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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Longevity Diet: lessons from the world’s longest-living societies

It's no big secret that the developed world has a weight problem...
While America once lead the charge of the world's fattest people, countries across the world are catching up at an alarming speed — from China to Brazil and everywhere in between.
It's hard to argue that the Western diet of highly processed foods isn't to blame for our obesity, heart disease, and diabetes crisis: what follows can prove this point...

How long should we be living?
Steve Charter, in Eat More Raw: A guide for health and sustainability, cites Dr Joel Wallach, who emphasises the scientifically accepted view that the genetic potential for longevity in humans suggests we should live to around 120 to 140 years old.
Dr Wallach lists a few more cases to further support this, including Russian Georgians who commonly live to 120 and the Armenians and Ebkanians, where living to 140 is not uncommon.
Put into context, the average age for Americans was 75.5 years old in 1994. For doctors it was 58. Dr Wallach suggest that these figures suggest that there is great value in treating yourself (through nutritional and lifestyle changes), rather than putting your health in the hands of doctors. If you think about it logically, the reason there’s such a difference in our lifespan is that we are not eating our natural diet.

Diet of the longest-living cultures
John Robbins, in Healthy at 100: The Scientifically Proven Secrets of the World's Healthiest and Longest-Lived Peoples, describes the lifestyles and dietary patterns of the long-lived cultures of the Abkhasia of Southern Russia, the Vicalbamba Indians of the Ecuadorian Andes and the Hunza of North Pakistan.
He found that the percentage of calories they obtained daily was between 69-73% carbohydrates, 15-18% from fat and 10-13% from protein.
Overall daily calories ranged between 1,700 -1,800, while the Abkhasia ate 90% plant foods and the Vilcabamba and Hunza ate 99% plant foods.
All three ate low amounts of salt, zero sugar or processed food, and had no incidence of obesity and other common diseases.
He also discussed the Okinawa, who, though eating a more animal-based diet, had a similar lifestyle.

Lessons from the world’s longest-living societies
The longevity diet includes some common denominators. These are:
  • Diet including whole mostly vegan, organic food with minimal animal products and fat.
  • Vitamin D and exercise
  • Strong community values
  • Spirituality and a sense of purpose
Longevity diet lesson 1: Whole, organic fresh food
 One of the most striking characteristics of the longevity diet is that these long-living societies eat mostly vegan, whole organic and freshly-picked food. Though they include some animal products, they depend on locally-farmed, organic plant-based food for their survival (and apparent health).
The longevity diet is high in natural carbohydrates, low in protein and fat, and includes minimal amounts of fermented foods. Because it is largely raw, it contains lots of fibre, and is replete with nutrients and enzymes you get from fresh, raw food.
What’s more, there’s no such thing as processed food, pre-packaged or pre-cooked microwave meals, ever. They farm organically, using no pesticides, chemicals or fertilisers, and of course by not buying pre-made food you exclude GM foods, additives, colourings, preservatives, and high salt consumption. It’s also the most diet that does the most to save the earth, because there’s no packaging (thus no waste), no fossil fuels used for transportation and most often it’s eaten in it’s pure natural form (thus saving energy used on cooking).
So learn the valuable lesson these cultures teach us. If you want to live a long and healthy life, cut out the processed junk and eat as naturally as possible. Cut down on your meat and dairy consumption or go vegan, and ultimately try eating more fresh, raw food.

Longevity diet lesson 2: Vitamin D and exercise
Each of these cultures has another thing in common and that is exercise and sunlight. Because they’re often outdoors, cultivating, harvesting, and hiking, they are getting ample Vitamin D, essential for health and energy. The Vicalbamba, Abkhasia, Hunza and Okinawa also share a fairly heavy workload (by modern standards). As a result they are always fit, athletic, trim and muscular, something we all aspire to.
So try and exercise consistently every day and if possible do so outdoors. Getting at least 20 minutes of sunlight every day is indispensable for health.

