Dr Dingle's Blog / fatigue

Another study shows artificial sweeteners help put on weight

Another study shows artificial sweeteners help put on weight

Advice on the artificial sweeteners are constantly dolled out to people from well meaning nutritionists, diabetic and heart associations around the world without looking at the science.

Weight loss is not just about calories in and calories out it is about the quality of the food and how your body uses it to its advantage or not. If it were just the balance between the calories then low fat, low calorie and artificial sweeteners would all work but hey don't. As yet another big study shows.

This study from the University of Manitoba in Canada brought the information together from 37 different studies and found people who consume artificial sweeteners weren't losing weight, and the longer studies which observed people for up to 10 years found they were putting on weight. Consumption of nonnutritive sweeteners was associated with increases in weight and waist circumference, and higher incidence of obesity, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular events compared to others who weren't using sweeteners.

While there is no doubt sugar consumption is fueling the global obesity epidemic epidemic it seems these non nutritive artificial sweeteners are also stoking this fire. Research which I have written about extensively in my book "Unlock Your Genes For Weight Loss" (https://www.drdingle.com/collections/book-sales/products/unlock-your-genes-for-weight-loss) has now shown these nonnutritive sweeteners paradoxically help put on weight even without any extra calories. And have have been shown to adverse effects on glucose metabolism, gut microbiota and appetite control and animal studies have shown that chronic exposure to nonnutritive sweeteners leads to increased food consumption, weight gain and adiposity.

Despite this overwhelming a evidence the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is that nonnutritive sweeteners can help limit energy intake as a strategy to manage weight or blood glucose.

In our courses and our book we show the science behind weight loss is about the quality of the food you eat not the calories. Certain foods talk to you genes to get you to put on weight while other foods help you lose weight and regain your health.

http://tix.yt/permanentweightloss

 Source

http://www.cmaj.ca/content/189/28/E929

Read more →

Diabetes inflammation

Diabetes inflammation

Diabetes type 2 is just a symptom of a diseased lifestyle. It is probably our body’s mechanism to store food in times of food shortages (which we needed as hunter-gatherers when food shortage was a frequent occurrence). Now we have too much of the wrong food all of the time. The signs and symptoms of diabetes, including thirst and fatigue, are just messages to tell us to change. If we don’t change then we develop insulin resistance, which tells us that we already have too much food (energy) stored in the cell and to stop sending in the sugar. By this time we may have spent 10 or 20 years not listening to the body’s messages. Under normal conditions, our cells take the sugar out of the blood to provide us with the energy our cells need to function. If the sugar remains in the bloodstream, it causes damage to the blood and to cells in the blood. But when there is too much energy stored in the cells, the cells stop taking the sugar in, because we just can’t use any more. Blood sugar levels are also one of the best predictors of dementia later in life.

Although inflammation, oxidation and acidosis (IOA) are natural and essential for a healthy body, they can be seriously problematic if they become chronic and reoccurring as a result of our body being out of balance. Recent studies have established that the three conditions combined are a leading pathogenic force in the development of chronic diseases—including diabetes, cancers, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases (including asthma and arthritis), osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, dementia and even depression, obesity and premature ageing.

In modern medicine, we treat the condition that occurs down the line, such as diabetes, by giving the person blood-sugar-lowering drugs. This lowers the blood sugar but does not treat the condition that is causing the diabetic problem. The problem is not high levels of sugar in the blood; it is the damage that has been done, often over decades, by poor diet and lifestyle that have led to chronic inflammation, oxidation and acidosis, the combination of which eventually results in high blood sugar. High blood sugar is just the symptom; the damage is in the cells—in our powerhouse called the mitochondria—and is the result of inflammation, oxidation and acidosis.

