions, work and family stress, and being discriminated against. When people slept less than usual, they responded to these stressful events with a greater loss of positive emotions. This has important health implications: previous research by Sin and others shows that being unable to maintain positive emotions in the face of stress puts people at risk of inflammation and even an earlier death.
Using daily diary data from a national U.S. sample of almost 2,000 people, Sin analyzed sleep duration and how people responded to negative and positive situations the next day. The participants reported on their experiences and the amount of sleep they had the previous night in daily telephone interviews over eight days.
“The recommended guideline for a good night’s sleep is at least seven hours, yet one in three adults don’t meet this standard,” says Sin. “A large body of research has shown that inadequate sleep increases the risk for mental disorders, chronic health conditions, and premature death. My study adds to this evidence by showing that even minor night-to-night fluctuations in sleep duration can have consequences in how people respond to events in their daily lives.”
Chronic health conditions – such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer – are prevalent among adults, especially as we grow older. Past research suggests that people with health conditions are more reactive when faced with stressful situations, possibly due to wear-and-tear of the physiological stress systems.
“We were also interested in whether adults with chronic health conditions might gain an even larger benefit from sleep than healthy adults,” says Sin. “For those with chronic health conditions, we found that longer sleep – compared to one’s usual sleep duration – led to better responses to positive experiences on the following day.”
Sin hopes that by making sleep a priority, people can have a better quality of life and protect their long-term health.
Nancy L. Sin, Jin H. Wen, Patrick Klaiber, Orfeu M. Buxton, David M. Almeida. Sleep duration and affective reactivity to stressors and positive events in daily life.. Health Psychology, 2020; DOI: 10.1037/hea0001033
University of British Columbia. “People react better to both negative and positive events with more sleep.” ScienceDaily, 15 September 2020
Materials provided by University of British Columbia. Note: Content may be edited for style and length. September 15, 2020
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are getting motivated to make healthier choices and adopt healthier habits.
Some people living with chronic conditions have found they’re also vigilant about self-care.
Experts say even small changes can lead to big improvements in overall health.
With many things still shut down, experts say this is an excellent time to focus on your health.
Like most New Yorkers, Rob Taub, 64, has been sheltering in place as the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the city and the nation at large.
For Taub, a writer and broadcaster who lives in the city’s Upper East Side neighborhood, there has been one surprising result of the radical day-to-day life changes brought about by the outbreak — his overall health has improved.
Taub has been living with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure for nearly 15 years. An athlete growing up, he said when he was in his 40s he “looked like an NFL player,” but then something changed as he got older.
“I started gaining 15 pounds a year. Soon I was 40 pounds, then 50 pounds overweight,” said Taub, who serves as an ambassador for the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association.
Now, as he’s been adhering to physical distancing and stay-at-home guidelines, he’s found that his overall health has improved.
The man who ate out at restaurants for about 80 percent of his meals now cooks for himself at home. A big change has been salt intake.
“One of the things I switched to recently prior to COVID-19 was oatmeal because there’s no salt in it and I realized my blood pressure was going down while eating it,” he said. “When cooking for myself, there is no salt. I realize restaurant food is laden with salt and it’s not good for you.”
Taub takes his blood pressure every day — at the time of his interview with Healthline it was at 112/80 mm Hg — and has been able to cut back on his medications.
These readings are better than he ever thought he’d see, especially when they were at their worst about a decade and a half ago.
Being vigilant is also important because he has a family history of these health concerns. His mother died at 73 from complications tied to diabetes.
A time to embrace healthy habits
While now is a difficult time for many — stress and anxiety are up, people’s insecurities and fears over their personal health have increased — for some people like Taub, this new way of life has ironically led to better, healthier behaviors.
Dr. Robert Eckel, the American Diabetes Association president of medicine and science, and an endocrinologist at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, said Taub’s story isn’t unusual.
With life on pause, he said that “now is a good time to focus” on health.
