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Apples and pears can slash your stroke risk by half
Wageningen University (Netherlands), February 19, 2023
Exciting research results out of Holland show that the simple act of adding more apples and pears to your diet can help to prevent incidents of stroke by up to 52 percent. The researchers believe that the high content of quercetin, a potent antioxidant in white-fleshed fruits is what gives these foods their healing power.
Of course, it should be noted that most fruits and vegetables that have white flesh tend to be loaded with quercetin – not just apples and pears.
For the study, 20,000 people kept detailed records about the foods they ate daily over a 10 year period. When the data was analyzed, it showed participants who ate high amounts of fruit with white flesh, in particular apples and pears, showed a 52 percent reduced risk of having a stroke.
For every additional 25 g of white fruits and vegetables a person consumed, their risk of stroke fell by 9 percent.
Quercetin, in apples and pears, is the key to reducing blood clots. The quercetin found in high amounts in white-fleshed fruits is known for its ability to support cellular health and functioning. It also inhibits inflammatory cytokines production – which is known to assist in blood clotting regulation.
In addition to apples and pears: bananas, grapefruit, onions and legumes contain quercetin. However, taking a quercetin supplement can also help to bring you anti-stroke benefits.
The recommended dose of quercetin is generally 250 mg per day, but you should check with your doctor to determine the ideal dose for you.
Consuming turmeric for just 2 months can increase your good gut bacteria by 7%
University of California San Diego, February 18, 2023
Gut health isn’t just important for digestive health, it also benefits other body systems, including the nervous and the immune system. This means that having a healthy gut is important in keeping both the mind and body in shape. The key to having great gut health is to keep a balanced and diverse array of bacteria living in the digestive system.
A recent study suggests that you can increase your good gut bacteria by 7 percent by taking turmeric for two months. Turmeric, of course, has curcumin, a compound which gives the spice its bright yellow color and its powerful antioxidant properties.
Published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine, the study investigated how turmeric and curcumin influenced gut health. In the study, a team of U.S. researchers recruited 30 healthy participants and divided them into three groups: a placebo group, a turmeric group, and a curcumin group. The difference between the turmeric and curcumin group was that the latter received tablets that contain a standardized form of curcumin extracted from turmeric.
They gave the participants turmeric tablets with extract of piperine, curcumin with piperine tablets, or placebo tablets for two months. Piperine is the active ingredient in black pepper that gives the spice’s unique taste. Earlier animal studies have found that herbal ingredients like turmeric and black pepper may influence the diversity of bacteria in the gut.
The researchers assessed the changes in the gut microbiota through stool samples collected from the participants. The results showed that those who took turmeric and curcumin supplements had an almost seven percent increase in bacteria species in their guts. On the other hand, those who took the placebo experienced a decrease of 15 percent in gut bacterial diversity.
The researchers said that turmeric and curcumin exhibited a prebiotic-like effect, which came from indirect effects, such as a change in barrier function through selective survival of local bacteria or other microorganisms.
Excess weight, obesity more deadly than previously believed
University of Colorado at Boulder
Excess weight or obesity boosts risk of death by anywhere from 22% to 91%—significantly more than previously believed—while the mortality risk of being slightly underweight has likely been overestimated, according to new University of Colorado Boulder research.
The findings, published Feb. 9 in the journal Population Studies, counter prevailing wisdom that excess weight boosts mortality risk only in extreme cases.
The statistical analysis of nearly 18,000 people also shines a light on the pitfalls of using Body Mass Index (BMI) to study health outcomes, providing evidence that the go-to metric can potentially bias findings. After accounting for those biases, it estimates that about 1 in 6 U.S. deaths are related to excess weight or obesity.
While numerous studies show that heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes (which are often associated with being overweight) elevate mortality risk, very few have shown that groups with higher BMIs have higher mortality rates.