Read more →

Essential Sleep (Part 7). Sleep fatigue and accidents

Essential Sleep (Part 7). Sleep fatigue and accidents

Fatigue

Sleep deprivation also contributes to the physiological state known as fatigue.  A fatigued person is accident prone and judgment impaired.  After approximately 20 hours of no sleep, reaction times are comparable to having a blood alcohol reading of .08.  Staying awake for 24 hours leads to a reduced hand‑to‑eye coordination that is similar to having a blood alcohol content of 0.1. An example of a sleep deprivation accident occurred when a space shuttle mission was aborted 30 seconds before lift‑off because a technician who had worked several consecutive l2hr shifts accidentally released 18,000 pounds of liquid fuel just minutes before the scheduled flight. An investigation of the Challenger space shuttle disaster attributed ground crew fatigue as one of the factors contributing to the disaster. An incident such as this shows the seriousness of the situation and the potential loss of life through human related errors in technical fields. Even operating simple machinery such as forklifts can become extremely dangerous if the operators are not filly alert. Other examples of work related sleep deprivation include a flight which flew 100 miles out over the Pacific before controllers on the ground were able to wake the pilots up using chimes, piped into the cockpit audio. It is common practice for flight attendants to check in on pilots to ensure they do not fall asleep. The Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred on a ship with a crew that had had very little sleep, with the accident happening in the middle of the night.

Pain

45 to 80% of all nursing home residents suffer from chronic pain and this pain is strongly linked to insomnia (Dodla and Lyons, 2006). In Japan a survey conducted by Tanaka and Shirakawa (2004) found that one in five Japanese people suffer from insomnia, and within the elderly population one in three suffer, because of this the Japanese government increased the needs of insomnia patients at community health sites and names insomnia a refactory disease of the 21st centuary. A similar Honk Kong based study found 11.9% of Chinese people living in Honk Kong suffer from insomnia approximately three times a week and the females were 1.6 times more likely to show symptoms of insomnia than males (Li et a!. 2002). 

Accidents, errors and Risk taking

Studies using card games have found that with little sleep, players get stuck in a strategic rut. Sleepy people keep taking risks, even though it’s obviously not working for them.

A study of musicians who practised a new song had improved in speed and accuracy compared with before a night’s sleep. a good night’s sleep can also improve motor performance.

In a study of 1891 male employees compared with those working 6-8 h day(-1) with good sleep characteristics, positive interactive effects for workplace injury were found between long work hours (>8-10 h day(-1) or >10 h day(-1) ) and short sleep duration (<6 h). This study suggests that long work hours coupled with poor sleep characteristics are synergistically associated with increased risk of workplace injury. Greater attention should be paid to manage/treat poor sleep and reduce excessive work hours to improve safety at the workplace (Nakata 2011).

A study looking at the effect of working “standard shifts” (that is, the traditionally accepted long, sleepless shifts) for hospital interns showed that the interns made 36 percent more serious medical errors during a standard work schedule compared to during an intervention schedule that eliminated extended work shifts.  The errors included significantly more serious medication errors and 5.6 times as many serious diagnostic errors.  As a consequence, the overall rates of serious medical errors were significantly higher during the standard schedule than during the intervention schedule (Landrigan, 2004).  Fortunately, most serious medical errors were either intercepted by people who were awake and concentrating or did not result in clinically detectable harm to the patient.  How does this affect you?  It might be all right if you could always go into hospital at the beginning of the shift or be operated on only by doctors who had just started a shift. 

One study found that interns who worked 24-hour shifts made 36 percent more medical errors than those working 16-hour shifts and five times the number of diagnostic errors, and were 61 percent more likely to accidentally cut themselves during procedures.

The study found that the rates of serious medical errors in two intensive care units “were lowered by eliminating extended work shifts and reducing the number of hours interns worked each week.” By asking interns to work less, the hospitals improved their performance.

A number of studies have highlighted the increased number of motor vehicle accidents associated with young adults driving fatigued. It’s conservatively estimated that at least 112 lives could be saved in Australia if fatigue and falling asleep at the wheel were eliminated.

Several studies have highlighted the increased number of motor vehicle accidents associated with young adults driving while fatigued.  Fatigue is estimated to be responsible for 35 percent of road accidents.  It’s conservatively estimated that at least 112 lives could be saved in Australia every year if fatigue and falling asleep at the wheel were eliminated.  In the United States, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that fatigue and sleep deprivation contribute to about 100,000 highway crashes each year, causing more than 1,500 deaths annually (Sullivan, 2003).  At a grander level the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska, the Challenger space shuttle disaster and the Chernobyl nuclear accident have each been attributed to human errors in which sleep deprivation played a role (Grunstein, 2000). 

