The Fight Against Obesity

Obesity is defined as having too much body fat. Being overweight and obese although closely related, have different meanings. Overweight is defined as weighing more than what’s considered healthy for a specific height. This weight may come from different compartments of the body—bone, muscle, and body fluid. Adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 29.9 are considered overweight, while adults with a BMI of 30 or higher are considered obese. Obesity is acquired over time, when an individual consumes more calories than are burned or used. The excess calories are stored in the body as fat and overtime, can lead to a large number of health risks.

Link between Obesity and Food Addiction

Research studies have long explored the underlying cause of obesity. Whether it’s related to addiction to food, genetics, or environment surroundings. Although comparing food addiction to drug addiction is still controversial, the brain functions change when under the influence of drugs. But how does the brain function change under the influence of food?

In a recent study at a neuroscience conference in Amsterdam, 39 obese people and 42 healthy people collected together and consumed a buffet-style meal. Their brains were scanned a few hours following the meal while viewing photos of high-caloric foods. The pictures serve as a stimulant to food cravings. And what did the brain scans reveal?

The brains of the healthy-weight people showed a stronger consideration for food taste (cravings), nutritional value, and hunger level when determining if they wanted to eat the food or not. The brains of the obese people showed a link between high-caloric foods with reward. The two areas of the brain that were link in this is the dorsal caudate and somatosensory cortex. The dorsal caudate processes reward-motivated behaviors and somatosensory cortex is responsible for assessing energetic value of foods. The link between these two brain compartments make it more difficult for obese people to turn down high-caloric foods.

3 months after the study, researchers measured the BMI of all participants and revealed that the increase of BMI and weight in obese people is related to food cravings. The amount of weight gain can be correlated to the connection between the dorsal caudate and somatosensory cortex. This study revealed that food cravings predict weight gain.

Obesity Prevention

Obesity continues to be one of the largest health issues across the nation. The dangers of obesity increases the risks of health issues. Overtime, fat builds up in our circulation leading to dangers of hypertension, diabetes, and even heart attack and stroke. It has grown more difficult for individuals to live a healthy lifestyle with easy resources of fast food and sedimentary lifestyle.

Whether you’re overweight, obese, or even at a healthy weight, there are many preventive measures you can take to improve your health. And this begins with the will to try. Begin slowly and make better choices with the food that you consume. If following a strict diet plan is too difficult for you, try portion control. Instead of eating the entire burger, only eat half. Perform light exercises such as walking or jogging. Some individuals find it helpful if you have moral support from family and friends. It’s always easier with a buddy with similar goals and can keep you accountable. And lastly, be consistent. Whatever it is that you do, keep at it and don’t quit.

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Preventing Arterial Plaque Build-Up

Arterial Plaque Build-Up

Atherosclerosis is a medical term that most people refer to as plaque build-up in the arteries. It’s the process in which fat deposits of cholesterol, calcium, and fibrin stick to the walls of arteries and harden overtime. Arteries are vital blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to all tissues in the body. Atherosclerosis can affect any area of the body depending on the location of plaque build-up. This can take place in arteries of the heart, brain, any extremity, and kidneys. As plaque builds up, arteries become narrow, more difficult for blood to flow through. It is a slow progressing disease with mild symptoms but the underlying cause of most serious cardiovascular diseases.


The Power of Food

If you currently suffer from arterial plaque build-up, your doctor probably has informed you about the importance of a healthy diet. A heart-healthy diet doesn’t have to be complicated. Making smart decisions on your diet can be detrimental to your overall health. When we focus our diets on healthy foods, not only do we prevent further narrowing of arteries, but we can potentially reverse the damage.

The biggest challenge to promote cardiovascular health is prevention of various food groups that have been accustomed in the American diet. One of these food groups is refined grains. Refined grains are starches that have been processed and removed of all nutrients. Refined grains include white rice, cereal, and white flour. In addition to refined grains, limit consumption of added sweeteners and sodium. Avoiding trans and saturated fats are two keys to preventing heart disease. Trans fats are fats that remain solid at room temperature including any fried foods, chips, and most packaged foods. This fat manipulates cholesterol levels by increasing the bad (LDL) and decreasing the good (HDL). Saturated fats derive from animal products and oils. These include cheese, pizza, and processed meats (sausage, bacon, and ribs). Consumers with diets rich in trans and saturated fats have a lower life-expectancy than those who choose plant-based foods.

Choosing plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains (oatmeal and brown rice) is key to preventing cardiovascular disease. Research shows that this group of food provides the largest net weight loss. This food group not only helps prevent cardiovascular disease but it also assists in fighting against obesity. It is also important to include nuts, seeds, and good fats in your diet. Nuts and seeds, particularly almonds and walnuts offer heart-healthy benefits.

