Could a vegan diet improve your mood and your diabetes?

vegan, vegetarian, health, dietVegan diets have seemed to gain popularity over the years for several reasons. First of all, a plant-based diet full of fiber and antioxidants seems to improve heart health risk factors. Secondly, it’s a way for people to show they support animal rights. Also, it’s an eating regimen that can be fitting for those who may have dairy and or egg allergies. However, recent research shows that a vegan diet could also help improve the health of body and mind of those with type 2 diabetes. 

What is a vegan diet?

A vegan diet is one that avoids any animal products. This includes meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, as well as dairy products. No to mention, that this type of diet avoids ingredients like gelatin, honey, beeswax, casein, and whey that come from animals or insects.

Many vegan-certified products sit on store shelves. From meatless burgers, cookies, and dairy-free cheese, these products make this diet regimen easier to follow long-term. However, it’s important to remember that these foods are still processed. Since this diet’s health benefits stem from its plant-based nature, you should consume mostly whole foods for optimal health.

Vegan diet and diabetes

A recent study shows that eating a meat-free, dairy free diet full of plant-based foods can improve mood and overall health. This evidence review looked at studies of those with type 2 diabetes following a vegan diet.  Study results show that those with diabetes on such plant-based diets had better control of their diabetes and overall health.  These individuals had better control of their blood glucose levels, lipid levels, and cholesterol levels.

And if that wasn’t enough to convince you to eat plant-based, these individuals saw several other benefits too. In over half of the studies reviewed, those with diabetes were able to cut down or discontinue their diabetes medicines. Also, some individuals reported reduced diabetic nerve pain as well as improved mental health factors and quality of life.

Other ways to improve your diabetes

A plant-based diet is not the only way to help improve your diabetes. Read below for more tips on how to feel better in body and mind whether you have diabetes or not.

  • Stay active: It’s important for just about everyone to stay active for overall health. Exercise can help you manage stress, keep your heart string, help you to manage weight, and can also improve diabetes risk factors. When it comes to diabetes, staying active can help improve insulin resistance in the body. Therefore, try to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day most days. It doesn’t have to be anything strenuous. Just walking, gardening, or cleaning house can count towards your exercise. And you can split it up into smaller fragments of exercise like 5 or 10 minutes of exercise several times a day to make it more practical.
  • Sleep enough each night: It’s important for most adults to sleep at least seven and nine hours a night for your best health. This is especially true for those with diabetes. This is because a lack of sleep, which throws off hormone levels in the body, can  increase risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Manage stress: When you are stressed, your blood pressure can rise. Not only that, but stress can also increase blood glucose levels. Therefore, it’s important to find ways to manage your stress to help improve your diabetes or lower risk for diabetes. Some ways you can try to manage stress include relaxation breathing, yoga, talking to a counselor, or taking a walk when you feel stressed.
  • Add a supplement to your daily regimen: If you are deficient in any nutrients like iron or vitamin B12, you may feel fatigue which can make it hard to stay active an healthy. Therefore, be sure to have your nutrient levels checked each year and supplement if needed. You can also try a supplement made just for those trying to control diabetes like Glucarex by Vita Sciences. Glucarex contains compounds like chromium, alpha lipoic acid, and cinnamon to help support weight loss, healthy metabolism, and healthy blood glucose levels.

References:

Kahleova, H., Levin, S., and Barnard, N.D. (May-June 2018) “Vegetarian Dietary Patterns and Cardiovascular Disease.” Progress in cardiovascular diseases, 61(1): 54-61.

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (January 2016) “4 Steps to Manage Your Diabetes for Life.”

National Sleep Foundation (accessed November 12, 2018) “The link between a lack of sleep and type 2 diabetes.”

Thompson, D. (October 30, 2018) “For Diabetics, Going Vegan May Boost Mood Along With Health.” HealthDay online

 

 

Is there a link between diabetes and depression?

depression, mental health, anxiety, healthDepression on its own can be a very challenging condition to deal with. This diagnosis not only affects the mind, but can affect the body as well. It can make everyday tasks difficult to deal with such as sleeping, working, and even eating. Because of the effect of depression on eating behaviors, weight gain or loss can occur through appetite changes unrelated to diet.  Not only that, but because of the many lifestyle changes that come with a diabetes diagnosis, depression is seen two to three times more often in such patients than those without diabetes. A recent study looked at how diet and exercise factors can affect the relationship between depression and metabolic syndrome.

What is depression?

We all may feel depressed from time to time. However, a diagnosis of depression is a chronic display of such feelings that can affect daily life, relationships, and can cause both psychological and physical symptoms. If the following symptoms occur for two weeks or more, then you should see a doctor for possible diagnosis and treatment of depression.

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
  • Slowed movements and speech
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Conditions related to the thyroid, nutrient deficiencies, or tumors of the brain can mimic symptoms of depression. Therefore, such underlying causes should be ruled out by a qualified healthcare provider.

Metabolic syndrome and depression

Metabolic syndrome is the name for a group of risk factors that can increase a person’s risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and stroke.

  • A waist circumference of more than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men
  • A triglyceride level of 150 mg/dL or higher
  • An HDL cholesterol level of less than 50 mg/dL for women and less than 40 mg/dL for men
  • A blood pressure of 130/85 mmHg or higher
  • A fasting blood sugar level of 100 mg/dL or higher

Research shows that there is a relationship between those with depression and metabolic syndrome.  A recent study looked at this relationship to see what exactly is causing it. Researchers looked at data from over 64,000 adults. Study results show that those with depression are highly linked to a high fat, high sugar diet regimen and low levels of physical activity.

