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What makes potato chips addictive?

Many people may wonder why, when sitting with a bag of potato chips, it seems almost impossible to have only one. The reason for this inability to stop eating may not just be habit: There could be science behind it, found in the food itself.

The danger of junk food
According to a King Features Syndicate column, eating junk food is a real danger. The source notes how people in the U.S. are seemingly addicted to snacks that are high in fat and sugar. In order to deter this, they suggest giving up at least one treat per week and increasing physical activity. Figuring out why these foods are addictive may also be advantageous.

A scientific condition may keep people eating
At a meeting of the American Chemical Society, Tobias Hoch, Ph.D., explained why potato chips may have this effect. Hoch conducted a study that looked into the condition, referred to as “hedonic hyperphagia.”

“It’s recreational over-eating that may occur in almost everyone at some time in life,” Hoch said. “And the chronic form is a key factor in the epidemic of overweight and obesity that here in the U.S. threatens health problems for two out of every three people.”

Hoch, along with other researchers in Erlangen, Germany used rats to test how this over-eating worked. The team gave one half of the rats potato chips to eat and the other half plain rat food.

The researchers looked at the brain activity of these rats to see how their reactions differed based on what they ate. They discovered that the reward and addiction brain centers of the potato chip group were most active.

Previously, researchers believed that fat and carbohydrates made people want to eat. The scientists claim that the levels of both these were the same in the potato chips and the rodent chow. Therefore, something else may have been a culprit.

Though scientists were unable to identify the specific element that accounted for the chip consumption, they did note the effect that it had in the reward centers of rats’ brains. The study concluded that because individuals get reward signals from the food, they feel attracted to it.

Finding the reason behind people’s desire to snack on junk food may help stop this bad habit. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 715,000 people in the U.S. have a heart attack every year. By promoting good health, and eliminating fatty foods like potato chips, more individuals may avoid this issue.

Establishing Your “Healthy Aging” Plan

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight.

Today’s topic:
Establishing Your “Healthy Aging” Plan

Learn from the Okinawans & the People of the Mediterranean!

First and foremost — slow down. Relax a little. Definitely don’t stress about it!

Now, take a leisurely but long and honest look at your lifestyle. While you’re relaxing is a good time to ask yourself: Is the way I eat fostering “old age” or is it promoting Healthy Aging?

A sensible way to assess the contribution your nutritional practices are making to your ability to age healthfully is to compare them to the information in our healthy aging posts.

Then, in a stepwise fashion, think about making incremental changes to your habits that will lead you down the path of health and wellness. Think of the core elements that we’ve talked about time and again. These include the fundamentals of diet, lifestyle, and nutritional therapy. Now, thinking about each one, assess where you may be deficient and then give some thought to incorporating healthy principles into your daily living.

Taking it one step further, your therapeutic nutritional regimen should work as follows: the foundational nutrients should include a high-quality, complete multivitamin and multimineral formula that has sufficient levels of essential nutrients and includes additional antioxidants. Given the immense benefits of essential fatty acids from fish oil, these should be a part of the foundational plan. A high-potency, purified fish oil product is best. In addition to these supplements, a final one to include in this foundation is a probiotic bacterial supplement that contains multiple friendly strains and that is certified to contain what it states on the label.

Now reassess your dietary habits and your lifestyle, along with any specific areas of need or support you have, and build on your foundation based on your needs. For example, if you’re not getting adequate levels of antioxidants in your diet, you may need to add additional ones. This can be accomplished in many ways, including by adding a greens drink to your regimen. Furthermore, if you need to support your joints, cognitive function, or heart health, you would add nutrients specifically targeted to those areas. In this way, you start with the fundamental core of nutrients and then add based on your individual situation. This ensures you achieve the comprehensive support you are looking for in order to age healthfully. Lastly, if you need guidance, don’t hesitate to check with your naturopathic physician or nutritionally-informed healthcare practitioner. It could be the wisest investment you’ll ever make. So, if you need help, ask for it!

