Tag Archives: health

Is chocolate good for your brain?

Great news for chocolate lovers! A recent study suggests eating chocolate regularly improves mental skills. The study, published in the journal Appetite found that people who eat chocolate at least one time per week outperform those who ate chocolate less often on mental tests.

Georgie Crichton of Sansom Institute for Health at the University of South Australia and leader of the study said, “Chocolate and cocoa flavanols have been associated with improvements in a range of health complaints dating from ancient times, and have established cardiovascular benefits, but less is known about the effect of chocolate on neurocognition and behavior.”

The researchers performed a variety of brain performance tests including memory, scanning and tracking, visual-spatial memory, abstract reasoning, and organization. Taking into account age, sex, education, blood pressure, alcohol intake, and cholesterol, people that regularly ate chocolate outperformed those who didn’t.

Researchers speculate that flavonoids, which are found in plant-based foods, may be partly responsible for protecting against a normal decline of mental skills as people age. Chocolate also contains caffeine and theobromine, both of which improve alertness and mental skills.

The amount in cocoa present in milk chocolate ranges from 7-15 percent, and 30-70 percent in dark chocolate.

It is important to note that chocolate intake should be balanced against a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Is there Lead in your water?

It’s not just Flint, Michigan that has high lead levels in drinking water, many cities across the U.S. could have high levels as well and you might not even know it.

Like Flint, many water systems use lead pipes to carry water to your home. When those pipes become damaged by chemical disinfectants, road vibrations or even summer heat, it can lead to rust inside the pipes to flake off and contaminate the water.

Lead is invisible to the eye and tasteless but can cause damage to the brain and other organs. It is most dangerous to kids whose small bodies are still growing.

“This is a national problem,” says Yanna Lambrinidou, PhD and President of Parents for Nontoxic Alternatives. “It’s going to sound crazy to say this, but Flint is one of the lucky cities that actually got caught.”

Independent test revealed high levels of lead in water from Washington DC, Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh and New Orleans.

The EPA requires regular lead testing in water, but those rules were established in 1991 and rely on testing methods that could miss lead. In 2008 the process began to update regulation, called the Lead and Copper Rule.

What can you do? To be safe, always drink water that is filtered, especially to protect children. Read the filter to make sure it is certified to remove lead. Also use filtered water for cooking.

Check with your doctor for recent exposure with a blood test. Finally, you can test your water for lead. Contact your water utility provider. Some offer free testing. You an also pick up a lead testing kit from hardware stores or a home improvement store.

Lose your belly by giving up sugary drinks

New research is now suggesting that people who drink sugary beverages each day accumulate more deep belly fat over time.

The study looked at over 1,000 adults who have had a least one sugar-sweetened drink a day. Those adults had more abdominal fat over the next six years.

This is concerning because of the type of fat called visceral fat. Alice Lichtenstein of the American Heart Association said, “Visceral fat is the kind that’s closely associated with the risks of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.”

Compared to those who do not consume sugary beverages on a regular basis, those that did, accumulated about 27 percent more visceral fat.

Sugary beverages shouldn’t take all the blame though. For adults consuming sugary drinks, they also may not being getting enough exercise, eat fewer vegetables, and may be more likely to smoke.

Processed meat and cancer. Learn the risks.

Processed meats like bacon, cold cuts, sausage, ham and jerky can cause causer, according to a new report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organization. Red meat probably does too, it adds.

The group has been issuing statements like this since the 1970s and have classified almost 1,000 different things we come in contact with from foods to particles in air pollution to chemicals on a 5-tier scale:

  • Group 1: Carcinogenic and causes cancer
  • Group 2A: Probably causes cancer
  • Group 2B: Possibly causes cancer
  • Group 3: Can’t tell; not enough evidence
  • Group 4: Doesn’t cause cancer

Processed meats was classified in group 1 and red meat in group 2A.

Scientists can’t say how much meat is too much, and while the overall increase in risk is small, they point out that the risk increases the more you eat.

Beef producers are skeptical. Shawnee McNeill, PhD, RD and executive director of human research at the National Cattleman’s Beef Association says “Cancer is a complex disease that even the best and brightest minds don’t fully understand. Billions of dollars have been spent on studies all over the world, and no single food has ever been proven to cause or cure cancer.”

The panel of researchers have placed processed meats in group 1, which is in the same tier as tobacco smoke and asbestos. However, this doesn’t mean that eating a hot dog is as risky as smoking. It means that scientists know that something in it causes cancer, not that the risks posed by those things are equal.

Processed meats are those defined as salted, fermented, smoked, cured, or otherwise treated to enhance flavor or keep them from spoiling.

Red meats are defined as beef, veal, pork, mutton, horse, goat or lamb.

Researchers says that for each daily 50-gram portion or processed meats, about the size of an average hot dog, increases the risk of colorectal cancers by 18 percent. Each 100-gram portion of red meat, about one-quarter of a pound, raises colorectal cancer by 17 percent.

