People who reach a very old age may have their genes to thank. Genetic variants that help to prevent DNA mutations and repair any that do occur have been found in supercentenarians and semi-supercentenarians – people who reach the ages of 110 and 105, respectively.
“DNA repair mechanisms are extremely efficient in these people,” says Claudio Franceschi at the University of Bologna in Italy. “It is one of the most important basic mechanisms for extending lifespan.”
People often feel nervous when they visit a doctor with some fearing their symptoms may not be believed. But what if you are the doctor, and your colleagues dismiss your disabilities and mental health difficulties? Miranda Schreiber explores this challenging relationship.
A staple of salads, crudite platters, and as a base for pickles, cucumbers are one of our favorite non-vegetable vegetables. (That’s because, botanically speaking, cucumbers are actually fruits. And even more technically speaking, they’re berries!)
While a fan favorite, cucumbers are often overlooked as far as superfoods go. While some fruits and veggies are teeming with antioxidants, bioactive compounds, and micro and macronutrients abound, cucumbers are, to put it mildly, relatively boring. But that’s not to say that eating them won’t support your health. In fact, you may be surprised to read about some of the completely unexpected side effects of eating this piece of produce. Read on to learn more about what eating cucumbers can do to your body, and for more on how to eat healthy, don’t miss 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.
Spending time performing household chores may help to improve brain health, especially for older adults. Researchers found older adults who spent more time engaging in housework had greater brain volume, specifically in the frontal lobe and hippocampus, brain areas associated with memory and cognition.
There are many reasons why people may adopt a vegan diet, such as animal welfare, sustainability or to lose weight. Another reason that’s often touted is that vegan diets are good for your heart, and can not only prevent heart disease, but even reverse it.
But as our latest review found, this isn’t necessarily true. In fact, we found that there is currently little evidence to suggest a vegan diet protects the heart, or can reverse heart disease.
When it comes to how the gut influences the self, most of what we know comes from animals. Studies in different animal species, Nguyen explains, demonstrate microbes can create cues that are used in social interactions and communications. Rodent studies, for example, suggest alterations in gut microbiota can modulate emotional behaviors, including depression and anxiety.
We don’t have equivalent research in people just yet, but past research has associated gut microbial diversity and composition with certain personality traits and psychosocial constructs. For example, a study published in March 2020 in the Human Microbiome Journal found people who are more social have a more diverse gut microbiome, while people who are more anxious have a less diverse gut microbiome. But importantly, this is an observed association — not a cause-and-effect finding.
Nguyen and her colleagues’ study, published in March in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry, is the first to show loneliness and wisdom are related to gut microbial diversity and composition.
Emerging evidence highlights a critical relationship between gut microbiota and neurocognitive development. Excessive consumption of sugar and other unhealthy dietary factors during early life developmental periods yields changes in the gut microbiome as well as neurocognitive impairments. However, it is unclear whether these two outcomes are functionally connected. Here we explore whether excessive early life consumption of added sugars negatively impacts memory function via the gut microbiome. Rats were given free access to a sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) during the adolescent stage of development. Memory function and anxiety-like behavior were assessed during adulthood and gut bacterial and brain transcriptome analyses were conducted. Taxa-specific microbial enrichment experiments examined the functional relationship between sugar-induced microbiome changes and neurocognitive and brain transcriptome outcomes. Chronic early life sugar consumption impaired adult hippocampal-dependent memory function without affecting body weight or anxiety-like behavior. Adolescent SSB consumption during adolescence also altered the gut microbiome, including elevated abundance of two species in the genus Parabacteroides (P. distasonis and P. johnsonii) that were negatively correlated with hippocampal function. Transferred enrichment of these specific bacterial taxa in adolescent rats impaired hippocampal-dependent memory during adulthood. Hippocampus transcriptome analyses revealed that early life sugar consumption altered gene expression in intracellular kinase and synaptic neurotransmitter signaling pathways, whereas Parabacteroides microbial enrichment altered gene expression in pathways associated with metabolic function, neurodegenerative disease, and dopaminergic signaling. Collectively these results identify a role for microbiota “dysbiosis” in mediating the detrimental effects of early life unhealthy dietary factors on hippocampal-dependent memory function.
