Dr Dingle's Blog / disease

Essential Sleep (Part 5). Sleep and weight gain

Essential Sleep (Part 5). Sleep and weight gain

Sleep and weight

Obesity in another disorder linked with insomnia. Research shows that diets that are higher in saturated fats are more susceptible to chronic diseases and disorders which includes insomnia (Novak et al. 1995). This is an alarming fact as 20% of the population of the United States of American are overweight or obese (Patterson et al. 2004).

Many studies, including one spanning twenty years, have tested the hypothesis that sleep and obesity are linked and the majority of results show positive correlations (Gangwisch et al. 2005). Further studies, with over 500,000 total participants via meta‑analysis have supported obesity and insomnia in adults and children (Cappuccio et al. 2008). The trends of increasing BMI and reduced sleep hours appear to go hand in hand, along with sleeping troubles related to Sleep Apnoea often seen in obese patients.

This link between Obesity and the symptoms of its associated diseases demonstrates a common trend towards diminishing an individual’s peak performance. Obesity and many of the health conditions which result from it increase the lower productivity levels associated with lower mental and cognitive functioning.

Obesity is also a serious factor in poor sleep habits. In a number of studies obesity was associated with "reduced sleeping hours " (Ko et al (2007). Obesity, particularly abdominal and upper body obesity, is the most significant risk factor for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Patients with sleep apnea often experience daytime sleepiness and difficulty concentrating (Teran-Santos et al, 1999). Studies have also shown a strong association between sleep apnea and the risk of traffic accidents (Terán-Santos et al (1999).  In fact, subjects suffering from sleep apnea were at a higher risk than those who had consumed alcohol to be involved in a traffic accident. This has major implications, particularly for overweight and obese workers using any form of equipment of driving vehicles.

This lack in sleep will then leave the employee going to the work already feeling tired, irritable and stressed, therefore making it difficult to concentrate, and highly increasing the chances of being injured or making a mistake which may put fellow workmates in danger (Lynch, 2005) It is situations like this, where the worker comes to work already feeling tired, that the employee is putting his safety and other's safety at risk.

Shift workers are known to be a high-risk group for obesity. In the current study population, rotating-shift workers showed a higher distribution of the highest body mass index compared with daytime workers

In a study of the brains of 24 participants after both a good and a bad night’s sleep. after disturbed sleep, there was increased activity in the depths of the brain, areas which are generally associated with rewards and automatic behaviour. It seems a lack of sleep robs people of their self-control and so their good intentions are quickly forgotten.

What we have discovered is that high-level brain regions required for complex judgments and decisions become blunted by a lack of sleep, while more primal brain structures that control motivation and desire are amplified.”

In other words: lack of sleep robs people of their self-control and so their good intentions are quickly forgotten.

On top of this, the researchers found that after being deprived of sleep, participants displayed greater craving for high-calorie junk food. The more sleep-deprived they were, the greater the cravings. A stufy of 13,284 teenagers found that those who slept poorly also made poor decisions about food. Similarly, a Swedish study found that at a buffet, tired people were more likely to load up their plates.

The link has even been made from poor sleep through to food shopping. A Swedish study found that men who were sleep-deprived bought, on average, 9% more calories than those who’d had a good night’s sleep. These results were likely the result of the poor decision-making. It had been thought that the tendency to eat more after poor sleep was related to the so-called ‘hunger hormone’ ghrelin. But the latest studies suggest that it’s simple self-control that is most important in causing the sleep-deprived to over-indulge.

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Essential Sleep (Part 3)

Essential Sleep (Part 3)

Sleep problems

Many sleep problems but by far the biggest is sleep deprivation and poor sleep. However too much sleep can also be a problem. Over sleeping may also be a problem. In one study sleeping 10 hours or more also increased the mortality rates by one and a half times.

 Sleep Deprivation

Sleep is as important to the human body as food and water, but most of us don't get enough sleep. Dysoninia (poor sleep) related sleep disorders alone are broken into Intrinsic, Extrinsic and Circadian‑Rhythm sleep disorders including disorders such as but not limited to: "Psychophysiologic Insomnia, Sleep State Misperception Idiopathic Insomnia, Narcolepsy, Recurrent Hypersomnia, Idiopathic Hypersomnia...Restless Legs Syndrome & Intrinsic Sleep Disorder NOS" (MSM, 2001, pp. 27).

Risk factors for sleep related illness are diet, lifestyle, occupation, stress and grief, amongst many others (Helmanis, 2006 pp. 24‑25).

Almost 90 per cent of Australians suffer from some type sleep disorder at some stage of their lives. Of these, 30 per cent suffer from severe sleep disorders. Very few people regularly enjoy the amount, or quality of sleep that they need. The estimated economic costs to the country from this are between 3 and 7 billion dollars annually. There are also huge, unmeasured physical, psychological, emotional and social costs.

