All posts by Staci

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

     


  • Could intermittent fasting be your weight loss answer?

    You may have heard about the latest diet trend called intermittent fasting. When you hear the word fasting, feelings of deprivation, hunger, and fatigue may come to mind. However, intermittent fasting is a special kind of fasting regimen that simply reduces the amount of time you eat during the day in order to allow your body to heal. Does it work? Recent research shows that intermittent fasting may have some serious health benefits such as weight loss that can make shorter meal times worth it.

    intermittent fasting, fasting, health, weight loss, dietWhat is intermittent fasting exactly?

    Intermittent fasting is a term that can be used to describe an eating regimen in which the time of eating each day is reduced to allow the body time to heal.  The fasting time can range from as short as 12 hours to as long as 36 hours.  A popular method of intermittent fasting is the 5:2 method in which a person fasts for at least 12 hours a day for 2 non-consecutive days during the week, then eats sensibly the other 5 days.

    Research shows that intermittent fasting works by placing the body under a period of mild stress.  This exposure may help the body adapt to stress better. Therefore, over time, this adaptive ability can help the body better cope with any stress. And also, this adaptation may even help the body resist disease.

    Recent research includes a study of men with prediabetes placed on an intermittent fasting regimen.  After five weeks of treatment, the men on early-restricted time feeding had improvements in heart health not related to weight loss.  Also, another study looked at the gut microbiome and intermittent fasting. This study shows that engaging in intermittent fasting may help alter the gut microbiome to improve immune function. Therefore, not only may intermittent fasting be effective for weight loss, but also for overall health and well-being.

    Intermittent fasting and weight loss

    A small study was done to see the effects of changing meal times on weight loss. Over ten weeks, one group of people were asked to delay their breakfast meal time by 90 minutes and eat dinner 90 minutes earlier. Meanwhile, the other group was asked to engage in their regular meal times. No changes in the food they consumed was asked of them.

    After the end of the study, those who changed their meal times were found to lose twice the excess body fat than those on the regular meal schedule. Also, those in the changed meal time group consumed less food than their control group counterparts. Therefore, this study suggests that changing meal times to shorten the eating period may have a positive impact on controlling appetite and weight management upon further study.

    Other things you can do to support weight loss

    Besides changing your way of eating, there are other things you can do to make sure your body in is top shape to shape up.

    • Move more: Staying active is not only good for your heart, but also good for reducing stress. Therefore, try to move more every day by taking the stairs, taking a walk during lunch or before work to energize your mind and body, or stopping at the gym after work.
    • Sleep more: Many of us do not sleep enough.  The average adult should be getting about 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night for proper health. Stress and anxiety can keep you up. A sleep disorder like sleep apnea or a pain-related disorder may also affect your sleep. See your doctor if sleep aids like melatonin are not working for you.
    • Stay calm: Stress can ramp up the body’s cortisol levels, which over time can make it hard to shed pounds. Therefore, work to manage your stress through relaxation breathing, exercise, or talking to a professional. Talking about your stress may help you find strategies to deal with any future stress you may feel.
    • Visit your doctor with concerns: If you have tried everything and are still having trouble losing weight, visit your doctor. Ask them if you may have any underlying condition that is preventing you from losing weight. Have your thyroid panel checked and be sure your nutrient levels are in line.
    • Take a supplement to fill in nutritional gaps: Vitamin D deficiency, low iron, and other nutrient deficiencies can cause fatigue that can make moving more difficult. In turn, these individuals may have little motivation to engage in a healthy lifestyle regimen. Therefore, be sure to have your nutrients tested at the doctor regularly so you can receive proper supplementation as needed. The supplement Glucarex by Vita Sciences is also great to help support weight loss and metabolism with natural ingredients like chromium and alpha-lipoic acid.

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

    References:

    Cignarella, F., et al. (June 5, 2018) “Intermittent Fasting Confers Protection in CNS Autoimmunity by Altering the Gut Microbiota.” Clinical and Translational Report, 27(6), 122-1235.

