Monthly Archives: December 2018

Could a Mediterranean diet improve your brain health?

heart, cardiovascular, brain, heart healthy, omega-3, vessel, cholesterol, diabetesYou can’t talk about a heart healthy lifestyle without at least referring to the Mediterranean diet. That’s because this Greek-style eating plan is full of heart healthy foods and other healthful tips. But did you know that this diet is also good for brain health? Recent research shows that certain nutrients found in the Mediterranean diet can help with brain health aging in older adults.

What is the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet is a heart healthy diet based on healthy fats like olive oil. Along with olive oil, healthy fat-containing foods like fatty fish, avocado, olives, nuts, and seeds make up the largest portion of the diet. The omega-3 fatty acids in these foods can help lower blood fats, also known as triglycerides. In addition, these fats can also help improve blood pressure and blood vessel health.

The majority of foods in this eating plan are plant-based. In other words, this means eating plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. These foods will also provide fiber and important nutrients like potassium, magnesium, and vitamins C and E. This also means switching to whole grains if you’re going to eat breads or pastas.  Also, it encourages consuming fiber and protein-rich plant foods like beans, peas, nuts, and seeds.

Other eating guidelines of this diet include limiting whole-fat dairy products, red meat, processed foods, and foods high in sodium. This eating plan also encourages use of spices to flavor food instead of using table salt.  Finally, to maintain a balanced healthy lifestyle, this diet encourages exercise and eating meals with family and friends.

Mediterranean diet and brain health

A recent study looked at healthy, older adults and how a Greek-style diet affected brain health. MRI scans and cognitive function tests measured brain health. These tests were done throughout the study and two years after the study to assess the diet’s impact on brain health.

The researchers focused on 32 nutrients found in this diet. These nutrients included folate, vitamin B12, riboflavin, and vitamin D. Also, the researchers looked at antioxidants found in the Greek-style diet like omega-3 fatty acids, lycopene, and carotenoids. Study results show that such nutrients, along with omega-6 fatty acids, were involved in biomarker patterns. Also, those people who ate foods with such nutrients had better results on cognitive function tests of general intelligence, memory, and executive functions like attentional and inhibition control.

Take home message

So, if the heart healthy benefits of this eating plan haven’t convinced you to go Greek-style in your eating, hopefully the brain health factors did. This is because this diet has shown time and again that it ranks on top for health benefits.  Therefore, take small steps towards such an eating plan. You can do this by starting to eat more vegetables one day. Then maybe trying new recipes that use olive oil to roast or stir-fry those vegetables. Finally, you can add in nuts and/or seeds as snacks for even more healthy fats and fiber.

If you feel like a supplement would help you at first, then try an omega-3 fatty acid supplement. An example of a high quality omega-3 fatty acid is the fish oil supplement by Vita Sciences. This fish oil supplement contains a healthy balance of EPA and DhA, which are two important omega-3 fatty acids for brain health. Not to mention that this supplement is burpless and ensures optimal purity.

Therefore, if you’re thinking about starting a healthy lifestyle this new year, consider the Greek-style diet. Not only will it help you work towards just about any health goal you have, but it will taste fresh and delicious in the process.

References:

Mayo Clinic (November 3, 2017) “Mediterranean diet: A heart-healthy eating plan.”

Paddock, Ph.D., C. (December 21, 2018) “Mediterranean diet nutrients tied with healthy brain aging.” Medical News Today.

Romagnolo, D. F., & Selmin, O. I. (2017). “Mediterranean Diet and Prevention of Chronic Diseases.” Nutrition today52(5), 208-222.

Zwilling, C.E., Talukdar, T., Zamroziewicz, M.K., and Barney, A.K. (March 2019) “Nutrient biomarker patterns, cognitive function, and fMRI measures of network efficiency in the aging brain.” NeuroImage, Volume 188, 239-251.


  • Drinking less alcohol could help weight loss goals this new year

    holiday, drinking, alcohol, cocktail, beer, wine, health, weightWhen you think of celebrating the holidays, sweet treats, comfort foods, and holiday-flavored spirits may come to mind. Although it’s definitely ok to indulge a little during the holidays, too much of anything can sabotage your healthy lifestyle efforts. And with the new year rolling around soon, you should think ahead and make a plan. Because once this holiday season is over, the new year will surely bring about new celebrations with more food and drink temptations.  And recent research shows that by drinking less alcohol, you could increase your chances for weight loss success.

    What is a standard drink?

