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Potatoes can be part of a healthy diet
Louisiana State University, November 18, 2022
When we think of healthy vegetables, we don’t think of potatoes, but we should. Potatoes have developed a reputation for causing weight gain and an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, and often find themselves on a list of foods to avoid, especially for individuals with insulin resistance. However, a new study from Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University, published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, says that potatoes actually did not increase that risk, are filled with key nutrients, and packed with health benefits. Candida Rebello, PhD, an assistant professor at Pennington Biomedical, said, “We demonstrated that contrary to common belief, potatoes do not negatively impact blood glucose levels. In fact, the individuals who participated in our study lost weight.” “People tend to eat the same weight of food regardless of calorie content in order to feel full,” Rebello explained. “By eating foods with a heavier weight that are low in calories, you can easily reduce the number of calories you consume. The key aspect of our study is that we did not reduce the portion size of meals but lowered their caloric content by including potatoes. Each participant’s meal was tailored to their personalized caloric needs, yet by replacing some meat content with potato, participants found themselves fuller, quicker, and often did not even finish their meal. In effect, you can lose weight with little effort.” The study involved 36 participants between the ages of 18 and 60 who were overweight, had obesity, or insulin resistance. Insulin resistance refers to a health condition in which the body’s cells do not respond well to insulin and glucose does not enter into the cells to make energy. Insulin resistance is linked to obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes Participants were fed precisely-controlled diets of widely available common foods including either beans, peas, and meat or fish, or white potatoes with meat or fish. Both diets were high in fruit and vegetable content and substituted an estimated 40% of typical meat consumption with either beans and peas or potatoes. Previous studies have shown that eating beans and peas improves blood glucose levels in individuals with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes. To increase the dietary fiber component of the potatoes, they were boiled with the skin intact and then refrigerated between 12 and 24 hours. Potatoes were incorporated into the main lunch and dinner entrées, and served together with sides such as mashed potatoes, oven-roasted potato wedges, potato salad, and scalloped potatoes with lunch and dinner entrees. “We prepared the potatoes in a way that would maximize their fiber content. When we compared a diet with potatoes to a diet with beans and peas, we found them to be equal in terms of health benefits,” Rebello said. “People typically do not stick with a diet they don’t like or isn’t varied enough. The meal plans provided a variety of dishes, and we showed that a healthy eating plan can have varied options for individuals striving to eat healthy. In addition, potatoes are a fairly inexpensive vegetable to incorporate into a diet.”
Celery Seed Extract Lowers High Blood Pressure in Human Study
University of Chicago Medical Center, November 8, 2022
Drugs to lower blood pressure are among the most commonly prescribed medicines in the U.S. More than 678 million blood pressure prescriptions were filled in 2010. All of the current classes of blood pressure lowering drugs possess significant side effects.A recent study with a special extract of celery seed extract indicates that it may produce clinical results without producing the side effects that plague current drug treatment. Celery seed extract contains an important compound known as 3-n-butylphthalide, or 3nB for short, that is also responsible for the characteristic flavor and odor of celery. 3nB was discovered as the active component of celery in response to investigations by researchers seeking to explain some of the medicinal effects of celery, including the lowering of blood pressure and the relief of arthritis. 3nB first drew significant scientific attention when researchers identified it as the factor in celery responsible for the blood pressure lowering effect of celery. The research was prompted by one of the researcher’s father, who after eating a quarter-pound of celery every day for one week observed his blood pressure dropped from 158 over 96 to a normal reading of 118 over 82. A recent human study evaluated the efficacy of a standardized extract of celery seed supplying 85 percent 3nB in 30 patients with mild to moderate hypertension. The dosage was 150 mg per day. The results showed a statistically significant decrease in both systolic (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) compared to baseline measurements. The change at week six for the SBP was 8.2 mmHg and for the DBP was 8.5 mmHG. No side effects were reported. These results indicate that celery seed extract may produce the greatest blood pressure-lowering effects in natural products available on health food store shelves. A major advantage of celery extract over conventional drugs used in high blood pressure is that drugs like beta-blockers, angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, and calcium channel blockers tend to significantly lower the blood flow to the brain While this effect is helpful in reducing the likelihood of stroke, it often leaves patients taking these drugs feeling tired, depressed, dizzy, and forgetful. Celery extract on the other hand has actually been shown to not only help prevent stroke in animal studies, but also improve blood flow as well and act to protect the brain and enhance energy production with the brain.
Exercise during pregnancy gives newborn brain development a head start
University of Montreal, November 10, 2022
As little as 20 minutes of moderate exercise three times per week during pregnancy enhances the newborn child’s brain development, according to researchers at the University of Montreal and its affiliated CHU Sainte-Justine children’s hospital. This head-start could have an impact on the child’s entire life. “Our research indicates that exercise during pregnancy enhances the newborn child’s brain development,” explained Professor Dave Ellemberg, who led the study. “While animal studies have shown similar results, this is the first randomized controlled trial in humans to objectively measure the impact of exercise during pregnancy directly on the newborn’s brain.We hope these results will guide public health interventions and research on brain plasticity. Most of all, we are optimistic that this will encourage women to change their health habits, given that the simple act of exercising during pregnancy could make a difference for their child’s future.” Not so long ago, obstetricians would tell women to take it easy and rest during their pregnancy. Recently, the tides have turned and it is now commonly accepted that inactivity is actually a health concern. “While being sedentary increases the risks of suffering complications during pregnancy, being active can ease post-partum recovery, make pregnancy more comfortable and reduce the risk of obesity in the children,” Curier explained. “Given that exercise has been demonstrated to be beneficial for the adult’s brain, we hypothesized that it could also be beneficial for the unborn child through the mother’s actions.” To verify this, starting at the beginning of their second trimester, women were randomly assigned to an exercise group or a sedentary group. Women in the exercise group had to perform at least 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise three times per week at a moderate intensity, which should lead to at least a slight shortness of breath. Women in the sedentary group did not exercise. The brain activity of the newborns was assessed between the ages of 8 to 12 days, by means of electroencephalography, which enables the recording of the electrical activity of the brain. “We used 124 soft electrodes placed on the infant’s head and waited for the child to fall asleep on his or her mother’s lap. We then measured auditory memory by means of the brain’s unconscious response to repeated and novel sounds,” Labonté-LeMoyne said. “Our results show that the babies born from the mothers who were physically active have a more mature cerebral activation, suggesting that their brains developed more rapidly.”