Tier I — Diet and Lifestyle

Most of the food you eat should consist of fruits and vegetables as well as some whole grains (but not too many grain-based foods; they pack a sizeable caloric wallop). Five servings of fruits and five servings of vegetables every day will go a long way toward keeping you healthy. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables — during the course of a week, your 35 servings of fruits should include at least 10 different kinds of fruit — go ahead and stretch your sense of adventure beyond apples, oranges and bananas. Eat some blueberries, fresh grapes, pineapple, papaya — you get the idea.

The same for vegetables — 35 servings a week, with 5 or fewer being any form of potatoes. Carrots, lettuce and tomatoes are great — but use your imagination. Replace a plate of fries with a bell pepper (green, red, yellow or orange) stuffed with mushrooms. Rotate different varieties of squash and zucchini. Cucumbers aren’t just for sandwiches. And olives — how can you go wrong? Don’t be afraid to actually try some of those “unusual” vegetables available in the stores. Eat a rainbow of colors, as those colors represent something healthy that your body has an essential need for.

Get adequate amounts of protein in your diet. Try to remember that the healthiest protein sources for human adults do not come from mammals. You’ve heard this before — fish every day, poultry several times a week and eggs as often as you like. View dairy foods (even the so-called “fat-free” ones) as beverages or sweet treats and not as components of a healthy diet. Eat very lean red meats on occasion to add some variety to meals, but don’t fall into the “meat and potatoes” trap. And don’t forget — beans and legumes are a great substitute for animal protein once in a while.

Snack on raw nuts and seeds as they are good sources of essential, healthy fats. Don’t overdo it, though. They are calorie-rich.

Forget salt and sugar — you’ll get all you need and then some from the fruits and vegetables that form the base of your relationship to food. Add spices to spice up your life — switch to some real taste enhancers — herbs, spices such as turmeric, ginger, coriander, cayenne, cinnamon, pepper — condiments that taste great, are less filling and are health-promoting.

Lastly, don’t forget the importance of establishing a routine regimen of physical activity and exercise. Alternate this with a spiritual practice or some form of meditation, such as yoga. These routines will help you cope with daily stress.

Tier II — Your Nutrition Insurance Policy

Of course, day-to-day life has its ups and downs, and it’s not realistic to plan on always being able to keep up with your dietary ideals, no matter how motivated and well-intentioned you may be. Besides, there’s no way you can maximize your nutritional health through foods alone — you just can’t eat a dozen oranges, snack on a bushel of wild berries or wolf down 5 pounds of even the tastiest broiled salmon every day. Or even every other day. Also realize that the nutritional value of our foods has decreased over the years due to irregularities in soil nutrient content, over-planting and over-harvesting.

In the real world, everyone needs a nutritional insurance policy — and individualized, carefully selected and targeted high-quality dietary supplements are the answer.

As we discussed above, the “basic” policy is provided by a superior multivitamin, multimineral supplement. Daily use will smooth out the fluctuations in your needs and food choices and can fill in any temporary gaps that might occur on any particular day.

In general, a superior vitamin and mineral supplement for an adult should provide:

  • Vitamin A
  • Thiamin
  • Riboflavin
  • Niacin
  • Biotin
  • Folic Acid
  • Pantothenic acid
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K
  • Calcium
  • Chromium
  • Iodine
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc
  • Selenium
  • Molybdenum
  • Potassium

In addition to a superior multivitamin and multimineral supplement, you should add supplemental fish oil and a probiotic supplement. Quality products are essential to ensure you’re getting all of the good they offer and none of the bad – in terms of contamination, rancidity, certified strains, etc.

Beyond that, give consideration to adding a “whole foods” dietary supplement containing fruit and vegetable extracts or powders, if your dietary habits haven’t reached the healthy plateau yet. A fun and refreshing alternative is a “whole foods” liquid beverage packed with all of these nutrients plus a broad spectrum of phytochemicals, the dietary fiber of fruits and vegetables, and the other, so far unidentified, healthy food factors that nicely complement the purified vitamins and minerals in your basic supplement. A couple of these drinks a day can make up for any servings of fruits or vegetables you might happen to miss.

