Archive for the 'Simple self-care' Category

The kitchen-counter diet

Can eating less be as simple as leaving serving dishes on the stove and off the table? According to a team of researchers from Cornell University, it can.

At this week’s Experimental Biology conference in Anaheim, Calif., researchers led by Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, shared findings of their “Serve Here; Eat There” study of 78 adults.

“We looked at whether serving foods from the kitchen counter, instead of at the table, would reduce the number of times a person refilled his or her plate,” Wansink said.

“Quite simply, it is a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind,'” he continued. “When we kept the serving dishes off the table, people ate 20% fewer calories. Men ate close to 29% less.”

The same strategy can be used to help increase the consumption of healthier foods, Wansink explained.

“If fruits and vegetables are kept in plain sight, we’ll be much more likely to choose them, rather than a piece of cake hidden in the refrigerator.”

Dining environment, plate and portion size, and other hidden cues that determine what, when and how much we eat are familiar topics in Wansink’s work. He is the author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think.

Provided by Cornell Food & Brand Lab

via New study: The kitchen-counter diet.

Brown rice and cardiovascular protection

from ScienceDaily

 ScienceDaily (Apr. 26, 2010) — Rice is generally thought to be a healthy addition to the diet because it is a source of fiber. However, not all rice is equally nutritious, and brown rice might have an advantage over white rice by offering protection from high blood pressure and atherosclerosis (“hardening of the arteries”), say researchers at the Cardiovascular Research Center and Department of Physiology at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia.

New research by Satoru Eguchi, Associate Professor of Physiology, suggests that a component in a layer of tissue surrounding grains of brown rice may work against angiotensin II. Angiotensin II is an endocrine protein and a known culprit in the development of high blood pressure and atherosclerosis.

The findings are contained in a study conducted by Dr. Eguchi and his colleague at the Temple lab, Akira Takaguri. The research team is also composed of Hirotoshi Utsunomiya and Ryohei Kono of the Department of Pathology, School of Medicine, Wakayana Medical University, Wakayama, Japan; and Shin-ichi Akazawa, Department of Materials Engineering, Nagaoka National College of Technology, Nagaoka, Japan. Dr. Takaguri will present the team’s findings at the annual 2010 Experimental Biology conference in Anaheim, CA on April 24-28. This presentation is sponsored by The American Physiological Society.

 

Brown Rice and Angiotensin II

 

The subaleurone layer of Japanese rice, which is located between the white center of the grain and the brown fibrous outer layer, is rich in oligosaccharides and dietary fibers, making it particularly nutritious. However, when brown rice is polished to make white rice, the subaleurone layer is stripped away and the rice loses some of its nutrients. The subaleurone layer can be preserved in half-milled (Haigamai) rice or incompletely-milled (Kinmemai) rice. These types of rice are popular in Japan because many people there believe they are healthier than white rice.

The Temple team and their colleagues at the Wakayama Medical University Department of Pathology and the Nagaoka National College of Technology Department of Materials Engineering in Japan sought to delve into the mysteries of the subaleurone layer and perhaps make a case for leaving it intact when rice is processed. Because angiotensin II is a perpetrator in such lethal cardiovascular diseases, the team chose to focus on learning whether the subaleurone layer could somehow inhibit the wayward protein before it wreaks havoc.

First, the team removed the subaleurone tissue from Kinmemai rice. Then they separated the tissue’s components by exposing the tissue to extractions of various chemicals such as ethanol, methanol and ethyl acetate. The team then observed how the tissue affected cultures of vascular smooth muscle cells. Vascular smooth muscle cells are an integral part of blood vessel walls and are direct victims of high blood pressure and atherosclerosis.

During their analysis, the team found that subaleurone components that were selected by an ethyl acetate extraction inhibited angiotensin II activity in the cultured vascular smooth muscle cells. This suggests that the subaleurone layer of rice offers protection against high blood pressure and atherosclerosis. It could also help explain why fewer people die of cardiovascular disease in Japan, where most people eat at least one rice-based dish per day, than in the U.S., where rice is not a primary component of daily nutrition.

“Our research suggests that there is a potential ingredient in rice that may be a good starting point for looking into preventive medicine for cardiovascular diseases,” said Dr. Eguchi. “We hope to present an additional health benefit of consuming half-milled or brown rice [as opposed to white rice] as part of a regular diet.”

 Brown rice and cardiovascular protection.

Simple approach to starting to workout

from Iamgeekfit

The Complete 1 Move, Once a Day, One Week Workout

If you have been toying with the idea of working out but don’t know how to get started – here’s a simple plan.

For one week, do one push up, once a day.

pushup.gif
That’s it.

