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Monday, September 1, 2014

What's your REAL age? New calculator reveals how old your body really is... based on mood, diet and exercise

Are you ageing as gracefully as you should be? And what effect is your diet, level of activity and mood having on your body?
A new calculator can reveal your body's true age, the effect your lifestyle is having and how many years it might be shaving off your life. The test takes into account factors such as weight, the amount and intensity of exercise undertaken, cholesterol, eating habits, levels of happiness and alcohol consumption. And it can reveal a very different picture to a chronological age. A 30 year old, for example, can have the health age of a 50 year old, or older, dependent on their lifestyle choices.


For example, a 30-year-old woman who is 5'4" tall, weighs a healthy 9st (57kg), exercises at a medium-high intensity four times a week, eats a good diet and drinks seven units of alcohol a week, has a body age of 30. Take out the exercise and this jumps to 32. Add 10 cigarettes a day and 20 units of alcohol a week (around two bottles of wine) and this rises again to 35.

A 50-year-old man who is 5'9" (175cm), weighs 13 stone (83kg), does low intensity exercise such as walking for five hours a week, has a moderate diet, drinks two pints of lager a night (roughly 28 units of alcohol a week) and is relatively happy, has a body age of 56. Add in high blood pressure and high cholesterol and this rises to 63.

The 'Vitality Age Calculator', as it is called, also reveals the measures that could reduce your reduced body age.
Sports stars, for example, are testament to the fact that a healthy lifestyle can knock years off the ageing process. Former athlete Lord Sebastian Coe, 57, has a vitality age of 54, while 27-year-old Olympic gold medallist Jessica Ennis scored just 23 when she took the test. Developed by PruHealth, it is based on an algorithm derived from an analysis of over 5,000 studies relating to death, and was developed in conjunction with leading academics.

The research found that the biggest factors which pushed up body age were a lack of physical activity and being overweight.
And to make matters worse, two thirds of the study participants were in denial, believing they were in good or excellent health, despite showing two or more risk factors that could have increased their chances of getting a life-shortening disease.
Because of this denial, people aren't making lifestyle choices that could reduce their risk of heart attack, stroke or diabetes, such as quitting smoking, eating a better diet or taking up exercise.
The study found that 69% of smokers refused to give up and 64% of people were unwilling to change their eating habits. Nearly one in five were overweight and the same amount had high blood pressure.

Dr Katie Tryon, PruHealth head of clinical Vitality, said: "We all lead busy lifestyles trying to squeeze in as much as possible and thinking about your health can sometimes take a back seat. Often when you’re feeling up against it, it’s tempting to compensate by having a glass of wine or cigarette, or take a few shortcuts by grabbing an unhealthy snack or skipping the gym, but it’s these lifestyle choices that ultimately impact on our health. People are living longer, but not longer, healthier lives, so this will show people the real state of their health and help them decide if they need to introduce some better habits. By taking small steps today can dramatically improve wellbeing over the long-term, regardless of your current state of health, and truly understanding the implications of your choices is the first step."

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/ 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Why eggs are good for you even if you're on a weight loss diet

Once demonised as bad for the heart, eggs have been repositioned as a health food in recent years as researchers have found that not only are they good for hearts, but can even help you to lose weight.
More importantly, a report by Ying Rong of Huazhong University of Science and Technology and her colleagues published in the British Journal of Medicine in January, reviewed 17 different egg studies.
The study concluded, "Higher consumption of eggs (up to one egg per day) is not associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease or stroke. The increased risk of coronary heart disease among diabetic patients and reduced risk of hemorrhagic stroke associated with higher egg consumption in subgroup analyses warrant further studies."

So how did eggs get so controversial in the first place?
A lot of it has to do with cholesterol. A large egg contains about 186 mg of cholesterol. And since the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a limit of 300 mg per day, eat two eggs and you've exceeded that limit.
So, eggs are bad then?
Not so fast. There happens to be a problem with the AHA's recommendation. It assumes that when you eat more cholesterol (from eggs and other animal foods), your blood cholesterol increases.
Assume that and, of course, it makes sense to eat fewer eggs. Your blood cholesterol would be lower. Your heart and arteries would stay healthier for longer. But here's the AHA's dirty little secret: your body doesn't work that way. Indeed, the research consistently and reliably shows that the cholesterol you eat has very little impact on how much cholesterol is in your blood. If that sounds weird, maybe this will help... Your body makes cholesterol. Lots of it, in fact. Every single day you produce between 1 and 2 grams of it on your own. (That's 5-10 times the cholesterol in a large egg.)
The interesting twist? When you eat more cholesterol from foods like eggs, your body produces less of it. And when you eat less cholesterol from foods like eggs, your body produces more.
That's because you have a cholesterol "set point." Think of it like a thermostat that's largely determined by your genetics, exercise habits, and stress. Funny enough, diet plays a surprisingly small role.