Researchers suggest that diet and exercise may link depression and metabolic syndrome. However, they also state that inflammation and genetic factors have a greater causal link between the two conditions. Inflammation can develop as a result of the stress on the brain due to depression that may cause an imbalance in gut microbiome. This link is a theory known as the gut-brain axis. This in turn, could cause inflammation in the body that could increase risk of chronic diseases like heat disease and diabetes.

How to lower risk of metabolic syndrome

Besides diet and exercise, you can use the tips below to help lower your risk of metabolic syndrome.

  • Add more fruit and vegetables to your diet: More fruits and vegetables means more antioxidants. And more antioxidants in your diet means more anti-inflammatory power. In turn, you can help reduce inflammation in your body by adding more colorful fiber sources to your plate at each meal.
  • Move more: Exercising at least 30 minutes a day for most days of the week can help you manage your weight. It can also help you manage stress and strengthen your heart. All of these factors can help reduce inflammation in your body and lower chronic disease risk.
  • Stop smoking or never start: Smoking can constrict blood vessels and in turn can increase heart disease risk. Therefore, if you already smoke, visit Smokefree.gov to quit. If you have never started smoking, then don’t. Your body will thank you.
  • Take a daily supplement: If you are deficient in nutrients, then this could put you at risk for conditions like depression that have an inflammatory link.  Certain supplements can also help you gain better control over your blood glucose levels too. Glucarex by Vita Sciences is one such supplement that uses chromium, alpha lipoic acid, and cinnamon to help support weight loss, metabolism, and blood glucose levels.

 

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

References:

American Psychiatric Association (January 2017) “What is Depression?”  Physician Review By: Ranna Parekh, M.D., M.P.H.

Matta J, Hoertel N, Kesse-Guyot E, et al. (2019) Diet and physical activity in the association between depression and metabolic syndrome: Constances studyJ Affect Disord., 244:25-32.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (accessed November 6, 2018) “Metabolic Syndrome.”

Lower stroke risk with healthy living

heart, health, stroke, cardiovascular, nutritionIt may seem like common sense that living a healthier lifestyle can lower your disease risk. but what exactly is a healthier lifestyle? With so much information on health and wellness in the media, it can be hard to know what healthy really is. From low carb to keto to fasting, each diet plan claims to be the best and healthiest. However, the healthiest eating regimen is going to be the one that makes your unique body feel its best and that you can stick with for the long term. Not to mention, that being healthy is about more than just diet. Staying active, managing stress, and sleeping well enough are just some behaviors that affect health. Recent research shows that leading a healthier lifestyle can reduce your stroke risk and in turn improve your quality of life.

What is stroke?

A stroke occurs when something blocks blood flow to the brain, or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. As a result, part of the brain can become damage or die. This can lead to brain damage, disability, or death. Therefore, it is important to know if you are at risk for stroke. And if you are, it is important to know what you can do to lower your risk. This is because the brain is vital for such functions as thinking, feeling, breathing, and digestion. So to take care of your whole body health, you need to take care of your brain. And for brain health, you need to take care of your body in many ways. This is where healthy living comes in.

Stroke risk and healthy living

A 7-year research study looked at the impact of different lifestyle measures on stroke risk. Also, researchers looked at 90 gene variants in this group of over 300,000 people to determine their stroke risk. The stroke rate was 35-percent higher for those with a higher gene score versus one with a lower score. And when researchers looked at lifestyle factors, those who were healthier had a 66-percent lower risk of stroke than those who had an unhealthy lifestyle. In this study, those considered to have a healthy lifestyle were those that:

  • did not smoke.
  • were not overweight.
  • engaged in regular exercise.
  • consumed a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fish.

Furthermore, those who had a high genetic score and were considered unhealthy had a stroke risk score nearly double than that of those with the lowest scores and healthiest lifestyles.

Ways you can live your healthiest life

Besides eating right, staying active, and not smoking, there are several other things you can do to stay your healthiest.

  • Sleep enough each night: Research shows that short or too long sleep patterns as well as insomnia with short sleep patterns, can increase risk of stroke. Therefore, be sure to find a happy balance in your sleep time. the National Sleep Foundation recommends that most adults sleep seven to nine hours each night. If you find you are having trouble sleeping, it may be helpful to visit your doctor for treatment. They could recommend a sleep study done to identify any health issues that could be disturbing your sleep.
  • Manage stress: Stress affects all of us to some degree. However, too much stress can have an impact on your heart health. Therefore, be sure to manage your stress with some relaxation breathing, meditation, yoga, or talking to a counselor each week.
  • Visit your doctor regularly: It’s important to visit your doctor at least once a year to check your numbers. Your numbers include cholesterol, triglycerides, blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and body weight. These numbers can help identify any heart health risk factors you may have. The earlier you find such risk factors, the earlier you can receive treatment and prevent your risk of stroke.
  • Take supplements when necessary: If you are lacking certain vitamins or minerals in your diet, you may need a supplement such as a multivitamin or fish oil. This can help your body receive the antioxidants you need to fight oxidative stress and lower chronic disease risk factors. One such supplement is Circova by Vita Sciences. Circova contains ingredients like L-arginine, niacin, and hawthorne to help promote improved blood flow and blood pressure.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

References:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (May 3, 2018) “About Stroke.”

