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Do You Crave Late Night Snacks?

13 Jul

You should be in bed but instead you are wandering around the kitchen searching for something to eat.  How many times are you going to open the refrigerator door hoping something new and delicious is going to appear that was not there 30 seconds ago? If this description fits you, then you are not alone.  Countless people are the victims of late night cravings.

In a newly published study, exercise science professors and a neuroscientist at Brigham Young University used MRIs to measure how people’s brains respond to high and low-calorie food images at different times of the day.  The results showed that images of food, especially high-calorie food, can generate spikes in brain activity, but those neural responses are lower in the evening.

Lead study author Dr. Travis Masterson notes, “You might over-consume at night because food is not as rewarding, at least visually at that time of day… It may not be as satisfying to eat at night so you eat more to try to get satisfied.”  In other words, when you eat at night, your brain is just not as satisfied as when you eat at other times during the day.  Just knowing your brain is “tricking” you and that you do not actually need more food may help you avoid late night binges, weight gain, and the associated health risks.

New Study Claims Adolescent Drinking Alters Adult Behavior

11 Jun

Here is the shocking first sentence of a recent study abstract:  “Binge drinking is common during adolescence and can lead to the development of psychiatric disorders.”

Furthermore, binge drinking during adolescence may alter brain development during this important time, leaving lasting effects on genes and behavior that will continue into adulthood. In a recently published study in the journal Neurobiology of Disease, researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Medicine provided alcohol to rat subjects on-and-off in two day increments during their adolescence. Then, they observed them during adulthood. The rats given alcohol displayed much higher levels of anxiety than the control rats who were not given alcohol during development. Also, when given the choice between alcohol and water during adulthood, the rats given alcohol during adolescence drank more alcohol than the rats in the control group.

When researchers looked at the brains of the rats in the study, they found the rats in the alcohol group had higher levels of a protein called HDAC2 in the part of the brain called the amygdala. Previous studies have linked elevated levels of HDAC2 in the amygdala to higher levels of anxiety and alcohol-drinking behavior. This suggests that alcohol exposure during adolescence activates the gene/s responsible for increased HDAC2 expression.

Lead study author Dr. Subhash Pandey, a Professor of Psychiatry and Director of Neuroscience Alcoholism Research at UIC writes, “This may be the mechanism through which adolescent binge drinking increases the risk for psychiatric disorders, including alcoholism in adulthood… On-and-off exposure to alcohol during adolescence altered the activity of genes needed for normal brain maturation… [The gene alterations] increased anxiety-like behaviors and preference for alcohol in adulthood.”

A “Simple” Quote That Can Change Your Life

4 May

Life is complicated.  As you get older and take on more responsibilities, there never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done, which causes stress.

Well, what if all that complexity, stress, and strain was NOT mandatory?  What if most… if not all… of life’s difficulties are actually self-imposed?  What if there was a simple way to shed all the frustration and finally live a much more satisfying and rewarding life? If that’s something you are interested in, then you will love this quote…

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours…. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.”

That quote is by Henry David Thoreau, a man whom you may remember from your high school days for living in a small, self-built house in the woods located on Walden Pond for two years. Why did Thoreau spend two years living in the woods?  Here is the reason he gave…

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.  I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary.  I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”

What does this have to do with you?  Should you go live in the woods? Probably not.  But there are many life lessons that can be learned from Thoreau’s experiences and writings, and the most powerful might be: SIMPLIFICATION.

We all tend to make life much more complicated than it actually is.  We worry about things we do not have to worry about, and we make a big deal out of things that we either cannot change or just don’t matter. Why do we do this?  We do it because everyone else does, which is why so many of us believe it is the only way.

Getting and staying healthy is the same.  We are led to believe that achieving a healthy weight and maintaining an active lifestyle is a complex process.  In fact, for the vast majority, getting and staying healthy is quite simple:  eat simple (avoid processed foods and eat more fruits and veggies, for example); do basic, simple exercise; and simplify other parts of your life to reduce stress and strain.

Practicing simplification is one of the most powerful things you can ever do.

Dr. Binder

5 Ways Exercise Can Help Your Brainpower and Mood!

27 Apr

1.     Exercise reverses the detrimental effects of stress.  Exercise boosts levels of soothing brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.  On a cellular level, exercise may even reverse some of the damage caused by stress that can accelerate the aging process.

2.     Exercise lifts depression.  Sustained, sweat-inducing activity can reduce symptoms of depression about as effectively as antidepressants, according to a recent study.

3.     Exercise improves learning.  Exercise increases the level of the chemicals in the brain — called growth factors — that help make new brain cells.

4.     Exercise builds self-esteem and improves body image.  Even simply seeing fitness improvements, like running a faster mile or lifting more weight, can improve your self-esteem and body image.

5.     Exercise leaves you feeling euphoric.  High-intensity exercise can leave you with a feeling of euphoria.  Try running, biking, or swimming as fast as you can for 30 to 40 seconds and then reduce your speed to a gentle pace for five minutes before sprinting again.

Study Shows Riding in a Car with a Smoker Is Bad for Your Health…

9 Mar

Everyone knows smoking is bad for your health.  Very bad.  Most people also know that secondhand smoke is harmful.  The problem is that many people think they are safe from secondhand smoke when they are not.  In other words, you are probably getting a lot more secondhand smoke than you think.  For example, one study showed secondhand smoke can actually be obtained from a smoker’s clothes.

That’s why the results of a new study published in the journal Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention are not that surprising.  The study looked at 14 non-smokers who sat in an SUV with a smoker for one hour.  During that hour, the smoker smoked three cigarettes.  The front and back windows were cracked and the smoker sat in the driver’s seat while the non-smokers sat in the right rear seat.  According to the study, tests conducted on the non-smokers showed elevated levels of butadiene, acrylonitrile, benzene, methylating agents, and ethylene oxide.  According to UCSF Professor Dr. Neal L. Benowitz, the chemicals are “thought to be the most important among the thousands in tobacco smoke that cause smoking-related disease.”

Lead author Dr. Gideon St. Helen writes, “This tells us that people, especially children and adults with pre-existing health conditions such as asthma or a history of heart disease should be protected from secondhand smoke exposure in cars.” 

Here is something that should be mentioned:  The study was performed on a vehicle that was not moving.  Obviously, more research should be done with a moving vehicle to get more realistic results.  But the real question is: why expose yourself or your children to ANY level of secondhand smoke?

Lose Weight with Potatoes?

24 Feb

Potatoes (and other carbohydrates) have gotten a bad rap in recent years. Now, newly published research claims they can help you lose weight. Well, sort of. According to researchers at McGill University, a potato extract may help limit weight gain from a diet that is already high in fat and refined carbohydrates. The study was done on mice that were fed an obesity-inducing diet for ten weeks. Some of the mice were also fed a potato extract. The mice fed the potato extract gained less weight.

Here are a few things that are important… The extract comes from 30 potatoes. Obviously, attempting to eat 30 potatoes a day would not achieve the same results (due to the large amount of calories) and is not advisable. That’s why an extract was used. But there is a bigger issue: This potato extract was tested on mice eating diets high in fat and refined carbohydrates. A much better solution would be to stop eating that sort of low-quality diet. The answer is not to eat poorly and hope that a supplement or drug will solve your problems. The answer is to eat right in the first place. The study said the mice taking the extract with the poor diet gained LESS weight. This means they still gained weight. There are no good shortcuts to losing weight and staying healthy. Making the decision to eat right and exercise for the rest of your life is the only real solution.