Alternative Treatments

Although it may be difficult to always follow a heart-healthy diet, it is important for us to make good choices most of the time. In addition, heart-healthy lifestyle choices such as exercise, stress management, quitting smoking, and dietary supplements such as systemic enzymes all contribute to a healthy heart.




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Chronic Pain and Inflammation; are alternative treatments more beneficial?

What is Chronic Pain?
Stubbing your toe, bumping your head on a shelf that was lower than you anticipated, these are actions that should result in the normal feeling of pain. A healthy body responds to minor injuries through inflammation. Although sometimes uncomfortable, the swelling, pain and redness are a much needed response that set the stage for the repair process of the body. But what happens when the normal healing process is prolonged and the body does not turn off the inflammation?

Chronic pain is a common occurrence here in the US, with over 3 million new cases a year. People suffering chronic pain may have suffered an injury, degenerative disease or damage to their nerves. In some cases, patients may have no obvious cause for their pain.

The New Link: Chronic Pain and Inflammation
Since the early 2000’s, studies have bridged the chronic pain felt by millions of Americans to inflammation. Many researchers now believe that chronic inflammation, particularly in the brain, contributes to a variety of illnesses; included on the list were asthma, heart disease, joint pain and chronic pain.
Chronic Pain and Psychological Illness

Although chronic pain is still being studied by researchers, there is a well-known correlation of chronic pain and psychological illness. Specific immune cells, called microglia, grow and multiply due to chronic pain. Too much microglia inhibits the release of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is well known as the crucial chemical for the feelings of reward and pleasure, and is also associated with motor and cognitive functioning. Disruption of dopamine is also associated with other psychological disorders, such as psychosis and schizophrenia. In light of this information, it makes sense that those who suffer from chronic pain are highly likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. An unfortunate loop, stress causes inflammation, the inflammation causes pain and depression, and those stressors then leads to more inflammation.

Previous Treatments
Opioid drugs are generally prescribed for pain, and these drugs work by stimulating the creation of dopamine. But because those who suffer from chronic pain have microglia inhibiting their dopamine release, these drugs generally do not work for them. Because of the lack of standard treatment, those who suffer chronic pain are also more likely to suffer substance abuse and addiction. New research working to slow down microglia is beginning to surface. Researchers want to find an effective treatment for those with chronic pain, but we are still at the very preliminary stages, and no pharmaceuticals are available.

Alternative Treatments and Enzymes
For years, while some doctors continue trying to alleviate the symptoms, others have been working to treat the inflammation. Poor diet, smoking, alcohol abuse, and psychological trauma are all contributors of inflammation. While pain relieving drugs and anti-depressants work to decrease symptoms, it seems the real cure to chronic pain is turning off unnecessary inflammation in the body. Recently some doctors have moved to a less mainstream approach to chronic pain. Some less orthodox treatments include acupuncture and craniosacral therapy to relieve tension. Others look to change patient eating habits and have them avoid normal allergen culprits (like soy, lactose and gluten). Although these treatments have not been accepted by all practitioners, there are hundreds of people reaping the gains of these sorts of therapy.
Systemic enzymes work in a unique way to reduce inflammation. With a blend of natural enzymes already found in the body, systemic enzymes has the ability to eliminate toxic substances circulating in the blood and help decrease total body inflammation. Adding systemic enzymes to a better diet and stress relieving treatments, such as acupuncture or yoga, would assist in the treatment to fighting inflammation and should enhance overall health and mood for those with chronic pain.

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Research Update on Inflammation: 2015 Findings

We are now almost a month into 2015, and it’s safe to say that researchers around the world are hard at work trying to answer some of 2014’s most lingering questions. While inflammation is a known trigger and consequence of almost every disease, there is still a significant amount of unknown territory when it comes to inflammation. It’s hard to tell if inflammation is the cause or consequence of a lot of diseases. In addition, the rise in autoimmune disorders over the past couple decades has made inflammation a focal point in most of the recently conducted studies. Inflammation is a complex process with countless underlying factors, which makes it difficult to examine in various diseases. However, several studies that look at inflammation in specific diseases have already been published this year. Here are some of the most interesting findings in 2015 so far…

Inflammation as a trigger for insulin resistance and cardiometabolic disease

Nearly ten years ago, researchers discovered that obesity actually contributes to systemic inflammation by comparing inflammatory markers in obese and those with healthy BMI’s. This systemic inflammation contributes to insulin resistance and increased levels of circulating inflammatory markers. The elevation of these molecules within the blood places patients at increased risk for diabetes and heart disease. In the obese, inflammatory alterations and signaling actually occur in fat tissue – later spreading to the liver and vascular walls. Because systemic inflammation can actually place a patient at risk for disease, researchers conclude that therapeutic lifestyle changes (and in extreme cases, bariatric surgery) can lead to significant improvements in those at risk. Researchers explain that lifestyle changes directed at reducing inflammation can directly contribute to reduced incidence of heart disease in obese individuals.