    You may hear health experts urge you to keep your drinking to so many standard drinks a week. When this term is used, a standard drink is equal to:

    • 12 ounces beer (5% ABV)
    • 8 ounces malt liquor (7% ABV)
    • 5 ounces wine (12% ABV)
    • 1.5 ounces liquor (40% ABV)

    So, when you order that tall beer at the bar and grill, keep in mind that 22 ounces is nearly equal to two standard drinks. And experts recommend that women should consume no more than 7 standard drinks a week.  Also, men should consume no more than 14 standard drinks per week. Any more than this is considered heavy drinking.

    Also, if you consume more than 4 standard drinks for women or 5 standard drinks for men in a two hour occasion, then you are binge drinking. So, if you feel like this describes your holiday or social events, then it may be time to visit you health care provider or call for resources in your area that can help you control or stop your drinking.

    Alcohol health effects

    Drinking too much in one night or over time can have serious health effects. Not only does alcohol impair mobility and speech in the short-term, but can also impact brain, heart, and liver health. Even short term, drinking too much can impair your immune system for up to 24 hours after becoming drunk. This puts you at higher risk for catching illnesses than others during this time. Also, long-term alcohol intake can lead to increased risk for inflammation of the pancreas and heart disease. Both of these conditions can place you at higher risk for hospitalization and serious illness.

    Alcohol and weight loss

    When it comes to weight loss, alcohol can stall your best efforts. First of all, alcoholic beverages contain unnecessary calories. No matter how low in carbs certain concoctions may be, you are still drinking your calories when consuming alcohol. Not to mention that alcohol can lower your body’s ability to absorb nutrients from the food you eat and can slow your body’s fat burning abilities. The latter is because the liver is in charge of tasks like fat burning and removing toxins from the body. It considers alcohol a toxin.

    Therefore, when you drink, it has to stop fat-burning to focus on ridding of the alcohol toxins from your body. In turn, your body burns less fat while you drink. It takes about one hour for your body to break down one standard drink of alcohol.

    A recent study looked at alcohol and its impact on long-term weight loss in those with diabetes. Study results show that those who did not drink during the four year study lost more weight than those who drank any amount. Heavy drinkers had even worse long-term weight loss than others. Therefore, researchers suggest that patients with type 2 diabetes especially should not drink alcohol if they are trying to lose weight.  Needless to say, this study shows that anyone, regardless of health status, would benefit from drinking less alcohol.

    Other ways to be healthier in the new year

    Besides cutting down on drinking alcohol, there are also other ways you can be healthier this coming new year.

    • Sleep more: Most adults should sleep at least seven hours a night for optimal health.
    • Move more: Experts suggest that moving more each day, even in two minute spurts, for at least 150 minutes total each week, can benefit overall health.
    • Manage stress: Yoga, meditation, or just talking with a counselor can help you manage stress better and lower risk for emotional eating that can lead to weight management issues.
    • Eat more fruits and veggies: Antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies can provide inflammation-fighting compounds that can help lower your risk of diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Not to mention that the fiber from such foods is vital to gut health.
    • Take a supplement: If you don’t feel you are getting enough nutrients in your diet, then take a supplement like Zestia by Vita Sciences. Zestia not only contains whole food vitamin and mineral sources, but also digestive enzymes and probiotics for digestive health.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    1. Bertoia, M. L., et al. (2015). “Changes in Intake of Fruits and Vegetables and Weight Change in United States Men and Women Followed for Up to 24 Years: Analysis from Three Prospective Cohort Studies.” PLoS medicine12(9), e1001878. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001878
    2. Centers for Disease Control (last reviewed March 29, 2018) “Alcohol and Public Health: Frequently Asked Questions.” https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm#heavyDrinking
    3. National Health Service (last reviewed July 26, 2018) “How long does alcohol stay in your blood?” https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/lifestyle/how-long-does-alcohol-stay-in-your-blood/
    4. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (accessed December 18, 2018) “Alcohol’s Effects on the Body.” https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/alcohols-effects-body
    5. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (accessed December 18, 2018) “What Is a Standard Drink?” https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/what-standard-drink
    6. ScienceDaily (December 3, 2018) “Alcohol intake may be key to long-term weight loss for people with Diabetes.” https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/12/181203115449.htm
    7. Sinha, R., & Jastreboff, A. M. (2013). “Stress as a common risk factor for obesity and addiction.” Biological psychiatry73(9), 827-35.
    8. Traversy, G., & Chaput, J. P. (2015). “Alcohol Consumption and Obesity: An Update.” Current obesity reports4(1), 122-30.
    9. Watson, N. F., Badr, M. S., Belenky, G., Bliwise, D. L., Buxton, O. M., Buysse, D., Dinges, D. F., Gangwisch, J., Grandner, M. A., Kushida, C., Malhotra, R. K., Martin, J. L., Patel, S. R., Quan, S. F., … Tasali, E. (2015). “Recommended Amount of Sleep for a Healthy Adult: A Joint Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society.” Sleep38(6), 843-4. doi:10.5665/sleep.4716

     


  • Do you have good metabolism? If not, try this

    metabolism, health, weightNow if you’ve ever tried to lose weight, which many of us have, then I’m sure you’ve heard the term metabolism. Usually you are told you either have “good” or “bad” metabolism. The only thing you may be sure of is that if you have a “bad” one then it will be harder for you to lose weight. But have you ever wondered what exactly this term means? If so, read below for some background on metabolism and a surprising look into how many of us have metabolic issues and what to do about it.