Longevity diet lesson 3: Strong community values
 These tribes share a connection to nature and to the environment. They work closely with the land and frequently interact with each other. They have a strong sense of community and value the contributions of each and every person, no matter how young or old. Socially active, they form close bonds with neighbours, acquaintances and family members.
Our Western society is very different. We stick to our own, keep to ourselves, and most of us don’t even know (or acknowledge) our neighbours. Perhaps it’s time to question what we’re missing out on by living a typical urban lifestyle and embrace a stronger sense of community, even if just by joining some common-interest groups.

The Longevity diet lesson 4: Spirituality and a sense of purpose
Everyone in these communities is purposefully engaged, even at old age. Whether it be farming, healing (medicinal/herbal), or spiritual advancement, building, collecting water or harvesting food, everyone has a role to play that enriches the community. There is no such thing as greed or self-interest. What’s more, no matter what religion or spiritual practice they follow, they believe in something greater than themselves. They connect with the spiritual plane as well as the physical and this gives them faith to endure any hardships they may suffer, without complaint. They have a positive outlook and enjoy their simple lives, surrounding each other with love and laughter.

The Longevity diet: Conclusions
It’s clear that the diet of and lifestyle of these cultures makes them immune to the top killers in the West: heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic pulmonary disease, pneumonia/flu, diabetes, liver disease/cirrhosis, suicide and Alzheimer’s.
What's more these groups’ healthful propensity for longevity isn’t just a win at the genetic lottery, as demonstrated by the Okinawans who grew up in other countries. During the 20th century, 100,000 Okinawans migrated to Brazil, where they adopted the typical (meat-based) Brazilian diet.
A study called the Impact of diet on the cardiovascular risk profile of Japanese immigrants living in Brazil revealed that Okinawan's average lifespan decreased by 17 years when exposed to a 'Western' lifestyle. As their youth adopted a Western diet (replete with fast food), obesity levels, cardiovascular disease and premature deaths reached record highs in Japan.

So if you really want to acheive long-lasting health and virality, try and incorporate some of the lessons of the longevity diet in your lifestyle. For your efforts you'll acheive the greatest reward - a life filled with joy, happiness and abundant health right up to your old age.

Sources: http://www.oprah.com/, http://www.eco-friendly-africa-travel.com/, http://www.myhealthwire.com/

Monday, March 3, 2014

Coffee lovers perk up: caffeine may boost memory

Drinking a cup of coffee may wake you up in the morning, but that hot jolt of caffeine may even help jog your memory.
Whether it’s a cup of black tea, a morning espresso or an afternoon energy drink, there may be another purpose for your routine pick-me-up, John Hopkins University researchers say. "We’ve always known that caffeine has cognitive-enhancing effects, but its particular effects on strengthening memories and making them resistant to forgetting has never been examined in detail in humans," lead scientist Dr. Michael Yassa said. For the first time, his research suggests that caffeine "enhances" certain memories at least up to 24 hours. These results were published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Two side-by-side images of rubber ducks show slight
differences in characteristics. The caffeinated group was
more easily able to distinguish between the two in a
memory test, according to Johns Hopkins University

The study
Yassa and colleagues at Johns Hopkins University recruited 160 young, healthy participants, who did not regularly consume caffeinated products. The participants studied a series of images, then five minutes later, took either 200 milligrams of caffeine in tablet form, about the amount of caffeine in a strong cup of coffee, or a placebo.
The next day, participants were asked to identify images they had seen the day before. Some images were new, and some were similar but not exactly the same. For example, if they were shown a picture of a yellow rubber duck originally, the next day, it was a picture of a rubber duck that was shorter and thicker, says Yassa. The people who consumed caffeine were more likely to correctly identify the similar items as slightly different from the original picture.

The findings
"We found that those who were administered caffeine actually had better retention of the information we taught them the day before," Yassa said. "The caffeine enhanced their ability to say, 'This item was similar but not identical to the one I'd seen before.'" This pattern separation ability reflects a deeper level of memory retention, the researchers said, because a standard recognition test omitting the "tricky similar items" would likely show the caffeinated and non-caffeinated groups performing equally. Another example of pattern separation is remembering where one's car is parked today vs. yesterday, he says. "This type of discrimination is involved in every facet of memory," Yassa says.