Inflammation and Crohn’s disease

This study, recently published in the Journal of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, explores the role that inflammasomes play in inflammatory bowel disease. Inflammasomes are responsible for activating inflammatory processes, and for regulating programmed cell death. In this study, researchers review the role of inflammasomes in cases of intestinal inflammation to better understand how the immune system differentiates harmful bacteria from beneficial bacteria within the gut. In patients suffering from inflammatory bowel disease, inflammasomes are often unable to properly differential between harmful and beneficial bacteria, creating unnecessary inflammatory responses that damage the intestines. In addition, this becomes a vicious cycle – whereby increased inflammation leads to higher prevalence of harmful bacteria (and vice versa). The researchers use this theory to explore how genetic mutations associated with Crohn’s disease regulate intestinal inflammation. Ultimately, however, the researchers explain that additional studies are required to better understand inflammasomes, and possible therapies aimed at regulating them.

Platelet inflammation and vascular repair

This study, conducted in France, explains that platelets play a central role in inflammatory reactions. Previously conducted studies describe platelets as promoting endothelial permeability. In other words, platelets help to regulate whether or not immune cells may pass in and out of blood vessels. As the researchers review additional studies, it becomes apparent that platelets not only regulate vascular permeability, but also immune cell infiltration and bleeding associated with this infiltration. It’s also important to note that previous studies indicate that platelets can be both beneficial and deleterious in the inflammatory process, depending on the cause and stage of the inflammatory reaction. What does all this research mean? It means that therapies using platelets as potential targets for the treatment of allergic reactions may provide new perspectives in the treatment of inflammatory disease (at least in those where platelets are shown to play a significant role).

Inflammation in diabetic nephropathy

Similar to the insulin resistance study, this study, published in Kidney International, focuses on inflammasomes. Diabetic nephropathy is the leading cause of kidney disease – yet researchers are still unclear as to mechanisms involved in disease development. The disease is characterized by an accumulation of inflammatory cells within the kidney, and the amount of kidney damage is related to the level of inflammatory markers in the kidneys. The researchers explain that inflammasome activation is a two-faced biological event, in that inflammation may lead to either curing trauma or creating more damage. The researchers hope to conduct additional studies exploring the mechanisms underlying inflammasome activation, and how therapeutic strategies that address inflammasome activation may help those suffering with diabetic nephropathy.

In summary

Although the search for answers regarding inflammation’s role in disease always seems to come up inconclusive, it’s important to understand the complexity of this immune response. Every small step that researchers make in better understanding the inflammatory process eventually accumulates to build better therapeutic strategies against some of the most common diseases today. It’s hard to tell what strides researchers may make this year in better understanding complex immune processes, but it’s evident that inflammation remains a primary area of study on an international scale. There is no telling what researchers will stumble upon in 2015, but consumers and physicians can bet that it will be relevant in better understanding the complex inflammatory process.

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Smoking + Alcohol + Gene Variant – Chronic Pancreatitis and Patient Options