HealthDay (October 25, 2018) “Does Stroke Run in Your Family? Healthy Living Lowers the Risk.”

Koo, D. L., Nam, H., Thomas, R. J., & Yun, C. H. (2018). Sleep Disturbances as a Risk Factor for Stroke. Journal of stroke20(1), 12-32.

Meschia, J.F., et al. (2014) “Guidelines for the Primary Prevention of Stroke.” Stroke, 45(12): 3754-3832.

National Sleep Foundation (accessed October 30, 2018) “National Sleep Foundation Recommends New Sleep Times.”

 

 

Could healthy fats help promote healthier aging?

healthy fats, omega-3, heart health, healthy, unsaturatedIt’s well-known that healthy fats can help improve heart health. But did you know that they could also help you stay healthy all over as you get older? Omega-3 fatty acids are a form of unsaturated healthy fats. You can find these fatty acids in plant-based oils and vegetables like avocado. However, you can also find healthy fats in seafood like fatty fish. It’s this latter form of fatty acids that has been studied recently in connection with aging.  Let’s take a look at what omega-3 fatty acids are, where you can find them, and how they can help you stay healthy as you age.

What are omega-3 fatty acids?

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid you can find in plant-based oils like olive and flaxseed oils and other plant-based foods like nuts, seeds, avocado, and olives. These healthy fats can also be found in fatty fish like salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, and sardines. The most common forms of omega-3 fatty acids include alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).  You may see the names of such fatty acid types on the label of fish oil supplements.

You can find ALA in the plant-based oils, and EPA and DHA in fish, fish oils, and krill oils. Fish oils come about when fish consume phytoplankton that eat microalgae. The fish then accumulates omega-3 fatty acids in their tissues.

How much omega-3 fatty acids should you eat each day?

Most adults should have about 1.1 grams of omega-3 fatty acids a day, whereas those who are pregnant should have about 1.4 grams a day. Recommendations for children range from 0.5 grams to 1.0 grams, with younger children requiring less.

To give you an idea of how much omega-3 fatty acids are in certain foods, here are a few examples.

  • Flaxseed oil contains 7.26 grams of ALA fatty acids per tablespoon.
  • Chia seeds contain 5.06 grams of ALA fatty acids per ounce.
  • English walnuts contain 2.57 grams of ALA fatty acids per ounce.
  • Flaxseeds contain 2.35 grams of ALA fatty acids per ounce.
  • Three ounces of cooked Atlantic farmed salmon contains 1.24 grams of DHA fatty acids and 0.59 grams of EPA fatty acids.
  • Three ounces of cooked Atlantic wild caught salmon contains 1.22 grams of DHA fatty acids and 0.35 grams of EPA fatty acids.

Fish oil supplements are another option for fulfilling your daily fatty acid needs. A typical fish oil supplement contains about 1000 milligrams of fish oil that consists of 180 milligrams of EPA and 120 milligrams of DHA. An example of a high quality fish oil supplement is produced by Vita Sciences. The Vita Sciences Fish Oil contains 1000 milligrams of fish oil with 400 milligrams of EPA and 300 milligrams of DHA.

Omega-3 fatty acids and aging

So, what is healthy aging anyway? According to researchers at Tufts University at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science, healthy aging is a “meaningful lifespan without chronic diseases and with intact physical and mental function.”  To see if omega-3 fatty acids could help promote healthy aging, these researchers looked at data from over 2600 people. They looked at the blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids in of adults enrolled in the United States Cardiovascular Health Study.

This study observed these levels of the people in the study over about 13 years. Study results show that people who consumed more DHA-rich seafood were 24-percent less likely to experience unhealthy aging than those who consumed the least. Researchers suggest that these results likely stem from the ability of omega-3 fatty acids to reduce inflammation and improve heart health.

Other ways you can age healthier

Besides eating plenty of healthy fats in your diet, there are other lifestyle factors that can help promote healthy aging.

  • Stay active at least 30 minutes each day for most days of the week by walking, swimming, or engaging in other physical activities.
  • Sleeping at least 7 hours each night. Although you may not think sleep is more important than your daily tasks, it is more important than you think. This is because while you sleep, your body helps to regulate many processes. These processes include blood pressure, hormones, fluids, and body temperature, to name a few. Therefore, be sure to add a good night’s sleep to your daily to-do list.
  • Managing stress well through yoga, meditation, prayer, relaxation breathing, or talking to a counselor. This is because by managing stress, you can reduce inflammation in the body and in turn reduce risk of chronic disease. Therefore, be sure to make time to relax so your health can be at its best.
  • Drinking plenty of water each day to stay hydrated. This is because water is needed for many processes in the body. For example, water helps prevent constipation so waste can leave the body and it helps carry nutrients and oxygen to cells.
  • Consuming a plant-based diet with plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables.  A plant-based diet is important because the antioxidants found in such foods help reduce inflammation. Not only that, but fruits and vegetables can help provide heart healthy fiber and other heart healthy nutrients like potassium.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

References:

Mayo Clinic (accessed October 21, 2018) “Nutrition and healthy eating: Functions of water in the body.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/multimedia/functions-of-water-in-the-body/img-20005799

National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements (June 6, 2018) “Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals.”