A key aspect was the caffeine was administered after the memory task, rather than before it, which ensures that other caffeine-related factors, like attention, anxiety or energy are not what’s driving the phenomenon. "By administering caffeine after the experiment, we rule out all of these effects and make sure that if there is an enhancement, it’s due to memory and nothing else," Yassa said.

Bottom line
The researchers also had participants consume 100 milligrams and 300 milligrams of caffeine and found 100 milligrams was not effective at getting the memory boost, Yassa says. The 300-milligrams dose was no more effective than 200 milligrams, and at the higher amount, people started to report some side effects such as headaches and feeling jittery, he says. "The 200-milligram might be the most optimal dose to get this memory boost."
One strong cup of coffee might contain 200 milligrams of caffeine, he says. A typical espresso has 80 milligrams, so a double-shot latte will have 160 milligrams, he says.
According to the US Food and Drug Administration, 90% of people worldwide consume caffeine in one form or another. The average adult has an intake of about 200 milligrams, the same amount used in the study, or roughly one strong cup of coffee or two small ones a day.
Dr Yassa said: "The next step for us is to figure out the brain mechanisms underlying this enhancement. We can use brain imaging techniques to address these questions. We also know caffeine is associated with healthy longevity and may have some protective effects from cognitive decline like Alzheimer’s disease. These are certainly important questions for the future."
Added Dr Yassa: "Caffeine enhanced performance 24 hours after administration. We conclude caffeine enhanced consolidation of long term memories in humans. Future experiments should be conducted to understand the mechanisms by which caffeine can potentiate memory. Given the widespread use of caffeine and the growing interest in its effects both as a cognitive enhancer and as a neuroprotectant, these questions are of critical importance."

Sources: http://consumer.healthday.com/http://www.usatoday.com/http://www.wardheernews.com/, http://www.cbc.ca/news/, http://globalnews.ca/news/

Friday, February 28, 2014

Are you running properly? - infographic

Some people believe that people are born with a given way of moving which they cannot change much, if at all. These same people say that some people are "designed" from birth to be good athletes or not to be particularly athletic at all.
I happen to believe you can make substantial changes in your body and how you move, no matter what kind of a body you were given at birth. With practice, you can change your running form forever. Keep these technique and training tips in mind during your next run.

 If you'd like to embed this infographic, here's the code: <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/easel.ly/all_easels/288334/Runningtechnique/image.jpg"/><img src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/easel.ly/all_easels/288334/Runningtechnique/image.jpg" alt="Runningtechnique title="easel.ly" /></a><br /><a href="http://easel.ly" style="text-align:left;" align="left">easel.ly</a>

Thursday, February 27, 2014


What is Fenugreek?
Fenugreek (also known as Greek Hay and methi), is an herb that is grown in countries across the globe, but the majority is cultivated and consumed in India. It is a member of the bean family and its scientific family name is Fabaceae. There is even evidence that the ancient Egyptians understood the benefits of fenugreek, since fenugreek seeds have been found in tombs, particularly of Tutankhamen.
Fenugreek is interesting, because it can be used for three distinct purposes. The leaves can be dried and used as herbs, the seeds can be ground into a spice, and the plant matter itself can be used as a vegetable, like sprouts and microgreens. This makes fenugreek so important, because there are healthy attributes in all of those plant parts that can boost your health!

Nutritional Facts of Fenugreek
Fenugreek contains a wide variety of beneficial nutrients, including iron, magnesium, manganese, and copper, as well as vitamin B6, protein, and dietary fiber. Fenugreek also contains a number of powerful phytonutrients, including diosgenin which is a compound that has properties similar to estrogen. Other active constituents in fenugreek are alkaloids, lysine and L-tryptophan, as well as steroidal saponins (diosgenin, yamogenin, tigogenin, and neotigogenin).

Health benefits of Fenugreek
Appetite suppressant: Fenugreek complements diet and exercise for weight loss.The natural soluble fiber galactomannan can swell in the stomach and thus suppress appetite by making you feel full. Include fenugreek in your weight loss diet by chewing soaked methi seeds in the morning on an empty stomach. The natural soluble fibre in the fenugreek can swell and fill the stomach thereby suppressing your appetite.

