Weight Weight, I Can’t Remember! How Being Overweight May Affect Memory

via Amanda MacMillan @ WeightLossScale.jpgTime Health

Want to stay sharp well into old age? Keep an eye on your waistline, suggests a recent study from the University of Arizona. Having a higher body mass index (BMI) can negatively impact brain functioning in older adults, researchers say, and there’s evidence that inflammation is to blame.

Maintaining a healthy weight can protect against a variety of health issues; it can reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, to name a few. Previous studies have also linked weight to brain health, but there’s been little research into exactly how one affects the other.

Figuring out that “how” could potentially help scientists develop interventions to better prevent cognitive decline, says Kyle Bourassa, a psychology doctoral student and co-author of the new study.

Bourassa and his co-author suspected that systemic inflammation—a chronic overreaction of the body’s immune system—might be to blame, since previous research has shown that inflammation in the brain can negatively impact cognitive functioning. It’s also well established that being overweight contributes to inflammation throughout the body. “The higher your BMI, the more your inflammation goes up,” he says.

To further explore these connections, Bourassa and his co-author analyzed data from more than 21,000 British people, ages 50 and older, who had their BMI, inflammation levels, and cognition scores tested several times over the course of six years.

BMI, a measure of weight in relation to height, is often used to determine whether a person is normal, underweight, or overweight. For individuals, BMI is not always an accurate measure of healthiness—but for large populations like this, it’s a good way to estimate averages. In general, a BMI of 18 to 25 is considered normal weight, and any number over 25 is considered overweight.

For the study, inflammation was measured by the presence of C-reactive protein (CRP)—a marker of systemic inflammation throughout the body—in the participants’ blood. Cognitive function, meanwhile, was measured with word recall and verbal fluency tests.

The researchers found a clear link between the three factors. “The higher participants’ body mass at the first time point in the study, the greater the change in their CRP levels over the next four years,” Bourassa said in a press release. That change in CRP then predicted a decline in brain functioning—including executive functioning and memory—two years later.

In other words, the findings suggest that “the body mass of these people predicted their cognitive decline through their levels of systemic inflammation,” said Bourassa.

Co-author David Sbarra, PhD, professor of psychology and director of UA’s Laboratory for Social Connectedness and Health, cautions that the study was unable to prove a cause-and-effect relationship, since it simply monitored people over time. To establish causation, researchers would need to find a way to reduce participants’ body mass under tightly controlled conditions, and examine the subsequent effects on inflammation and cognition.

But the researchers say that their findings may provide valuable insights for further studies and possible interventions. “If you have high inflammation, in the future we may suggest using anti-inflammatories—not just to bring down your inflammation but to hopefully also help with your cognition,” Bourassa said.

For now, it provides yet another reason to keep excess weight off. “Having a lower body mass is just good for you, period,” Bourassa said. “It’s good for your health and good for your brain.”

This article originally appeared on Health.com




The Benefits of Olive Oil and How To Get Them

oliveinoliveoilExtra virgin olive oil douses the inflammation that leads to chronic health conditions like heart disease. The polyphenol-rich extra virgin olive oil also limits insulin resistance, inflammation and oxidative stress, preventing liver disease progression as well. 

It’s a healthy oil that you can use as an every day ‘add’ to your meal. The most obvious way is to use it as your base salad dressing. All of those benefits above can gotten by going simple: oil and vinegar. That makes it easy to use, cheaper than store bought, and delicious to boot!

So have it with your food. Find a way … every day.

Here’s another example. We were on vacation once in Sardinia, Italy and met a very kind man, a local, who shared a lunch with us. During the meal, I noticed the dark luscious green olive oil on the table and just assumed that this was there for the salad. But in the middle of our conversation, he absentmindedly reached over for the olive oil and drizzled just a little over his white flaky fish.

He recognized my look and said, “Oh, we put just a touch of olive oil on most things. For flavor you know.” What a great idea, it totally increases both the flavor and health of the fish!

Have the olive oil for your tastes and your health. Find a way … every day. 