Tier III — Individualize and Target Your Coverage

The judicious selection and then faithful consumption of other dietary supplementation will allow you to focus on your greatest personal concerns. Want extra immune support? A concentrated bioflavonoid mix may be helpful. Joint support? Think glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acid, etc. If heart health concerns you, you may want to include CoQ10 and alphalipoic acid, among others in your daily “Tier III” supplemental nutrition plan for Healthy Aging. Looking for an edge in mental performance, memory, mental clarity, quick thinking? Consider folic acid, the omega-3 fish oils EPA and DHA, dark green leafy vegetables, blueberries, phosphatidylserine, N-acetylcysteine, vinpocetine and other brain-friendly phytonutrients.

Need help deciding? Consult a naturopathic physician or nutritionally-oriented health care practitioner.

Despite what you may want to think, it is impossible to take every supplement that could help improve your health. That’s why the basis of your nutrition plan for Healthy Aging is healthy food choices. Your dietary habits are of the utmost importance. Nonetheless, everyone can benefit from first identifying their own most urgent needs and then targeting their personalized nutrition plan for Healthy Aging accordingly.

Healthy Aging — Go For It!

Although Mark Twain said, “The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d druther not,” when you embrace a positive lifestyle — eating healthfully, exercising moderately and joyfully filled with a sense of purpose, passion and social engagement — you will find that Healthy Aging is a journey well worth pursuing.

A Blueprint for Healthy Aging

  • A healthy diet is the foundation of healthy aging.
  • Fill in the gaps with individualized and targeted dietary supplementation.
  • Build on that core with daily physical activity and exercise.
  • Never use tobacco products and drink red wine at dinner and in moderation.
  • Embrace your life as it is, and let a desire to improve — not ambition — guide you.
  • Become inspired by whatever makes you truly happy and fulfilled
  • Turn your back on stress and learn to relax.
  • Turn toward the meaningful people in your life and allow their love and friendship to restore your energy.
  • Rekindle your trust in others.
  • Exercise your mind and challenge it to retain a positive outlook and attitude.
  • Laugh once in a while and smile often.
  • Maintain balance in all things.

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A little extra vitamin E may boost heart function in former smokers

New research shows that taking a specific form of vitamin E may help accelerate the health benefits of quitting smoking.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking is the nation’s leading preventable cause of death, linked to 443,000 deaths per year, mostly in the form of lung cancer or ischemic hearth disease. Luckily, quitting smoking shows immediately health benefits to anyone who can put down the pack, notes the American Cancer Society. Within hours of quitting smoking, heart rate and blood pressure fall, and within three months both lung function and circulation are improved. Though the body does heal quickly, the damage brought about by smoking can still require a long healing process. It can take as much as ten years for the heart of a former smoker to resemble one of someone who has never smoked, according to Time magazine.

A University of Ohio research team has recently found that an extra dose of a special form of vitamin E  may help boost  the health effects of quitting smoking. For the study, doctors recruited smokers to quit for seven days, with blood markers of inflammation to be measure before and after the trial. Half of the study participants were given and gama-tocopherol form of vitamin E, in addition to abstaining from cigarettes smoking. While all participants showed a marked increase in cardiac function of at least 2.8 percent, those who took the additionally vitamin E supplement saw an additional 1.5 percent increase on average.

The form of vitamin E used in the study is not the type common in over- the-counter supplements. The most common form of vitamin E, the one which humans have a dietary requirement for, is alpha tocopherol. The gamma version of the vitamin is the most common variant found in foods regularly consumed, including peanuts, soy beans, pistachios and cashews.

“We used the gamma tocopherol type in contrast to virtually all other vitamin E studies that use alpha tocopherol,” said study lead author Dr. Richard Bruno, PhD. “Alpha tocopherol  is the one that we know the most about. It is the form that we know is required for humans, but gamma tocopherol is the most abundant form. We used the gamma tocopherol form because not only does it have antioxidant activity, like alpha tocopherol, but recent evidence indicates that it also has effective ability to lower inflammation and also trap what we call reactive nitrogen species. These are chemicals generated in the body that can lead to damage to various proteins.”

Chocolate may protect the brain in a variety of ways

Consuming chocolate in moderate amounts has been shown to be potentially beneficial to physical health as it rich in antioxidants. Recent research now demonstrates that chocolate may also contain ingredients that are actually good for the brain.

