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More evidence that there are health benefits from physical activity, even minimal amounts. Ohio State University researchers found that physical activity, even 10 minute at a time physical activity or exercise, adds up and is associated with lower amounts of cardiovascular (heart) disease in the next ten years - even for obese and overweight persons.

Being overweight or obese are risk factors for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and cancer. About 40% of Americans are obese and 32% are overweight, so having a way to simply and cheaply lower rates of cardiovascular disease is wonderful. Overweight is body mass index (BMI) of 25.0 to 29.9, obesity is BMI 30 or higher, and normal BMI is 18.5 to 24.8 (see CDC guidelines)

The researchers found that physical activity is more important than weight of a person in determining the risk of cardiovascular disease over the next 10 years. Unfortunately 43% of the overweight participants and 53% of the obese participants reported being sedentary (did not engage in at least 10 minutes of continuous physical activity each week) - and these groups had the highest risk of cardiovascular disease.

What counts as exercise or physical activity? Physical activity should be at least 10 continuous minutes or more, and ideally add up to 150 minutes or more each week. All moderate (e.g. brisk walking, light yard work, vacuuming, dancing) and vigorous (e.g. jogging, swimming laps, aerobics, heavy yard work) recreation activities count. The study found that engaging in less than 150 minutes a week also lowered the risk for cardiovascular disease, just not as much as for those with 150 minutes or more each week.

Government guidelines: The Physical Activity Guidelines from the US Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults do at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week, or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.

Bottom line: Try to move, move, move as much as possible! Yes, a nice 20 minute (1 mile) walk counts!

From Medical Xpress: Not much exercise needed to lower heart disease risk for overweight people

A new study suggests, for obese or overweight adults, that any amount of exercise might lower the risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the next 10 years.  ...continue reading "Any Amount of Physical Activity Is Good For Overweight Adults"

Evidence is accumulating that engaging in exercise may not only prevent cancer, but that in those who already have cancer - it may prevent progression of the cancer. Fantastic!

A large 2019 review of 9 studies (755,459 individuals) found that 2 1/2 hours per week of "moderate-intensity" physical activity or exercise (e.g. brisk walks) really lowers the risk of 7 cancers: colon, breast, endometrial, kidney, myeloma, liver, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Some (but not all) were lowered in a dose response manner, that is, the more exercise (up to 5 hours per week), the bigger the protective effect.

Another 2019 review article stated that there are hundreds of studies in the field of "exercise oncology" which have examined the effect of exercise on cancer in humans. The studies find that exercise may prevent cancer, control cancer progression, and interact positively with anticancer therapies. (One example: a study found regular moderate or vigorous physical activity is associated with lower rates of death in men diagnosed with prostate cancer.)

In addition, hundreds of animal (mice and rat) and laboratory studies show that the anticancer effects of exercise are causal, not just an association. There is evidence that each exercise session actually has an effect on cancer tumors. And that the more exercise sessions, the bigger the effect!

Bottom line: Get out and move, move, move! Plan to do this every week for years.

An infographic that illustrates how exercise has anticancer effects, from The Scientist:  Infographic: Exercise’s Anticancer Mechanisms

Excerpts from the accompanying April 2020 article by Prof. Bente K. Pedersen (Univ. of Copenhagen) on how regular exercise has anticancer effects. From The Scientist: Regular Exercise Helps Patients Combat Cancer

Physical exercise is increasingly being integrated into the care of cancer patients such as Mathilde, and for good reason. Evidence is accumulating that exercise improves the well being of these patients by combating the physical and mental deterioration that often occur during anticancer treatments. Most remarkably, we are beginning to understand that exercise can directly or indirectly fight the cancer itself.  ...continue reading "Regular Exercise Has Anticancer Effects"

For several years I've noticed that in a number of studies there appear to be beneficial health effects from consumption of dairy products, especially whole milk or full-fat products, and also fermented dairy products (e.g. yogurt, cheese). A recent international study (21 countries on 5 continents) found similar results: higher intake of dairy foods, especially full-fat dairy, is associated with lower incidence of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), and metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and early death. Risk factors include increased blood pressure, excess body fat around the waist, elevated triglycerides and cholesterol levels, and elevated blood glucose.  Diet plays a role in whether one develops metabolic syndrome and diabetes. [Being overweight and being inactive are also important risk factors.]

What was the higher intake of dairy products that was associated with health benefits? At least 2 servings per day. The study did not look into what kind of dairy people drank and ate - whether cow, sheep, camel, or goat milk dairy. The assumption is: dairy is dairy!

While it was an observational study, it was significant, especially because the 131,481 participants (aged 35 to 70 years) were from world regions not typically studied in dairy consumption studies. They were tracked for about 9 years.

Excerpts from Science Daily: Dairy-rich diet linked to lower risks of diabetes and high blood pressure

Eating at least two daily servings of dairy is linked to lower risks of diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as the cluster of factors that heighten cardiovascular disease risk (metabolic syndrome), finds a large international study published online in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care.  ...continue reading "Dairy Products, Hypertension, Diabetes, and Metabolic Syndrome"

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More good news for coffee lovers. A study that looked at a large sample of adults in the US found that there is a dose-response association for daily coffee consumption and body fat (adiposity). Higher coffee intake (both regular and decaf) was associated with lower body fat in women, but not men.