Read more →

Essential Sleep (Part 6). Cognitive decine and the brain

Essential Sleep (Part 6). Cognitive decine and the brain

Late night

Research on 59 participants, those who were confirmed night owls (preferring late to bed and late to rise) had lower integrity of the white matter in various areas of the brain (Rosenberg et al 2014). Lower integrity in these areas has been linked to depression and cognitive instability.

 

Read more →

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.

Read more →

Health and productivity effects of poor sleep

Health and productivity effects of poor sleep

Obvious symptoms of sleep deprivation constant yawning and the tendency to doze off when not active for a while; for example, when watching television, Grogginess when waking in the morning Sleepy grogginess experienced all day long (sleep inertia) Poor concentration and mood changes (more irritable).

Disease

Some of the physical effects found from long term fatigue are heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal disorders and depression (Workplace health and safety QLD, 2008).  A study conducted by Andersen involving rats also showed sleep deprivation affects the expression of genes related to metabolic processes, response to stimulus and signalling pathways (Andersen et al, 2009). 

Numerous studies have shown that even a little bit of sleep deprivation decreases efficiency and increases risk of disease, including cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes.  Sleep deprivation has been shown to negatively affect endocrine (hormones) and metabolic functioning as well as nervous system balance (Nilsson, et al., 2004).  Sleep deprivation is associated with an increased concentration of cortisol plus other indicators of increased stress such as elevations in pulse rate, body temperature and adrenaline secretion (Vgontzas, et al.,1999).  Sleep deprivation also appears to increase blood concentrations of certain chemicals called cytokines and C-reactive proteins (Irwine, 2001 and Vgontzas, et al., 1998), indicating an inflammatory reaction.  The effect of unremitting low-grade inflammation may be to damage the inner walls of the arteries, which sometimes leads to vessel narrowing, high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease (Irwine, 2001).  During truncated sleep, your heart might have to work harder, constricting blood vessels and increasing blood pressure even more, which could conceivably result in a heart attack or stroke (Martins, 2003). 

Sleep is as important to the human body as food and water, but most of us don’t get enough sleep.  Insufficient sleep or disruptions to the sleep contribute to adverse health effects. Numerous studies have also shown that even a little bit of sleep deprivation decreases efficiency and increases risk of disease, including cardiovascular disease. 

Initial changes to cardiovascular system from insomnia include hypertension, which is a potent co‑morbidity for other cardiovascular diseases. Hypertension has been linked to reduced sleep duration, with the highest correlation shown under 6 hours sleep per night (Gottlieb et al. 2006). However, associations have also been made between sleep of over 9 hours per night and hypertension and obesity. Furthermore this has not been supported at all in some studies and PPI in one older North American population actually showed a reduced risk of hypertension (Phillips, BOková and Enrigh, 2009.).

A study of 71,617 female health professionals found that sleeping fewer than five hours per night was associated with a 39 percent increase in the risk of coronary heart disease; even six hours per night showed an increase of 18 percent compared to sleeping eight hours per night (Najib, et al., 2003).  In an analysis of data on more than one million people, the levels of nearly all forms of death were two-and-a-half times higher for people who slept four hours or less compared to those who slept between seven and eight hours on average

A study of 71,617 female health professionals found that sleeping fewer than five hours per night was associated with a 39 percent increase in the risk of coronary heart disease; even six hours per night showed an increase of 18 percent compared to sleeping eight hours per night.  In an analysis of data on more than one million people, the levels of nearly all forms of death were two-and-a-half times higher for people who slept four hours or less compared to those who slept between seven and eight hours on average

Experimentally, sleep deprivation has been shown to negatively affect glucose metabolism and to enhance factors associated with Type 2 diabetes (Nilsson, et al., 2004).  Research has also shown that people who experience sleep disorders were as much as three times as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes (Kawakami, 2004).  Subjects in one study demonstrated impaired glucose tolerance for ten days after four hours of sleep deprivation (Spiegel, et al.,1999).  It is also found that sleep deprivation can play a role in obesity.  Sleep deficits bring about physiologic changes in the hormonal signals that promote hunger and, perhaps thereby, obesity (Spiegel, et al., 2004).  One study found that after two days of sleep curtailment the subjects had reduced levels of the fat-derived hormone leptin and increased levels of the stomach-derived hormone ghrelin.  These hormones are responsible for regulating hunger and appetite (Spiegel, et al., 2004).  These hormonal differences are likely to increase appetite, which could help explain the relative high BMI in short sleepers. 