    Cohut, M. (August 30, 2018) “Can simply changing your meal times help you lose more weight?” Medical News Today Online

    Patterson, PhD, R.E., et al. (August 2015) “Intermittent Fasting and Human Metabolic Health.” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 115(8): 1203-1212.

    Sutton, E.F., et al. (June 5, 2018) “Early Time-Restricted Feeding Improves Insulin Sensitivity, Blood Pressure, and Oxidative Stress Even without Weight Loss in Men with Prediabetes.” Clinical and Translational Report, 27(6): 1212-1221.


  • Can cardio exercise boost metabolism better than strength training?

    exercise, healthAny kind of movement is good for health. Studies have shown time and again that sitting is bad for health. But, is one kind of exercise better than the other when it comes to weight loss? This is a controversial topic since some studies show that strength training can keep calories burning long after your workout. However, a recent study has shown that cardio exercise may actually be better than strength training in boosting metabolism.

    Cardio exercise versus strength training

    Cardio exercise, or aerobic activity, is a type of exercise that gets your heart rate up. It gets you to breathe faster and deeper, in turn getting more oxygen in your blood. Cardio exercise is best known for improving the overall health of your heart and lungs. Experts recommend that you engage in some cardio exercise for at least 30 minutes a day for most days of the week.

    Types of cardio exercises include walking, running, cycling, swimming, team sports, and dancing, to name a few. Cardio exercises are known for burning more calories per minute than strength training and is also great for stress management. Not to mention that cardio training can help reduce risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.

    On the other hand, strength training exercises aim to increase your bone and muscle strength. Examples of such exercises include free weight exercises or resistance training like push-ups, to name a few.

    Research has found that strength training can help you burn an additional 25-percent of calories you burned during your workout even after you have finished your workout. Therefore, if you burn 100 calories during your strength training workout, then you will burn an additional 25 calories in the hours after your workout for a total of 125 calories burned.

    Typically, it is recommended to balance out your fitness routine with both cardio and strength training exercises. This will ensure you can reap the benefits of both types of exercises.

    Cardio for faster metabolism

    Recent research looked at the effects of cardio and strength training exercises on certain health markers. Two groups of people had either a 60-minute cardio or 60-minute strength training workout to complete. After the workout, their blood was tested for lactic acid, blood sugar, bile, and hormone levels.  Study results show that those who did the cardio exercise had higher levels of the hormone FGF21. This hormone plays a role in boosting metabolism. Those who did the cardio workout had tripled their FGF21 level from baseline, while those who did strength training saw no increase.

    Other ways to boost metabolism

    Besides boosting your cardio routine, there are other small changes you can make to your lifestyle to speed up your metabolism.

    • Spice up your diet: Research shows that capsaicin, the active  component of chili peppers, can increase calorie burning by 50 calories a day.
    • Take a metabolism boosting supplement:  Sometimes a supplement that supports the thyroid may help boost metabolism. An example of this is Thyradol by Vita Sciences. Thyradol contains ashwagandha that helps enhance levels of the thyroid hormone T4. You should contact your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement.
    • Eat more harder to digest foods: Foods that are more complex in their structure can help the body burn more calories during digestion. This is called diet-induced thermogenesis.  Foods higher in fiber and protein are examples of such foods. Foods that are more refined, like processed carbohydrates, will not have this same effect. Therefore, aim for eating lots of complex carbohydrates like high fiber fruits and vegetables that have a 20-percent thermic effect.  This means that for every 100 calories of these foods you eat, your body will use 20 calories to break down and digest these foods. Aim for at least 2 cups of fruits and vegetables each day. Also, be sure to consume plenty of protein from animal and/or plant-based sources., which have a 30-percent thermic effect.

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

    References:

    Healthline (accessed August 29, 2018) “Metabolism Boosters: Weight Loss Fact or Fiction?”

    Mayo Clinic (August 10, 2017) “Fitness training: elements of a well-rounded routine.” 

