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  • To Smoothie Or Not to Smoothie?

    Wednesday, February 21, 2018
    To Smoothie Or Not to Smoothie?

    Smoothies have become synonymous with health. But smoothies may have a dark side: according to the New York Times, all that fruit (and certain vegetables) often translates into lots of sugar. In addition, fruits’ natural fiber, although still present, gets pulverized in the blender. That fact, along with the speed at which many people drink their smoothies—usually in less than half the time it takes to eat a piece of fruit—generally means all that sugar enters your blood stream more quickly. And, because the pulverized fiber may not slow the absorption of sugar the same way intact fiber from whole fruit does, you’re more likely to feel hungry sooner due to spiking and then dropping blood sugar levels.

    When it comes to commercially prepared smoothies, the news is even worse: some of these have added sugars and additional calories from ingredients like milk or yogurt. The bottom line? Provided you drink them slowly, smoothies can be a smart choice in moderation, and can be an easy way to get other nutrients into your diet. However, remember that eating whole foods, including fruits, should be your focus.

    Source: New York Times

  • Be Prepared for Dips in Vitamin D Levels During Winter

    Tuesday, February 20, 2018
    Be Prepared for Dips in Vitamin D Levels During Winter

    Adequate levels of vitamin D, which the body synthesizes with the help of sunlight, are needed to maintain our bones and overall health. During the summer, when the sun is directly overhead, it’s easier to make enough vitamin D. For example, the New York Times reports that as little as ten minutes of sun exposure a day may be enough for people with light skin. People with darker skin may need two to three times more than that, and seniors may need even more since aging tends to slow down vitamin D synthesis. In contrast, during the winter, the low angle of the sun and the short time it appears above the horizon each day can make it harder to maintain healthy vitamin D levels. Here’s what you need to know to keep your levels up when it’s cold outside:

    • Who’s at risk of low vitamin D in the winter? Anyone with low sun exposure is at risk, but living at latitudes above around 37 degrees north puts you at a particular risk. In the US, this includes people living in Northern California and north of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. In these areas, the sun is lower during the winter and colder temperatures cause people to bundle up, covering skin and blocking the sun.
    • Will using sunscreen reduce sun exposure? Sun safety precautions like sunscreen, hats, and protective clothing are important but do limit our ability to make vitamin D. Although the degree to which sunscreen affects vitamin D levels is still not precisely known, according to the National Institutes of Health, most of us don’t use enough sunscreen to completely block vitamin D production.
    • How much vitamin D do you need? Regardless of sun exposure, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin D is 600 IU per day in healthy adults. If you’re 70 or older, that bumps up to 800 IU per day.
    • What are dietary sources of vitamin D? You can get almost 450 IU from three ounces of cooked salmon and about 120 IU from a cup of vitamin D-fortified milk. Fortified orange juice, yogurt, and cereal are other sources. Your healthcare practitioner may also recommend you take a vitamin D supplement.

    Source: New York Times

  • Can Coffee and Wine Affect Gut Diversity?

    Monday, February 19, 2018
    New Science
    Can Coffee and Wine Affect Gut Diversity?

    It’s probably not news that eating foods containing probiotics, like kefir and yogurt, can benefit your health by positively affecting your gut microbiome (the community of microorganisms that populate the intestines). What you may not know is that regular intake of other foods and drinks like coffee and wine may also positively affect your gut health: a study found that these culinary favorites were correlated with increased gut microbial diversity—which is generally linked to better overall health. The study was published in Science and included 1,135 healthy participants from the LifeLines program, a Dutch population-based cohort study. Researchers collected information on lifestyle factors from the participants, including dietary habits, medication-use, smoking status, and other health data. Stool samples were collected and analyzed to identify the bacteria and other organisms present in the participants’ guts. Researchers discovered that:

    • Out of the 126 lifestyle factors considered, 110 of them were associated with specific microbial patterns, and 125 different microbial species were found to be affected by participants’ lifestyle habits.
    • Regular consumption of coffee, wine, buttermilk, and (you guessed it) yogurt were each associated with a more diverse gut microbiome.
    • On the other hand, regular consumption of whole milk and a high-calorie diet were associated with a less diverse gut microbiome.

