Archive for the Healthy Lifestyle Category

New Wellbeing Guidelines

British Associations for Nutritional Therapy and Applied Nutrition (BANT) has updated the healthy diet and lifestyle guidelines for the public, replacing the over 20 year old Eatwell plate published by the UK government all those years ago. Nutritional research has moved forward with speed over the past 5 to 10 years and any responsible nutrition professional will follow the latest research and developments in the field to inform their recommendations.
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The BANT Wellbeing Guidelines are evidence-based and a good basis for a healthy diet and lifestyle. The Wellness Solution guideline promotes generally healthy lifestyle and Fight the Fat & Beat the Bloat helping those that wish lose some weight and increase their energy levels.

Among other items the BANT guidelines tackle the publicised ’5 a day’ for fruit and vegetables. Unfortunately the UK average is still at below ’3 a day’ while the latest research suggests that the optimal is ’7 a day’ with minimum of 5 vegetables and 2 pieces of fruit for general wellbeing and only 1 piece of fruit per day for those wishing to lose weight. Many other countries have already changed their recommendations to above ’5 a day’. The guidelines further address the lifestyle by providing high-level guidance on hydration, sleep, exercise and even supplementation. They also separate the different carbohydrates which has not been seen before – all carbs are not equal!

In short, the BANT Wellbeing Guidelines address some of the confusion around certain nutrients – such as healthy fats which include butter in moderation, differentiation between carbohydrates, 7 a day, eggs are good for you – providing the public a clear visual aid to understand how to adjust toward healthy diet and lifestyle. The guidelines can be further personalised by nutrition professionals to take into account individual circumstances, not to mention the potential that genomic testing gives us to truly provide personalised dietary and fitness recommendations!

Exercise improves grey matter and health

A Finnish study with identical twins has found that exercise improves grey matter volume and health. It is notoriously difficult to study the effects of exercise and rule out genetic variances and diet, but this study has managed to get as accurate as is possible and the results are impressive.young men wrestling

The results of the study were published in Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise this month. The study followed young adult identical twins in their early- to mid 20’s whose exercise habits had changed substantially after they left their childhood homes. They found that while the twins’ dietary habits had stayed very similar, one of the twins still engaged in regular exercise and the other did not, usually due to work and family pressures.

In their early to mid 30s ten male twins went through a series of testing for their endurance capacity, body composition, and insulin sensitivity to determine their metabolic health and fitness. Their brains were also scanned.

Those that did not do regular exercise had higher body fat percentages, lower endurance capacity and signs of insulin resistance, which can lead to onset of variety of metabolic problems, such as type 2 diabetes. The active twins had significantly more grey matter in their brain, particularly in areas involved in motor control and coordination.

The study shows how quickly the changes can happen considering that the twins had only been away from their childhood home for few years where their environment and habits had been very similar. Furthermore, the study reinforces the view that genetics and environment do not have to determine the future, our choices do. Dr. Kujala encourages us all to move more, regardless of our legacy, to improve our health outcomes.

Light in our bedrooms resulting in poor sleep

It has been long established that light in the bedrooms disturbs sleep. Along with lack of sleep and excessive caffeine intake, brightly lit bedrooms may contribute to poor health.
Sleepless night
Recent study explores how our bedrooms have become so light intense and how this may link to obesity. I am not convinced about the light in the bedroom and obesity connection as obesity is a complex problem with multiple underlying and often personal reasons. Therefore, lit-up bedroom might just be associated with obesity due to poor sleep which might have entirely different causes. However, light does interfere with melatonin, a hormone that aids sleep and requires darkness, so those that have difficulty falling asleep, or going back to sleep after waking up, will benefit from a dark room and, if required, a very low level light pointed away from the eyes to move around in darkness.

It has also been established that the light shining from various electronic devices disturbs melatonin but it is again likely even more disturbing to have the electromagnetic fields, generated by mobiles and wifi, interfering with restful sleep and as with most things, we are all individuals and some of us are more sensitive to this type of interference than others.

To improve sleep, ensure you follow basic sleep hygiene rules and never go to bed hungry. If you feel even little hungry at bedtime, have a small protein based snack, such as natural yoghurt with berries or ½ banana. Further considerations include:
- avoid electronic stimulus for one hour prior to sleep, – including TV, computer, iPad
- remove all electronics, including phones from the bedroom, – and in most cases there is no real need for them to stay on at night either.
- ensure bedroom is completely dark and not too hot
- relax prior to bedtime, – Epson salt bath (max 20 min) and meditation are good options to try

See also my previous post on Sleep – are you getting enough? for what lack of sleep might mean to you.

Are multivitamins bad for you?

Hand Holding Drug CocktailHere we go again, the media distorting issues, this time broadcasting how multivitamins are a waste of money or even bad for you. There are multiple issues with headlines that hit the news yesterday. I have listed the key points below:

1 – there are multiple synthetic, poor quality supplements in the market that have no health benefits, but equally there are those that have gone through rigorous testing with choice of natural ingredients for improved bioavailability, remembering that the bioavailability also depends on the gut health and other circumstances of the individual.