    Petter, O. (August 25, 2018) “Cardio Boosts Metabolism More Than Strength Training , Study Claims.” 

    Plosser, L. (accessed August 29, 2018) “Cardio vs. Strength Training: Which One is Most Effective?”

    Williams, J. (October 3, 2017) “How Many Calories Does Digestion Use Up?” 


  • Can alcohol intake increase your appetite?

    After a long, hard week you may be reaching for a nice, cold beer or a glass of wine. Sure, an alcoholic drink can take the edge off and lower your stress for a bit. However, it could increase your appetite and make healthy eating very hard to do. A recent study shows that this overeating caused by alcohol could be due to a gene that is activated by alcohol consumption.

    wine, health, alcoholAbout alcohol

    Alcohol has been enjoyed for thousands of years since about the 5th century AD.  This type of drink comes in many forms and flavors, is a central nervous system depressant that can relax the mind and body upon consumption. It is absorbed quickly from the stomach and small intestine into the bloodstream. Drinking too much though can impair mobility and cognition in the short-term. If consumed in excess over many years can increase risk of liver disease.

    Ethanol is the active ingredient in alcoholic drinks. This substance is produced by the fermentation of yeast, sugar, and starches into alcohol.  The way that ethanol affects you depends on a variety of factors including age, weight, how much you ate before drinking, and use of medications, to name a few. Regardless of these factors, the recommended maximum intake of alcohol for moderate consumption is 14 standard drinks a week for men and 7 standard drinks a week for women. One standard drink is equal to (ABV=alcohol by volume):

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

    Alcohol and appetite

    Drinking alcohol often occurs in establishments which serve unhealthy fare as french fries, nachos, hot wings, and other fried foods.  This type of food is thought to help those who are drinking to sober up. Research has found that all types of protein, fat, and carbohydrates can help you sober up after drinking, as long as you eat something.

    So, what if you don’t feel like eating after drinking? A recent study has found that this is an unlikely outcome. This is because alcohol triggers a neuron signal found in both animals and humans that increases appetite.  Starvation normally activates this neuron, known as Agrp, to increase a person’s motivation for eating.  However, ethanol can also activate these neurons.  This can explain why you may be extra hungry after a few drinks at the bar.

    If this type of drinking and eating becomes a pattern, it could lead to weight gain and heart health issues over time. Therefore, it is important that if you do drink alcohol, that you do so in moderation and make sure you limit eating too many unhealthy foods while drinking.

    Staying healthy during social hour

    Since hunger seems to be inevitable after drinking, week after week of this behavior may impact your health in a not-so-healthy way. Therefore, use the following tips to have your drink and stay healthy too.

    • Choose healthier food to munch on while drinking: Instead of fried foods, opt for a veggie plate with celery, carrots, and salad dressing. Or you could get a turkey burger without a bun topped with tons of vegetables like lettuce and tomato. Other options like baked chips and salsa, grilled chicken wings, or fruit salad are found at some bars and could be healthier drinking snack options.
    • Drink lots of water:  Drinking alcohol can dehydrate you since it reduces the activation of the hormone known as ADH or anti-diuretic hormone. When it does this, the kidneys do not reabsorb as much water, so you urinate more. Over time, this can cause you to become dehydrated. Water is needed for many aspects of health, so if you do drink alcohol, drink plenty of water with it.
    • Find other ways to relax: If drinking wine or beer is a way for you to relax, perhaps try not to do it so much. Find other ways to relax such as walking, reading, yoga, meditation, or exercising, among other things.  You could also take a supplement such as Elevia by Vita Sciences that increases your “feel-good” hormone serotonin to help you relax. Elevia contains ingredients such as GABA and 5-htp to help calm your body and mind.

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

    References:

    Cains, S., Blomeley, C., Kollo, M., Racz, R., and Burdakov, D. (2017) “Agrp neuron activity is required for alcohol-induced overeating.” Nature Communications, 8:14014.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (March 29, 2018) “Alcohol and Public Health: Frequently Asked Questions.”

