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Sound Body Equals Sound Mind

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Sound Body Equals Sound MindPhysical exercise has a far bigger impact on supporting brain health in older people than previously thought. While seniors have been encouraged for years to do “brain activities” such as crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and reading to support cognitive function and memory, a new study points out that it’s physical exercise that helps protect aging brains from shrinking.

Brain Size Affects Cognitive Health

Brain shrinkage is typical with age and scientists have linked various degrees of shrinkage to its effects on memory and cognitive function.

In the study, which was published in the journal, Neurology, 700 people living in the UK were questioned about the leisure and physical activities they engaged in. When their brains were scanned three years later, those who were more physically active had larger volumes of gray and white brain matter. By comparison, those who engaged in nonphysical activities still showed signs of brain shrinkage despite engaging in their hobbies regularly. Regular physical activity also reduced the incidence of white matter lesions, which have been found to adversely affect memory and thinking.

Similar Study Supports Findings

A similar study showed that aerobic exercises—such as walking or jogging—were also more beneficial than nonaerobic exercises like stretching and toning. In this study, 120 individuals were split into two equal groups, with one group performing 30-45 minutes of moderate, aerobic exercise three times a week while the other group did stretching and toning exercises. MRI scans a year later revealed that the nonaerobic exercise group showed signs of shrinkage in a region of the brain known as the hippocampus whereas the hippocampus was larger in the exercise group. If you’ve been resting on your laurels waiting for yet another reason to start exercising for your overall health, the evidence above should hopefully convince you. So get up and start moving!

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BPA Linked to Thyroid Hormone Changes

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BPA Linked to Thyroid Hormone ChangesBisphenol A, or BPA, the chemical compound that has gathered a lot of negative attention over the years due to its effects on neural health, has now been linked to changes in thyroid level hormones. The UC Berkeley study is one of the first to analyze the effects of BPA on pregnant women and newborn boys, and the results were alarming, to say the least.

BPA Affects Neural Health

Previous studies have linked BPA to blocking the conversion of folic acid into its active form called 5-MTHF, which is essential to neural health and supporting a healthier mood, concentration, and memory. For this reason, folic acid supplementation is highly encouraged in pregnant women to support the health of developing children. This latest study shows that increased BPA levels in pregnant women correspond to a decrease in their levels of thyroid hormone T4. Incidentally, the higher the BPA levels in the mothers, the more active were the thyroids in newborn boys. Thyroid hormones are crucial to brain development in young children as well as other aspects of growth such as metabolism, which is why it’s important for thyroid function to be neither overactive nor underactive to support proper growth and development.

More Manufacturers Cutting Back on BPA Use

The use of BPA in plastics manufacturing is so commonplace that up to 90% of American women have traces of BPA in their system. Up till recently BPA was used in everything from microwavable plastic containers to water bottles to sales receipts. Even dental sealants and the preservative lining of canned foods have BPA. In July, 2012, the Food and Drug Administration prohibited the use of BPA in manufacturing plastic baby bottles and cups. Some states, such as California, are also enforcing tougher restrictions on how much BPA can be used in manufacturing plastics. These tougher restrictions have led to certain manufacturers, such as Campbell’s soup, to completely ban the use of BPA in their products. With increasing awareness on the dangers of BPA to health, and more manufacturers stepping up and admitting the potential dangers of this chemical, younger generations can hopefully look towards a future where BPA will no longer be used in any items associated with food or drink.

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More Than Half of Americans Now Taking Supplements

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Remember when you were younger and your parents constantly reminded you to take your vitamins? According to a consumer survey conducted by the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), more people have heeded that advice into adulthood. According to their data, about 68% of American adults take nutritional supplements, with 76% of those people reporting that they take supplements such as multivitamins or fish oil regularly.

Supplement Use on the Rise

Between 2009 and 2011, supplement use has gradually increased an average of 2.5% as more American adults have become aware that they can support good health. Multivitamins are still the most popular, followed by omega-3 fish oil, vitamin D, vitamin C, and calcium.

According to the CRN, the increasing trend in supplement use also indicates greater consumer confidence in the products that they’re taking. Approximately 85% of American adults stated that they were confident in the “safety, quality, and effectiveness of dietary supplements.”

Benefits of Daily Supplementation

As the survey shows, nutritional supplements aren’t just a fad to most adults anymore. As more people realize that their daily diets may be lacking in essential nutrients, they are wisely turning to supplements to help them get the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can help support good health. Another benefit of specialty supplements—such as omega-3 fish oils—is that they can also provide more concentrated doses of nutrients that you may be lacking from regular servings of highly processed, commercially available foods. Whether you’re just too busy to eat right or you feel like you may need to give your health an extra nutritional boost, fall in with the supplement-taking crowd and experience the good health that you’ve probably been missing out on.

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Omega-3s May Help Lengthen Lifespan

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Omega-3s May Help Lengthen LifespanFor years, researchers and nutritionists have been touting the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for cardiovascular health. Because omega-3s play such a big role in overall nutrition, some studies have found that they may also support joints, memory, vision, and immune health. Now scientists have added another benefit to the list: omega-3s may help preserve telomeres.

