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Close Friends Are Good For Your Health

It’s pretty well-established at this point that having friends is good for you — over the years, study after study has found that social support is a significant predictor of a long, healthy life. The word friend, though, can mean so many things in so many different contexts: your work spouse, the old college pal you call when you feel like reminiscing, that person on the edge of your social circle that you always chat with at parties. Maybe you use “friend” to refer to a broad swath of people you enjoy hanging out with; maybe you reserve it for the few people you’d feel comfortable spilling your guts to.

According to one of the newest studies of the bunch, that last type of friendship may be one of the most valuable when it comes to your well-being: In a paper published last month in the journal Child Development, a team of researchers found that having a childhood best friend can play a significant role in a person’s mental health well into adulthood.

The study drew from a data set that tracked the mental health of 169 racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse adolescent participants at three points: age 15, age 16, and age 25. For the first two rounds, subjects also identified the person they considered to be their best friend, and the study authors interviewed both members of the duo (the label of “best friend” didn’t have to be mutual, the authors noted, and participants didn’t necessarily have to name the same person both years). By age 25, the researchers found, subjects who had had higher-quality close friendships as a teen —defined here as “high degree of attachment, intimate exchange, and support” — tended to have lower social anxiety, an increased sense of self-worth, and fewer symptoms of depression.

“We weren’t surprised that better adolescent close friendships turned out to be important, but we were surprised by just how important they turned out to be into adulthood,” says lead study author Rachel Narr, a doctoral student in psychology at the University of Virginia.

Importantly, it was quality, not quantity, that seemed to matter. In fact, teens who prioritized broader social networks over a few close friends actually had higher rates of social anxiety in young adulthood. When kids are focused on being popular instead of forming deep connections, Narr notes, that’s when problems often arise: “Being the popular kid is ‘cool’ in high school, but by 25, it doesn’t set you apart and make you a leader in the same way,” she says. “The phrase ‘feeling alone in a crowd’ comes to mind when thinking about those kids and their heightened social anxiety later.”

Other researchers have made similar conclusions. Psychologist Tim Kasser, for example, has identified two values that influence how our relationships affect our well-being: popularity, the drive to have more friends and be liked by a wider circle of people; and affinity, the drive to deepen and build close relationships. Much like Narr’s findings, Kasser discovered that those who sought popularity over affinity tended to be less happy, less healthy, and often more depressed. Those who sought and found best friendship, on the other hand, had the opposite outcome.

And in a pair of studies that involved nearly 280,000 individuals, social psychologist Bill Chopik, a professor at Michigan State University, found that the power of friendship gets stronger with age and becomes even more important in fending off loneliness and chronic disease. But, once again, the quality of those friendships matter. “Having closer friends is better than having many, superficial friends,” Chopik says, adding that it’s smart to invest your time and energy in the friendships that make you happiest.

Which, according to both science and common sense, should probably include at least one person whose friendship is deep enough to be considered all-purpose — someone you can go to when you want to cry, vent, brag, laugh. A 2015 paper published in Personality and Social Psychology Review suggests that people generally look to their best friend to fill two critical roles: “source of strength support,” in which friends provide comfort, protection, and soothing; and acting as a “relational catalyst,” challenging, encouraging, and celebrating the other person. A best friendship, in other words, can make the bad better and the good even more so, something that more casual friendships can’t always pull off.

That’s not to say, though, that you can’t reap the benefits of best friendship if you no longer keep in touch with anyone from your younger years. “Great friends are made at all ages,” says Kelly Rudolph, a certified life coach who often writes about relationships.

With a childhood best friend, Rudolph notes, you learn about life together, with all the traumas, challenges, and excitement of growing up — but when you make a best friend later in life, the relationship has a different kind of power thanks to the experience you both bring to the table. “The conversations, support, and adventures can be deeper and more fun,” she says, “as you navigate your future with your combined wisdom.” And all the evidence suggests it’ll be a longer, healthier future, too.

Independence from Monsanto

Monsanto is giant, and not a gentle one.  It may feel impossible to avoid their reach, the genetically modified Frankenfoods that they pedal, and the toxic business practices which they employ.  If not impossible, you might think that ditching Monsanto for healthier, and more sustainable options might seem like such a daunting task that it’s not even worth the effort.  But fear not!   We have a few steps that will help you avoid Monsanto, or, at the very least, cut out much of the genetically modified food in your diet.

Why Bother?

Jeffrey M. Smith is the executive director of the nonprofit Institute for Responsible Technology.  He has dedicated his life to fighting Monsanto and the health risks that GMOs pose.  In his open letter “Warning to Investors and Companies Considering Financial Ties to Monsanto Company”, Mr. Smith outlined a few reasons to avoid Monsanto.

  1. Sales of Roundup herbicide and Roundup Ready genetically engineered corn, soy and cotton constitute 90% of Monsanto’s revenue. Scientific evidence points to significant health impacts of these products on humans.
  2. For example, the World Health Organization declared Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, a probable human carcinogen. Since that announcement in March 2015, several countries, cities, and retail chains worldwide have banned or severely limited the use of glyphosate products. As of October 2015, at least 700 personal injury non-Hodgkin lymphoma lawsuits were pending against Monsanto.
  3. Monsanto’s liability may persist long into the future. Not only can glyphosate be detected for decades in many types of soil, but GMO contamination also self-propagates in the gene pool and cannot be entirely eradicated.
  4. Numerous livestock farmers who switch to non-GMO feed report improved livestock health and increased profits. If these claims are validated, Monsanto could lose its biggest GMO market and become liable for extraordinary cumulative losses from an entire industry.
  5. Monsanto’s GMOs—designed to either kill insects or tolerate Roundup herbicide—are failing in the field; as of 2010, superbugs and superweeds are becoming resistant on over 300 million acres worldwide.

Monsanto’s Reach

In addition to producing the genetically modified corn, which has been shown to cause liver and kidney damage in a test performed on rats, Monsanto creates various other genetically modified foods such as cotton, soy, and sugar beets. These crops form the foundation of our diets.  According to the Grocery Manufacturers of America, 70 to 80 percent of American processed foods contain GMO ingredients.

