Heart health and physical activity

New research, appearing in the European Heart Journal, suggests that lack of physical activity can drastically increase the risk of a heart attack in the long-term, even if there are no symptoms at present.
running and heart fitness
Exercise that raises the heart rate, such as running, may cut heart attack risk by half, suggests a new study.

Cardiorespiratory fitness describes the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to the muscles when we are engaged in physical activity. Specifically, the term refers to “the efficiency of the heart, lungs and vascular system.”

A significant body of research has linked cardiorespiratory fitness with a variety of positive health outcomes, ranging from preventing cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality to staving off diabetes and improving insulin resistance.

However, most of these previous studies have relied on the participants’ self-reported levels of fitness.

New research uses more precise methods of measuring cardiorespiratory fitness and highlights another one of its benefits.

Higher fitness levels can halve the risk of heart attack, the new study finds. Conversely, suggest the researchers, poor fitness levels can raise future risk even in the absence of warning symptoms in the present.

Bjarne Nes, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Cardiac Exercise Research Group in Trondheim, is the corresponding and last author of the study.

Studying fitness levels and heart attack risk

Nes and his colleagues analyzed the cardiorespiratory fitness of more than 4,500 people who took part in an extensive health survey called HUNT3.

None of the participants had a history of cardiovascular disease, lung disease, cancer, or high blood pressure at the start of the study.

Just over 50 percent of the participants were women, and more than 80 percent of all of them were at “low risk” of developing cardiovascular disease over a 10-year period.

The scientists used a “gold-standard method” — or maximum oxygen uptake — to directly measure the participants’ fitness levels.

Maximum oxygen uptake refers to the maximum amount of oxygen the body can absorb during exercise. According to Nes, it is “the most precise measure of fitness.”

High fitness halves the risk of heart attack

By the end of the study, 147 of the participants had heart attacks or had developed angina pectoris — two conditions caused by blocked or narrowed coronary arteries.

The analysis by the researchers revealed a correlation between declining cardiovascular risk and increased fitness levels.

“Even among people who seem to be healthy, the top 25 percent of the most fit individuals actually have only half as high a risk as the least fit 25 percent,” reports Nes.

Furthermore, even a small improvement in cardiorespiratory fitness saw significant benefits for heart health. Namely, each fitness increase of 3.5 points correlated with a 15 percent lower risk of heart attack or angina.

“We found a strong link between higher fitness levels and a lower risk of heart attack and angina pectoris over the 9 years following the measurements that were taken,” says Nes.

“We know that patients with low oxygen uptake are at increased risk of premature death and cardiovascular disease,” he continues.

Our study shows that poorer fitness is an independent risk factor for coronary artery disease, even among healthy women and men who are relatively fit.”

Bjarne Nes

‘Use training as preventive medicine’

Dr. Jon Magne Letnes, the study’s first author, also further comments on the findings. “Our results should encourage people to use training as preventive medicine,” Dr. Letnes says.

“A few months of regular exercise that gets you out of breath can be an effective strategy for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.”

Dr. Letnes explains that cardiorespiratory fitness offers insights into so much more than just endurance to exercise.

“Fitness isn’t just a measure of how much you’ve trained in your life, but it also tells you what kind of genes you have,” he says.

“Other factors like obesity may also affect fitness. So we measure a lot of the body’s functions, and from other studies, we know that both genes and physical activity play a role in how your heart and blood vessels function,” Dr. Letnes explains.

The study’s first author thinks doctors should consider fitness measurements when evaluating heart disease risk.

“Although it may be inconvenient and difficult to measure oxygen uptake at the doctor’s office, some simple and relatively accurate calculators exist that can provide a good estimate of fitness and disease risk,” he advises.

Xylitol low calorie substitute

Xylitol is a lower-calorie sugar substitute with a low glycemic index. Some research suggests that it may also improve dental health, prevent ear infections, and possess antioxidant properties.

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol, which is a type of carbohydrate and does not actually contain alcohol. It occurs naturally in small amounts in fibrous fruits and vegetables, trees, corncobs, and even the human body.

Manufacturers use it as a sugar substitute because its sweetness is comparable with that of table sugar but with fewer calories.

It is also a common ingredient in many products, from sugar-free chewing gum to toothpaste. People also use it as a table-top sweetener and in baking.

This article looks at the uses and potential health benefits of xylitol. It also covers its side effects, drug interactions, dosage, and alternatives.

Uses

Xylitol sweetener on wooden spoons
A low-calorie alternative to sugar.

Xylitol has a similar level of sweetness to sugar but with a fraction of the calories. It is a popular ingredient in a variety of products, including sugar-free gum and toothpaste.

Manufacturers add it to a range of foods, including:

  • sugar-free candies, such as gum, mints, and gummies
  • jams and jellies
  • honey
  • nut butter, including peanut butter
  • yogurt

It is also an ingredient in some dental care products, including:

  • toothpaste
  • mouthwash
  • other fluoride products

Potential benefits

Xylitol has several potential health benefits, including:

Low glycemic index

It has a low glycemic index (GI). This means that consuming it does not cause spikes in blood glucose or insulin levels in the body. For this reason, xylitol is a good sugar substitute for people with diabetes.

Due to its low GI, it is also a weight loss-friendly sugar substitute.

Also, a 2015 study revealed that it had significant blood glucose-lowering effects in rats that ate high-fat diets.

