Memory Walks

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
Do your brain a favor … make walking a part of your regular routine! Evidence that regular walking benefits brain health continues to pile up. If you’re not a walker, this should convince you to start!
 
A recent study from The Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois involving 120 sedentary people aged 55-80 found that walking increased the size of the hippocampus, a critical area of the brain for new learning and creating long-term memories. Participants of the study had not engaged in more than 30 minutes of daily exercise in the six months before of the study; they then took part in exercise groups for a year. Half of the participants walked three days a week, starting out 10 minutes per day and increasing to 40 minutes per day as their fitness levels improved. The other half did stretching and toning exercises for the same amount of time.
 
Participants were assessed at the start of the study, at six months into the study, and at the end of the year for spatial memory, fitness levels, and levels of a brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), an essential fuel for the growth of new neurons in the brain. They were also given brain scans to track physical changes.
 
The assessments showed that fitness levels for the walking group improved more than in the stretching and toning group. The walking group also had an increase in the size of the hippocampus. Spatial memory and levels of BDNF increased in both groups, but only the walking group was found to have increased the size of the hippocampus. Studies have shown that had the participants continued to be inactive for the year, their hippocampus would have shrunk by one to two per cent, while walking just three times a week boosted their memory and increased the size of their hippocampus.
 
While this study concentrated on walking, it is believed that any aerobic activity could offer the same benefits. If you can’t get out for a walk due to weather conditions try walking on a treadmill.
 
If a knee injuries get in the way of your walking routine, try weight-lifting. A study conducted by scientists at the University of British Columbia focused on women ages 70 to 80 with mild cognitive impairment. They found that after six months of exercise, either walking or weight training, the women performed better performance on cognitive tests than they had before. It is interesting that while both exercise groups improved almost equally on tests of spatial memory, the women who had walked showed greater gains in verbal memory than the women who had lifted weights.
 
So get out there and walk … you’ll build strength and memories!
 
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The Dark Side of Sodas

[Written by Peter Nielsen].

You may or may not drink cola or sodas, but you undoubtedly have a dear friend or family member who does! We’ve heard over and over again that sodas are an important factor in obesity, which is a huge cause for concern in it’s own right. Recent developments show that obesity is just the tip of the iceberg, and many more serious issues linked to soda consumption lie below the surface.

In news this week of was the story a 31 year old woman from Monaco who was hospitalized after fainting. Blood tests indicated that she had severely low potassium levels, further tests of her heart’s electrical activity revealed she had a condition called long QT syndrome, which can cause erratic heart beats. She told her doctors that since the age of 15, she had not drunk any water, just cola — about 2 liters daily! Doctors recommended she abstain from soda, which she did and after just one week, the woman’s potassium levels and heart electrical activity returned to normal. The case was presented this week at the European Heart Rhythm Association meeting in Athens, Greece.

Researchers also found six reports of excessive cola consumption that are thought to be causative factors in serious medical problems, including heart rhythm problems. Additional studies will examine whether those who drink cola excessively have lower potassium levels than people who don’t drink cola.

Admittedly, this is an extreme case. However there are more issues associated with soda drinking than the news of possible heart problems caused by cola and other soft drinks — a lot more!

• Drinking too much cola may cause excess water to enter the bowels, which in turn leads to diarrhea, and loss of potassium, the researchers said. High amounts of caffeine found in colas can increase urine production and decrease potassium reabsorption. Potassium plays a role in helping a person’s heartbeat, and low levels of potassium may cause heart rhythm problems

• In one experiment, the sugar from one soft drink damaged white blood cells ability to ingest and kill gonococcal bacteria for seven hours.

• Sodas contain large quantities of phosphorus which, as mentioned above, leeches calcium from the bones when excreted. Heavy users of soft drinks will suffer from osteoporosis along and damaged arteries.”

• The Naval Medical Research Institute put human teeth in a cola beverage and found they softened and started to dissolve within a short period of time.

• One liter of an aspartame-sweetened beverage can produce about fifty-six milligrams of methanol. If someone drinks several sodas in a a single day, the amount of methanol produced is 32 times the EPA limit.

• Continuously high levels of sodium in the diet and the bloodstream causes a type of acute hypernatremia — an electrolyte disturbance that is defined by an elevated sodium level in the blood generally caused by a relative deficit of free water in the body — which keeps our sodium potassium pump slightly dysregulated and throws off the electrical system of the brain.

• It’s also important to note that aspartame, found in diet sodas, contains methyl or wood alcohol, which can affect fetal brain development.