He added that depending on a person’s individual lifestyle and desires — and assuming they’re not facing too severe of an economic impact from the current health crisis — sheltering at home gives an opportunity to adopt some healthier behaviors, from more routine fitness to better sleep habits.
A big piece of it is reflected in Taub’s experience — eating better food.
“In general, a heart healthy diet is a diabetes healthy diet and cancer healthy and blood pressure healthy diet,” Eckel, a past-president of the American Heart Association, told Healthline.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, an independent science-based consumer advocacy organization, writes that rampant unhealthy diets have something of a domino effect on overall health in the United States.
The organization says that diets that rely on heavily processed meals low on nutritious value contribute to about 678,000 deaths each year as a result of diseases tied to poor nutrition and obesity, like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
It should be no surprise then that each of these conditions are highly prevalent in the North America.
Annually, heart disease is the leading cause of death nationwide, resulting in 1 in every 4 deaths, while more than 100 million adults live with diabetes or prediabetes.
Obesity statistics are similarly high, with the condition’s prevalence shooting from 30.5 percent in the year from 1999 to 2000, to 42.4 percent in the 2017–2018 time frame. The prevalence of obesity-related diseases moved from 4.7 percent to 9.2 percent during that time frame.
Eckel said that as the coronavirus puts a pause on day-to-day life, it gives Americans an opportunity to hit the reset button on some of these worrying trends.
He cited both the DASH and Mediterranean diets as fairly accessible healthy eating plans that promote weight reduction, decreased salt intake, increased daily nutritional intake, and lowered blood pressure.
He also cited moderate exercise as a way to maintain healthy behaviors while stuck at home.
This means trying to fit in about 40 to 45 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each day — this doesn’t mean having fancy or expensive equipment. It could be a brisk walk or using light weights to include some sort of resistance-training workout at home.
Really anything to avoid being in a “predominantly sedentary position,” he explained.
The challenges of making these changes
Of course, all of this can be easier said than done for some people.
The emotional, psychological, and financial toll taken by COVID-19 can make it hard for people to dedicate time to make some of these lifestyle shifts.
Dr. Luke Laffin, a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic, told Healthline that the people he treats generally have fallen in two camps during this crisis. One group was already exercising, visiting gyms, and adhering to healthy diets. Anecdotally, he noticed this group actually seemed to “fall off a bit” from their schedules once sheltering at home.
“They haven’t been doing as well in this setting,” Laffin said.
The other group consists of people who weren’t regularly exercising, not making the best dietary choices, but are now changing their routines slightly, finding they have more time to go for a walk or start preparing meals.
“It’s a double-edged sword. I’ve seen people benefit from this time but also some people not benefit as much,” he added.
For those in the second group, does Laffin envision these new healthy habits being maintained over the years once the COVID-19 threat passes?
“I think the most important part is getting into these habits and routines, and sticking with them. People are creatures of habit, so if for a couple of months with more time to exercise and eat healthily, I hope they find they can’t go without the daily routine of eating healthier, of making these choices,” he said.
If they feel better and see that their weight is lower and that their overall health has improved, Laffin added that he hopes these people will see these are necessary behaviors to hold on to.
Maintaining new routines
For those in the first group who are finding it difficult to self-motivate during an uncertain time, Laffin suggested pursuing routines that aren’t intimidating.
Just walking around the block is a good way to add some activity, and taking quick breaks in between working from home to do some light exercise could be helpful.
As for food, one doesn’t have to embrace complicated recipes if they’re used to dining out or grabbing a quick meal at the office cafeteria. He said to make sure you try to make dishes that have 50 to 60 percent fruits and vegetables.
Try to stock up on some healthier items when you do go to the local grocery store, just so you have them on hand and can incorporate them with your meal, even if it’s a side dish to complement what you might naturally gravitate to.