Dental health

Xylitol is an ingredient in many dental hygiene products, including toothpaste and mouthwash. This is due to the fact that it is non-fermentable, which means that the bacteria in the mouth cannot convert it into the harmful acid that causes tooth decay.

The oral bacterium Streptococcus mutans is largely responsible for plaque, which is the sticky, white substance that can accumulate on the outside of a person’s teeth.

Plaque binds lactic acid against the surface of the tooth. This acid breaks down the enamel and leads to tooth decay.

While it is normal for people to have some plaque on their teeth, excess amounts can lead to tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease.

A 2017 systematic review suggests that xylitol reduces the amount of S. mutans bacteria in the mouth, which reduces the amount of plaque and may help prevent tooth decay.

A 2014 study examined it on Porphyromonas gingivalis, which is the bacterium responsible for gingivitis, or gum disease. If left untreated, excess amounts of P. gingivalis can move into the bloodstream and lead to systemic inflammation.

In the study, scientists grew samples of P. gingivalis in a laboratory and added them to human cell cultures pretreated with xylitol. They saw that xylitol increased the production of immune system proteins and inhibited the growth of the bacteria.

Ear infections

Xylitol may help prevent ear infections.
Xylitol may help prevent ear infections.

The bacteria that cause tooth plaque can also accumulate behind the eardrum and cause infections of the middle ear. Doctors call these infections acute otitis media (AOM).

A 2016 systematic review found moderate-quality evidence that chewing gum, lozenges, or syrup containing xylitol can reduce the occurrence of AOM from 30 to 22 percent among healthy children.

However, a 2014 study found xylitol syrup to be ineffective in reducing AOM in children at high risk of the infection.

These conflicting results indicate the need for more research regarding the use of xylitol as a preventive treatment for ear infections in children.

Antioxidant properties

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, free radicals cause oxidative stress, which can lead to cell damage and may play a role in the development of several conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Laboratory studies show that antioxidants neutralize free radicals and counteract oxidative stress.

A 2014 study revealed that xylitol may have antioxidant properties. Diabetic rats who ate xylitol produced higher amounts of glutathione. This is an antioxidant that counteracts the harmful effects of free radicals. It is important to note that human studies are needed to validate these findings.

Side effects and safety

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved xylitol as a food additive. It is generally safe, but like other sugar alcohols, it can cause digestive issues such as bloating and diarrhea in some people.

It is worth noting that this substance can be very toxic to dogs. It is vital to store products containing xylitol in a safe place that pets cannot reach. Anyone who thinks that their dog has consumed xylitol should call their veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center immediately.

Drug interactions

Currently, xylitol has no known interactions with prescription or over-the-counter medications. Always consult a doctor about potential interactions when starting new medications or supplements, however.

Dosage

The suitable dosage of xylitol can vary from person to person. A 2016 review found that adults can safely tolerate between 10 grams (g) and 30 g  per day, which they usually divide into several smaller doses. After the body adapts, adults can consume up to 70 g per day without side effects.

Studies in children have used doses of up to 45 g daily. Some research suggests that consuming around 5–6 g  per day may help reduce plaque-causing bacteria in the mouth.

However, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry says that more research is necessary before recommending xylitol to improve dental health in children.

Alternatives to xylitol

Syrup or nectar in a glass bowl
Agave nectar is an alternative sweetener

Manufacturers use a range of low-calorie artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes to sweeten foods and beverages. Many of these substitutes are also available as table-top sweeteners, and some people use them in baking.

Some substitutes are significantly sweeter than table sugar. However, its sweetness is very similar to that of table sugar.

Other artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes include:

Sorbitol

Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol with a similar molecular structure to xylitol. Sorbitol does not spike blood glucose levels, so it is a good sugar substitute for people who have diabetes.

Like xylitol, bacteria cannot break down sorbitol into the acids that cause tooth decay.

Erythritol

Erythritol is another sugar alcohol. Similarly to xylitol, erythritol also inhibits the growth of S. mutans.

A 2016 review found that high concentrations of erythritol are more effective at reducing oral plaque than both xylitol and sorbitol. However, xylitol is more effective than erythritol at lower concentrations.

Stevia

Stevia is a natural sweetener that manufacturers extract from the stevia plant. Stevia extract is available in granular and liquid forms. Purified leaf extract is 250–300 times sweeter than sugar.

Like xylitol, stevia can sometimes cause diarrhea and other digestive issues.

Agave nectar

Agave nectar is a syrup that manufacturers extract from the agave plant and use as a sugar substitute in some drinks and foods.

However, agave nectar mainly contains fructose, which bacteria in the mouth can break down into the acids that cause tooth decay.

Summary

Xylitol is a reduced-calorie sugar substitute similar in sweetness to table sugar. It also has a low GI, which makes it an attractive alternative to sugar for people wishing to lose weight and those with diabetes.

Some research also suggests that this compound has antibacterial properties that can help prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and ear infections. However, further research into the potential health benefits of xylitol is needed.

Fat burning foods

Consuming certain fat burning foods can lead to a reduction in body fat. When a person adds these fat-burning foods to the diet, they can burn fat and lose weight over time. Such fat burning foods include eggs, nuts, and oily fish.

The term “fat burning foods” may apply to those that produce fat loss by stimulating metabolism, reducing appetite, or reducing overall food intake.

