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Tuesday
Mar042014

Singing for Your Health

Singing in the shower may perk you up for the day, but if you really want to be happy, consider joining a choir. British researchers examined how singing affects our feelings of well-being by reviewing data gathered from an on-line survey of 375 people who sang in choirs, sang solo or belonged to a sports team. The investigators found that all three activities had a positive impact on mental well-being, but that singing in a choir topped singing alone, in or out of the shower. What’s more, the choir members felt even closer to their fellow singers than athletes felt about their teammates. The study didn’t delve into why, exactly, singing buoys us, but lead author Nick Stewart of Oxford Brookes University said that “further research could look at how moving and breathing in synchrony with others might be responsible for creating a unique well-being effect.” He also suggested that joining a choir “could be a cost-effective way to improve people’s well-being.” The survey results were presented on December 5, 2013 at the annual conference of the British Psychological Society's Division of Clinical Psychology.

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Source:
Hayley Dickson, “Choir Singing Boosts Your Mental Health", The Telegraph, December 4, 2013, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/10496056/Choir-singing-boosts-your-mental-health.html

Monday
Mar032014

How to Splurge on Food and Stay Healthy

A new study from Great Britain suggests that you might be able to splurge on food without endangering your health. The secret, of course, is daily exercise. Researchers from the University of Bath recruited 26 young men who exercised regularly. None was obese, and none had any health problems that could contribute to diabetes. Half the volunteers were asked to spend 45 minutes a day running on a treadmill at a “moderately intense pace.” In addition, both groups of men were instructed to wear pedometers and cut their daily walking from an average of more than 10,000 steps a day to 4,000 or less (this didn’t count the treadmill time). All the men were told to start overeating substantially. The men who did not exercise on the treadmill were assigned to increase their daily caloric intake by 50 percent, while the men who exercised increased their intake by almost 75 percent. After a week, the researchers ran a series of tests on all of the volunteers. The upshot? The tests showed a decline in blood sugar control among the men who didn’t exercise, and genetic tests found unhealthy changes in the genes associated with metabolic processes. Meanwhile, the men who had exercised daily had no such negative changes, despite all the overeating.

My take? I am a great believer in the benefits of sensible, moderate exercise for healthy living and prudent weight loss. As someone who dreaded exercise for much of his life, I now don’t feel right if a day goes by without performing some type of physical activity. Here is a practical tip: If you want to unlearn old habits and develop new behaviors for a healthy lifestyle, spend time with people who have the habits you want. Your choice of friends and acquaintances is a powerful influence on your behavior. If you want exercise to be a part of your life, keep company with people who exercise regularly and enjoy it. This new study comes just in time to give us compelling new evidence that daily exercise can even help your health withstand the brief and occasional splurge.

Source:
J.P. Walter et al, “Exercise counteracts the effects of short-term overfeeding and reduced physical activity independent of energy imbalance in healthy young men,” Journal of Physiology, published online on November 25, 2013.

Friday
Feb282014

How Much Sleep Do You Usually Get at Night? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed being a night owl and the effects of staying up late: What's Wrong with Being a Night Owl? Check out the article and let us know how much sleep you get per night.

Thursday
Feb272014

Chew Slower, Eat Less

Would you eat less if you chewed each bite of food more thoroughly? To find out, researchers at Iowa State University recruited 47 people: 16 of normal weight, 16 overweight, and 15 obese. At a preliminary session to establish baseline eating habits, prospective participants were asked to eat five portions of pizza rolls and count the number of times they chewed each bite. The researchers didn’t reveal the purpose of the session or the study to the participants. Once the study was initiated, all participants received 60 pizza roles each time they reported to the lab for three weekly sessions. Depending on the session, they were asked to chew each bite the same number of times as at their baseline visit, 50 percent more, or twice as many times. Results showed that the participants ate about 10 percent less, corresponding to 70 fewer calories, when they increased the number of chews per bite by 50 percent. When they doubled the number of chews per bite, they ate 15 percent less and took in 112 fewer calories. More research will be needed to determine if this is an effective and sustainable weight loss strategy. The study was published online on November 11, 2013 by the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Wednesday
Feb262014

Fat Facts (Video)

There are probably more misconceptions about fat than any other macronutrient. Dr. Weil explains why "fat does not make you fat" and shares which fat sources are the most conducive to optimum health.

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Tuesday
Feb252014

Acupuncture to Ease Dental Woes

Here’s a potential solution for patients who are always nervous and anxious in a dentist’s chair: researchers in Italy found that acupuncture reduced the likelihood of gagging among patients having impressions taken of their upper and lower teeth. In this small study - only 20 dental patients with a history of gag reflex took part – participants ranging in age 19 to 80 had teeth impressions taken under normal circumstances. They then had the procedure repeated with acupuncture. The first time around, the patients reported an average gag reflex for upper teeth impressions of 7 on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 representing the most nausea and gagging. With acupuncture, the average score was 1 on the 0 to 10 scale. The results for impressions of the lower teeth were similar. The needles were inserted at acupuncture points on the face and wrist about 30 seconds before the impressions were taken. Because this study was so small, the findings will have to be confirmed by further research before they can be widely accepted or considered in clinical practice. The study was published online on November 5, 2013 by the journal Acupuncture in Medicine.

Monday
Feb242014

Weight Loss + Exercise Could Save Your Hearing

The heavier women are, the higher their risk of hearing loss compared to women of normal weight. This surprising finding stems from the long-running Nurses’ Health Study II that, along with other health parameters, tracked physical activity, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and hearing loss among 68,000 women from 1989 to 2009. On the positive side, the researchers from Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that the more physically active the women in the study were, the lower their risk of hearing loss. The researchers reported that women who had a BMI indicating obesity had a 17 percent higher risk of hearing loss than women whose BMI was lower than 25, indicating normal weight. Women with a BMI of 40 or more had a 25 percent higher risk of hearing loss than normal weight women, the study showed. As far as exercise is concerned, the most physically active women had a 17 percent lower risk of hearing loss than the least physically active women. The study found that walking two hours or more per week lowered the risk of hearing loss risk by 15 percent compared to walking less than an hour a week. The results were published in the December 2013 issue of the American Journal of Medicine.

My take? Obesity increases the risk of illness and death due to diabetes, stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and kidney and gallbladder disease; it may also increase the risk for some types of cancer and is a primary risk factor for the development of osteoarthritis and sleep apnea. And now it appears that obesity may also increase the risk of hearing loss. Earlier research from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons found that obese teenagers have a nearly twice the risk of one-sided low frequency hearing loss, compared to normal weight teens. Here, the researchers suggested that this accelerated hearing loss might be associated with inflammation stemming from obesity. Clearly, as the news about hearing loss attests, the list of health risks presented by obesity continues to grow.

Source:
Anil K. Lalwani et al, “Obesity is associated with sensorineural hearing loss in adolescents,” The Laryngoscope, DOI: 10.1002/lary.24244

Friday
Feb212014

What’s Your Least Favorite Aspect of Meal Preparation? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed boredom with food and how some people feel they need to eat out of necessity instead of for pleasure: Bored with Food? Check out the article and let us know what part of meal preparation you least enjoy.

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