Scientists from the University of Granada also found that, if the exercise is performed in the afternoon, the effects of the caffeine are more marked than in the morning
Scientists from the Department of Physiology of the University of Granada (UGR) have shown that caffeine (about 3 mg/kg, the equivalent of a strong coffee) ingested half an hour before aerobic exercise significantly increases the rate of fat-burning. They also found that if the exercise is performed in the afternoon, the effects of the caffeine are more marked than in the morning.
In their study, published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, the researchers aimed to determine whether caffeine—one of the most commonly-consumed ergogenic substances in the world to improve sports performance—actually does increase oxidation or “burning” of fat during exercise. Despite the fact that its consumption in the form of supplements is very common, the scientific evidence for its beneficial claims is scarce.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death worldwide. Lifestyle changes are at the forefront of preventing the disease. This includes advice such as increasing physical activity and having a healthy balanced diet to reduce risk factors. Intermittent fasting (IF) is a popular dietary plan involving restricting caloric intake to certain days in the week such as alternate day fasting and periodic fasting, and restricting intake to a number of hours in a given day, otherwise known as time-restricted feeding. IF is being researched for its benefits and many randomised controlled trials have looked at its benefits in preventing CVD.
There was a little cafe I used to go to that did the best bacon sandwiches. They came in a soft and pillowy white bap. The bacon, thick-cut from a local butcher, was midway between crispy and chewy. Ketchup and HP sauce were served in miniature jars with the sandwich, so you could dab on the exact amount you liked. That was all there was to it: just bread and bacon and sauce. Eating one of these sandwiches, as I did every few weeks, with a cup of strong coffee, felt like an uncomplicated pleasure.
And then, all of a sudden, the bacon sandwich stopped being quite so comforting. For a few weeks in October 2015, half the people I knew were talking about the news that eating bacon was now a proven cause of cancer. You couldn’t miss the story: it was splashed large in every newspaper and all over the web. As one journalist wrote in Wired, “Perhaps no two words together are more likely to set the internet aflame than BACON and CANCER.” The BBC website announced, matter-of-factly, that “Processed meats do cause cancer”, while the Sun went with “Banger out of Order” and “Killer in the Kitchen”.
Evolutionary biologist Daniel E. Lieberman caused an international stir nearly a decade ago when he published a paper showing that running in cushioned sneakers encourages people to hit the ground harder than running barefoot.
Lieberman, a professor of biological sciences at Harvard University, also started running barefoot himself as an experiment and kept doing it because he enjoyed it. Every spring, after running the Boston Marathon, he would trade his traditional sneakers for a pair of minimal shoes or no footwear at all. The more he ran barefoot, the more callused and protected his feet became. “But I could still feel the ground just as well as when my calluses were really thin,” Lieberman says. From an evolutionary standpoint, it made sense that callused feet would still feel: they are the body’s only contact with the ground, and ancient people could not afford to lose that sensation, he thought.
Walking is one of the simplest and most strategic things you can do for yourself. It takes little preparation, minimal effort, no special equipment, and it can contract or expand to fit the exact amount of time you have available. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a single bout of moderate-to vigorous activity (including walking) can improve our sleep, thinking, and learning, while reducing symptoms of anxiety. When we go for a walk, we perform better on tests of memory and attention; our brain cells build new connections, staving off the usual withering of brain tissue that comes with age; we can actively change the pace of our thoughts by deliberately walking more briskly or by slowing down; and our attention is left to meander and observe, helping us generate new ideas and to have strokes of insight.