 

Part 5 and more coming

Read more →

Inflammation

Inflammation

Inflammation is literally the body "on fire" and is a primary immune mechanism response of the body to a range of noxious stimuli.  This can include infectious agents, such as bacteria or virus, oxidation or acidosis, damaged or diseased tissues; however, the inflammatory response can also occur in response to other external or internal cues 1. Inflammation is essentially the body’s first line of defence in common acute conditions 2.

The main function of inflammation is a short term response to resolve infection and to repair the damage in order to achieve homeostasis equilibrium balance back to the body. The ideal inflammatory response is therefore rapid and destructive, yet specific and very limited. The release of inflammatory mediators, predominantly from activated leukocytes that migrate into the target area and proteins called cytokines attack the threatening germ and repair damaged tissues. This is the reddening and swelling you see around any infected or injured area. most of us are familiar with: redness, heat, swelling, and pain associated with inflammation. These symptoms are created by the activity of immune cells working to break down injured and dying tissues so that new, healthy ones can replace them.

Unfortunately, we have created a situation in our lives where we now suffer from chronic low level inflammation over decades of our lives as a result of our unhealthy and unbalanced lifestyles and diet. Chronic inflammation is being shown to be involved in the onset and the development of most if not all chronic illness that are now at epidemic proportions in our society. These include atherosclerosis (damaged and blocked arteries), heart disease, stroke, obesity, neurodegenerative diseases, depression, Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons Disease, thyroid disorders, diabetes, asthma, autism, arthritis, celiac disease, eczema, psoriasis, Multiple Sclerosis, lupus, migraines, periodontal disease, sleep apnoea, chronic kidney failure and cancer. It is a long list but it is only the main ones I have mentioned.

Even though chronic inflammation in the body is hard to detect there are some common symptoms to look out for. These include the following:

Chronic pain in the joints and/ or muscles

Allergies or asthma

Elevated blood pressure

Fluctuations in blood sugar levels

Gut issues (constipation or diarrhoea)

Fatigue

To judge the level of inflammation in individuals, a number of markers have been identified that are directly associated with inflammatory processes 3.4.5. C‑reactive protein (CRP), interleukin‑6 (IL‑6), fibrinogen, and tumor necrosis factor‑alpha (TNF‑a) are the most common markers that the medical system uses, with CRP leading in terms of assessing risk. Each marker has a different role in the inflammatory process and the development of chronic illness and are also often linked to each other. For example, IL6 plays a central part in the inflammatory process and is known to be linked to the production of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the liver.  CRP is commonly used to monitor inflammatory states as it is secreted by the liver in response to a variety of inflammation, trauma and infection and decreases rapidly with the resolution of the condition. If the person has high C reactive protein and does not have an infection of some sort, then they probably have chronic inflammation. It is like the body is trying to fight off an illness all the time rather than just short term acute situations. It becomes exhausting for the body and is also likely to result in some long term damage.

The inflammatory process is driven by the immune system in your body. Therefore, in order to reduce the incidence of disease you must reduce inflammation, and to reduce inflammation you must identify and eliminate the immune system trigger(s). The typical approach of allopathic medicine is to treat the symptoms of the disease itself or the immune system (immune-suppressive drugs) or inflammation (anti-inflammatory drugs) directly without addressing the underlying cause of the disease. But not dealing with the underlying causes. Sustainable health looks at identifying and eliminating the sources of the inflammation to address the situation at its cause. While I will leave much more of the detail to the next months edition some good examples of anti inflammatory nutrients include turmeric, probiotics, vitamin C and D and Magnesium. While physical activity, meditation and strategies to de-stress are all anti inflammatory. Get the idea.