Furthermore cholesterol isn't so bad for you anyway...
Cholesterol is a very important part of the body. It is a structural molecule that is an essential part of every single cell membrane. It is also used to make steroid hormones like testosterone, estrogen and cortisol. Without cholesterol, we wouldn’t even exist.

More evidence eggs are really a healthy food.
Since your body naturally has all it needs from producing its own cholesterol, there is no dietary requirement for more cholesterol. But the American diet contains plenty, since we eat a lot of animal products. All animal products contain some cholesterol, but they also contain saturated fat, an even more significant culprit in heart-disease risk. Actually the major determinant of plasma LDL level is saturated fat. And while eggs are high in cholesterol, they're relatively low in saturated fat (1.6 grams in the yolk). Interestingly, people in Japan — consumers of some of the largest quantities of eggs in the world (averaging 328 eggs consumed per person per year — have low levels of cholesterol and heart disease compared with other developed countries, especially the United States. Why? In part, it's because the Japanese eat a diet low in saturated fat.

Americans do just the opposite. Research has shown that we usually have our eggs alongside foods high in saturated fat, such as bacon, sausage and buttered toast. This meal pattern raises LDL levels and makes the effect of eating eggs worse than it actually is.

And what about eggs and weight loss?
Interestingly, in controlled trials -- the best kind of research -- where people were instructed to eat up to three eggs per day while on a weight loss diet, good things happened.
These folks lost weight, decreased inflammation and either maintained or improved their blood cholesterol levels. (They were consuming 555 mg of cholesterol every day from eggs alone!)

Some more reasons to introduce eggs into your diet
Egg yolks are one of the most nutrient-dense, antioxidant-rich and vitamin-laden foods on the planet! (Compared to the yolks, the whites are pretty much protein and water.) Egg yolks contain 90% of the calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, thiamin, B6, folate, pantothenic acid and B12 of the egg. In addition the yolk contains all of the fat-soluble components, such as vitamins A, D and E, not to mention the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Egg yolks are also a rich source of some other very interesting nutrients such as choline, lutein and zeaxanthin.
Choline is essential for cardiovascular and brain function. Eating more of it may mean mean less inflammation, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimers, and more.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are the major antioxidants in eggs. They protect the eyes by filtering harmful light wavelengths and lowering risk of macular degeneration.
Indeed, those people eating only egg whites -- or avoiding eggs entirely -- are missing out on many of these key nutrients.

How much is too much
Many experts say an egg a day is fine. "The amount that one egg a day raises cholesterol in the blood is extremely small, so small in fact that the increase in risk in heart disease related to this change in serum cholesterol could never be detected in any kind of study," says Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard's School of Public Health."Elevations in LDL of this small magnitude could easily be countered by other healthy aspects of eggs."
Bottom line: if you eat a healthful diet, go ahead and eat an egg a day. On the other hand, if your cholesterol is high and if you eat the typical American diet — high in saturated fat, devoid of fruits, vegetables and fiber — maybe you shouldn't be eating an egg a day.
But will taking eggs out of an unhealthy diet make a positive difference? Probably not. Certainly you too happened to hear people complaining "I've cut out eggs, but my cholesterol is still high!". The impact of a healthy, balanced diet cannot be denied here.

Sources: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/, http://authoritynutrition.com/, http://www.livescience.com/

Monday, June 23, 2014

Are Meat and Dairy Really as Bad as Smoking?

A diet rich in meat, eggs, milk and cheese could be as harmful to health as smoking, according to a controversial study into the impact of protein consumption on longevity.

Research which tracked thousands of adults for nearly 20 years found that people who eat a diet rich in animal protein are four times more likely to die of cancer than someone with a low protein diet. The risk is nearly as high as the danger of developing cancer by smoking 20 cigarettes each day. Previous studies have shown a link between cancer and red meat, but it is the first time research has measured the risk of death caused by regularly eating too much protein.
The study’s findings
The US study -recently published in Journal Cell Metabolism- found that people with a high protein diet were 74% more likely to die of any cause within the study period than their low-protein counterparts. They were also several times more likely to die of diabetes. But this trend appeared to reverse for those aged over 65, researchers found.

High-protein food plans, such as the Atkins Diet, have become popular in recent years because of their dramatic weight-loss results. The new research from the University of Southern California suggests that such dieters may harm themselves in the long run.