2 – Looking at the studies in more detail, they expect the multivitamins to prevent cognitive decline, cancer, cardiovascular events, and death. Well, wouldn’t that be the magic pill. There are no such single pharmaceutical that would prevent such serious diseases and it is unreasonable to expect a multivitamin that is designed to help to balance selected vitamin and mineral levels to have such powers over a vast variety of other simultaneous health, dietary and lifestyle influences.

3 – All the studies supporting these headlines were funded by pharmaceutical companies that have long campaigned against the nutritional supplement industry. Enough said.

What can you do?
- Eat a varied, healthy diet with good, clean, organic/free range ingredients. Food always comes first, as does the active lifestyle!
- Don’t waste your money on cheap, synthetic supplements! Talk to your nutritionist to find out if supplements are right for you and if so, they will advice on the right choices.

Aspartame

10.13 aspartame Final word about Aspartame… a ‘novel’ about discovery of aspartame, research bias, political games, greedy folk and the biochemistry of aspartame and its impacts on health varying from migraines to cancer and more.
Artificial Sweeteners — More Dangerous than You Ever Imagined
Aspartame is one of the first generation of artificial sweeteners and is 180 times as sweet as sugar. At the end of 2008, aspartame was found in over 6,000 products including: carbonated soft drinks, puddings and fillings, powdered soft drinks, frozen desserts, chewing gum, yogurt, confections, sweeteners, chewable vitamins……..

Your Amazing Liver

Liver truly is amazing, a real power engine in our bodies to keep us healthy. Well functioning liver detoxification pathways are also the key to a beautiful skin!
Your Amazing Liver

More on benefits of sleep

Success winner woman Remember my post on benefits of sleep in April! A new study adds further weight by showing how a good night’s sleep increases the cardiovascular benefits of a healthy lifestyle saying that “a good night’s sleep can increase the benefit of exercise, healthy diet, moderate alcohol consumption and non-smoking in their protection against cardiovascular disease (CVD)”. Short sleep duration has been associated with a higher incidence of obesity, hypertension and with higher levels of blood pressure, total cholesterol, haemoglobin A, and triglycerides, effects which are “consistent with the hypothesis that short sleep duration is directly associated with CVD risk”.

Read more about the new study here!

Why Eat Organic Food and The 2013 Dirty Dozen

Growing foods organically excludes, when possible, the use of synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, growth regulators, and additives to livestock feed. Organic farmers usually rely on crop rotation and animal manures to maintain soil productivity, to supply plant nutrients, and to control weeds, insects, and other pests.

In addition to reducing your exposure to harmful pesticides, eating organically may also reduce your exposure to hormones, antibiotics, and potentially harmful irradiated food. Less antibiotic use may help to avoid the development of antibiotic resistance, according to the Environmental Working Group, (a non-profit organisation that focuses on protecting public health and the environment regarding public policy), scientists have begun to agree that even small doses of pesticides and other chemicals can have long-term health consequences that begin during fetal development and early childhood.

The Organic Seal of Approval guarantees the consumer that there has been no usage of genetically modified crops or sewage sludge as fertiliser, helping to reduce toxic runoff into rivers and lakes and the subsequent contamination of watersheds and drinking water.

Organic beef, chicken, and poultry are raised on 100% organic feed and never given antibiotics or hormones; in addition, their meat is never irradiated. Organic milk and eggs come from animals not given antibiotics or hormones and fed 100% organic feed for the previous 12 months. (Free-range eggs come from hens that are allowed to roam, but they are not guaranteed to be organic.)

Claims of enhanced nutritional benefits of organic foods have caused much controversy. However, studies have been able to support this claim. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine reported one study showing that, on average, organic crops contain 86% more chromium, 29% more magnesium, 27% more vitamin C, 21% more iron, 26% more calcium, 42% more manganese, 498% more iodine, and 372% more selenium. Significantly less nitrates were also found in the organic foods.5 Resulting from nitrogen-based fertilisers, high nitrates in food and drinking water can be converted to potentially carcinogenic nitrosamines.

The Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry reported that organically grown corn, strawberries, and marionberries have significantly higher levels of anticancer antioxidants than nonorganically grown foods. Protective compounds, such as flavonoids, are produced by plants to act as their natural defense in response to stresses, such as insects or other competitive plants. The report suggested that good soil nutrition seems to increase the amount of these protective compounds, while pesticides and herbicides disturb their production.6 A more recent study found similar results.2

Another important issue was brought to light in a 2010 review of studies that found an increased incidence of thyroid disease and diabetes with exposure to organochlorines. 7 The Environmental Working Group continues to stay on top of these issues as they come to the forefront.