Instead, in what some call the ‘obesity paradox,’ most studies show a U-shaped curve: Those in the “overweight” category (BMI 25 to 30) surprisingly have the lowest mortality risk. Those in the “obese” category (30 to 35) have little or no increased risk over the so-called “healthy” category (18.5-25). And both the “underweight” (less than 18.5) and extremely obese (35 and higher) are at increased risk of death.
“The conventional wisdom is that elevated BMI generally does not raise mortality risk until you get to very high levels and that there are actually some survival benefits to being overweight,” said Masters, a social demographer who has spent his career studying mortality trends. “I have been suspicious of these claims.”
He noted that BMI, which doctors and scientists often use as a health measure, is based on weight and height only and doesn’t account for differences in body composition or how long a person has been overweight.
“It’s a reflection of stature at a point in time. That’s it,” said Masters, noting that Tom Cruise (at 5 feet 7 inches and an extremely muscular 201 pounds at one point), had a BMI of 31.5, famously putting him in the category of “obese.” “It isn’t fully capturing all of the nuances and different sizes and shapes the body comes in.”
Masters pointed out that a lifetime carrying excess weight can lead to illnesses that, paradoxically, lead to rapid weight loss. If BMI data is captured during this time, it can skew study results.
Meanwhile, 37% of those characterized as overweight and 60% of those with obese BMI had been at lower BMIs in the decade prior. Notably, those who had only recently gained weight had better health profiles.
“The health and mortality consequences of high BMI are not like a light switch,” said Masters. “There’s an expanding body of work suggesting that the consequences are duration-dependent.
Survey: 9 in 10 adults have tried losing weight in past 5 years — but 44% gained more than 20 pounds
Nutrisystem, February 24, 2023
No, you’re not crazy and you’re not alone – losing weight continues to be a struggle for many Americans. A poll of 2,000 Americans who have tried to lose weight at any point in their life finds that 95 percent have tried to lose weight within the last five years. However, 44 percent have struggled so much over the past half decade, that they’ve ended up gaining 21 pounds or more.
For the year ahead, 62 percent say they are planning to lose an average of 22 pounds to reach their goals in 2023. Over half (58%), however, recognize their weight loss goal is ambitious. Although 72 percent say losing weight this year is a major priority for them, nearly as many (71%) believe there are a lot of challenges making it difficult for them to lose weight.
Commissioned by Nutrisystem, the study reveals the biggest challenges people face while trying to lose weight, including maintaining willpower (28%), lack of motivation (27%), eating healthy foods (27%), and overcoming hunger (27%). Other major challenges people face include the pure difficulty of losing weight (26%), the expense associated with weight loss (25%), and even finding time to work out (25%).
Many place the blame on distractions in their lives — like health issues (25%), money problems (23%), and social media (19%). Even where people work impacts their eating habits. Out of the 27 percent surveyed who say they work in a hybrid environment (half work-from-home, half in an office or on-location), 69 percent eat more frequently at home than they would at their workplace.
The study also reveals that 73 percent of Americans think losing weight is “great at first,” but then it slows down and plateaus. Similarly, 72 percent claim it “feels like forever” before they see any weight loss results. Even then, the average person can only tell they’ve lost weight after dropping 20 pounds.
The reasons why people choose to lose weight are typically personal. Many want to improve their appearance (43%), feel more confident in themselves (39%), and to address major health concerns (39%). When it comes to discussing their weight loss journey, 44 percent tend to keep the goal to themselves, while 40 percent don’t mind sharing their journey with others.
Fruits, vegetables, ‘farm-to-fork continuum’ vital to cancer prevention
Penn State University, February 19, 2023
After decades of research aimed at improving the yield, appearance and safety of fruits, vegetables and grains, it’s time to focus science on the health benefits those foods can provide, according to a cancer researcher in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.
But concentrating on the foods’ potential alone won’t adequately assess their cancer-fighting properties, noted Jairam Vanamala, associate professor of food science. Instead, he contends that researchers must consider the effect of how foods are harvested, handled, stored and prepared to aid the development of new and science-based strategies for cancer prevention.