Insomnia

Causative factors for insomnia may be multifaceted but generally include some psycho physiologic hyperarousal or emotional distress. Other precursors may be pain, movement disorders, psychiatric disorders, circadium rhythm dysfunction, medication and substance abuse (Billiard and Bentley, 2004). In some cases, the risk of insomnia is subject to a genetic bias. However, specific physiologic indicators for the familial influence have not been fully identified (Parkes and Lock, 2009).

 Insomnia is the difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep or both resulting in inadequate quality or quantity of sleep (Tomoda et al, 2009). Insomnia can manifest itself by many symptoms from not being able to sleep at normal hours and low quality and quantity of sleep to sleeping but not finding it refreshing. Other symptoms may include daytime sleepiness, frequent waking, early morning waking and difficulty retuning to sleep (Cureresearch.com, 2005).

Most adults have experienced insomnia or sleeplessness at one time or another in their lives (Straker, 2008). It is estimated that insomnia effects around 30-50% of the general population with 10% experiencing chronic insomnia (Straker, 2008). It has been estimated that in the US that 70 million people suffer sleep problems, and of these, 30 million suffer chronic insomnia (Stahura and Martin, 2006). Recently a survey showed that 1046 of the 2000 adults surveyed experience at least one night of lost sleep due to insomnia symptoms; the survey also concluded that insomnia is a growing issue of concern (Goolsby, 2006).

Insomnia generally affects women more than men and the incidence rate tends to increase with age (Straker, 2008).

There is a clear correlation of age to insomnia (Curless et a!. 1993). A number of surveys have reported between 28% and 64% of post menopausal women suffer from insomnia (Hachul de Campos et al. 2006).

Insomnia can be classified into three categories transient, short-term and chronic insomnia (Tomoda et al, 2009). Transient insomnia are symptoms lasting less than one week, short term insomnia are symptoms lasting between one-three weeks and chronic insomnia are those symptoms lasting longer than three weeks (Tomoda, 2009).

Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that causes overwhelming and severe day time sleepiness (Retsas et al, 2000). Pathologic sleepiness is characterised by the fact that it occurs at inappropriate times and places (Retsas et al, 2000). These daytime sleep attacks may occur with or without warning and can occur repeatedly in a single day (Edgar et al, 2006). People who suffer from Narcolepsy often have fragmented night time sleep with frequent brief awakenings (Edgar et al, 2006).

Narcolepsy is typically characterised by the following four symptoms:

Excessive daytime sleepiness (90%)

Cataplexy: A sudden and temporary loss of muscle tone often triggered by emotions such as laughter. (75%)

Hallucinations: Vivid dreamlike experiences that occur while falling asleep or upon wakening. (30%)

Sleep paralysis: Paralysis that occurs most often upon falling asleep or waking up. The person is unable to move for a few minutes. (25%) (Retsas et al, 2000)

Interestingly, regular night time sleep schedule and scheduled naps during the day is required for favourable outcomes (Edgar et al, 2006).

Sleep Apnoea

Sleep apnoea affects over 12 million Americans with it being more prevalent in men than women (Sjosten et al, 2009).  Sleep apnoea not only deprives sleep from the individual but their partners too (Yip, 2001). Sleep apnoea is defined as frequent and loud snoring and breathing cessation for at least 10 second for five or more episodes per hour followed by awakening abruptly with a loud snort as the blood oxygen level drops (Sjorsten et al, 2009).   People with sleep apnoea can experience anywhere between 5 apnoeic episodes per hour to several hundred per night (Sjorsten et al, 2009).

Symptoms of sleep apnoea are:

Excessive daytime sleepiness

Morning headaches

Sore throat

Intellectual deterioration

Personality changes

Behavioural disorders

Obesity

(Yip, 2001)

Obesity is the major cause of sleep apnoea often losing weight is all that is need to treat this disorder (Yip, 2001).

 

Part 3 and more coming

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Essential Sleep (Part 2)

Essential Sleep (Part 2)

The benefits of sleep include:

Feeling rested;

Being physically and mentally alert;

Having more energy;

Making fewer mistakes (including causing accidents);

Feeling psychologically and emotionally recovered;

and to experience:

Improved cognitive function;

Improved memory;

Higher stress tolerance and resilience;

Increased productivity;

Normal body balance;

Healthier weight;

Reduced risk of CVD, diabetes and cancer;

Living longer; and

Feeling healthier. 

during sleep the mind is cataloguing our memories and deciding what to keep and what to throw away it is making memories stronger. It also seems to be reorganizing and restructuring memories.

It’s not possible to learn something new when you sleep, like a foreign language, but you can reinforce something you already know.One study found that students learned to play a series of musical notes better after listening to them during a 90-minute nap. The research shows that memory is strengthened for something you’ve already learned. Rather than learning something new in your sleep.

A review of studies on sleep found that we tend to hold on to the most emotional parts of our memories.

Getting enough sleep is associated with energy, joy, optimistic thinking and coping with negative emotions. 

