Jul 31, 2014

Yogurt and probiotic-rich foods can help lower blood pressure

A simple way to help keep your blood pressure in check is to consume plenty of probiotic-rich foods like yogurt and kefir, suggest the findings of a new scientific review. While not necessarily a cure for people with heart issues, probiotics have been shown in a multitude of clinical studies to modestly lower blood pressure, as well as balance blood sugar, cholesterol and hormone levels.

This latest investigation into the science behind probiotics found that the combined results of nine randomized, placebo-controlled studies demonstrate heart benefits associated with probiotics. Among 550 participants who took a probiotic or ate a probiotic-rich food, average systolic blood pressure levels dropped by 3.56 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), while diastolic levels dropped by 2.38 mm Hg, on average.

This is significant, as many blood pressure drugs that perform similar functions come with nasty side effects, none of which are present when taking probiotics. The key, say researchers, is consuming at least 100 billion colony-forming units of probiotics daily, which is roughly the amount found in a small carton of high-quality, authentic yogurt.

"I do not think the general public understands how probiotics might be beneficial to health at this stage," said Jing Sun from the Griffith University School of Medicine and Griffith Heart Institute in Queensland, Australia, lead author of the study. "The challenge to us is to convince patients and clinicians to accept the product in daily life."

Based on the data, taking optimal or higher amounts of probiotics daily for at least two months can produce dramatic benefits, particularly when combined with other interventions like healthy eating and regular exercise. In other words, chowing down on yogurt can be helpful, but it is also important to combine this other healthy lifestyle habits.

Probiotics are a 'functional food' that can prevent chronic illness

Beyond their heart-health benefits, researchers have concluded that probiotics are a full-spectrum "functional food," meaning they offer health benefits beyond basic nutrition. According to Lori Hoolihan, a researcher at the Dairy Council of California in Irvine, probiotics work in many ways to optimize health and prevent chronic diseases.

"Randomized clinical trials are the gold standard in research and they had a strict criteria for choosing the studies and they actually looked at human trials which are stronger than animal trials," she is quoted as saying.

"Americans don't like to think about bacteria so it's hard for people to embrace it but there are good and bad bacteria and there is no avoiding them. Our gut is home to many bacteria and if bumping up the amount of good bacteria can optimize health and prevent chronic diseases then that's a good thing," Hoolihan added.

Other helpful ways to lower blood pressure naturally through diet include reducing carbohydrate and sugar intake, as both of these things contribute to insulin resistance and metabolic dysfunction. Increasing intake of beneficial minerals like potassium, magnesium and calcium, as well as consuming healthy saturated fats like grass-fed ghee, butter, palm oil and coconut oil, is also helpful.

It is also important to increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, both through fatty fish consumption and supplementation with omega-3-rich oils like flax, hemp, cod liver and skate liver. Omega-3s have been shown in multiple studies to reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, as well as reduce other risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease.

Concerning probiotics, Sun added:

"We believe probiotics might help lower blood pressure by having other positive effects on health, including improving total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, cholesterol; reducing blood glucose and insulin resistance; and by helping to regulate the hormone system that regulates blood pressure and fluid balance."

Jul 25, 2014

Black beans lower blood pressure, reduce degenerative disease and much more

Black beans contain proteins that act as antioxidants and can lower blood pressure and remove toxic metals from the body, according to a study conducted by researchers from Mexico's National School of Biological Sciences of the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN-ENCB).

Researchers ground up dried black beans, then isolated and hydrolyzed two of the main proteins found in the Jamapa variety of black beans: fasolina and lectin. The proteins were then tested using computer simulations.

They found that the two proteins demonstrated chelating activity, meaning that they removed heavy metals from the body. In addition, when the proteins were hydrolyzed with pepsin-pancratin, they also demonstrated antioxidant and antihypertensive activity.

"With the research we have discovered the essence of the legume, and identified the nutritional components such as carbohydrates, starch, proteins, fats, phenolic compounds that have related antioxidant effects," lead researcher Gloria Davila Ortiz said.