National Sleep Foundation (accessed October 21, 2018) “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?” https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need

Sandoiu, A. (October 18, 2018) “Seafood rich in omega-3 may promote healthy aging.” Medical News Today online.

 

 

 

Can intermittent fasting help those with diabetes?

intermittent, fasting, health, weight loss, dietDiabetes can be a tough disease to manage. From doctor’s visits to medications to daily blood glucose checks, it can be a lot to juggle for anyone. Not only that, but having diabetes means diet changes that can make every meal or snack a challenge.  Counting carbohydrates and reading labels can become a new task to take on every time you buy groceries. This can be time-consuming and can also make social events stressful.

But what if someone told you that by simply cutting back on the hours you eat, you could help control your diabetes better? A recent study shows that intermittent fasting may be a new treatment for type 2 diabetes control.

What is intermittent fasting? 

Intermittent fasting (IF) is a way of eating that involves extended periods of fasting coupled with periods of eating. The theory behind IF is that during fasting, your body will have time to heal.  In any case, cutting back on the hours you eat during the day can help reduce snacking and in turn total calorie intake. This can help with controlling weight and any conditions related to weight like diabetes and heart disease.

There are several forms of intermittent fasting.  All forms of IF are focused on helping  your body adapt to less eating hours each day. The three major forms of IF include:

  • Alternate day fasting: This type of fasting consists of one day of no food restriction followed by a day of only eating one meal equal to 25-percent of your daily calorie needs. Your daily calorie needs would be the number of calories your body needs to maintain your current weight.
  • The 5:2 fasting regimen: This regimen involves 2 days of whole day fasting each week. On these non-consecutive fasting days, you would consume no more than 25-percent of daily calorie needs. The other five days would consist of no food restrictions. However, healthy eating within your daily calorie needs is suggested for the most benefit.
  • Time-restricted feeding: This regimen is most common with those following an IF lifestyle. It involves setting a fasting period as part of your daily routine. When you are starting out on this regimen, you may have just 12 hours of fasting. Therefore, if you stopped eating at 9 pm every night, you wouldn’t eat again until 9 am the next morning. This 12:12 regimen of fasting would help your body used to the idea of not eating as long.  Over time, you can extend your period of fasting as you choose. A popular form of this diet is the 16:8 diet, which involves 8 hours of eating and 16 hours of fasting.

When following an IF regimen, your eating hours should still consist of healthy eating. If you continue to consume lots of high sugar and highly processed foods, then you will not gain the most health benefit. Therefore, during eating hours you should consume mostly whole foods and a balanced diet low in sugar and refined carbohydrates.

Intermittent fasting and type 2 diabetes

A recent study looked at the effect of IF on type 2 diabetes control. This small study involved three patients observed over several months.  Patients had six hours of diabetes education and insulin adjustments at the start of the study. They were then instructed to follow three 24-hour fasting periods each week. On fasting days the patients only consumed dinner.  Then on non-fasting days they consumed lunch and dinner. A low-carbohydrate eating regimen was recommended for all meals during the study period.

Patients had an exam twice a month with labs, medication changes, and insulin adjustments completed as warranted. After several months, all of the patients were able to discontinue their insulin. Two of the patients were also able to discontinue their diabetes medication.  Also, all three patients had improvements in their body mass index, waist circumference, and HgA1C levels. This study warrants further research on a larger scale to see if IF could help those with type 2 diabetes.

Other ways to control your type 2 diabetes

Besides changing your diet, there are other things you can do to help control your type 2 diabetes. Read below for some simple steps you can make in your lifestyle today. These small steps can make a big difference in helping to control your type 2 diabetes.

  • Stay active: Moving more each day can help to keep your blood glucose levels stable and manage your weight. In turn, this can help you to better control your type 2 diabetes. Therefore, try to be active for 30 minutes total each day for most days of the week. This could involve walking, biking, aerobics, dancing, cleaning house, or swimming, among other things.
  • Visit your doctor regularly: Visiting your doctor every 3 to 6 months can help you stay healthy. Your doctor can also check your labs and adjust your medication as needed to help you control your diabetes better.
  • Take a daily diabetes-friendly supplement: Taking a daily supplement to help with blood sugar control may also be helpful. A supplement like Glucarex by Vita Sciences can naturally support metabolism, weight loss, and blood glucose control. It does this through natural ingredients like chromium, cinnamon, and alpha lipoic acid that have shown to help support healthy blood sugar levels.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

References:

Furmli, S., Elmasry, R., Ramos, M., and Fung, J. (2018) “Therapeutic use of intermittent fasting for people with type 2 diabetes as an alternative to insulin.” BMJ Case Reports, doi:10.1136/bcr-2017-221854

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (accessed October 14, 2018) “The Nutrition Source: Diet Review: Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss.”

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (May 2017) “Type 2 Diabetes: What is Type 2 Diabetes?”

 

 

Could diabetes increase risk of osteoporosis?

osteoporosis, bone health, healthIf you have diabetes, you may or may not know that you are at higher risk for heart disease than those who don’t have diabetes. However, in addition to heart disease, you could also be at risk for bone health issues. This risk was discovered in a recent study that found those with diabetes were at higher risk for osteoporosis than those without diabetes. Therefore, this finding warrants further research on this risk. And in turn, standard diabetes diet and supplement treatments may need to be revised to account for this higher risk.

