Eating Just Half Cup Of Blueberries A Day May Cut Dementia Risk
Blueberry season is upon us, and as if we needed another reason to love these sweet, bright-blue wonders, a new study published in Nutrients found that eating ½ to 1 cup of blueberries daily can cut dementia risk in at-risk middle-aged adults with insulin resistance.
Native to North America, blueberries, as we know them today, have only been in cultivation for about 100 years, although evidence suggests that they’ve been around for several millennia. In fact, wild blueberries are believed to be one of the first fruit-bearing plants discovered by early Native Americans after the last ice age. According to the American Indian Health and Diet Project, ancient American Indian tribes harvested large quantities of blueberries to be eaten fresh or dried. They were highly valued due to their convenience, versatility, and long shelf life.
Dubbed the “king of superfoods,” blueberries boast one of the most impressive nutritional profiles of all fruits. A single cup of blueberries, which holds roughly 65 to 75 normal-sized berries, contains only 84 calories, one gram of protein, four grams of fiber, and zero grams of fat. The same portion packs nearly a quarter of the daily recommended allowance (RDA) of vitamin C and a third of the RDA for vitamin K, which are both essential nutrients that play a role in a number of bodily functions. Plus, blueberries have one of the highest antioxidant levels of all fruits and vegetables, which are known to counterbalance the effect of oxidative stress and disease-causing free radicals.
Blueberries and Memory Decline
Oxidative stress is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body. Several studies suggest that oxidative stress may be involved in changes in the brain that contribute to age-related degenerative neurological conditions, like Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, and more. But scientists have found that berries, particularly blueberries, contain high amounts of antioxidants called flavonoids, which can accumulate in specific brain regions and mitigate inflammation and oxidative stress.
While previous research looking at blueberries’ effect on brain function mostly focused on benefits for older individuals, the authors of the new study wanted to know whether these tiny but mighty fruits could help prevent cognitive decline in overweight and insulin-resistant middle-aged folks. Late-life dementia, which is defined as dementia that starts after age 65, typically develops over a period of several years, beginning at mid-life, and diabetes and obesity happen to be two of the biggest risk factors for dementia, aside from aging.
To measure blueberries’ effect on brain and cognition, researchers followed 33 prediabetic adults ages 50 to 65 experiencing mild memory decline for a 12-week period. Half of the volunteers were given a daily packet of blueberry powder equivalent to half a cup of fresh blueberries, and the other half received a placebo. At the beginning and end of the study, all participants were asked to take a series of tests assessing their learning and memory functions, mental flexibility, and self-control.
The results of the study showed that participants in the blueberry group displayed improved working memory and cognitive performance, compared to those in the placebo group. Another major finding was that supplementing with blueberries reduced fasting insulin levels, boosted fat loss, and improved metabolic functions.
To Wrap Things Up
The authors of the analysis acknowledge that the study’s sample size was an important limitation. A sample size that is too small increases the margin of error and may undermine reliability, so the researchers note that it is indispensable to reproduce these findings within a larger population. However, there is already plenty of evidence* that blueberries are incredibly healthy and nutritious for people of all ages.
You can increase your blueberry consumption by adding them fresh or frozen to smoothies, salads, breakfast cereals, and desserts, or enjoy them on their own as a sweet, on-the-go snack. Try to aim for a minimum of ½ cup of blueberries per day, although eating more is totally fine.
Since the onset of the pandemic well over two years ago, several variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus have been identified. Variants of COVID-19 – and all RNA viruses, for that matter – occur when there is a mutation in the virus’s genetic makeup. They are a common and an expected part of a virus’s natural cycle. For example, the influenza (flu) virus mutates roughly every year.
Last summer, the COVID-19 Delta variant spread through the world at a mind-boggling speed. A few months later, when cases were finally starting to subside, the Omicron variant was identified and quickly became the predominant and most contagious COVID-19 variant globally. And now, epidemiologists are keeping a close eye on a new, highly transmissible subvariant of Omicron, known as BA.2, which seems to be spreading even faster than the original strain.
What is the Omicron BA.2 Subvariant?
A virus’s variant can have several different genetic variations, known as subvariants. Last year, when the Omicron variant furiously swept through the globe at lightning speed, the subvariant known as BA.1 was by far the most prevalent, so people just called it ‘Omicron.’ In fact, scientists were already aware of BA.2 at the time, but up until spring of this year, the BA.1 subvariant was a thousand times more common than BA.2.
Over the past few weeks, though, BA.2 has been causing an alarming spike in cases across the United States, Europe, and Asia, and it’s close to becoming the dominant subvariant worldwide. Nicknamed ‘stealth’ Omicron, BA.2 has a unique genetic mutation that makes it show up differently in lab tests in contrast to other Omicron subvariants.
Should I Be Concerned About BA.2?
It’s too early to tell whether this new subvariant will cause another record-breaking surge. But what we know so far is that BA.2 seems to be even more contagious than BA.1, which has been the most transmissible variant since the beginning of the pandemic. Experts suspect that BA.2’s exploding growth may be due to its unique genetic composition: it has 8 new mutations that weren’t present in BA.1. And it seems as though these mutations may make the virus even better at propagating itself.
That being said, cases in the United States have been steadily rising for the past few weeks for the first time since late January, and some forecasts predict that cases could rise by over 50% by the last weeks of April.
Do Vaccines Protect Against the BA.2 Subvariant?
While vaccination plus a booster shot may provide protection from getting seriously sick with Omicron and its subvariants, it’s still possible to get infected with BA.2 even if you are fully vaccinated, since the vaccine itself is designed to offer protection against severe Covid illness, but is not 100% effective at preventing infection. Fortunately, the BA.2 subvariant doesn’t seem to be more severe than the previous version of Omicron.
What Does ADHD Look Like at Every Age and Why Does It Change?
ADHD is a complex condition that presents ongoing school, work, and social challenges. It’s marked by three cardinal symptoms: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Yet, ADHD symptoms are rarely one-size-fits-all. Symptoms often change with age and may present differently among genders. This article breaks down what ADHD looks like in children, teens, and adults, and why symptoms may shift over time.
ADHD Symptoms in Children
ADHD is on the rise. That’s no secret. According to data from the 2011 National Survey of Children’s Health, 11% of children had an ADHD diagnosis. That was up from 7.8% in 2003 – a whopping 43% increase!
And that was over ten years ago. In 2016 the estimated number of children ever diagnosed with ADHD, according to a national 2016 parent survey, is 6.1 million (9.4%). This number includes:
388,000 children aged 2–5 years
2.4 million children aged 6–11 years
3.3 million children aged 12–17 years
Boys are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls (12.9% compared to 5.6%).
Current numbers are likely much higher. The average age for diagnosis in moderate cases of ADHD is age six. But, symptoms may show up much sooner, even as early as age three.1
In children, hyperactivity and impulsivity are typically the first symptoms to stand out. Once kids enter school and academic demands increase, inattention issues may emerge.
Signs of ADHD in Children:
Fidgeting, squirming, or trouble sitting still
Moves about constantly (or acts as driven by a motor)
Difficulty playing or engaging in activities quietly
Talks out in class
Difficulty waiting for one’s turn
ADHD Symptoms in Teens
As children with ADHD mature, their symptoms often shift. For some, childhood symptoms may fade in intensity or become less problematic. For others, the responsibilities that come with growing older may trigger new symptoms to emerge. So what does this look like? Well, for one hyperactivity tends to diminish in the teenage years, or it may present more as an ongoing restlessness. But, symptoms of inattention and impulsivity often linger. This can create significant challenges at home and school, as well as in social life.
Signs of ADHD in teens may include:
Difficulty focusing on schoolwork
Trouble finishing tasks
Careless mistakes on schoolwork
Time management issues
Losing personal items
Trouble with organizational skills
Increased emotional sensitivity
Increased parental conflict
How common is ADHD in teens? In 2011 the lifetime prevalence of ADHD for adolescents aged 13 to 18 was 8.7%.1 But again, that number has likely gone up since then.
ADHD Symptoms in Adults
Now that we have a clearer idea of how ADHD manifests in children and teens, what about adults? It’s estimated that around 4.4% of American adults have ADHD.1 But keep in mind, there is a lot of undiagnosed ADHD in adults. Nowadays ADHD is on everyone’s radar, that wasn’t always the case. If a person grew up when there was a lack of ADHD awareness, diagnosis could easily fall through the cracks. Plus, for teens and adults to receive a diagnosis, symptoms must appear before age twelve2.
Adults with undiagnosed ADHD may have a history of poor school and work performance. They may struggle to pay attention during meetings, conversations, and lectures. But they may also have difficulty keeping up with school demands and work deadlines. People with undiagnosed ADHD may also have a rocky relationship history. Over time this can be destructive to their emotional well-being and self-esteem. Inattention, impulsivity, and restlessness may remain in adults years. It’s just that now those symptoms are met with the new challenges that adulthood brings. Work stress, financial concerns, and family demands can weigh heavy on adults even without ADHD. These pressures may bring symptoms to the surface.