Stages of Sleep                                                                           

Sleep Stage

Brain Waves

Common Characteristics

Frequency

Type

 

 

Stage 1

NREM

 

 

4 to 8

 

 

Alpha

& Theta

 

Transition between sleep and wakefulness

Eyes begin to roll and close

Consists of mostly theta waves with some brief periods of alpha waves (similar to waves of wakefulness)

Stage lasts 5-10 mins

 

 

 

Stage 2

NREM

 

 

8 to 15

 

 

Theta, Spindles,

k-complexes

 

Brain wave peaks become higher

Spontaneous periods of muscle tone mixed with periods of muscle relaxation

Heart rate  and temperature decrease

Stage last 5-10 mins

 

 

Stage 3

NREM

 

2 to 4

 

Delta, Theta

 

Deep Sleep or Delta sleep

Very slow brain waves

 

 

Stage 4

NREM

 

0.5 to 2

 

Delta, Theta

 

The last of deep sleep before REM begins.

Consist mostly of Delta waves

 

 

 

Stage 5

 REM

 

 

 

≥ 12

 

 

 

Beta

 

Beta waves have a high frequency and occur when the brain is active when asleep and awake.

Frequent bursts of rapid eye movement (REM) and muscle twitches.

Increase in heart and breathing rate

Vivid dreaming occurs here.

(Cook and Nendick, 2007)

Circadian Cycle

When a person falls asleep and wakes up is largely determined by their circadian rhythm, a day-night cycle of about 24 hours. Circadian rhythms greatly influence the timing, amount and quality of sleep (Lockley et al. 1997).

Literally hundreds of circadian rhythms have been identified in mammals (Campbell 1993). Among the numerous systems and functions mediated by the circadian timing system are, hormonal output, core body temperature and metabolism. The circadian clock is believed to sit in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) located in the hypothalamus of the brain. It was thought that processes now linked with circadian timing e.g. sleep wake cycles, were due solely to environmental cues, for example solar activity, it is now recognised however that these biological rhythms are regulated by factors inherent to the organism (Campbell 1993). A circadian rhythm displays a 24 hour cycle of wakefulness and sleep synchronised with the world’s night/day clock (Mansuy et al, 2003).  Everyone’s cycle will vary depending on behavioural and psychological factors (Mansuy et al, 2003).  The most typical pattern will be low alertness in the mornings as we wake, to highly alert mid afternoon (Swain et al, 2007).

The natural circadian rhythm in the body, which maintains a regular sleep-wake cycle, makes important contributions to physiological processes and psychological health. The normal rhythm is reset daily by the influence of bright light in the morning. Shift-workers, who may work at night and sleep in the daytime, and blind people may have difficulty maintaining a normal sleep-wake cycle because the natural environmental cues are miss-timed (Morris 1999). Studies show that shift work is one the greatest influencing factor causing an alteration in an individual’s cycle along with sleeping disorders (Baulk, 2008).  Altering the circadian cycle can lead to periods of decreased alertness leaving people extremely vulnerable to accidents and injuries (Andersen et al, 2009).

Our sleep patterns appear to be polyphasic. In one experiment, subjects were exposed to 14 hours of darkness; then they remained in a state of quiet rest for about two hours before falling asleep.  They then slept for four hours, awakened from a dream, spent another two-hour period in quiet rest, and then fell asleep again for four hours more.  The subjects awoke at 6 a.m. each morning from their dream sleep and then spent two hours in quiet rest before arising at 8 a.m.  These subjects followed their own natural rhythms, sleeping for eight hours with blocks of time at quiet rest (Wehr, S.E, 1996).  This polyphasic sleep appears to be a pattern in many mammals.  We experience hypnagogic imagery – a state described as dreaming, drowsy, floating, wandering – every night just before we fall asleep.  Every night before we go to sleep we spend a few minutes in a state of relaxed wakefulness characterised by drifting thoughts and alpha brainwaves.

Another interesting method for lessening the impact of sleep deprivation was through a study that found there were certain hours better to sleep through the night. A new Stanford University study on the science of sleep deprivation suggests that early­ morning sleep is more restful than a middle‑of‑the‑night nap. In a study of two groups of men they found that early‑morning sleepers scored higher on wakefulness tests and on measures of sleep efficiency. (Stratton, 2003) Although this study shows that there may some advantages to when you get your sleep it is more an avoidance of the problem rather than a solution.

We are also influenced not just by sleep but also our perceptions of its quality. If we think we’ve had a wonderful sleep last night, we feel and perform better, even if our sleep was actually the same as usual. In this study researchers randomly told some people they’d had better sleep than others after they were hooked up to some placebo brain sensors). When they were given a cognitive test the next day, those who’d been told they slept the best also did the best in the test.

 

Part 3 and more coming

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Common household disinfectants linked with birth defects, miscarriages and fertility.

Common household disinfectants linked with birth defects, miscarriages and fertility.

Quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs) are antimicrobial disinfectants commonly used in commercial and household settings and everyone is virtually exposed to these chemicals every day. Two common quaternary ammonium compounds, alkyldimethylbenzyl ammonium chloride (ADBAC) and didecyldimethyl ammonium chloride (DDAC), are combined in common cleaners and disinfectants.

In this study introduction of a cleaner containing ADBAC+DDAC in the living chambers caused neural tube defects (NTDs) in mice and rats. They found increased neural tube defects with exposure to the disinfectant combination in both rats and mice. The neural tube defects persisted for two generations after cessation of exposure.

They also found that male exposure alone was sufficient to cause neural tube defects. Equally significant, ambient exposure from disinfectant use in the cage they were kept in, influenced the levels of neural tube defects to a greater extent than oral dosing. So the ambient exposure through the air and surfaces had more impact than the feeding.

These results clearly demonstrate that ADBAC+DDAC in combination are teratogenic (birth defects) to rodents. Given the increased use of these disinfectants, further evaluation of their safety in humans and their contribution to health and disease is essential.

Quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs) are a large class of chemicals used for their antimicrobial and antistatic properties. They are common ingredients in cleaners and disinfectants, hand wipes, food preservatives, swimming pool treatments, laundry products, shampoos, conditioners, eye drops, and other personal care products. QACs have been in use for over 60 years, but the number of products containing QACs has increased recently as the versatility of these compounds is recognized. Over time, the chemical structure has been altered to increase antimicrobial and surfactant efficacy resulting in multiple generations of these products. Many products now contain a combination of two or more QACs. Extensive use of QACs results in ubiquitous human exposure, yet reproductive toxicity has not been evaluated.

Because chemical mixtures can act synergistically to produce greater toxic effects than the sum of the individual components, evaluation of common mixtures is essential in the evaluation of chemical risk.

This study was initiated because some laboratories which breed and test with mice and rats had noticed some anomalies. One laboratory noted abrupt declines in mouse colony productivity, along with declines in fetal health, that coincided with the introduction of disinfectants containing the QACs, alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride (ADBAC) and didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride (DDAC). Several years later, the laboratory encountered breeding problems and neural tube birth defects (NTDs) that began shortly after a change in room disinfectants. These experiences pointed to the QAC disinfectant but could not confirm toxicity because neither incident tested QACs under experimental conditions.

In an earlier study by the same team reproductive studies demonstrated that QACs adversely affect both male and female fertility and fecundity in rodents (Melin et al., 2014, 2016). Decreased reproductive performance in laboratory mice coincided with the introduction of a disinfectant containing both alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride (ADBAC) and didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride (DDAC). QACs were detected in caging material over a period of several months following cessation of disinfectant use. Breeding pairs exposed for six months to a QAC disinfectant exhibited decreases in fertility and fecundity: increased time to first litter, longer pregnancy intervals, fewer pups per litter and fewer pregnancies. Significant morbidity in near term dams was also observed. In summary, exposure to a common QAC disinfectant mixture significantly impaired reproductive health in mice.

 

Source 1

Ambient and dosed exposure to quaternary ammonium disinfectants causes neural tube defects in rodents. Hrubec TC et al 15 June 2017. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/bdr2.1064/full

Source 2

Exposure to common quaternary ammonium disinfectants decreases fertility in mice.

Melin VE1, Potineni H1, Hunt P2, Griswold J2, Siems B3, Werre SR4, Hrubec TC5.Reprod Toxicol. 2014 Dec;50:163-70. doi: 10.1016/j.reprotox.2014.07.071. Epub 2014 Aug 14.

 

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Common household disinfectants linked with birth defects, miscarriages and fertility.

Common household disinfectants linked with birth defects, miscarriages and fertility.

Quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs) are antimicrobial disinfectants commonly used in commercial and household settings and everyone is virtually exposed to these chemicals every day. Two common quaternary ammonium compounds, alkyldimethylbenzyl ammonium chloride (ADBAC) and didecyldimethyl ammonium chloride (DDAC), are combined in common cleaners and disinfectants.

In this study introduction of a cleaner containing ADBAC+DDAC in the living chambers caused neural tube defects (NTDs) in mice and rats. They found increased neural tube defects with exposure to the disinfectant combination in both rats and mice. The neural tube defects persisted for two generations after cessation of exposure.

They also found that male exposure alone was sufficient to cause neural tube defects. Equally significant, ambient exposure from disinfectant use in the cage they were kept in, influenced the levels of neural tube defects to a greater extent than oral dosing. So the ambient exposure through the air and surfaces had more impact than the feeding.

These results clearly demonstrate that ADBAC+DDAC in combination are teratogenic (birth defects) to rodents. Given the increased use of these disinfectants, further evaluation of their safety in humans and their contribution to health and disease is essential.

Quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs) are a large class of chemicals used for their antimicrobial and antistatic properties. They are common ingredients in cleaners and disinfectants, hand wipes, food preservatives, swimming pool treatments, laundry products, shampoos, conditioners, eye drops, and other personal care products. QACs have been in use for over 60 years, but the number of products containing QACs has increased recently as the versatility of these compounds is recognized. Over time, the chemical structure has been altered to increase antimicrobial and surfactant efficacy resulting in multiple generations of these products. Many products now contain a combination of two or more QACs. Extensive use of QACs results in ubiquitous human exposure, yet reproductive toxicity has not been evaluated.

Because chemical mixtures can act synergistically to produce greater toxic effects than the sum of the individual components, evaluation of common mixtures is essential in the evaluation of chemical risk.

This study was initiated because some laboratories which breed and test with mice and rats had noticed some anomalies. One laboratory noted abrupt declines in mouse colony productivity, along with declines in fetal health, that coincided with the introduction of disinfectants containing the QACs, alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride (ADBAC) and didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride (DDAC). Several years later, the laboratory encountered breeding problems and neural tube birth defects (NTDs) that began shortly after a change in room disinfectants. These experiences pointed to the QAC disinfectant but could not confirm toxicity because neither incident tested QACs under experimental conditions.

In an earlier study by the same team reproductive studies demonstrated that QACs adversely affect both male and female fertility and fecundity in rodents (Melin et al., 2014, 2016). Decreased reproductive performance in laboratory mice coincided with the introduction of a disinfectant containing both alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride (ADBAC) and didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride (DDAC). QACs were detected in caging material over a period of several months following cessation of disinfectant use. Breeding pairs exposed for six months to a QAC disinfectant exhibited decreases in fertility and fecundity: increased time to first litter, longer pregnancy intervals, fewer pups per litter and fewer pregnancies. Significant morbidity in near term dams was also observed. In summary, exposure to a common QAC disinfectant mixture significantly impaired reproductive health in mice.

 

Source 1

Ambient and dosed exposure to quaternary ammonium disinfectants causes neural tube defects in rodents. Hrubec TC et al 15 June 2017. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/bdr2.1064/full

Source 2

Exposure to common quaternary ammonium disinfectants decreases fertility in mice.

Melin VE1, Potineni H1, Hunt P2, Griswold J2, Siems B3, Werre SR4, Hrubec TC5.Reprod Toxicol. 2014 Dec;50:163-70. doi: 10.1016/j.reprotox.2014.07.071. Epub 2014 Aug 14.

 

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The Health Benefits of Green Spaces

The Health Benefits of Green Spaces

Growing up as a child in the 60’s there was always lots of space to play on the street or out in the big back yards, nearby parks, creeks and the beach. While we have lost a lot of these spaces, research is showing that the more “green” we are surrounded with the the healthier it is for us. Invariably as the suburbs spread out we lose more open space, green and private gardens are either small or non- existent. Globally, the same situation is occurring with a dramatic demographic shift towards urbanization. Between 2000 and 2050, the proportion of people living in urban areas is projected to rise from 46.6 to 69.6% giving less people around the world access to green spaces and their potential health benefits.

Humans exhibit more than just a preference for natural scenes and settings; they suffer health problems when their environment and lifestyle causes them to become nature deficient. Increasing evidence indicates that nature provides restorative experiences that directly affect people's physical, social and mental well-being and health in a positive way. An emerging body of evidence has linked exposure to green spaces with improving both perceived and objective physical and mental health, well-being and decreased mortality. Including living near to, walking in it and even gardening.

Underlying mechanisms of health benefits of green spaces are not well understood, but research suggests that increasing physical activity, reducing psychological stress, anxiety and depression, while increasing social contacts/cohesion and a sense of community belonging 1, reducing noise and air pollution levels, and moderating ambient temperature may underlie such benefits 2,3.

A recent study found that living in more densely vegetated areas was associated with fewer deaths from causes other than accidents. Using data from the Nurses’ Health Study after controlling for factors including socioeconomic status, race, smoking, and whether the women lived in a rural or urban area, the researchers estimated a 12% lower rate of non-accidental death between women who lived in the most densely, versus least densely vegetated areas. When looking at specific causes of death, the researchers estimated a 41% lower rate of kidney disease mortality, a 34% lower rate of respiratory disease mortality, and a 13% lower rate of cancer mortality in the women who lived in the greenest areas, compared with those in the least green areas 4.

