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A Health, Nutrition, and Alternative Medicine Blog

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Supplemental Drinks and Too Faced Marketing

Marketers are having a field day with supplemental drinks and products. For instance, marketing by Too Faced Cosmetics is claiming, ‘Always on the lips…never on the hips’, for their new lip-gloss line that claims to suppress the appetite.

How is this possible? Well, whether it is possible or not is still to be determined, but the lip-gloss touts the same mix of ingredients and mineral supplements that are found in Coca-Cola’s energy fruit drinks, Fuze. They claim that the lip-gloss works because the skin on your lips is thin and allows you to ingest the supplements, giving you a metabolism boost.

How nice it would be if we could all just slather on some lip-gloss and go about our merry way, while burning calories. Unfortunately, nutrition experts don’t agree. Many feel that the only way the lip-gloss could possibly help you lose weight is by default of being a distraction, something to do other than eat.

Fuze, which only has 10 calories per serving, and Enviga, a Nestle and Coke drink product with only 5 calories per serving, are claiming that their drinks help participants burn more calories than those who drink a plain beverage. The question is, ‘What is a plain beverage?’ Does that mean plain, whole milk, plain Coca-Cola or plain high fructose fruit juice?

Their claim to fame is a study done on 31 slim people for three days, in which they drank three cans of Enviga each day. They claim the people who drank Enviga instead of a ‘plain’ beverage burned 106 more calories. The study doesn’t say what was eaten, what the plain beverage was or what the other stats to the study were.

Health experts say you’d have to drink about nine cans of the stuff to burn 100 calories. At $1.50 a can, it might be easier to take a walk around the block.





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Short naps Boost Memory

Taking a nap is refreshing. When I have a stressful decision to make, I always take a nap to clear my head and the decision seems to shine through easily upon waking. Researchers are suggesting that naps are good for more than clearing the head, but can also be used to boost memory.

The study was performed by the University of Dusseldorf and included volunteers who were given a set of words to remember and then given an hour break. Some of the students were able to sleep the entire time, while others were only allowed a six minute catnap. Those who only napped did surprisingly better on memory tests.

While many studies and tests have been done to determine the relationship between sleep and memory, many are still unconvinced that taking a nap as short as six minutes could have an effect on memory. Most health experts feel that memory is boosted after a lapse into deep sleep, which takes at least 20 minutes.

The researchers of the six minute study believe that the moment of falling asleep can trigger a memory process in the brain and believe that a brief nap is an effective memory enhancer.

New Scientist magazine reported the study findings, though many health experts are still unconvinced.




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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Are Tart cherries Good For Obesity?

A recent study done on rats, not on humans, concluded that tart cherries may be responsible for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. The researchers, from the University of Michigan, believe this is due to the fruit reducing inflammation.

The study was an unusual one – instead of giving the rats tart cherries, they fed 48 rats - half of which were already obese - a high fat, ‘American style’ diet mixed with whole tart cherry powder. The diets were monitored for 90 days and included 45 percent fat and 35 percent carbohydrates (For more information on carbs read- The Glycemic index).

They came to their conclusion on the basis that the rats who received the cherry tart powder did not gain weight as much as those who individuals did not receive the powder. They also reported that the rats eating tart cherry powder had reduced levels of triglycerides and cholesterol.

The University of Michigan researchers are currently talking about a clinical trial later this year with humans, to see if the effects are similar.









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Do you have diabetes? Do Tai chi!

Two pilot studies found that doing tai chi and/or qigong helped to lower blood sugar and reduce risks of type 2 diabetes. The studies were very small, including only 41 people combined.

The first study was done by the Chang Gung Memorial Hosptial in Taiwan and included 30 middle-aged and older adults who participated in an hour long tai chi class three times a week for twelve weeks. The study concluded that that tai chi helped lower long-term blood sugar levels in the participants.

In the second study, researchers from the University of Queensland used a specially designed program consisting of tai chi and qigong on 11 middle-aged and older adults with high blood sugar for 12 weeks. Seven of the participants also had metabolic syndrome, which includes abdominal obesity, impaired blood sugar control, high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides and high blood pressure. They found that participants showed a reduction in the waist size and blood pressure level, plus a minor improvement in blood sugar control.

Both tai chi and qigong are low-impact ancient Chinese practices that include gentle, flowing movements, breath work and meditation and visualization.

Although the studies seemed promising, they were too small to make solid conclusions. Larger clinical trials are in the works.









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Fast-food can cause liver damage

We all know that eating fast food isn’t healthy. In the spirit of the movie ‘Supersize Me’ by Morgan Spurlock, Swedish researchers conducted their own study to see what happens to otherwise healthy people who ate two supersized fast-food meals over the course of a month, while taking on a sedentary lifestyle.

Their finding weren’t surprising. The 18 healthy, active medical students who volunteered for the study showed an average weight gain of 14 pounds, added 2.6 inches to their waistline and added 3.7% fat to their body during the month. They also showed an increase in liver enzymes called alanine aminotransferase (ALT), which can be a sign of liver damage.