Signs of ADHD in adults may include:
Difficulty sustaining attention
Getting easily sidetracked from tasks
Difficulty managing and meeting deadlines
Misplacing important items often
Avoiding tasks that demand sustained mental effort
ADHD Symptoms in Women: Are They Really That Different?
Age isn’t the only factor that can change ADHD symptoms – gender can too. ADHD in boys is far more common than in girls. In fact, males are four times more likely to get an ADHD diagnosis than females. But why? Some say it’s because females only have signs of inattention. Yet, that’s not entirely true. Females do present with symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity. They’re just often more subdued than males, making them easier to gloss over. Plus, ADHD symptoms in females can worsen during hormonal changes. Women may notice symptoms increase during menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause. So what does ADHD look like in women and girls? Here are some common signs4:
ADHD symptoms in women and girls
Being easily distracted or disorganized
Lacking in effort or motivation
Trouble with emotional regulation
Increased risk of social problems (especially bullying)
Difficulty with interpersonal relationships
Academic underachievement and increased school dropout
Elevated risk of substance abuse
Earlier onset of sexual activity/more sexual partners
Increased risk of STIs and unplanned pregnancy
Living With ADHD: Treatment Options
ADHD presents many challenges to school, work, and home life, no matter your age. And each person’s symptoms fall on a spectrum. After all, everyone gets distracted and has trouble focusing at times. However, severe ADHD symptoms can make it difficult to function in day-to-day life. That’s when it’s time to speak with a doctor or psychologist to look into a potential diagnosis. ADHD is typically treated with medication, the most popular being central nervous system stimulants. These drugs stimulate brain activity by increasing the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. Stimulant drugs can be powerful tools to help people with ADHD manage symptoms. But unfortunately, they come with a long list of side effects, including sleep problems, loss of appetite, irritability, headaches, and upset stomach. Luckily, there are several natural nutritional options for ADHD. Research shows cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can improve symptoms in teens with ADHD5. CBT helps build awareness of the thoughts that trigger behaviors and can even teach problem-solving and relaxation techniques. In addition, there are a variety of natural supplements that can address ADHD symptoms at the nutritional level without harmful side effects. You can read about them by downloading this ADHD White Paper: Clinically Proven Alternatives for Treating Inattention, Hyperactivity, and Impulsivity.
So now, when someone asks you, “What does ADHD look like?” you can tell them the honest truth: It depends. Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity are the common threads of ADHD. However, ADHD is not a cookie-cutter condition. Symptoms vary depending on both age and gender. Some people’s symptoms may lessen over time. For others, the transition between childhood, adolescence, and adulthood may shift symptoms due to rising school demands, social pressure, and work stress. ADHD can be challenging – there’s no doubt about that. Yet, you can manage your symptoms and enhance your overall quality of life with the proper treatment and support.
ADHD Mood Swings: Why They Happen + How to Ease Them
Navigating emotional highs and lows is part of life. After all, we all deal with anger, frustration, and impatience from time to time. However, for people with ADHD, emotions are amplified.
The hallmark symptoms of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Yet many people with ADHD also struggle with their moods. They may feel happy and excited one moment, then angry and irritable the next.
This article explains why ADHD mood swings happen and offers strategies to cope with emotional highs and lows.
ADHD and Mood Swings: Why It Happens
People with ADHD are more likely to experience mood swings for several reasons:
Tendency Towards Depression & Anxiety
People with ADHD are more likely to deal with depression and anxiety. One study found that children ages 4-6 with ADHD were at increased risk of depression and suicide attempts when they reach their adolescent years.
People with ADHD often have difficulty focusing and completing tasks. This can lead to frustration, irritability, or shutting down altogether. Feeling distracted and struggling to pay attention non-stop can fuel a steady stream of anxiety.
Being unable to perform tasks the way that non-ADHD peers do, can lead to frustration and anger. Over time this can damage self-esteem. This is especially true for children in the school environment.
Heightened Sense of Emotions
People with ADHD feel things deeply. Problems at school, work, or home that may seem minor to others may feel overwhelming to someone with ADHD.
They may become easily irritated or frustrated when interrupted during interesting tasks. But they may also be quick to anger due to impulsivity. This can create embarrassment and regret later once the emotional overreaction has passed.
ADHD medications can help cognitive symptoms, but not emotional ones. They can even aggravate mood swings in late afternoons or evenings as their effects wear off.
When stimulant medications leave the body too quickly, it can cause a medication rebound. Symptoms can return with a vengeance. This may lead to sadness, irritability, or increased hyperactivity. The mood swings typically last around an hour.
10 Ways to Manage ADHD Mood Swings
While ADHD can heighten emotional highs and lows, you do have the power to learn the tools to ride the waves. Here are ten coping techniques that can help manage ADHD mood swings:
1. Let Yourself Vent
Feelings are meant to be felt. So don’t stuff them. Instead, set aside time each week (or even each day) to let off steam. This’ll look different for everyone, so play around until you find activities that give you an emotional release. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Do a vigorous fitness class
Punch a pillow or punching bag
Blast loud music
Talk to a friend or family member
Or whatever else helps you let go…
Venting can bring emotions center stage. After all, that’s the point! But make sure you also dedicate time towards grounding, calming activities.
2. Take a Break
When you’re feeling frustrated, sometimes the best thing you can do is take a breather. So when emotions get intense, give yourself permission to take a break.
Try switching activities for a few minutes. Going for a short walk or taking a few slow deep breaths may be just what you need to help settle yourself.
3. Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
People with ADHD often deal with frequent setbacks at school, in social situations, and on the job. Over time this can lead to low self-esteem and negative self-talk.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) trains you to restructure your thoughts toward a more compassionate internal dialogue. CBT can even help you learn problem-solving skills and relaxation techniques to manage ADHD mood swings.
Research shows teens with ADHD show more symptom improvement with CBT than with medication alone. In one study, CBT eased symptoms of depression and anxiety in college students with ADHD. Best of all, the benefits held for 5-7 months after treatment ended!
Need help finding a therapist in your area who practices CBT? Click here.
4. Exercise Often
What helps burn off stress and gives you an endorphin boost to boot? Yep – exercise! Research shows that exercise reduces anxiety and depression while improving cognitive function and self-esteem.
So how much exercise is enough? The CDC recommends that adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week and two days of muscle-strengthening activities. Find some activities you enjoy, and stick with them!
5. Clean Up Your Diet
Many people claim that artificial colorings and food additives are to blame for ADHD. While there’s no conclusive evidence to prove that, science does suggest that food dyes can exacerbate ADHD symptoms.
Processed foods are devoid of the nutrients needed for a healthy brain. But they’re also packed with sugar. This can take your blood sugar on a roller coaster ride – along with your mood.
Eating a fiber-rich diet filled with whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein will help keep your blood sugar and mood stable.
6. Get Solid Sleep
If you want to keep your mood steady, make sleep a priority. Studies show that not getting enough sleep increases both depression and anxiety.
But don’t worry! There are plenty of ways to improve your sleep. For starters, set a consistent sleep schedule and stick to it. Also, try limiting screen time one hour before bed. Electronic devices emit blue light, disrupting your body’s circadian rhythm.
One confusing symptom of ADHD that may seem contradictory is hyperfocus. Hyperfocus is the ability to zero in on an interesting task for lengthy periods. Some people with ADHD can become so immersed in projects that they are oblivious to their surroundings. Time stands still.
So, when you find your mood shifting in a negative direction, use your hyperfocus to your advantage. Try refocusing your attention on a passion project. This can help you snap out of unhelpful thought loops causing distress.
8. Prep For The “Blues”
While there is an upside to hyperfocus, there’s a downside too. It’s called the hyperfocus hangover, also known as “depression after success.” This is when an emotional crash follows an exciting event or success.
For some people with ADHD, once the excitement is over, it can feel like a huge letdown. So be prepared – have a project or activity waiting in the wings for when the crash comes. Keeping your attention pointed towards things that light you up will make those emotional funks less likely.
9. Use Humor
There’s a reason for the expression “laughter is the best medicine” – because it’s true! Laughter has proven psychological benefits such as improved stress, depression, and anxiety. Learning to joke with yourself about your ADHD symptoms can help break negative thought loops and help you lighten up.
That’s not to say you should laugh off all your mistakes. You do need to take responsibility for your actions. But if you can playfully poke fun at yourself, there’s a good chance others will be more forgiving and sympathetic.
10. Try Supplements
Certain nutrients may help manage ADHD mood swings. Here are a few:
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Research shows that children and teens with ADHD tend to have lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids, a key nutrient for brain health.
In one study of children and young adults with ADHD, omega-3 supplementation improved hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattention, and short-term memory.
Magnesium helps you chill out by triggering your parasympathetic nervous system (aka “rest and digest” mode). Its relaxing effects are shown to improve sleep quality and ease anxiety.
Magnesium may be especially helpful when stimulant medications wear off and symptoms amp up.
