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Monday
Sep152014

How’s Your Circadian Rhythm Treating You?

If your sleep schedule and mealtimes are irregular, you can upset the balance of your circadian rhythm, which is responsible for the 24-hour cycle of our physiology. Add poor diet to that and you may risk triggering harmful inflammation in your body, a recent study suggests.

Researchers at Rush University Medical Center looked at the effect of circadian rhythm disruptions in male mice fed two different diets. To alter circadian patterns, investigators reversed the cycles of exposure to light and dark in the test mice. Then they fed some of the mice regular mouse chow, and put the others on a high-fat, high-sugar diet. The combination of the circadian rhythm disruption and the high-fat, high-sugar diet led to higher concentrations of bacteria known to promote inflammation in the digestive systems of that group of mice. No such changes occurred in the mice that stayed on the usual mouse diet despite the same alteration of their circadian rhythm. The researchers concluded that to trigger inflammation a “second hit” (such as poor diet) must be present along with circadian rhythm disruption. They suggest that humans whose circadian rhythms are out of sync with daylight because of shift work or “social jet lag” (a normal schedule during the week but late nights and sleeping late on weekends) might mitigate risks of inflammatory damage by eating and sleeping on a regular schedule, and by taking prebiotics or probiotics to “normalize the effects of circadian rhythm disruption on the intestinal microbiota to reduce the presence of inflammation.”

My take? Almost without exception, wherever I am and whatever I am doing, I go to bed early enough to get eight hours of sleep and wake up at dawn. I could still get my eight hours by retiring later and rising later, but the pattern I follow does more than just give me sufficient sleep - it syncs my own circadian rhythms with those of the sun. I have found that this routine is best for my overall energy and well-being. My colleague, sleep expert Rubin Naiman, Ph.D., tells me that most people are underexposed to darkness by night and get insufficient light by day, particularly in the morning. He adds that most of us spend the bulk of our waking hours indoors in what is relatively dampened light, while healthy levels of light naturally energize us, drawing us outward into the world. Healthy patterns of light exposure also help us maintain normal circadian cycles, Dr. Naiman reports.

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Sources:
Robin N. Voigt et al, “Circadian Disorganization Alters Intestinal Microbiota,” PLOS One DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0097500

Friday
Sep122014

What Fruits and Vegetables Do You Always Peel? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed if peeling the skin from fruits and vegetables also removes the nutrients of the produce: Peel Away Nutrients? Check out the article and let us know what fruits and vegetables you peel the skin from before eating.

Thursday
Sep112014

Sports and Energy Drinks: No Good for Kids?

Teenage boys who regularly consume sports and energy drinks aren’t only expending energy on sports. Instead, a new study has found that these kids spend more time playing video games than boys who consume energy drinks less than once week. Worse, the study found a link between teenage consumption of sports and energy drinks and such unhealthy behaviors as smoking, high dietary intake of other sugary drinks, and prolonged time spent watching TV in addition to playing video games. The researchers, from the University of Minnesota and Duke University, gathered their data from 2,793 adolescents across 20 public middle and high schools in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area during the 2009-10 school year. The researchers reported that despite a decline in the prevalence of soft drink and fruit drink consumption, kids have tripled their intake of sports and energy drinks in recent years. These drinks are high in both sugar and caffeine. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) kids should consider consuming sports drinks only after vigorous and prolonged physical activity. As for energy drinks, the AAP’s position is that kids shouldn’t drink them at all because they offer no health benefits and pose risks for overstimulation of the nervous system, which can lead to increased anxiety and disturbed patterns of sleep.

Sources:
Nicole Larson et al, “Adolescent Consumption of Sports and Energy Drinks: Linkages to Higher Physical Activity, Unhealthy Beverage Patterns, Cigarette Smoking, and Screen Media Use. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 2014; 46 (3): 181 DOI: 10.1016/j.jneb.2014.02.008

Wednesday
Sep102014

How to Make Turmeric Tea (Video)

Turmeric tea is a delicious and healthy drink that provides anti-inflammatory properties through turmeric. Dr. Weil shows how to quickly brew a batch of turmeric tea with only a few ingredients - water, turmeric, and lemon or honey to taste.