What could be more important for your health if you’re a regular soda drinker than to quit the habit!

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Some Nutty News

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
There’s another reason to add walnuts to your diet! New research from the Harvard School of Public Health indicates that walnuts may reduce the risk for Type 2 diabetes in women.
 
The study, published in The Journal of Nutrition, included 138,000 nurses between the ages of 35 and 77 as part of a large, ongoing research of women’s health. As part of this study, scientists gathered information on walnut consumption by participants for 10 years starting in 1999. They found that women who ate walnuts tend to weigh less, eat more fish and work out more than those who did not. Because of this, the researchers made allowances for for body fat and weight. They found that eating walnuts one to three times a month lowered the risk of developing type-2 diabetes by 4%. Eating them once a week dropped the risk by 13%, while participants who ate them at least twice a week reduced the risk of developing type-2 diabetes by 24%!
 
This research further boosts walnut’s reputation as an important addition to healthy diets.
 
• The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease published a study that showed that eating walnuts as part of a Mediterranean diet protects against brain functioning decline that can occur with aging. Findings indicated that walnuts were linked to improved memory in the study participants, while other kinds of nuts were not.
 
• A study at the conducted at Marshall University School of Medicine in West Virginia found that eating about 28 walnut halves a day provides may help reduce the risk of breast cancer. Mice were fed a daily diet that included the human equivalent of two ounces of walnuts. Walnut eaters had significantly decreased breast tumor incidence and a slower rate of tumor growth than mice that were fed a control diet.
 
• A study by researchers from the University of Scranton found that walnuts have more antioxidants than other nuts like cashews, hazelnuts, pecans and pistachios.
 
• Walnuts are rich in omega-3s, making them beneficial in reducing depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and cancer. Strong evidence also exists that omega-3s can protect against inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease.
 
• Research published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that walnuts and walnut oil lowered both resting blood pressure and blood pressure responses to stress, indicating that a dietary change could help our bodies better respond to stress.
 
Other nuts are healthy, and you should include them in your diet. However it’s interesting to note that study from the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania found that walnuts have higher quality antioxidants and a mix of more healthful antioxidants than any other nut … walnuts, they really are all they’re cracked up to be!
 
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Gluten Facts

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
Gluten-free products are showing up on grocery shelves everywhere and more and more people are tweaking their diets to reduce their gluten intake. However, many people have never heard of gluten allergies or gluten allergies. Gluten makes up 20 percent of global calorie intake and is a basic staple in many diets. It is found in wheat and other grains like rye, barley, and spelt. While you never go to the store to but a pound of it, it’s gluten that gives certain foods a great, chewy texture, helps dough to rise and is a vital ingredient in most your backed goods .
 
While gluten is a protein that can cause serious problems for some people, it’s very difficult to avoid. Not only is gluten the primary protein found in some grains, it shows up in unexpected places! You’ll find it in various brands of chocolate, imitation crab, soy sauce, certain vitamin brands and even some toothpaste! Gluten is also difficult to digest completely. One out of thirteen people have celiac disease; for them gluten can be a matter of life or death. Celiac disease sufferers are so sensitive to gluten that even a very small amount can cause serious illness, gluten damages the lining of their small intestines and can lead to a variety of health problems ranging from chronic diarrhea and abdominal cramping to osteoporosis. For them, being aware of the hidden gluten in products is a constant struggle.
 
You may not have celiac disease, but you can still be gluten-sensitive. If so, you should cut back on your gluten intake. There has been a significant increase in our gluten intake over the past 50 years and we are just beginning to understand the impact rise has on our health. How do you know if you’re gluten-sensitive? Eating foods with gluten triggers different symptoms, the most common are:
 
• stomach pains
• bloating
• heartburn
• joint pains
• headache
• skin rashes
• fatigue
• insomnia
• brain fog
 
If you are gluten-sensitive, it probably won’t require giving up gluten entirely. There are many gluten-free product to replace items in your current diet, such as crackers and pasta, and a gluten-free diet may not be that difficult, particularly if you’re already eating a mediterranean diet. Fill your plate vegetables and fruits, lean meats, fish and poultry, brown rice and quinoa, nuts and seeds, beans and other legumes, and healthy fats, like extra-virgin olive oil and canola oil.
 
If your symptoms are severe, be tested for celiac disease. Diagnostic tests for celiac become unreliable if you are not eating gluten. It’s a test worth taking … the results could transform your health!
 
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