Research shows people with ADHD often have low levels of Vitamin D, which is linked with depression and anxiety. That’s why getting enough vitamin D is critical for managing the mood swings that ADHD can stir up.
For example, in one study, children who received vitamin D supplementation showed significant improvement in impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity.
Zinc is a trace mineral with an enormous impact on our central nervous system. It is involved in the synthesis and production of serotonin (the “happiness hormone”, which influences mood and sleeping patterns) dopamine (a chemical that regulates pleasure, pain, and energy levels), and norepinephrine (better known as the “stress hormone”). This mineral also keeps under control various substances that affect our behavior, learning process, attention, and concentration. Out of these, the most important are melatonin and fatty acids.
Grape Seed Extract
Children diagnosed with ADHD demonstrate higher levels of oxidative stress than children without ADHD. Higher levels of oxidative stress increase tissue damage, and the type of free radicals that is present in people with ADHD make them more vulnerable to heart disease. As a result, potent antioxidants like grape seed extract that provide protection against excessive oxidative stress and heart disease risk factors, therefore, may be beneficial for those with ADHD. Grapeseed is easily absorbed and utilized by the body and it provides potent protection against free radicals and damage to cells and DNA.
Lemon Balm Extract
Lemon balm, or Melissa officinalis, has been used as an anti-anxiety, sleep-inducing, and memory-enhancing nutrient for over 2,000 years. Clinical trials have provided scientific evidence for the impact of lemon balm, demonstrating its ability to improve mood, reduce stress, and help improve sleep quality. One study that investigated the impact of lemon balm extract on 20 stressed volunteers over a 15 day period found that anxiety was reduced in 70% of the study participants and insomnia was reduced in 85% of them. Given that ADHD patients often experience stress and suffer from a high rate of insomnia, lemon balm extract is likely a helpful supplement for these patients.
There is evidence to suggest that saffron (Crocus sativus) can be beneficial to those with ADHD. Initial studies have demonstrated that saffron is effective as methylphenidate in improving ADHD symptoms over a 6-week period. Another recent study echoed these findings.
People with ADHD face many challenges such as inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Yet, they’re also more likely to struggle with mood swings. Luckily, many coping strategies and lifestyle habits can help you weather those emotional storms:
Let yourself vent
Take a break
Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Move your body
Clean up your diet
Get quality sleep
Take advantage of your hyperfocus
Prep for the “blues”
Try an omega-3, magnesium, vitamin D, or a combination supplement with ingredients for promoting attention and focus
Implementing these coping techniques will build self-awareness and help you or your loved one better navigate ADHD mood swings in the future.
Obesity and COVID-19: 5 Reasons it’s a Risky Combo
Before coronavirus entered the scene, our country faced another epidemic: obesity. The obesity rate in the US and worldwide has skyrocketed in recent years. This is bad news, as obesity is linked with an increased risk of chronic disease, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Well, it turns out COVID-19 targets people carrying extra weight as well. This article reveals the data linking obesity and COVID-19 severity, why excess pounds puts you at greater risk, and what you can do about it.
Obesity and COVID-19: What’s the Connection?
While several health conditions increase your risk of severe COVID-19, obesity tops the list. A study of nearly 17,000 patients found that 77% of Americans hospitalized for COVID-19 were overweight or obese.
Research shows obese people with COVID-19 are 113% more likely to land in the hospital than people with healthy weight. Obesity also makes you 74% more likely to end up in the ICU and 48% more likely to die.
A recent preprint study may explain why. This new study reveals that COVID-19 infects fat tissues and immune cells that live in fat. So the more fat you’re carrying, the more places COVID-19 has to set up shop.
And that was before the coronavirus pandemic! The stress and sedentary lifestyle associated with lockdowns have only exacerbated this problem.
A recent survey from the APA found that 42% of US adults gained more weight than intended during the pandemic. The average weight gain was around 29 pounds.
And unfortunately, each extra pound you gain puts you more at risk for severe outcomes of COVID-19.
WHY are Obese People More at Risk of COVID-19?
It’s difficult to nail down one reason why obesity is such a risk factor for COVID-19. But there are several possibilities:
1. Weakened Immunity
Research shows obesity is linked with increased respiratory infections, including pneumonia, H1N1, and yes…COVID-19.
2. Chronic Inflammation
People who are obese have more adipose tissue (aka fat cells). Adipose tissues secrete inflammatory cytokines. This creates a chronic state of low-grade inflammation. The more fat cells have, the greater the inflammation.
3. Increased Blood Clots
Obesity is associated with an increased risk of blood clots. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is linked with an increase of blood clots as well. This makes obesity and COVID-19 a potentially deadly combo.
4. Impaired Lung Function
Research shows obesity decreases lung capacity. When you have excess abdominal fat it presses on the diaphragm. This can restrict airflow make it more difficult to breathe. Obese people also tend to have lower levels of the hormone adiponectin, which helps protect the lungs.
How to Use Lifestyle to Manage Obesity (& Boost Immunity)
We are living in strange times. While a lot may feel out of your control, you DO have the power to change your lifestyle. Here are five lifestyle tips that support weight loss and strengthen your immune system:
Eat More Whole Foods (& Less Processed Ones)
Processed foods are handy, but they disrupt your microbiome, throw off your blood sugar, and lead to weight gain. Plus, they’re devoid of the nutrients needed to keep your immune system strong.
So crowd out the processed junk by eating plenty of nutrient-dense whole foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, nuts, and whole grains.
Whole foods are loaded with vitamins and minerals, but they’re also packed with fiber. Fiber makes you feel full longer, so you’re less likely to overeat. Research shows people who eat high-fiber diets lose more weight.
Men – no more than 36 grams (9 tsp) of added sugar a day
Women – no more than 25 grams (6 tsp) of added sugar a day
What improves heart health, boosts your mood, strengthens your immune system, and helps you manage your weight? You guessed it – exercise! Research shows exercise has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, even in as little as 20 minutes!
The coronavirus pandemic has only highlighted the importance of exercise. The CDC reports that people who do little or no physical activity are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19 than those who stay active. So get moving!
How much exercise is enough? The CDC recommends that adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise and two days of muscle-strengthening activity each week.
But anything is better than nothing! So start slow, find some things you enjoy, and stick with them. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Plus, stress makes weight loss challenging. Chronic stress elevates the hormone cortisol, slowing your metabolism. High cortisol levels also increase your appetite and cause cravings for sweet, fatty, and salty foods.
So inject some stress relief into your daily life whenever you can. Here are some ideas:
Get out in nature
Listen to some music
Read a book
Call a friend
Play with a pet
Take a bath
Be creative – sing, dance, paint, draw
Or anything else you find relaxing!
Clearly, obesity and COVID-19 are a risky combo. People who are obese and get COVID-19 are more likely to be hospitalized, be put on a ventilator, and die.
Now more than ever, it’s important to do everything in your power to stay healthy – for yourself and your family. If you’re overweight or obese, that means making lifestyle changes that support weight loss such as:
As an added bonus, all five of these lifestyle habits boost your immune system, making you more resilient when bad bugs strike.
Changing your lifestyle can be uncomfortable, even when it’s positive. So start small, but start somewhere. The more you commit to healthier habits, the better you’ll feel and the stronger your body will be.
Most COVID-infected people look forward to the day they can get back to their symptom-free life. However, for some people, that day seems to keep running further away. With over 426,624,859 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (February 2022), enough evidence has shown that some people face long-term health effects from the virus.
By now, it’s clear that each person experiences COVID, and its recovery, differently. Most people who catch the coronavirus disease recover completely within a few weeks. However, that is not always the case. Some individuals continue to experience COVID-19 symptoms even after their initial recovery. They refer to themselves as “long haulers.” The condition itself is called long COVID-19 or post-COVID-19 syndrome.
Long COVID-19 refers to lingering health problems lasting for a certain period after initial diagnosis. These symptoms can remain for months, increasing the risk of developing long-term health issues. The severity of the initial infection does not seem to be related to the duration of recovery. That means even those with mild versions of the disease could face these long-term problems.
According to a study published in November 2021, more than 40% of COVID-19 survivors worldwide had long-term effects. In addition, based on the number of infections recorded globally by mid-October, more than 100 million people experienced lingering health concerns due to the COVID-19 virus.
In this article, we will look into what long COVID is. Then, we will dive deeper into its causes, who it affects, its symptoms, duration, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment. In addition, we will discuss the vaccines’ effect on long COVID.
What Is Long COVID
Most people that catch COVID recover relatively quickly. However, some people have persistent symptoms that last for weeks or months after the infection has gone. This problem goes by several names. Common terms for this condition include long COVID, post-COVID-19 syndrome, or long-term COVID. In addition, the National Institutes of Health refer to it as post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC).
The World Health Organization (WHO) refers to long COVID as the illness that happens to people with a history of either probable or confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection. It is usually within three months from the onset of the coronavirus with symptoms and effects that last for at least two months. These symptoms can’t be explained by any alternative diagnosis.