You might be surprised to learn that Monsanto, a company known for producing GMO seeds and pesticide laden plant crops, has had an enormous influence on the meat industry.  The majority of all genetically modified corn, roughly 60%, is used to feed cattle.  Also, the recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) that Monsanto produces is used to force dairy cows to produce more milk than they should be capable of.

For over a decade Monsanto has bought out competing seed manufacturing companies around the world. The majority of the seeds in America are now patented by Monsanto, and “organic” seeds are no exception.

Unfortunately, except a few brands such as Annie’s, Lundberg Farms, and Massa Organics, it is nearly impossible to avoid Monsanto completely.  To do so, you would have to speak directly to the people who grew your food.  That means every single ingredient of every bite you eat.

Good First Steps

While it’s difficult to avoid Monsanto entirely, there are some steps that you can use to minimize the genetically modified organisms you consume.

  1. Avoid processed foods.
  2. Read your food labels.
  3. Eliminate High Fructose Corn Syrup from your diet.
  4. Consider going buy grass-fed beef, limiting meat consumption, or even going vegetarian.
  5. Buy organic dairy products to avoid recombinant bovine growth hormone.
  6. Buy organic cotton when you can. Even though cotton is only 2.5 percent of the world’s crops, it is drowned in 16 percent of the world’s pesticides.

It’s not an easy thing, avoiding this behemoth that controls much of our lives.  However, the first step is knowing just how much of your life they have invaded.  You may have noticed that the list above started from number 2.  That’s because you’ve already taken the first step, which is educating yourself on the scope of Monsanto’s influence.  Though there’s still so much more to learn, and if you have the time, I’d strongly encourage you to do a little research, and better prepare yourself to fight off this giant.

Seeking Nutritional Counseling

Nutrition counseling is the therapeutic prescription of specific dietary nutrients to improve health. These can be either macronutrients or micronutrients.

Because food is essential to life, therapies involving plants, foods, and nutritional elements naturally seem fundamental to a person’s health and well-being.

Sound nutrition counseling can play a vital role in developing a health plan, but the emphasis needs to be on the word sound. Nutrition is one of the more complicated subjects regular people encounter in their daily lives. We are bombarded with messages, many of them contradictory. We need to use math to evaluate calories and nutrient content. There are dozens of different nutrients and micronutrients we may encounter on our path to good health, and conflicting advice from experts on many of them.

Nutritional counselors are dietary coaches. Sure, you may already know the basics – processed foods that are high in trans fats, sodium, sugar and cholesterol are bad for you! However, do you know about proper portion sizes? Do you know how many servings of fruits and vegetables you need to fuel your particular lifestyle (not just the average that the Food Guide prescribes)? Or do you know what your specific daily caloric intake should be?

A nutritional counselor can help you answer all of the questions surrounding your specific dietary needs. If you have gastrointestinal troubles – such as irritable bowel syndrome, colitis or Crohn’s disease – a nutritional counselor can prescribe a supplemental plan and a dietary plan to help you function more comfortably. And if you suffer from indigestion, stress, obesity, insomnia – or any number of health complaints – a nutritionist can analyze your current diet, and help you make the necessary adjustments for healing.

If you visit a nutritional counselor, you will start with a questionnaire. It may ask you questions about everything from your sleeping patterns to your bowel movements. Then you will have a one-on-one analysis of your diet with your counselor. They will likely ask you to write everything down that you eat for a 1 to 2 week period before you begin. By analyzing your current diet, the nutritionist will create a specific meal plan especially for you. For example, if your goal is weight loss, your nutritionist will create specific nutrition guidelines to help you meet that goal – without ignoring your individual tastes or any health concerns you may have. They may also be able to provide further education when it comes to grocery shopping and preparing healthy meals.

In addition to nutritional advice, your counselor may be able to recommend further professionals to help you with your goals – for instance, a personal trainer for exercise or a sports therapist for injuries.

Overall, the goal of the nutritional counselor is to put you on the road to better health and living.

Remember, your healthy diet is the foundation of optimal wellness.

Your Diet May Be Changing Your Genetics

DNA is the blueprint for you, and every cell in your body has the same exact plan.  Your body uses these designs to build proteins, and proteins, in turn, do much of the work that makes you you.  Knowing this, you might wonder how your organs can look so dissimilar and function so differently.  After all, each of the cells in your body carries the same DNA and the same set of instructions.  Recent progress in the field of epigenetics is helping us understand how this works.  We now know that cells use the genetic material at their disposal in different ways but changing which genes are “expressed.”  Genes are switched on and off, resulting in the extraordinary level of differentiation within our bodies.

 

Epigenetics describes the cellular processes that determine whether or not an individual gene transcribes and translates into its corresponding protein. The message conveys through small and reversible chemical modifications to chromatin. For example, the addition of acetyl groups (known as acetylation) to DNA scaffold proteins (histones) enhances transcription. In contrast, the addition of methyl groups (known as methylation) to some regulatory regions of the DNA itself reduces gene transcription. These modifications, together with other regulatory mechanisms, are particularly important during development – when the exact timing of gene activation is crucial to ensure proper cellular differentiation – but continue to have an effect into adulthood.

 

Epigenetic modifications can occur in response to your environment, one of the most important of which is diet. The mechanisms by which diet affects epigenetics are not entirely understood, but some clear examples are well known.

 

During the winter of 1944–1945, the Netherlands suffered a terrible famine as a result of the German occupation, and the population’s nutritional intake dropped to fewer than 1000 calories per day. Women continued to conceive and give birth during these hard times, and these children are now adults in their sixties. Recent studies have revealed that these individuals – exposed to calorie restrictions while in their mother’s uterus – have a higher rate of chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity than their siblings. The first months of pregnancy seem to have had the greatest effect on disease risk.

 

How can something that happened before you were even born influence your life as much as 60 years later? The answer appears to lie in the epigenetic adaptations made by the fetus in response to the limited supply of nutrients. The specific epigenetic alterations are still not clear, but scientists discovered that people exposed to famine in utero have a lower degree of methylation of a gene implicated in insulin metabolism (the insulin-like growth factor II gene) than their unexposed siblings. This discovery has some startling implications: Although epigenetic changes are in theory reversible, useful changes that take place during embryonic development can nonetheless persist in adult life, even when they are no longer helpful and could even be detrimental. Some of these changes may even continue through generations, affecting the grandchildren of the exposed women.