Inflammation and Cardio Vascular Disease (CVD)

CVD is no longer considered a disorder of lipid (fat) accumulation or elevated cholesterol, but rather a disease process characterized by low-grade inflammation of the vascular (artery) lining and an inappropriate wound healing of the blood vessels 5. It is similar to a low-grade wound on your skin that does not heal, but it is on the inside. There is now extensive and rapidly growing evidence that inflammation, which is what you get with every wound, plays a critical role in all stages of CVD 6,7,8,9. That is why if you treat the cholesterol you are treating the symptoms, yet if you treat the inflammation you are treating the underlying cause of the disease. To highlight the direct link in one study weekly injections of the cytokine (inflammation protein) given to mice caused a 2.5 fold increase in atherosclerotic lesions, that is 250% 10.

Since half of all myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) occur in individuals that display normal plasma lipid (cholesterol) levels, using markers of inflammation is much more effective to detect those at risk of CVD before its onset 4,5,11. Atherosclerosis (arterial plaque build up also known as artheriosclerotic vascular disease or ASYD) is a chronic inflammatory disease occurring in the innermost layer of the artery, the intima, where it thickens resulting from a build up of plaque. An injury or oxidation (free radicals) activity damages the blood vessel lining and induces an inflammatory response resulting in the adhesion of platelets and build up of macrophages (a type of white blood cell that swallows and destroys damaged tissue and infectious agents) and white blood cells at the site of injury. The inflammatory response, is mediated by activated T cells, macrophages and mast cells and produces cytokines (chemical messengers). Modified (through oxidation or enzymes) low‑density lipoproteins in the arterial intima initiate an inflammatory response in the arterial wall that leads to a cascade of inflammatory responses. As arteries lose flexibility and lesions occur, IL‑6 increases leading to further inflammation.

Inflammation and cancer

The link between chronic inflammation and cancer has long been recognized since the 19th century German pathologist Rudolph Virchow first hypothesized that the origin of cancer was at sites of chronic inflammation. Now it seems that modern science has caught up with the observations of the 19th Century. Considerable advances in cancer research relates to the role of inflammation in the development of cancer. Research in 2003 demonstrated that there is a link between inflammation and tumour growth 12. In 2010 several piece of the puzzle came together when researchers reported they could definitively show that inflammation in the breast is key to the development and progression of breast cancer 13. In an earlier study, women with high levels of two markers of inflammation―C-reactive protein and serum amyloid A―were two to three times more likely to die early or have their cancer return than women with lower level 14.

Now there is a large body of evidence that chronic inflammation is involved in all stages of cancer development. Generally inflammatory white blood cells (leukocytes such as neutrophils; monocytes, macrophages and eosinophils) mediate the growth of inflammation associated cancer, although other cells including cancer cells are also involved 15,16. Animal testings provide strong evidence that chronic inflammation contributes to the promotion of cancer 15 and through suppression of the immune system it allows the outgrowth and proliferation of malignant cells 17. Inflammation affects the micro environment of the cancer; it increases malignant growth 17; may alter blood flow processes; and the cancers response to remedial substances and hormones 18.

There is now convincing evidence that carcinogenesis often evolves as a progressive series of highly specific cellular and molecular changes in response to induction of constitutive over-expression of COX-2, an enzyme responsive for inflammation, and the prostaglandin cascade in the ‘inflammation of cancer’. Molecular studies reveal that over expression of COX-2 is a prominent feature of virtually every form of cancer while the expression intensifies with stage at detection, cancer progression and metastasis. It appears that COX-2 expression is not only an early event in the genesis of cancer, but is required throughout the entire evolutionary process of cancer development

In support of this back in 2005 Prof. Houghton 19 and her colleagues found that an infection with Helicobacter felis (a bacterium related to infectious Helicobacter pylori in humans) which causes a large amount of inflammation leads to an influx of bone marrow-derived stem cells (BMDCs), as the body tries to repair the injury caused by the infection. They were able to show that this transformation of BMDCs is the event that actually sparks malignant tumors of the stomach. They showed that bone marrow-derived stem cells attempt to participate in repair but, under conditions of inflammation and oxidation, are unable to behave normally and instead progress towards cancer. BMDCs have other cancer-like properties, including: the capacity for unlimited growth and the ability to avoid apoptosis (programmed cell death) signals. These properties give them a significant growth advantage making them difficult to control once they have mutated. the BMDCs, depending on environmental cues for development and differentiation, encounter an abnormal environment of conflicting growth signals. There follows a downward spiral of metaplasia (the conversion of normal to abnormal tissue); dysplasia (emergence of a precancerous growth); and finally carcinoma (frankly malignant cancer, capable of metastasizing). It appears that cancers are just the body trying to adapt to a toxic internal environment of inflammation and oxidation.