Most peoples’ COVID-19 symptoms resolve within four weeks. Others might experience lingering health problems. However, the vast majority will no longer test positive but will still suffer the virus’s long-lasting consequences.
Depending on how long symptoms stay, they can be called one of two things, either Ongoing symptomatic COVID or Post-COVID Syndrome. Ongoing symptomatic COVID refers to symptoms that remain for more than four weeks. Post-COVID Syndrome refers to persistent symptoms that continue for more than 12 weeks, and no other condition could explain them.
Causes of Long COVID
The exact cause of having long-term symptoms of COVID-19 is not yet known. The chances of having long COVID don’t seem to be linked with the severity of the initial infection. However, it is clear that certain risk factors, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, and other conditions, might lead to more serious symptoms. Even those with initially mild symptoms could have long-term problems.
Different processes are likely going on in different people, leading to the varying symptoms of long COVID. A probable cause could be related to SARS-CoV-2 attacking the body in various ways. The virus gets into cells and damages them. Damage can occur in the lungs, nervous system, heart, liver, etc. The damage could be responsible for the health issues that linger after COVID-19 illness.
In addition, COVID-19 increases the risk of blood cells clumping up and clotting. Large clots cause heart attacks and strokes, but with COVID-19, most heart damage comes from very small clots that block capillaries in the heart muscle. Other organs, like the lungs, liver, legs, kidneys, are affected by blood clots. COVID-19 could also weaken blood vessels and cause them to leak. This can lead to long-lasting problems in the kidneys and liver. However, much more research is still needed to identify the cause of long COVID.
Who Gets Long COVID?
Long COVID doesn’t just affect a single population. This condition affects people of all ages, those with good health, and those who already have health issues. Those previously hospitalized with COVID-19 can have long COVID, but so can those with mild symptoms. Around 10% of people with COVID-19 will experience long-term symptoms. Research has found that this 10% is particularly true for those between 18 and 49. However, the odds increase to 22% for those 70 or older.
In the UK, the Office of National Statistics estimated that 1.3 million individuals were experiencing self-reported long COVID. This amounts to over 1 in 50 or 2.1% of the population. In addition, 42% of people were experiencing long COVID symptoms more than a year after their initial infection of the virus. This study also found that the condition is most common in women, those between the ages of 35 and 69, individuals with underlying conditions or disabilities, those that work in social and health care or teaching and education, and those living in poorer areas.
A study published in Cell identified four biological factors linked with a greater risk of developing long COVID. These factors included Type 2 diabetes (at the time of the diagnosis), unusual levels of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in the blood (which correlates to the severity of the infection), presence of specific autoantibodies, and signs of the Epstein-Barr virus.
Another study published in Nature Communications found an association between antibody signature and long COVID. Researchers found that after the infection of COVID-19, two types of antibodies started to circulate in the blood: immunoglobulin M (IgM) and Immunoglobulin G (IgG). At first, the IgM levels increase rapidly to help fight the infection. IgG, on the other hand, increases later and provides long-term immunity. When comparing antibody levels in blood samples, it was found that those who developed long COVID tended to have lower levels of IgM at the outset of infection and lower levels of IgG3 six and 12 months after infection compared to those who did not develop the illness.
In addition, these researchers found that antibody levels, along with certain factors like asthma or age, could be used to determine the risk of developing long COVID. These findings could help improve care for long Covid patients.
Children are less likely to develop long COVID; however, it is still possible. More data regarding the prevalence of long COVID in children are still needed. A study found that 14% or up to one in seven children and young people infected with COVID-19 may still have symptoms linked to the virus 15 weeks later.
Symptoms of Long COVID
There is a broad spectrum of long COVID symptoms, some being more common than others. Some symptoms are minor, but others might put a patient in need of continuous care and, if severe, readmission to the hospital. The symptoms are many and can change over time.
According to the ONS, by far, the most common symptom people with self-reported long COVID experience is fatigue, affecting about 51% of people. Other common symptoms include loss of smell (37%), shortness of breath (36%), and problems concentrating (28%). Other common signs and symptoms include (but are not limited to) joint pain, cough, chest pain, brain fog, difficulty sleeping, muscle pain, headache, heart palpitations, loss of smell or taste, depression, anxiety, delirium (in older people), fever, dizziness, rashes, stomach aches, diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, tinnitus, sore throat, pins and needles, and more. In fact, long COVID has over 200 symptoms.
Some people experience severe issues such as breathing difficulties, heart complications, stroke, chronic kidney impairment, and Guillain-Barre syndrome, a condition that results in temporary paralysis. In addition, it has been reported that some adults and children experience a condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome after their COVID-19 infection, in which some organs and tissues can become significantly inflamed. For example, children who develop this serious complication could be left with severe heart damage.
Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is an autonomic nervous system symptom that could develop after the COVID-19 infection and persist. This condition affects the circulation of the blood, leaving patients with other neurologic symptoms such as continuing headache, fatigue, insomnia, to name a few.
There are many more symptoms that someone with long COVID could be suffering from. In addition, there is still a lot to unfold regarding how COVID-19 will affect people’s health over time. More studies are needed to identify the relationship between the condition and the symptoms.
How Long Will Long COVID Last?
If you suffer from long COVID, this question probably continues to circulate in your mind: how long will long COVID last? Well, the answer isn’t quite clear yet. The duration of long COVID varies from person to person. In addition, the severity of the initial illness isn’t necessarily related to the length of recovery.
More research is needed, and time needs to pass to identify how long post-COVID-19 syndrome lasts. However, there is reassuring evidence that the symptoms tend to improve over time in most cases. If ongoing or new symptoms occur and you are concerned, you can seek medical advice and support.
The Challenge of Diagnosing Long COVID
The diagnosis of long COVID could be tricky. With no standard definition, a wide variety of symptoms, and no specific guidelines to manage them, long COVID is difficult to distinguish from other conditions.
There are no standard tests that doctors use. They could start by ruling out other probable causes of symptoms, like testing for diabetes, iron deficiency, and other conditions, before providing a long COVID diagnosis. However, researchers are trying to find new ways to test for long COVID.
Prevention and Treatment of Long COVID
The best method to avoid long COVID is by preventing coronavirus infection in the first place. This could be done by practicing coronavirus precautions and getting vaccinated.
It’s very easy to say that the treatment for long COVID is to just ‘give it time’ if you don’t have long COVID. Unfortunately, no single medication or treatment is used to treat long COVID. However, you can refer to doctors and therapists to help address the symptoms. Many large medical centers in various areas worldwide have opened clinics for long COVID assessment and care. In addition, support groups are available. Don’t write off symptoms such as anxiety, depression, or insomnia as ‘all in your head.’ Refer to doctors as they can help.
There are some extra management tips to help with symptoms of long COVID. These tips depend on your symptoms. Physical therapy, breathing exercises, staying active, and other tools could help. Keep in mind, however, that it is a gradual recovery.
Long COVID and Vaccines
Growing evidence has indicated that vaccines could reduce the risk of developing long COVID. In an evidence briefing published by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) in which 15 long COVID studies were reviewed, it was found that those who were infected with COVID after having two doses of Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca, or one dose of the Janssen vaccine, were half as likely to have lasting (≥28 days) COVID symptoms when compared to those unvaccinated, or only had one dose. In addition, a reduction in longer-term long COVID symptoms (up to six months) was found.
Evidence shows that those vaccinated after their infection with COVID could have reduced long COVID effects. Three out of four studies in the UKHSA review looked at long COVID before and after vaccination. It was found that the vaccinated people had improvements in their symptoms (either directly or over several weeks) than those not vaccinated. Yet, there were a few individuals that had worsened symptoms. More studies are needed to know the effects of vaccination on long COVID.
Coronavirus affects people differently. While most peoples’ symptoms resolve relatively quickly, others might experience long-term effects from their initial COVID-19 infection. The exact cause for why someone might develop long COVID is not entirely known yet. Long COVID doesn’t just affect a single population, and it has a wide variety of symptoms.
How long post-COVID-19 syndrome lasts varies from person to person, so a specific recovery duration is unidentified. It is challenging to diagnose long COVID since there is no specific test. In addition, its symptoms could overlap with other conditions. Medical professionals do several tests to rule out the possibility of these other conditions.
The best way to prevent long COVID is by avoiding a COVID-19 infection in the first place. If someone has long COVID, treating it using a single medication or treatment is unlikely. Instead, you can contact your doctors and therapists and visit a long COVID clinic to address the symptoms. You can also try some home tools to aid in easing symptoms. Finally, vaccination is important as it can also help.
5 Impressive Benefits of Methylfolate
There are many different forms of folate floating around. Between folate, folic acid, and methylfolate, it’s easy to get confused. And while many people think they’re all the same, not all forms of folate are created equal.
Some forms are more easily absorbed while others can actually be harmful in excess! This article will break down what folate is, why it’s important, the different forms of folate, and dig into the benefits of methylfolate in particular.
What is Folate?