All foods stimulate metabolism. However, some types of food, such as chili peppers, might have a larger impact on metabolism than others. Eating these foods may lead to weight loss.

Certain foods, such as nuts, can also offset hunger for longer than others. Consuming these foods may help control appetite and reduce overall food intake, leading to weight loss.

In this article, we examine some fat burning foods that could help people lose weight. We also take a look at how best to include these foods in the diet.

Nuts

cashews, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios and walnuts are fat burning foods.
Regularly eating nuts can help boost energy levels and offset hunger.

Nuts are very nutritious. They are high in protein and good fats, which are both beneficial for offsetting hunger over long periods.

Importantly, people can incorporate nuts into a healthful diet without gaining any weight.

For example, one study from 2011, published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, found that including nuts in the diet over 12 weeks led to improvements in diet quality, without any weight gain.

Oily fish

Fish is a type of healthful food that contains vital omega-3 fatty acids. Oily fish such as salmon are particularly high in long-chain fatty acids that are difficult to find elsewhere.

Fish is also high in protein. Dietary protein can offset hunger, and it is an important tool for weight loss.

Yogurt

Yogurts can vary in their nutritional content. Plain yogurt, such as Greek-style yogurt, is the most healthful. It contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, and probiotics.

Yogurt also contains different types of protein, such as casein and whey. A study from 2014 that appears in the Nutrition Journal shows that eating high-protein yogurt can have benefits for appetite control, offsetting hunger, and lowering overall food intake.

Split peas

Split pea and lentil stew or curry with chillis are fat burning foods
Split peas are a healthful source of energy and a versatile ingredient.

Peas are high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They also contain complex carbohydrates, which are a good source of energy.

Split peas also contain proteins that can offset hunger.

A 2011 study that appears in the Nutrition Journal explains that the protein contained within split peas has a greater impact on reducing hunger than whey protein from milk.

Eggs

Eggs are rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients important to health, report the American Heart Association (AHA). They are high in cholesterol, but there is no evidence to suggest that eating cholesterol causes high cholesterol in the body.

Eggs are also an excellent source of protein and can help control appetite. A study in the journal Nutrition Research found that eating eggs at breakfast had a positive impact on controlling hunger and food intake later in the day.

Chili peppers

Chili peppers contain the chemical capsaicin, which could have benefits for weight loss.

A 2012 systematic review, published in the journal Appetite, shows that capsaicin may increase fat burning and reduce appetite. These effects may help lead to weight loss.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil contains a high level of medium-chain triglycerides. This is a specific type of fat that may have a range of health benefits.

A meta-analysis from 2015, which appeared in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, found that these medium-chain triglycerides could lead to weight loss. However, more studies are needed to confirm the results.

Many scientists believe that medium-chain triglycerides can increase energy consumption and reduce fat stores.

Green tea

Green tea is a fat burning food
Green tea has many health benefits, such as aiding weight loss.

Green tea is a beneficial source of antioxidants and may have several health benefits. One of these benefits includes weight loss.

A high-quality review from 2012, published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, found that green tea consumption led to weight loss in adults who were overweight or obese.

The amount of weight loss was small but consistently present across several different studies.

Adding fat burning foods to the diet

In some cases, it is possible to base a meal on one particular fat burning food. For example, it may consist of oily fish such as salmon with vegetables. Another option is to have eggs with whole-grain toast for breakfast.

For vegetarians and vegans, plant-based meals that are rich in protein can be a useful way to aid weight loss. Mixing fat-burning foods such as split peas with other beneficial sources of protein are one way of doing this. Examples of this include split pea soup, or split pea dal.

It may also be beneficial to choose fat-burning snacks such as nuts. Such snacks are more able to satisfy hunger and control appetite than others, such as chocolate or chips.

Summary

Certain foods can help a person burn fat and lose weight. However, it is important to remember that fat-burning foods must be part of a healthful diet overall. Also, a person must engage in regular physical activity to burn fat and lose weight.

These foods are unlikely to cause any noticeable fat loss on their own.

Balanced diet guide

A balanced diet includes foods from the five groups and fulfills all of a person’s nutritional needs. Eating a balanced diet helps people maintain good health and reduce their risk of disease.

Dietary guidelines evolve with scientific advances, so it can be challenging to stay on top of current recommendations and know what to eat.

In this article, we look at current dietary recommendations and describe how to build a balanced diet.

What is a balanced diet?

vegetables are part of a balanced diet
Eating a balanced diet will help a person stay healthy.

A balanced diet is one that fulfills all of a person’s nutritional needs. Humans need a certain amount of calories and nutrients to stay healthy.

A balanced diet provides all the nutrients a person requires, without going over the recommended daily calorie intake.

By eating a balanced diet, people can get the nutrients and calories they need and avoid eating junk food, or food without nutritional value.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) used to recommend following a food pyramid. However, as nutritional science has changed, they now recommend eating foods from the five groups and building a balanced plate.

According to the USDA’s recommendations, half of a person’s plate should consist of fruits and vegetables.

The other half should be made up of grains and protein. They recommend accompanying each meal with a serving of low-fat dairy or another source of the nutrients found in dairy.

