Happy Fourth of July everyone. Hope you enjoy this, let me know your thoughts!!
This Independence Day, Do NOT Feel The Burn
Independence Day is iconic and ironic. When we’re not doing healthy things like playing softball, having a family picnic, or watching fireworks with family, we’re probably overdoing the inevitable afternoon grillapolooza. ‘Tis the season to fire up the Barbie, throw on some dogs and burgers and shrimps and ribs and veg kabobs and … you get the picture.
Normally we just write off this time as a once per year gorge fest, turning a blind eye to any health concerns as well. I’m not saying that your burger and braut bonanza can’t pack on pounds and clog your arteries, but the good news is that Fourth of July cookouts don’t have to be bad for you in other aspects, such as cancer.
In this regard, most people think that the health of the grill is all about what you choose to cook. But your cooking technique is just as important, and can either decrease or increase the carcinogens you’re downing by the spork-full. Even better, this solution actually makes your food taste even better!
All About The Burn
All meats have amino acids (such as creatine) and sugars. Fine. But if you grill them at very high temperatures, they naturally produce molecules called heterocyclic amines (HCAs, also found in cigarette smoke). We’ve known about these cancer-causing agents for 15 years now, and since then three more HCAs caused by grilling meat have been added to the list.
Given this, you’re just going to have to be at peace with a couple of things. First, you can’t change the fact that meat on planet Earth is composed of amino acids and sugars. It is what it is. And you also can’t change the fact that they can form chemicals that are really really bad for you.
But what you can control is the total amount of HCA you’re eating. The easiest way to do this is to control how well-done you take your meat and what kind of meat you’re eating.
· Well-done meat has 3.5 times more HCA than medium-rare meat.
· When you compare different types of meats, sadly and tragically the highest concentration comes from bacon. The second highest is from fried pork, followed by beef, and then chicken. (This particular study didn’t look at fish.)
Where The Burn Is Best
This is great news for people who veg out at the grill. Feel free to singe away, knock yourself out and flame it up. Plants don’t have the combination of creatine and sugar found in meats, nor do they have the fat drippings that smoke up into the other grilling-induced carcinogens called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
Burn baby, you got this. Grilled pineapple is fabulous with a bit of sesame oil over it. We grill apricots and peaches in exactly the same way and they are luscious. When it comes to your plate still smokin’ hot from the grill, the sweetness of the fruit deepens … it’ll make you weep.
But What If You’re A Meat-o-phile?
Sure you want to be healthy, but … bacon. Yes, you want to consume fewer carcinogens, but … ribs. And you’d love to go all lean and green, but … salmon.
The good news is cutting back on your carcinogens doesn’t mean you have to cut back on flavor, meat, or even grilled meat. Below are some simple and tasty suggestions to help you minimize your exposure before, during, and after you grill.
The Cancer Research Center of Hawaii found that a teriyaki marinade reduced HCAs by 67%. A turmeric-garlic sauce reduced them by 50% (recipe below)! The key here is to use a thin, vinegar based sauce, sans sugar.
Compare that to a thick concentrated commercial barbecue sauce with additive sugars, which can actually triple the number of HCAs. So, if you’re sitting around the house thinking that you just haven’t had enough carcinogens in your food, well now you know how to fix that problem – slather on a thick BBQ sauce with added sugar.
While these researchers were a) in Hawaii and b) grilling food on some beach somewhere, they somehow found time to do the experiments showing an HCA reduction in meats with marinades containing herbs and spices: notably those related from the mint family such as basil, mint, rosemary, sage, savory, marjoram, oregano, and thyme. Most of these herbs are rich in three compounds – carnosic acid, carnosol and rosmarinic acid – all of which are potent antioxidants.
So be sure to include these tasty herbs in your marinade!
You have many settings on your barbecue, but for meat don’t opt for “blow torch”. To avoid creating carcinogens, start on a medium high temp and flip the meat often. This will avoid charring, and that will avoid HCAs.
Another great technique, in case you have multiple burners within your grill, is to grill up each side quickly, and then turn off the burner that lies directly under the meat while keeping the other burners on. That basically transitions your grill into an oven.
Once you’ve cooked the food, there is one very commonsense thing you can do to maximize flavor and minimize carcinogens.