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Wednesday
Sep102014

Should Kids Take Vitamins?

I am often asked whether children should take vitamins. The answer is yes, I believe the evidence is clear that most children will benefit from an antioxidant and multi-mineral formula. Many kids don’t eat enough vegetables and fruits, and their diets are often full of processed and refined foods. However, vitamin supplements shouldn’t be substitutes for whole foods, and children need a full complement of healthy fats, slow-digesting carbohydrates and body building proteins.

You can help encourage a healthy diet by eating meals together, focusing on whole, fresh foods, and discouraging your children from eating too much fast food, processed food, sugar and caffeine (in cola and other drinks).

As far as supplements are concerned, give children a complete antioxidant formula as well as multiminerals. Try to find versions that do not have a lot of excess sugar, small tablets if they can be swallowed, or powders that can be blended into a smoothie. Be sure to keep the vitamins out of the reach of young children – some supplements for kids taste and look like candy and there is a danger of overdosing, especially when supplements contain iron.

Tuesday
Sep092014

Good News for Short Guys

They may look up to their taller peers, but they live longer. A study in Hawaii found that the longevity gene, FOXO3, is more common in short men – those who are 5’2” or shorter – and that they lived the longest among the more than 8,000 American men of Japanese ancestry participating in the study. Researchers monitored the men’s health for nearly five decades and found that within the group, the taller the man, the shorter his lifespan. The gene in question results in a smaller body size, lower prevalence of cancer, lower blood insulin levels as well as longer life, the researchers reported. All the men in the study were born between 1900 and 1919 and 1,200 of them lived into their 90s and 100s; about 250 are still alive. The researchers noted that similar genes in mice, roundworms, flies and even yeast are also associated with longevity. They also reported that taller guys (and women) who don’t have the longevity gene can compensate for it with a healthy lifestyle.

Sources:
Bradley J. Wilcox et al “Shorter Men Live Longer: Association of Height with Longevity and FOXO3 Genotype in American Men of Japanese Ancestry,” PLOS One, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0094385

Monday
Sep082014

Biggest Risk Factor for Heart Disease in Women Over 30?

You might guess the answer is smoking, high blood pressure, or being overweight, and all those contributors play a role, but a new study from Australia has shown that lack of physical activity presents the most significant risk of heart disease in women over 30. The researchers used a mathematical formula to determine reductions in heart disease if specific risk factors were eliminated, and followed more than 32,000 women in three age groups to arrive at their conclusion. Predictably, in women under 30, the biggest risk turned out to be smoking, but in all the women over 30 lack of physical activity proved the strongest risk. For women in their 70s, being active would lower the risk of heart disease nearly three times as much as quitting smoking and significantly more than lowering blood pressure or reaching a healthy body weight, the study showed. Overall, it found that for all women over 30 those who are inactive were nearly 50 percent more likely to develop cardiovascular disease in their lifetimes than women who regularly get at least 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise every week.

My take? Women often don't realize that heart disease is as much of a threat to them as it is to men. True, the risk for men is higher when they're younger, but by the age of 65, the rate of heart disease in women equals that of men and is the leading cause of death in women, claiming nearly 500,000 lives per year (compared to about 40,000 for breast cancer, a disease women tend to fear more). This study’s findings emphasize the importance of daily physical activity for lowering women’s risk of heart disease. About 60 percent of American women don't get the recommended 30 minutes per day of moderate exercise. While a sedentary lifestyle may be the biggest risk, the others – smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and being overweight – shouldn’t be ignored.

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Sources:
Wendy J. Brown et al, “Comparing population attributable risks for heart disease across the adult lifespan in women,” British Journal of Sports Medicine, doi:10.1136/bjsports-2013-093090

Friday
Sep052014

How Many Prescription Drugs Do You Take? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed prescription drugs and whether we are too dependant upon them: Too Many Prescription Drugs? Check out the article and let us know how many prescription drugs you take on a daily basis.

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