Fatty Foods Vs. The Blues

A great number of people instinctually reach for the ice cream or chocolate during times of stress, and this phenomenon has been widely attributed to the sweet tooth. However, a recent study has shown that there is more to it.

Fatty foods do grant the consumer a degree of comfort, but not only because they are pleasurable to eat. The digestive system actually sends signals to the brain while digesting these foods, according to research conducted by scientists at the University of Leuven in Belgium.

Published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, the study used MRI scans to map the effects of fatty acids on emotions when they are injected directly into the stomach.

12 volunteers were exposed to sad music and images before receiving fluid through a feeding tube. Some received a dose of fatty acids, and others; a saline solution.

The participants then rated their moods, without discovering which substance they had digested.

Those given fatty acids proved to be 50% less sad than those who received the saline solution, despite the sad atmosphere.

Lukas van Oudenhove, the scientist who led the research, said “Eating fat seems to make us less vulnerable to sad emotions, even if we don’t know we’re eating fat. We bypassed sensory stimulation by infusing fatty acids directly into the stomach, without the subjects knowing whether they were getting fat or saline.”

The study may have an impact on the studies of obesity, eating disorders and depression.

Tweet, Twitter, Treatment?

Is Twitter more than just another annoying way to irritate people on your profile?  Or can it actually be achieving something productive and useful?  Apparently, according to American researchers, the latter.  In a recent Daily Mail article it was reported that Tweets are now being used to “monitor what illnesses people are suffering from, which medicines they are taking and whether they are treating themselves correctly – or at all.”

Mark Dredze and Michael Paul, computers scientists from John Hopkins University, set about analyzing Tweets.  They looked at a staggering 1.5m of them that were posted between May 2009 and October 2010 on health subjects.  According to Dredze, the main aim of the project was to illicit whether or not these posts could be a helpful public health information source.  They found that they were.  “In some cases,” reported Dredze, “we probably learned some things that even the tweeters’ doctors were not aware of, like which over-the-counter medicines the posters were using to treat their symptoms at home.”

The researchers developed a system that categorized the health-related tweets into subjects such as flu, insomnia, cancer, allergies, etc.  Dredze believes theirs was the first Tweet study to “look at as many health issues as we did.”

The results of Dredze and Paul’s findings will be put together for the International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media (sponsored by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence).


The Doctor Recommends: Toddlers Should Get Three Daily Hours of Exercise

A new government movement in Britain to reduce obesity has prescribed a minimum of three hours of daily activity for toddlers. While the guidance has only been issued there for now, parents of toddlers in the U.S. may want to take notice as well.

Health professionals have suggested that under-five-year-olds walk fifteen minutes during routine trips, such as walks to the nursery or supermarket. If the child is still too young to walk, they should be allowed time to crawl, roll and/or play on a ‘baby gym’ activity mat, instead of being confined in to a crib, stroller or swing for hours on end.

The new baby exercise trend comes as a result of obesity fears, as more than a quarter of both boys and girls are overweight before they even start school. Experts have projected that two-thirds of children will be too heavy for their height by 2050.

The advice was issued by England’s chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies, who said children “should spend as little time as possible being restrained or sitting, except when they are sleeping.”

She suggested activities like running, ball games, swimming, skipping, riding a bike or climbing. Young babies should be able to stretch and roll on activity mats and even taken swimming.

“There is considerable international evidence that letting children crawl, play or roll around on the floor is essential during early years,” the professor said. “Play that allows under-fives to move around is critical and three hours a day is essential. I think there are parents who are not aware of how important it is for their children to be physically active. Other parents are very busy and may not see how important it is to get that prioritization and balance right. This matters to your child now, to their development through childhood and adolescence and to their disease profile in middle-age and later life.”

When Beets Help You Beat

It seems that beetroot juice might just have some additional health benefits that could benefit athletes.  Indeed, in research undertaken through Exeter University, it seems that by consuming the juice, cyclists were able to actually improve their biking time.  As well, the study indicated an escalation of stamina for those athletes sipping on the brightly colored juice.

Beets Benefits for All

And there’s more.  As well, beetroot juice has now been linked to a reduction in blood pressure, a winning battle against dementia and supplementary energy to the older generation, which is slowing down.

So  how exactly is beetroot juice accomplishing all of this?  Apparently, there is a huge amount of nitrite in beets which when working with the body’s chemicals, is able to widen blood vessels which increases the speed of oxygen flow to the muscles and brain. This then enables the muscles to use the oxygen way more efficiently.

The Research

So in this research, nine competitive male cyclists were asked to cycle 2.5 and 10 mile distances.  Before they began, they drank a little under one pint of beetroot juice.  Then they did the same two routes on a different day but drinking beetroot juice without nitrite.

With the first beverage, there was an 11 second difference in their timing (in the 2.5 mile distance) and a 45 second difference (in the 10 mile distance).  For the layman, this may seem insignificant, but for any athletes in the know, it’s only seconds that differentiates from a gold to a silver.

