Putting the pieces together

Reflecting back on my recent posts, it’s clear my focus is on living healthy as a preventative measure. It is my belief that a balanced life which includes proper nutrition, exercising and taking care of your mental and emotional health can lead to a better quality of life.

A recent study published in the Cancer Research journal brings me full circle in my journey so far on this blog.

Researchers found that weight loss of postmenopausal women by caloric restriction and regular exercise can lower biomarkers for inflammation which are associated with increased risk for several types of cancer.

Biomarkers called high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin were analyzed after a 12 month period where 439 overweight or obese women ages 50 to 75 were separated into four groups: a control group, only diet, only exercise and diet plus exercise, participated in interventions.

“The study found that a 12 month caloric restriction weight loss diet intervention, with or without exercise, produced large, significant reductions in several biomarkers of inflammation.”

They also found that, “direct comparisons of diet versus no diet groups showed significant reduction in all inflammatory biomarkers in the diet groups.” Hs-CRP decreased the most in women who lost five percent or more of their baseline weight in any group tested.

The researchers observed a 40 percent reduction in hs-CRP in the diet and diet plus exercise groups and expected that such a decline would result in a reduction in cancer risks.

I like emphasizing this type of data because it points to how beneficial nutrition and exercise can be for our bodies, even in older age.

Imagine the possibilities of health benefits if young adults were increasingly vigilant about their health from the start. The best medicine can be preventative medicine in the form of natural, whole foods and in strengthening our bodies through exercise.

It is my goal to be constantly aware of how what I am doing to my body will affect me 10, 30 or 50 years down the road. Hopefully by sharing these types of studies, I can inspire that same concern in others.

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Study published in the May 2012 issue of Cancer Research

Losing shut eye may increase sensitivity to food stimuli

Does that massive bagel look appealing this morning despite your dedication to healthy choices? It could be because you’re losing sleep that you feel hungrier than usual.

Not getting the recommended hours of sleep each night leads to increased activation in brain areas associated with regulating hunger and making decisions, says a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Food stimuli increased regional brain activity in areas associated with motivation, decision-making, and self-control.

“Our data thus suggest that restricting sleep alters neuronal activity, which predisposes individuals to enhanced susceptibility to food stimuli and may partly explain the relation observed between sleep duration and BMI,” the study found.

Of particular interest in the study was the finding that in comparing habitual to restricted sleep results, restricted sleep condition showed significantly higher “activation in the insula, involved in processing interoceptive signals such as hunger,” and in “the lentiform nucleus, putamen, and nucleus accumbens –associated with emotional responses to stimuli and motivation and reward systems.”

Researchers recruited 30 participants (26 completed), women and men, of a healthy weight to take part in a two phase study, each six days long, where they were randomly assigned to either a restricted sleep condition (four hours a night) or a habitual sleep condition (nine hours a night).

During the first five days of the study participants had a controlled diet, thereafter they ate as desired. They also had access to gym equipment during the entire study.

On day six, participants had Functional Magnetic Resonsance Imaging (fMRI) scans done while being shown images of food and nonfood items.

Another interesting find was “after a period of restricted sleep, the neuronal pattern was similar to one that would be in place when the body is at lower body weight and aiming to restore initial body weight.”

Restricting sleep may leave you prone to respond more to food stimuli and possibly gain weight due to increased activation in the brain in response to food. The results conclude that the brain scans may indicate increased inclination to seek food for people who are not getting enough sleep.

An irregular sleeping pattern can wreak havoc on your body by not only leaving you feeling more tired, but by leading your brain to respond to food even if you are not hungry.

Get your sleep. Skip the extra calories.

This study was published in the April 2012 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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Here are some tips for how to stay fuller with healthy food

 

 

 

 

 

Stress may drive you to eat more

The busy life of the average adult today will undoubtedly produce common life stressors which could contribute to increased hunger which can become an obstacle for those who are trying to maintain a healthy weight.