Inflammation depression and mental health

Depression itself is not a disease, but a symptom of an underlying problem. A new theory called the “Immune Cytokine Model of Depression” holds that depression is not a disease itself, but instead a “multifaceted sign of chronic immune system activation”, inflammation. Instead depression may be a symptom of chronic inflammation. And a large body of research now suggests that depression is associated with a low-grade, chronic inflammatory response and is accompanied by increased oxidative stress. Not a serotonin imbalance.

Researchers discovered in the early 1980s that inflammatory cytokines produce a wide variety of psychiatric and neurological symptoms which perfectly mirror the defining characteristics of depression 20. Cytokines have been shown to access the brain and interact with virtually every mechanism known to be involved in depression 21 including neurotransmitter metabolism, neuroendocrine function, and neural plasticity.

This is now supported by increasing lines of scientific evidence 22 including:

  • Depression is often present in acute, inflammatory illnesses.
  • Higher levels of inflammation increase the risk of developing depression.
  • Administering endotoxins that provoke inflammation to healthy people triggers classic depressive symptoms.
  • One-quarter of patients who take interferon, a medication used to treat hepatitis C that causes significant inflammation, develop major depression.
  • Up to 50% of patients who received the cytokine IFN-alpha therapy to help treat cancer or infectious diseases developed “clinically significant depression” 21.
  • An experiment involving the administration of a Salmonella typhi vaccine to healthy individuals produced symptoms of fatigue, mental confusion, psychomotor slowing and a depressed mood 23. These symptoms correlated with the increase in cytokine concentrations.
  • Remission of clinical depression is often associated with a normalization of inflammatory markers.
  • There is now a large body of literature in laboratory animals demonstrating that cytokines … can lead to a host of behavioural changes overlapping with those found in depression. These behavioural changes include decreased activity, cognitive dysfunction and altered sleep 24.
  • All the activities associated with reducing the prevalence of depression and depression symptoms are anti inflammatory. These include increased sunlight and time spent outside, exercise and physical activity, relaxation and meditation techniques, healthy eating as well as administering anti inflammatory nutritionals.

There is further support from large epidemiological studies. A number of longitudinal studies have now shown that inflammation in early adulthood predicts depression at a later stage in life. In a large longitudinal study the risk for depression and psychotic experiences in adolescence was almost 2-fold higher in individuals with the highest vs the lowest levels of of inflammation as indicated by interleukin-6 (IL-6) levels in childhood. Children who were in the top third of IL-6 levels at the age of 9 years were 55% more likely to be diagnosed with depression at the age of 18 than those with the lowest childhood levels of IL-6. Children in the highest tertile of IL-6 levels at the age of 9 were also 81% more likely to report psychotic experiences at the age of 18 25.

Perhaps this is a message that we need to start acting now and early with children to avoid the epidemic of inflammation and chronic illness including depression everyone is predicting for the future.

  1. Shelton and Miller: 2010
  2. Schwarzenberg and Sinaiko: 2006
  3. Taubes 2002
  4. Ridker et al. 1997
  5. Ridker et al. 2000
  6. Dixon et al. 2009
  7. Loppnow et al. 2008
  8. Packard and Libby 2008
  9. Sukhanov et al. 2007
  10. Tracy 2003
  11. Guigliano et al 2006
  12. Vakkila and Lotze
  13. Liu, et al. 2010
  14. Pierce, et al. 2009
  15. Schacter, 2002,
  16. Lin and Karin, 2007
  17. Bunt et at, 2006
  18. Chekhun, 2009
  19. 2004 Prof. Houghton et al
  20. Smith R Cytokines and Depression
  21. Miller et al, 2009,
  22. Berk et al 4
  23. Brydon et al, 2008
  24. Dantzer et al, 2008, p.48
  25. Khandaker et al, 2014

 

Read more →

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

 

Read more →

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.

