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Monday
Aug112014

Surprising Route to Creative Thinking

Need some new ideas? Take a hike. Seriously, new research from Stanford University shows that walking increases creative inspiration by about 60 percent compared to coming up with good ideas while sitting. You don’t even have to go outdoors. The research team found that walking on a treadmill is just as effective, creativity-wise. What’s more, returning to your desk (or couch) doesn’t immediately turn off the flow of inspiration stimulated by your walk, the Stanford study found. However, the researchers reported that there were some limits to the benefits of walking – for example, they found that while a stroll improved creative thinking, it didn’t necessarily help study participants (176 college students and other adults) come up with the right answers to questions aimed at provoking "focused thinking." Three of the other study experiments were designed to measure “divergent thinking.” Here, the students were given four minutes to come up with alternate uses for an object – their answers were considered novel (i.e. creative) when students came up with an answer no one else suggested.

My take? These are interesting findings. I’m an advocate for anything that gets people up and moving – if inspiration doesn’t strike, at least you’ll benefit from some exercise. I’ve also read that taking a short nap can help boost creativity in addition to bolstering emotional and procedural memory. Maybe a walk works – even if you’re on a treadmill – simply because it allows you to disengage from your usual surroundings. The Stanford researchers haven’t yet looked into the causal mechanisms that trigger creativity when you’re walking and may focus future research on whether other forms of physical activity have similar results.

Sources:
Marily Oppezzo and Daniel L. Schwartz, “Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking”. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0036577

Friday
Aug082014

Sleep Apnea and Osteoporosis

New research from Taiwan suggests that people with sleep apnea have nearly three times the normal risk of osteoporosis, particularly if they’re female and older. Sleep apnea isn't just snoring and frequent waking, it's a serious, potentially life-threatening disorder that causes interruptions of breathing during sleep. It may increase risks of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. The research team spent six years following 1,377 patients in Taiwan who were diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, as well as 20,655 people without the sleep disorder. The investigators found that new cases of osteoporosis were 2.7 times higher among sleep apnea patients, than among people without the sleep disorder. This increased risk held true even after such factors as concurrent medical problems, age and gender were taken into account. Researcher Kai-Jen Tien, M.D., of Chi Mei Medical Center in Tainan, opined that when sleep apnea periodically deprives the body of oxygen, “it can weaken bones and raise the risk of osteoporosis.” The study was published online on April 15, 2014, in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Sources:
Kai-Jen Tien et al, “Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Risk of Osteoporosis: A Population-Based Cohort Study in Taiwan,” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, DOI: 10.1210/jc.2014-1718

Friday
Aug082014

What's Your Take On The Microbiome - Allergy Connection? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed microbiome in the gastrointestinal tract and how it may be connected with allergies: Do the Bugs in Your Belly Cause Allergies? Check out the article and let us know your opinion on the connection between the microbiome and allergies.

Wednesday
Aug062014

What is a True Whole Grain? (Video)

Don't be fooled by "whole-grain" products such as whole wheat flour (or bread made from it), which have a glycemic index nearly as high as that of refined flour. Grains that have been pulverized into flour, whether "whole" or not, have a significantly expanded starchy surface area available to digestive enzymes, and cause blood sugar levels to spike dramatically. A serving of true whole grains - embellished or plain - makes a healthy side for almost any meal, but they are also wonderful in soups, stews, salads and stuffings.

Whole grains - full of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and low-glycemic carbohydrates - are an important part of the Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid.

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Tuesday
Aug052014

Fooling Your Hunger Hormone

How influenced are you by food labels? A new study suggests that the information they provide can determine the way your body responds to the food. Here’s how it worked: clinical psychologist Alia Crum prepared vanilla milkshakes and divided them up into two large batches. She labeled the shakes in one batch as containing 140 calories with no fat and no added sugar. The other batch, named Indulgence, displayed labels stating each shake contained 620 calories. (Both batches actually provided 300 calories per shake.) Before and after the study, participants drank their shakes and a nurse measured their levels of the hormone ghrelin, secreted in the stomach. Ghrelin levels rise when your body needs more food and fall when you’ve had enough. The ghrelin measurements revealed that levels of this hormone fell about three times more in participants who drank what they believed to be the high calorie “Indulgence” milkshake than they did in those who drank what they thought was a 140-calorie shake. All told, the study demonstrated that what we believe about the food we're ingesting can influence the way our bodies behave.