“I think it’s important for everyone to be realistic with themselves, however,” Laffin added. “A lot of people out there will slide back a bit, they will put on some extra pounds, they won’t be as physically active. Understand that this is not a 6-week reality, this is going to be going on for 6, 12, 18 months — now is the time to make these adjustments but also be realistic.”
For Taub’s part, he’s a social person who lives alone and said he will heartily embrace eating out with friends once it’s safe and responsible to do so.
What will he make sure to do moving forward to keep up with his new shelter-in-place healthy behaviors?
“I’m going to be aggressive in restaurants about what I order, I might even call ahead to see what I can get that is salt-free. If they won’t accommodate me, then I won’t go there,” Taub stressed.
“If I’m able to control my blood pressure more, then I have to be more cognizant of my behaviors,” he added. “It’s too easy to depend on medication, as great as it is. I need to be really diligent about it.”
Written by Brian Mastroianni May 26, 2020 Fact checked by Dana K. Cassell
Eating late is dangerous as it imbalances fat burning and metabolic hormones, leading to weight gain and heart disease.
Having a large meal for breakfast that is rich in protein and carbs is linked to weight loss, research finds.
Indeed, studies suggest that it may quadruple weight loss in the long-term.
Now a study has shown that eating more calories later has many metabolic consequences, such as preventing fat loss, increasing triglycerides and low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol, which are biomarkers of cardiovascular disease risk.
Eating later also negatively effects the hormone ghrelin, which is responsible for feelings of hunger and the satiety hormone leptin, which is responsible for feeling full or satiated after eating.
Moreover, it elevates the hormone insulin and so blood glucose levels, which can lead to weight gain and diabetes.
Dr Namni Goel, the study’s lead author, said:
“Eating later can promote a negative profile of weight, energy, and hormone markers — such as higher glucose and insulin, which are implicated in diabetes, and cholesterol and triglycerides, which are linked with cardiovascular problems and other health conditions.
We know from our sleep loss studies that when you’re sleep deprived, it negatively affects weight and metabolism in part due to late-night eating, but now these early findings, which control for sleep, give a more comprehensive picture of the benefits of eating earlier in the day.”
The study compared the effect of delayed eating on human health with eating earlier.
For the study, participants of healthy weight first ate earlier for 8 weeks then later for a further 8 weeks.
Eating earlier consisted of three meals plus two snacks between 8 am and 7 pm.
The later eating condition consisted of three meals plus two snacks starting from noon and finishing at 11 pm.
During this time they were allowed to sleep between 11 pm to 9 am.
The research team found that compared to eating earlier, the delayed eating led to weight gain.
There were other negative indicators including high insulin, glucose, triglyceride and cholesterol levels, which suggested a poor metabolism.
Eating early helped participants to feel full for longer and so stopped overeating during the evenings.
Kelly Allison, study co-author, said:
“While lifestyle change is never easy, these findings suggest that eating earlier in the day may be worth the effort to help prevent these detrimental chronic health effects.
We have an extensive knowledge of how overeating affects health and body weight, but now we have a better understanding of how our body processes foods at different times of day over a long period of time.”
Another study by Dr Goel and colleagues suggested that eating less at night reduces the mental problems caused by lack of sleep.
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 SLEEP 2017, the 31st Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC.
Build a better a.m. meal with these nutrient-dense complex carbs for all-day energy.
Frosted Flakes? No. Bagels? No. Donuts? Heck to the no. Sorry folks, but we’re not about to give you permission to believe empty carbs are the answer to your morning jumpstart. We are, however, here to preach about which carbs are best for your body at the breakfast table. So quit thinking that carbs for breakfast might sound like a surefire way to wind up sleepier than before you ate because these options can actually give you the energy and nutrients you need for a great day! Find out which complex carbs get our expert approval and start building a better breakfast pronto!.
All hail the mighty oat! Oats have 10 grams of protein per half-cup serving and your fiber-packed bowl will slow down the metabolism of the sugar from these carbs. “Oatmeal is a great source of complex carbs that fuel the body and fiber to decrease the risk of heart disease,” says nutrition and fitness expert Jim White. He suggests pairing oatmeal with blueberries, walnuts, and milk for a filling, nutrient-rich morning meal.