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bone loss. It often occurs without any symptoms. Therefore, you may not know you have the condition until you fall and break a bone. The bone loss related to osteoporosis can be caused by the body losing too much bone, not making enough bone, or both.

Literally, osteoporosis means “porous bone” which describes the honeycomb-like bone structure in those with the conditions. These spaces in the bone make it less dense, weaker, and more likely to break. It may be beneficial if you are 50 years of age or older, to get a bone density test.

Height loss or curving of the spine may be serious symptoms of osetoporosis. Therefore, if you have such symptoms and have not yet been diagnose with osteoporosis, you should visit your doctor right away. If diganosed, treatment will likely include vitamin D and calcium supplements, an exercise program, and medications.

You may be at risk for osteoporosis if you have:

  • certain autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis
  • certain cancers like breast or prostate cancer
  • digestive conditions like inflammatory bowel disease or celiac disease
  • a history of weight loss surgery
  • liver disease
  • and eating disorder
  • certain thyroid or hormone-related conditions

You may also be at risk for osteoporosis if you take certain medications such as:

  • certain heartburn medicines like  Nexium®, Prevacid® and Prilosec®
  • some antidepressants like Lexapro®, Prozac® and Zoloft®
  • steroids
  • certain diabetes medicines like thiazolidinediones

Osteoporosis and Diabetes

Using data from the 2013 Danish National Health Survey, researchers looked at the connection between bone health conditions and other health factors.  This analysis found that those people with diabetes were one-third more likely to have osteoarthritis than those without diabetes. These same people were also more likely to have bone related conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis.

Likely related to such bone conditions, those with diabetes were more nearly 30-percent more likely to have back, shoulder, and neck pain as well. Researchers suggest that the link between bone health and diabetes may be inflammation. Diabetes is an inflammatory condition as is arthritis. Therefore, those with one condition may have an increased risk of developing other inflammation-related conditions. This research warrants further research on this connection of inflammatory health conditions.

Ways to help your bone health

If you feel you may be more at risk for bone health conditions, read below for ways you can help improve your bone health.

  • Consume plenty of calcium: Calcium is used in many parts of the body such as helping blood clot and muscles to contract. And when the body does not have enough calcium to do these things, it takes the calcium from the bones. Over time, this can make the bones weak. Therefore, be sure to have plenty of calcium in your daily diet. Foods high in calcium include milk, yogurt, fortified breakfast cereals and juices, as well as leafy greens like kale and spinach.
  • Go outside every once in while: Vitamin D is also known as the sunshine vitamin since the body can absorb it from the sun. This vitamin helps the body absorb calcium, so it is very important to bone health. Therefore, be sure to get outside at least 10-15 minutes a day with some of your arms, legs, and face showing. During the winter, consume plenty of fatty fish like salmon, eggs, mushrooms, and fortified dairy products for vitamin D. Ask your doctor to have your vitamin D levels checked each year and take a daily supplement if your levels are low.
  • Stay active: Exercise is great for not only keeping blood glucose levels stable if you have diabetes, but it is also good for bone health.  Weight-bearing exercises like walking, hiking, jogging, dancing, and weight training are good for strengthening bones. Be sure to engage in some sort of physical activity most days of the week. You should engage in strength training such as weight exercises or resistance training at least 2 times a week.
  • Eat a plant-based diet: Not only does a plant-based diet contain calcium-rich leafy greens, but is also antioxidant-rich. Antioxidants can reduce the inflammation that can lead to oxidative stress and increased chronic disease risk. Therefore, eat plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables at every meal and snack.
  • Take a bone health supplement: If you are having trouble consuming enough calcium and vitamin D, a supplement may be for you. Find a supplement that combines calcium and vitamin D, or take them separate. One such supplement is Osteovent by Vita Sciences. Osteovent contains 400IU vitamin D3 and 1000mg calcium along with other important bone health nutrients like magnesium as well as antioxidants like vitamin C and bromelain.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

References:

National Osteoporosis Foundation (accessed October 10, 2018) “What is osteoporosis and what causes it?”

National Osteoporosis Foundation (accessed October 10, 2018) “Calcium/Vitamin D.”

NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center (February 2017) “Osteoporosis Overview.”

Could vitamin D be the key to preventing obesity?

vitamin D, supplement, health, obesity, heart healthObesity is a growing problem around the world today. Along with these growing statistics is also the growing amount of diet and exercise programs trying to help people lose weight. Recent research shows though that diet and exercise may not be the whole solution to the obesity issue. Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, may be the key to helping people lose weight and lower risk of chronic disease.

What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that you can soak in from the sun as well as from a few food items. Since it is not found in many foods, it is important to get this vitamin from the sun. Therefore, if you do not go outside often for any reason or if you live in an area that is very cloudy, you may have to take a supplement.

Foods you can eat to get this sunshine vitamin include fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel. You can also get small amounts in beef liver, egg yolks, or cheese.  Also, some milks or orange juices may be fortified with the vitamin.

The recommended daily intake of vitamin D is 800 IUs, or international units. When you go to the doctor, you can ask to have your levels of the vitamin checked.  It is not usually a part of the standard lab tests.  Your blood level of vitamin D should be at least 30nmol/L, but ideally around 50 nmol/L.  If it is less than this number, your doctor may put you on a supplement regimen to help bring up your levels of the vitamin.