The 5 food groups

A healthful, balanced diet includes foods from these five groups:

  • vegetables
  • fruits
  • grains
  • protein
  • dairy

Vegetables

The vegetable group includes five subgroups:

  • leafy greens
  • red or orange vegetables
  • starchy vegetables
  • beans and peas (legumes)
  • other vegetables, such as eggplant or zucchini

To get enough nutrients and keep dietary boredom at bay, people should choose a variety of vegetables.

Additionally, the USDA recommends that people eat vegetables from each of the five subgroups every week.

People may enjoy vegetables raw or cooked. However, it is important to remember that cooking vegetables remove some of their nutritional value. Also, some methods, such as deep-frying, can add unhealthful fats to a dish.

Fruits

A balanced diet also includes plenty of fruit. Instead of getting fruit from juice, nutrition experts recommend eating whole fruits.

Juice contains fewer nutrients. Also, the manufacturing process often adds empty calories due to added sugar. People should opt for fresh or frozen fruits, or fruits canned in water instead of syrup.

Grains

cooked quinoa on fork part of balance diet
Whole grains usually contain more protein than refined grains.

There are two subgroups: whole grains and refined grains.

Whole grains include all three parts of the grain, which are the bran, germ, and endosperm. The body breaks down whole grains slowly, so they have less effect on a person’s blood sugar.

Additionally, whole grains tend to contain more fiber and protein than refined grains.

Refined grains are processed and do not contain the three original components. Refined grains also tend to have less protein and fiber, and they can cause blood sugar spikes.

Grains used to form the base of the government-approved food pyramid, meaning that most of a person’s daily caloric intake came from grains. However, the updated guidelines suggest that grains should make up only a quarter of a person’s plate.

At least half of the grains that a person eats daily should be whole grains. Healthful whole grains include:

  • quinoa
  • oats
  • brown rice
  • barley
  • buckwheat

Protein

The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans state that all people should include nutrient-dense protein as part of their regular diet.

The guidelines suggest that this protein should make up a quarter of a person’s plate.

Nutritious protein choices include:

  • lean beef and pork
  • chicken and turkey
  • fish
  • beans, peas, and legumes

Dairy

Dairy and fortified soy products are a vital source of calcium. The USDA recommends consuming low-fat versions whenever possible.

Low-fat dairy and soy products include:

  • ricotta or cottage cheese
  • low-fat milk
  • yogurt
  • soy milk

People who are lactose intolerant can opt for low-lactose or lactose-free products, or choose soy-based sources of calcium and other nutrients.

Losing weight

walking up stairs
A person can burn calories by taking the stairs.

A poor diet is a common reason why people struggle with weight loss.

When combined with a regular exercise routine, a balanced diet can help a person reduce their risk factors for obesity or gaining weight.

A balanced diet can help a person lose weight by:

  • increasing their protein intake
  • avoiding excessive carbohydrates or processed foods
  • getting essential nutrients, including minerals, vitamins, and fiber
  • preventing binge eating

People interested in losing weight should begin or enhance an exercise routine.

For some people, adding 30 minutes of walking each day and making minor changes, such as taking the stairs, can help them burn calories and lose weight.

For those that can, adding moderate exercise that includes cardio and resistance training will help speed weight loss.

Summary

Eating a balanced diet means eating foods from the five major groups.

Dietary guidelines change over time, as scientists discover new information about nutrition. Current recommendations suggest that a person’s plate should contain primarily vegetables and fruits, some lean protein, some dairy, and soluble fiber.

People interested in weight loss should also consider introducing moderate exercise into their routines.

Yoga for Children

kids doing yogaYoga isn’t just for moms and dads! The practice of yoga can help center your child, leading them to maintain healthy bodies, improve their school life and help with speech development. Best of all, yoga provides the perfect opportunity to bond emotionally and spiritually with your child.

Your child might feel overwhelmed on a daily basis. Many children today are suffering from a lack of connection to their bodies, to their environment, and to themselves. Our information-saturated, hectic, and stimulus-rich culture pulls kids in many directions, splitting their attention. For many children, it has become too much for their young, developing minds to absorb and process.

More and more American children from all walks of life are overweight, have stress and anger issues, and have attention and learning problems. There is a real separation of mind and body—your child’s attention might be pulled outward toward the ever-increasing distractions of the external world. Overworked parents and overscheduled children often face isolation from their families and their communities. Rather than sitting down to dinner together, it is now quite common for children and parents to communicate mainly via text messaging and e-mail. Does any of this sound familiar?

As mindful parents and adults, we must give our children every tool possible to assist them in counteracting a culture and environment that is potentially hazardous to their health and well-being. Through the use of yoga tools, stories, and play, we can provide children with opportunities to grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, helping them connect with themselves and others with compassion, understanding, and clarity.

Healthy Bodies with yoga

In 2012, the CDC reported that childhood obesity had more than tripled in the past thirty years. Children are simply spending more time indoors and less time moving. Even if your child is active, she can still benefit from yoga-based movement. With regular practice, her muscles, bones, and joints will lengthen and strengthen as her overall flexibility is improved. In addition, all of your child’s major bodily systems are supported by movement and improved circulation, including the digestive, endocrine, immune, and respiratory systems. Yoga strengthens your child’s entire body!
Here are some recognized benefits that yoga can provide for your child’s body:

  • Assists neuromuscular development
  • Promotes the development of the vestibular system
  • Increases circulation, uptake of oxygen, and functioning of hormones
  • Encourages motor development on both sides of the body
  • Increases balance, coordination, and overall body awareness
  • Develops core strength, essential for posture and alignment
  • Reduces the risk of injury; improves performance in sports

Improving School Life

Anti-bullying, health and wellness, and character education are all popular topics in American education today. As standardized testing has become more common, so has performance anxiety and stress in students (and teachers). It is not surprising to note that across the world, yoga and mindfulness education are increasingly being incorporated into the classroom day to help address these concerns, and with great results.