New Findings
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are exploring their latest findings, which indicate that genetic mutations may link smoking and alcohol consumption to the harmful effects observed in chronic pancreatitis (ongoing inflammation of the pancreas). The 12-year study offers some insight as to how and why some people suffer from chronic pancreatitis, and others don’t – despite heavy smoking and/or drinking. Researchers now believe that acute pancreatitis (short-term inflammation of the pancreas) has a lot to do with a later diagnosis of chronic pancreatitis. Acute pancreatitis is characterized by a sudden onset of pancreatic inflammation, leading to extreme pain in the upper abdomen, nausea, and vomiting. Acute pancreatitis is often triggered by lifestyle factors like excessive alcohol consumption or primary problems with the gallbladder, but researchers note that up to a third of acute pancreatitis patients will have additional run-ins with acute pancreatitis. A third of this group will later receive a diagnosis of chronic pancreatitis – which can be extremely dangerous, as chronic pancreatitis is characterized by scarring of the pancreas and loss of pancreatic function.
Obviously, drinking and smoking increase an individual’s risk for both acute and chronic pancreatitis, but researchers are often perplexed as to why some patients who drink and smoke end up with chronic pancreatitis, while others do not. The new study confirms that gene variants in addition to lifestyle factors make some people more susceptible to pancreatic damage than others. This information will hopefully help researchers and physicians prevent future cases of pancreatitis.
How did the researchers make these findings?
To examine what makes some patients susceptible to pancreatic damage and others immune, the researchers evaluated gene profiles along with drinking and smoking habits of more than 1,000 patients with either chronic pancreatitis or recurring acute pancreatitis. In addition, the researchers also examined the gene profiles of more than 1,000 healthy volunteers with no history of pancreatitis. The researchers focused on a gene known as CTCR, which may help protect pancreatic cells from injury. Specifically, the CTCR gene helps to protect the pancreas from premature activation of an enzyme called trypsin. Because trypsin is located in the pancreas, premature activation causes damage to the pancreatic tissue, which often leads to pancreatitis.
It turns out that there is a variant of the CTCR gene that nearly 10% of all Caucasians are born with that puts them at a stronger risk for alcohol and smoking-related chronic pancreatitis. Researchers believe that this variant leads to less pancreatic protection from trypsin – leaving the individual more susceptible to pancreatic damage. So what does this finding mean for future pancreatitis patients? It offers a window of opportunity to intervene in the pancreatitis progression. For example, when patients present with acute pancreatitis, healthcare professionals may now screen for the gene variant to assess the patient’s likelihood of developing alcohol and smoking-related chronic pancreatitis. For those who have the gene variant, counseling to help the patient quit smoking and drinking could prevent a later chronic pancreatitis diagnosis. Furthermore, testing different treatments in this group may prove effective since they have the greatest risk in progressing to end-stage chronic pancreatitis. More personalized approaches to pancreatic disease will likely reduce the risk of chronic pancreatitis in this high-risk group.
What about prevention?
While abstaining from smoking and drinking is an obvious and effective way to prevent pancreatitis, there are several ways to reduce pancreatitis risk. First, eating a low-fat diet may reduce the risk of gallstones. Gallstones occur when too much cholesterol accumulates in the bile – and is the leading cause of acute pancreatitis. A diet high in heart-healthy whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables can help to lower cholesterol and circulating triglycerides. Because high levels of circulating triglycerides is another risk factor for acute pancreatitis, diet is an important part in pancreatitis prevention.
Of course, regular exercise is a huge way to reduce the risk of pancreatitis. Those who have high BMI’s and are overweight are more likely to experience problems with their pancreas – including diabetes and gallstones. Along with physical exercise, it’s important to abstain from crash diets. Losing weight gradually is much more beneficial than losing a large amount of weight all at once. Losing a large amount of weight all at once signals the liver to produce more cholesterol, which will counteract the goal of lowering cholesterol levels. In addition, rapid weight loss is another risk factor for gallstones.
Systemic enzymes in pancreatitis prevention
One of the less conventional ways to prevent pancreatitis is regular use of systemic enzymes. Systemic enzymes work by naturally regulating the immune system. This means that systemic enzymes will inhibit exaggerated inflammatory responses – both in organs and in circulation. Systemic enzymes work similarly to NSAID pain relievers, but without the potential risk to intestinal lining, kidneys, and liver. Systemic enzymes are an all-natural remedy, so there are no side effects or long-term risks. In fact, regular use of systemic enzymes help to prevent damage to organs caused by inflammation – and they are often used in conditions like pulmonary fibrosis and arthritis. Systemic enzymes work by blocking specific steps in the inflammatory cascade, and also by reducing the number of inflammatory molecules in circulation. As a result, fewer inflammatory molecules reach delicate organs (like the pancreas), and inflammatory scarring is prevented – allowing the organ to continue functioning properly and reducing the risk of chronic pancreatitis.

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Antioxidants and Degenerative Aging

There are several biochemical factors that contribute to the process of aging, but one of the most commonly explored factors is oxidative damage to DNA. Although we often think of oxidative damage as coming from external sources like pollution, oxidative damage is also a normal product of almost every biochemical reaction within the body. Oxidative damage is caused by reactive oxidative species (ROS), which is a normal byproduct of reactions like metabolism. While we do have some protective mechanisms in place against oxidative damage, these defenses cannot prevent all oxidative damage. In fact, the body sometimes uses oxidative species to combat potentially harmful bacteria, parasites and viruses. This benefit protects the body from short-term ailments like the flu or the common cold, but in the long-term, these oxidative species may actually contribute to chronic inflammatory disease. The use of antioxidants to inhibit oxidative species from causing long-term harm is shown to help prevent chronic inflammatory diseases like malignancy, diabetes, and heart disease. Here are some of the most common factors relating to oxidative stress:

Smoking and tobacco use: It’s common knowledge that tobacco use and smoking leads to premature aging and contributes to disease risk. It’s believed that smoking contributes to 400,000 premature deaths per year in the U.S. alone.