 

The effects of early diet on epigenetics are also clearly visible among honeybees. What differentiates the sterile worker bees from the fertile queen are not genetics, but the diet that they follow as larvae. Larvae designated to become queens are fed exclusively with royal jelly, a substance secreted by worker bees, which switches on the gene program that results in the bee becoming fertile.

 

Researchers found another striking example of how nutrition influences epigenetics during development in mice. Individuals with an active agouti gene have a yellow coat and a propensity to become obese. This gene, however, can be switched off by DNA methylation. If a pregnant agouti mouse receives dietary supplements that can release methyl groups – such as folic acid or choline – the pups’ agouti genes become methylated and thus inactive. These pups still carry the agouti gene, but they lose the agouti phenotype: they have brown fur and no increased tendency towards obesity.

An insufficient uptake of folic acid causes developmental conditions in humans, such as spina bifida and other neural tube defects. Folic acid supplements are widely recommended for pregnant women and for those hoping to conceive to prevent these problems.

 

What about the dietary effect on epigenetics in adult life? Many components of food have the potential to cause epigenetic changes in humans. For example, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables contain isothiocyanates, which increase acetylation. Soya, on the other hand, is a source of the isoflavone genistein, which is thought to decrease DNA methylation in particular genes. The polyphenol compound found in green tea, epigallocatechin-3-gallate, has many biological activities, including the inhibition of DNA methylation. Curcumin, a compound found in turmeric, can have multiple effects on gene activation because it inhibits DNA methylation but also modulates acetylation.

 

Most of the data collected so far about these compounds come from in vitro experiments.  It is unknown if eating the corresponding foods has the same detectable effect as has been seen.

Epidemiological studies suggest that populations that consume large amounts of some of these foods appear to be less prone to certain diseases. However, most of these compounds have not only epigenetic effects but affect other biological functions as well.  A food source may contain many different biologically active molecules, making it difficult to draw a direct correlation between epigenetic activity and the overall effect on the body. Finally, all foods undergo many transformations in our digestive system, so it is not clear how much of the active compounds reach their molecular targets.

 

As a result of their far-reaching effects, epigenetic changes may aid in the development of many illnesses, including some cancers and neurological diseases. As cells become malignant, or cancerous, epigenetic modifications can deactivate tumor suppressor genes, which prevent excessive cell proliferation. Because these epigenetic modifications are reversible, there is keen interest in finding molecules – especially dietary sources – that might undo these damaging changes and prevent the development of the tumor.

We all know that a diet rich in fruit and vegetables is healthy for our everyday life, but it is becoming increasingly clear that it might be much more important than that, having significant implications for our long-term health and longevity.

 

There is a fairly common belief that we need to eat healthy to lose weight, and exercise to live longer.  While this is truer than the notion that exercise will help you lose weight, scientists are starting to discover that diet has more to do with prolonging your life than we first thought.  It can even change your DNA.  The very stuff that makes you you.

52 Delicious Superfoods!

Eggs:  Each egg has 6 grams of protein but just 72 calories.  No wonder researchers at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, found that eating eggs for breakfast (as part of a low-cal diet) helps you slim down.

Tomato sauce:  It’s loaded with lycopene, which makes your skin look younger and keeps your heart healthy.  In fact, a Harvard study found that women with the most lycopene in their blood reduced their risk of a heart attack by 34%.

Dried plums(prunes):  They’re packed with polyphenols, plant chemicals that have been shown to boost bone density by stimulating your bone-building cells.

Walnuts:  Just 14 walnut halves provide more than twice your daily dose of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fat that’s been shown to improve memory and coordination.

Brussels Sprouts:  They have more glucosinolates (compounds that combat cancer and detoxify our bodies) than any other vegetable.  For a side dish that will make you wonder why you’ve been avoiding them, slice each one into quarters, then sauté in olive oil with chopped sweet Vidalia onions.

Acai Juice: A glass or two of this anthocyanin-rich berry juice can dramatically boost the amount of antioxidants in your blood, say Texas A&M University researchers.

Apples: They contain quercetin, an antioxidant that may reduce your risk of lung cancer.

Bok Choy: This calcium-rich veggie can protect your bones and may even ward off PMS symptoms.

Steel-Cut Oats: Because they’re less processed than traditional oats, they’re digested more slowly—keeping you full all morning long.

Salmon:  You’ll get all the heart-smart omega-3s you need in a day from just 3 oz.

Avocados:  Their healthy fat keeps you satisfied and helps you absorb other nutrients.  For a new u twist, brush a halved avocado (pit removed) with olive oil and grill 1 minute.  Serve with red onion, sliced grapefruit and balsamic vinegar.

Spinach:  A half-cup provides more than five times your daily dose of vitamin K, which helps blood clot and builds strong bones.

Canned Pumpkin:  It’s filled with natural cancer fighters alpha- and beta-carotene.

Cauliflower:  White foods can be good for you! This one is packed with cancer-fighting glucosinolates.

Scallops:  A 3-oz serving has 14 grams of protein but just 75 calories.

Collard Greens:  They’re exploding with nutrients like vitamin A, zeaxanthin and lutein, which keep your eyes healthy.

Olives:  They deliver the same heart-healthy monounsaturated fat you get in olive oil, but for just 7 calories per jumbo olive!

Brown Rice:  It’s a top source of magnesium, a mineral your body uses for more than 300 chemical reactions (such as building bones and converting food to energy).

Oysters:  These keep your immune system strong.  A 3-oz serving (about 6 oysters) dishes up a quarter of your daily iron, plus nearly twice the zinc and all the selenium you need in a day.

Edamame:  One cup has a whopping 22 grams of plant protein, as well as lots of fiber, folate and cholesterol-lowering phytosterols.

Strawberries:  They’re loaded with ellagitannins, phytochemicals that may halt the growth of cervical and colon cancers.

Lentils:  A great source of meat-free protein, a half-cup of cooked lentils also gives you nearly half your daily folate, a B vitamin that protects a woman’s unborn baby from neural tube defects.

