Cinnamon: An Impressive Entity For Health

Research has shown that the spice known as cinnamon is a great thing to add to the diets of those who are dealing with obesity, insulin sensitivity and diabetes. Additional research now shows that the spice works really well in accordance with fat cells. The essential oil cinnamaldehyde, which gives the cinnamon its flavor, actually helps to burn away fat. The reason why this happens was previously not understood or well documented. Researchers at the University of Michigan had some questions about how this occurs and wanted a more complete understanding of this function so they set out to test how it happens.

One of the findings was that cinnamaldehyde helps to improve metabolic health by directly targeting the fat cells and inducing the process called thermogenesis, which is the process of burning these cells for energy. The study took various participants from differing ages, ethnicities and weights. When their cells came into contact with cinnamaldehyde, there was a noticeable increase in expression of many cells regarding an enhanced metabolism. There was also an increase in specific proteins that are involved in the process of thermogenesis.

Promoting Thermogenesis

“Scientists were finding that this compound affected metabolism,” explains June Wu, head researcher and study author. “So we wanted to figure out how – what pathway might be involved, what it looked like in mice, and what it looked like in human cells. It’s only been relatively recently that energy surplus has become a problem. Throughout evolution, the opposite – energy deficiency – has been the problem. So any energy-consuming process usually turns off the moment the body doesn’t need it.”

This is sensational news because the growing obesity epidemic can use something effective that would help curb the issues our society has with excess weight. The way that cinnamon helps to promote the act of thermogenesis could be incredibly essential to the diets of those who are struggling with their weight.

Metabolic health compromise comes when caloric intake is too high, hormone regulatory systems are not working and poor food choices are made. Cinnamon has also been known to positively impact the way that insulin works in individuals who are pre-diabetic and deal with high blood sugar levels.

Incorporate Good Eating Habits

The presence of heart disease, diabetes and obesity are plaguing this country and any additional information or tips that can be given to the general public, regarding what needs to be done in order to combat these issues – and even in some cases reverse them – needs to be considered. Incorporating good eating habits, and directly dealing with habits that lead to overconsumption and poor food quality, will allow us to do better overall.

Access to healthy food is also something that must be fully acknowledged as some areas don’t have an adequate grocery store nearby. Thankfully, something like cinnamon is relatively inexpensive and can be found at many grocery stores and also at discount and saving stores.

Making concerted efforts to improve your health from the inside out is crucial to your quality of life. The food that you ingest is central to this in a number of ways. Stay away from processed foods and sugar because they are absolutely terrible for you. You likely ingest way more of them then you even realize.

The Truth About What Curcumin Does

One of the most commonly talked about substances in holistic spaces comes from the brightly colored turmeric. Curcumin is a compound within the yellow root turmeric and it has amazing properties that can greatly improve your mood and your memory. UCLA researchers wanted to know if the hype about this special compound held up.

Curcumin is absorbed very easily and has impressive interactions with the mind in a way that can potentially be beneficial to those with dementia and Alzheimer’s. One of the most common effects is its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It has largely been thought that there is a type of inflammation that happens in the brain that accounts for the widespread prevalence of cognitive disorders that are seen more commonly in the elderly. This would certainly account for why those who consume a lot of this substance would have less of a chance of suffering from these conditions.

Meaningful Cognitive Benefits

“Exactly how curcumin exerts its effects is not certain, but it may be due to its ability to reduce brain inflammation, which has been linked to both Alzheimer’s disease and major depression,” says Gary Small, lead doctor on the study. “The results suggest that taking this relatively safe form of curcumin could provide meaningful cognitive benefits over the years.”

The results that Smith is referring to looked at 40 different people between the ages of 50 and 90, all in relatively good health other than some mild complaints regarding their memory. There were individuals who were randomly picked to be given the placebo while the others received 90 milligrams of curcumin twice a day for a year and a half.

All 40 of the participants took part in cognitive awareness tests every six months and their results were monitored and logged. Eighty percent of the participants also took PET scans to determine the exact amount of both tau and amyloid that their brain had at the beginning and end of the year-and-a-half period.

A Real Game Changer

Those who did take the curcumin experienced noticeable differences in their memory and their ability to stay on task. The PET scans also showed much less of the tau and amyloid signals in the patients who were given the placebos instead of the curcumin dosage. A couple of individuals mentioned that they were experiencing a bit of abdominal pain and nausea, however these reactions may not have been related as two of them were taking the placebo while four were taking the curcumin.

The researchers were incredibly impressed by the results and will be conducting a similar study with a larger test group of people. There will also be more elaborate and thorough testing regarding the ability of curcumin to positively impact those who struggle with mild depression. The fact that curcumin also has antidepressant effects could be a real game changer in the psychiatric realm.

Studies Shed Light On Food Chemicals And Additives

With the start of a new year, many Americans will resolve to cut back on fast food to avoid an overload of fat and calories. Yet, there is another reason to resist the temptation to indulge in fast food. The grease-proof packaging holding your burger and fries may contain potentially harmful fluorinated chemicals that can leach into food.