First of all, don’t eat char. Think about it. Char. It’s just burnt meat. It’s carbon. I know you like the idea of going all caveman with you singed side of mammoth, but char doesn’t even have any flavor. Don’t eat it … cut it off! If you do this one simple thing, you’ll eliminate many of the HCAs that do happen to get through your marinade net.
Even briefly marinating foods is effective in reducing the amount of carcinogens — in some cases by as much as 92 to 99%. As a rule, use about one-half cup of marinade for every pound of food, although large pieces may need more to cover the food’s surface adequately.
The amount of marinating time is up to you, because it only takes a few minutes to get the full cancer-preventing effect. Longer times will just add more flavor – good health has never been so tasty!
By going low and slow, and refusing to eat char, you’ll be able to get outside, grill, and add flavor to your barbeque without compromising your health at the same time!
(from Deborah Kotz, US News and World Report)
Coinciding with the first week of summer, a study published today underscores the importance of getting adequate amounts of sunlight for its vitamin D-boosting benefits. The research, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, shows that those with the lowest vitamin D levels have more than double the risk of dying from heart disease and other causes over an eight-year period compared with those with the highest vitamin D levels. The researchers cite “decreased outdoor activity” as one reason that people may become deficient in vitamin D. Another recent study found an increased risk of heart attacks in those with low vitamin D levels.
In the winter, it’s impossible to produce vitamin D from the sun if you live north of Atlanta because the sun never gets high enough in the sky for its ultraviolet B rays to penetrate the atmosphere. But summer is a great time to stock up on the nutrient. When the sun’s UV-B rays hit the skin, a reaction takes place that enables skin cells to manufacture vitamin D. If you’re fair skinned, experts say going outside for 10 minutes in the midday sun—in shorts and a tank top with no sunscreen—will give you enough radiation to produce about 10,000 international units of the vitamin. Dark-skinned individuals and the elderly also produce less vitamin D, and many folks don’t get enough of the nutrient from dietary sources like fatty fish and fortified milk.
The government’s dietary recommendations are 200 IUs a day up to age 50, 400 IUs to age 70, and 600 IUs over 70. But many experts believe that these recommendations are far too low to maintain healthful vitamin D levels. They advocate for supplementation in the winter of about 2,000 IUs per day and a dose of daily sunshine in the summer.
Given all the upsides of basking at least briefly in the summer sun, many experts now worry that public-health messages warning about skin cancer have gone overboard in getting people to cover up and seek the shade. U.S.News got in touch with Robyn Lucas, an epidemiologist at Australian National University who led a study published in the February issue of the International Journal of Epidemiology. Her finding: Far more lives are lost to diseases caused by a lack of sunlight than to those caused by too much.
Have we gone too far in promoting protection from the sun?
Possibly. Sun protection messages arose in response to rapidly increasing rates of skin cancers, and they were an essential public-health message. But we now recognize that some sun exposure is important for health, at the very least, to maintain healthful vitamin D levels. (Sunscreen blocks out nearly all UV radiation.) Taking this into account, the Cancer Council of Australia has eased its sun protection message a little over the last few years and now recommends that if you’re out in the sun for relatively short periods, with a UV index less than 3, which indicates a moderate amount of UV rays hitting your area on a given day, then sunscreen and other sun protection (like hats and protective clothing) are not required. Beyond this, I believe we all need a little unprotected time in the sun during the middle hours of the day when the sun is at its highest and UV-B rays can penetrate the atmosphere.
How much sun is it safe to get without sunscreen?
It’s difficult to quantify how much since skin pigmentation affects how much radiation your skin absorbs: The darker the skin, the more it’s protected against skin cancer but the less able it is to absorb UV-B rays. It also depends on how much skin is exposed and the time of day. If you’re fair skinned and sunning yourself outside in a bathing suit at noon, you only need a few minutes without sunscreen. If you’re already tan or of Hispanic origin, you need maybe 15 to 20 minutes. Black skin may require six times the sun exposure to make the same vitamin D levels as a very fair-skinned person, but we need more research on this because the studies that have suggested this have been small. We’re starting a study later this year to establish how much skin pigmentation, clothing, sunscreen, and seasonal change affect vitamin D levels, so we should know more about all of this in the near future.