Read more →

Wellness At Work

Wellness At Work

When health is absent, Wisdom cannot reveal itself, Art cannot manifest, Strength cannot be exerted, Wealth becomes useless, And reason is powerless." — Herophilus 300 B.C.

Our work places are either a great place to promote health or to contribute to the health problem. Our work environments are experiencing an emerging health crisis from longer workdays, deskbound occupations, access to poor quality foods and poor physical activity. In many cases they are contributing to a deterioration in employee health as our work and the workplace has the potential to have a significant affect on the mental, physical, economic and social well-being of workers. Major concerns in the work environment are work-related stress, obesity, diabetes, cardio vascular disease, fatigue , poor sleep and the many other conditions that come from these. Many of our workplaces for example have increased the risk of putting on weight due to sedentary practices, stress and long and awkward work hours. This of course has the potential to lead to many other chronic health conditions which cost the individual, community and employers. From an employers perspective poor health has the potential to reduce the quality of work and productivity within many workplaces and is likely costing the economy billions of dollars in workplace productivity alone. While the costs of workplace productivity are significant it is also likely that some obesogenic (increasing the risk of putting on weight) environments are likely to be the focus of legal action as the rates of illness and obesity increase. This is particularly the case for inflexible workplace, long hours and shiftwork.

An employee’s health and productivity at work is not only affected by their work environment but also by factors that are not work related. These factors vary between individuals and depend on the individuals chosen lifestyle outside of work. However, through empowering staff members on healthy lifestyles the overall health management of individuals will benefit not only the company but also the broader community. Wellness in the workplace is influenced by many different factors including the communication between co-workers and employers, physical demands especially in sedentary occupations and the eating habits, lifestyles of employees and much more.

When it comes to common health issues of most employees, wellness programs can provide an easy and cost effective solution. Fatigue, stress, depression and obesity are commonly interrelated and increasingly common in most workplaces. The workplace has been viewed as an attractive place for wellness programs as it has established communication channels and it provides a convenient, familiar physical and social setting. In addition, it serves to benefit the employers from the improved health of employees.

Many factors contribute towards the creation of a healthy employee who is able to work consistently at a high level of efficiency and productivity; however health is one of the most important determinants. The costs of unhealthy workers are usually measured by employers in terms of easily quantifiable direct health costs such as medical claims, disability funds and compensation payouts. In the US where figures are more easily accessed because the employer has been traditionally responsible for health care cost, compared with employees who are struggling, thriving employees have 41% lower health-related costs to the employer, a difference of $2,993 per person. For every 10,000 employees, this represents a difference of nearly $30 million to the employer. However, when looking at the health/productivity costs borne by employers, only a small portion of these expenditures are direct medical costs. Indirect costs are more difficult to distinguish and measure, they include those costs incurred from employee mortality, absenteeism and the reduced productivity and presenteeism including poor concentration and focus, low output, and disruption of other workers evident in an employee while still working.

An employee health behaviors are strong predictors of job performance and absenteeism. Many studies have demonstrated the link between poor health factors and absence from work including positive associations between absenteeism and obesity, stress, physical inactivity, and hypertension. While the frequency and severity of poor health are directly related to days absent from work. Healthier workers work more and are away less.

The loss of a qualified professional due to moving to a new job, illness or even death can often be difficult and costly for the organization to replace. The cost of rehiring and retraining a suitable replacement could result in large organizational outlays of time and money, well in excess of $100,000. Not only will a new candidate be difficult and costly to find, but an immense amount of expertise, experience and organizational knowledge will be lost. Karoshi is a term coined in Japan, literally translating into ‘death from overwork’ in English. Karoshi is described as ‘unexplained death’ thought to arise due to a combination of elevated working hours, high stress and poor health, with the major medical causes of death being heat attack and stroke. In Japan working weeks that exceed 60 hours are not an exception. The first case of karoshi was reported in 1969 where a 29 year old married man died from a stroke and his death could not be attributable to anything other than occupational stress and chronic overwork. In 1994 the Japanese Government’s Economic Planning Agency in the Institute of Economics estimated the number of karoshi deaths at around 1,000 or 5% of all deaths as a result of cerebrovascular and cardiovascular disease each year within the 25-59 age group.