Bran Flakes:  Their whole grains keep your heart in tip-top shape by reducing inflammation and melting away belly fat.

Kiwi:  Italian researchers found that it reduces asthma-related wheezing, thanks to its high vitamin C content (one kiwi has 110% of your daily requirement).

Black Beans: They’re loaded with protein, fiber, and flavonoids—antioxidants that help your arteries stay relaxed and pliable.

Sunflower Seeds:  A quarter-cup delivers half your day’s vitamin E, which keeps your heart healthy and fights infection.

Sardines:  3 oz. provide more than 100% of your daily vitamin D.  Sardines are also a top source of omega-3 fats.  Try adding mashed canned sardines to marinara sauce and serving over whole-wheat pasta.

Asparagus:  A half-cup supplies 50% of your daily bone-building vitamin K and a third of your day’s folate, it’s a natural diuretic so it banishes bloating, too.

Bananas:  They’re loaded with several kinds of good-for-you fiber, including resistant starch (which helps you slim down).

Broccoli Sprouts:  They have 10 times more of the cancer-preventing compound glucoraphanin than regular broccoli.

Fat-Free Milk:  With a third of the calcium and half the vitamin D you need in a day, plus 8 grams u of muscle-building protein, it’s the ultimate energy drink.

Baked Potatoes:  Each one packs a mega dose of blood-pressure–lowering potassium—even more than a banana.

Sweet Potatoes:  Half of a large baked sweet potato delivers more than 450% of your daily dose of vitamin A, which protects your vision and your immune system.

Flaxseed:  Not only is flaxseed loaded with plant omega-3s, it also has more lignans (compounds that may prevent endometrial and ovarian cancer) than any other food.  Store ground flaxseed in your refrigerator and sprinkle on yogurt, cold cereal or oatmeal.

Greek Yogurt:  It has twice the protein of regular yogurt.

Dried Tart Cherries:  Researchers at Michigan State University found their potent anthocyanins help control blood sugar, reduce insulin and lower cholesterol.

Wheat Germ:  A quarter-cup gives you more than 40% of your daily vitamin E and immune-boosting selenium.

Whole-Wheat English Muffins:  You get 4 ½ grams of fiber for only 134 calories.

Tea:  Both green and black tea prevent hardening of the arteries, according to researchers at the University of Scranton.

Peanut Butter:  This smart spread has arginine, an amino acid that helps keep blood vessels healthy.

Blackberries:  The king of the berry family boasts more antioxidants than strawberries, cranberries or blueberries.

Mustard Greens:  These “greens” (actually a cruciferous veggie) are a top source of vitamin K.  For a tasty pesto, chop them in a food processor with garlic, walnuts, Parmesan and olive oil.

Grapes:  They’re a leading source of resveratrol, the plant chemical responsible for the heart-healthy benefits of red wine.

Soy Milk:  A good source of vegetable protein, calcium-enriched soy milk has as much calcium and vitamin D as cow’s milk.

Brazil Nuts:  They have more selenium than any other food.  One nut delivers your entire day’s worth!

Canola Oil:  A Tbsp. of this heart-healthy oil has all the alpha-linolenic acid you need in a day, plus two different forms of vitamin E.

Blueberries:  They improve memory by protecting your brain from inflammation and boosting communication between brain cells.

Oranges:  One orange supplies more than 100% of the vitamin C you need in a day.  It’s also a good source of calcium and folate.

Watercress:  With just 4 calories per cup, this cruciferous veggie delivers a hefty dose of vitamin K, zeaxanthin, lutein, beta-carotene and cancer-fighting phytochemicals.

Turkey Breast:  It has 20 grams of satisfying protein but just 90 calories per 3-oz serving.

Barley:  A top source of beta-glucan, a fiber that lowers cholesterol and helps control blood sugar.

Shiitake Mushrooms:  One serving (about ¼ lb.) provides as much vitamin D as you’d get from a glass of milk.

Exercise Won’t Help You Lose Weight. But It Will Help You Live Longer.

How do you lose weight?  Diet and exercise.  That much has been ingrained in us since youth.  So you take up a fad diet, get a gym membership, toil away for weeks and are left wondering why the formula for weight loss does not work for you.  It turns out, you’re not so different from everybody else.  Over the past several years, studies have shown us that half of what we learned about weight loss is wrong. 

As it turns out, exercise is great for your overall health, immune system, and longevity, but it’s not so great at shedding those extra pounds.  In the end, it really isn’t all that helpful for losing weight.

One of the biggest fallacies in the advice that we receive again and again is that you can have a cheat day, if you put in extra time at the gym.  Marketing has convinced us that the sports drink we take on our morning jog, with all its calories, is of no concern, because you will just burn it off.

But the truth is that exercise only makes up a small portion of the calories you burn each day.  And those few calories are only a small part of your daily energy expenditure.

There are three parts to energy expenditure:

  • The energy used for basic bodily functions while inactive (basic metabolic rate)
  • The energy used to digest food;
  • The energy used for physical activity.

We have little to no control over our basal metabolic rate, yet it makes up the vast majority of the calories we burn.  Depending on the person, the basal metabolic rate makes up 60 to 80 percent of your daily energy expenditure, while digestion accounts for about 10 percent.  Leaving 10 to 30 percent for physical activity.  This may still seem like quite a bit, but exercise is only a portion of this.  Physical activity includes all movement, sitting down, standing up, walking around, reaching, pushing, pulling, lifting your stapler, fidgeting, and so on.

So while the food you eat accounts for 100 percent of the energy that goes into your body, exercise burns off less than 10 to 30 percent of it. That’s a pretty big discrepancy, and definitely means that erasing all your dietary transgressions at the gym is a lot harder than the peddlers of gym memberships make it seem.

It’s hard to create a significant calorie deficit through exercise

Using the National Institutes of Health’s Body Weight Planner — which gives a more realistic estimation for weight loss than the old 3,500 calorie rule — mathematician and obesity researcher Kevin Hall created this model to show why adding a regular exercise program is unlikely to lead to significant weight loss.