The Telomere/Longevity Connection

Many researchers use telomere length as an indicator of cell longevity. Telomeres are regions on DNA strands that help protect the rest of your genetic information every time your cells replicate. When telomeres get too short, more errors are prone to occur during cell replication, which can shorten cell life—and your overall lifespan. In a five-year study on 608 patients who had a history of poor heart health, cardiologists found that patients who had higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their white blood cells experienced less telomere shortening over the five-year period compared to patients who had lower omega-3 levels.

Omega-3 from Fish Oil More Beneficial

Omega-3s can be obtained from a variety of plant and animal sources, but omegas from fatty fish, such as sardines and salmon, have been found to have the greatest health advantages, which is why the researchers in this study used fish-oil-based omega-3s. Since initial results have been so promising in people with preexisting cardiovascular health challenges, the researchers stated that double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled studies would provide further insight into the omega-3/telomere connection. In the meantime, omega-3 fish oils have loads of other health advantages, so if you’re already taking a fish oil supplement, continue doing so to rack up as many health benefits as you can.

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Vitamin D3, the Sunshine Vitamin, May Benefit Healthy Vision, Too

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Vitamin D3, the Sunshine Vitamin, May Benefit Healthy Vision, TooThanks to ongoing research, the list of benefits to vitamin D3 supplementation just keeps getting longer. In addition to supporting calcium absorption for healthy bones, the immune system, and cellular health, scientists now believe that vitamin D3 may also support eye health.

Animal Studies on Vitamin D3 Show Great Promise

Initial studies conducted on mice have shown that vitamin D3 may help reduce the accumulation of amyloid beta in cone cells inside the retina. The central retina, especially the macula of the eye—which is a region containing yellow pigment cells that filter out harmful blue light—contains a large number of cone cells that are responsible for high-contrast vision. Amyloid beta deposits around the macula may affect blood circulation reaching the cone cells, therefore affecting vision. Mice contain fewer cone cells in their eyes than humans, but small amounts of vitamin D3 were shown to have a significantly large effect in reducing amyloid beta accumulation in their eyes. Given these promising results, researchers believe that the effects of vitamin D3 in human eye health may be far more beneficial.

The Importance of Visual Protection

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the reduction of macular pigment in the retina. It is the leading cause of visual health challenges in adults aged 60 and older. Dietary intake of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin help support macular health, and they are crucial because they are the only two carotenoids capable of filtering blue light rays that may damage the inner rods and cones of the eyes. Bright red and orange fruits and leafy vegetables contain high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin. But poor eating habits may not get you enough of these important carotenoids from your foods, which is why you need to have a healthy balance of fruit and veggies in your meals. Now that you know vitamin D3 may also back up the protection of your macula, consider taking a vitamin D3 supplement, too. Although vitamin D is referred to as the “sunshine vitamin” because your skin produces it when you’re out in the sun, it never hurts to have added protection—especially where your eyes are concerned.

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Do You Have the Right to Know What’s in Your Food?

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Do You Have the Right to Know What’s in Your Food?As election time draws near, one of the proposals in the upcoming California state ballot is Proposition 37, also known as the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act, which requires companies to report whether their products contain any genetically modified ingredients. If passed, Prop 37 would make California the first state in the nation to have food manufacturers change the way information is listed on the nutrition facts labels on food products. The ruling will not affect supplement facts labels on dietary supplements, which are generally stricter than regular food items.

New Label Requirements Will Create Greater Transparency

Proponents of Prop 37 say that the new label guidelines will create more honesty in the food industry, separating truly organic food manufacturers from companies claiming to be organic, but who use processed or genetically modified ingredients. Organic food consumers expect higher standards from the products they purchase and the new labeling requirements are designed to create greater transparency between the manufacturer and consumer, so people know exactly what they’re paying for. To date, organic producers have raised around $2.8 million to push greater awareness for Prop 37. By contrast, opposition against Prop 37 has been raised by companies including Coca-Cola, General Mills, Nestle, and Monsanto, which have raised almost $25 million to push their agenda. These companies claim that the new labeling measures may mislead consumers into thinking that genetically modified foods are somehow inferior or unhealthy when compared to organic foods, creating an unfair competitive advantage. They also argue that in the long-run, food prices will go up. Although Prop 37 will only require changes to labels of food for sale in California, many manufacturers will be unable to produce custom labels just for California sale, so the new label format may make its way out of state.

What Does This Mean to Consumers?

Other countries such as Japan, China, and some European nations already label their genetically modified foods. Also, about 40-70% of food already sold in California grocery stores contains genetically modified ingredients. The California Right to Know group, which is leading the pro-labeling initiative, argues that Prop 37 merely seeks to inform consumers so they can make their own food choices when more information is made available to them. To our readers in California: The decision is yours when the polls open in November.

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30 Minutes of Exercise a Day Can Help Keep the Pounds at Bay

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30 Minutes of Exercise a Day Can Help Keep the Pounds at BayWorking out is a commitment that few people enjoy, but if you’ve been trying to shed some extra pounds and dread spending long hours in the gym, you’ll be pleased to learn that a new study reveals that 30 minutes of exercise a day is all it takes to help shed that weight. In a new study published in the American Journal of Physiology, moderately overweight men who exercised for 30 minutes a day for three months lost an average of eight pounds compared to men who worked out for 60 minutes a day, who lost an average of six pounds.