Ginger-Citrus Chicken

The more we cook in the home the more we have control over quality of ingredients used. Give this recipe made with basic ingredients try.

You’ll Need:

  • 6 chicken thighs, boned and skinned
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 orange, peeled and sectioned
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into strips


  • Season the chicken with the salt and pepper and marinate in a ½ cup of the orange juice for 10 minutes.
  • Drain and set aside.
  • Heat the butter in a large skillet and sauté the ginger over medium-high heat until lightly browned.
  • Add the chicken and cook until lightly browned on both sides. Add the orange sections, the remaining orange juice and lemon juice. Simmer for 10 more minutes.

Cilantro and Carrot Rice

This recipe works well to complement some shrimp or fish.
You’ll Need
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled, chopped
  • 2 large red bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups long-grain white rice
  • 6 ¾ cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • ½ cup chopped green onions
  • 2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Diced tomato

Continue reading “Cilantro and Carrot Rice”

How Exercise Can Increase Metabolism By Turning White Fat Into Brown

Exercise may aid in weight control and help to fend off diabetes by improving the ability of fat cells to burn calories, a new study reports. It may do this in part by boosting levels of a hormone called irisin, which is produced during exercise and which may help to turn ordinary white fat into much more metabolically active brown fat, the findings suggest.

Original NYTimes Story Here

Irisin (named for the Greek goddess Iris) entered the scientific literature in 2012 after researchers from Harvard and other universitiespublished a study in Nature that showed the previously unknown hormone was created in working muscles in mice. From there, it would enter the bloodstream and migrate to other tissues, particularly to fat, where it would jump-start a series of biochemical processes that caused some of the fat cells, normally white, to turn brown.

Brown fat, which is actually brown in color, burns calories. It also is known to contribute to improved insulin and blood sugar control, lessening the risk for Type 2 diabetes. Most babies, including human infants, are plump with brown fat, but we humans lose most of our brown fat as we grow up. By the time we are adults, we usually retain very little brown fat.

In the 2012 study, the researchers reported that if they injected irisin into living mice, it not only turned some white fat into brown fat, it apparently also prevented the rodents from becoming obese, even on a high-fat, high-calorie diet.

But in the years since, some scientists have questioned whether irisin affects fat cells in people to the same extent as it seems to in mice — and even whether the hormone exists in people at all.

A study published last year in Cell Metabolism by the same group of researchers who had conducted the first irisin study, however, does seem to have established that irisin is produced in humans. They found some irisin in sedentary people, but the levels were much higher in those who exercise often.

But whether irisin acted beneficially in human fat cells the same way as it did in the bodies and cells of mice was still an open and disputed question.

So for the new study, which was published in August in the American Journal of Physiology — Endocrinology and Metabolism, researchers at the University of Florida turned to white fat tissue from women who had undergone breast reduction surgery at the university hospital (with permission) and also to a very small amount of brown fat from people who had had surgery to treat kidney cancer. Most of our meager stores of brown fat cluster around our kidneys.

The researchers, who had previously studied irisin’s effects in mice, had a form of the human hormone available and now set out to marinate the fat cells with it, using three different dosages.

Some of the white fat cells that they treated were mature, while others were baby cells, essentially stem cells that could grow into fat or other types of tissue. They also bathed the brown fat with irisin.

All of the cells were soaked with the hormone for four days.

Throughout, the scientists checked the levels of a protein called UCP1 that is known to contribute to the browning of white fat, as well as for other biochemical markers that would indicate that the white cells were browning.

They found such markers, particularly in the cells that were exposed to moderate or high doses of irisin. Those cells soon began to produce significantly more UCP1 than other cells and also were more metabolically active, meaning that, in the body, they would burn calories.

At the same time, many of the stem cells in the fat tissue exposed to irisin ceased being fat cells and instead became a type of cell that matures into bone. The tissue treated with irisin, in fact, wound up with about 40 percent fewer mature fat cells than tissue untouched by the hormone.

Irisin had no effects on brown fat.