One report published in the Journal of Cellular Biochemistry demonstrated that compounds in chocolate activate a neuroprotective pathway that has a direct effect on preventing the death of neurons. Neuron death is responsible for the escalating mental and physical impairment association with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

A separate study published in American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension indicates that flavinols contained in cocoa were effective in reducing the effects of mild cognitive impairment in older adults.

Protecting against neuronal death 
Researchers from University of L’Aquila in Italy found that polyphenols, a class of chemical compounds found in cocoa products, stimulated the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in cells treated with beta amyloid plaque or beta amyloid oligomers treated.

Plaques, and their forerunners in the brain oligomers, are both associated Alzheimer’s disease.Beta amyloid is thought to disrupt the communication between neurons, ultimately leading to their death.

The neuroprotective pathway opened by the chocolate also reversed some of the plaque related damage, according to the report

“Our studies indicate for the first time the cocoa polyphenols do not act only as mere anti-oxidant but they, directly or indirectly, activate the BDNF survival pathway counteracting neuronal death” said study lead researcher Annamaria Cimini in a statement, according to Medical Daily.

Study researchers also noted that chocolate’s ability to stimulate the production of BDNF could also offer benefits such as cancer prevention, immune system boosting, pain relief and depression remediation.

Helping to alleviate mild cognitive impairment 
A separate study of 90 elderly participants with mild cognitive impairment found that daily consumption of cocoa flavinols – a sub-group of polyphenols - showed improved cognitive function in some areas.

Participants were divided into three groups that consumed either 990 milligrams, 520 mg or 45 mg of a dairy-based cocoa flavanol drink for eight weeks. Flavanol consumption from other sources was restricted during that time period. Cognitive function was then tested by evaluating short-term memory, long-term episodic memory, working memory, executive function, processing speed and global cognition.

The study found that those drinking higher levels of the flavanols scored much higher than those who consumed less.

“This study provides encouraging evidence that consuming cocoa flavanols, as a part of a calorie-controlled and nutritionally-balanced diet, could improve cognitive function,” said Dr. Giovambattista Desideri, M.D., study lead author. “The positive effect on cognitive function may be mainly mediated by an improvement in insulin sensitivity. It is yet unclear whether these benefits in cognition are a direct consequence of cocoa flavanols or a secondary effect of general improvements in cardiovascular function.”

The study also demonstrated that patients with the highest consumption rates also showed better working memory, verbal memory and  task-switching skills than those who consumed the medium flavanol amount.

Insulin resistance, oxidative stress and blood pressure were also showed to be lower among study participants who drank high and intermediate levels of flavanols daily.

Researchers noted that while the results are encouraging, additional studies will be required to validate the findings, particularly among individuals with health issues aside from cognitive impairment. Participants were all in otherwise good health during the study.

Three surprising cardio boosters

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The treatment of those with cardiac disease cost more than $100 million per year in the U.S. in 2013 and many have predicted that amount will double by the year 2030 as baby-boomers are continuing to enter old age.

There are many recommendations out there to improve cardiac health: quitting smoking, cutting back on fatty food keeping cholesterol under control and exercising are all highly recommended for those who want to keep their heart and circulatory system in peak operating condition. However, there are also some less known cardiac boosters that heart health enthusiasts can look into to keep their optimally.

Hibiscus flower tea 
According to Care2.com, hibiscus flower tea may be a huge aid to those looking to lower their blood pressure. The lightly cranberry flavored tea acts a diuretic and brings down the volume of water in the body. It is also naturally packed with phytonutrients called anthocyanins that work to block the compounds that cause blood vessel constriction.

Black walnuts
English, or black, walnuts are rich in antioxidants and contain minerals and fatty acids such as linoleic acid and linolenic acid. A 2011 study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin also demonstrated that the consumption of 1 ounce of black walnuts per day were linked to improved blood lipid levels and superior processing of consumed saturated fats{,} with no side effects such as weight gain. Though researchers did advise more study, they noted that black walnuts could be added to a cardio-protective regime.

Vitamin C
The ultimate health utility player, vitamin C has been linked to general improved immune response and to being helpful against specific conditions like the common cold. It can also help your heart, notes Care2.com. The vitamin has been linked to such favorable health events such as potentially reducing high blood pressure; preventing the hardening of the arteries, lowering cholesterol and repairing damaged arterial walls.