A study of adolescents reported lower risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes in greener areas 5. In a cross-sectional study of 11,404 adults in Perth Western Australia the odds of hospitalization for heart disease or stroke was 37% lower, and the odds of self-reported heart disease or stroke was 16% lower, among adults with highly variable greenness around their home, compared to those in neighborhoods with low variability in greenness. The odds of self-reported heart disease or stroke decreased by 7% per unit with every 25% increase in the level of greenness 6. In a controlled experiment where 14 children undertook two, 15 min bouts of cycling at a moderate exercise intensity while in one situation viewing a film of cycling in a forest setting and another with no visual stimulus. The systolic blood pressure (SBP) 15 min post exercise was significantly lower following green exercise compared to the control condition 7. The surrounding environment can also significantly impact healing outcomes for patients. Green views from windows have been shown to aid post-operative recovery 8,9

The rise in obesity is well documented and while there are many contributing factors, a systematic review of greenspace research from sixty studies reported the majority (68%) of papers found a positive association between green spaces and obesity-related health indicators 10. One study found that increased vegetation was associated with reduced weight among young people living in high population densities 11 and  across eight European cities, people were 40% less likely to be obese in the greenest areas 12. However, not all spaces are green that can have these benefits. There was also variation by greenspace type, with relationships found only for access to beaches in New Zealand 13 and park playgrounds among children in Canada 14. Overall, the majority of studies found some evidence of a relationship with weight and greenspace 10. In children exposure to greenness has been associated with reduced sedentary behavior and obesity 15,16. In study of 3,178 schoolchildren (9-12 years old) a 25% range increase in residential surrounding greenness was associated with 11-19% lower relative prevalence of overweight/obesity and excessive screen (television and computing) time. Similarly, residential proximity to forests was associated with 39% and 25% lower relative prevalence of excessive screen time and overweight/obesity, respectively 17.

The lower prevalence of obesity, adverse health and improved health outcomes may be attributable to higher levels of physical activity, such as neighborhood walking which is positively influenced by the natural environment. Walking is the most popular physical activity 18, and levels of recreational walking have been linked the distance to and attractiveness of local parks and ovals 19.  Many studies have reported that adults with access to a large high-quality park within walking distance (within 1600 m) from home have elevated levels of walking 20 and and in general live longer 21. In a review of 50 studies twenty studies (40%) reported a positive association between greenspace and physical activity, including children and older people.

Being around vegetation can lead to better mental health and less stress 22,23, positive emotions 24,25, focus and attention 26, as well as reduced stress 27. While walking itself can reduce stress, walking in a natural setting provides greater stress-relieving benefits 28.  There is also evidence that exposure to natural settings can lower blood pressure, reduce mental fatigue, reduce negative feelings, increase attentional capabilities, and enhance effectiveness in dealing with major life issues.  The most preferred parkland settings have repeatedly been shown to be those where human influences do not dominate the natural elements 29. Accessible green spaces are ‘escape facilities’, and lack of access to green space contributes to poor mental health 30. Some of the more potent restorative effects of nature relate to being able to ‘get away’ from everyday settings and immerse oneself in an extensive natural setting that creates a sense of being in a ‘whole other world.’ A “quiet fascination, characterized by a moderate level of effortless attention coupled with aesthetic beauty in the setting, will foster a more deeply beneficial restorative experience” 31. In one study after a 40 minute test to exhaust their directed attention capacity participants were randomly assigned 40 minutes walking in a local nature preserve, walking in an urban area, or sitting quietly while reading magazines and listening to music. Those who had walked in the nature preserve performed better than the other participants on a standard proof reading task. They also reported more positive emotions and less anger.

Green spaces have been associated with improved mental health in children. Neuropsychiatric problems including behavioral problems occur in 10–20% of children worldwide. The most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder among children and adolescents is attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In one study investigating ADHD symptoms they found a statistically significant inverse associations between green space playing time and total difficulties, emotional symptoms, and peer relationship problems; between residential surrounding greenness and total difficulties and hyperactivity/inattention and ADHD total and inattention scores; and between annual beach attendance and total difficulties, peer relationship problems, and prosocial behavior 32. In another study results indicate that children with ADD function better than usual after activities in green settings and that the “greener” a child’s play area, the less severe his or her attention deficit symptoms  33. Thus, contact with nature may support attentional functioning in a population of children who desperately need attentional support.

And the benefits do not seem to end there. Recent research suggests an association between increased residential greenness and improved birth outcomes. The researchers assessed the relationship between birth weight, preterm birth, and residential greenness among 64,705 births recorded and reported that increases in greenness were associated with higher birth weight for babies born at term (37 weeks or later) and decreased likelihood of having a moderately or very preterm birth, or a small-for-gestational-age baby 34. In a study of 2,393 pregnant women, on average, babies born to mothers living in "greener" areas had higher birth weights and slightly larger head circumference compared to babies whose mothers lived in areas with lower plant cover. The effects were strongest in babies born to moms with lower education, suggesting that increasing green space may have the most benefit in socioeconomically deprived areas 2.

Unfortunately, as the urban expansion and infill continues we are no longer getting our daily exposure to green environments. Increasing housing density can contribute to urban sustainability, but the loss of private garden space must be compensated for the availability of quality public open space and ‘green infrastructure’ throughout urban areas. While the health of the populations is important nature provides critical ‘ecosystem services’ essential for our long term survival.  These include filtering air and water, absorbing wastes, maintaining beneficial insect and bird populations, and nutrient cycling.  There is also evidence that green spaces in urban areas help to moderate the urban climate and in some cases could offset the heatwaves associated with global warming. Perhaps we need to rethink our building incorporating more green and our ever increasing encroachment on our green spaces?