Yoga, by nature, supports and maximizes the learning process. Students experience improved concentration and creative thinking, and due to improvement in executive functions, they are better able to prioritize and organize. By doing yoga with your child, you will help him build better relationships with other students by promoting a sense of connectedness. If your child is athletic, a yoga lifestyle will help him maximize his performance by improving his focus, strengthening his muscles, improving his flexibility, and fostering team cooperation. If your child experiences social anxiety, yoga can help instill a greater sense of self-knowing, self-worth, and confidence.

Here’s how yoga can benefit your child’s life at school. Yoga:

  • Brings students into the present moment, ready for learning
  • Encourages community and connectedness in the classroom
  • Helps create a feeling of confidence instead of competitiveness
  • Eases anxiety before test taking
  • Enhances focus, concentration, comprehension, and memory
  • Supports social and emotional learning

Yoga for Speech Development

While yoga is becoming wildly popular with kids everywhere, one significant benefit often overlooked by parents and educators is the aspect of speech development. “Yoga,” “yogurt,” or “woga” classes can help advance a young child’s speech development through slow, repetitive verbal instructions, songs, and the imitation of simple sounds found in nature.

Children with speech delays are often more physical in nature, especially boys. A movement class like yoga can pair physical motion with repetitive sounds, which will likely catch their attention more so than a simple, quiet conversation. For example, a preschooler who has not yet mastered sounding out letters like S and Z might enjoy slithering like a snake, not only attempting to “hiss” but also watching your mouth as you hiss and lower yourself to the ground in Cobra Pose. After repeating this pose in subsequent sessions, he will immediately recognize the word and sound that go along with the pose and hopefully gain the confidence to try to say it himself.

Mindfulness as a weight loss strategy

Mindfulness ‘has huge potential’ as a weight loss strategy. As the holiday season draws to a close, many may be struggling with the extra weight we put on during extensive, food-filled celebrations with family and friends. Can mindfulness techniques come to our aid in getting rid of those extra pounds?
mindfulness
New evidence confirms that eating mindfully can help with maintaining a healthy weight.

According to anecdotal evidence and some existing research, mindfulness techniques can help a person maintain or improve their physical and mental well-being.

For example, these techniques can reduce symptoms of anxiety and enhance cognitive functioning, and it may even improve a person’s immune response.

The principle is very simple: One has to be fully present in the moment, focusing attention on external stimuli and their effects on the body and mind, learning to concomitantly acknowledge and dismiss unnecessary thoughts.

Thus, learning mindfulness techniques can help us tone down the effects of stress and regain more enjoyment in present experiences.  Recently, researchers have suggested that it can also aid people in their weight loss efforts.

A new study from the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire National Health Services Trust in the United Kingdom — in collaboration with other clinical and research institutions — confirms these and similar findings.

“This research is significant, as we have shown that problematic eating behavior can be improved with mindfulness application,” says the study’s first author, Petra Hanson, a research fellow and doctoral student at the Warwickshire Institute for the Study of Diabetes Endocrinology and Metabolism at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire.

Hanson and the team report their findings in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, which is an Endocrine Society publication.

‘Enabling appropriate lifestyle decisions’

The research team worked with 53 individuals participating in a dedicated weight management program at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire National Health Services Trust.

Of the participants, 33 took part in at least three of four training sessions, which taught them to practice mindfulness while eating.

Over the next 6 months, the participants who had attended three or four mindfulness sessions lost, on average, 3 kilograms (about 6.6 pounds), while those who had only attended one or two mindfulness sessions lost an average of 0.9 kilograms (around 2 pounds).

Moreover, when compared with a control group of 20 participants who attended the same weight management program but no mindfulness sessions, the individuals who had received complete mindfulness training shed an average of 2.85 kilograms (almost 6.3 pounds) more.

“Surveys of the participants indicate [that] mindfulness training can help this population improve their relationship with food,” explains Hanson. Mindfulness, she explains, can help people change and manage their eating behaviors with more ease.

“Individuals who completed the course said they were better able to plan meals in advance and felt more confident in self-management of weight loss moving forward,” says Hanson, adding, “Similar courses can be held in a primary care setting or even developed into digital tools.”

She expresses hope that “[t]his approach can be scaled up to reach a wider population.”

“Mindfulness has huge potential as a strategy for achieving and maintaining good health and well-being,” comments senior author Dr. Thomas Barber, from the Warwickshire Institute for the Study of Diabetes Endocrinology and Metabolism.

The researcher notes that many pressing chronic diseases are linked, to some extent, with lifestyle behaviors and concludes:

[The] focus should be on enabling the populace to make appropriate lifestyle decisions and empowering subsequent salutary behavior change. In the context of obesity and eating-related behaviors, we have demonstrated that mindfulness techniques can do just that.”