    What is metabolism?

    Metabolism is simply the way your body breaks down foods and uses them for energy. As you grow older, your metabolic rate naturally slows down. Not only that, but natural aging also leads to reduced levels of lean muscle mass. In turn, this will cause a further drop in your metabolic rate.

    Metabolic health and inflammation

    Besides aging, research is starting to see a possible connection between inflammation and metabolic health.  Evidence shows that regulators of the immune system and metabolic interactions include genetics and gut health. Inflammation and metabolic signals may also be closely related. Therefore, further research is warranted to see if an anti-inflammatory approach may be effective in treatment of insulin resistance and other metabolic-related health issues.

    What is good metabolic health?

    Having a “good” metabolic health means that you have healthy levels of the following five measures without the help of medication.

    • Fasting blood glucose: should be at or below 100 mg/dL
    • Triglycerides: should be at or below 150 mg/dL
    • High density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, or “good” cholesterol: should be at or above 40 mg/dL for men or 50 mg/dL and above for women
    • Blood pressure: should be at or under 120 mm Hg systolic pressure over 80 mm Hg diastolic pressure
    • Waist circumference: should be less than 35 inches for women and less than 40 inches for men

    Any of these measures above the healthy ranges would indicate a less than optimal metabolic health. This in turn could put your at risk for conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

    The metabolic state of the union

    A recent report looks at the latest results of the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The report looked at data from between 2009 and 2016 of about 8700 adults. This study is used often to look at data trends that represent the average U.S. population.

    Current data results reveal that only about 12-percent of the U.S. population has “good” metabolic health. Factors linked with “good” metabolic health include being physically active, younger, and a non-smoker, among other things. Obesity was a leading factor of “poor” metabolic health, with less than 1-percent of those who are obese being considered of “good” metabolic health.

    How can I improve my metabolic health?

    By looking at what increases risk of metabolic health issues, then you can see what lifestyle changes can help. Here is a list of some healthy lifestyle behavior changes you can make to help improve your metabolic health.

    • Exercise often: Stay active as much as possible with both cardio and strength training. This will help you to maintain muscle mass and heart health.
    • Eat a healthy, balanced diet: Try to consume a heart healthy diet full of antioxidant and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables as well as lean proteins and plenty of water. Be sure to portion out food into appropriate servings throughout the day to prevent eating too many calories daily. Also, limit processed food intake such as packaged snacks, meals, and sugary drinks and snacks. This will also help to lower your total calorie and sugar intake that can impact metabolic health.
    • Manage your weight: Diet and exercise, along with sleeping at least seven hours a night and managing stress can help manage your weight. Since obesity is a risk factor for poor metabolic health, managing weight can improve your metabolic health.
    • Quit smoking or don’t start: Since being a non-smoker is a marker for “good” metabolic health, then quitting smoking if yo smoke would help improve your metabolic health.
    • Take supplements when necessary: If you have any nutrient deficiencies, then this could impact your energy or ability to be at your best. Therefore, in some cases, a supplement such as Glucarex by Vita Sciences may be helpful. Glucarex contains natural ingredients like chromium, alpha lipoic acid, and cinnamon to help naturally support weight loss as well as healthy metabolism and blood glucose levels.
    • Visit your healthcare provider often: If you visit your doctor at least once a year to check your lab numbers, then you can better track your progress. This can help yo to catch any unhealthy trends in lab values early before they cause any major health issues.

    References:

    1. NIH News in Health (July 2015) “Minding Your Metabolism.”
    2. Medline Plus (April 23, 2018) “Can you boost your metabolism?” https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000893.htm
    3. HealthDay (December 4, 2018) “Few Americans Have Optimal ‘Metabolic Health.'”
    4. Zmora, N., Bashiardes, S., Levy, M., and Elinav, E. (March 2017) “The Role of the Immune System in Metabolic Health and Disease.” Cell Metabolism, 25(3): 506-521.
    5. Johns Hopkins Medicine (accessed December 12, 2018) “Metabolic Syndrome.”