Reduces cholesterol: Research studies show that fenugreek consumption helps to reduce cholesterol level. Fenugreek helps to reduce the level of low density Lipoprotein (LDL) significantly, which can prevent various conditions like atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes. Fenugreek is a rich source of fiber, which scrapes excess cholesterol off of the arteries and blood vessels of the body. By reducing cholesterol content in the bloodstream, you reduce the chances of clots forming or becoming stuck in the vessels.

Reduces cardiovascular risk: Fenugreek seeds contain 25% galactomannan. This is a type of natural soluble fiber which specifically relates to a reduction in cardiovascular disease.

Controls diabetes: Fenugreek helps to alleviate type II diabetes. According to one study, it may also help people with Type I diabetes. Studies done by Indian researchers revealed that fenugreek added to type I diabetic patients’ diets helped to drop urinary sugar level by 54%. Because of the presence of the natural fiber galactomannan, fenugreek slows down the rate at which sugar is absorbed into bloodstream. A certain amino acid (4-hydroxyisoleucine) in fenugreek induces the production of insulin so therefore, 15-20 grams of fenugreek is recommended for controlling blood sugar on a daily basis. By slowly releasing insulin to the body rather than in massive chunks, overall bodily function is improved, and the plunges and peaks of blood sugar won’t be an issue for diabetic patients.

Relief for sore throats: Fenugreek’s soothing mucilage helps to relieve sore throat pain and cough.

Cures acid reflux or heartburn: Fenugreek is said to be an effective heartburn or acid reflux remedy because the mucilage in fenugreek seeds assists in soothing gastrointestinal inflammation, and coating the stomach and intestinal lining.  According to a study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research, a 2-week intake of a fenugreek fiber product taken 30 minutes before two meals /day, by subjects with frequent heartburn, diminished heartburn severity. The researchers found that the effects were similar to that of ranitidine at 75mg, twice a day.

Relieves constipation: Fenugreek adds bulk to the stool due to its high fiber content. This also makes it helpful in treating constipation and diarrhea, while also relieving minor indigestion.

Prevents colon cancer: Fenugreek possesses anti-carcinogenic potential. The steroid diosgenin in Fenugreek has been specifically linked to colon cancer prevention. Furthermore, the various non-starch polysaccharides like saponins, hemicellulose, mucilage, tannin, and pectin, lower cholesterol levels and inhibit bile salts from being reabsorbed by the colon. This can bind to the toxins and protect the colon’s mucus membrane, which can reduce colorectal cancer and other conditions that can negatively affect the colon.

Good for kidney trouble: Traditional Chinese medicine recommends fenugreek for patients suffering from various kidney conditions.

Useful for skin infection: It can be used for treating boils, eczema, abscess etc.

Increases milk production: India’s traditional ayurvedic physicians prescribe fenugreek to nursing mothers. This benefit is attributed to the presence of diosgenin in fenugreek. This can help increase the amount of milk that is produced by the breasts, and the magnesium and vitamin content of fenugreek also help the milk’s quality to keep your infant healthy.

Reduces menstrual discomfort: Fenugreek is considered as a potent substance that eases the process of menstruation and relieves the associated symptoms. It is an emmenagogue, which means that it can open up obstructed menses to make the most feminine of processes work smoothly and comfortably.

Minimizes symptoms of menopause: Fenugreek contains the chemicals diosgenin and estrogenic isoflavones, which are similar to the female sex hormone, estrogen. Loss of estrogen causes menopausal symptoms. So, eating fenugreek helps to reduce menopausal symptoms like mood swings, depression, cramps, and abnormal hunger pangs. Fenugreek helps to monitor a number of other hormones as well, keeping many other bodily processes in line as well.

Other benefits: Fenugreek helps in battling free radicals due to its antioxidant capacity. It is also good at improving the body’s overall metabolism and health. Irritated skin conditions can even be soothed by the external application of fenugreek. Furthermore, fenugreek is used for fevers and muscle aches.

