Friday, April 18, 2014

Exercise and Blood Sugar

Back to the China Study and the benefits of exercise and managing one's blood sugar. Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, said that lifestyle is the best medicine has been established by an impressively consistent array of research findings spanning populations and decades. Not only that, careful attention to eating well, being active, controlling weight, and avoiding tobacco has been shown to reduce the lifetime risk of all major chronic disease by 80 percent. "This study shows first, that an intervention focused particularly on diabetes prevention has generalized benefits," Katz said. "This is not very surprising, since the causal and protective factors for all of the prevalent chronic diseases are interrelated. The same diet and activity pattern that helps prevent diabetes does the same for cardiovascular disease," he added. "Second, and more surprising, this study suggests that a robust lifestyle intervention program of sufficient duration is a gift that keeps on giving, conferring benefit for years after it concludes," Katz said. "This offers important promise with regard to the cost-effectiveness of such interventions." So if you've been wondering whether developing a high-level-healthiness lifestyle is worth the work, my brain's opinion is "yes."  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure . . .
Guangwei Li, M.D., department of endocrinology, China-Japan Friendship Hospital, Beijing; David Katz, M.D., M.P.H., director, Yale University Prevention Research Center, New Haven, Conn.; April 3, 2014, The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, online.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Glycemic Load (GL)

In America, as in some other countries, the serving size provided in many restaurants is enormous. Yes, you pay for the increased size and you pay for it not just in money. You pay in calories. The Glycemic Load (GL) of a food is an estimate of how much of that specific food raises blood glucose based on serving size.  The charts I've noticed use either one cup or a single average-sized fruit or present the GI or GL in terms of half a cup or a single small-sized fruit. Dried fruits are something else, however. Dried fruit listings are more likely to be ¼ cup because of density. Remember, think about your meal as a whole. Some foods in that meal will have a higher GI and/or a higher Glycemic Load. What is the average for the meal? It is low, medium, or high? If you google Glycemic Index or Glycemic Load, you can often find a great deal of helpful information on the internet. Be sure to note serving size so you can compare using some type of standardization. Did the chart use one cup or half a cup as the standardized comparison. Avoid agonizing over a specific food. For example, I love medjool dates. Yes, they contain glucose but they’re also reputed to have five times more protein than most other fruit. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, one pitted date contains about 1.6 grams of fiber, which is 6% of the recommended daily intake. Because they are high in protein and fiber, dates can actually help curb hunger pangs.  Harvard Health Publications give dried dates, which are higher in sugar than fresh dates, a relatively low GI value of 42. When at home, I enjoy one or two medjools most days and usually have a couple of almonds at the same time to balance them out. And because my brain doesn’t feel deprived of something it loves, there is no push to overeat. Some of these tools can help you make healthy mindset decisions about what you put into your body. And Calories? More about that tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Glycemic Index GI)

Do you  use information from the Glycemic Index (GI) to help you select the foods you eat on a regular basis. The GI rates foods to show how much they raise blood sugar levels. The higher the blood sugar rise, the higher the position of the food on the Glycemic Index. Pure glucose, which I think of as pure refined sugar, has a GI of 100. No surprise, candy, sugar, cake, cookies, donuts and so on have a high GI, while many vegetables, fruits, and whole-grains have a lower GI. Different foods have differing effects on blood sugar levels and the effects can vary considerably. Some foods even have a range of GI numbers, depending on several factors. For example, sometimes how long a food is cooked can influence the GI. Pasta cooked ‘al dente’ has a lower GI than when it is cooked longer to softness. The riper the banana the higher the GI, because glucose content increases with ripeness. Sweet potatoes are lower on the GI than white potatoes. However, the way in which both types of potatoes are prepared can impact their position. I do not carry a GI with me when I grocery shop because I have a general sense of the position on the GI of common foods. For example, a plain baked version of either will have a much lower GI than those that are deep fried or slathered in butter or sour cream. The serving size can make a differences, as well. I've learned to pay attention to serving size. That's sometimes referred to as Glycemic Load (GL).  More on that tomorrow. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Diabetes Prevention and Stroke #2

Guangwei Li, M.D. and David Katz, M.D., M.P.H. followed 438 Chinese people with high blood sugar for 29 years (and compared them with a control group). The 438 individuals followed a nutrition and exercise program for six years and then were followed by researchers for an additional twenty-three years. What did they find? The incidence of death from cardiovascular disease in the control group who did not change their lifestyles was nearly 20% compared with only 12% in the study group. Death from any cause was about 38% in the control group and only 28% in the study group. (Note: previous research has shown that for people with type 2 diabetes, the risk of dying from heart conditions and stroke is more than twice that of people without diabetes.) According to Dr. Li, "These [new] findings provide yet further justification to implement lifestyle interventions in people with high blood sugar, as clinical and public health measures to control the long-term consequences of diabetes."
Guangwei Li, M.D., department of endocrinology, China-Japan Friendship Hospital, Beijing; David Katz, M.D., M.P.H., director, Yale University Prevention Research Center, New Haven, Conn.; April 3, 2014, The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, online.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Diabetes Prevention and Stroke #1

Do you have high blood sugar, are at risk for type 2 diabetes, over-weight, or low on exercise time? Do you know someone who is? Have you ever wondered if exercising, losing weight, and living a high-level-healthiness lifestyle really provides any benefits such as reducing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes or dying from heart disease or stroke? Recently released research by a collaboration between China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing and Yale University suggest there are definite benefits. Guangwei Li, M.D. and David Katz, M.D., M.P.H. just reported on a 29 year study. For the study, Li's group randomly assigned 438 patients to the exercise and better-eating program, and another 138 patients to maintain their regular lifestyle. The program was designed to produce weight loss in obese or overweight participants, to reduce carbs and alcohol intake in people of normal weight, and to increase physical activity participants did during their leisure time. (High levels of blood sugar are unhelpful to brain function and can contribute to a higher risk of developing type II diabetes.) More on the research results tomorrow.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Color and the Female Brain

Sensors in  human retina can detect red, green, and blue. What about yellow, orange, brown, purple, and so on? The brain helps you perceive those additional colors and others by mixing different amounts of red, green, and blue. Plus, each human brain "sees" in a slightly different way because each brain is unique. Estimates are that upwards of 15% of human females have an extra or fourth type of color photoreceptor due to a genetic mutation. These individuals can identify color differences that appear identical to most people who have only the three types of color photoreceptors. And the average male  brain, with its higher numbers of "M" cells (for motion) and smaller numbers of "P" cells (for perception) as compared with female brains, may "see" quite differently. It's just another good reason to avoid arguing about colors or about much of anything, for that matter. A three-type color photoreceptor retina will never perceive what a four-type color photoreceptor retina does . . .  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Right or Left Brain

Most people in this country likely know by now that the brain has two hemispheres, each about the size of your fist. Regardless of handedness, speech centers appear to be located in the left hemisphere only. And since the right hemisphere cannot speak, research can pose an interesting challenge. Studies by Dr. Gazzaniga reportedly used an experiment in which the right hemisphere could "talk" by using Scrabble letters. Michio Kaku included some interesting comments in his book The Future of the Mind. When a patient's left brain was asked about plans following graduation, it gave one answer while the right brain spelled out a completely different response.  Neurologist V. S. Ramanchandran reported similar results from a split-brain patient whose left hemisphere said he was an athiest while his right brain spelled out that he was a believer. Hmmm. Perhaps a given human brain is less unified in beliefs and opinions than commonly thought. Might part of your brain be Democratic and part Republican? The implications are mind-boggling!