You can also buy vitamin D supplements on your own such as Maxasorb by Vita Sciences. Maxasorb provides 2000 IU’s of vitamin per dose. This formula provides vitamin D3 as well as vitamin E and moisturizing aloe in an easy to apply cream to help support immunity and well-being.

Those at risk for vitamin D deficiency include:

  • older adults
  • those with limited exposure to the sun
  • people with dark skin
  • those with fat malabsorption conditions like inflammatory bowel disease
  • those who have had gastric bypass surgery
  • breastfed infants

Those who are deficient may be at risk for bone health issues like osteoporosis. Also, as current research shows, vitamin D deficient individuals may also be at risk for developing obesity.

Vitamin D and obesity

A recent study looked at the effect of vitamin D on overweight and obese children and adolescents. Study results show that those children who were given vitamin D supplements daily for 12 months had lower body mass index (BMI), body fat, and improved cholesterol levels as compared to those who were not supplemented. Researchers suggest that vitamin D supplements may be able to help youth reduce their risk of chronic disease as adults.

Other ways to reduce disease risk

Besides keeping your vitamin D levels healthy, there are other things you can do now to help reduce your chronic disease risk.

  • Stay active: You should try to be active most days of the week for at least 30 minutes a day. This can include walking, gardening, cleaning house, swimming, cycling, or any other movement that gets your heart rate up a bit. Exercise is not only great for heart health, but can also help you expend energy to help you sleep better at night and also can help you manage stress and anxiety.
  • Get plenty of sleep: The average adult should get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night for optimal health. This is because during bedtime your body works to regulate hormones, fluids, blood pressure, and many more processes.
  • Quit smoking or don’t start: Smoking can constrict blood vessels and in turn increase your risk of heart disease. Therefore, if you don’t already smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, visit smokefree.gov for resources to help you quit.
  • Limit drinking alcohol: Research has shown that alcohol can increase triglycerides, or fat, in the blood. It can also increase risk of high blood pressure and other heart health issues. Therefore, limit your alcohol intake to no more than the recommendation of one standard drink a day for women or two a day for men. One standard drink is equal to about 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, and 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.
  • Manage stress: Stress and anxiety can get your blood pressure high and can also impact other healthy lifestyle choices you want to make. Therefore, work on getting your stress levels down. You can do this by talking to a counselor, doing some yoga or meditation, or practicing relaxation breathing. Reducing stress can also reduce emotional eating, increase your energy, and can make you feel better overall.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

References:

American Heart Association (August 15, 2014) “Alcohol and Heart Health.”

American Heart Association (accessed October 3, 2018) “Be Healthy for Good with Life’s Simple 7 Infographic.”

Anxiety and Depression Association of America (accessed October 3, 2018) “Physical Activity Reduces Stress.”

Hindustan Times (September 28, 2018) “Vitamin D supplements can help obese children lose weight.”

National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements (September 18, 2018) “Vitamin D.”

National Sleep Foundation (accessed October 3, 2018) “Why Do We Need Sleep?”

Could more sleep help you lose weight?

 

sleep, healthSleep is a valuable commodity. And it is a whole lot more important than many of us may think. How many times have you told yourself that you can survive on very little sleep. Or maybe you have said that you have more important things to do besides sleep.  Sleep is not only important for providing you energy to get through the day. It can also impact your health in a major way if you don’t get enough.  Recent research shows that getting more sleep at night could help you lose weight and improve health.

Why is sleep so important?

Some people may try to get as much done in a day as possible without sleeping much. This may be good for your to-do list, but not for your health. When you are asleep, your body does a lot of important things that help maintain optimal health.  Without enough shut-eye, these body processes could be harmed and in turn you could increase your risk of chronic disease risk and decreased well-being. Some processes that occur when you are asleep include:

  • regulation of blood pressure and hormones
  • transfer of information from short to long term memory
  • strengthening of cognitive function
  • restoration and repair of muscle mass and tissues

Most adults should get at least seven to nine hours of sleep each night for optimal health.  I know this can be hard to do all of the time because of life’s demands. However, just like a person makes time to eat healthy and exercise, it is just as important to make time for sleeping.

Sleep and Weight Loss

A recent study looked at the impact of sleep loss on various health factors. Participants in the study had tissue and muscle samples taken after in the morning fasting state after a night of sleep loss and after a night of normal sleeping.  Study results show that those who were sleep-deprived had a down-regulation of the glycolytic pathway in skeletal muscle.

In simpler terms, those who were sleep-deprived had biological changes in their hormones like increased cortisol, reduced testosterone, and reduced growth hormone, which can all impact the body’s ability to manage a healthy weight. Also, not getting enough rest at night can reduce lean muscle mass, which in turn can negatively impact metabolism. And this in turn can affect weight management. Therefore, although this study was on the smaller side, it warrants further research on the impact of sleeping on weight management.

How to get more sleep

If you have trouble getting your seven to nine hours a day, then you may need to make some adjustments to your environment or routine. Here are a few tips to help you get more z’s.