In the US the cost of turnover per person employed who is healthier is 35% lower than that of those who are struggling. For every 10,000 employees, this represents $19.5 million. Although turnover is more common among younger employees, higher wellbeing was predictive of lower turnover and lower turnover costs in the next year for younger and older employees alike. Those who were struggling or suffering in overall wellbeing were more than twice as likely as those who were thriving to say they would look for another job if the job market improves. This means that the actions that employers take today to improve health — in addition to improving job performance — are likely to have important implications on the moves employees make in the future.

Presenteeism represents a cost that is difficult to quantity but a large contributor to lost productivity. Many people are under the flawed assumption that when people are at work that they are productive, however if employees are sick, injured, stressed or burned-out in the workplace, they are not working to full capacity. Presenteeism is the worker coming in who shouldn’t and in the process is not just less productive but may also be reducing the productivity of other employees. This doesn’t just occur over health but when a person is sick they may be slowing everyone else down. Presenteeisms result in a negative impact not only on the quantity of work completed, but also on the quality of products, services, decisions, and co-worker and customer interactions. Although presenteeism cannot be directly quantified in a straightforward manner many studies now suggest it may be one of the biggest costs to employees. So you might be better off staying away from work when you are sick.

Unhealthy workers are also more likely to have workplace accidents and healthy and focused employees is less likely to endanger themselves and other co-workers through negligent behavior caused by poor physical and psychological health. A number of studies have now found that investing in wellness programs and the health of employees can reduce accidents. This also includes accidents on the way home from work if an employee is fatigued or distracted with their health. Accidents are expensive for all companies because of downtime, the resources that need to be dedicated to investigation, lost productivity from injured workers and workers’ compensation. In Australia, workers’ compensation costs are unacceptably high, reflecting relatively high frequency rates of occupational injuries which may be prevented through a wellness program.

The direct cost of stress is more than $20 billion to the Australian economy, and around two thirds of that to Australian employers because of stress-related presenteeism and absenteeism. 95% of all claims for mental disorders in the past ten years are for mental stress. These claims are the most expensive type of workers’ compensation claim due to their typically lengthy periods of work absence. Professionals make more mental stress claims than any other occupation, mostly for work pressure. This is despite the fact that the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Work-related Injuries Survey 2009–10 which showed that 70% of workers who reported they experienced work-related mental stress did not apply for workers’ compensation.

Productivity is affected heavily by seasonal illnesses and their available treatments. Allergies are a highly prevalent condition in the general population affecting people in varying ways. Symptoms of allergies include itching and irritation of the nose; watery nasal discharge, nasal congestion, sneezing and are often accompanied by fatigue, weakness, malaise, irritability and decreased appetite. Studies now show that individuals with allergy disorders generally score lower on tests on social functioning, role limitation, mental health and energy / fatigue and pain compared to controls. In the US allergy disorders result more than 4 million workdays lost per/year in the United States.

However, it is not just the disorder the can have an effect on productivity; the drugs used to treat the illness may also affect productivity levels. Medications are also often a hidden cost in presenteeism, accidents and lost work productivity. The use of sedating antihistamines for allergies had a 50% higher risk of on-the-job injury than control subjects. Another study found that driving impairments exhibited due to the use of a sedating antihistamine were worse than that connected with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.1%. In a study of nearly 6000 employees those who used sedating antihistamines experienced on average an 8% reduction in daily work out-put compared to those who used non-sedating antihistamines. Many other medications including pain killers and cholesterol lowering drugs can result in lost productivity. The fatigue and muscle soreness created by cholesterol lowering drugs may impact productivity especially those with more physical work. While their effect on memory may be even more problematic. A colleague of mine recalled the effect these drugs were having on the memory of police officers who were called to be witnesses. Awkward eh.

The message is that it is in everyone’s best interests to promote health, both the individual and the company they work for. The good thing in all of this is that companies are increasingly adopting workplace wellness programs which if adopted well can make a big difference to the health of their employees.

Read more →