The findings may partially explain why studies have shown beans to be so beneficial for heart health. The researchers expressed hope that their findings could lead to new treatments for preventing and treating cardiovascular disease by targeting oxidative stress and high blood pressure.

"The Jamapa black bean proteins have biological properties and nutrients that help lower glucose, cholesterol and triglycerides," Davila Ortiz said. "Thanks to a collaboration between the IPN and the National Institute of Medical Sciences and Nutrition Salvador Zubiran, diets for people with diabetes were developed and it was found that glucose in blood decreased. In the future we intend to develop products containing proteins which would be aimed at treatment and prevention of diseases, seeking specific effect on blood pressure and as an antioxidant."

Beans form the basis of many diets around the world and are also one of the least expensive foods in terms of both weight and nutrient content. Beans are known to be rich in essential nutrients, with one cup of cooked black beans including fiber (59.8 % of the recommended daily intake), protein (30.4 %), iron (20 %), folate (64 %), magnesium (30.1 %), manganese (38 %), molybdenum (172 %), phosphorus (24 %), tryptophan (56.2 %) and vitamin B1 (28 %).

Soluble fiber, like that found in beans, has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels. Indeed, clinical trials have shown that eating beans (canned or dried) reduces levels of total and LDL ("bad") cholesterol and triglycerides, while increasing levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol.

Beans are also rich in phytonutrients, which are now considered responsible for many of the health benefits of fruits and vegetables. Many of these phytonutrients have antioxidant properties.

According to a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, three of the four foods highest in antioxidants are actually beans: the red bean, the red kidney bean and the pinto bean. Another study, conducted by the Colorado State University Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, also found that red beans were highest in antioxidants, but ranked black beans at number two. This study found that antioxidant content was linked with a dark color in the bean's coat, because the pigments in the seed are produced by antioxidant phytonutrients such as phenols and anthocyanins.

Antioxidants remove free radicals from the body and are believed to thereby lower the risk of chronic diseases and slow the effects of aging. Indeed, beans have been linked with many of the health effects associated with antioxidants: a lower risk of diabetes, obesity, degenerative diseases, and a wide variety of cancers.

Jul 18, 2014

Eat more licorice and enjoy these hidden benefits

Licorice is a favorite snack food for many people. Due to its sweet flavor and chewy consistency, it is the snack of choice for people of all ages. This candy, however, is not the only form of licorice and the chemicals and added sugars rule cancel out any health benefits. Licorice has been used for medicinal purposes for a number of years. For this purpose, licorice comes in both tablet and capsule forms. Additionally, there are licorice teas that can be enjoyed.

Even though licorice is sweeter than sugar by fifty times, it contains significantly fewer calories than the refined kind. This makes licorice the ideal snack for someone who wants to satisfy their sweet tooth without consuming a lot of extra calories. In addition, there are modern day benefits to licorice.

Could help clear up the skin

For those people who have acne, increasing their consumption of products that contain licorice could be helpful. Korean research has recently shown promising results of an ointment containing licorice and applied to the face. Scars and spots from acne have been reduced as well as the itching associated with eczema and psoriasis.

Might help with weight loss

Even though studies that are targeted for this benefit are still in their early stages, the preliminary feedback is promising. Licorice contains a flavonoid oil that might help reduce the amount of body fat that a person has.

Could help regulate hormones

As women age, their hormone levels begin to fluctuate. This can result in a range of symptoms including hot flashes, depression, weight gain and more. Recent research has shown, however, that women can find relief from hot flashes by about 80 percent when they consume licorice. This is because there is a compound in licorice that mimics estrogen, helping to reduce symptoms.

May help provide relief from ulcers

Those people who suffer from stomach ulcers, often caused by the stresses of modern living, could find relief by ingesting licorice. If an individual is feeling stressed, a good way to help reduce the stomach acid that often forms is by relaxing with a hot cup of licorice tea.

Can help stop cold sore formation

Cold sores, caused by the herpes virus, can cause a great deal of social stigma for those who suffer from them. There is research, however, that shows that licorice can help reduce their severity. Licorice contains compounds that help increase the production of protein that is released by the body in response to viruses and other types of pathogens.