Can I make vitamin D driving in my car on a bright, sunny day on my way to work?
No. For one thing, UV radiation doesn’t penetrate glass; that’s why you can’t get a burn or tan if you’re driving with your windows closed. (The heat you feel is infrared radiation from the sun, which doesn’t have any health impact beyond making you overheated or causing sunstroke if you get an excessive amount.) Even if you’re driving in a convertible, though, you probably won’t get a good dose of UV-B rays if you’re driving in the early morning when the sun is still low in the sky. Taking a stroll during lunchtime is your best bet.
On a recent site visit to a client, I asked the wellness leader at this manufacturing location about his absenteeism rate. He shook his head and said, “It’s pretty non-existent.”
And turnover? “Same.”
When walking into the factory itself, you get the sense of a positive culture immediately. It’s in the employee’s eye contact, the easy conversations, and spontaneous laughter around.
While chatting with him just before lunch, an employee came in the door, signed in, said hello, and went back into the plant. After he left I asked, “Is he just now coming in?”
“Yeah, his shift doesn’t start until four, but he’s coming in to hang with the guys before it starts.”
This is exactly the kind of positive workplace culture that should lead to greater productivity, over and above the flatlining absenteeism and turnover. In fact, the plant manager also let me know that their production schedule had increased dramatically over the past six months. Although orders were way up, they hadn’t been able to fill the slots needed to meet the demand. Instead, employees are putting in overtime to the tune of six and seven days per week.
Despite this extra work, the employees were upbeat, positive, contributing to the common goal, and showing up to work with no one grumbling.
Clearly they established a healthy culture reflected in decreased absenteeism and increased productivity within an environment that employees want to come to work in. This is the ideal. But how did this happen?
The most visible element of their wellness culture is the ping pong room. It began with a single table just less than a year ago, and has expanded to three tables over time. In this room, the bulletin board contains the brackets for the competitions and the walls are painted with images of hip ping pong players. To encourage participation for those who are not as skilled, they have established a “developmental league.”
My conversation with the plant manager frequently returned to the fun and engaging table tennis challenges, but what made this cultural transformation work was not about the tables at all. They’re just a specific instance of a general principle.
Soccer Leagues Are Nice Too, But Insufficient In Themselves For The Same Reason
For example, we witnessed a similar cultural change at another manufacturing workplace in Europe. They could not care less about ping pong, but they loved soccer and set up four-person teams in rotating leagues that swapped around periodically. Almost everyone played. They couldn’t wait to get in, play and talk smack with their mates about this form of competitive comradery.
Absenteeism? Negligible. Turnover? Non-existent. Productivity? Consistently high.
In both cases, the tables and teams were necessary but by no means sufficient to bring about the cultural change. There were far more important elements at work that were not so obvious. For example, behind the scenes there was a clear commitment to the health of the employees from the middle and upper management. This commitment was expressed in two-way communication by reaching out to employees, gathering their thoughts, then taking those comments seriously. There were no punitive measures to compel participation. In fact, employees played over their allotted lunch hours and rules were relaxed around getting back to work.
Traditional thinking would consider all of this as sloppy work practices because the employees weren’t showing up exactly on time, fun is considered frivolous, and communications are more horizontal than top-down. However, the payback on productivity and good attitudes went well above any stray minutes missed here and there.
Even though the teams and camaraderie were the most visible expression of these healthy culture examples, had the sites not implemented key elements of support, communication, and common purpose, the ping pong rooms and soccer fields would have remained unused.
The bottom line is that a positive worksite ecosystem must be grown first, regardless of your field of play.
Bottom line? Drink as little as 1 diet drink per day, and you could get brained!
Gulping down an artificially sweetened beverage not only may be associated with health risks for your body, but also possibly your brain, a new study suggests.
They also found that those who drank one a day were nearly three times as likely to be diagnosed with dementia.
(Reuters Health) – Chronic lower back pain is equally likely to improve with yoga classes as with physical therapy, according to a new study.
Twelve weeks of yoga lessened pain and improved function in people with low back pain as much as physical therapy sessions over the same period.
About 10 percent of U.S. adults experience low back pain, but not many are happy with the available treatments, Saper and colleagues write in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The American College of Physicians advised in February that most people with low back pain should try non-drug treatments like superficial heat or massage before reaching for medications (reut.rs/2strnGw).