While it’s not clear whether the increase in liver enzymes was due to eating fast-food or from being sedentary, the researchers were surprised to find that the main damage wasn’t from animal fat. It appeared that the healthy HDL cholesterol increased, even though the amount of animal fats was increased. What seemed to be the worst issue was an increase in carbs from sugar-laden soda, fries and bread products, which researchers feel were the main reason the liver enzymes were increased.

The end conclusion is no surprising: Don’t overeat sugar and starches and get plenty of exercise.





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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Researchers may have found a Longevity Gene

Harvard University researchers have isolated a gene known as PCN1 in yeast that affects yeast’s life span. Yeast and mankind share much of the same genetic makeup, consequently researchers often use yeast to help them understand how analogous human genes function.

Researchers found that yeast with five duplicates of this gene live nearly seventy percent longer life spans than yeast with less copies of PCN1. PCN1 controls the formation of nicotinamide (a type of B3), a chemical compound that seems to control cell death. The study results indicate that higher levels of this substance cause more rapid cell death and that lower levels of nicotinamide allow cells to live longer.

Interestingly, researchers also found that PCN1 is sensitive to heat, lower salt levels, and most importantly limiting calorie intake. Of course, we have all seen the studies done with rats that show that rats that endure near starvation conditions live longer. Researchers have also conducted these same studies with fruit flies and worms with similar results.

Researchers believe this same phenomenon may be true for humans as well, and that human longevity may be potentially improved through caloric restrictions. Researchers are exploring the possibility that increased life span occurs due to the body’s natural cellular defense to starvation.

Researchers are so intrigued with their yeast study results, they have decided to conduct a study that will explore the possibility that humans also have a gene similar to PCN1, which of course holds the potential of longer life spans for humans.









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Limiting Yeast Consumption may lead to a longer healthier life

Recently, University College in London conducted a study that involved fruit flies and their consumption of sugar and yeast. The researchers found that fruit flies that ate more protein and fat lived longer than those who consumed more yeast and sugar.

Longevity may depend on what you eat rather than caloric count, contrary to present standards. In fact, University College researchers are of the opinion that certain foods trigger certain metabolic responses, which affect longevity in different ways. Other researches are quick to point out that at this time it would be difficult to ascertain whether specific foods affect longevity or caloric intake has more affect upon human life span.

The International Longevity Centre suggests that until recently the issue of how diet may affect longevity has largely been ignored. Both the United States and the United Kingdom are experiencing an alarming increase of obesity among their citizens; consequently their populations are experiencing increase of other morbidities such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and cancer.

The Centre suggests that by following a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and fish, most individuals experience healthier lives and live longer. A healthy diet combined with exercise, moderate alcohol use, and avoidance of tobacco give individuals more years of good health than any single of these lifestyle choices accomplish on its own.

The fruit fly study and other studies seem to suggest that fat and protein consumption may not have the negative effect upon longevity and weight control that current thinking has portrayed them to have. In fact, the food pyramid with a heavy carbohydrate (often yeast based products) base may actually cause increased obesity and lessen the human life span. It is time to through conventional wisdom out the window, and take a look at the fact that individuals have gotten fatter with during the past twenty years not thinner.

During these same twenty years low fat and low protein diets have been touted as the way to a thinner healthier individual, sadly statistics indicate that this approach does not work.

Perhaps, we should adopt a reverse pyramid with more emphasis place upon healthy protein, fat, fiber, and complex carbohydrates, rather than yeast products (white bread, rolls, etc) and other refined carbohydrates (refined carbohydrates are processed as sugar).









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Botox: from food poisoning to wrinkle eliminator

People will do almost anything to appear young and wrinkle-free. They’ll even inject food poisoning into their face. The popular wrinkle eliminator, Botox, has been around since the 1800’s, but it wasn’t known as a movie-star cosmetic. Instead what is known as botox now was known as a botulism, a food-borne neurotoxin that caused neurological symptoms such as muscle weakness, drooping eyelids and difficulty swallowing.

The toxin was first found in 1820 by Dr. Justinus Kerner, a scientist who found botulism in a batch of spoiled sausages that had caused several deaths. Later, in the late 1800’s, botulism popped up again when 3 people died and 23 were paralyzed after eating a bad ham. Studies followed and seven strains of botulinum toxin were identified.

Finally, in the 1950’s and 1960’s, researchers began looking at how the toxin could be beneficial. They found it to be a muscle relaxer and particularly helpful for strabismus, or crossed eyes. By the 1980’s studies had found that it was helpful for neck and shoulder spasms, vocal cord spasms and facial spasms, and the FDA approved botulinum toxin for the treatment of strabismus and blepharospasm, spasms of the eyelid muscle. Shortly thereafter the name was changed from botulinum toxin to the now popular name, Botox.

By the 1990’s the toxin was being studied excessively and had been found to help alleviate everything from writer’s cramp to excessive sweating. It was during this time of study that a Dr. Jean Carruthrs, a Canadian ophthalmologist found that it was lessening the brow wrinkles in her patients who were using it to treat blepharospasm. By 2002, the FDA had approved the toxin for cosmetic reasons.

Today, the once deadly food-borne toxin is the number one non-surgical cosmetic treatment in the United States.




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