Licorice has many relaxing and medicinal benefits that make it a vital part of any pantry. While there are a variety of candies available that have licorice in them, tea, tablets and capsules provide better methods that people can utilize to enjoy the benefits of licorice.

Jul 11, 2014

Walking and running can halve the chance of brain cancer

Running and walking reduce the likelihood of your developing a brain tumour. Walking for 36-72 minutes every day or jogging for 15-30 minutes gives optimal protection. Bio-statistician Paul Williams at Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory discovered this after following 150,000 runners and walkers for over ten years.

Williams has devoted his work to the National Runners’ and Walkers’ Health Studies, a large-scale epidemiological project which contains data on 111,266 runners and 42,136 walkers, and continues to publish study after study. In previous years Williams has shown that running can reduce the chance of wear and tear on joints – at least if you are not overweight, and that runners put on weight if they start to run less.

In May 2014 Williams presented the results of a study, in which he examined the relationship between running, walking and brain cancer. Brain cancer is relatively rare, and scientists know little about the lifestyle factors that can protect against it.

Williams expressed the participants’ physical activity in MET-hours per day. Scientists say that we need to get in 1.8 MET-hours a day. That’s the equivalent of 36 minutes of walking or 15 minutes of jogging.

The runners and walkers that managed to do 1.8 MET-hours a day or more were less likely to develop brain cancer than the participants who did less. The evidence was strongest for the over 50s.

Participants who walked for more than 72 minutes or jogged for longer than half an hour were not better protected than participants who did 36-72 minutes of walking or 15-30 minutes of jogging.

The most common form of brain cancer is glioma. In-vitro studies have shown that IGF-1 stimulates the growth of glioma cells. Williams believes that physical exercise helps the muscles to absorb more IGF-1 from the blood, making less IGF-1 available for cancer cell growth.

“Although our analyses cannot test whether exercise specifically improves survival in brain cancer patients, it is not unreasonable to expect that if physical activity decreases the risk of incident glioma, it might also extend survival “, Williams concludes.

Jul 4, 2014

Bodybuilding with protein-rich diet is healthier

Strength training will result in more muscle mass when combined with a protein-rich diet. Nothing new here, but that strength training combined with a protein-rich diet is healthier might be news to you. Researchers at Pusan National University in South Korea reach this conclusion in a small human study.

The Koreans got 18 males in their twenties, none of whom had previously done weight training, to do strength training for a period of 12 weeks. The men did working sets with 60-80 percent of the weight with which they could just manage 1 rep.

Half of the subjects ate a more or less ‘normal’ diet during the experiment. The energy in their diet consisted of 60 percent energy derived from carbohydrates, 15 percent from protein and the remaining 25 percent from fat. [norm.-prot.]

The other half of the men ate a protein-rich diet. In that diet the energy was derived for 55 percent from carbohydrates, 30 percent from protein and 15 percent from fat. [high-prot.]

Both groups consumed the same amount of kilocalories.

After the training period the researchers discovered that the men who had followed the high-protein diet had built up more lean body mass. This was not the case for the men who had consumed a normal amount of protein in their diet. The body fat percentage had declined in both groups, but the decrease was bigger in the men who had eaten more protein.

The Koreans detected no dramatic effects of the combination of strength training and a high-protein diet on IGF-1, cortisol and testosterone levels. What they did observe was that there was considerably more growth hormone circulating in the blood of the subjects in the high-protein group than in the subjects that had eaten less protein.

The HOMA-IR – a measure of insulin resistance – decreased in the men who had consumed a lot of protein. This meant that their cells became more sensitive to insulin, which is a positive sign.

Moreover, the cholesterol balance of the men who had eaten the high-protein diet improved. Their amount of ‘good cholesterol’ HDL increased.

“In conclusion, these findings suggest that there are hormonal interactions to ameliorate body composition, metabolic profiles, and energy metabolism after a long term higher protein diet and resistance exercise”, the researchers summarise. “However, replication studies with various types of resistance exercise programs and high protein diet are required in order to confirm the results of the present study for current practice in the field.”