The results strongly indicate that irisin nudges human white fat to become brown and also suppresses the formation of new white fat, says Li-Jun Yang, a professor of hematopathology at the University of Florida and senior author of the study (which was funded by the scientists themselves). It also seems to promote the formation of bone.

“I think this study helps us to understand how, at a cellular level, exercise makes us healthier,” Dr. Yang says.

But these were living cells, not living bodies, and the effects of irisin in actual people still need to be established, she says, especially since many studies have shown that exercise rarely results in significant weight loss. Scientists also do not know what types of exercise lead to the greatest production of irisin or what amount of irisin might be ideal for health purposes.

Dr. Yang hopes to conduct studies of the hormone in people.

But even now, the science related to irisin is compelling enough, she says, that “my advice is, exercise as much as you can. We know it’s healthy and now we’re beginning to understand better why.”



Quick Video: The Best Foods Are Pedestrian Foods. But What Does That Even Mean?

The healthiest foods on Earth are the simple ones. You can look harder, you can look longer for the latest shiny nutritional distraction that purports some magical mystery tour to thinner thighs in thirty days or whatever, but the best foods for the best health have been there all along. They may be boring for our A.D.D. brains but they’re anything but boring for your body and mind.

No, You Can’t Prevent All Cancers


My wife’s diagnosis taught me a lot about the disease

October, as you certainly know, is Breast Cancer awareness month. Football players are wearing pink, little ribbons show up on lapels, and a slew of articles will no doubt arise about preventing cancer. But like millions of people each year, my experience with this month is a bit more personal.

I know exactly where I was the moment my wife Dottie told me, “They got the results, Will. It’s cancer. Outside the duct. Invasive.” I lost my legs and the world collapsed in on itself like a scene from Inception. I sat there in the middle of a sidewalk outside Starbucks, lost to all else. As of today though, we are now on the other side of it and after 5 years of Tamoxifen, thank God are still cancer free.

The disorienting process made us both reprocess the things we thought we had known, particularly around the language we hear around cancer. Specifically, articles, videos, and entire websites proclaim that you can “prevent cancer.”

prevent-cancer-imageBut stating that you can prevent cancer leaves the impression that if you do contract this disease, then you didn’t do what it took to prevent it. It’s your fault. You should have, could have done more of something or less of something else. If you had just eaten more kale, did a few more laps, or followed through on those yoga classes, you could have prevented this from happening to you.

But the unfortunate truth is that you cannot prevent a lot of cancers or stop it, despite what the articles say: not by eating right, not by exercising, not by meditating. You just can’t.

How many anecdotes have you heard of people who were super healthy, doing everything exactly right (much like Dottie) and yet they still contracted the disease? Conversely, someone’s grandfather smoked all his life, was a junk food fiend, broke all the rules of health and still lived to the ridiculous age of 97. Living well no more prevents most cancer than living poorly causes it.

And this sounds like an enormous bummer, but makes an important point for those going through this wrenching process and those who fear they may: Even though you can’t turn it off or on with your behavior, you can change your risk probability. This may sound a bit academic, but the idea is quite simple. Think of it like playing dice, in which you have a certain chance of getting a good roll or bad roll. “Changing your risk probability” is like switching out the fair dice you were given with weighted dice.

To weight them in your favor, eat right, exercise, and control stress levels. Doing those things doesn’t mean they’ll always come up in your favor, only that you have better odds that they will. To weight them against you, eat poorly, be sedentary, smoke, binge drink. Doing those things won’t ensure you’ll land a terrible roll, only that it’s much more likely to happen.

This explains the chain smoking octogenarian junk food-a-holic, who may have tilted their risk profile very far against them, but still improbably managed to roll a Yahtzee in 6s. It also explains how you can lower your risk levels by perfectly healthy habits, and yet still roll the worst Yahtzee roll possible. Both of these can very easily happen, though odds are very small.

The most important piece of this is to not beat yourself up over the language suggesting you may have done something wrong. Dealing with the intense emotional and physical toll of the disease is plenty to manage without buying into the chatter that you could have prevented it in the first place.