     

     


  • Can triglycerides affect your diabetes health?

    triglyceride, fat, cholesterol, diabetesKnowing your numbers is more important to your health than ever. And when I say numbers, I don’t mean your age or waist size. The numbers you should always be aware of are your lab numbers. These labs include cholesterol, blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and triglycerides. This is because these numbers help your doctor assess your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Also, a recent study shows that high triglycerides can make it hard for those with type 2 diabetes to control their blood glucose levels. Therefore, let’s talk about these blood fats and how you can keep them in control to improve your health.

    What are triglycerides?

    Triglycerides, also known as blood fats, are a marker for heart disease. High levels of blood fats are linked with heart disease, diabetes, and fatty liver disease. Research shows that independent of total cholesterol and other cholesterol lab values, blood fat values can predict heart disease risk. Therefore, you should do what you can to lower your blood fats. This can help you lower your risk of heart disease and related chronic conditions.

    Experts suggest that you should try to keep your blood fat levels below 150 mg/dL for optimal health. A high blood fat level is found if your lab values are 200 mg/dL or above.  It’s important to check your blood fats levels at least each year so you can stay on top of staying heart healthy.

    Triglycerides and type 2 diabetes

    Not only can blood fats increase risk of heart disease, but they can also increase risk of diabetes-related health issues.  A recent study looked at a large group of people with type 2 diabetes and the impact of blood fats on blood glucose control. Study results show that high blood fat levels were linked with high HgA1C levels. Therefore, this finding suggests that high blood fat levels could work as a marker for poor blood glucose control. So, it’s important for everyone to work on keeping blood fats in normal range. And it’s especially important for those with type 2 diabetes to do so.

    How to keep blood fats in a healthy range

    Prevention is the best medicine. Therefore, let’s talk about ways you can keep your blood fats in a healthy range. This way you can lower your risk of not only heart disease, but also other health issues if you have diabetes.

    • Lower your saturated fat intake: Although fats from whole fat dairy sources and red meats are not all bad for you, they can impact blood fats. Therefore, try to limit your intake of such foods to a few times a week. Also, try to focus mostly on healthier fat options for most meals.
    • Eat more healthy fats: Eating more healthy fats like those from plant-based food sources can be good for blood fat health. Healthy fats come from foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish like salmon and trout that are high in omega-3 fatty acids. These types of fatty acids help keep inflammation at bay and in turn lower chronic disease risk.
    • Consume plenty of fiber: You may know that fruits and vegetables are good for you. However, the reason for this recommendation may not be clear. The fiber from such foods as well as the fiber from whole grains like oats, quinoa, and whole-wheat are good for your heart. Not only that, but these foods also help lower inflammation and in turn chronic disease risk in the body.
    • Limit alcohol intake: Not only is alcohol low in nutritional value, but it can also harm those at risk for high blood fats. Therefore, keep your alcohol intake to the recommended level. This level is one standard drink a day for women or two standard drinks maximum a day for men. One standard drink is equal to about 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.
    • Stay active: It’s vital to stay active to lower chronic disease risk. Therefore, try to stay active with moderate exercise at least 30 minutes a day for about 5 days a week. Walking, dancing, water aerobics, and biking all count towards this. And you can break it up into smaller segments throughout the day. The total minutes per week is all that matters when it comes to your health.
    • Take medicines when necessary: If your blood fats are too high, you may have to take medicines to keep them lower. This medicine should be taken along with diet and exercise. If your blood fats are not too high, or are still in normal range, then you may control them without medicine. Therefore, diet and exercise may help keep your blood fats low in such cases. However, these same people may also benefit from a supplement like Alestra by Vita Sciences. Alestra helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels and promote heart health with natural compounds like plant sterols, niacin, and garlic.
    • Visit your doctor often: It’s important to visit your doctor at least once a year to have your labs checked. This will help you keep track of your numbers and stay on top of your health.

    References:

    American Heart Association (April 15, 2011) “Triglycerides: Frequently Asked Questions.” http://my.americanheart.org/idc/groups/ahamah-public/@wcm/@sop/@smd/documents/downloadable/ucm_425988.pdf

    National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (accessed December 4, 2018) “What Is A Standard Drink?” https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/what-standard-drink

    Nelson, BSN, RN, R. (November 30, 2018) “Elevated Triglyceride Levels Affect Glycemic Control in Type 2 Diabetes.” https://www.endocrinologyadvisor.com/type-2-diabetes/hypertriglyceridemia-associated-with-high-hba1c-t2d/article/817360/

    Toth P. P. (2016). “Triglyceride-rich lipoproteins as a causal factor for cardiovascular disease.” Vascular health and risk management12, 171-83. doi:10.2147/VHRM.S104369

    University of Rochester Medical Center (accessed December 4, 2018) “The Truth About Triglycerides.” https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=56&contentid=2967