Just how effective is lifestyle change? The Diabetes Prevention Program put a lifestyle intervention program (eat better.. exercise more) to the test against the leading blood glucose lowering drug Metformin in pre-diabetics. They found that the lifestyle intervention group reduced the incidence of diabetes by 58% while Metformin merely reduced the incidence by 31%. But isn't taking a pill is simply easier? Turns out.. no. More patients (74%) adhered to the prescribed exercise program than the prescribed medication (72%)!!!
(Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group, 2002)
Are you the grillmaster in the family? Cooking meat under high heat causes the formation of carcinogens (heterocyclic amines and aromtic hydrocarbons) which cause changes in our DNA and increases our risk of cancer. So aside from not eating the charred parts, what can we do to reduce intake of these mutagenic substances? Microwaving your meat for 2-3 minutes before throwing it on the grill has shown to reduce the formation of these carcinogens by 90-95%, a fact known by surprisingly few for 20 years now.
More tips on how to reduce exposure at:
Which simple measurement is most accurate at predicting your risk for Heart Disease and Type 2 Diabetes? Not BMI (the ratio of your height and weight), not your waist circumference, not even your waist:hip ratio. Your risk is most correlated to how tall your belly button is is when you're laying down on your back! All you need is a ruler. Risk begins at 10 inches and at >12 inches, you're highly likely to have insulin resistance, metabolic disease, a shortened lifespan, and high medical costs.
Friends vs. Family vs. Your Waistline
Who influences your waistline more: an obese friend or an obese sibling? Nope, not the one who your share genes with (obese sibling = 40% increased chance of you becoming obese), but the ones you spend the most time with (obese friend = 171% increased chance)! Social networks play a major role in your long term health. What size does your best friend wear?
(Christakis & Fowler 2007)
Is being obese genetic? While your genes might leave you burning fat less efficiently than others, they rarely lead you all the way to obesity. Family history matters most based on the habits you learn, not the genes you inherit. When researchers compare twins separated at birth, they find that biggest determinant of body fat and especially the dangerous central body fat is physical activity levels.
(Samaras et. al. 1999)
Will milk consumption make your bones stronger or weaker? While milk is loaded with calcium, only about 32% of it gets absorbed, and the animal protein and added vitamin A associated with milk increases our urinary excretion of calcium! Green vegetables on the other hand have calcium absorption rates over 50%, and lower calcium excretion resulting in stronger bones. In fact, researchers have found that those who eat the most vegetables have the greatest bone density. Got veggies?
(Weaver 1999, Tucker 2009, Lanou 2009, Yang 2008)
Phytochemical intake (phyto=plant) offers protection against cancer by inducing actions of the P53 gene, known as the "Guardian Angel Gene." The expression of this gene leads to a reduction in cancer cell growth, eliminating blood vessels to and from cancer cells, promoting anti-inflammatory effects, and even inducing cancer cell death. Next time you have a meal, fight cancer by choosing colorful veggies!
Is it possible to exercise SPECIFICALLY to reduce cancer risk?
We know that exercise enhances the amount of, and function of natural killer cells which serve as our first line of defense against cancer. But exercise also increases platelet aggregation and adhesion which gets in the way of our natural killer cells ability to attack cancer. Interestingly, researchers discovered a way to trick the body so that we could get large increases in natural killer cells WITHOUT increasing platelet levels which would impede upon the anti-cancer effects. How? By taking a break! Start off with a moderate warm-up (20 minutes at 60% intensity) and then rest for 30 minutes before a high intensity workout. Regular exercise will increase your natural killer cells' cancer killing abilities by up-regulating their weapon of choice, known as perforin. Spread the word, and incorporate this method at your next cancer walk or run!
(JS Wang 2009)
If you have one bottle of soda every day for a year you will have ingested 87,600 extra calories and potentially store 26 lbs of fat that year from drinking soda alone! But if we drink our calories, won't we eat less? Though they're both sweet and caloric, sugary drinks act to increase hunger instead of suppress it, and increase cravings for sugary foods in the future.
(Bray 2004, Lustig 2009, Wylie-Rosett 2004)
A very important element of brain function is myelin. In simple terms, myelin essentially acts as the rubber insulation on any household wire you see, except it is made from fats. Consuming healthy fats (such as those found in a Mediterranean diet) and reducing simple sugar intake can help to specifically preserve the health of the myelin sheath. Even those individuals on the higher end of a ‘normal’ sugar intake level still show greater risk for brain shrinkage and dementia. While there are many strategies to improve brain health, these two simple changes target one of the main areas of the brain that can see degradation with time and aging.
Want to turn bad fat into good fat? New research has found that not only does exercise affect muscle and burn calories, it also causes the secretion of a hormone called Irisin. Irisin binds to white fat, which is correlated with many diseases, and transforms it into helpful brown fat. Irisin specifically targets the dangerous visceral fat. The new brown fat causes an increase in metabolism which causes the body to burn more calories daily. It’s secretion is regulated by muscle contractions and endurance exercise. The longer you exercise the more bad fat you can turn good!
Did you know that Florida has the second highest rate of melanoma cases in the nation? Maintaining healthy skin is important, especially in the hot Florida sun. In addition to sunscreen and topical agents, incorporating a diet rich in antioxidants such as lutein has been shown to prevent UV radiation damage, immunosuppression, and tissue inflammation! Lutein has also been shown to promote eyesight and prevent type 2 diabetes. You can find this powerful antioxidant in the produce section: spinach, kale, orange pepper, kiwi, broccoli, and zucchini are all good sources of lutein!