In a comprehensive analysis on the prevalence of highly-fluorinated chemicals in fast food packaging in the United States, researchers tested more than 400 samples from 27 fast food chains throughout the country. The samples, consisting of paper wrappers, paperboard, and drink containers, were analyzed for a class of chemicals called PFASs – per and polyfluoroalkyl substances – also known as PFCs. These highly-fluorinated chemicals are widely used in an array of nonstick, stain-resistant, and waterproof products, including carpeting, cookware, outdoor apparel and food packaging.

Potentially Harmful Chemicals That Can Leach Into Food

Exposure to some PFASs has been associated with cancer, thyroid disease, immune suppression, low birth weight, and decreased fertility. “These chemicals have been linked with numerous health problems, so it’s concerning that people are potentially exposed to them in food,” says Laurel Schaider, an environmental chemist at Silent Spring Institute and the study’s lead author. “Children are especially at risk for health effects because their developing bodies are more vulnerable to toxic chemicals.” Approximately one third of children in the U.S. consume fast food every day.

Researchers applied a novel technique using particle-induced gamma-ray emission (PIGE) spectroscopy to analyze the samples for fluorine – a marker of PFASs. The findings were reported in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters. The team found that almost half of paper wrappers – burger wrappers and pastry bags – and 20 percent of paperboard samples – boxes for fries and pizza – contained fluorine. Tex-Mex food packaging and dessert and bread wrappers, in particular, were most likely to contain fluorine compared with other categories of packaging.

To characterize the different types of PFASs present and to validate their analysis, the researchers conducted a more detailed study on a subset of 20 samples. In general, samples that were high in fluorine, also contained PFASs. Six of the samples contained a long-chain PFAS called PFOA – perfluorooctanoic acid, also known as C8. Following a review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, in 2011 several major U.S. manufacturers voluntarily agreed to stop using C8 compounds in food packaging due to health hazards.

Reduce The Use

Although major U.S. manufacturers have agreed to phase out long-chain PFASs in consumer products, other countries still produce them, and many companies have been replacing them with shorter-chain PFAS compounds, some of which were detected in the study. “The replacement compounds are equally persistent and have not been shown to be safe for human health,” says co-author Arlene Blum, founder of the Green Science Policy Institute. “That’s why we need to reduce the use of the entire class of highly-fluorinated compounds. The good news is there are non-fluorinated alternatives available.”

The team found PFASs present at a wide range of concentrations in their samples, suggesting that some packaging was deliberately treated with fluorinated compounds, whereas in other cases, the chemicals may have come from recycled materials or other sources. Even if the chemicals are phased out, they are highly persistent in the environment. Studies have shown that PFASs from consumer products accumulate in landfill sites, and can migrate into groundwater, potentially impacting drinking water supplies. Currently, PFASs are allowed in compostable food packaging, which can affect levels in soil and crop plants.

“All PFASs, including the newer replacements, are highly resistant to degradation and will remain in the environment for a long time,” says co-author Graham Peaslee, a physicist at the University of Notre Dame who developed the PIGE method to screen food wrappers. “Because of this, these highly-fluorinated chemicals are not sustainable and should not be used in compostable products or any product that might end up in a landfill.”

Food Additive Could Alter Digestive Cell Structure And Function

The ability of small intestine cells to absorb nutrients and act as a barrier to pathogens is “significantly decreased” after chronic exposure to nanoparticles of titanium dioxide, a common food additive found in everything from chewing gum to bread, according to other research from Binghamton University, State University of New York. Researchers exposed a small intestinal cell culture model to the physiological equivalent of a meal’s worth of titanium oxide nanoparticles – 30 nanometers across – over four hours (acute exposure) or three meal’s worth over five days (chronic exposure).

Acute exposures did not have much effect, but chronic exposure diminished the absorptive projections on the surface of intestinal cells called microvilli. With fewer microvilli, the intestinal barrier was weakened, metabolism slowed and some nutrients – iron, zinc, and fatty acids, specifically – were more difficult to absorb. Enzyme functions were negatively affected, while inflammation signals increased.

Avoid Titanium Oxide

“Titanium oxide is a common food additive and people have been eating a lot of it for a long time – don’t worry, it won’t kill you! – but we were interested in some of the subtle effects, and we think people should know about them,” said Biomedical Engineering Assistant Professor Gretchen Mahler, one of the authors of the paper.

“There has been previous work on how titanium oxide nanoparticles affect microvilli, but we are looking at much lower concentrations,” Mahler said. “We also extended previous work to show that these nanoparticles alter intestinal function.”

Titanium dioxide is generally recognized as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and ingestion is nearly unavoidable. The compound is an inert and insoluble material that is commonly used for white pigmentation in paints, paper and plastics. It is also an active ingredient in mineral-based sunscreens for pigmentation to block ultraviolet light.

However, it can enter the digestive system through toothpastes, as titanium dioxide is used to create abrasion needed for cleaning. The oxide is also used in some chocolate to give it a smooth texture; in donuts to provide color; and in skimmed milks for a brighter, more opaque appearance which makes the milk more palatable.