Dr. Thomas Barber

Sense of smell and obesity

A new study has found a link between sense of smell and obesity.  A recent review of this study concludes that people with obesity have a reduced ability to detect and discriminate smell compared with those who are not obese.
Woman using sense of smell while cooking
A recent review highlights a possible link between obesity and olfaction.

Obesity is a medical condition characterized by an excessive amount of body fat.

It is a global issue that affects millions of people worldwide, and it is a risk factor for diabetes and heart disease.

Doctors or nutritionists can identify obesity using the body mass index (BMI). The BMI is a diagnostic tool that assesses if a person is an appropriate weight for their age, sex, and height.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), global obesity has nearly tripled since 1975.

In 2016, almost 2 billion adults were overweight, of which 650 million were obese. In the same year, 41 million children under 5 years old were overweight or obese.

In 2013, the American Medical Association (AMA) recognized obesity as a disease. The decision changed the way the medical community related to this complex issue. The ruling challenged the widespread idea that obesity is the direct consequence of eating too much and not doing enough physical activity. The AMA argued that “some people do not have complete control of their weight.”

Surprising link between weight and smell

The relationship between the sense of smell and body weight was a relatively unknown area of scientific study and knowledge, up until now. Researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand recently discovered a surprising link between obesity and the ability to smell. The team published its findings in Obesity Reviews.

The study involved researchers from Otago’s Departments of Food Science, Anatomy, and Mathematics/Statistics. The scientists gathered scientific papers regarding the link between body weight and sense of smell. They also collected information of nearly 1,500 individuals from “empirical and clinical worldwide studies.”

“After compiling our evidence, we found there is, in fact, a strong link between a person’s body weight and their smell ability — the better a person can smell, the more likely the person is to be slim, or vice versa,” says Dr. Mei Peng, lead author of the study, from the University of Otago’s Department of Food Science.

Dr. Peng added that smell plays a critical role when it comes to eating behavior because it affects the way we identify and choose between different flavors. A poor sense of smell may result in people making unhealthful food choices, which can increase their risk of obesity.

For example, they might choose, or be more attracted to, saltier and tastier foods such as bacon and maple syrup instead of blander foods, such as low-fat cereal with less sugar.”

Dr. Mei Peng

Weight loss surgery could improve the sense of smell

The researchers found that people who were closer to obesity had a reduced ability to smell and identify odors. Based on these findings, the researchers hypothesized that obesity alters a person’s metabolism, which affects communication pathways between the gut and brain.

To re-establish the pathway between the gut and brain, researchers considered the effects of two surgical obesity treatments. They looked at stomach removal and gastric bypass (a surgical procedure which involves dividing the stomach into two pouches and rearranging the small intestine to connect to both).

The findings showed that stomach removal could improve the sense of smell, while other obesity surgeries do not have the same effect.

“Cutting the stomach could change nerves in the stomach that affect the gut-brain pathway, so smell changes could be the key to the difference between the two surgeries — essentially, the smaller size of the stomach might not be the factor that leads to weight loss, it is more likely due to the gut-brain pathway being reset,” Dr. Peng concludes.

Dr. Peng hopes that these findings will increase awareness around the critical relationship between eating habits and senses. This groundbreaking study could deepen our knowledge of the role that “reward-factor smell has in various body-shape groups.”

Butt exercises to reduce fat

This post reviews the best ways to lose butt fat. Losing fat from the butt is a common fitness goal. There are many ways a person can achieve this.

There are three major muscles in the butt. These are the gluteus maximus, the gluteus minimus, and the gluteus medius.

Glulteus muscles which make up the buttWhile it is not possible to spot-reduce fat loss in one particular area, cutting down on overall body fat while toning the butt muscles can lead to leaner, better-defined buttocks.

This article details exercises that help people lose fat throughout the body while adding shape to the butt and thigh muscles. We also list other methods that can help people achieve their desired body shape.

Exercises to reduce butt fat

Try the following exercises to lose fat from the butt and to tone the muscles in the thighs and glutes:

1. Running

running works the buttRunning is an excellent exercise for full-body weight loss. Running tones the leg and butt muscles, which gives the thighs and buttocks a more defined shape.

This aerobic activity also improves heart and lung function, and it strengthens the lower body. Also, aside from supportive shoes, it requires no special equipment.

Running is better than walking for fat loss, as it burns more calories. A 2012 study found that over 1,600 meters, people of average fitness burned 372.54 calories while walking and 471.03 calories while running.

However, the study authors conclude that even if a person is unable to take up running, walking is also a very good option for burning calories and fat compared with resting.

2. High-intensity interval training

treadmill for butt

Busy people who want to lose butt fat can take up high-intensity interval training (HIIT). According to a worldwide survey of fitness trends for 2018, HIIT is the most popular fitness trend globally.

HIIT involves putting maximum effort into one specific activity for a short period. This is followed by a longer period at a slower pace. HIIT sessions are intense workouts, so they tend to be shorter in duration than moderate-intensity activities.

For example, after a warmup period, HIIT may involve the following:

  • running on a treadmill at 7 miles per hour (mph) for 1 minute
  • running for 2 minutes at 5 mph
  • repeating this pattern for 15 minutes or so before cooling down

Research from 2011 suggests that HIIT may be more effective at reducing body fat than other types of exercise.

Another study reports that HIIT is a good strategy for controlling obesity because of its time-efficiency.