Physical therapy is the most common non-drug treatment for low back pain prescribed by doctors, according to Saper and colleagues. Yoga is also backed by some guidelines and studies as a treatment option, but until now no research has compared the two.
For the new study, the researchers recruited 320 adults with chronic low back pain. The participants were racially diverse and tended to have low incomes.
The participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups. One group took part in a 12-week yoga program designed for people with low back pain. Another took part in a physical therapy program over the same amount of time. People in the third group received a book with comprehensive information about low back pain and follow-up information every few weeks.
At the start of the study, participants reported – on average – moderate to severe functional impairment and pain. More than two-thirds were using pain medications.
To track participants function and pain during the study, the researchers surveyed them at six, 12, 26, 40 and 52 weeks using the Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMDQ).
Scores on the RMDQ measure for function declined – meaning function was improving – by 3.8 points over the 12 weeks in the yoga group, compared to 3.5 points in the physical therapy group. Participants who received education had an average RMDQ score decline of 2.5.
Statistically, participants ended up with similar functional improvements whether they underwent yoga, physical therapy or education.
More people in the yoga and physical therapy groups ended up with noticeable improvements in function, however.
People would feel a noticeable improvement with a four to five point drop on the RMDQ, write Dr. Douglas Chang, of the University of California, San Diego and Dr. Stefan Kertesz of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, in an accompanying editorial.
They write that 48 percent of yoga participants and 37 percent of physical therapy participants reached that goal, compared to 23 percent of people who were in the education group.
For achieving noticeable differences in pain, physical therapy was again no better or worse than yoga. After 12 weeks, people in the yoga group were 21 percentage points less likely to used pain medications than those in the education group. That difference was 22 percentage points for physical therapy versus education.
The improvements among the people in yoga and physical therapy groups lasted throughout the year, the researchers found.
“If they remain the same after one year, it’s a good bet that their improvement will continue on,” Saper told Reuters Health.
One treatment method won’t help all or even most patients, wrote Chang and Kertesz in their editorial.
“Nevertheless, as Saper and colleagues have shown, yoga offers some persons tangible benefit without much risk,” they write. “In the end, however, it represents one tool among many.”
SOURCE: bit.ly/2tlqWyc Annals of Internal Medicine, online June 19, 2017.
There are more than 500 energy drink products on the market, and their increased popularity is matched by a significant rise in energy drink-associated emergency department visits and deaths.
Manufacturers and fans of these products claim they are as safe as caffeine, but there is little evidence to support that claim.
Caffeine in doses up to 400 mg (about five cups of coffee) is generally recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration. While energy drinks usually contain caffeine, little is known about the safety of some of their other ingredients the study team writes in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
To see what effects these other components have, researchers compared physical changes in a group of 18 healthy men and women after consuming a commercially available energy drink and after drinking another concoction with the same amount of caffeine but none of the other ingredients.
Besides 320 mg of caffeine – the amount in about four cups of coffee – the energy drink contained 4 ounces of sugar, several B vitamins and a proprietary “energy blend” of taurine and other ingredients that are often found drinks like Monster Energy, Red Bull and 5-Hour Energy.
Sachin A. Shah of David Grant Medical Center on Travis Air Force Base and University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, and colleagues measured the participants’ blood pressure and used an electrocardiogram (often called an ECG or EKG) to measure heart electrical activity for 24 hours after the subjects consumed the drinks.
An ECG change known as QTc prolongation and sometimes associated with life-threatening irregularities in the heartbeat was seen after drinking the energy drink, but not after drinking the caffeine beverage, the study team reports.
Several drugs have been withdrawn from the market just for causing ECG changes of a similar magnitude, the authors note.
Blood pressure increased by close to 5 points after drinking the energy drink, but by just under 1 point after drinking the caffeine beverage. Blood pressure also remained elevated six hours later.
These changes are by no means worrisome for healthy individuals, the researchers say, but patients with certain heart conditions might need to exercise caution consuming energy drinks.
Related: Can Caffeine Kill You?
Larger studies are needed to evaluate the safety of the noncaffeine ingredients contained in energy drinks, they conclude.