    These findings suggest that almost everything we do on a regular basis impacts the composition of our gut microbiome. While more research is needed to understand what these findings mean for public health, previous research has linked a healthy gut microbiome to a reduced risk of catching a cold, and to fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression. In short, a healthier gut may just mean a healthier you.

    Source: Science

  • Vitamin D May Help Repair Cardiovascular Damage

    Friday, February 16, 2018
    New Science
    Vitamin D May Help Repair Cardiovascular Damage

    Chronic hypertension can have detrimental effects throughout the body, in part by damaging endothelial cells (the cells that line the inner blood vessels) and disrupting healthy vascular function. Luckily, other factors protect endothelial cells and preserve normal vascular function. According to findings from an in-vitro study in the International Journal of Nanomedicine, vitamin D may be one of those factors. To explore this possibility, researchers simulated the effect of hypertension on endothelial cells donated by African American and Caucasian American subjects by exposing these cells to a biochemical that raises blood pressure: angiotensin II. Angiotensin II affects endothelial cells by decreasing their production of nitric oxide—a vascular relaxant that helps blood flow—and increasing their production of peroxynitrite—a vascular constrictor that restricts blood flow. When researchers added vitamin D into the environment surrounding the hypertensive endothelial cells, they found vitamin D reversed the effects of angiotensin II: nitric oxide concentrations increased and peroxynitrite levels decreased.

    Poor vascular function is a major concern not only in people with hypertension but also in those with other cardiovascular risk factors, including obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol levels. This study’s findings begin to shed light on the ways in which vitamin D may contribute to blood vessel health. If you’re interested in raising your vitamin D levels, look to the sun, which stimulates your body to synthesize the vitamin—just be sure to practice sun safety. For those with limited sun exposure, consult with your healthcare practitioner to see if a vitamin D supplement is a good option for you.

    Source: International Journal of Nanomedicine

  • Working Your Core Helps Protect You from Injury

    Thursday, February 15, 2018
    Working Your Core Helps Protect You from Injury

    Whether you’re preparing for a marathon race or a marathon teleconference, a strong core can help keep you in the game, reports the Washington Post. Your core is made up of dozens of muscle groups, including those in your back, glutes, pelvic floor, and abs, which work with other muscles to give you strength and stability. It’s important to keep them in top shape because weak core muscles can put strain on other muscles, increasing your risk of injury. Runners with a strong core, for instance, will have better posture, which can reduce lower back pain during a race. And the same goes for people who sit at a desk most days—a strong core supports your hip and back muscles, which can minimize back pain. So, if you want to stay spry while you’re putting in long hours at the office, or attempting to conquer the world with your athletic prowess, give some of these core-strengthening exercises a try:

    • Bird dog. Get down on hands and knees in a table-like position. Raise your right arm and left leg at the same time until both are parallel with your body. Lower your leg and arm back down and repeat. Do three sets of 15 to 20 reps on both sides.
    • Dead bug. Lie on your back with your arms straight up in the air and your legs bent at a 90° angle—in an overturned-table position. Lower your left leg and right arm to the floor so they are parallel to your body. Raise your leg and arm to your original position; then repeat. Do three sets of 15 to 20 reps on both sides.
    • Plank. Lie on your stomach and raise up onto your elbows and toes. Make sure to position your elbows underneath your shoulders. Hold for 30 seconds. Do three sets of 15 to 20 reps.
    • Clamshell. Lie on your right side with your legs bent. While keeping your feet together, raise your left knee, so your knees move away from one another. Lower your knee back down and repeat. Do three sets of 15 to 20 reps on both sides.
    • Gluteus bridge. Lie on your back with your arms stretched out on the floor perpendicular to your body in a “T” shape. Keep your knees bent with your feet on the floor. Without lifting your head or shoulders, raise your glutes into the air. Lower your glutes back down and repeat. Do three sets of 15 to 20 reps.

    Source: Washington Post

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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2018.