3. Step-climbing

stair climbing great for butt
Climbing steps is an easy way to tone the glutes while also keeping the heart and lungs healthy.

Step-climbing boosts strength and muscle tone in the butt and upper legs. There are various ways to work these muscles:

  • using stepping machines at a gym
  • walking up flights of stairs
  • hiking uphill
  • using a climbing or bouldering wall

Step-climbing can provide other health benefits, too. One small study from 2005 on 15 women found that climbing flights of stairs up to five times per day had a measurable impact on oxygen uptake and reduced low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol.

In this study, the women began by climbing a flight of 199 stairs once each day in week 1, then gradually increasing climbs to five times each day by week 7. They made no other dietary or lifestyle changes while taking part in this study.

4. Squats

squats are perfect workout for buttSquats are a major part of many exercise plans. This is likely due to their ability to work several muscles in the butt, legs, and abdomen at the same time.

One 2009 study, which appeared in the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy, examined the effects of various exercises on the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius.

The scientists found that single-leg squats were a good option for activating both the gluteus maximus and the gluteus medius.

To perform a single-leg squat:

  • Extend the arms in front of the body.
  • Stand on the left leg and extend the right leg straight in front, as high as possible.
  • Slowly lower the butt as close as possible to the floor while keeping the leg elevated. The back should be straight and the left knee in line with the left foot.
  • Return to the starting position. Repeat several times before switching to the right leg.

If it is not possible to perform one-leg squats, regular squats are also effective. To do these:

  • Extend the arms in front of the body. Keep the feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Slowly lower the butt as close as possible to the floor, without losing balance. The back should be straight, and the knees should not travel out in front of the toes.
  • Return to the starting position. Repeat several times.
  • To increase the intensity, hold weights in the hands while squatting.

Another variation is the split-squat, during which a person performs squats with their legs apart. A small-scale 2017 study found that split-squats had the highest impact on the gluteus maximus, compared with deadlifts and good-mornings.

5. Lunges

lunges for butt

Lunges are another lower-body strength exercise that activates and tones the gluteus maximus. Variations include sideways, forward, and transverse lunges.

The basic forward lunge also works the thighs and calves. To perform a lunge:

  • Stand with the feet hip-distance apart.
  • Take a large step forward with the left leg.
  • Slowly lower the body, bending both knees to 90 degrees. Do not allow the right knee to touch the ground or the left knee to travel past the toes of the left foot.
  • Return to the standing position. Repeat several times.

6. One-leg deadlift

One-leg deadlift with weight great for butt

Deadlifts work the lower body, improve balance, and strengthen the abdominal muscles and lower back. Doing one-leg deadlifts also activates the gluteus muscles.

Follow these instructions to do a one-leg deadlift:

  • Stand on one leg with the hands by the sides.
  • Stretch the other leg out behind. Keep the back flat and the shoulders back.
  • Lean forward from the hips until there is a stretch in the hamstrings. Do not let the chest drop below the hips.
  • Return to the starting position. Repeat several times, then switch sides.

If this is too intense, lightly rest the non-supporting leg on the floor. To increase the exercise intensity, use hand-held weights.

7. Side-lying hip abduction

Side-lying hip abductions work the butt

Side-lying hip abduction exercises are effective for strengthening the gluteus medius muscle. To do this exercise:

  • Begin by lying on one side and supporting the head with the arm or hand. Keep the knees straight and feet together.
  • Slowly raise the top leg as high as possible without turning the pelvis backward or forward.
  • Lower the leg slowly to return to the starting position. Repeat several times on each side.

Use ankle weights to increase the intensity of this exercise.

8. Lateral band walk

Strengthen and stabilize the hips and knees with a lateral band walk, which also works the gluteus medius muscle. This exercise is a useful warmup activity before running, jumping, and other activities.

To do the lateral band walk:

  • Take a resistance band and place it under the balls of the feet. Ensure that the band stays flat against the shoes.
  • Stretch the legs to shoulder-width apart. Distribute the weight evenly over both feet.
  • Bending the knees slightly to achieve a semi-squat position, squeeze the glutes and core muscles.
  • With one foot, take a small step of around 3 inches to the side. Move t

Cannabis affects sperm genetic profile

As legal access to marijuana (cannabis) continues expanding across the U.S., more scientists are studying the effects of its active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), in teens, adults and pregnant women.

Cannabis THC molecule

New Cannabis research at Duke University suggests men in their child-bearing years should also consider how THC could impact their sperm and possibly the children they conceive during periods when they’ve been using the drug.

Much like previous research that has shown tobacco smoke, pesticides, flame retardants, and even obesity can alter sperm, the Duke research shows THC also affects epigenetics, triggering structural and regulatory changes in the DNA of users’ sperm.

Experiments in rats and a study with 24 men found that THC appears to target genes in two major cellular pathways and alters DNA methylation, a process essential to normal development.

The researchers do not yet know whether DNA changes triggered by THC are passed to users’ children and what effects that could have. Their findings will be published online Dec. 19 in the journal Epigenetics.

“What we have found is that the effects of cannabis use on males and their reproductive health are not completely null, in that there’s something about cannabis use that affects the genetic profile in sperm,” said Scott Kollins, Ph.D., professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke and senior author of the study.

“We don’t yet know what that means, but the fact that more and more young males of child-bearing age have legal access to cannabis is something we should be thinking about,” Kollins said.