Folate, also known as vitamin B9, is a vital nutrient needed for healthy red blood cell formation, DNA synthesis, and cell division. Folate is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning it’s not stored in the body and must be replenished daily. Since your body can’t produce folate, you must get it from food.
Food Sources of Folate
To get more folate on your plate, you’ll want to turn up the volume on these folate-rich foods:
Dark leafy greens (especially spinach, romaine, & turnip greens)
Citrus fruits (oranges in particular)
Ideally, everyone would get enough vitamin B9 by noshing on the whole foods listed above. However, many people suffer from digestive issues or have genetic mutations that impair the conversion of folate into its active form.
Plus, modern farming practices, soil depletion, and an abundance of highly processed food make it challenging to get enough folate.
Symptoms of Folate Deficiency
Since folate is vital to healthy red blood cell production, a deficiency can lead to anemia. Think you might be low on folate? Here are some symptoms of folate-deficiency anemia to watch out for:
Swollen tongue or mouth sores
Shortness of breath
Loss of appetite
Low vitamin B9 is also linked with an increased risk of several chronic health conditions, including depression, heart disease, birth defects, and cancer. This is why many people opt for a folate supplement.
Folate vs. Folic Acid: What’s the Difference?
Folate is the natural form of vitamin B9 found in foods we covered earlier. Folic acid is the synthetic form used in some supplements and added to many processed foods.
For folic acid to be usable, it must be converted into its active form L-methylfolate. To do this, your body relies on the enzyme methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR). The trouble is up to 40% of the population carry variants of the MTHFR gene that impair their ability to convert folic acid into its active form.
If you have the MTHFR mutation or struggle with chronic digestive issues, taking folic acid can cause a buildup of unmetabolized folic acid, which can impair immune function.
What is Methylfolate?
Methylfolate, also known as L-methylfolate, is the active and natural form of vitamin B9. Because it’s already activated, methylfolate is more bioavailable than other forms of folate.
Is Methylfolate Better Than Folic Acid?
Compared to folic acid, methylfolate is a safer, more effective option. For starters, methylfolate is the only form of folate that can cross the blood-brain barrier. Plus, studies have found that high folic acid intake can mask or even aggravate symptoms of B12 deficiency.
Also, since methylfolate is already in its activated form, there are no dangers of unmetabolized folic acid. Methylfolate is also the only form of folate effective for carriers of the MTHFR variant.
Methylfolate supports healthy mood and brain function by helping your body produce the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. That’s why taking a methylfolate supplement can act as a natural mood booster, especially for those with the MTHFR mutation who struggle with folate conversion.
But there’s good news! Research finds that getting plenty of folate can reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Taking methylfolate is an easy way to support optimal brain health for years to come.
3 – Promotes Heart Health
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America. Thankfully, research shows getting plenty of folate reduces your risk of heart disease. So how does it do that?
Folate helps metabolize the amino acid homocysteine. High levels of homocysteine can lead to the formation of blood clots and even stroke! Research shows getting plenty of folate lowers homocysteine levels, reducing your risk of heart disease.
4 – Supports a Healthy Pregnancy
During pregnancy, your body requires more folate than usual. That’s because folate is needed for DNA replication and numerous enzymatic reactions – all uber important for fetal growth and development.
Research shows getting enough folate can reduce the risk of neural tube defects and other congenital abnormalities. It also decreases the chances of anemia, preterm birth, and pregnancy complications. That’s why most health care providers recommend eating a folate-rich diet and taking supplements like methylfolate during pregnancy.
However, there’s a catch. Excessive folic acid intake can actually help cancer cells grow and spread. Who wants to take that gamble? That’s why when it comes to supplementation, you want to be choosy. Methylfolate is the safest way to snag all the benefits of folate without the dangers of unmetabolized folic acid.
Methyl folate is a very popular nutritional supplement that can improve your quality of life on many levels. It has become the most recommended option for folate supplementation and is a better option to folic acid, mainly due to the fact that low immune function has been found to be caused by unmetabolized folic acid in the bloodstream. Benefits of Methyl folate range from improved brain function and mood support to promoting heart health and reduced cancer risk.
4 Effects of The Pandemic on Children
In the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, a constant burden is present on humanity’s shoulders. The fear of infection, necessary social isolation, and altered home-living practices have disrupted the lives of adults and children alike. Families across the country are still adapting to the evolving changes in daily life caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite COVID-19 itself not heavily impacting children’s physical health, its pandemic has shown to have several adverse effects on pediatric health. In a situation that involves constant change, such as a pandemic, children are likely to develop unpleasant symptoms. The altered routine, limited social interaction, imbalanced nutritional intake, restricted physical activity, and frequent pandemic-related news and stress result in children becoming a vulnerable group during the pandemic.
Medical professionals have reported an escalation of physical symptoms, such as headaches, tummy aches, and panic attacks, experienced by healthy children that have not been infected by the coronavirus. Mental health issues have also increased in children during the pandemic.
This article will dive into the four effects the COVID-19 pandemic has on children’s health.
1. Increase in Headaches and Migraines
Migraines are not just for adults. Children are subject to migraines along with tension and chronic headaches. Migraines are prevalent in about 10% of children ages between 5-15 and up to 28% of adolescents. Also, headaches are one of the most common somatic complaints in children.
Migraine can be considered a disorder of psychobiological adaptation where internal and external environmental factors interplay with a genetic predisposition. Internal and external environmental influences include hormonal, psycho-emotional, psycho-social, climatic, dietary, or other factors.
In children, signs of the severe, occasional headache include not wanting to eat, feeling nauseous, vomiting, looking pale, acting grouchy, etc. Most children’s migraines end within two hours or with the help of medication.
Psychological stressors, such as the pandemic and all things related to it, are potential triggers involved in recurring migraine episodes and headaches in children. In one study, pediatric patients with headaches were asked to fill out a questionnaire. This questionnaire helped identify any changes in headache characteristics and lifestyle factors that occurred after the beginning of the pandemic.
According to the results, chronic or daily headache disorders increased from 30% pre-pandemic to 49% since the pandemic started. Constant daily headaches also rose from 20% to 32%. In addition, about half of the patients, 46%, reported their headaches to be worse after the start of the pandemic. On the opposite hand, it was also found that episodic headaches declined from 70% to 51%.
According to Cleveland Clinic, the COVID-19 pandemic contributes to the increase of stress headaches children are experiencing. This increase is particularly prevalent with the back-to-school stress children face as they are experiencing more learning challenges and a lack of stability in the academic and social environments.
2. Increase in Obesity
COVID-19 isn’t the only pandemic humans are facing. Obesity is a whole pandemic all on its own and is a major health concern in the United States. Around one in six children are obese. Childhood obesity is a greatly dangerous medical condition that sets children on the path to health problems that were once known to be adult only problems, such as high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Obesity in children can also lead to depression and poor self-esteem.
The COVID-19 pandemic causes significant changes in children’s lives, including alterations in play, socialization, nutrition, sleep, and screen time. With the schools closed, many children lost their access to nutritious food, social networks, and mandatory physical activity. They became restricted to their homes with increased stress and screen time, irregular mealtimes, disruptions in family income, lack of physical activity opportunities, and less access to nutritious foods.
These consequences of the pandemic have led to unhealthy weight gain in children and an increase in the prevalence of childhood obesity. According to the CDC, the body mass index (BMI) of 432,302 persons aged 2–19 years has approximately doubled after the start of the pandemic. Those who experienced the greatest increase in BMI were persons with pre-pandemic overweight or obesity.
According to a study with 2111 young participants, the number of meals and their frequency increased by 50% during the pandemic. That is why, to prevent excessive weight gain, healthy eating behaviors and exercise habits should be encouraged.
3. Increase in Mental Health Problems
With change and uncertainty comes troubled mental health, especially in children. Social isolation, constant exposure to COVID-19 information, parental stress, changes in routine, lack of physical activity, increased screen time, and perceived risks are severely unpleasant to children, if not traumatizing. Such factors might trigger symptoms of mental health issues in children.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, anxiety, depression, and mood disorders were the most common mental health issues reported by children. The dramatic changes in their lives along with differences in parental behaviors have shown to be perceived as threats by children and a cause for anxiety. Anxiety can often manifest itself as physical symptoms.
Parental stress is one of the factors responsible for negatively affecting children’s emotional and mental health during the pandemic. In addition, the financial hardships and stress that many parents and families have faced during this time have led to a greater risk of child abuse and neglect.
In a study conducted in Italy and Spain with 1143 parents as participants, it was found that 85.7% of their children experienced changes in their emotional state and behavior during quarantine. Common symptoms included nervousness, restlessness, irritability, boredom, loneliness, worry, and uneasiness.
4.Risks on Child Development
Child development refers to the physical, language, psychological, and emotional changes in a person from birth to the beginning of adulthood. Though data is still scarce, the pandemic could be causing potential risks to the development of children.
The developmental risks due to the pandemic could be caused by confinement, increased parental stress, risk of illness, among other factors. The situation could become an adverse childhood experience that generates stress. This could lead to possible losses of brain development and developmental delays.
