Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cinnamon Extract May Reduce Diabetes

A water soluble extract of cinnamon, which contains antioxidative compounds, could help reduce risk factors associated with diabetes and heart disease, suggests a new study.

The study was led by U.S. Department of Agriculture ( USDA) chemist Richard Anderson.

For the study, conducted in Ohio, co-author Tim N. Ziegenfuss, now with the Center for Applied Health Sciences based in Fairlawn, Ohio, enrolled volunteers and collected samples.

Twenty-two obese participants with impaired blood glucose values--a condition classified as "prediabetes"--volunteered for the 12-week experimental research study. Prediabetes occurs when cells are resistant to the higher-than-normal levels of insulin produced by the pancreas (in an attempt to help remove elevated glucose levels from blood).

The volunteers were divided randomly into two groups and given either a placebo or 250 milligrams (mgs) of a dried water-soluble cinnamon extract twice daily along with their usual diets.

Blood was collected after an overnight fast at the beginning of the study, after six weeks, and after 12 weeks to measure the changes in blood glucose and antioxidants.

The study demonstrated that the water-soluble cinnamon extract improved a number of antioxidant variables by as much as 13 to 23 percent, and improvement in antioxidant status was correlated with decreases in fasting glucose, according to Anderson.

Only more research will tell whether the investigational study supports the idea that people who are overweight or obese could reduce oxidative stress and blood glucose by consuming cinnamon extracts that have been proven safe and effective.

The study has been published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Bottled vs. brewed teas: Study reveals healthiest teas

By LiveScience staff
updated 8/22/2010 2:38:39 PM ET

Labels on bottled tea beverages are typically plastered with declarations of their rich antioxidant content. But a new study suggests, if you're looking for high doses of healthful antioxidants, you might be better off brewing your tea at home. 

Many of the popular beverages included in the study contain fewer antioxidants than a single cup of home-brewed green or black tea, the researchers say. Some store-bought teas contain such small amounts that consumers would have to drink 20 bottles to get the antioxidants, also called polyphenols, present in one cup of tea.

"There is a huge gap between the perception that tea consumption is healthy and the actual amount of the healthful nutrients — polyphenols — found in bottled tea beverages. Our analysis of tea beverages found that the polyphenol content is extremely low," said study researcher Shiming Li, an analytical and natural product chemist at WellGen, Inc., a biotechnology company in North Brunswick, N.J., that develops medical foods for patients with diseases, including a proprietary black tea product that will be marketed for its anti-inflammatory benefits.

In addition, bottled beverages often contain large amounts of sugar that health-conscious consumers may be trying to avoid, Li said.

The study was presented Aug. 22 at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Boston.

Bottled vs. brewed 

Antioxidants are substances that protect cells against damage from unstable molecules called free radicals. They may play a role in preventing a host of diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer's.

Li and colleagues measured the level of polyphenols of six brands of tea purchased from supermarkets. Half of them contained what Li characterized as "virtually no" antioxidants. The rest had small amounts of polyphenols that Li said probably would carry little health benefit, especially when considering the high sugar intake from tea beverages.

The six teas Li analyzed contained 81, 43, 40, 13, 4, and 3 milligrams of polyphenols per 16-ounce bottle. One average cup of home-brewed green or black tea, which costs only a few cents, contains 50-150 milligrams of polyphenols.

Less tea, more water 

After water, tea is the world's most widely consumed beverage. Tea sales in the United States have quadrupled since 1990 and now total about $7 billion annually.

Some manufacturers do list polyphenol content on the bottle label, Li said. But the amounts may be incorrect, because there are no industry or government standards or guidelines for measuring and listing the polyphenolic compounds in a given product. A regular tea bag, for example, weighs about 2.2 grams and could contain as much as 175 mg of polyphenols, Li said. But polyphenols degrade and disappear as the tea bag is steeped in hot water. The polyphenol content also may vary as manufacturers change their processes, including the quantity and quality of tea used to prepare a batch and the tea brewing time.

"Polyphenols are bitter and astringent, but to target as many consumers as they can, manufacturers want to keep the bitterness and astringency at a minimum," Li explained. "The simplest way is to add less tea, which makes the tea polyphenol content low but tastes smoother and sweeter."

Li used a standard laboratory technique, termed high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), to make what he described as the first measurements of polyphenols in bottled tea beverages. He hopes the research will encourage similar use of HPLC by manufacturers and others to provide consumers with better nutritional information.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Popcorn is very good for your health: Study

Dismissed as a snack, popcorn and other whole grain cereals, including popular breakfast cereals, contain "surprisingly large" amounts of polyphenol, a type of anti-oxidant linked to lower risk of heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

These were the findings of a study led by Joe Vinson, chemist at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania (US-P), which also funded the research.