By comparison, smoking one daily cigarette increases a person’s risk of lung cancer about 200 to 400 percent.

Steven Clinton, MD, PhD, and professor of medicine and an oncologist at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center says, “The hazard from consuming processed meat is nowhere near the hazard relationship from smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.”

This study doesn’t mean you should panic if you just ate a hot dog. However, it is a good reminder to make red meats and processed meats occasional treats, not mealtime staples.

In addition, the American Cancer Society recommends baking, poaching, or broiling rather than frying, or charbroiling to reduce the formation of cancer-causing chemicals during the cooking process.


Vitamin D, How much?

Vitamin D is essential to our health, but how much do we really need of it? Studies have linked many health ailments to vitamin D deficiency, but other studies warn of taking too much of it.

In this latest study published in the journal Neurology, we see the how important vitamin D is and it’s role in brain function.

Check out this Q&A with WebMD and vitamin D expert Clifford Rosen MD, director of clinical and transactional research and senior scientist at Maine Medical Center’s Research Institute in Scarborough, Maine: http://blogs.webmd.com/webmd-interviews/2015/10/do-you-need-more-vitamin-d.html

Challenge yourself to move 30 minutes a day

What if you were to challenge yourself to move for 30 minutes a day for a month? That’s what Phoebe Lapine challenged herself to for the month of July, and the benefits weren’t just physical.

Lapine, chef, food writer, and blogger of Feed Me Phoebe made moving for 30 minutes a day part of her priority for her “Wellness Project”, in which she takes on a new health or beauty-related challenge each month.

Check out Phoebe’s Q&A on her challenge, her back pain, and how she become more productive with 30 minutes of movement a day via Yahoo HERE.

4 Ways to help you sleep better

Sleep is more important than you might think. Without it, we’re less able to concentrate, more prone to have accidents, and at an increased risk of getting sick and gaining weight.

Check out these four lifestyle changes to get you back on track with your sleeping.

  1. Remove the clutter – You need to train your brain to associate your bedroom with sleep; not with work or chores, or watching TV. So move the laundry piles, bills, and office work to another room. Practice getting in bed and out of bed at the same time each day.
  2. Keep it quiet – Do you need a white noise app on your phone to distract you from the noises going on around you? Maybe try ear plugs. Just make sure your TV is off, and it is quiet when you go to bed.
  3. Keep it dark – We are meant to sleep at night, not during the day. Don’t let artificial light from the hallway, your bathroom, or your cell phone keep you up at night. Put up black shades if you need, or sleep with an eye mask. Also, try not to watch TV in bed. The light and noise will keep you awake, and while you may feel relaxed, your body can get distracted from falling asleep.
  4. Cool it off – Our bodies sleep better with a lower room temperature. In the summer, remove the comforter or sleep with a lighter-weight one.


From olive oil to honey. Is it really 100%?

The food you eat may not be what you think it is. One hundred percent olive oil? One hundred percent honey? Is it really one hundred percent? Could it actually have peanut oil or cane syrup?

Unfortunately there’s really no way of knowing. Food adulteration occurs when something is added or taken away from a product without properly labeling it.

A Congressional Research Report sites that this affects about 10% of all products sold, and the fallout costs the global food industry $10 billion to $15 billion a year.

For more on how it affects consumers and the FDA’s roll, visit WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/news/breaking-news/food-additives/20150723/adulterated-food

Time to rethink that pre-dinner drink

Could that pre-dinner glass of wine really make you more hungry? That’s what a new study suggests as alcohol focuses the brain’s attention on food aromas.

Robert Considine, one of the study’s author says, “The joke is, every restaurant knows that if they give you a drink first, you’ll eat more.”

In his study, using MRI brain scans, they found that alcohol made the hypothalamus of the brain area more focused on food aromas versus other types of odors. The hypothalamus is the part of the brain that helps control hunger.

While the findings don’t mean that weight-watchers can’t enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, it does speak to the complexity of appetite regulation, including the role of alcohol.

More research needs to be done, as only women participated in this study. Men and women respond to food aromas somewhat differently, so it was best to study the sexes separately.

It’s also important to realize the alcohol contains a lot of calories. For some people it might also boost food intake. Overall, we do a lot of absent-minded eating. Just be aware that alcohol can encourage that.

The hidden source of your back pain

There are a multitude of reasons people suffer from back pain including weak glute and hip muscles, and poor mechanics. But could we be overlooking one common reason contributing to back pain?

The SI joint or sacroiliac joint is thought to be the culprit in approximately 30 percent of back pain cases. While the SI joint is not very mobile, many folks rely on the lower back when they turn or perform a swinging motion as in a golf swing. If you have weak hip and glute muscles, this leads to poor range of motion in the mid-back region.

If you are suffering from chronic back pain, you might want to be tested for SI-joint issues. If during those tests, your back pain can be easily reproduced, it’s a good chance you’ve found the hidden source of your pain.

What do treatment options include? They can vary tremendously depending on each person, ranging from anti-inflammatory medications to fusing the bottom portion of your spine.