(E. Lee 2004)
Calories don't always tell the story. Though they're high in calories, the consumption of nuts is correlated with a lower body mass and a slimmer waistline. How is it possible? It's estimated that 55-75% of the calories are offset by dietary compensation (eating less throughout the day due to satiety mechanisms), another 15% are never absorbed and exit to the toilet, and another 10% are offset by the amount of energy required just to break down the nuts! So while we don't neccessarily gain many calories, we do gain vitamins and phytonutrients such as flavonoids which have the ability to boost metabolism and increase fat oxidation, ultimately leading to an increase in one’s total daily calorie expenditure. Eat a handful of nuts about 20 minutes prior to a larger meal and you'll trick your brain into feeling full, leading you to eat less.
Want to get high? Just go exercise! Our brains contain an endocannabinoid system that acts similar to the effects of THC in marijuana. One study shows that biking just 50 minutes can increase the levels of circulating endocannabinoids released from your pancreas, liver, fat, and muscle cells. This suggests a new mechanism for “exercise-induced” analgesia, a new area of research on the anti-depressant effects of exercise.
(A. Giuffrida 2003)
Did you know that almost 30% of the population is anemic due to iron deficiency? Iron is an essential nutrient that helps with transport and utilization of oxygen for energy production. One tip is to co-ingest vitamin C (oranges, grapefruits, tomatoes) as it will increase iron absorption by 300%! So have 3 servings of spinach or one serving of spinach with tomatoes and you'll get the same amount of iron!
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Bridging the gap between our bookshelves and your dinner conversations
How much kale do americans eat? About a cup a year, or half a teaspoon a week! We probably should consume more..
Kale may improve your cholesterol profile. 32 men with hypercholesterolemia increased HDL by 27%, decreased LDL by 10%, improved atherogenic index by 24.2% after 150ml of kale juice daily for 3 months. Imagine if a drug had that much success with side effects of an improved immune system and decreased oxidative stress.
(Kim SY 2008, Nishi 2010, and the USDA)
"Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." After 52 years of asking, here's a potential answer.
The cost of healthcare in America is steadily on the rise in large part to those with chronic diseases. We spend far more than any country as a percentage of our GDP (17.9%) on healthcare. The average yearly cost of someone with one or more chronic diseases is $7,900.00, 5 times that of someone without any chronic diseases. 3 out of every 4 healthcare dollars are spent on conditions that could have largely been prevented with a healthy lifestyle. Many complain of the cost of nutritious food, but we spend less than any other country on food as a percentage of our income (6.8%). Perhaps we should pay more, eat better, and reduce the financial burden of chronic disease.
Stats from the CDC, the Partnership for Solutions, and the USDA/Economic Research Service
It's well known that sugar is perhaps the major culprit of chronic disease, but what IN sugar exactly makes it so dangerous? It turns out we can point the finger at fructose (table sugar aka sucrose = 1 glucose + 1 fructose).
Once ingested, fructose follows a much more dangerous pathway than glucose. Much of it heads straight to the liver where it promotes triglyceride and dangerous LDL cholesterol release, doesn't induce leptin (keeping us hungry, not full), gets turned into - and promotes the storage of dangerous belly fat, and since it shares a similar pathway in the liver as alcohol, long term fructose consumers have the same chronic disease issues as long term drinkers!
For the hour and a half version of this post, see this excellent video by fructose biochemist Dr. Robert Lustig
Caffeine ingestion before or during exercise can decrease the "Rate of Perceived Exertion" of your bout, making the same intensity of exercise not seem so difficult. Caffeine has been shown to improve cyclist's time trial performance by 9%, and improve power output during interval training.
(Hulston CJ 2008, Lane SC 2013)
Our fat cells do more than just store energy and hurt our feelings. They also release the hormone leptin which helps to keep us felling full! The larger our fat cells get, the more leptin they produce... But shouldn't that mean obese people wouldn't eat much!? Just the opposite! Too much fat can lead to "leptin resistance," where our brain ignores the satiety signal, and the obese keep on eating. Exercise appears to improve the brain's sensitivity to leptin!
We all know exercise is good for us, but exactly how BAD is being INactive? A group of young healthy men were told to stop moving so much! They reduced their steps per day from 10,000 to 1,500 for 2 weeks. Researchers were stunned to find that in just 14 days, the men had a 7% increase in intra-abdominal fat (the dangerous, disease promoting kind), a 7% reduction in aerobic capacity, a significant reduction in insulin sensitivity (the origin of Type 2 Diabetes), and an impaired ability to burn fat! Moving isn't an option, it's a daily necessity!
(Olsen 2008, Krogh-Madsen 2009)
Do you think you being obese increases the chances of your dog being obese? Apparently it does. Owners of overweight dogs smoke more cigarettes, exercise less, and are 3x as likely to be overweight themselves compared to owners of normal weight dogs.
Feeling that afternoon crash? An increase in coffee consumption of 1 cup per day may reduce the risk of bladder, breast, mouth, colorectal, endometrial, esophageal, liver, leukemic, pancreatic and prostate cancer, according to researchers for BMC Cancer.
By age 36, the average person loses 1.6 billion neurons! This occurs mainly in the grey matter of the cerebral cortex impairing smell, taste, hearing, balance, vision, and memory. Aerobic exercise increases the substance BDNF which preserves the grey matter, protecting our senses, and maintaining our cognitive function!
The leading cancer in women, breast cancer, is much more preventable than you may think! Mammography is early detection, not prevention. Instead, look to your insulin and triglyceride levels, and your waist circumference. Elevated levels interfere with your body's natural ability to regulate estrogen, increasing your cancer cell's ability to replicate, potentially to a dangerous level. Exercise is the cheapest preventative drug of choice, and reverses these same mechanisms in order to prevent breast cancer.