  • Use blackout curtains: When you expose your eyes to bright lights from lamps, screens, and other sources, it can make it hard to rest.  The healthy body produces melatonin, or sleep hormone at night to help you rest. However, exposure to lights can affect the circadian rhythm in your body, and in turn delay release of melatonin. Therefore, this can make it hard to get shut-eye. Blackout curtains can block natural light that may be coming in through your windows from street lamps, neighbors windows, or car headlights.
  • Reduce screen time: Along this same line of thinking is reducing screen time. By giving your eyes a rest from the light of the screen, you can also give your mind some rest. This in turn can help you fall asleep better.
  • Don’t eat before bedtime: If you eat a large meal less than two hours before bedtime, then you could get indigestion or heartburn. This in turn could make it hard to fall asleep. The same goes for fluids. If you drink too much before bedtime, then you may have to get up frequently in the middle of the night. These bathroom visits could interrupt the REM cycle.
  • See your healthcare provider: If none of these strategies are helping you fall asleep and stay asleep, then there may be a medical issue to address. See your healthcare provider in such cases. A sleep study or physical exam could help yo find out if pain, sleep apnea, or another health condition may be making it hard for you to rest.

In the meantime, you can try a supplement like Somnova by Vita Sciences. Somnova contains natural ingredients like melatonin and L-theanine to help promote better sleep. Be sure to ask your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

References:

Cedernaes, J., et al. (2018) “Acute sleep loss results in tissue-specific alterations in genome-wide DNA methylation state and metabolic fuel utilization in humans.” Science Advances, 4(8): DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aar8590

National Sleep Foundation (accessed September 24, 2018) “Why Do We Need Sleep?”

 

Can healthy fats help your anxiety?

healthy fat, heart health, health, salmon, olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocadoAn essential part of  a heart healthy diet is plenty of plant-based unsaturated fats.  Not only do plant-based foods provide heart-healthy fiber, but they are also rich in antioxidants. These antioxidants can help reduce inflammation in the body, and in turn reduce chronic disease risk. One such group of antioxidants are the omega-3 fatty acids found in such foods as avocado, plant-based oils and fatty fish. Recent research shows that these healthy fats may be able to help with mental health. A recent study shows that by increasing the amount of healthy fats in your diet, you could help reduce symptoms of anxiety.

 

What are healthy fats?

Healthy fats typically describe the group of fats known as unsaturated fats. These fats can be found in plant-based foods such as avocado, nuts, and seeds. They can also be found in plant-based oils like olive oil and fatty fish like salmon and trout. Research shows that by replacing some of your saturated fat intake with unsaturated fats, you can benefit heart health. The cause of this is still unknown, but it is suggested that it may be due to the fiber and antioxidants in such unsaturated food sources.

Healthy fat intake and anxiety

A recent meta-analysis study looked at research done on omega-3 fatty acid supplementation and mental health.  Study results show that those with clinically diagnosed anxiety may benefit from treatment with omega-3 fatty acids.  This is because treatment with such fats seemed to reduce symptoms of anxiety under stressful situations. Even those who suffered from other diagnosed mental health conditions outside of clinical anxiety showed reduced anxiety symptoms after such treatment.

Although more research needs to be done to confirm such findings, these results are promising for future potential treatment options for anxiety. In the meantime, it can’t hurt to add in more healthy fats to your daily diet.  Also, an omega-3 fatty acid supplement could be helpful to healthy of the body and mind.  An example of such a supplement is fish oil like that by Vita Sciences.  This formula by Vita Sciences provides 400 milligrams of EPA and 300 milligrams of DHA, which are omega-3 fatty acids found in cold water fish.  This supplement is a great way to get your healthy fats if you don’t think you will be able to get them in every day in your diet.

Other ways to help reduce anxiety

Besides increasing healthy fats in your diet, there are other ways you can work to reduce anxiety in your daily routine.

  • Make sure to sleep enough each day: The average adult should receive at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Sleep is important not just for energy levels, but for regulating fluid, hormones, and blood pressure in the body. Lack of sleep can also increase risk of anxiety and stress levels, especially in those that already suffer from anxiety. If you have trouble sleeping, visit the National Sleep Foundation website for tips. You should also visit your healthcare provider if you find that your sleep problems become a long-term problem. This is because you may be suffering from a condition known as sleep apnea that can affect quality of sleep and breathing. A healthcare provider can also help you manage pain, urinary incontinence, or insomnia that can impact sleep quality and quantity.
  • Talk to someone: Talking to a health care professional like a therapist or counselor can help you come up with strategies for dealing with your stress or anxiety. Even just talking to a friend or loved one may be helpful to get worries off your mind.
  • Find time to relax: Try to set aside at least 15 minutes a day to relax. This relaxing could include relaxation breathing, diffusing calming essential oils like lavender, or engaging in activities like yoga or meditation.
  • Volunteer in your community: Helping others in your community may be able to increase your sense of purpose and help you meet others with similar interests. In turn, these factors may help lower your stress and anxiety levels over time.
  • Stay active: Regular exercise each day can help reduce anxiety levels. This may be due to the vitamin D you get from working out in the sunshine. Also, it could be from the serotonin your body releases when you exercise. Either way, get moving each day and it can make you feel better inside and out.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

References:

Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School (August 13, 2018) “The truth about fats: the good, the bad, and the in-between.” https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-fats-bad-and-good