A child doesn’t have to contract COVID-19 to be affected by it. The pandemic itself could have many adverse effects on children’s health and well-being. The COVID-19 pandemic has been shown to increase the risk of headaches and migraines, childhood obesity, mental health issues, and child development issues in children.
How Sugar Suppresses the Immune System – Everything You Need to Know
The pandemic has put immunity at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Now more than ever, immune-boosting habits like regular exercise, quality sleep, and stress relief are crucial. Yet, even if you’re working out and taking vitamins every day, one food could be sabotaging your immune system.
Yep, you guessed it – SUGAR. We’ve all heard the phrase ‘sugar and spice and everything nice.’ Well, what sugar does to your immune system is anything but nice. This article will spell out how sugar harms your immune function, offer tips to get control of your sugar habit and share the benefits of the one important ingredient that almost all immune-boosting supplements overlook.
How Sugar Affects Your Immune System
When you eat sugar, it causes a spike in your blood glucose (aka your blood sugar). In time, elevated blood glucose can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes. However, it also impairs your immune system in several ways. I’ll lay out a few of them:
Neutrophils are white blood cells that serve as the first line of defense in your innate immune system. They ‘eat’ harmful pathogens such as bacteria and fungi. High blood sugar activates the release of the enzyme protein kinase C, which inhibits neutrophil function. This gives pathogens a chance to set up shop!
Studies show high blood sugar can also decrease interleukin-6, a part of your innate and adaptive immune system that helps regulate the immune response.
Research reveals high sugar diets increase gut permeability and can tip the balance of your microbiome so that the bad guys outnumber the good ones. This is bad news, as 70-80% of your immune system lives in your gut! That’s why if you want a robust immune system, good gut health is key.
As if that weren’t enough, eating a high sugar diet also puts you more at risk for dangerous outcomes from Covid-19. For example, high blood sugar can lead to insulin resistance and eventually diabetes. Studies show people with type 1 and 2 diabetes have increased mortality rates from Covid-19.
However, even if you don’t have full-on diabetes, high blood sugar can still worsen Covid outcomes. For example, one study found that people with elevated blood sugar were over three times more likely to die from Covid-19!
While this is scary, the good news is you do have the power to cut back your sugar intake to bolster your immune system. I’ll offer some tips to help do just that in an upcoming section. For now, let’s answer everyone’s burning question…
How Much Sugar is Too Much?
The average American eats around 77 grams of sugar a day. That’s about 19 teaspoons a day, or 60 pounds of sugar a year!
For many, spending more time at home combined with the stress of the pandemic has fueled sugar cravings even more. Unfortunately, giving in to these sugar cravings wreaks havoc on your immune system.
One study found that 100 grams of sugar (in the forms of glucose, sucrose, honey, and orange juice) significantly decreased neutrophils’ ability to ‘eat’ bacteria. The effects were most pronounced 1-2 hours after eating sugar, but the effects lasted 5 hours.
Since sugar is added to loads of packaged foods, it’s easy to reach the 100-gram mark without even trying. Here’s what I mean:
One 16.9 ounce bottle of soda = 55 grams of sugar
One tub of yogurt = 31 grams of sugar
One protein bar = 17 grams
For a grand total of 103 grams of sugar. And there wasn’t even any cake or ice cream on the menu!
What’s the ‘Sweet Spot’ When it Comes to Sugar?
There are many opinions on the ‘just right’ amount of sugar. However, it’s safe to say we can all benefit from dialing back our sugar intake.
Men – no more than 36 grams (9 tsp) of added sugar a day
Women – no more than 25 grams (6 tsp) of added sugar a day
If staying at a number that low seems like too far a jump for you, take baby steps to trim your sugar down. Try cutting back on the soda (or ditching it altogether). Or you can swap out sugary snacks in favor of fruits or nuts.
Where is sugar hiding?
Where Sugar Hides
Even if you’re trying to scale back on sugar, it can be hard to avoid it. Sugar is everywhere! It’s even hiding in products marketed as ‘natural’ and ‘healthy.’ Here are a few of the places where sugar shows up:
Sweet treats and desserts: Clearly this one is no shocker, but cakes, cookies, brownies, candy, and ice cream are all loaded with sugar
Sugar-sweetened drinks: Most beverages like soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, iced teas, and sweetened coffee drinks are high in added sugars
Condiments: Ketchup, salad dressings, sauces, and nut butter often contain sugar
Packaged foods: Most cereals, bread, granola bars, protein bars, soups, prepared foods, tomato sauces, and yogurt have hidden sugars
How to Tame the Sugar Monster
Getting control of your sugar cravings is tough. The expression ‘sugar is addictive’ exists for a reason – because it is! Research shows that sugar is just as addictive as street drugs like cocaine! However, you can take simple steps to take the sugar down a notch.
Eat More Whole Foods
As we just covered, sugar hides out in most processed and packaged foods. Ditching the processed foods in favor of whole foods cooked at home means you’ll know exactly how much sugar you’re taking in.
Plus, whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains are nutritional powerhouses. They’re packed with immune-boosting nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, and zinc, giving you the building blocks needed to warn off infections.
Become a Label Detective
There are, count em’ … 61 different names for sugar – including sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, maltose, barley malt, and rice syrup to name a few. What’s more, manufacturers will often include several forms of sugar under different names.
That’s why it’s so important to read the labels. Check for the sneaky names and the overall sugar count, and opt for sugar-free or lower-sugar alternatives whenever possible.
Fill up on Fiber
When it comes to keeping your blood sugar steady, fiber saves the day. It slows the release of glucose and improves blood sugar balance. Whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains are not only nutrient-dense, they’re packed with fiber!
Fill up on fiber
Research shows that people who eat more fiber-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables are less likely to develop diabetes. Yet another reason to favor whole foods over processed ones.
Chromium for Balancing Blood Sugar
Following the sugar-busting tips above will get you well on your way to better blood sugar balance – and enhanced immunity. However, for many, sugar is difficult to avoid, especially hidden sugar. There are certain nutrients that foster healthy blood sugar and chromium is one of them.
Chromium is an essential mineral that the body needs in trace amounts to convert carbs into sugar for energy and for the breakdown and absorption of protein and fats. It is naturally present in a wide variety of foods, though only in small amounts, and is also available as a supplement. Chromium enhances the action of the hormone insulin. If you’re low on chromium, your body may struggle with this conversion, which increases the need for more insulin. According to a scientific review, there is a link between chromium deficiency and diabetes. Also, chromium picolinate, specifically, has been shown to reduce insulin resistance and to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Since chromium is a trace element found in soil, whole foods such as fruits and veggies are rich in this mineral. However, sugar-laden processed foods are NOT. In fact, diets that are high in simple sugars limit chromium absorption.
You can get more chromium in your diet by eating more nutrient-dense whole foods, especially the foods listed below:
Maintaining a robust immune system is more important than ever. Thankfully, there are a variety of immune-boosting vitamins, minerals, and herbs to help you do just that. While most combination immune supplements overlook chromium, Akeso’s custom IMMUNE PATROL24/7 immune defense formula includes chromium to help maintain healthy blood sugar balance. Immune Patrol’s nine key nutrients work synergistically to promote a healthy immune system and respiratory function as each capsule is packed with antioxidants, adaptogens, and other proven immune-boosting nutrients to enhance your body’s ability to fend for itself including:
TAKEAWAY: When it comes to your health, you must be proactive. One of the single most important things you can do to protect your health and live a long life, in addition to proper sleep, is to reduce your intake of sugar. Sugar reeks havoc on your immune system. In addition to your normal immune-boosting protocol, consider adding chromium to your diet as well, through food or nutritional supplements.
6 Great Benefits of Saffron
If you thought vanilla powder was expensive, you’re in for a shock with saffron. Considered the 24-karat gold of spices, saffron is one of the world’s most precious and expensive spices. It has a rich history that goes back millenniums and has been used by pharaohs, kings, and chefs alike for culinary, aesthetic, and medicinal purposes.
Despite the many tales that have been told about the spice, you might still not fathom why anyone would spend $5,000 for a pound of saffron. The answer lies within what it offers to us as humans. In this article, we will dive into saffron’s several health benefits. In addition, we will answer some of its frequently asked questions.
What is Saffron?
Prized for its unique flavor in dishes and medicinal properties, saffron (Kesar) is a vivid, crimson-colored spice with global appeal. The perennial spice is largely cultivated in Iran, Afghanistan, Spain, among other countries, and mainly harvested by hand.
Saffron is derived from the flower of a plant called Crocus sativus. The flower has a light purple color with vibrant red thread-like stigmas. These stigmas, or threads, are where pollen germinates, and they are dried to make saffron spice.
To make just one pound of saffron, 225,000 stigmas from 75,000 blossoms are needed. The stigmas are often painstakingly handpicked and dried. It can be sold in its original thread form or powdery form, which is achieved by grinding. Saffron’s labor-intensive and meticulous harvesting system is the root cause of its hefty price.