Side effects of Fenugreek While Fenugreek is generally considered to be safe when used moderately, there have been reports of a few minor side-effects. Nausea is one common side effect, while other people have reported gastrointestinal discomfort (diarrhea and/or gas). Also, when using this herb topically on the skin, it is important to watch out for skin irritations and rashes.
Fenugreek use during pregnancy is not recommended, since it has the potential to induce labor. If you are pregnant and wish to take it, you should do so only after consultation with your doctor.
If you are currently taking any oral medications, you should always use this herb at least 2 hours before or after these drugs. This is important since Fenugreek fiber has the potential to interfere with the absorption of oral medications due to its mucilaginous fiber (which gives it a moist and sticky texture).

How to buy Fenugreek: Fenugreek is often available in capsules, seed, and powder form at many health food stores or online. You may also be able to find packaged Fenugreek herbal tea bags.

Sources: http://www.medindia.net/http://health.india.com, http://www.homeremediesweb.com/, http://www.organicfacts.net/

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Frozen fruit and vegetables can be healthier, with higher levels of vitamins and cancer fighting antioxidants, than leafy ‘fresh’ produce.

Two independent studies found more beneficial nutrients in everything from frozen broccoli florets and carrots to blueberries. In two out of three cases frozen fruit and vegetables scored better on antioxidant-type compounds – including Vitamin C, polyphenols, anthocyanins, lutein and beta-carotene. Consumption of these anti-oxidant compounds is considered beneficial in preventing cancer and supporting the working of the body, brain, skin and eyes.

The somewhat counterintuitive findings stem from the fact that fresh produce gradually loses nutrients as it passes through the supply chain. Although fresh apples, pears, and blueberries are marketed as “just-picked” products straight from harvest, most have spent several weeks in storage. In addition, a substantial amount of fresh fruit and vegetables will continue to degrade in the consumers’ refrigerators.
Conversely, frozen foods retain most of their antioxidants and vitamins, as they are chilled almost immediately upon harvest.

Two teams, one from Leatherhead Food Research and another from the University of Chester, carried out 40 tests to measure nutrient levels in produce which had been sitting in a fridge for three days versus the frozen equivalent.

Overall, frozen foods tended to exhibit higher levels of antioxidants and vitamins, with products like frozen carrots exceeding the “fresh” value by up to 300%.
“Unlike frozen, some fresh produce concentrations of antioxidant compounds exhibited a decrease during refrigerated storage to levels below those observed in the corresponding frozen produce,” said study author, Graham Bonwick, of the University of Chester. “The effects were most noticeable in soft fruits.”

That said, it wasn’t always a clear win for frozen versus fresh produce … for example:
  • Frozen sprouts scored higher on all nutrient measures.
  • Frozen spinach beat fresh spinach in some but not all nutrient tests.
  • Frozen raspberries and peas were about equal to their fresh counterparts.
  • Frozen cauliflower and baby sweetcorn showed no major advantages over fresh.
  • Frozen blueberries and green beans had much higher levels of vitamin C and polyphenols.
  • Frozen carrots had more vitamin C, more polyphenols, three times more lutein, and twice as much beta-carotene.
  • Frozen broccoli had more vitamin C and lutein and four times more beta-carotene, while fresh broccoli had more polyphenols.

The findings demonstrate that eating newly picked produce is the healthiest option, however frozen can be almost as good and is often better that items sold as ‘fresh’.

Leatherhead’s Dr Rachel Burch, said: "We must disregard the mistaken opinion that ‘fresh’ food is always better for us than frozen food. These results demonstrate that frozen can be nutritionally comparable to ‘fresh’ produce."

What's your experience? Do you agree with these findings?

Sources: http://www.dailymail.co.uk , http://www.medicaldaily.com/

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Eat spinach or eggs for faster reflexes - study shows

If there are two things most, if not all, mothers tell their kids to eat, it’s their greens and breakfast. They encouraged these for good reasons too, as both are healthy for growing kids and adolescents. But now, a new study shows that eating spinach and eggs, which are both high in the amino acid tyrosine, can boost a person’s reflexes. The amino acid is a precursor in the production of norepinephrine and dopamine, both of which increase energy, alertness, and improve mood when together. With that in mind, researchers from the University of Leiden and the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands wanted to see how well it improved reflexes.