References

 

  1. Hartig T, et al. 2014
  2. Dadvand et al. 2012
  3. Lee and Maheswaran 2011
  4. James P, et al.2016
  5. Dengel et al. 2009
  6. Gavin Pereira et al 2012
  7. Duncan, et al 2014.
  8. Hartig et al, 2003
  9. Kaplan, 2001
  10. Lachowycz and Jones 2011
  11. Liu GC, 2007
  12. Ellaway et al 2005
  13. Witten K 2008
  14. Potwarka 2008
  15. Bell et al. 2008
  16. Wolch et al. 2011
  17. Dadvand et al 2014
  18. McCormack et al, 2003
  19. Giles-Corti et al, 2005
  20. Sugiyama T, et al 2010
  21. Takano 2002
  22. Ward Thompson et al 2012,
  23. Taylor MS, et al.2015
  24. Hartig et al 1991,
  25. Hartig et al. 2003
  26. Berman 2008
  27. Marselle et al 2014
  28. Gidlöf-Gunnarsson & Öhrström, 2007
  29. Bjerke et al, 2006
  30. Guite, Clark & Ackrill, 2006
  31. Herzog, Maguire & Nebel, 2003
  32. Amoly, 2014
  33. Taylor and Kuo 2001
  34. Hystad P, et al. 2014

 

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Health Benefits of Raw Food

Health Benefits of Raw Food

The thought of eating nothing but raw food, seems somewhat alien in the modern world, where the methods are cooking food are widely varied. But, until the discovery of fire, and the ability to recreate fire was developed around 1.8 million years ago, our human ancestors consumed massive amounts of raw food. It has been estimated that throughout 99% of human evolution, we consumed nothing but raw foods – something that is hard to imagine.

Humans are the only species (if you don't count our domesticated animals) that do not eat a 100% raw food diet, with many populations, eating a diet consisting almost entirely of cooked and processed foods. Undomesticated and wild animals live on a completely raw food diet, and suffer few of the serious degenerative conditions that we humans do.

The paleo-diet (i.e. the Hunter-Gatherer Diet), has received a lot of attention in the media recently, for it's proposed health benefits. But we humans are much more, in evolutionary terms, than the early cave (paleo) man. It is on the right track, but less than 5% of the evolutionary history of man, has been as bipedal hominids, walking tall on two legs. We have been using tools to grind, prepare and cook food, for less than 1% of our evolutionary history. We are in fact well and truly pre-paleo-raw food eaters if you look at our history. Additionally, it has only really been the last 1000 years that we humans have been processing our food, something that has really taken off in the last 100 years and even worse in the last 50 years with modern junk foods and take-aways.

Humans are unlike any other primates. If you spent the day watching any one of the great apes, our closest evolutionary cousins, you would see that they spend the majority of their time eating raw fruits, vegetables and leaves. Chewing each mouthful for minutes. Gorillas and orangutans are almost entirely herbivorous (plant-eating), while chimpanzees eat mostly plant foods including, fruits, seeds, nuts, leaves and flowers, they will also eat insects and even more rarely they hunted larger animals (around 2% of their diet). All of their food is raw. Now I am not recommending you go out and eat your meat raw, but there is a lot of merit in increasing the raw component in your food.

If you look at the evolutionary history of humans, and the dietary habits of our closest relatives, the great apes, it seems that we have a digestive system that has evolved to ingest and breakdown raw foods. So why don't we eat them more?

Health benefits of raw

At both a personal and scientific level I have no doubt about the health benefits of increasing the raw component in your food. There is growing scientific evidence that a higher consumption of raw, plant-based foods is beneficial to human health. Increased consumption of raw foods can lead to a reduction in allergies and strengthening of the immune system. As a result, the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases is reduced. Other health benefits such as a lower Body Mass Index (BMl), lower blood pressure, and beneficial levels of lipids, lipoproteins, glucose, insulin, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides can also be attributed to raw food consumption. Raw diets lead to a decrease in obesity and cardiovascular disease through less consumption of processed carbohydrates and sugars. All of the people I have encouraged to consume more raw food, usually through having a vegetable smoothie have all lost weight and reported more energy. An increase in raw vegetable protein also decreases bone loss and the risk of bone fractures.

In a study of blood pressure for 2,195 participants, intakes of both total raw and total cooked vegetables were inversely related to BP. However, the study found raw vegetables had a stronger effect on blood pressure than cooked vegetables. In a study that followed 32 individuals on diets containing at least 40% uncooked foods (vegetables, seeds, nuts, fruits, and certified raw milk) for six months; intakes were significantly associated with lower blood pressure of participants but increased to previous levels when switched from high raw food diets back to cooked diets (without altering caloric or Na intake). You might recall the raw blood pressure smoothie I wrote about last year. Just by having a raw vegetable smoothie peoples blood pressure dropped by as much as 50 mmHg. Such large drops in blood pressure are unheard of in medicine. A recent cohort study of 20,000 men and women in the Netherlands, using food frequency questionnaire data on seven raw vegetables and 13 cooked vegetables, reported that raw vegetable intake was significantly inversely associated with ischemic stroke and raw fruit and vegetable consumption was also inversely related to coronary heart disease.