Polyphenols remove free radicals (chemicals that can damage cells and tissue) from the body. They are present in fruits, vegetables and other foods like chocolate, wine, coffee and tea.

But while these foods have all been widely researched, no one until now knew that commercial hot and cold whole grain cereals, already counted as "healthy" because of their fibre content, were also a rich dietary source of the antioxidants.

Over two-thirds of the American diet comprises breakfast cereals, pasta, crackers and salty snacks, said the researchers.

Vinson said that everyone was under the impression, because of early research, that the main health value of whole grains was the fibre, and that this was the active ingredient that also accounted for their link with reduced risk of cancer and heart disease.

But what he and his colleagues found was that whole grain foods have similar levels of antioxidants per gram as fruits and vegetables, said a release of US-P.

"This is the first study to examine total phenol antioxidants in breakfast cereals and snacks, whereas previous studies have measured free antioxidants in the products," explained Vinson.


Vitamins that Boost Brain Power | Post Baby Weight Loss

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Vitamins that boost brain power

There is growing evidence that certain vitamins may help boost brainpower and memory, and you don't need mega doses.

The B vitamins are vital to normal brain and nerve functions. But the B vitamin, folate - found in leafy green vegetables, legumes and other foods - has earned special attention, according to Healthy Years, a publication of UCLA School of Medicine. Studies have shown that changes in mood and mental function, including depression and dementia in the elderly, occur during folate deficiency. Cognitive decline and some forms of dementia including Alzheimer's disease are associated with lower folate levels.

In addition, an adequate intake of antioxidants (such as vitamins C and E) and anti-inflammatory nutrients (like omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids) is an essential part of the defence system against brain ageing. Data suggest a link between poor intake of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oils, and a greater-than-expected incidence of late-onset dementia.

Antioxidants appear to have a role in neuroprotection and some studies have shown a link between the antioxidants vitamins C and E and improved cognitive function and slowed progression of Alzheimer's disease. However, researchers say the evidence is not strong enough to suggest that vitamin C supplementation prevents Alzheimer's.

The best advice? Focus on the dinner plate - eat a well-balanced diet and, if necessary, supplement with a daily multivitamin. This means a diet with regular helpings of fish plus a variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. All of those are sources of nutrients helpful for brain functioning, such as folate, B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids.

— UCLA Healthy Years

Refrigerated oils

Q: Do vegetable oils need to be refrigerated?

A: Not for safety reasons, but refrigerated oils last longer. Natural antioxidants in vegetable oils help fight spoilage. Yet still, all oils eventually turn rancid developing an 'off smell' and taste. How soon this happens depends on the type of oil, how it was processed, and the way it is stored. While some oils have a shelf life of one or more years under normal conditions, natural or unrefined oils last only about four to six months.

To keep oil fresh longer, keep it away from heat, light and air. Seal tightly. Buy only what you will use within a few months. If you buy a larger size, you might want to refrigerate it. Chilled oils may form harmless crystals, which clear when they warm to room temperature. Flaxseed, sesame and walnut oils have a short shelf life, so keep them refrigerated.

— UC Berkeley Wellness Letter, September 2010

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian @ Creators Syndicate website at


Friday, August 6, 2010

Post-baby weight loss


Meera Sanghani Jorgensen is the mother of a happy, healthy, and adorable 14-month-old daughter. She's grateful for everything she has, but says one thing continues to bug her about her pregnancy -- her weight.

The 36-year-old says she went from being considered underweight at 120 pounds on her 5-foot-6-inch frame before her pregnancy to now carrying around an extra 20 pounds that she just can't manage to shake off, after gaining 42 pounds with the baby.

"Hollywood glamorizes the postpartum body," said Jasmine Jafferali (balancing Luke).
(Rich Hein/Sun-Times)
"This is daunting," says Jorgensen, "because I've never had to lose 20 pounds before."

Weight gain and how to lose it can be a major cause of postpartum stress, experts say, especially when images from Hollywood showcase bikini-clad new moms looking fit and trim mere weeks after delivery. In a recent issue of FitPregnancy magazine, two cover stories deal with losing weight: one about how much to gain while pregnant and the other on how to shape up your abs after the baby is born.

"A lot of Hollywood glamorizes the postpartum body," says Jasmine Jafferali, a woman's health and wellness consultant and personal trainer. "It's misleading to the public and us everyday moms."
Jafferali, herself a mother to two, an 11-week-old and 3-year-old, says the thing to remember about those stars is that most are fit going into their nine months and are extremely careful to eat a well-balanced diet during their pregnancy -- a key to taking the baby fat off postpartum.