    Freudenrich, Ph.D., C. (accessed August 21, 2018) “How Alcohol Works.” How Stuff Works online.

    Gowin, Ph.D., J. (September 15, 2013) “What’s the Best Meal to Sober up after drinking?” Psychology Today online.


  • Could chocolate be heart healthy?

    chocolate, cacao, antioxidant, heart healthCould it be?  Could the delicious sweetness of chocolate actually be good for you? The answer is yes, but in moderation.  Chock full of antioxidants, this delicious treat may be able to help you combat heart disease.  A recent study has shown that moderate consumption of chocolate can reduce risk of heart disease.

    Where does chocolate come from?

    Chocolate has been enjoyed for thousands of years as far back as the ancient Mayan and Aztec civilizations. They revered this delicious treat as the “food of the gods” and Central American Mayan Indians drank a spicy drink made from roasted cacao beans. Chocolate was enjoyed exclusively in this liquid form until Victorian times when it was devised as a solid food treat.

    The basic form of solid chocolate is made from cocoa, cocoa butter from the cocoa bean, and sometimes up to 5-percent vegetable fat. More processed and lesser quality products will usually contain more fat and sugar and less cacao.

    Chocolate and heart health

    A recent meta-analysis study looked at 23 studies with over 400,000 adults, with 35,000 cases of heart disease.  Study results show that eating chocolate in moderation may actually reduce heart disease risk. When talking about moderate consumption of chocolate, this study defines it as 100 grams of chocolate per week. This is equal to about 2 standard chocolate bars.  When chocolate consumption exceeded 100 grams per week, chronic disease risk such as stroke risk and heart disease risk started to increase.

    When choosing to consume chocolate as part of a heart healthy diet, be sure to look at the ingredients label.  Try to choose chocolate foods that are lower in sugar and higher in cacao. This is because added fat and sugar can make chocolate higher in calories with no real added nutrient benefit.

    A higher cacao content can increase the concentration of antioxidants in chocolate. Cacao beans contains antioxidants known as flavonoids that are also found in various fruits and vegetables. These antioxidants can help improve blood pressure as well as improve blood flow to the heart. This in turn can help reduce risk of heart disease and related chronic diseases. Therefore, lean towards higher cacao percentage (around 70-percent or higher) and lower sugar content for the most health benefit.

    Other heart healthy tips

    Besides eating chocolate for heart health reduction, which is perhaps the most delicious medicine ever, there are other steps you can take to reduce your risk.

    • Eat plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables every day. This is because fruits and vegetables contain a slew of different antioxidants that can lower oxidative stress in the body’s cells. when you reduce the oxidative stress in the body, then you lower the risk of cell damage. When less cells are damaged, you can lower your chronic disease risk. Therefore, you should try to get at least 2 cups each of fruits and vegetables each day (or more!) for optimal health benefit.  Also, add in more fruits and vegetables for in-between meal snacks instead of sweets to help increase your total fiber and nutrient intake daily.
    • Stay active every day. This doesn’t mean you have to train for a marathon or attend boot camp classes. Just try to get your muscles moving every day by taking walks, going outside and gardening, or visiting your local community center for aerobic or dance classes each week.  A healthy level of activity would be to get at least 30 minutes each day of moderate activity for at least 5 days a week. You can do this exercise in shorter segments. Five minutes here and ten minutes there all counts towards this 30 minutes. And moderate activity is any exercise that increases your rate of breathing a bit and where you can carry a conversation, but can’t sing.
    • Take a heart healthy supplement each day. Sometimes the food you eat does not provide all the nutrients you need to stay your healthiest. In some cases, you may have vitamin deficiencies such as vitamin D or B12 deficiency that could affect your overall health status and well-being. That is why a multivitamin may be the right choice for you to help fill in the nutrition gaps. An example of a great multivitamin is Zestia by Vita Sciences. Zestia provides a comprehensive formula of 45 fruits and vegetables, a daily dose of a variety of essential vitamins and nutrients, as well as probiotics.