The study
They created a situation in which test candidates had to interrupt a repetitive activity at a given instant. The researchers tested this using a stopping task: the participants were told to look carefully at a computer screen. Whenever a green arrow appeared, they had to press a button as quickly as possible. At the same time they had to make sure the button they chose matched the direction of the arrow. If a red arrow appeared on the screen, the candidates had to keep their hands off the keyboard altogether.
The participants had two sessions in the test lab. On one occasion they were given orange to drink that contained tyrosine, and on the other occasion the orange juice contained a placebo. The tests showed that the candidates performed better on the stopping task if they had drunk the juice with tyrosine.

The positive effect of tyrosine on our reaction speed can have benefits for road safety. For example, if a queue suddenly forms, fast reflexes can prevent an accident. But there are many more examples. Colzato: 'Tyrosine food supplements and tyrosine-rich food are a healthy and inexpensive way of improving our intellectual capabilities. This makes them preferable to Ritalin and Modafinil, products that students often reach for to improve their academic performance. Tyrosine is safe and doesn't need a doctor's prescription.'

What is tyrosine?
Tyrosine isn’t only found in spinach and eggs either, although it’s possible to make a great breakfast with both, and they’re both good for the body. It can also be found in soy, cottage cheese, chicken, turkey, peanuts, avocados, and bananas, among other foods.
Anyone who doesn't eat enough of these foodstuffs produces too little dopamine, which can lead to depression and apathy.

Start your day with a tyrosine-rich breakfast

Scrambled eggs with spinach & parmesan  recipe

Servings: 1

  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 cups baby spinach
  • 1-2 tablespoons grated Parmesan 
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • kosher salt
Whisk 2 large eggs in a small bowl; season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and set aside. Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 3 cups baby spinach and cook, tossing, until wilted, about 1 minute. Add eggs; cook, stirring occasionally, until just set, about 1 minute. Stir in 1-2 tablespoons grated Parmesan. Sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes.

Nutrition facts per serving:  Calories (kcal) 270, Fat (g) 17, Saturated Fat (g) 6, Cholesterol (mg) 440, Carbohydrates (g) 10, Dietary Fiber (g) 3, Total Sugars (g) 0, Protein (g) 18, Sodium (mg) 910

Sources: http://medicalxpress.com/news/, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases, http://www.medicaldaily.com/, http://www.bonappetit.com/

Monday, February 24, 2014

To boost your immune system go for blueberries and red grapes

For the past decade, nutrition scientists have known that certain whole foods that are consumed in their natural and unprocessed forms promote vibrant health by stimulating the innate immune response system, while virtually all refined foods and hydrogenated fats promote disease. Extensive research studies have determined that protective compounds that protect plants from disease can have a similar effect when eaten by humans.

The study
A new study has found that chemicals in red grapes and blueberries may boost your body’s immune system. Researchers from Oregon State University looked at the impact of 446 different chemicals on the human immune system.
The findings showed that two compounds, resveratrol found in red grapes and pterostilbene found in blueberries, when combined with vitamin D, could boost the body’s ability to fend off illness.

Compounds in blueberries and red grapes worked in synergy with vitamin D
Resveratrol has been the subject of dozens of studies for a range of possible benefits, from improving cardiovascular health to fighting cancer and reducing inflammation.
"Out of a study of hundreds of compounds, just these two popped right out," said lead researcher Adrian Gombart. "Their synergy with vitamin D ... was significant and intriguing. It's a pretty interesting interaction." Resveratrol and pterostilbene are known as stilbenoids.
These compounds worked in synergy with vitamin D and had a significant impact in raising the expression of the human cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide, or CAMP gene, that is involved in immune function, the researchers explained.

Resveratrol and pterostilbene are compounds produced by plants to fight infections, and in human biology appear to affect some of the signaling pathways that allow vitamin D to do its job, researchers said. It appears that combining these compounds with vitamin D has considerably more biological impact than any of them would separately.

Bottom line
Continued research could lead to a better understanding of how diet and nutrition affect immune function, and possibly lead to the development of therapeutically useful natural compounds that could boost the innate immune response, the researchers said in their report.
If you are a health-minded person, think about eating three to five servings of red grapes and blueberries each week to boost immune health and fight immune-deficient disease proliferation.