National research has shown a steady decline in the perceived risk of regular marijuana use. This, combined with the demand and wide availability of marijuana bred specifically to yield higher THC content, make this research especially timely, Kollins said.

Cannabis

The study defined regular users as those who smoked marijuana at least weekly for the previous six months. Their sperm was compared to those who had not used marijuana in the past six months and not more than 10 times in their lifetimes.

The higher the concentration of THC in the men’s urine, the more pronounced the genetic changes to their sperm were, the authors found.

THC appeared to impact hundreds of different genes in rats and humans, but many of the genes did have something in common — they were associated with two of the same major cellular pathways, said lead author Susan K. Murphy, Ph.D., associate professor and chief of the Division of Reproductive Sciences in obstetrics and gynecology at Duke.

One of the pathways is involved in helping bodily organs reach their full size; the other involves a large number of genes that regulate growth during development. Both pathways can become dysregulated in some cancers.

“In terms of what it means for the developing child, we just don’t know,” Murphy said. It’s unknown whether sperm affected by THC could be healthy enough to even fertilize an egg and continue its development into an embryo, she said.

The study was a starting point on the epigenetic effects of THC on sperm and is limited by the relatively small number of men involved in the trial, Murphy said. The findings in men also could be confounded by other factors affecting their health, such as their nutrition, sleep, alcohol use and other lifestyle habits.

The Duke team plans to continue its research with larger groups. They intend to study whether changes in sperm are reversed when men stop using marijuana. They also hope to test the umbilical cord blood of babies born to fathers with THC-altered sperm to determine what, if any epigenetic changes, are carried forward to the child.

“We know that there are effects of cannabis use on the regulatory mechanisms in sperm DNA, but we don’t know whether they can be transmitted to the next generation,” Murphy said.

“In the absence of a larger, definitive study, the best advice would be to assume these changes are going to be there,” Murphy said. “We don’t know whether they are going to be permanent. I would say, as a precaution, stop using cannabis for at least six months before trying to conceive.”

Tiny implants may boost weight loss

As obesity rates soar, tiny implants which modify digestive processes appear to be the new trend in controlling or reversing obesity. The hunt for innovative interventions using tiny implants is more pressing than ever. According to a recent paper, a tiny, battery-free implant could offer fresh hope.
tiny implants
Researchers Guang Yao (left) and Xudong Wang (right) hold the small implantable device.
Image credit: Sam Million-Weaver

Obesity is a growing concern; today, experts class well over one-third of people in the United States as obese.

Globally, an estimated 4 million people died of conditions related to a high body mass index (BMI) in 2015 alone.

These worrying trends mean scientists are focused on understanding the causes, risk factors, and implications of obesity.

The reason why obesity develops in certain people and not others is multifaceted, involving genetic, hormonal, and psychological factors, among others.

The direct cause of excess weight, however, is the ingestion of more calories than the body uses. Some scientists are trying to find ways to trick the brain into consuming less food.

New tiny implants technology

Recently, researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison tested a groundbreaking, high-tech solution.

The scientists designed a small, implantable device that they hope will reduce hunger pangs and help people lose weight.

The device, which is less than 1 centimeter across, can be implanted using a minimally invasive technique.

Consisting of a flexible nanogenerator, it sends small pulses of electricity through the vagus nerve, which passes messages between the stomach and the brain.

This mild stimulation convinces the brain that the stomach is full and reduces feelings of hunger.

Importantly, the device does not need a battery or charging. Instead, it gets its power from the churning motion of the stomach during peristalsis.

Because the movement of the stomach provides the device with its power, it only works when the arrival of food causes the stomach to move; this means that the device is only active at the precise time its signals will be effective.

“The pulses correlate with the stomach’s motions, enhancing a natural response to help control food intake,” explains author Xudong Wang, who is a professor of materials science and engineering.

To test the device, the researchers used a rat model, and they have published their findings in the journal Nature Communications. The results have encouraged the authors, as they explain:

We successfully demonstrated this strategy on rats and achieved 38 percent weight loss in as short as 15 days without further rebound, exceeding all current electrical stimulation approaches.”

No obvious safety issues

Importantly, the implant stayed in the correct position throughout the 12-week trial. Furthermore, there were no measurable negative impacts on the rats’ kidney or liver functions and no signs of infection.

The researchers carried out postmortem examinations on most of the animals’ vital organs and found no adverse effects.

When they compared the tiny implants with other weight-loss devices, it had several benefits. Gastric bypass surgery, for instance, permanently reduces the capacity of the stomach, whereas, the new implant is fully reversible, and the implant procedure is much less invasive.

This is not the only implant that stimulates the vagus nerve to reduce hunger pangs. There is a competitor that goes by the name of Maestro, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved. However, Maestro requires ongoing maintenance and up to 3 hours of charging each week.

The new tiny implants have no battery or wiring, as Wang explains, “It’s automatically responsive to our body function, producing stimulation when needed. Our body knows best.”

Also, Maestro uses high-frequency jolts to completely shut down the vagus nerve, rather than the intermittent pulsing of the new technology. Because the newer implant only works when it needs to, the body is less likely to overcompensate, which, in the case of Maestro, can slowly reduce how effective it is over time.

Of course, there is a long path between here and use in humans, but the authors are keen to continue their investigations. Next, they plan to trial the device in larger animals.