According to Exeter University researcher Professor Andrew Jones, “this is the first time we’ve studied  the effects of beetroot juice, and the high nitrite levels found in it, on  simulated competition.  These findings show an improvement in performance that, at competition level,  could make a real difference – particularly in an event like the Tour de France where winning margins can be tight.”

The study was reported in the Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.


Good News for Coffee Addicts

The Black Drink That’s Always Been Slammed

It’s true. We’re always told to cut back on the caffeine, stop drinking so much coffee. But now it seems that – for all those coffee addicts out there (and they do exist nationwide) – there is finally some good news about the black drink….or beige if you like it with milk. For example, if you just down one cup a day, you could see a reduction in blood pressure and a brainpower boost. For two cups, research from a Greek study based on 495 individuals aged between 65 and 100, healthy arteries could be your gift possibly due to the beverage’s antioxidants which “increases the production of nitric oxide, a compound found naturally in the body. Nitric oxide helps relax artery walls, and lowers blood pressure.” The downside however – to even one cup – is that it could still keep you up at night since it usually takes approximately 8 hours for its effects to fully leave the body.

But for those looking to avoid Alzheimer’s, two cups of coffee could be a good idea for you (although we’re not sure we want to trust this finding 100 percent since it came from research done on animals). Yet it could aid in stopping the build-up of proteins in the brain which have been “linked to memory loss associated with the disease.” As well, try it as an energy boost before exercise as it could improve performance. But be careful if you’re pregnant since two cups really is the upper limit – more could lead to miscarriage.


Is it possible that by drinking three cups a day you could reduce your risk for developing ovarian cancer by a fifth? According to the American Medical Journal Cancer Report of three years ago it is, following a study of over 122,000 women. But how does this help their male counterparts? If they drink three cups, their risk of developing gallstones is 40 percent lower than their non-3-cup-a-day male buddies. That’s very nice, but then by swallowing this amount of caffeine per day, you might end up upping your chances of getting a heart attack.

Save Money Drinking Coffee

Those women desperate for a breast reduction who don’t have the cash, might instead boil the kettle three times a day to make their beverage since Lund University, Stockholm, researchers found that just downing the drink could actually do the job of a surgeon and shrink their breasts! It’s not a guarantee but it might be worth a try. You’ll only be losing a few coffee granules at most.

Fab Four

If you really want to reap some health benefits, then go for four shots a day. 400mg of caffeine has been “thought to provide the maximum benefit of coffee’s disease-combating antioxidants.” Utah University scientists discovered that four-cup-a-dayers were “39 per cent less likely to suffer from cancers of the mouth and larynx.” Type 2 Diabetes is also less likely to develop. But on the flip side, you’ll run a greater risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

Get Your Five a Day

What happens when you’re really having a long day and you consume five cups of the beverage? According to researchers from the National Cancer Centre in Tokyo who studied 90,000 middle-aged individuals over ten years, you’ll lower your risk of getting serious liver damage by up to seventy-five percent. But, those susceptible to osteoporosis might want to find a different way of quenching their thirst in a different way as it could up their risk factor. But this still hasn’t been proven.

Six for Skin

And if you want to reduce your risk for skin cancer, go for six cups a day. Alternatively, you could just wear sunscreen… Hmm….drink for thought; ponder that over a freshly-brewed pot.

Obama Gets Ribbed for Ordering Ribs

Michelle Obama came under fire for her ‘less than pc’ choice of entrée at Restaurant Kelly Liken in Vail Village, where the first lady is spending President’s weekend with her daughters and some friends. Ms. Obama chose the braised ancho-chile short rib along with hominy wild mushrooms, sautéed kale, and pickled pumpkins salad with arugula.

Ms. Obama is being accused of hypocrisy by poorly informed opponents for ordering such a ‘fattening’ main course who have claimed that the rib contains 1500 calories with 141 grams of fat.

Kelly Liken, the restaurant’s owner begs to differ. According to her braised short ribs are relatively lean; the braising cooks off a majority of the fat. The 5 ounce serving she offered Ms. Obama is closer to 600 calories, making her meal a healthy choice, as Ms. Liken explained, “A proper 5-ounce portion of protein is what nutritionists say we should have.”

But why all the fuss? Who cares what Michelle Obama eats for dinner? It appears that Obama has been working hard to promote healthy eating as part of her anti-obesity campaign.

Eating at Kelly Liken’s establishment was actually quite consistent with her message of eating well since the restaurant associated with the Brush Creek Elementary School’s Sowing Seeds program in which students grow their own vegetables in a green house, some of which are eventually served to them for lunch at school. Ms. Liken also uses the school-grown produce whenever she can. Liken explained her feelings about food and the first lady in the following statements:

“The food at Restaurant Kelly Liken is the healthiest food you can get in a restaurant. I want to nourish the people who eat it, to teach people they don’t have to sacrifice taste and texture to eat nutritious and healthy foods. It was refreshing to see how interested she (Obama) really was and how passionate about the kids’ healthy lunches, as well as the movement to eat locally here in the Vail Valley,” Liken said.