What foods are most important to eat organically? Organic meats and dairy appear to be the most heavily contaminated with hormones, pesticides and herbicides. Produce can be quite variable. If you are unable to eat organic produce, it is wise to be aware of those products that are the least contaminated with pesticides. Wash your vegetables and fruit well to get rid of any surface contamination and as EWG says: “The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure.”

When you eat organically grown food, you may also be supporting small, local farmers, who are able to use less energy in transporting food from the field to the table.

The Environmental Working Group publishes the lists below (Dirty Dozen™ and Clean 15 ™); they are updated annually. Foods are listed in order of importance. Their lists may be downloaded on www.ewg.org.
2013 Dirty Dozen and Clean 15
Genetically-modified Produce:
In order to determine if produce has been genetically modified, check the number PLU (product look-up) code on the sticker on most produce. If the number code is simply four digits, the produce is conventionally grown, which means it is not genetically modified and not organic. If the PLU code is a five digit code beginning with an “8”, the product has been genetically modified. If the PLU code is a five digit code beginning with a “9”, the product is organic, and also, by definition of organic, not genetically modified.

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References
1. Curl CL, Fenske RA, Elgethun K. Organophosphorus pesticide exposure of urban and suburban preschool children with organic and conventional diets. Environ Health Perspect. 2003;111(3):377-382.
2. Crinnion WJ. Organic foods contain higher levels of certain nutrients, lower levels of pesticides, and may provide health benefits for the consumer. Altern Med Rev. 2010:Apr 15(1):4-12
3. Lu C, Barr DB, Pearson MA, Waller LA. Dietary intake and its contribution to longitudinal organophosphorus pesticide exposure in urban/suburban children. Environ Health Perspect. 2008 Apr; 116(4):537-42
4. Lu C, Toepel K, Irish R, Fenske RA, Barr DB, Bravo R. Organic diets significantly lower children’s dietary exposure to organophosphorus pesticides. Environ Health Perspect. 2006 Feb;114(2):260-3.
5. Worthington V. Nutritional quality of organic versus conventional fruits, vegetables, and grains. J Altern Complement Med. 2001;7(2):161-173.
6. Asami DK, Hong YJ, Barrett DM, Mitchell AE. Comparison of the total phenolic and ascorbic acid content of freeze-dried and air-dried marionberry, strawberry, and corn grown using conventional, organic, and sustainable agricultural practices. J Agric Food Chem. 2003;51(5):1237-1241.
7. Donato F, Zani C. Chronic exposure to organochlorine compounds and health effects in adults: diabetes and thyroid diseases. Ann Ig. 2010 May-June;22(3):185-98.

If Plant-Based Diets Are Healthy, Why Take Vitamins?

See some food for thought from a cardiologist.

Vegan diet_green smoothie
Vegan diet does not include meat, fish, poultry or any animal by-products, including eggs, dairy products, and honey. True veganism also avoids leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics, and soaps derived from animal products. The key to healthy vegan nutrition is eating plenty of variety but even then there are few nutrients that are in low supply in a vegan diet, and some supplementation would be beneficial as per Dr. Kahn article.

If you are interested in finding out more about veganism or vegetarianism, visit
The Vegetarian Resource Group

Sleep – are you getting enough?

If you fall asleep in less than 5 minutes of going to bed, you are very likely sleep deprived. Seems that 10-15 minutes of relaxing before falling asleep is ideal. See 40 sleep facts from the largest Australian national sleep survey ever done.
woman sleeping
Women need more sleep than men, the evidence is mounting up that this is a fact rather than fiction. It not just the grumpiness that our closest and dearest have to put up with, the latest study by Duke University (video summary) shows how women suffer more than men, both mentally and physically from lack of sleep. As well as a higher risk of heart disease, depression and psychological problems, sleep-deprived women have extra clotting factors in their blood, which can lead to a stroke. They also have higher inflammation markers, which indicate developing health problems. As inflammation markers are also linked to pain, sleep expert Dr Michael Breus explained that women can literally be in more pain when they wake up.

While women seem to be particularly susceptible to the effects of lack of sleep, not getting enough sleep can be detrimental in many ways for us all:
- fatigue leads to accidents, hurts the learning process, causes forgetfulness and impairs judgement
- sleep deprivation can lead to multiple health issues including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke and high blood pressure
- lack of sleep can lead to depression and poor sex drive
- lack of sleep can cause weight gain and damage skin
- lack of sleep or poor sleep quality reduces our aerobic and anaerobic performance and strength therefore directly impacting our sports performance

We all need quality shut eye to recover from the days stresses and let the body rest and heal during the sleep. This is particularly important for athletes who also need adequate sleep to recover and adapt from exercise.

If you don’t manage to get enough sleep at night, try taking strategic naps. However, Dr Breus warns that those naps should be either 25 minutes or 90 minutes long. Any other length will make the snoozer feel worse when they wake, he says.

More on this subject later as it is one of the most important things to get right. After all, we spend nearly third of our life under the covers!

See also my later post on More on benefits of sleep