Studies of patients suffering fibromyalgia showed a marked improvement in their condition after following a raw food diet. Improvements included better sleep and digestion, along with less pain, fatigue, anxiety and depression. The reversal of chronic metabolic acidosis, as well as improvements in people suffering from diabetes, can be achieved through a raw diet.

A raw food diet also results in numerous mental benefits. Eating raw foods leads to better sleep and hormone regulation. One report found that patients who were suffering from anxiety, depression and eating disorders showed significant improvement in their condition after beginning a raw food diet.

Overall raw food has the potential to have a major positive impact on our health and out lives and the benefits are derived not just from the additional nutrients and improved digestion but also from exposure to a lower level of cooking based toxins.

Pre-digestion

Pre-digestion by food enzymes occurs in every creature on earth, the only exception is humans on a cooked enzyme-deficient diet. When we eat raw foods, physical contact, heat and moisture in the mouth activate the enzymes in the food. Once active, these enzymes digest a significant portion of what we ingest.

The stomach has two distinctive sections – the upper Fundus and the lower Pylorus. The bolus of food remains in the upper part, the fundus for up to one hour where pre-digestion of raw foods takes place. All raw foods come with their own digestive enzymes, thus saving the pancreas from supplying all the enzymes needed for digestion. You don’t want to waste too much of our “Life Force”. Cooked foods, which have no enzymes as the break down around 48oC, must wait in the Fundus and can only rely on enzymes from the pancreas, which means a lot more work for our body, and the feeling of fatigue after eating a big cooked meal.

There are two zones of protein digestion in the stomach one has a pH  of 1-2.5 at which, the enzyme pepsin is most active. The other zone with a pH of 3.3-4 at which, the enzymes naturally occurring in raw foods are still active. The amount of digestion in both zones is approximately equal. For example, raw meat has its own supply of cathepsin so if you eat raw meat like all other carnivorous or omnivorous animal, up to 50% of the digestion occurs before it even comes in contact with the pepsin from the gut. The same happens with plant based proteins. Digestion can continue without the use of our body's own digestive enzymes when the pH changes in the intestines allowing the foods natural digestive enzymes to become active again.

Enzymes are essential for the digestive process and when food is cooked the naturally occurring enzymes are destroyed, meaning that the digestive system has to work so much harder to digest food. Additionally, digestive enzymes help to cleanse our colon – foods that are not digested properly are stored in our colon and digestive problems can begin. Undigested protein putrefies, carbohydrates ferment, and fats turn rancid in our colon. Unpleasant isn't it?

The most obvious symptoms of enzyme deficiency are easily identified, particularly after meals, which can include:

Acid re-flux.

Heartburn.

Bloating, gas and cramping.

Constipation and poor elimination.

Diarrhea.

Cooking food can have a negative effect on digestion, by both destroying enzymes and other nutrients that aid in the digestive process such that heat and processing, reduces the amount of co-factors and co-enzymes, which are essential for efficient digestion. Co-factors are inorganic micro nutrients, which includes, zinc, iron and copper, which are important for the function of many digestive enzymes. Co-enzymes are organic molecules, such as vitamins, that also assist in digestion.

Digestive Enzymes cleanse our colon. Foods that are not digested properly are stored in our colon and digestive problems can begin. Undigested protein putrefies, carbohydrates ferment, and fats turn rancid in our colon.  The enzymes from live raw foods prevent this from happening. Excess enzymes from these foods can also be absorbed into the blood and assist with numerous health conditions, including attacking cancer and viruses.

Poor or inefficient digestion can cause a number of health conditions, ranging from arthritis to Alzheimer's, to cardiovascular disease to cancer, as well as, diseases of the digestive system. An estimated 40% of Australians have lower gut disorders and one in five Australians is known to suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, and the number is on the rise. Other conditions of the digestive system include: colitis, Crohn's disease, leaky gut, gluten intolerance, bloating, acid re-flux, heartburn, constipation, diarrhea and food allergies. Other health problems that can develop as a result of poor digestion include: fatigue, yeast overgrowth, acne, depression, obesity, high blood pressure, circulatory problems, chronic inflammation and auto-immune disorders.

Enzymes are literally the life force and it is well established the higher the supply of enzymes you have in your body, the slower you will age and the more resistant you are against degenerative diseases. In general the duration of life varies inversely with our enzyme activity and the older we get, the weaker our enzyme activity becomes - this is not just an indication of lost enzyme potential, but a reduction in the enzyme potential of the whole body, both digestive and metabolic enzymes.

If you take you health seriously I suggest start with a raw plant based smoothie each day. You might be surprised at not only how good it is for you but also how quickly you can make it.

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