If a hypothetical 200-pound man added 60 minutes of medium-intensity running four days per week while keeping his calorie intake the same, and he did this for 30 days, he’d lose five pounds. “If this person decided to increase food intake or relax more to recover from the added exercise, then even less weight would be lost,” Hall added. (More on these “compensatory mechanisms” later.)

So if one is overweight or obese, and presumably trying to lose dozens of pounds, it would take an incredible amount of time, will, and effort to make a real impact through exercise alone.

 

Exercise can undermine weight loss in other, subtle ways

How much we eat is connected to how much we move. When we move more, we sometimes eat more too, or eat less when we’re not exercising.

One 2009 study shows that people seemed to increase their food intake after exercise — either because they thought they burned off a lot of calories or because they were hungrier. Another review of studies from 2012 found that people generally overestimated how much energy exercise burned and ate more when they worked out.

“You work hard on that machine for an hour, and that work can be erased with five minutes of eating afterward,” Hall says. A single slice of pizza, for example, could undo the benefit of an hour’s workout. So could a cafe mocha or an ice cream cone.

There’s also evidence to suggest that some people simply slow down after a workout, using less energy on their non-gym activities. They might decide to lie down for a rest, fidget less because they’re tired, or take the elevator instead of the stairs.

These changes are usually called “compensatory behaviors” — and they simply refer to adjustments we may unconsciously make after working out to offset the calories burned.

We need to re-frame how we think about exercise

Obesity doctor Yoni Freedhoff has called for a rebranding of how we think of exercise. Exercise has staggering benefits — it just may not help much in the quest for weight loss:

By preventing cancers, improving blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar, bolstering sleep, attention, energy and mood, and doing so much more, exercise has indisputably proven itself to be the world’s best drug – better than any pharmaceutical product any physician could ever prescribe. Sadly though, exercise is not a weight loss drug, and so long as we continue to push exercise primarily (and sadly sometimes exclusively) in the name of preventing or treating adult or childhood obesity, we’ll also continue to short-change the public about the genuinely incredible health benefits of exercise, and simultaneously misinform them about the realities of long term weight management.

The evidence is now clear: Exercise is excellent for health; it’s just not that important for weight loss. So don’t expect to lose a lot of weight by ramping up physical activity alone.

As a society, we also need to stop treating a lack of exercise and diet as equally responsible for the obesity problem in this country. Public-health obesity policies should prioritize fighting the over-consumption of low-quality food and improving the food environment.

Evaluating Health Information on the Internet

The growing popularity of the Internet has made finding health information easier and faster. Much of the information on the Internet is valuable; however, the Internet also allows rapid and widespread distribution of false and misleading information. You should carefully consider the source of information you find on the Internet and discuss that information with your health care provider. This fact sheet can help you decide whether the health information you find on the Internet or receive by e-mail is likely to be reliable.

Any Web site should make it easy for you to learn who is responsible for the site and its information.  If the person or organization in charge of the Web site did not write the material, the Web site should clearly identify the original source of the information.

Who runs the Web site?

Any Web site should make it easy for you to learn who is responsible for the site and its information. Websites that do not provide this information cannot be relied upon.  There is no way to know if they are associated with a business, if they have a political agenda or if they even know what they are talking about.

Who pays for the Web site?

It costs money to run a website. The source of a website’s funding should be clearly stated or readily apparent. For example, the U.S. government funds websites with addresses ending in “.gov,” educational institutes maintain “.edu” sites, noncommercial organizations’ addresses often use “.org,” while “.com” denotes a commercial organization (businesses). A Web site’s source of funding can affect the content it presents, how it presents that content, and what the owner wants to accomplish on the site.

What is the Web site’s purpose?

The person or organization that runs a website and the site’s funding sources determine the site’s purpose. Many Web sites have a link to information about the site, often called “About This Site.” This page should clearly state the purpose of the site and help you evaluate the trustworthiness of the site’s information. Although many legitimate websites sell health and medical products, keep in mind that the site owner’s desire to promote a product or service can influence the accuracy of the health information they present. Looking for another source of health information that is independent and unbiased can help you validate the accuracy of the material presented on a Web site.  In other words, while we at VitaMist post health tips to aid you, please do not hesitate to double check our information with unbiased sources!  Think of it as getting a second opinion.

What is the original source of the website’s information?

Many health and medical Web sites post information that the owner has collected from other Web sites or sources. If the person or organization in charge of the site did not write the material, they should clearly identify the original source.

How does the Web site document the evidence supporting its information?

Websites should identify the medical and scientific evidence that supports the material presented on the site. Medical facts and figures should have references (such as citations of articles published in medical journals). Also, opinions or advice should be clearly set apart from information that is “evidence based” (that is, based on research results). Testimonials from people who said they have tried a particular product or service are not evidence based and usually cannot be corroborated.

Who reviewed the information before the owner posted it on the Web site?

Health-related websites should give information about the medical credentials of the people who prepared or reviewed the material on the Web site. For example, the Office of Dietary Supplements Web site, where VitaMist gets much of its information,  contains fact sheets about vitamins minerals and other dietary supplements. These documents undergo extensive scientific review by recognized experts from the academic and research communities.

How current is the information on the Web site?

Experts should review and update the material on Web sites on a regular basis. Medical information needs to be current because medical research is constantly coming up with new information about medical conditions and how best to treat or prevent them. Web sites should clearly post the most recent update or review date. Even if the information has not changed in a long time, the site owner should indicate that someone has reviewed it recently to ensure that the information is still valid.

What information about users does the Web site collect, and why?

Web sites routinely track the path users take through their sites to determine what pages people are viewing. However, many health-related Web sites also ask users to “subscribe” to or “become a member” of the site. Sites sometimes do this to collect a user fee or select relevant information for the user. The subscription or membership might allow the Web site owner to collect personal information about the user.

Any Web site asking you for personal information should explain exactly what the site will and will not do with the information. Many commercial sites sell “aggregate” data—such as what percent of their users take dietary supplements—about their users to other companies. In some cases, sites collect and reuse information that is “personally identifiable,” such as your ZIP code, gender, and birth date. Be certain to read and understand any privacy policy or similar language on the site and do not sign up for anything that you do not fully understand.