Work Out Smarter, Not Longer

The study authors based their research on 60 moderately overweight men who were randomly assigned to either a high aerobics group, which was required to work out 60 minutes a day, or a moderate aerobics group, which worked out 30 minutes a day. Both groups were required to exercise hard enough to break a sweat by doing activities such as running or cycling. At the end of 13 weeks, both groups lost about nine pounds of body mass, but the 30-minute-a-day exercise group lost about two pounds more body weight. The researchers theorize that the men who worked out for half an hour found the amount of time to be reasonable, so they were actually more committed to accomplishing their workout goals in the shorter time period. Compared to their counterparts who worked out for an hour, the 30-minute exercise group also burned more calories. Post workouts, the 30-minute group probably had more energy left over, so they remained more active throughout the day, too. The 60-minute exercisers probably ate more after their workouts, so on average they gained back some of the calories that they burned.

Be Inspired to Get Healthy

Although a difference of two pounds of weight loss may not seem much at first glance, over a year the results can add up. The study also shows that you don’t need to spend countless hours in the gym as long as you’re fully committed to doing as much as you can within the time that you give yourself. Being healthy begins with being smart, so plan your workouts accordingly to get the most benefits.

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Added Pounds May Mean Added Joint Discomfort in Women

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Added Pounds May Mean Added Joint Discomfort in WomenIt goes without saying that being overweight isn’t healthy. When your body carries excess weight that isn’t ideal for your skeletal frame and musculature, it forces your heart and other organs to work extra hard. Besides heart health challenges, such as high blood pressure, being overweight can also affect blood sugar management and bone strength.

Overweight Women More Prone to Joint Discomfort

A new study funded by the Mayo Clinic that was published in Arthritis Care & Research states that women who are overweight have a 20% greater risk of developing joint health challenges. According to Dr. Eric Matteson, one of the study coauthors and chair of the rheumatology department at the Mayo Clinic, “fat cells produce inflammatory proteins and they’re active in inflammation.” Inflammation in joint tissue can lead to swelling, stiffness, and discomfort in joints and surrounding tissues. So aside from putting extra weight on joints and wearing them away faster, extra fat cells can cause inflammation, which can further aggravate your joints. The National Institutes of Health also states that women are two-to-three times more likely than men to develop joint health challenges, and four-to-five times more likely to have bone density challenges, which can also affect joints.

Take the Strain off Your Body

Maintaining a healthy weight isn’t just better for your joints, bones, and heart—it can also significantly lift your mood if you’re feeling self-conscious about your body. Exercise releases endorphins, which stimulate feelings of happiness in the brain. Long-term, regular exercise can also help lift moods, reduce anxiety, and improve sleep quality. Keeping your weight healthy isn’t something you should do to keep health challenges at bay; you should do it because being healthy makes you feel good!

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Snooze So You Don’t Lose Out on Health Benefits

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Snooze So You Don’t Lose Out on Health BenefitsFor some people, 24 hours isn’t enough to accomplish all the things they need to do in a day, so they often forego a good night’s sleep in order to work, work, work. The satisfaction of accomplishment, however, is fleeting compared to the actual harm they could be inflicting on their health. Sleep helps mind and body heal and rejuvenate, and when this important health aspect is ignored it invites the possibilities of all sorts of health challenges. If you’re one of these people, stop ignoring your body’s desire for rest. When you feel tired, that’s your body’s signal to you that it needs to wind down and recuperate for the day. A good night’s sleep can help you feel more refreshed—and you might be surprised at some of the other side benefits.

Sleep Supports the Mind

If you’re learning a new skill, such as a new language, sleep can actually strengthen the memories or practice skills that you’ve acquired. It’s a process called consolidation. If you’ve practiced a set of repetitive skills during the day, something about the sleep process helps reinforce these memories or learned skills so that you have an easier time recalling them the next day. The more you practice and the more rest you get in between, the greater your recall ability. Being well-rested can also spur your creativity if you’re struggling to find a solution to a problem. It can also sharpen your attention span and boost your mood if you’re stressed or anxious because your blood pressure lowers when you’re asleep.

Rest Benefits the Body

Besides having emotional and mental perks, sleep is also physically good for you. People who get less sleep tend to have higher levels of C-reactive protein, which is linked to inflammation. Inflammation can lead to cardiovascular, blood sugar, and joint health challenges. However, most experts agree the simple act of getting more sleep reduces your risks significantly. Researchers at the University of Chicago also found that well-rested dieters tended to lose more fat than their sleep-deprived counterparts, who shed muscle mass instead. Sleep deprivation also causes hunger to kick in, which can be even more detrimental if you’re trying to manage your weight.

Something to Sleep Over

The next time you’re thinking about pulling an all-nighter, take a moment to consider the pros and cons. Is depriving your body and mind of rest really worth the cost of your health? If you feel your body getting tired, don’t resist it—your body will thank you for it.

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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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