We’re not usually into recommending cereal since most boxes are belly bombs and blood-sugar-spiking nightmares. But this healthy cereal is made with just whole-grain wheat and wheat bran—two of our favorite complex carbs. In addition to serving up a decent share of hunger-quelling protein and fiber in every bowl, a bowl of Wheat Bran also provides 20 percent of the day’s phosphorus, a mineral that plays an important role in how the body uses carbs and fats.
If you want to lose the gut, you’ve got to exercise—-no surprise there. And your best shot of fitting in a workout often comes by fitting it into your morning routine. But here’s a fact that’s not so obvious: Drinking chocolate milk can improve your gains. In a study published in The International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, subjects given chocolate milk before hopping on the stationary bikes were able to ride 49 percent longer than subjects given a generic carbohydrate-replacement beverage. And on top of that, they pedaled even harder. Total work performed by the chocolate-milk group was greater than the work performed by subjects drinking carbohydrate-replacement drinks or electrolyte-fortified sports drinks. The reason? Milk has naturally occurring electrolytes that keep you hydrated—more hydrated than water, in fact—and its natural sweetness helps push more energy into your muscles. Drink up!
Can you believe that mango has more carbs than a bowl of pasta? We know, it’s kinda crazy! But there are 50 grams per mango (!) and just a half fruit packs an entire day’s worth of vitamin C, a nutrient that wards off fat-storing cortisol spikes. If mangos typically make an appearance in your daily smoothie, add a scoop of protein powder and a handful of raw oats to increase your drink’s protein and fiber content, which slows the digestion of the fruit’s sugars.
It’s official: You can stop fearing bread! Ezekiel bread is a nutrient-dense bread is loaded with sprouted lentils, protein, and good-for-you grains that keep you going. Top it with avocado, peanut butter, or a tiny bit of honey for a healthy and craving-crushing breakfast.
Whether you use it as the base for your banana quinoa muffins (yum!) or throw it into your omelets, this ancient grain is a solid start to your day. Quinoa is higher in protein than any other grain, and it packs a hefty dose of heart-healthy, unsaturated fats.
Yes, apples are carbs, but they are also one of the very best sources of fiber—which means you should eat them at every opportunity. A study at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found that for every 10-gram increase in soluble fiber eaten per day, belly fat was reduced by 3.7 percent over five years. And a study at the University of Western Australia found that the Pink Lady variety had the highest level of antioxidant flavonoids (a fat-burning compound) of all the apples.
Packed with protein, crammed with calcium, and popping with probiotics, Greek yogurt has all the makings of the best weight loss foods. But here’s an easy tip to remember: Some of the carbs come from a yogurt’s naturally-occurring sugar, but they can also come from if there are added sugars. The Greek yogurt you choose really shouldn’t have more than 5-11 grams of carbs per serving; if you’re in the 20-ish range, your yogurt is most likely not the best for your body because of all that sugar.
A cup of blueberries has 21 grams of carbs, but they couldn’t be better for you. These little blue bullets are loaded with polyphenols—chemical compounds that prevent fat from forming—and they actively burn belly fat. It’s theorized that the catechins in blueberries activate the fat-burning gene in belly-fat cells. In one study by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, blueberries were found to decrease lipids by 73 percent!
Last but certainly not least, the beloved banana is indeed a carby fruit. But these are complex carbs and bananas do a ton of great things for you, like instantly debloating a puffy tummy. Not only does the fruit increase bloat-fighting bacteria in the stomach, it’s also a good source of potassium, which can help diminish water retention. Bananas are rich in glucose, a highly digestible sugar, which provides quick energy, and their high potassium content helps prevent muscle cramping during your workout.
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.
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).
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.
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!
Presenter Dr Karl Kruszelnicki Producer Bernie Hobbs
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).
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).