The costs of metabolism: The evolutionary theory holds that aging is inevitable because of biochemical “trade-offs.” For example, many of our resources are devoted to reproduction – but the trade off is that our bodies have to maintain reproductive maintenance, which creates reactive oxygen species. In addition, metabolism is a necessary process that is constantly at work. Metabolic byproducts can do significant damage to DNA. As all of this damage accumulates with age, the body has to simultaneously work to combat the oxidative stress that inevitably results. The theory that metabolism greatly contributes to oxidative stress and aging is confirmed through caloric restriction studies. The study demonstrated that rats that are fed caloric restricted diets live significantly longer than rats that consumed a normal diet. Researchers believe that restricting calorie intake reduces the amount of oxidative damage caused by metabolism, and this reduced oxidative damage leads to enhanced maintenance functions against oxidative stress.

The Use of Antioxidants
Antioxidants are a widely studied area of dietetics, as they are easy to administer and are not costly. Studies show that antioxidants boost the body’s natural defenses against ROS damage. The main source of antioxidants in the human diet is fruit and vegetables, and people who regularly consume antioxidant-rich foods have a lower incidence of degenerative disease. In fact, the lack of fruits and vegetables in the diet is directly linked to higher incidence of chronic disease. Studies that explore antioxidant consumption and its effects on specific body systems also demonstrate the specific benefits offered by antioxidants. For example, oxidative damage to sperm DNA is increased in those who don’t consume enough vitamin C. Experts recommend consuming at least two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables per day for optimal antioxidant benefits. However, it’s rare for individuals to follow this recommendation, and the Western diet significantly contributes ROS damage. For this reason, most (if not all) will greatly benefit from regular use of antioxidant supplements, and studies even suggest that it may add years to the human lifespan.

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Why Are Some Claiming that Ibuprofen Leads to Extended Lifespan?

As a common over-the-counter remedy for a list of ailments, ibuprofen may actually be capable of extending lifespan, as well. According to researchers at Texas A&M AgriLife, regular doses of ibuprofen supposedly add 15% more time to lives in animal studies. The researchers first used baker’s yeast as an aging model, and found that the yeast treated with ibuprofen survived longer. Next, the team experimented on worms and flies – and again, saw extending lifespan with regular ibuprofen dosage. In addition, these organisms also appeared to be much healthier than the control groups. In each experimental model, the researchers measured ibuprofen dosages that were equivalent to a normal human dosage. This dosage extended each species lifespan by 15%, and in humans, this would be about another dozen years in a healthy adult.
The research was conducted by researchers from all over the world – from Russia to California, and their three-year project shows that ibuprofen interferes with the ability of yeast cells to pick up an amino acid called tryptophan. Tryptophan is found in every organism, and is considered essential for humans (who usually get adequate levels from dietary consumption). Although the researchers are still unsure how ibuprofen may extend human lifespan, they say that it’s definitely worth exploring. The researchers are hopeful that additional over-the-counter remedies will show similar effects, proving their theory that common and relatively safe drugs extend the life of diverse organisms. The experiment was a result of two separate research groups combining forces to better understand cell cycle analysis and the aging process. The researchers identified ibuprofen as one of the drugs that had unique properties in cell cycle analysis, so they wanted to further explore how this might affect aging.
This study, along with future studies already in the works, are aimed at better understanding why people get sick, and why people age. In a world that is constantly avoiding the aging process, this type of research may prove fruitful. In addition, extending the human lifespan and keeping people healthier longer is now an achievable goal. Researchers everywhere are beginning to look more to common drugs that target individual ailments and disease for a deeper understanding of the aging process. While the researchers have yet to set forth specific mechanisms that possibly underlie the connection between ibuprofen and an extended lifespan, it’s likely that the inhibition or regulation of immune processes may be a large part of the puzzle. Inflammatory mediators have a tendency to create reactive oxygen species throughout the body, which leads to oxidative damage in affected cells. One of the aging theories is based solely on oxidative damage. Specifically, those who adhere to this theory believe that oxidative damage accelerates aging and promotes the onset and progression of chronic disease. If regular ibuprofen dosages extend human lifespan by reducing or impairing oxidative damage – this finding will be indicative that other supplements that protect against oxidative damage also have this benefit. In addition, there are likely several other supplements that are more beneficial than ibuprofen in exerting these effects.

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