Saffron can be used as a food ingredient, preservative, coloring agent, pharmaceutical, or medicine. You’ll likely find saffron in one of two from, either in thread form or powder form. Saffron is a culinary spice that adds great flavor and color to the food. It enriches dishes like risotto, paella, pulao rice, and khoreshes (stew dishes in Iranian cuisine). It is also added to a vast array of seafood, meat, rice, and dessert recipes. That is why you’ll find saffron in the spice rack of many chefs and home cooks.
Aside from its usefulness in the kitchen, many people are captivated by the health benefits of saffron. In fact, saffron extract has a long history in herbal medicine.
Benefits of Saffron
Saffron is easily one of the most valuable medicinal food products in the world. For over 4,000 years, it has been used for its potent medicinal properties to treat over 90 health conditions and ailments. For example, from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, saffron had been used for pain relief during various opioid preparations.
Saffron has many health claims, which include the ability to help or treat skin disease, Alzheimer’s disease, respiratory issues, pain, poor vision, cancer, mental illness, gastrointestinal issues, gynecological problems, erectile dysfunction, insomnia, and infections. Other medicinal properties of saffron include being a memory enhancer, antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, neuroprotective, and cardioprotective agent.
Saffron’s medicinal powers don’t come from thin air; they come from its active components. It possesses over 100 biologically active compounds, with crocetin, crocin, safranal, and picrocrocin being the major bioactive constituents.
Not only are those components responsible for saffron’s color, taste, and odor, but they are also responsible for many of its biological properties. For example, those phytochemicals have anti-inflammatory, antioxidation, antidepressant, and hypolipidemic actions that are mediated in part by the modulation of numerous intracellular signaling and regulatory pathways.
The following are 6 great benefits of saffron.
1. May Help with Depression and Boosts Mood
Depression is one of the most prevalent psychiatric diseases worldwide, with about 3.8% of the population affected. Therefore, one of the most studied benefits of saffron is its antidepressant activity and mood-boosting abilities.
A large portion of those diagnosed with depression often is reluctant to take synthetic antidepressants in their correct doses. Hence, saffron is helpful for those with depression. The active components in saffron, mainly crocin and safranal, are the reason it has antidepressant abilities.
How does saffron have antidepressant effects?
In short, saffron modulates the levels of specific chemicals in the brain, similar to antidepressants. For example, serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects emotions and mood, among other things, is said to be increased by saffron, but its exact mechanism of action is unknown. It is proposed that saffron extract might inhibit the reuptake of serotonin in synapses. This means that serotonin is in the brain longer, thereby maintaining its positive effects. Depression is associated with an increased C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation. Inflammation is said to be associated with depression. Saffron has inflammatory properties, likely due to crocin and crocetin, so this could also strengthen its antidepressant capabilities.
2. Provides Antioxidants
Today’s lifestyle puts many people at risk of developing abnormally high levels of oxidative stress. This could be caused by psychological stress, trauma, alcohol, medication, automobiles, smoking, etc. Since oxidative stress is associated with common causes of death, like cancer and cardiovascular disease, saffron has greatly been praised for its antioxidant effects. Today you’ll find saffron being used mainly for its antioxidant properties; that’s why it can be found as an ingredient in many food supplements. The potent antioxidant activity of saffron can be credited to the presence of its unique carotenoids. Crocin and crocetin are the main carotenoids in saffron that give it its red color.
The most potent constituent against oxidative stress is the carotenoid crocin. Crocin has shown a high radical scavenging activity. It looks for free radicals and defends cells against oxidative stress.
However, when crocin, crocetin, and safranin are present, there is a synergistic effect that gives saffron enhanced antioxidant properties. These allow the protection of DNA and tRNA from harmful chemical reactions. In relation to the benefit mentioned previously, the antioxidant effect of saffron also helps fight depression. It protects against ameliorating oxidative stress, which is known to increase depression. In addition, since free radical damage has been associated with cancer, along with other chronic diseases, saffron also has anti-cancer properties.
3. May Help Prevent Neurodegenerative Diseases
Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, are the most common senile diseases in aging populations, especially those over 70 years. Symptoms common to these two diseases are a decline in cognition, progressive dementia, slow and involuntary movements, personality change, and psychological disorder development.
Saffron has been shown to have neuroprotective effects. Several studies have shown that this effect is due to crocin and crocetin. Such neuroprotective effects could be achieved by attenuating oxidant stress, endoplasmic reticulum stress, blood-brain barrier damage, neuroinflammation, and neuronal cell apoptosis. There are no effective drugs that cure Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. Therefore, natural products, such as saffron, are being emphasized in therapeutics to address the pathogenesis of multifactorial disorders. Additionally, it has been shown that saffron has a synergistic effect with other nutraceuticals, such as B vitamins or folate, that affect cognitive function.
4. May Improve Cardiovascular Health
The manifestations of cardiovascular diseases, such as myocardial infarction, coronary artery disease, ischemic stroke, and so forth, are the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Therefore, alongside lifestyle factors and pharmaceutical interventions, non-pharmaceutical measures, like herbal supplementation, are being studied as part of therapeutic strategies for cardiovascular diseases’ primary and secondary prevention.
Another benefit of saffron is its cardiovascular protective ability. Its major components, crocin, crocetin, and safranal, allow for these cardiovascular protective effects due to their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and hypolipidemic abilities. Studies have shown that crocetin and crocin may ameliorate the effects of atherosclerosis and other similar diseases, like hyperlipidemia, hypertriglyceridemia, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, hyperinsulinemia, and insulin resistance. However, it is essential to mention that most studies used crocetin from sources other than saffron, so more studies are still needed to assess the cardiovascular protective effect of saffron.
5. May Reduce PMS Symptoms
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a common health issue that women of reproductive age face. It is described as emotional, physical, and psychological symptoms that occur before the start of a new menstrual cycle.Some studies have shown that saffron could help alleviate symptoms of PMS. For example, in one study, women between the ages of 20 to 45 years that took 30 mg of saffron daily for at least 6 months found that saffron was effective in mitigating symptoms of PMS.
In another study, 35 women were exposed to the odor of saffron for 20 minutes. It was found that the scent has physiological and psychological effects. There was a reduction in PMS symptoms like lowered levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and anxiety.
The majority of PMS symptoms are believed to be caused by the dysregulation of the serotonergic system. As mentioned earlier in the article, saffron has antidepressant effects through serotonergic mechanisms. Since there is an overlap between symptoms of depression and PMS, saffron could help elevate symptoms of PMS.
6. May Help with Weight Loss
Obesity and overweight are global health problems. They can lead to numerous severe health complications like type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, dyslipidemia, cancers, and hypertension. A benefit of saffron could be its possible ability to help with weight loss. The mechanisms of action of its weight loss abilities are not yet clear. However, saffron can help stop obesity-mediated inflammation and other related metabolic diseases. When used as a weight-loss aid, saffron extract in the form of supplements may curb appetite and reduce cravings. Some proponents suggest that saffron increases brain levels of serotonin and, in turn, help prevent compulsive overeating and the associated weight gain.
Everything should be consumed in moderation. Too much saffron could be toxic to anyone. Make sure not to consume more than the normal amount, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have bipolar disorder, or have saffron or similar plant-related allergy.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much saffron should I take for depression?
30 mg/day of saffron extract (stigma) with 2% safranal (Safranal is an organic compound isolated from saffron), for mild to moderate depression.
What’s the aroma of saffron?
The smell of saffron is unmistakable. It has a distinct aroma that is strong, bittersweet, earthy, grassy, and leathery. The chemical compounds picrocrocin and safranal are responsible for this scent. Saffron can be added to some perfumes to strengthen a leather chord.
Does saffron expire?
With the price you paid for your saffron, you probably want to preserve your stash forever. Good news! Saffron does not expire, and commercially packaged saffron threads don’t spoil, but they have a shelf life.
Like any other spice, saffron will lose its strong flavor and aroma as it ages. But, quality-wise, it will stay good till its “Best by” date. To maximize its shelf life, store your saffron in an airtight container and place it in a cool and dark place.
Saffron is a spice that comes from the flower of Crocus sativus. It has several uses, including culinary and medicinal applications. Saffron has a lot of great health benefits. These benefits include being a good source of antioxidants and possibly helping with depression and mood, neurodegenerative disorders, cardiovascular health, PMS symptoms, and weight loss.
What You May Not Know About Drinking Alcohol
Is there a safe amount of alcohol consumption?
A lot of us have increased our alcohol consumption since the beginning of the pandemic. One survey by nonprofit group RAND Corporation from last year found that alcohol consumption rose by 14% among U.S. adults 18 and older compared with before COVID-19 hit. Another study reported that the top three reasons for increased pandemic drinking included increased stress, increased alcohol availability, and boredom.