The objective of this study is to determine whether middle-aged adults prescribed a low carbohydrate-high fat (LCHF) or low fat (LF) diet would have greater loss of central fat and to determine whether the insulin resistance (IR) affects intervention response. A total of 50 participants (52.3 ± 10.7 years old; 36.6 ± 7.4 kg/m2 BMI; 82% female) were prescribed either a LCHF diet (n = 32, carbohydrate: protein: fat of 5%:30%:65% without calorie restriction), or LF diet (n = 18, 63%:13–23%: 10–25% with calorie restriction of total energy expenditure—500 kcal) for 15 weeks. Central and regional body composition changes from dual-x-ray absorptiometry and serum measures were compared using paired t-tests and ANCOVA with paired contrasts. IR was defined as homeostatic model assessment (HOMA-IR) > 2.6. Compared to the LF group, the LCHF group lost more android (15.6 ± 11.2% vs. 8.3 ± 8.1%, p < 0.01) and visceral fat (18.5 ± 22.2% vs. 5.1 ± 15.8%, p < 0.05). Those with IR lost more android and visceral fat on the LCHF verses LF group (p < 0.05). Therefore, the clinical prescription to a LCHF diet may be an optimal strategy to reduce disease risk in middle-aged adults, particularly those with IR.
Taking a regular afternoon nap may be linked to better mental agility, a study has found. Researchers found sleeping in the afternoon was associated with better locational awareness, verbal fluency and working memory in an ageing Chinese population.
The study, published in online journal General Psychiatry, examined the sleep patterns of 2,214 healthy people aged 60 and over in several large cities in China, including Beijing and Shanghai. Of those who took part in the study, 1,534 took a regular afternoon nap of between five minutes and two hours, while 680 did not.
Participants in the study were asked how often they napped during the week, with answers ranging from once a week to every day. The average length of nighttime sleep was around 6.5 hours in both groups, though no information was taken on the specific duration or timing of the naps taken.
That said, I would not recommend following a 100% fruitarian diet all the time. And neither would most health experts. Certified nutritionist Dana James says that even though fruitarianism is better than the standard American diet, which is packed with hyper-processed foods, it’s still far from ideal. In the long run, the diet’s drawbacks are significant.
“The sugar from the excessive amount of fruit destabilizes blood sugar levels, which can lead to lethargy, cravings, lack of concentration, a disrupted microbiome, and more,” she says. Plus, it’s impossible to get complete nutrition from fruit alone. “You’ll need to supplement with protein powders, B complex, omega-3, iron, zinc, vitamin D, and iron,” James advises.
LeVeque agrees, saying, “I really don’t love this diet. The benefits don’t outweigh the drawbacks that include lack of amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, increased fructose metabolism, tooth decay, and increased cravings.” She also points out the pitfall of excess sugar, explaining that all the fructose from the fruit efficiently stores as fat and glucose, which can negatively affect blood sugar regulation.
A new study suggests that a lot of people might be going through life with symptoms that resemble concussion – a finding supporting researchers’ argument that athletes recovering from a brain injury should be assessed and treated on a highly individualized basis.
The unusual longevity enjoyed in Japan is often credited to diet. Yet the idea that the country has extended lifespans by entirely avoiding the West’s sinful culinary delights may be too simple. In fact, recent studies imply that one key to its success may be that its people’s diets have shifted over time towards Western eating patterns.
Japan was not always a longevity champion. In 1970 its age-adjusted mortality rates were average for the OECD. Although its levels of cancer and heart disease were relatively low, it also had the OECD’s highest frequency of cerebrovascular deaths, caused by blood failing to reach the brain.
In 1970-90, however, Japan’s cerebrovascular mortality rate fell towards the OECD average. With world-beating numbers on heart disease and fewer strokes, Japan soared up the longevity league table.
How did Japan overcome its cerebrovascular woes? Some of its gains simply mirror better treatments and reductions in blood pressure around the world, notes Thomas Truelsen of the University of Copenhagen.
My theory is that they’ve been adding something in the water system. No other explanation.