How does the Web site manage interactions with users?

Web sites should always offer a way for users to contact the Web site owner with problems, feedback, and questions. If the site hosts a chat room or some other form of online discussion, it should explain the terms of using the service. For example, the site should explain whether anyone moderates the discussions and, if so, who provides the moderation and what criteria the moderator uses to determine which comments to accept and which to reject. Always read online discussions before participating to make sure that you are comfortable with the discussion and with what participants say to one another.

How can you verify the accuracy of information you receive via e-mail?

Carefully evaluate any e-mail messages you receive that provide health-related information. Consider the message’s origin and purpose. Some companies or organizations use e-mail to advertise products or attract people to their Web sites. A critical eye is warranted if an individual or company is promoting a particular medical product or service in an e-mail without providing supporting medical evidence.

With all of the misinformation ou there, it can be easy to get caught up in health trends and marketing ploys that serve no purpose beyond emptying your wallet, or a raising panic over “issues” that are not worth fretting over at all.  So verify that health blog’s sources, check where your friend got the information they posted on Facebook, and by all means, double check VitaMist’s health tips before you take action, and certainly before you repost the disinformation yourself.

Special Report on Massage Therapy Breakthrough Benefits

We talk a lot about diet, exercise and especially nutrition here, which makes sense given that we are a nutrition company.  Diet, exercise, and proper nutrition are not all that you need for good health.  To be truly healthy requires taking care of your body, your mind, and your spirit.  Your diet, mood, cognitive ability, physical health, and immune health are in a complex balancing act.  Each one is connected to the others, having profound effects upon each other.  Healing one of these areas will benefit the others while neglecting any one of them can bring them all crashing down.  Which leads me to this month’s tip:  Massage therapy is not just a great way to heal your body, it’s also one of the most pleasant things you can do for your health!

Massage Therapy Benefits Include, but are not limited to:

  • Relieves stress and aids relaxation
  • Relieves muscle tension and stiffness
  • Fosters faster healing
  • Reduces pain and swelling
  • Reduces the formation of scar tissue
  • Reduces muscle spasms
  • Provides greater flexibility and range of motion
  • Enhances athletic performance
  • Treats injuries caused during sport or work
  • Improves circulation of blood and lymph fluids
  • Helps Improves posture, reducing neck and back pain
  • Aids in rehabilitation after injury or operation

There’s no denying the many benefits of massage. Whether you seek out a massage therapist for stress relief, to “treat yourself”, to pain management, or just out of curiosity, it can help you in ways you never imagined, and should become a part of your regular healthcare regimen.

The Greatest of Side Effects

Stress is a leading cause of disease, whether it be infectious, heart disease, sleep disorders, high blood pressure or any number of stress-related issues.  Few things age us faster than stress, either internally and externally.  Sadly, it is not possible to eliminate stress completely from our lives, but massage therapy can help manage stress. Reduced stress leads to decreased anxiety, improving your mood and overall outlook.  It enhances sleep in both quantity and quality, providing you with greater energy, a clearer head, improved concentration and reduced fatigue.  Reducing your stress also helps to improve circulation and lower blood pressure. Many even claim they receive a sense of perspective and clarity after a massage. The emotional balance it provides is just as valuable as the physical benefits.

All powerful health benefits, affecting your mind, body, and spirit, and this is just from the reduced stress associated with massage therapy.  Which is amazing when you consider that reduced stress is just a side effect of massage, it’s not even the primary purpose.

The Primary Purpose

Massage targets your muscles, increase blood flow to the tissue through manual manipulation, which can be said to be the primary goal of massage, and has some excellent effects on the body.  Massage addresses soreness, tension, and injury by promoting blood flow to the affected areas.

We associate back pain with overworking your muscles, but most neck, back and muscle pain from a far more mundane activity: sitting.  Yes, chronic back pain, which is the second most common cause of disability and a top reason for missing work, is often the result of improper posture while sitting and standing.  Carrying extra weight, poor posture, and repetitive movements all put a strain on the back, this often results in spasms, tense muscles, and pain in your upper back, hips, glutes and hamstrings. Massage relaxes tense muscles and increasing flexibility by encouraging blood flow, which brings increased oxygen and nutrients.  Increased blood flow also reduces swelling and stiffness.  Massage therapy also releases endorphins and boosts your levels of serotonin and dopamine, all hormones your body produces to help you feel great, promote healing and pain management, and calm your nerves.

Deep Tissue Massage focuses on deeper tissue structures with intense pressure to release chronic muscle tension and ultimately relax the body. Muscle injuries are more and more common with each passing year, and it’s not because we’re more active.  On the contrary, it’s because we’re more sedentary. What’s worse, as we age our joints tend to tighten, restricting our range of motion and flexibility.

Massage therapy maintains and improves flexibility.  Working on muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints and connective tissues regularly improves flexibility and range of motion, making joints less injury prone.

Incorporating massage, along with stretching, into your routine will reduce soreness after activity.  Stretching beforehand allows for more freedom of movement and longer workout periods by preventing lactic acid build up. Regular post-workout massages aid in recovery and relaxation.

Massage plays an important role as a supplement to standard injury rehabilitation procedures. By stimulating circulation and loosening muscles, it helps the body pump more oxygen and nutrients into vital organs and tissues, allowing the area(s) being rehabilitated to heal at an accelerated rate.

From a sprained ankle or twisted knee to muscle spasms or broken bones, massage can provide the opportunity for faster recovery. With the pressure of the therapist’s hands improving blood flow, muscles become warmer. By stretching tight tissues and breaking down adhesions, massage can help flush out swelling in joints, allowing for quicker healing.

Unexpected Benefits

Massage causes many physiological and chemical changes to occur in the body, and the effects are profound.  Research shows that with massage:

  • Fewer aches and less stiffness and pain, even in those who suffer from arthritis
  • Decreases migraines and tension headaches
  • Asthmatic children have shown increased peak air flow and even better lung function
  • Reduced pain, itching, and anxiety in patients suffering from burns
  • Lower diastolic blood pressures in patients with high blood pressure
  • Decreased water retention and cramping during menstruation
  • Premature infants have shown improved weight gain

Increase the Benefits with Frequent Visits

Getting a massage can do you a lot of good.  Getting a massage regularly is even better.  Making massage a  part of your regular self-care will play a huge part in how healthy.  Not to mention how youthful you will remain.  Just because massage feels like pampering treat doesn’t mean it is any less therapeutic. It just happens to be one of the most enjoyable healthy things you can do for your body.