Lattari, E., Budde, H., Paes, F., Neto, G. A. M., Appolinario, J. C., Nardi, A. E., … Machado, S. (2018). Effects of Aerobic Exercise on Anxiety Symptoms and Cortical Activity in Patients with Panic Disorder: A Pilot Study. Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health : CP & EMH14, 11–25. http://doi.org/10.2174/1745017901814010011

National Sleep Foundation (accessed September 18, 2018) “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?” https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need

Nauert, PhD, R. (accessed September 18, 2018) “Sleep Loss Increases Anxiety-Especially Among Worriers.” https://psychcentral.com/news/2013/06/27/sleep-loss-increases-anxiety-especially-among-worriers/56531.html

Su K, Tseng P, Lin P, et al. Association of Use of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids With Changes in Severity of Anxiety SymptomsA Systematic Review and Meta-analysisJAMA Network Open.2018;1(5):e182327. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.2327

 

 

 

Could the Meditterranean diet provide longer life?

healthy fats, mediterranean diet, diet, health, fat, unsaturatedThe Greek-style diet has long been touted as one that is full of heart healthy benefits. These benefits are thought to stem from the vast array of healthy fats from plant-based sources and limiting of saturated fats from red meats as well as the rich source of fruits and vegetables in this Mediterranean regimen. However, the health benefits may extend much further than initially realized. A recent study shows that the Mediterranean diet may help to lengthen life of older adults.

What is the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet is a heart healthy eating regimen that has been linked with such benefits as low LDL cholesterol and improved overall heart health. These benefits are suggested to be from the emphasis of fruit and vegetable intake on this regimen as well as the following diet guidelines.

  • Consuming plenty of fiber-rich legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
  • Limiting salt intake, and instead using herbs and spices to flavor food.
  • Only eating red meat a few times a month, and instead loading up on lean proteins, fatty fish, and plant-based protein and fat sources.
  • Eating fish or poultry like chicken or turkey at least twice a week.
  • Focusing on whole grains versus refined grains and cutting out trans fats from the diet.
  • Drinking antioxidant-rich beverages like grape juice or wine, about five ounces a day (optional).
  • Staying active most days of the week.

Health benefits of the Greek-style diet 

The heart health benefits of the Greek-style diet are the most well-known. However research shows that health benefits of this eating regimen may extend beyond heart health. Other health benefits that come as a result of the Greek-style diet include:

  • improved digestive health
  • enhanced cognitive function
  • lower risk of certain cancers
  • improved blood glucose levels

Mediterranean diet and longer life

A recent meta-analysis study in the British Journal of Nutrition looked at the effects of a Mediterranean-style diet on length of life in older adults. This long term study observed data of over 5000 people aged 65 years or older. These individuals were observed for around 8 years or more on average. Study results show that those who followed a Mediterranean-style diet had prolonged survival as compared to those who did not follow such a diet. Researchers suggest that the Mediterranean-style eating regimen could be beneficial to older adults to help reduce chronic disease risk factors, and in turn potentially lengthen their life.

Other ways to improve health

Besides eating a diet full of health fats, there are also other lifestyle changes that could lengthen your life.

  • Get plenty of sleep: Sleep can impact blood pressure regulation and hormone regulation, to name a few. Therefore, be sure to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.  If you have trouble sleeping, try such strategies as blackout curtains, limiting screen time at night, or natural supplements like Somnova. Somnova by Vita Sciences contains melatonin, which is a non-habit forming supplement that can help promote better sleep.
  • Drink enough water every day: Staying hydrated is an important part of any healthy lifestyle. Check your urine daily to make sure you are staying hydrated. If your urine is darker than lemonade, then it is time to drink more water. A good rule of thumb to follow is about half of your body weight (in lbs.) in ounces per day of fluid. For example, someone who is 200 pounds, should drink about 100 ounces, or 12.5 cups of fluid each day. Fluid can be any unsweetened beverage like water, low calorie drinks, flavored water, tea, or decaf coffee, to name a few.
  • Take heart healthy supplements to fill in the nutritional gaps: If you don’t think you are getting enough healthy fats from your diet, then add in a supplement. One such supplement is fish oil, which has been shown to support healthy cholesterol levels. The fish oil from Vita Sciences in particular is a pure, burpless brand with 1000 milligrams of EPA and DHA shown to support brain, heart, and immune health.
  • Reduce stress: It will be important to keep your stress levels low for optimal health. This is because not only can stress affect blood pressure, but it can also lead to emotional eating and poor sleep, which can affect overall health. Therefore, talk to a friend, family member, or professional for stress management strategies. Also, engage in meditation, yoga, relaxation breathing, or other relaxing activities like walking to help manage stress.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

References:

Bonaccio, M., Di Castelnuovo, A., Costanzo, S., Gialluisi, A., Persichillo, M., Cerletti, C., . . . Iacoviello, L. (n.d.). Mediterranean diet and mortality in the elderly: A prospective cohort study and a meta-analysis. British Journal of Nutrition, 1-14. doi:10.1017/S0007114518002179

Mayo Clinic (November 3, 2017) “Mediterranean diet: a heart-healthy eating plan.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801

National Sleep Foundation (accessed September 12, 2018) “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?” https://sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need

Romagnolo, D. F., & Selmin, O. I. (2017). Mediterranean Diet and Prevention of Chronic Diseases. Nutrition Today52(5), 208–222. http://doi.org/10.1097/NT.0000000000000228