The biggest effects were seen in women aged 20 to 44 years (who drank 2 to 3 cups/day), and in 45 to 69 year old women who drank 4 or more cups of coffee per day - that is, they had lower total body fat and trunk body fat when compared to those who didn't drink coffee.

Coffee has over 1000 bioactive compounds in it, such as caffeine, chlorogenic acids, and diterpenes. Recent studies found that moderate coffee intake (3 to 4 cups/day) lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, (early) death, lower risk of some cancers, and has a beneficial effect on metabolism (increases it) and inflammation. [Note: chronic inflammation is linked to a number of diseases, so want to lower it.]

The researchers suggest that there are compounds in coffee (other than caffeine) that regulate weight and act as "antiobesity compounds". Perhaps view drinking coffee as a healthy diet strategy for women!

Excerpts from Science Daily: Coffee linked to lower body fat in women

Women who drink two or three cups of coffee a day have been found to have lower total body and abdominal fat than those who drink less, according to a new study published in The Journal of Nutrition ...continue reading "Drinking Coffee Associated With Lower Body Fat in Women"

The Scandinavians really love to drink coffee, and of course researchers study the health effects of all that coffee drinking. Two recent studies both found health benefits from drinking filtered coffee (such as drip coffee), but not unfiltered coffee.

A study conducted in Norway found that over a 20 year period drinking filtered coffee daily was associated with lower death rates, when compared to those who did not drink coffee or drank unfiltered coffee. The best health effects (lowest mortality rate) were associated with drinking 1 to 4 cups per day of filtered coffee, and the unhealthiest (highest mortality rate) was drinking 9 or more cups per day of unfiltered coffee.

The researchers thought that unfiltered coffee raised the cholesterol levels, because of the lipid-raising components of coffee - the diterpenes kahweol and cafestol, which are filtered out by coffee filters. This could explain the association between unfiltered coffee and higher death rates from heart disease. Other studies have found that higher consumption of filtered coffee results in lower levels of markers of inflammation.

As was discussed in an earlier post, a recent study from Sweden found that drinking 2 to 3 cups of drip coffee (using a filter) daily lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes, while drinking boiled coffee has no health effect. The researchers put it nicely, that habitually drinking filtered coffee has a "protective role" on type 2 diabetes development.

On the other hand, other popular ways of preparing coffee don't use filters - French press, espresso, percolator, and coffee pods, and so may have similar not-so-great health effects to boiled coffee. But still unknown at this time - studies are needed.

From Science Daily: How to make the healthiest coffee

Today scientists announce the healthiest way to make a brew ...continue reading "Drinking Filtered Coffee Is Healthier Than Unfiltered Coffee"

The possibility that rising carbon dioxide levels could eventually result in harmful effects on people's thinking (cognition) is scary. Currently levels are above 400 ppm and rising steadily each year. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that outdoor CO2 levels could climb to 930 ppm by 2100, which means urban and indoor levels would be even higher.

Studies suggest that at high levels of carbon dioxide our thinking gets worse. A University of Colorado study reports that a growing body of evidence finds that as CO2 levels increase, there are effects on thinking (cognitive functioning), including decision making, planning, and complex strategic thinking. As carbon dioxide levels rise to 945 ppm and higher, the effects are even more significant, especially with mentally demanding tasks.

Think of the air in stuffy conference rooms or offices, which studies show has a negative effect on different aspects of our thought processes. The stuffy air is from higher levels of CO2. What if in the future this is our regular "fresh air", with no possibility of escape? The best case scenario is that we do not allow carbon dioxide levels to get that high by reducing fossil fuel emissions. Starting now.

From Science Daily: Rising carbon dioxide causes more than a climate crisis -- it may directly harm our ability to think

As the 21st century progresses, rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations will cause urban and indoor levels of the gas to increase, and that may significantly reduce our basic decision-making ability and complex strategic thinking, according to a new CU Boulder-led study. By the end of the century, people could be exposed to indoor CO2 levels up to 1400 parts per million -- more than three times today's outdoor levels, and well beyond what humans have ever experienced.  ...continue reading "Rising Carbon Dioxide Levels May Harm Our Thought Processes"

Two big risk factors are emerging over who will develop severe COVID-19 infections that lead to hospitalizations and needing intensive care. A number of studies throughout the world are reporting that the main risk factor in persons under 60 years is being significantly overweight, especially obesity, and the other risk factor is being over 65 years of age.

What is significantly overweight? A body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more is considered obese - probably 40 pounds or more overweight. For example, a 5 ft 5 inch person weighing 181 pounds or more, or a 5 ft 10 inch person 210 pounds or more. [see BMI chart]

Two studies of New York City hospital patients had similar findings. Doctors at NYU Langone Health (Lighter et al) found that overweight patients who were under age 60 were twice as likely to be hospitalized as their thinner peers, while those who were obese were three times as likely to need intensive care, the study found. And this is in patients who didn't have any other diseases or conditions - they were healthy, but overweight. The medical thinking is that this may because obesity is a state of chronic inflammation.