Childhood Nutrition

​The human body is amazingly adaptive, and when the proper nutrition is not provided, it will compensate.  This can lead people to feel perfectly healthy, because their bodies have diverted nutrients to critical systems.  However, in truth their bodies are suffering.  Weaker cardiac muscles, plaque in the arteries, fatty livers and high blood sugar levels can all be overlooked until they become catastrophic.  At no time is this more true than in childhood and adolescence, when the human body is laying the foundation that will stay with them for their entire lives.

One of the largest health concerns is poor nutrition during childhood and adolescence- the period when it is the most crucial.  Poor nutrition during early development can lead the body to adapt in unhealthy ways, causing lifelong health problems.

Nearly 1 in 3 children in America is overweight or obese, is consuming too little calcium and far too much sugar.  Whether you have a toddler or a teen, nutrition is important to physical and mental development. Here’s what children need in their diets, no matter what the age.

Infants

During this stage, milk breast milk or formula will provide practically every nutrient needed in the first year of life.  The two major concerns are that breast feeding mothers maintain a healthy diet, as recommended by their obstetrician, pediatrician or family doctor, and that parents using formula avoid those that are high in sugar.  Carbohydrates are of little importance to an infant when compared to their need for fats and proteins, and have the potential to lead to lifelong health issues, such as Type II diabetes.

At around six months, when most babies are ready to start solid foods, nutrient rich offerings like iron-fortified infant cereal, pureed fruits, vegetables and meats can provide a healthy boost to your child’s diet. Fortified cereals and meats can provide babies with the iron and zinc that breast milk may not provide enough of.  These deficiencies can be less of an issue for formula fed babies, but that is no reason to hold off on phasing into baby foods.

Once your child is ready to start eating food, do not avoid fats.  A healthy amount of fat is important for brain and nerve development.  As each of our bodies are different, there are exceptions, and if your pediatrician recommends restricting fats, then they likely have good reason for it.

Toddlers & Preschoolers

Toddlers and young children can be as fickle with their food as they are with their emotions. Their appetites may be huge one day, and non-existent the next.  This is perfectly normal, and as long as their options are healthy and varied, they will get what they need.  The real trouble can be getting them to eat more than just chicken fingers.  As tough as it may be, it is very important that young children vary their diets enough to acquire a variety of nutrients.  Chicken fingers may taste great, but contrary to popular belief, you can have too much of a good thing.  Most foods, no matter how healthy you may believe them to be, have some chemicals, proteins, fats, etc. that can be problematic when ingested in large amounts.  Yet another reason to vary your diet, and your child’s.

Calcium is especially important in early development and adolescence.  As a supplement company, we receive several phone calls a week from older individuals who are concerned about their calcium levels and bone strength.  The sad truth is that taking large doses of calcium later in life does very little to compensate for the bone density that we lose.  In fact, the ability to absorb calcium diminishes over time, largely due to low magnesium and vitamin D.  The best time to prevent conditions such as osteoporosis is early in life, well before it occurs to anyone to think about it.  Children may not believe or care that milk helps to build strong bones and teeth, but parents need to know better.  Dairy products are the best source of calcium, followed closely by green, leafy vegetables.  For the allergic and lactose-intolerant, or those who just don’t like milk, lactose-free milk, tofu, soy milk, tofu, calcium fortified orange juice and cereals are some alternatives.  Maintaining healthy levels of calcium early can drastically increase your child’s quality of life in their later years.  This is especially true for women, who suffer from higher instances of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.

Fiber is another key component to early childhood development.  Even in the face of staunch resistance, parents must encourage fruits, vegetables, beans  and whole grains. Fiber can help prevent heart disease and it aids in digestion

Elementary Schoolers

Most children do not get enough calcium, potassium, fiber, magnesium, or vitamins D and E. Sources of these nutrients are listed below:

Fiber: Whole grains, fruits and vegetables

Vitamin E: Nuts, seeds, wheat germ oil and vegetable oils

Calcium: Low fat and fat free dairy products, rhubarb, spinach, collard greens, and sardines

Magnesium: Whole grains, nuts, pumpkin seeds, and white, black, navy beans

Potassium: Legumes, potatoes, dried apricots, beet greens, prune juice and dairy products

Vitamin D: Sunlight, intestinal bacteria, fortified dairy and juice, cod liver oil, salmon, tuna and mackerel

This is when snacks can become an issue for children.  Now that they are in school, they have more choices in what they eat.  School cafeterias are often shockingly unhealthy, and candy, chips, snack cakes and ice cream bars are all readily at hand.  Areas that are often too sufficient are sugars, sodium and saturated fats.  The body needs carbs, fats and sodium, but each should be eaten in moderation.  Too much can lead to serious health problems.  If you have the time, packing a lunch for your child is often the best option, but going over the lunch menu and encouraging them to select healthier choices can help.

The most important step you can take in ensuring good health for your child is to educate them.  Rather than giving a lecture, it may be easier to present the matter as giving them more responsibility in their own lives.  This is the age when children are gaining a better understanding for the world around them, and beginning to strive for more independence.  Rather than fighting your child on their diet, you may be able to make them an ally in your mission to keep them healthy and happy.

Teens and Preteens

Puberty.  There are so many issues that come with that word.  Fortunately for us, a pubescent child’s needs are fairly straightforward.  They need everything that we do, only more of it.  As puberty begins, young people need to increase their calories to compensate for the rapid growth and developing bodies that accompany these years.  The main issue is that these calories should not be coming from fast food.  Fast food restaurants offer few nutrients in their food, and they add large amounts of salt and sugar to everything to, quite frankly, make their food more addictive.  This food will help your youths grow horizontally much better than it helps them grow vertically.  Even for skinny teens, it is still laying the groundwork for conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and vitamin deficiencies.

