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Blog posts of '2012' 'July'

Effects of BPA May Stick Around Long After You’re Gone

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Effects of BPA May Stick Around Long After You’re GoneIf you own a lot of plastic products, you may have heard a lot of negative buzz about a chemical called bisphenol A, or BPA. BPA is popular in the plastics industry for manufacturing transparent bottles, food containers, receipt paper, gardening tools, and lining the inside of canned goods. The plastic industry loves BPA because of its diverse number of uses. Unfortunately, BPA isn’t so good for your health, and it’s estimated that almost 93% of Americans have traces of it in their systems. BPA is able to enter your body because it’s sensitive to extreme temperature variations: Extreme cold (such as freezing) or extreme heat (heating a container in a microwave or leaving a water bottle out in the sun) can cause BPA to become unstable, allowing small amounts to seep into whatever food or drink you have stored in that plastic container. You can also absorb BPA through handling store receipts or plastic tools that have been heated in the sun all day.

How Does BPA Affect You?

Every day your body absorbs trace amounts of toxins that your immune and digestive systems help filter out. The problem with BPA, however, is that it isn’t just any old chemical—BPA is a type of compound that’s known as an endocrine disruptor. In layman’s terms, this means that BPA is able to fool your body into thinking that it’s a hormone (such as estrogen) and it can have disruptive consequences. Worse still, prolonged BPA absorption can mutate your genes and this mutation can be passed on to your children and your children’s children. Several studies have shown that the main consequence of BPA contamination is a mutation which affects how you absorb folic acid. This B vitamin is essential to developmental health and can usually be obtained from leafy greens, which is why pregnant women are often advised to load up on folic acid to support proper growth and development of their unborn babies. Before folic acid can be used by your body, an enzyme called 5-MTHFR needs to break it down to a usable form called 5-MTHF. This is relatively simple process, if your genes are normal and able to produce 5-MTHFR. Mutated genes, however, aren’t able to break down folic acid into 5-MTHF, so even if you’re taking double or triple the required daily amounts, you may not be absorbing any of it.

Low Folic Acid Linked to a Number of Health Challenges

So one less vitamin in your diet doesn’t sound like a big deal, right? Wrong. Numerous studies have linked low folic acid levels to low moods, anxiety, sleeplessness, trouble focusing, weight gain, and even behavioral problems in some infants. In fact, the health challenges associated with low folic acid levels are so numerous that BPA is already banned in Europe and Canada. Some U.S. states are following suit by initiating statewide bans on BPA bottles and baby goods, too. The good news is that many manufacturers are becoming more conscientious of the concerns that the public has over BPA in plastics and many non-BPA-containing plastic products are also available. As a consumer, it’s your right to be picky about what you consume, so insist on all your plastics to be BPA free for the sake of your health and future generations.

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Can Stress Affect Memory?

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Can Stress Affect Memory?Stress can often make one feel flustered and forgetful, but can the long-term effects lead to advanced cognitive impairment and poor memory? That’s what researchers in the U.K. are attempting to find out in an ambitious study that seeks to find new ways of preserving cognitive function and memory. The study will monitor 140 individuals who already have mild cognitive impairment over 18 months. The scientists will take regular blood and saliva samples, looking for stress markers to determine if stress has any effect on their condition.

Traumatic Events Are Potential Stress Factors

Previous studies indicate that midlife stress may increase risk of cognitive impairment. A Swedish study conducted on about 1,500 women found that subjects who had repeated periods of middle-age stress had a 65% higher risk of developing cognitive impairment. Animal research led Scottish scientists to theorize that it’s the release of certain hormones during stress that interfere with normal brain function. Traumatic events—such as the death of a loved one—put people through greater amounts of stress, which could possibly trigger the release of greater amounts of hormones that impair brain function.

Finding Out the Cause Before the Solution

Scientists hope that by understanding the physical and psychological symptoms that accelerate cognitive impairment, it will help them manage the condition in patients more effectively. Because the human brain is so complex, any single or combination of symptoms may be early indicators of greater risk ahead. But by watching out for these red flags now, we may be able to apply this useful knowledge in helping thousands of others in the near future.

References:

  • Roberts, M. “Role of Stress in Dementia Investigated.” BBC News. Jun 2012. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-18577326.
  • Johansson, L. et al. “Midlife psychological stress and risk of dementia: a 35-year longitudinal population study.” Brain. 2010. 133 (8):2217-2224.

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Low Vitamin D Levels May Make Women More Prone to Weight Gain

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Low Vitamin D Levels May Make Women More Prone to Weight GainOver the years, scientists have found that low vitamin D levels may negatively affect a number health of areas such as bone strength, the immune system, and cellular health. Now research shows that low vitamin D may also affect body weight.

Low D May Add More Weight

A recent study conducted on over 4,600 women aged 65 and older found that women with lower vitamin D levels were more prone to gain weight. Of the 571 women who gained weight, the scientists observed that women who already had low vitamin D levels going into the study and failed to address their low D levels gained an average of two pounds over five years. The study was published in the June 2012 edition of the Journal of Women’s Health. It echoes the results of a previous study, which found that a combination of vitamin D and calcium supplementation slowed down weight gain.

While researchers aren’t clear yet how vitamin D directly affects weight management, it may have to do with the fact that vitamin D is a prohormone that helps regulate other types of cells. Certain immune cells, for example, need vitamin D to activate them so that they can perform their duties, which is why vitamin D is important to immunity. Similarly, fat cells also have vitamin D receptors, so in women with low vitamin D levels, their fat cells may continue to grow unregulated if there isn’t enough vitamin D to signal the fat cells to “stop.”

How Can You Get More Vitamin D?

Before you think of dosing up on vitamin D to shed pounds, keep in mind that the studies only indicate that low vitamin D makes people more prone to weight gain; taking more won’t help you lose it. That said, however, given how important vitamin D is to your overall health, it can’t hurt to get more of it in your diet. Vitamin D is often called the “sunshine vitamin” because your skin is able to produce it the moment you are exposed to sunlight. Despite this, many people still aren’t getting the recommended daily intake of vitamin D. The Institute of Medicine currently recommends a dosage of 600 IU daily for people aged 1–70. But with more people working in office environments and leading sedentary, indoor lifestyles, higher dosages may be more beneficial. Fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel), beef liver, cheese, and egg yolk are all natural food sources of vitamin D, but they contain very small amounts. That’s why supplements with higher dosages can be a better option to getting the optimal levels you need for good health. As stated earlier, however, increasing your vitamin D levels isn’t a magic bullet to end your weight management worries, so follow it up with healthy diet and exercise habits, too.

References:

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