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

    References:

    Cadbury (accessed August 15, 2018) “What is chocolate?”

    Ren, Y., et al (2018) “Moderate consumption of chocolate may reduce CVD risk.” 


  • Could it be that men have weight loss faster than women?

    Sometimes it may seem that over the same period of time, on the same diet and exercise regimen, that men lose weight quicker than women.  Some say that men have more muscle mass, so their metabolism is higher.  Others say that it has to do with hormones. So, what is the real reason behind this phenomenon, and is it even a real phenomenon?  A recent study found that men with prediabetes lost significantly more weight over eight weeks than women with prediabetes.  Let’s explore why this may be.

    What is prediabetes?

    Those with prediabetes have a higher than normal blood glucose level. However, they are not at the point where their blood glucose status qualifies as diabetes.  A diagnosis like this might be scary, but it can be a good thing.  When you are given a diagnosis of prediabetes, there is a chance to reverse your risk of diabetes by changing lifestyle factors.  With the guidance of a qualified health professional, you can tweak your diet and increase your physical activity to help you lose weight and lower your blood glucose levels.

    In most cases, after such a diagnosis, you will be asked to come back for a retest of your blood glucose labs in 3 to 6 months to make sure everything is moving in the right direction. Some doctors may put you on medications such as metformin to help with this if diet and exercise alone is not helping.

    Men weight loss faster than women?

    weight loss, weight, health, scaleA recent study of 2000 overweight men and women with prediabetes looked at the effects of a low-calorie diet. After eight weeks, the men in the study lost significantly more weight than women and had larger reductions in their metabolic score, which is a marker for diabetes.  In addition, the men had greater loss of fat mass and lower heart rate after eight weeks on the diet. However, women did have the upper hand on some health markers. In fact, women had a larger reduction in hip circumference, lean body mass, and pulse pressure than men.

    Researchers suggest that it is clear that men benefited more from this low calorie diet than women. However, longer term studies will need to be done to figure out exactly why. Theories suggest that women may have a harder time losing weight since they store fat more easily than men.  Also, women have less muscle mass than men, which can affect metabolism. Finally, women are more prone than men to yo-yo dieting, which can negatively affect long-term weight loss success.

    Strategies for weight loss 

    Just because the weight loss odds seem to be against women, that does not mean that successful long-term weight loss is impossible. Follow the strategies to help you lose weight, no matter your gender.

    • Eat enough fiber each day. Only one in ten Americans eat the minimum recommended amount of fruits and vegetables daily. This low fiber intake can impact digestive health, heart health, and overall quality of the diet. Fruits and veggies also contain antioxidants that can help lower risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease by reducing oxidative stress and related cell damage. Therefore, be sure to get plenty of veggies and fruits in your meals and snacks. You can add spinach or tomatoes to your eggs for breakfast, or throw in fruit and veggies into a morning smoothie. For meals, grab some frozen veggies that you can steam in less than 10-15 minutes, depending on the veggie.  For snacks, crunch on some baby carrots and apple slices, or enjoy some berries or grapes.
    • Move more each day.  Many of us have jobs that require sitting for most of the day. Therefore, make it a point to take the stairs, take a walk during lunch if you can, and/or make time in the evening to take a walk after dinner or take an aerobics class at your local community center. Every step will help you burn more calories, keep your heart strong, and help you lose weight.
    • Try a supplement regimen. Low vitamin D, B12, or iron can affect your health status, and in turn impact energy levels and weight loss.  You should have your labs tested to see if you may have a nutrient deficiency.  Also, if you have prediabetes, a supplement like Glucarex may help as well. Glucarex by Vita Sciences contains chromium, alpha lipoic acid, and cinnamon, which can support healthy weight loss metabolism, and blood glucose levels.
    • Surround yourself with support. Long-term weight loss success is often seen in those with social support systems in place. Whether you engage your family in more healthy meals, have family walks, have a weight loss buddy at work, or join a support group, support can make the difficult act of losing weight a little easier. Not only that, but support can help you stay accountable and on track with your goals. Also, having a qualified healthcare team of doctors and dietitians can help you stay on the right path to health.