A study of 561 women recruited from Northern California found a partial correlation between perceived stress and the drive to eat, specifically for non-nutritious food and a decline in nutritious food intake.

The perception of being highly stressed was also related to an increased lack of control over eating, greater hunger, and more frequent binge eating.

Participants were recruited to complete an online study on “Women’s Health,” and filled out various assessments to measure socio-demographics, height and weight, perceived stress level, chronic stress exposure, binge eating tendencies, and other eating behaviors.

The study discusses the physiological connection in non-human animal tests where, “non-nutritious food has a calming effect on the HPA axis stress response.” The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis is an information loop which includes the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands. The main hormones which activate the HPA, include adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) which can increase cortisol levels in the blood.

Long-term activation of the stress-response system and overexposure to cortisol can disrupt almost all of your body’s processes, a MayoClinic article says.

Unfortunately the drive to eat more non-nutritious food, more often, as a response to stress, as indicated in the stress and eating study above, could lead to weight gain.

Dr. Terri Lisagor, EdD, MS, RD, an assistant professor at California State University Northridge who specializes in Food Science and Nutrition, says individuals should ask themselves what they might not be getting enough of in their diet which could lead to an increased hunger response from stress.

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The study was published in the April issue of “Appetite” journal.

Be healthy now, your body will thank you later

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle from early adulthood contributes to a low cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk profile in middle age.

Researchers at Northwestern University examined in a longitudinal study, that began in 1985, whether having a low cardiovascular risk profile which included having normal cholesterol, normal blood pressure, never smoking, and no history of diabetes or heart attack was associated with maintaining healthy lifestyle factors (HLFs) throughout young adulthood.

The Coronary Artery Risk Development in (Young) Adults (CARDIA) study consisted of 3154 men and women 18 to 30 years old, with a mean age of 25.

Low CVD risk profiles are remarkably low in the U.S. population, only about 7.5 percent according to the CARDIA study.[1]

The HLFs selected for the study included never smoking, habitual moderate to vigorous physical activity, a body mass index (BMI) less than 25 kg/m2, modest or no alcohol consumption and a healthy diet.

“The prevalence of the low risk profile in middle age was significantly and substantially higher with increasing numbers of HLFs during the period from young adulthood to middle age,” (CARDIA).

The results found:

  • After 20 years, the prevalence of a low risk CVD profile for participants was 3, 14.6, 29.5, 39.2 and 60.7 percent for 0 to 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 HLFs, respectively. The “attributable risk” for this steep grade was explained by not having all five HLFs in the first place.
  • A low risk CVD profile was higher in with participants who had an average BMI less than 25 kg/m2, never smoked, had no or moderate alcohol intake, had a healthier diet, and with those who had higher levels of physical activity
  • Benefits of a low CVD risk profile in middle age were maybe to be expected. In follow-up data studies mortality rates from coronary heart disease and CVD in participants with the low CVD risk profile were lower. These participants also had lower rates of various chronic diseases at older ages for these participants.

The results suggest people do benefit from improving their lifestyle at any age but they would benefit most if they maintained a healthy lifestyle from young adulthood to middle age.

“If all U.S. adults had a low risk profile between 2000 and 2010, 372,000 fewer coronary heart disease deaths (95 percent) would have occurred in 2010,”[2] (Capewell et al.).

The study Sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, this article appears in the February 2012 issue of Circulation journal.


[1] Ford ES, Li C, Zhao G, Pearson WS, Capewell S. Trends in the prevalence of low risk factor burden for cardiovascular disease among United States adults. Circulation. 2009;120:1181–1188

[2] Capewell S, Ford ES, Croft JB, Critchley JA, Greenlund KJ, Labarthe DR. Cardiovascular risk factor trends and potential for reducing coronary heart disease mortality in United States of America. Bull World Health Organ. 2010;88:120 –130. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2814476/