“We provide convincing evidence that a high-protein diet – particularly if the proteins are derived from animals – is nearly as bad as smoking for your health,” said Dr Valter Longo, of the University.
The researchers define a “high-protein” diet as deriving at least 20% of daily calories from protein. They recommend consuming about 0.8g (0.03oz) of protein per kilogram of body weight every day in middle age. It means a person weighing nine stone should eat about 45-50g (1.6-1.7oz) of protein a day. A 300g (10.5oz) steak contains 77g (2.7oz) of protein.

As well as red meat, dairy products high in protein are also dangerous, the researchers said. A 200ml (7fl oz) glass of milk represents 12% of the recommended daily allowance, while a 40g (1.4oz) slice of cheese contains 20%. Chicken, fish, pulses, vegetables, nuts and grain are healthier sources of protein. However, a chicken breast or salmon fillet still accounts for about 40 per cent of recommended daily protein intake.

“The research shows that a low-protein diet in middle age is useful for preventing cancer and overall mortality,” said Dr Eileen Crimmins, a co-author of the study.
“However, we also propose that at older ages, it may be important to avoid a low-protein diet to allow the maintenance of healthy weight and protection from frailty.”

The backlash
So how does this translate into eating meat and dairy products being as bad for you as smoking? While this wasn't specifically discussed in the full text of the study, Valter Longo, director of the University of Southern California's Longevity Institute, told the press “Cancer mortality was higher for high-protein [eaters] compared to current smokers.”

The stats do bear out—and these findings are pretty sobering—but it's important to keep in mind that there were some definite limitations to this study.
  • For one thing, it's based on data compiled about one day's worth of eating for participants; although the survey respondents did answer questions about how typical these meals were for them, what they ate on that day can't possibly be a perfect reflection of how they ate over the next 18 years. 
  • Furthermore, there was also no distinction between animal proteins — some people could have been eating skinless white chicken breast or steamed fish instead of bacon and sausages.
  • The survey also didn't distinguish between farm-raised meat consumption and factory-farmed meat consumption. “We know that there's a lot of hormones injected in animals, but unfortunately, the data we have doesn't provide information on that,” says Morgan Levine Canon, a Ph.D. student in gerontology at the University of Southern California. “I think down the road that's another study that people can look at in more detail.”

Bottom line
There's another big factor worth considering here, too: this is one study saying that animal protein consumption may significantly increase your risk of cancer—and there's tons of research about how deadly smoking is. So while the results are certainly enough to make you think twice about how much chicken and yogurt you're consuming, that doesn't necessarily mean that eating these foods is just as bad as smoking. “The size of the effect we're finding was similar, however I think the association with smoking mortality is way more clear-cut,” says Canon. “There's been a lot more research, and there's a lot less potential for confounding factors. For nutrition, it's really hard to unravel what someone's diet is and really quantify that—whereas it's quite easy to say, 'Do you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day?'”

Canon emphasizes that this definitely isn't a reason to continue (or start) smoking. If anything, she hopes it will encourage more people to cut back on their animal-based protein intake. “This is an association we're finding right now, and we recognize more work needs to be done with this,” she says. “But there's a lot of evidence that probably eating plant-based is healthiest.”

Sources: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/, http://www.sciencedaily.com/, http://www.womenshealthmag.com/

Monday, June 16, 2014

Can You Turn Off Your Fat Genes?

You can’t change your genes, but you just might be able to change how they work in your body. And in the case of those that play a role in fat loss, pumping iron could be key.

In addition to affecting the genes in your muscles, resistance training also influences the genes in your fat, says a new study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology. After subjecting participants to eight weeks of heavy resistance training, researchers found that the expression of two genes found in fat tissue decreased by around 20%. Participants also had a boost in muscle mass and fat burning, as well as a drop in the protein adiponectin, which plays a role in fat breakdown.

But…what exactly does gene expression mean, anyway? It’s actually pretty simple. Similar to how you’d consider the occasion and number of guests to plan the menu for a party, genes use information to create proteins that determine an organism’s characteristics. In this case, it appears that certain genes might be paying attention to the type of exercise that you do—and use that information to decide whether your body should burn fat or store it.

Researchers aren’t sure why, though. “We didn’t expect that the gene expression would decrease following resistance training, so it’s hard to explain the findings,” says lead study author Malin Alvehus. What they do know? The combination of strength training and cardio seems to encourage the body to use fat as fuel more than cardio alone. “So I think it can be a good idea to add resistance training to your exercise regimen to burn more fat and facilitate fat loss,” Alvehus says.

To start... have a look here.
Seven-minute High-intensity circuit training using body Weight, by the American College of Sports Medicine Health & Fitness.