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

    References:

    Asian News International (August 8, 2018) “Low calorie diet, men tend to lose more weight than women.” 

    Centers for Disease Control (November 16, 2017) “Only 1 in 10 Adults Get Enough Fruits or Vegetables.”

    Joslin Diabetes Center (accessed August 8, 2018) “Diet Strategies for Women with Diabetes: Why Some Work and Some Don’t.”

    Mayo Clinic (August 2, 2017) “Prediabetes.” 

     

     


  • Could breastfeeding and probiotics help infant gut health?

    breastfeeding, world breastfeeding week, healthProbiotics are getting more press each and every day for their health benefits. From skin health, improving bone health, and of course, enhancing gut health, the possibilities seem endless. In fact, a recent study shows that combining a probiotic with breastfeeding in the first year of life can have improvements in the gut health of infants.

    Basics of probiotics

    Probiotics are simply any bacteria, fungi, or other living organism that has the potential to improve health to the host. The health of the body depends on a balance of different bacteria in the gut.  An imbalance could lead to health problems such as gas, bloating, constipation, and other gut health issues.  You can maintain a good balance of probiotics in the gut by consuming a diverse probiotic supplement every day. You can find good bacteria in fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, or kimchi as well.

    To feed such probiotics, it is important to consume plenty of fruits, vegetables, and healthy whole grains like oats or wheat bran.  Prebiotic foods like these are important to maintain healthy levels of good bacteria.  Together, probiotics and prebiotics can improve the health of the gut, immune system, and in turn overall health.

    Breastfeeding and probiotics

    A certain type of bacteria, known as Bifidobacterium infantis, is found naturally in the gut of infants upon birth.  This bacterium helps to keep the gut healthy. It is usually in lower concentrations in the gut of babies from developed countries. This bacterium is nourished by breast milk from the infant’s mother, acting in the same way a typical prebiotic food would to a probiotic strain.

    A study of mothers and breastfed infants looked at the effect of Bifidobacterium infantis supplements on infant’s gut health.  One group of mothers and babies received the supplement with lactation support from day 7 to 21 after birth.  Meanwhile, the other group received only lactation support.  Study results show that those given the probiotic had positive changes in the make-up of the infant feces for up to a year after treatment. During this year, the “good” bacteria crowded out “bad” bacteria linked with asthma, allergies, and other immune-related diseases. This study suggests that this probiotic, upon further study, could help prevent immune-related diseases in babies from developed countries.

    Which probiotic should I take?

    There are so many types of probiotics on the market today. This can make it confusing to know which one to choose. Every probiotic strain has its unique benefits, so you may want to do your research before choosing one.  A qualified alternative healthcare provider, such as a naturopath, may be able to assist you in making your choice.

    Regardless of which strains you choose, a diverse group of strains is recommended.  Diversity of bacteria is important to help your gut create a balanced population.  Also,  a capsule or other medium will allow optimal survival of the bacteria as it travels to your gut.  One example of a high quality probiotic is Biovia 30 by Vita Sciences.  This probiotic contains 30 billion colony forming units of bacteria and 10 different strains.  Furthermore, Biovia 30 can help boost the immune system and improve digestive health with regular use.

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

    References:

    Healthline (accessed July 31, 2018) “The 19 Best Prebiotic Foods You Should Eat.”

    Nagpal, R., et al. (2012) “Probiotics, their health benefits and applications for developing healthier foods: a review.” FEMS Microbiology Letters, 334(2012): 1-15.

    National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (accessed May 17, 2018) “Probiotics: In Depth.”

    Science Daily (June 9, 2018) “Bifidobacteria supplement colonizes gut of breastfed infants.”