A 2012 Arizona State University study tested 89 common food products including gum, Twinkies, and mayonnaise and found that they all contained titanium dioxide. About five percent of products in that study contained titanium dioxide as nanoparticles. Dunkin Donuts stopped using powdered sugar with titanium dioxide nanoparticles in 2015 in response to pressure from the advocacy group As You Sow.

“To avoid foods rich in titanium oxide nanoparticles you should avoid processed foods, and especially candy. That is where you see a lot of nanoparticles,” Mahler said.

Everyday Chemicals Linked To Chronic Disease In Men

Chemicals found in everyday plastics materials are linked to cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes and high blood pressure in men, according to Australian researchers.

Researchers from the University of Adelaide and the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute investigated the independent association between chronic diseases among men and concentrations of potentially harmful chemicals known as phthalates. The results of the study were published in the international journal Environmental Research.

Phthalates are a group of chemicals widely used in common consumer products, such as food packaging and wrappings, toys, medications, and even medical devices. Researchers found that of the 1,500 Australian men tested, phthalates were detected in urine samples of 99.6% of those aged 35 and over.

“We found that the prevalence of cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes and high blood pressure increased among those men with higher total phthalate levels,” says senior author Associate Professor Zumin Shi. “While we still don’t understand the exact reasons why phthalates are independently linked to disease, we do know the chemicals impact on the human endocrine system, which controls hormone release that regulate the body’s growth, metabolism, and sexual development and function. In addition to chronic diseases, higher phthalate levels were associated with increased levels of a range of inflammatory biomarkers in the body.”

Adopting A Healthier Lifestyle

Age and Western diets are directly associated with higher concentrations of phthalates. Previous studies have shown that men who ate less fresh fruit and vegetables and more processed and packaged foods, and drank carbonated soft drinks, have higher levels of phthalates in their urine.

“Importantly, while 82% of the men we tested were overweight or obese – conditions known to be associated with chronic diseases – when we adjusted for this in our study, the significant association between high levels of phthalates and disease was not substantially altered,” Shi added. “In addition, when we adjusted for socio-economic and lifestyle factors such as smoking and alcohol, the association between high levels of phthalates and disease was unchanged.”

Although the studies were conducted in men, the findings are also likely to be relevant to women. “While further research is required, reducing environmental phthalates exposure where possible, along with the adoption of healthier lifestyles, may help to reduce the risk of chronic disease,” Shi concluded.

The Research To Minimize Food Contaminants

Food too often contains unintended substances, including dangerous materials such as dioxins and polyfluorinated alkylated substances (PFAS). While efforts to reduce dioxins over the last 30 years has been successful, more work needs to be done to minimize other contaminating substances. New research published by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment in the special issue Food Contaminants surveys the risks of various substances, examines the ways they enter food, and the explores their prevalence in humans and the environment. This information will be critical in protecting people from food contamination.

The food production process is far from perfect. Substances unintentionally present in food – known as “contaminants” – are often detected. Some contamination results directly from mistakes in processing and transportation, and it can also occur from presence of substances in the environment – from pollution as well as the use of agrochemicals and pesticides. These substances are often harmful to the humans who ingest them, and steps need to be taken to minimize the presence of these contaminants. These steps begin with cutting-edge research. In the words of Dr. Reiner Wittkowski, the vice president of the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, “Far-sighted approaches for identifying new risks have to be developed so that we don’t have to play catch-up,” he said. “The institute is helping to make strides toward that goal with the research published in Food Contaminants.”

Research into this subject is so vital because it provides a direction for regulations that can have positive effects on human health. Such regulations have worked in the past. After research in the 1980s demonstrated that dioxins were both harmful and widely present in the food supply, regulation succeeded in drastically reducing their presence.

PFAS

This same approach needs to be applied to other contaminants such as per- and polyfluorinated alkylated substances or PFAS. These stubborn compounds are resistant to heat and water, degrade slowly, and are unfortunately widespread because of their use in hundreds of common consumer products. PFAS remain in the environment for long periods of time, and they bioaccumulate in a human body – that is, their concentration increases over time in the blood and organs. At a high enough concentration, PFAS are linked to cancer, birth defects, resistance to vaccinations, high cholesterol, and the delayed onset of puberty. Researchers study these substances, their effects on the body, and their prevalence in the environment and people in order to inform our public policy.

Examples of such policy include regulation of materials used to store and transport food. This material sometimes contains substances that can bleed into the food. Other policies entail regulation of the food production process, as some contaminants can result from industrial practices. Still other solutions can involve regulation of the disposal of contaminants to avoid pollution. Studies in the special issue help to guide such policies by examining not only the harmful effects of contaminants but their estimated prevalence in the environment, giving lawmakers an idea of the urgent need to take action now and a path for future legislation to take.

Food is our life source and as such, we deserve clean, healthy, unadulterated access to it. Various contaminants can not only be dangerous but have long-stemming effects that can be costly and disastrous in the long run.