Keeping indoor humidity levels at a ‘sweet spot’ may reduce the spread of COVID-19
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, November 14, 2022
We know proper indoor ventilation is key to reducing the spread of COVID-19. Now, a study by MIT researchers finds that indoor relative humidity may also influence transmission of the virus. Relative humidity is the amount of moisture in the air compared to the total moisture the air can hold at a given temperature before saturating and forming condensation. In a study appearing in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, the MIT team reports that maintaining an indoor relative humidity between 40 and 60% is associated with relatively lower rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths, while indoor conditions outside this range are associated with worse COVID-19 outcomes. To put this into perspective, most people are comfortable between 30 and 50% relative humidity, and an airplane cabin is at around 20% relative humidity. The findings are based on the team’s analysis of COVID-19 data combined with meteorological measurements from 121 countries, from January 2020 through August 2020. Their study suggests a strong connection between regional outbreaks and indoor relative humidity. In general, the researchers found that whenever a region experienced a rise in COVID-19 cases and deaths prevaccination, the estimated indoor relative humidity in that region, on average, was either lower than 40% or higher than 60% regardless of season. Nearly all regions in the study experienced fewer COVID-19 cases and deaths during periods when estimated indoor relative humidity was within a “sweet spot” between 40 and 60%.
“There’s potentially a protective effect of this intermediate indoor relative humidity,” suggests lead author Connor Verheyen, a Ph.D. student in medical engineering and medical physics in the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology. “However, we find that maintaining an indoor relative humidity in that sweet spot—of 40 to 60%—is associated with reduced COVID-19 cases and deaths.”In all, they focused on 121 countries where COVID-19 outbreaks occurred. For each country, they also tracked the local COVID-19 related policies, such as isolation, quarantine, and testing measures, and their statistical association with COVID-19 outcomes. In warmer times, both outdoor and indoor relative humidity for each country was about the same, but they quickly diverged in colder times. While outdoor humidity remained around 50% throughout the year, indoor relative humidity for countries in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres dropped below 40% in their respective colder periods, when COVID-19 cases and deaths also spiked in these regions.
Why Are Kids So Great at Learning? GABA
Brown University, November 16, 2022
GABA is the abbreviation for the neurotransmitter γ-aminobutyric acid. In the study, published in the journal Current Biology, researchers explain GABA’s crucial role in helping children process new information and prepare their brains to learn and store even more. “What we found is a rapid increase in GABA in children, associated with learning,” says lead study author Takeo Watanabe, a professor of cognitive and linguistic sciences at Brown University. The neurotransmitter GABA plays an important role in helping the brain consolidate new info, Watanabe says. It “stabilizes” the network so that subsequent learning doesn’t override what was already there and defends knowledge against retrograde interference. Yet this kind of GABA inhibitory processing is not fully matured in children, he says. Kids have lower levels of GABA—it’s why they have less inhibitory abilities and weaker impulse control than adults. So if GABA is necessary to set the brain up to learn consecutive items, and children have less GABA than adults, then how are children able to, as Watanabe puts it, “learn and learn and learn and learn?”
Using an advanced imaging technique called functional MRS, they measured the concentration of GABA in early visual cortical areas before, during and after learning sessions. They then compared the concentrations between children (ages 8 to 11) and adults (ages 18 to 35). They found that before learning begins, the overall amount of GABA in children is indeed smaller than in adults, Watanabe says. However, the researchers found that children exhibited a rapid boost in GABA concentration in the second round of learning, while the concentration of GABA in adults did not change.The results of the experiments suggest that compared with adults, children exhibit more dynamic GABA-associated inhibitory processing, which more rapidly adapts to stabilize learning than in adults, the researchers conclude.
Being comfortable with aging can benefit sex life
University of Missouri, November 17, 2022
Researchers have long known that having a positive outlook can benefit a person’s health.Now, a new study by the University of Missouri has found older adults who feel positively about aging have a healthier sex life—a finding that didn’t surprise the researcher, who’s been studying the benefits of the positive perceptions of aging.”We know positive perceptions of aging can be really beneficial, but when they are negative, they can be really detrimental. Negative perceptions of aging are linked to higher likelihood of cognitive decline, higher likelihood of cardiovascular disease and even shorter lifespans. We wanted to see how it would affect people’s sexual relationships. As expected, thinking positively about the way you age can also lead to a healthy sex life.” “We found this relationship to be strong with both men and women,” Skoblow said. “With data from more than 1,100 couples, we were able to find that participants with a more positive perception of aging also had sex more frequently as well as increased satisfaction.” “It’s possible that if people expect a steep physical decline as an inevitable part of aging, they could have anticipatory inhibitions. They stop enjoying themselves in the moment and could have less satisfying sexual encounters,” Skoblow said. “We also know that western cultures often have many youthful beauty ideals, so maybe people with more positive perceptions of aging don’t buy into them as much, leading to a more satisfying sex life as their body begins to change.”