The scary part is that the US has a very high obesity rate - with the NYU researcher Jennifer Lighter pointing out that nearly 40% of adults in the US are obese with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more!

A French study found that a key finding was that those with a BMI of greater than 35 had more than sevenfold increased risk of requiring mechanical ventilation (compared to those with a BMI of less than 25). Studies are also finding that disease severity increased with increasing BMI.

Interestingly, obesity wasn't a predictor of severe disease leading to hospital admission or the ICU (intensive care unit) in those over the age of 60 years. But in those younger than 60 years, it was.

Excerpts from Medscape: Obesity Link to Severe COVID-19, Especially in the Under 60s

It is becoming increasingly clear that obesity is one of the biggest risk factors for severe COVID-19 disease, particularly among younger patients ...continue reading "Being Overweight Is Higher Risk For Severe Coronavirus Infections"

Eating a diet high in salt weakens the immune system's ability to fight harmful bacteria, according to a recent study. We all know that a high salt diet can increase blood pressure, but here is another good reason to lower salt intake.

The study by German researchers showed that a high salt diet can impair the antibacterial response of the immune system, both in mice and in humans. This occurs in an indirect way (through an effect on glucocorticoids), which ultimately results in a reduced or impaired ability of the immune system (through the neutrophils) to kill or control bacteria.

These results were interesting since some earlier studies suggested that higher intake of salt may help fight off parasitic skin infections.

What is a high salt diet? The human volunteers in the study ate an extra 6 grams of salt per day for one week, which is the amount in two fast food meals (e.g. two burgers and two portions of French fries). The World Health Organization recommends no more than 5 grams of salt per day, and the US CDC recommends less than 2300 mg per day. Both organizations say that most people eat more salt than recommended, and the CDC points out that the majority of American sodium intake is from processed foods and restaurant meals.

From Medical Xpress: Too much salt weakens the immune system  ...continue reading "Salt and The Immune System"

We all know that lead exposure is harmful, especially to developing babies and children. But what about eating meat (e.g. venison) from an animal that has been shot with lead bullets? Does the lead contaminate the meat? This is an important question because hunters provide game not only for their families, but also donate meat (such as venison) to food pantries.

A number of studies over the years have examined this issue and the finding is that YES - using lead-based bullets contaminates the meat. Bullets can fragment into hundreds of small pieces (many are microscopic fragments only detectable with x-rays or chemical analysis), especially if they hit large bones of the animal. These fragments are still there and detectable after processing.

So yes, people wind up ingesting meat with tiny lead bullet fragments, even if they cut away several inches of meat from the bullet's path in the animal. Tiny bullet fragments travel more than 6" inches away, and even 11" away from the bullet path. Studies find that eating meat from animals shot with lead based ammunition results in a spike in blood lead levels - which gradually goes down over months, but also migrates to the bones where it stays.

In 2013 a group of 30 nationally and internationally recognized scientists with lead and environmental health expertise collaborated to create an evidence-based consensus statement called Health Risks from Lead-Based Ammunition in the Environment—A Consensus Statement of Scientists 2013. Along with listing scientific evidence, they ask for the reduction and elimination of lead-based ammunition, in order to protect human and environmental health.

Unfortunately hunters usually do not know this information. It's not publicized, and doctors don't mention it. But hunters should be informed. One can't imagine anyone wanting to deliberately eat meat containing lead fragments. Or wanting to feed it to children or pregnant women.

What can you do? Don't use any lead-based ammunition. Only eat game shot with non-lead ammunition (e.g.copper). The evidence is there that if lead-based ammo is used to kill the animal, then the person eating the animal will ingest some lead bullet fragments.

Excerpts from Environmental Health News: Lead in hunted meat: Who’s telling hunters and their families?  ...continue reading "Do Lead Bullets Contaminate Hunted Meat?"

The golden skin glow one gets from a healthy diet and lifestyle is real! A number of studies have found that eating a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables increases skin yellowness (due to the carotenoids in the food). And recently a new study found that besides a healthy diet, that lifestyle factors such as getting plenty of exercise (being fit), losing excess weight, getting enough sleep, and not being too stressed all add to the healthy yellow (errr... "golden") skin glow.

Researchers at the Univ. of St. Andrews (in UK) found that in a mere 8 weeks an increase in fitness and decrease in body fat were both associated with an increase in skin yellowness. They also found that a change in stress and sleep were further predictors of skin yellowness. Thus you can say that there is a general relationship between health and skin tone.

And yes, we probably have observed that ourselves. People stressed out, not sleeping well, not fit (overweight and not getting enough exercise) may have a different look to them. We may notice that their skin color doesn't look good, that they may look pale or unwell.

In conclusion, the researchers write: "results suggest that increasing cardiovascular fitness and decreasing fat levels produce a healthier skin color". So eat plenty of brightly colored fruits and vegetables, be active (get some exercise), get enough sleep, and lose weight if needed. But you knew that already, yes?

From Medical Xpress: Healthy living gives skin a golden glow  ...continue reading "Healthy Lifestyle Seen In the Golden Glow of Skin"