The workout requires no more than a wall, a chair and seven minutes of your time.
However the experts say that you must be in pain when performing the regime in order to benefit. These 12 exercises use the body’s own weight to get the same amount of exercise as doing a long run and session of weight-training in just seven minutes. In the program the recovery is provided in part by a 10-second rest between exercises. This rest is extended by alternating the muscles used in each exercise. During eat set of exercises, the unexercised muscles have a moment to ‘catch their breath’, which makes the order of the exercises important. The exercises should be performed in rapid succession, allowing 30 seconds for each. But to get maximum benefits the intensity must hover at around and eight on what they term as the discomfort scale of 1 to 10.

Sources: http://www.foxnews.com/, http://www.prevention.com/, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/

Monday, June 9, 2014

Can you trick your metabolism into burning more calories?

Ready to have your mind blown? Pull up a chair and sit down. This is BIG news!
Many people carefully study food labels in a bid to determine if the product is fattening and unhealthy. And now, research suggests the content of the label could be almost as important as the content of the product itself.
This is because scientists found people’s metabolisms speed up when they believe they are consuming something very indulgent and high in calories – regardless of how fattening the product actually is. In contrast, our metabolisms slow down when they we eat something our bodies believe to be low in calories.

The milkshake study
Alia Crum, clinical psychologist with Columbia Business School in New York,  developed an experiment where two identical milkshakes were labeled as very different foods. One was labeled as a diet drink, with no fat or added sugars and only 140 calories. The other was labeled as an indulgent treat, loaded with sugar, fat and 620 calories.
In reality, the shakes had 380 calories each. They were identical aside from their labels.
The labels created expectations for the study participants. Just as you might read a label for a breakfast cereal and determine one might be better than the other, the 46 participants in this study made judgments on the milkshake they were consuming. It was this mindset that Crum believed had a significant impact on how the body responded to the milkshakes.

As a little scientific background, ghrelin is a hormone secreted in the digestive system in response to hunger. When ghrelin levels rise, it tells us that it’s time to eat and lowers metabolism just in case we have to wait a while before mealtime. After eating, ghrelin levels fall. Researchers have found that a full, satisfying meal causes ghrelin levels to plummet more significantly, ramping up metabolism to digest the bigger meal. Small snacks result in a more conservative drop and metabolism doesn’t fire up in the same way.
In the study, Mind over milkshakes: mindsets, not just nutrients, determine ghrelin response, Crum discovered ghrelin levels (and thusly metabolism) were directly related to what the participants thought they were eating. When they had the supposedly indulgent milkshake, ghrelin levels plummeted, and when they consumed what they thought was a lighter treat, the ghrelin response was far less dramatic.
In the past, scientists believed ghrelin response was related to the nutrients reaching the digestive system. But Crum’s research suggests that’s far from the entire story — that what we think about our food has a significant impact.

Bottom line
When we go into a meal or snack believing we are being deprived, our body responds accordingly, regardless of the content of the meal. But if we sit down to eat foods we believe are somehow “off limits” or far too loaded with calories to be healthy, our digestive system literally gobbles them up, responding with dramatic drops in ghrelin and a higher metabolism.
Perhaps the key to healthy weight management can be found in rethinking what it means to indulge or deprive. As a result, Dr Crum suggests that the best way for people to lose weight might be to eat food that is very low in calories but which they believe to be high in calories.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Want to lose weight? Plan your next vacation in a mountain resort!

Conventional wisdom holds that your chance of becoming obese depends mainly two obvious factors: your diet and how much exercise you get.
But recently, some scientists have been testing the notion that an entirely unrelated factor can play a role.

That's the conclusion of a new study by Air Force public health researcher Jameson Voss and others, published in the journal PLOS ONE. Rather than pointing to diet or exercise-related factors that have to do with high altitude (like, say, going hiking in the mountains), they point to the impact that low levels of oxygen can have on the body.
The evidence for it
Previous work has found that at higher altitudes — when less oxygen is present in the air — the human body produces higher levels of leptin, a hormone that reduces hunger.
Experiments have also shown that production of the hormones cholecystokinin (which also suppresses appetite) and norepinephrine (which reduces blood flow to the stomach, indirectly reducing hunger) also go up at high altitudes.
There's also the possibility that your body has to do more overall work just to sustain its normal activities with less oxygen present, causing it to burn more fat over time.

In the most recent study, a team of American researchers sought to investigate whether long-term residence at high altitude actually confers benefits in humans when it comes to losing weight. The study analyzed about 100,000 U.S. Army and Air Force servicemen and women, all with at least two years of service, from January 2006 to December 2012. During that time period, they moved between assignments at high altitude (1.2 miles above sea level or higher) and low altitude (0.6 miles or lower). All the participants had an overweight but not obese body mass index (BMI) equal to or less than 25, but no greater than 30.