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Sources:
Alia Crum et al, “Mind over milkshakes: mindsets, not just nutrients, determine ghrelin response,” Health Psychology, July 2011, doi: 10.1037/a0023467.

Monday
Aug042014

Do Bad Teeth = Heart Trouble?

The link between poor dental health and cardiovascular disease is still being examined, but results of a large study that looked at data from nearly 16,0000 people from 39 countries add to a growing body of evidence suggesting an association between oral and heart health. All had coronary heart disease and at least one other risk factor for heart problems. Nearly 70 percent were current or former smokers, and it appears the oral health of the participants also left a lot to be desired. Responses to a questionnaire showed that one quarter of the study participants experienced gum bleeding while they brushed their teeth (a sign of gum disease); 41 percent said that they had fewer than 15 teeth left and 16 percent reported having no teeth at all. The research team, from the Uppsala University in Sweden, identified links between periodontal disease (including bleeding gums), tooth loss and other risk factors for heart disease, such as large waist circumference, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. However, the study’s lead author acknowledged that more research is needed to determine whether practicing good dental hygiene can actually help lower the risk of heart disease.

My take? One of the first studies linking oral health and heart disease was published online in the journal Stroke on July 31, 2003. It showed that the more teeth a person has lost, the more likely he or she is to have both advanced periodontal infections and plaques in the carotid arteries that supply the brain with blood. Conceivably, oral health may contribute to heart disease through processes involving inflammation. A secondary contributor to a link may be inadequate nutritional intake. If you lack teeth, you can't optimally process your food and may not get adequate amounts of heart-healthy nutrients and fiber. Research suggests that people with poor oral health should have cardiac exams even if they have no symptoms of heart disease, and the new study supports this recommendation.

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Sources:
Olga Vedin et al, “Periodontal disease in patients with chronic coronary heart disease: Prevalence and association with cardiovascular risk factors,” European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, April 10, 2014, doi: 10.1177/2047487314530660

Friday
Aug012014

What Works Best for Your Allergies? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed using acupuncture as a form of relief for allergies: Acupuncture for Allergies? Check out the article and let us know what you use or do for relieving allergies.

Thursday
Jul312014

Beer Marinade – Quick Tip for Healthier Barbeques

Barbeque season in fast approaching in the U.S. and although the tradition offers a lot in the way of social benefits, grilling foods has proven to be decidedly unhealthy. Fortunately, a group of European scientists have come up with a way to cut back on harmful polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), carcinogens that can form when meat is cooked on the grill or elsewhere at very high temperatures. The compounds have been associated with tumors, birth defects and reproductive problems in lab animals and with colorectal cancer in humans. The trick to reducing the PAHs in your barbequed steaks and chops, according to the research team, is to marinate them first in beer. The investigators from Universidade do Porto in Portugal reported that four hours of marinating meat in regular or nonalcoholic pilsner or dark ale reduced the PAHs in meat by slightly more than half compared with meat that hasn’t been marinated. Overall, the researchers found that using dark ale (which contains more antioxidants than the other brews) cut PAHs by 53 percent. The nonalcoholic pilsner beer marinade cut PAHs by 25 percent and the regular Pilsner beer reduced them by only 13 percent. When the researchers performed their study, they cooked pork to well done on a charcoal grill.

Sources:
Olga Viegas et al, “Effect of Beer Marinades on Formation of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Charcoal-Grilled Pork,” J. Agric. Food Chem., 2014, 62 (12), pp 2638–2643 DOI: 10.1021/jf404966w