If you can’t do a full push up from the ground, no worries, do one from your knees.

knee_pushup_3.jpg
If that’s too much for you today, that’s ok, too. Lean stand arms length away from a wall, and do a push up against the wall.

wall-push-ups.gif
Again, that’s it: one push up, once a day, one week.
WHen you finish week one, and have clocked one pushup a day, and only one, for one whole week, and want an idea for week two, shout.
Good Luck!
(Thanks to zhealth‘s (what’s zhealth?) Eric Cobb for this Week 1 workout plan)

Mosquitos like beer drinkers

Are you a mosquito magnet?  The cure may be worse than the problem but according to this research, perhaps you should cut out beer drinking.

from the Body in Mind blog

 

Malaria and alcohol consumption both represent major public health problems. Alcohol consumption is rising in developing countries and, as efforts to manage malaria are expanded, understanding the links between malaria and alcohol consumption becomes crucial. Our aim was to ascertain the effect of beer consumption on human attractiveness to malaria mosquitoes in semi field conditions in Burkina Faso.

Methodology/Principal Findings

We used a Y tube-olfactometer designed to take advantage of the whole body odour (breath and skin emanations) as a stimulus to gauge human attractiveness to Anopheles gambiae (the primary African malaria vector) before and after volunteers consumed either beer (n = 25 volunteers and a total of 2500 mosquitoes tested) or water (n = 18 volunteers and a total of 1800 mosquitoes). Water consumption had no effect on human attractiveness to An. gambiae mosquitoes, but beer consumption increased volunteer attractiveness. Body odours of volunteers who consumed beer increased mosquito activation (proportion of mosquitoes engaging in take-off and up-wind flight) and orientation (proportion of mosquitoes flying towards volunteers’ odours). The level of exhaled carbon dioxide and body temperature had no effect on human attractiveness to mosquitoes. Despite individual volunteer variation, beer consumption consistently increased attractiveness to mosquitoes.

via Don’t Drink in the Dark.

Brief meditation helps us think

ScienceDaily (Apr. 19, 2010) — Some of us need regular amounts of coffee or other chemical enhancers to make us cognitively sharper. A newly published study suggests perhaps a brief bit of meditation would prepare us just as well.

While past research using neuroimaging technology has shown that meditation techniques can promote significant changes in brain areas associated with concentration, it has always been assumed that extensive training was required to achieve this effect. Though many people would like to boost their cognitive abilities, the monk-like discipline required seems like a daunting time commitment and financial cost for this benefit.

Surprisingly, the benefits may be achievable even without all the work. Though it sounds almost like an advertisement for a “miracle” weight-loss product, new research now suggests that the mind may be easier to cognitively train than we previously believed. Psychologists studying the effects of a meditation technique known as “mindfulness ” found that meditation-trained participants showed a significant improvement in their critical cognitive skills (and performed significantly higher in cognitive tests than a control group) after only four days of training for only 20 minutes each day.

“In the behavioral test results, what we are seeing is something that is somewhat comparable to results that have been documented after far more extensive training,” said Fadel Zeidan, a post-doctoral researcher at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, and a former doctoral student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where the research was conducted.

“Simply stated, the profound improvements that we found after just 4 days of meditation training- are really surprising,” Zeidan noted. “It goes to show that the mind is, in fact, easily changeable and highly influenced, especially by meditation.”

The study appears in the April 2 issue of Consciousness and Cognition. Zeidan’s co-authors are Susan K. Johnson, Zhanna David and Paula Goolkasian from the Department of Psychology at UNC Charlotte, and Bruce J. Diamond from William Patterson University. The research was also part of Zeidan’s doctoral dissertation. The research will also be presented at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society’s annual meeting in Montreal, April 17-20.

The experiment involved 63 student volunteers, 49 of whom completed the experiment. Participants were randomly assigned in approximately equivalent numbers to one of two groups, one of which received the meditation training while the other group listened for equivalent periods of time to a book (J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit) being read aloud.

Prior to and following the meditation and reading sessions, the participants were subjected to a broad battery of behavioral tests assessing mood, memory, visual attention, attention processing, and vigilance.

Both groups performed equally on all measures at the beginning of the experiment. Both groups also improved following the meditation and reading experiences in measures of mood, but only the group that received the meditation training improved significantly in the cognitive measures. The meditation group scored consistently higher averages than the reading/listening group on all the cognitive tests and as much as ten times better on one challenging test that involved sustaining the ability to focus, while holding other information in mind.

“The meditation group did especially better on all the cognitive tests that were timed,” Zeidan noted. “In tasks where participants had to process information under time constraints causing stress, the group briefly trained in mindfulness performed significantly better.”

Particularly of note were the differing results on a “computer adaptive n-back task,” where participants would have to correctly remember if a stimulus had been shown two steps earlier in a sequence. If the participant got the answer right, the computer would react by increasing the speed of the subsequent stimulus, further increasing the difficulty of the task. The meditation-trained group averaged aproximately10 consecutive correct answers, while the listening group averaged approximately one.