"Getting back in shape after pregnancy depends on what you did during the pregnancy: eating a nutritious well-balanced diet, getting a good amount of sleep, exercising every day, and keeping the stress down," says Jafferali, who writes a column on family and pregnancy health for online newspaper "Even in the articles you read you'll see those actresses did all the right things."

Healthcare providers are taking note.

In May 2009, an Institute of Medicine (IOM) committee of doctors, nutrition experts and public health researchers issued new guidelines on how much weight women should gain while pregnant. It was the first time they changed their recommendations since 1990.

While much of the report stayed the same, recommending a 25- to 35-pound weight gain for healthy women at a normal weight for her height, what differed was a reference to women considered obese prior to pregnancy -- limiting their weight gain to between 11 and 20 pounds. The change was a direct reference to the obesity epidemic in the United States and a message that too much weight during the pregnancy can have negative effects on the baby and the mother postpartum.
"If you're at your ideal body weight [going into a pregnancy], we ask you to eat 200 extra calories a day -- that's just a yogurt and a glass of milk," says Dr. Kimberly McMahon, a clinical instructor at Northwestern and an ob/gyn with the Northwestern Specialists for Women in Chicago. She advises patients to be very careful even during pregnancy to watch what they are eating. Eating whatever you want just because you're pregnant is a myth, experts say.

Stick with nutritious, heart-healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, whole-grain breads and other complex carbohydrates and lean protein.

"It takes 40 weeks to get this weight on -- it takes time to take it off," says McMahon. Some experts say it can take up to a year postbaby to get your hormones back in sync and your body in shape.
Breast-feeding can burn up to 900 calories a day, but while nursing, some moms plateau with their weight and just can't lose the last 10 pounds, says McMahon.

McMahon tells her patients that after that six-week postpartum checkup, most are able to work out and actually diet -- as long as they are hydrating properly, especially if they are still breast-feeding. Dieting doesn't mean starving yourself. It just means picking healthy food options rather than snacking on sweets and simple carbs, which will leave you feeling hungry and looking for more rather than fulfilled.

Jafferali tells clients to just start moving -- weather and health permitting. "The best thing someone can do after they've had their baby is to just go ahead and take their baby for a walk." Not a leisurely stroll -- a power walk where you're up against the weight of your baby and that 15-20 pound stroller for a full 30 minutes every day. But, don't expect miracles.

Reality TV star Kourtney Kardashian is a high-profile example of how not to lose the weight. In an episode aired last month, she collapsed running on the beach while filming her show "Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami." The 31-year-old, who gave birth in December to her first child, admitted she hadn't eaten before taking on a vigorous workout in a quest to prepare for an upcoming shoot for Life & Style Magazine.

"The weight loss should not be dramatic, but consistent," says McMahon. "It's really restricting your caloric intake and accounting for everything that you are putting in your mouth. And it's hard work."
Jafferali believes in eating every three to four hours and getting in a protein and good fat at every meal, with limited simple carbohydrates. She starts her mornings off with a green smoothie packed with Omega-3 fatty acids from flaxseed oil, iron from spinach and antioxidants from berries.

She recommends thinking of weight loss as 60 percent nutrition, 20 percent exercise, and 20 percent sleep. The last one is what often undermines even the best-laid diet and exercise plans by new moms.
Jorgensen, a yoga instructor and vegetarian, says she's still working on getting her daughter to sleep through the night. "I'm just not getting a full solid seven to eight hours of sleep -- I sleep four hours and then wake up and sleep another three to four hours."

Experts say it may be unrealistic for new moms to expect to lose all the weight before their little ones actually do sleep through the night. Lack of sleep can raise cortisol, a stress hormone, which in turn can prevent your body from losing those extra pounds.

Jorgensen, who is contemplating a second child, says things will be different the second time around. "I'll be more conservative with my diet when I'm pregnant again so I don't have to go through this again."

Anupy Singla is a local free-lance writer.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

5 Tips to Get the Most from Antioxidants

Antioxidants and free radicals are terms we hear all the time, but their roles aren't as black and white as you might think. Understanding them can help you get the most value for your antioxidant dollar. 