Adolescence is also when people start to become conscious of their body image, particularly their weight.  This can lead to eating disorders and unhealthy behaviors.  If a child or young adult is restricting their caloric intake, parents may need to address this issue through discussion or counselling.

Even more so than with children, calcium intake is critical during adolescence. The majority of the bone mass that we maintain throughout our lives is built between the preteen years and early twenties.  More than at any other point in their lives, proper calcium intake is critical at this time.

There are some minor gender difference at this time.  For instance, teenage girls require more iron than boys to replace what is lost during menstruation.  Most males require slightly more protein than females, as most males have a larger musculoskeletal frame.

Water

Most people are dehydrated, and they don’t even realize it.  Water doesn’t just make up over half of a child’s body weight, it is also needed to regulate electrolyte levels and keep the body functioning properly.  It’s a good idea to give your child water throughout the day, not just when they’re thirsty.  If your child does not like the taste, you can add a bit of lemon, lime, cucumber and/or mint for flavor.  However, you should avoid high sugar juices and sodas.  The sugar levels in these are toxic, and that is not an exaggeration.  The damage that high sugar beverages do to our bodies would take up an entire article to describe.

Babies generally don’t need water during the first year of life.

Fruits and vegetables are good sources of water.

Kids should drink more water when sick, in hot weather and when physically active.

One Last Tip

Listen to your doctor.  Every body is different, and each of us is afflicted by different genetic conditions, microorganisms, living conditions and injuries.  Writing a doctor’s orders off as being bad advice seems to be a more and more common occurrence these days.  While medicine is often hindered by an emphasis on treating symptoms rather than the root cause, it’s still the case that your doctor or your child’s will have the best understanding of what is going on in their body.  If a doctor recommends avoiding a certain nutrient, it is far better to heed that recommendation than to follow an article online recommending said nutrient.  Healthcare professionals have access to your and your child’s lab test results, medical history, vital signs, symptoms and examination findings.  Nobody online will be able to match their knowledge of the subject matter, and since the subject matter here is your child, it is best to defer to the experts!

Dietary Supplements: What You Need to Know

The majority of adults in the United States take one or more dietary supplements either every day or occasionally. Today’s dietary supplements include vitamins, minerals, herbals and botanicals, amino acids, enzymes, and many other products. Dietary supplements come in a variety of forms: traditional tablets, capsules, and powders, as well as drinks and energy bars. Popular supplements include vitamins D and E; minerals like calcium and iron; herbs such as echinacea and garlic; and specialty products like glucosamine, probiotics, and fish oils.

The Supplement Label

All products labeled as a dietary supplement carry a Supplement Facts panel that lists the contents, amount of active ingredients per serving, and other added ingredients. The manufacturer suggests the serving size, but you or your health care provider might decide that a different amount is more appropriate for you.

Diet

If you don’t eat a nutritious variety of foods, some supplements might help you get adequate amounts of essential nutrients. However, supplements can’t take the place of the variety of foods that are important to a healthy diet. Good sources of information on eating well include the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate.

Quality

Dietary supplements are complex products. The FDA has established quality standards for dietary supplements to help ensure their identity, purity, strength, and composition. These standards are designed to prevent the inclusion of the wrong ingredient, the addition of too much or too little of an ingredient, the possibility of contamination, and the improper packaging and labeling of a product. The FDA periodically inspects facilities that manufacture dietary supplements.

Keep in Mind

  • Don’t decide to take dietary supplements to treat a health condition that you have diagnosed yourself, without consulting a health care provider.
  • Don’t take supplements in place of, or in combination with, prescribed medications without your health care provider’s approval.
  • Check with your health care provider about the supplements you take if you are scheduled to have any type of surgical procedure.
  • The term “natural” doesn’t mean safe. A supplement’s safety depends on many things, such as its chemical makeup, how it works in the body, how it is prepared, and the dose used. Certain herbs (for example, comfrey and kava) can harm the liver.

Before taking a dietary supplement, ask yourself these questions:

  • What are the potential health benefits of this dietary supplement product?
  • What are its potential benefits for me?
  • Does this product have any safety risks?
  • What is the proper dose to take?
  • How, when, and for how long should I take it?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, talk to your health care providers.

Let your health care providers (including doctors, pharmacists, and dietitians) know which dietary supplements you’re taking so that you can discuss what’s best for your overall health. Your health care provider can help you determine which supplements, if any, might be valuable for you.

Keep a record of the supplements you take in one place, just as you should be doing for all of your medicines. Note the specific product name, the dose you take, how often you take it, and the reason why you use each one. You can also bring the products you use with you when you see your health care provider.

Federal Regulation of Dietary Supplements

Dietary supplements are products intended to supplement the diet. They are not drugs and, therefore, are not intended to treat, diagnose, mitigate, prevent, or cure diseases. The FDA is the federal agency that oversees both dietary supplements and medicines.

In general, the FDA regulations for dietary supplements are different from those for prescription or over-the-counter drugs. Unlike drugs, which must be approved by the FDA before they can be marketed, dietary supplements do not require premarket review or approval by the FDA. While the supplement company is responsible for having evidence that their products are safe and the label claims are truthful and not misleading, they do not have to provide that evidence to the FDA before the product is marketed.

Dietary supplement labels may carry certain types of health-related claims. Manufacturers are permitted to say, for example, that a dietary supplement addresses a nutrient deficiency, supports health, or is linked to a particular body function (like immunity or heart health). Such a claim must be followed by the words, “This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”

Manufacturers must follow certain good manufacturing practices to ensure the identity, purity, strength, and composition of their products. If the FDA finds a product to be unsafe or otherwise unfit for human consumption, it may take enforcement action to remove the product from the marketplace or work with the manufacturer to voluntarily recall the product.

Also, once a dietary supplement is on the market, the FDA monitors information on the product’s label and package insert to make sure that information about the supplement’s content is accurate and that any claims made for the product are truthful and not misleading. The Federal Trade Commission, which polices product advertising, also requires all information about a dietary supplement product to be truthful and not misleading.

 

The federal government can take legal action against companies and Web sites that sell dietary supplements when the companies make false or deceptive statements about their products, if they promote them as treatments or cures for diseases, or if their products are unsafe.