Frequent drinking doesn’t necessarily mean that you have an alcohol problem or that you have to quit entirely. However, it’s important to know that emerging evidence suggests that there’s no safe amount of alcohol consumption, meaning that even moderate or casual drinking can have a negative impact on your health. The consensus for defining “moderate drinking” is about 1 drink a day for women and 1-2 for men. It is a matter of balancing risks and health benefits.
In addition to the known side effects of excessive alcohol drinking, like high blood pressure, mental health problems, liver damage, and memory problems, a new wave of research has started shedding light on other lesser-known issues that alcohol consumption may lead to.
Recent findings on alcohol and health
Alcohol and sugar
The places where you find sugar nowadays are nothing short of perplexing. Canned veggies, pasta sauce, yogurt, salad dressing, and yes, your five-o-clock margarita are chocked full of sugar. But there’s a common misconception that many popular spirits, like vodka, tequila, gin, and whisky, are okay to drink because they don’t contain any.
Drinking can have a confusing effect on the body. Between meals, when you haven’t drunk any alcohol, your liver works hard to produce new glucose (sugar) for energy and sustenance. This is key for regulating your blood sugar levels throughout the day. But alcohol interrupts your liver’s ability to create and release enough glucose to keep your sugar levels from dropping dangerously low.
In heavy drinkers and people with diabetes, this can lead to hypoglycemia; a serious condition where glucose concentration in the blood drops below the healthy range, potentially leading to complications like seizures, loss of consciousness, coma, and death. However, a study from July 2020 in the Journal of Diabetic Investigation found that even among moderate and occasional drinkers, combining alcohol with sugary foods or drinks significantly increases a person’s risk of developing hypoglycemia.
The cognitive consequences of underage drinking
Studies show that consuming alcohol at a young age can impact how a teenager’s brain develops, delay puberty, disrupt sleeping patterns, and increase the risk of having alcohol problems later in life. Unfortunately, alcohol consumption in the United States is higher in teens than in adults, not because adolescents drink more often, but because they do so in greater quantities.
In a review of studies from August 2018 published in Nature, investigators found that repeated exposure to alcohol during adolescence and young adulthood can lead to significant structural and neural changes in the brain. These effects were seen both in human and animal studies. The analysis revealed that drinking alcohol can impair neurogenesis, or the brain’s ability to regenerate itself, as well as cause long-term deficits in visual learning, memory, and concentration, and behavior.
Teenagers often find themselves in social situations where they’re offered alcohol, commonly by their peers. And when all their friends drink, it can be hard to say “no.” But it can also be difficult for parents, teachers, and other loved ones to recognize the signs of underage drinking. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), a drinking problem is more likely if you notice several of the following warning signs at the same time:
Problems at school, including poor attendance, low grades, and/or recent or frequent disciplinary action
Rebellion against family rules
Memory lapses, poor concentration, bloodshot eyes, lack of coordination, or slurred speech
Finding alcohol among your child’s belongings
Findings on alcohol and colorectal cancer
Colorectal (colon) cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States and the third leading cause of cancer death in both men and women. It often begins as a benign growth called a polyp inside the large intestine and rectum. Over time, polyps can mutate and become cancerous.
Research suggests that alcohol intake, even in small amounts, is one of the major risk factors for colon cancer. In fact, moderate to heavy drinking is associated with a 1.2 to 1.5-fold increased risk of developing colon and rectum cancers.
A 2018 study in the journal Cancers looked at the potential mechanisms by which alcohol consumption may lead to colorectal cancer. They discovered that alcohol can trigger a plethora of reactions at the molecular, DNA, and RNA levels that can encourage the formation of carcinogenic cells. The study’s authors also noted that heavy drinkers are more likely to eat an unhealthy diet and be more sedentary, which are also significant risk factors for colon cancer.
The good news is that colon cancer is highly preventable. An unchecked colon polyp has a 10 to 40% chance of becoming cancerous if left unchecked. However, routine colonoscopies are 100% effective for finding and eliminating benign polyps before turning into cancer. If there’s a history of colon cancer in your family, it’s also in your best interest to abstain from alcohol completely. Avoiding cigarette smoke, controlling your weight, and limiting red meat (especially processed red meat) are also effective ways of lowering your chances of developing colon and rectum cancer.
More studies on moderate drinking
According to an Oxford study out of the U.K. even “moderate” drinking adversely affects nearly every part of the brain and therefore, for the brain, there is no safe amount of alcohol consumption. Brain scans of 25,000 British participants with an average age of 54 were performed to measure the relationship between moderate alcohol consumption and brain health. They found that alcohol consumption tracked with decreases in brain grey matter as well as white matter. Binge drinking alcohol posed additional negative effects on brain structure, in addition to the impact of the volume of alcohol consumed. It’s interesting to note that researchers did not find any difference on the impact of drinking between types of liquor, such as wine versus beer or other alcoholic beverages.
A final word
Some of these findings may surprise moderate drinkers, however, the risk to one’s health increases with the increase in alcohol consumption so if you do drink, and don’t intend to quit any time soon, then reducing your sugar intake and drinking moderately is best.
How to Be Happier in 2022
The verdict is in: New Year’s resolutions are out of style. To be fair, they should’ve gone out of style years ago, because no matter how motivating the phrase “new year, new me” sounds like, the truth is that 80% of people give up on their New Year’s resolutions by the second week of February. But don’t beat yourself up: resolutions don’t fail because humans are lazy or serial procrastinators.
On the contrary, the fact that most of us are able to stick to our goals for a month and a half goes to show that we are capable of staying committed for extended periods. What’s problematic is that we wait until a specific date to begin bettering ourselves through vague objectives, like “losing weight” and “exercising more,” which are often based on what someone else (or society) is telling us to change, and not what we actually want to improve in our lives.
So, instead of delving deep into the toxic self-improvement cycle just like every other January, how about resolving to work with what you already have to just be a little bit happier this year? Here are 3 scientifically proven ways to find happiness in 2022 and beyond…
Most people are under the impression that kindness is about being nice to others. And there’s some truth to that; kindness is defined as the “quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.” But what’s missing from that definition is the word “others,” because in order to be kind to the people around us, we must begin by being friendly and compassionate with ourselves.
Mounting research shows that people who practice self-compassion (aka, treating yourself in the same caring, kind way you would treat a friend who’s going through a tough time) are less likely to be anxious and depressed. There’s also evidence that self-compassion leads to higher personal growth and satisfaction levels, increasing your emotional resilience and your ability to move past negative emotions like shame and embarrassment.
Of course, cultivating self-compassion is easier said than done, but a good starting point, according to science, is making peace with your inner critic and stop deriving your self-worth from productivity or perfection. You can practice this by observing your mistakes mindfully and objectively.
For example, would you ever say to a friend that didn’t get a job promotion she didn’t get it because she’s stupid or doesn’t deserve it? Of course not. But, unfortunately, this is how we often talk to ourselves in such situations.
When we are mindful of our struggles, instead of engaging in self-criticism, it’s easier to see our humanity and understand that everybody makes mistakes from time to time. This year, make it a point to mitigate negative self-talk by asking yourself: “would I say this to my best friend?” If the answer’s no, chances are it’s not something you would want to say to yourself.
Enhance your social connections
If the past two years have taught us anything, it is that surrounding ourselves with the people we care about the most is the best medicine for overcoming life’s hardships. And there’s no shortage of studies to prove it. A longitudinal Harvard study that tracked participants over a span of nearly 80 years found that having satisfying social connections was the strongest and most consistent predictor of a happy life.
Very happy people are highly social and usually have robust relationships with their friends, family, spouses, or community members. And kids who grow up with a richer social network tend to grow up to be happier adults. Conversely, research shows that people who constantly feel lonely have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol and are more likely to die prematurely.
The new year is the perfect time to assess the state of your relationships and take steps to foster meaningful connections with the people around you. Some ways you can achieve this include signing up for a class or activity in your community, reaching out to old friends and family members you’ve lost contact with, and saying “yes” more often, instead of shying away from social events or plans that are outside of your comfort zone.
Spend more time in nature
Whether it means going out for a walk or sitting in your backyard sipping a cup of tea, being outdoors offers an incredible amount of mind and body benefits. For starters, fresh air contains higher oxygen levels, which helps dilate blood vessels in the lungs and promotes cellular regeneration. Spending time in the great outdoors has also been shown to improve immunity and help your body fight off infections faster.
Psychologically, being out in nature can result in meaningful improvements to your mental health and lowers your risk of developing a psychiatric disorder. Studies show that people’s brains have more serotonin (aka the happy hormone) on bright and sunny days, regardless of the temperature itself.
Stepping outside is also the best antidote against technology burnout and doomscrolling, the tendency of compulsively scrolling through news and content that’s depressing or concerning, and a behavior that’s become so ubiquitous during the pandemic. The human brain was not made for this kind of information overload, and it can lead to mental fatigue, anxiety, depression, and isolation.
Being out in nature can help us reset our brains and establish a connection with something bigger than ourselves (and our phones). The beauty of nature, according to a study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, elicits positive emotions by inspiring awe and a sense of belonging that’s impossible to find outside the real world.