The influence of that “farm-to-fork continuum” on the bioactive compounds in fruits, vegetables and grains is critical and has largely gone unstudied, he believes.
Vanamala pointed out that new cancer cases are expected to surge 57 percent worldwide in the next two decades. With most cancers containing numerous genetic alterations and the dysregulation of multiple critical cellular-signaling pathways, he doesn’t expect a “silver bullet” treatment effective against most cancers to emerge.
“Instead, research should shift toward developing prevention strategies for cancer. Accumulating evidence suggests that a diet high in plant-based foods is preventive of a variety of chronic diseases, including cancer,” he said. “A plethora of bioactive compounds—such as polyphenols, glucosinolates and carotenoids in fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes—are shown to suppress a variety of biological capabilities required for tumor growth.”
“Many practices in the farm-to-fork continuum, including preharvest methods, postharvest storage and processing, and consumer practices, affect a food’s bioactive compound content, composition and chemopreventive bioactivity,” Vanamala explained. “Food system practices may be adjusted to improve the bioactive compound profile, elevating the cancer-fighting properties of fruits, vegetables and other food products.”
For example, Vanamala said, recent studies reported that two types of bioactive compounds—polyphenols and isothiocyanates—possess cancer preventive/protective activity. “These two compounds are present in many whole foods, such as grapes, broccoli and others. However, no studies have been conducted on using farm-to-fork-function continuum on whole foods anti-cancer activity even though pre- and postharvest practices were shown to alter the content and composition of bioactive compounds.”
Ramping up the amount of bioactive, cancer-fighting compounds in foods via the farm-to-fork continuum is especially critical because the number of servings of fruits increased by only 0.3 and vegetables by only 0.8 per capita during the last 30 years. Given the ineffectiveness of public healthcampaigns to increase fruit and vegetable consumption, Vanamala said, selection of cultivars with greater bioactive compound content may be a more effective means of improving the overall health of the population.
But consumer selection has the greatest impact on overall dietary intake of bioactive compounds. Though crop biodiversity has decreased, consumers still have the ability to choose foods with more bioactive compounds in many situations.
“Choosing red onions, purple-fleshed potatoes, or even blue corn chips instead of their respective white alternatives could lead to increased bioactive compound intakes,” Vanamala said.
“By selecting a wide variety of whole foods—consuming a rainbow of foods—consumers can maximize the health benefits gained from fruit and vegetable bioactive compounds.”
Exercise more effective than medicines to manage mental health, says study
University of South Australia, February 24, 2023
University of South Australia researchers are calling for exercise to be a mainstay approach for managing depression as a new study shows that physical activity is 1.5 times more effective than counseling or the leading medications.
Published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the review is the most comprehensive to date, encompassing 97 reviews, 1,039 trials and 128,119 participants. It shows that physical activity is extremely beneficial for improving symptoms of depression, anxiety, and distress.
Specifically, the review showed that exercisevinterventions that were 12 weeks or shorter were most effective at reducing mental health symptoms, highlighting the speed at which physical activity can make a change.
Lead researcher, Dr. Ben Singh, says physical activity must be prioritized to better manage the growing cases of mental health conditions.
“Physical activity is known to help improve mental health. Yet despite the evidence, it has not been widely adopted as a first-choice treatment,” Dr. Singh says. “Our review shows that physical activity interventions can significantly reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in all clinical populations, with some groups showing even greater signs of improvement.
“Higher intensity exercise had greater improvements for depression and anxiety, while longer durations had smaller effects when compared to short and mid-duration bursts.
“We also found that all types of physical activity and exercise were beneficial, including aerobic exercise such as walking, resistance training, Pilates, and yoga.
“Importantly, the research shows that it doesn’t take much for exercise to make a positive change to your mental health.”
Senior researcher, UniSA’s Prof Carol Maher, says the study is the first to evaluate the effects of all types of physical activity on depression, anxiety, and psychological distress in all adult populations.