The findings revealed overweight people serving at high altitudes had a 41% lower risk of progressing to obesity than those serving at low altitudes. This led the researchers to suggest high altitude residence predicts lower rates of new obesity diagnoses among overweight service members in the U.S. Army and Air Force.
“These results suggest that moving to high altitude would protect an overweight person from moving to obesity,” said, Dr. Jameson D. Voss, lead author of the study and a consultant with the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine. The researchers speculate leptin and other hormones that are involved in appetite control rise at high altitudes, which may help explain the finding.
Naturally, there's still a lot more study to be done, but it does give researchers some...well, you know. Food for thought.
What do you think of this research? And do you live in a high altitude or a lower one?  

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Best Diet? It Isn’t a Diet at All: It’s Just Real Food - Study Finds

What should you do to get back in shape this Summer? Try a paleo-diet, go vegan? How about the Mediterranean diet, or even experiment with a low-carb diet? It turns out, according to a study recently published in Annual Reviews by a highly credentialed medical expert, Dr. David Katz, that the best food – is REAL food.

A recent comparison of popular diets (yes, including the Paleo diet) found none to be a “best diet” for optimal health compared with a well-balanced and generally healthy approach to eating focused on real food. Low-carb, low-fat, low-glycemic, vegan, vegetarian, Paleo and Mediterranean diets were among those compared for their health benefits. But none seemed to be as effective in providing the health benefits as author and food expert Michael Pollan’s sage advice: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

We all have had inclinations of eating better – whether it was to cure ourselves from a serious disease like cancer or diabetes, or for more superficial reasons, like wanting to look better in a bathing suit, but real, and dramatic changes can happen in lifespan, and the reduction of chronic illness when we eat right. Study after study has compelled us to eat more nutritious foods, and now the latest compares all the ‘popular’ or ‘fad’ diets, and finds, unequivocally, that real food still wins.
Dr. David Katz works at Yale University’s Prevention Research Center, and he rebels against a sea of disinformation about what people should eat to be healthy. He looks down on of-the-moment diet fads and dangerous crazes that many of his contemporaries – even other doctors promote without sound reason. In a recent interview, he said “I don’t care which diet is best. I care about the truth.”

The study
Katz published his findings with colleague, Stephanie Meller in a paper titled, “Can We Say What Diet Is Best for Health?” They compared all the trend diets of the day: Low carb, low fat, low glycemic, Mediterranean, mixed/balanced (DASH), Paleolithic, vegan, and elements of other diets.
Katz says that despite the prevalent promotion of these diets in mainstream media, there are few studies proving they actually work:
There have been no rigorous, long-term studies comparing contenders for best diet laurels using methodology that precludes bias and confounding. For many reasons, such studies are unlikely.”
Conversely, he found that:
A diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.”
Among the important points made by the article are these:
  • Plant-based diets (non-GMO,organic, real plants, I might add) are nutritional powerhouses which support a wide variety of favorable health outcomes. These include lower rates of heart disease and cancer. These diets don’t just include fruits and vegetables, but real grains, nuts and seeds.
  • Katz and Meller found that ‘low-fat’ diets are no better than diets high in real, healthful fats (not fake, man-made ones). The Mediterranean diet is only successful because it contains a lower omega-6 to omega-3 ratio than the typical American diet. Americans also rely far too much on unhealthy fats like trans-fats.
  • Moderating meat intake, and alcohol improves health.
  • Increasing natural fiber improves health, including, “defense against neurodegenerative disease and preservation of cognitive function, reduced inflammation, and defense against asthma.”
  • Carbohydrate-selective diets are better than simply low-carb diets. Attention to glycemic index is important, but not the most important thing – since carrots, for example have a high glycemic index, but can cure cancer. Again, it goes back to eating real food.
  • One of the most important points of the study was this one: “if Paleolithic eating is loosely interpreted to mean a diet based mostly on meat, no meaningful interpretation of health effects is possible.”
Katz is frustrated with the misinformation about how diet affects health:
“It’s not just linguistic, I really at times feel like crying, when I think about that we’re paying for ignorance with human lives . . . At times, I hate the people with alphabet soup after their names who are promising the moon and the stars with certainty. I hate knowing that the next person is already rubbing his or her hands together with the next fad to make it on the bestseller list.”
It’s a radical notion in today’s GMO-promoted, FDA-ignorant, pharmaceutical-pushing world, but real food can cure you.

Sources: http://www.theatlantic.com/, http://naturalrevolution.org/