We've all heard of antioxidants, these mysterious little molecular helpers that sound like the elusive fountain of youth we've all been looking for. Antioxidants are molecules that block or inhibit the oxidation process, which is thought to be at least partly responsible for many illnesses associated with aging such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. In the oxidation process, free radicals are released which start chain reactions that damage cells - antioxidants help to slow or prevent that process.

antioxidant foods
Model Photo
In the watered down version that we see in commercials touting antioxidant enriched skin treatments and telling us we have to eat foods full of antioxidants to be healthy, we're basically only told that the antioxidants are good and free radicals are bad. But is it really that cut and dry? In a recent article on, several physicians and researchers share the real truth about antioxidants.
  1. Free radicals aren't all evil Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cells, even going so far as causing DNA mutation. The free radicals themselves are merely by-products of the metabolic oxidation process and are an essential part of our bodies. The good cells aren't the only ones attacked by free radicals - they are used to fight bacteria as well. Too many free radicals can be harmful though, and it matters where they come from. Smoking and exposure to pollutants can overwhelm the body's antioxidant defenses, and leave your cells open to attack.
  2. Each antioxidant has it's own job It's estimated that there are about 8,000 different kinds of antioxidants. Many people are familiar with vitamins like C and E, but most of us have never heard of other antioxidants such as flavonoids and polyphenols. They do not all serve the same purpose, different antioxidants fight different free radicals so even if you take a ton of vitamin C, it can never make up for avoiding vitamin E.
  3. Antioxidants are found throughout the plant kingdom All plants produce antioxidants to fight against harmful UV rays, and predators. Though these plants carry different antioxidants in different concentrations, they are always there. When choosing foods for their antioxidant values, it's best to stay away from refined grains, as they've been stripped of most of their antioxidant benefits. Some meats and dairy products carry antioxidants as well, but you'll find the highest concentrations in grass-fed animals.
  4. Antioxidant-fortified doesn't mean healthier It's critical to have a wide variety of antioxidants for them to really be successful. As we said, each type of antioxidant has a different function, the more functions you cover, the more protected you are. Many processed foods that say "Antioxidant Enriched" are really only enriched with one type, so you won't get the same variety as you would buying several different fresh foods. Buy several different types of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes for the greatest level of variety, and protection..
  5. Exercise and supplements are not a guarantee of fitness If you workout and then take a dose of antioxidants, it may interfere with the body's natural processes. In a 2009 German study, when exercisers took antioxidant supplements (vitamins C and E), they weren't rewarded with the typical postexercise boost in insulin sensitivity. It's best to get your antioxidants from whole foods and not pills or enriched, pre-packaged foods to see the best result.
The basic rule of thumb for getting the most from antioxidants is to eat as many different fresh foods as you can - and not just fruits and veggies, include nuts and grains as well. If you make eating whole foods a part of your day, you should have no need to add antioxidant-enriched packaged foods.


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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Maqui Berry Health Benefits - The Power of Antioxidants

Maqui berry health benefits are numerous. Although this fruit has only been discovered a few months ago, yet, it has proven to be quite an amazing find by scientists, more amazing, in fact, than Acai berry. Popularized by popular TV shows, the Acai berry became the rage for years. Then came the discovery of the Maqui berry, and so begins another rage.

The Maqui berries come deep from the rain forests of Chile. This purple fruit has been used by the natives of Chile for its curative and restorative powers. It amazes scientists how such a rare and exotic fruit could have so many health benefits. Like the Acai berry, the Maqui is brimming with phytochemicals, and these phytochemicals are scientifically known to possess preventive and protective properties that will help keep several illnesses and diseases at bay. The discovery of these fruits has brought forward a new hope that indeed, through the help of the powers and benefits of antioxidants, people will become less prone to developing certain illnesses and diseases and perhaps even help keep the cancer cells away.

The antioxidants are responsible for many of the Maqui berry health benefits. Through the intake and absorption of the body of the potent antioxidants that come from the Maqui berries, the body is not only shielded from certain cancers, the body's cardiovascular system also improves a great deal. The antioxidants' first order of business is to fight off free radicals that are roaming in the body and destroying the healthy cells. Free radicals are harmful in the sense that once they are inside the cells, they trigger the cells to become unstable and grow way out of proportion. This leads to the onset of the development of cancerous growth in the body. But the antioxidants will take care of that. By consuming more foods with antioxidant properties, one is able to get rid of the free radicals that threaten to destroy the body, one cell at a time.

Other than preventing diseases and cancers in particular, another benefit of this superfruit from the forests of Chile is weight loss. Apparently, the process of elimination of the free radicals results to a marked improvement in the body's metabolism. Fat are burned faster, contributing to weight loss. This would keep you feeling healthy and good about yourself.

Because of its gaining popularity, there is a higher probability that there will be scams regarding Maqui berry products. You must always keep in mind to be extra careful in purchasing supplements. Remember to do your research regarding the products and to have a keen eye for scams. Make sure that when you do buy a Maqui berry supplement that it is made and distributed by a reputable company. Reading through reviews about Maqui berries can help you make the right decision.

Bear in mind that even if there are studies that claim that Maqui berry is more beneficial than Acai berry, further evaluation should be done before any other claims about Maqui berry health benefits are made.

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