“The energy drink industry claims that their products are safe because they have no more caffeine than a premium coffee house coffee,” said Dr. Jennifer L. Harris from University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity in Storrs, who wasn’t involved in the study.
“However, energy drinks also contain a proprietary ‘energy blend,’ which typically consists of stimulants and other additives. Some of these ingredients (including taurine and guarana) have not been FDA-approved as safe in the food supply, and few studies have tested the effects of caffeine consumption together with these ‘novelty’ ingredients,” she said by email.
“On top of that, energy drinks are highly marketed to adolescent boys in ways that encourage risky behavior, including rapid and excessive consumption,” she said. “As a result, emergency room visits by young people in connection with energy drinks are rising.”
Any research that compares the effects of consuming energy drinks versus caffeine alone provides important evidence for public health advocates who have urged the energy drink companies to stop targeting youth with these potentially harmful products, Harris added.
More than 5,000 cases of people who got sick from energy drinks were reported to U.S. poison control centers between 2010 and 2013, and almost half of those cases were in children did not realize what they were drinking
Energy drinks typically contain high levels of sugar and at least as much caffeine as a cup of coffee. But the drinks also often tout the energy-boosting effects of a mix of other ingredients, ranging from taurine and l-carnitine, naturally occurring amino acids, to ginseng (a Chinese herb typically used in alternative medicine). But despite this “special blend” of ingredients, studies suggest energy drinks don’t boost attention any better than a cup of coffee does.
Even just one 16-ounce energy drink can increase blood pressure and stress hormones and could put a healthy young adult at risk for heart damage, concludes a 2015 Mayo Clinic study.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says energy drinks have “no place” in the diet of children and adolescents.
For young women running on little sleep, 10 minutes of stair walking increased energy more than the amount of caffeine in a soda or half a cup of coffee, according to a small study.
This energy boost is relatively short, and overtired workers may need to do a few bouts of exercise throughout the day to keep up energy long term, the researchers write in the journal Physiology and Behavior.
“There are many people who are sleep deprived and report low energy. We focused on women because they more frequently report low energy compared to men,” said study coauthor Patrick O’Connor, a professor of kinesiology at the University of Georgia in Athens.
To compare the effects of caffeine and exercise on energy level, the study team recruited 18 female college students with average caffeine intake and physical activity levels.
The women in the study were also relatively sleep-deprived, with all reporting sleeping 6.5 hours or less per night.
Before starting the experiment, the women answered questions assessing their feelings of energy or vigor and their motivation levels.
The women also completed cognitive tests measuring their attention, short-term memory and reaction times.
Participants then received either a flour-filled placebo pill, a caffeine pill containing 50 mg of caffeine (about equivalent to a soda or half a cup of coffee), or completed a 10-minute stair-walking exercise.
After receiving a pill or doing the exercise, the women completed the cognitive tests and questionnaires two more times, 30 minutes and 50 minutes later. The women also rated their feelings of energy a third time, about an hour and 15 minutes after the experiment.
The experiment was repeated two more times over three days, to ensure that each woman experienced each experimental condition.
The researchers found that women who did 10 minutes of stair-walking reported significantly higher levels of energy than women who took the caffeine equivalent of a can of soda.
This effect lessened over time, though, and the caffeine and exercise groups had similar energy levels an hour after the experiment.
The interventions did not significantly affect attention, memory, or reaction time.
The effect of exercise in this study was fairly short-lived, O’Connor noted, but other studies suggest that multiple short bouts of exercise spread throughout the workday can offer more long-lasting energy, he said.
A person with low fitness may be fatigued by intense exercise, which could work against the positive effects they might get from it, noted Kumar, who was not involved in the study.
“For individuals who cannot have or prefer to abstain from caffeine, physical activity throughout the day is sufficient and recommended,” Kumar said by email.
Everyday ways to boost exercise and energy include, “Take the stairs versus the elevator, park in a further parking spot to increase your walking distance, walk or cycle to work or school instead of driving, and take walking breaks,” Kumar said.
“For sleep deprived office workers, especially during inclement weather, taking a 10-minute walk up the stairs can help office workers feel more energetic,” O’Connor said. “Take a break from sitting in your chair and walk up the stairs for a temporary boost in feelings of energy.”
SOURCE: bit.ly/2pJKxsV Physiology and Behavior, online March 14, 2017.