“Findings like these suggest that meditation’s benefits may not require extensive training to be realized, and that meditation’s first benefits may be associated with increasing the ability to sustain attention,” Zeidan said.

“Further study is warranted,” he stressed, noting that brain imaging studies would be helpful in confirming the brain changes that the behavioral tests seem to indicate, “but this seems to be strong evidence for the idea that we may be able to modify our own minds to improve our cognitive processing — most importantly in the ability to sustain attention and vigilance — within a week’s time.”

The meditation training involved in the study was an abbreviated “mindfulness” training regime modeled on basic “Shamatha skills” from a Buddhist meditation tradition, conducted by a trained facilitator. As described in the paper, “participants were instructed to relax, with their eyes closed, and to simply focus on the flow of their breath occurring at the tip of their nose. If a random thought arose, they were told to passively notice and acknowledge the thought and to simply let ‘it’ go, by bringing the attention back to the sensations of the breath.” Subsequent training built on this basic model, teaching physical awareness, focus, and mindfulness with regard to distraction.

Zeidan likens the brief training the participants received to a kind of mental calisthenics that prepared their minds for cognitive activity.

“The simple process of focusing on the breath in a relaxed manner, in a way that teaches you to regulate your emotions by raising one’s awareness of mental processes as they’re happening is like working out a bicep, but you are doing it to your brain. Mindfulness meditation teaches you to release sensory events that would easily distract, whether it is your own thoughts or an external noise, in an emotion-regulating fashion. This can lead to better, more efficient performance on the intended task.”

“This kind of training seems to prepare the mind for activity, but it’s not necessarily permanent,” Zeidan cautions. “This doesn’t mean that you meditate for four days and you’re done — you need to keep practicing.”

Brief meditative exercise helps cognition.

Exercise Key to Fall Prevention

(PhysOrg.com) — Being able to stay in their homes and remain independent is a daily struggle for many older adults. As we age we tend to lose our flexibility, our connective tissue tightens and we have prolonged reaction times. Problems with vision, including depth perception, all increase the likelihood of falling. When a child falls it may result in a few bumps and bruises. However, the older we get, the more the ramifications of a fall escalate including being the leading cause of injury deaths in older adults and the most common cause of non-fatal injuries and hospital admissions. According to Val Walkowiak, medical integration coordinator for Loyola Center for Fitness, exercise plays a major role in preventing falls.

“Improving posture and balance helps strengthen weak muscle groups in the back, core, hips and legs. This improves mobility, which limits the fall risks,” said Walkowiak. “Maintaining upright posture is vital for daily living and function.”

For instance, it can seem that older adults are shuffling instead of walking. This is actually a way to compensation for lack of balance and poor posture. They take shorter strides, have a wider gait and tend to look at the floor to try to avoid tripping.

Working on posture, such as sitting up straight in a chair and holding abs in can strengthen key muscles groups helping to create a more normal walking gait.

Improving static balance, which is the ability to control postural sway while standing, is key to preventing falls.

“We naturally move a lot. When you stand still you actually aren’t still. Your head moves and your body moves with it to keep inline with the head,” said Walkowiak. “As we age it is important to train our brains to quickly activate the right muscles to anticipate and respond to changes in our environment such as stepping up on a curb or into a bath tub.”

more via Exercise Key to Older Adult Fall Prevention.

Meditative breathing and chronic pain

Keep breathing

Meditative breathing may help manage chronic pain

April 8, 2010

 

A new study, completed by scientists at ASU and the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, is the first to directly examine the benefits of breathing rate on physical and emotional reaction to pain. The benefit of slow breathing in relieving pain was greatest in healthy women.

(PhysOrg.com) — A new study published in the journal Pain offers support for the benefits of yoga-style breathing and meditation to help control chronic pain.

The research, completed by scientists at Arizona State University and the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, is the first to directly examine the benefits of breathing rate on physical and emotional reaction to pain.

In essence, the researchers put meditation to the test. During the study trials, participants where subjected to brief pulses of moderately painful heat on their palms. They were asked to report what they felt in three ways: how strong was the pain, how unpleasant was the pain, and how much the pain affected their emotional state

By simply instructing participants to pace their breathing to an ellipse on a screen in front of them, the researchers eliminated expectations that could bias results. By actually administering a painful heat stimulus the researchers could also control the amount of pain each person received, and could compare pain ratings made when the person was breathing normally with their slow breathing.

The study involved two groups of women – 27 diagnosed with chronic pain from Fibromyalgia and 25 healthy women of the same age.

Compared to normal breathing, slow breathing reduced ratings of pain intensity and unpleasantness as well as negative emotion. The benefit of slow breathing in relieving pain was greatest in the healthy women.

more via Meditative breathing may help manage chronic pain.