Category Archives: Food/Drink

Soda Studies

I have set a few Google Alerts of topics that I am interested in or researching. They show up in my inbox on a regular basis.

Soda

A recent slew of articles captured my attention. They were all on the subject of sodas and sugary drinks. It turns out that there does seem to be a correlation between soda consumption and memory loss. Somehow, I have a sneaking suspicion that even die-hard soda drinkers might have suspected these beverages were not a health food. But, us humans like what we like and at times it takes something like a study to give us the little extra push to make changes.

There were two studies, done at Boston University came up with a “very strong suggestion” that not only do sugary soft drinks shrink the human brain and reduce memory capacity but sugar-free versions lead to higher chances of stroke and dementia.

Our findings indicate an association between higher sugary beverage intake and brain atrophy, including lower brain volume and poorer memory,” explained corresponding author Matthew Pase, PhD, fellow in the department of neurology at BUSM and investigator at the FHS.

Energy drinks

The Framingham Heart Study has been going on for a long time. They looked at the offspring of the original volunteers who enrolled in 1948—those who consumed more than two sugary drinks a day of any type—soda, fruit juice, and other soft drinks—or more than three per week of soda alone.

Sudha Seshadri, a professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine and a faculty member at BU’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center, who is senior author on both papers says, “It looks like there is not very much of an upside to having sugary drinks, and substituting the sugar with artificial sweeteners doesn’t seem to help.

On the other hand, according to a recent study led by Assistant Professor Feng Lei from the Department of Psychological Medicine at National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, a cup of tea a day can keep dementia away, and this is especially so for those who are genetically predisposed to the debilitating disease.

Coffee too seems to offer some protection. Recent studies seem to indicate that it may actually improve your health – from boosting brain power, to delaying Alzheimer’s disease and improving memory as you age.

On a side note: Do you enjoy coffee but not like the side effects of caffeine? You can still enjoy coffee’s benefits. Studies have shown that even decaffeinated coffee can lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. (Read my post Drink Up….Habits Worth Brewing )

Thirst quenching is a serious issue. Dehydration can also  cause confusion as well as a vast variety of medical problems. Perhaps plain old water would be the best candidate for our drink de jour.

The Power of Chocolate

There are several desserts and snacks that are not tempting to me at all. Unfortunately, there are also several that are. Chocolate – specifically dark chocolate is one of those on my ‘really, really like’ list. In light of that, I was quite pleased to read a recent article with the headline: “New dementia pill made entirely from CHOCOLATE hits shelves in Britain after cocoa was found to improve blood flow and help the heart” Yes!

The pill is called ‘Blood Flow+’ and (for the time being) is only available in the UK. The chocolate pill uses flavanols extracted from cocoa to improve blood flow and combat cholesterol levels, which help reduce dementia, strokes and heart attacks.

Dr Alf Lindberg, advisor of Cambridge Nutraceuticals, a research company, said: “We believe this is the way forward. New analysis is showing there are powerful compounds in many natural nutrients that could help maintain the health of everyone. We support the huge amount of research has gone into Blood Flow+ and we are delighted that it is the first cocoa flavanol product officially allowed to claim it benefits heart health.”

That seems to be great news for folks like me who love, love, love dark chocolate. Sadly, the articles I read all agreed that simply eating dark chocolate wouldn’t have the same effect. It turns out that in order to get an effective dose you would have to gorge on 400grams (almost a pound) of dark chocolate, containing a whopping 2,429 calories – every day! That might even be too much for me.

Take heart, though. Even we are not able to get the benefit from

My sweetie bearing chocolate gifts

the ‘Blood Flow+’ pill, a recent study led by Professor Ian Macdonald, a University of Nottingham expert has found that consumption of a cocoa drink rich in flavanols — a key ingredient of dark chocolate — boosts blood flow to key areas of the brain for two to three hours.

Increased blood flow to these areas of the brain may help to increase performance in specific tasks and boost general alertness over a short period.

So it seems as if eating any amount of dark chocolate is still potentially good for you. I think it’s a risk I need to take.

In light of all this, if you’re not quite sure what to get your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day, it just might be a good idea to pick up some dark chocolate – to share.

Shedding some light on the subject of dementia

In light of the summer solstice marking the official start of the summer season, and the day with the most amount of sunlight, I thought it would be appropriate to write a post about vitamin D – also known as the sunshine vitamin.finishing_well-in-life-VitD

Science Daily reports that Vitamin D deficiency is associated with a substantially increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in older people. This was the most robust study of its kind ever conducted. An international team found that the study participants who were severely vitamin D deficient were more than twice as likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Also, a study published in  Neurology®, found that people with low levels of vitamin D had a 53 percent increased risk of developing dementia and those who were severely deficient had a 125 percent increased risk (that’s huge!) compared to participants with normal levels of vitamin D.

Vitamin D comes from three main sources: exposure of skin to sunlight, foods, and supplements. Since older people’s skin can be less efficient at converting sunlight into Vitamin D, making them more likely to be deficient and reliant on other sources.  Care must also be taken to limit exposure due to the risk of skin cancer.

In my case, sunlight can be a problem. In fact, I love to garden, but refer to myself as a shade plant, so I try to get enough vitamin D from supplements and food.

Thankfully, a seven-year study in France concluded that higher vitamin D dietary intake was also associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.

According to the National Institute of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements, (Office of Dietary Supplements) among the best sources are fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel. Other foods that provide small amounts of vitamin D include; beef liver, cheese, egg yolks and mushrooms. Additionally, nearly all milk and many breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamin D.

Increasing our vitamin D intake is an easy way to help reduce the risk of dementia, so whether you are a sun flower or a shade plant, be sure to get enough of the sunshine vitamin.

Curry some goodness

I love it when a study comes out that touts the benefits of a food I love. As you might guess from the title of this post, today’s topic is curry. Turns out that curry has some secrets hidden in all it’s yellow goodness.

A new trial by Australian scientists suggests that eating curry on a weekly basis may keep dementia at bay as we age.

Published in the British Journal of Nutrition, the study identifies yellow spice turmeric, which contains curcumin – an ingredient used in many curry dishes. It is thought that the curcumin blocks rogue proteins called beta amyloid, which clump together and destroy neurons.

Curry is a dietary staple in India, a country where the rate of Alzheimer’s disease is among the world’s lowest.

According to a story posted by WebMD, researchers say curry’s powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties make it a very attractive possibility for treating diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, and heart disease.

finishingwellinlife-turmeri

My husband and I had learned about the possible benefits of turmeric, so we began the practice of eating a spoonful of mustard, (which contains turmeric) each day. I love mustard, so it wasn’t a problem, but my husband thought it might be nice to see if perhaps it came in pill form. Fortunately, it does!

In light of this finding, we recently went to one of our favorite Thai restaurants to order some yummy, curry-laden dishes. When the food arrived, the waitress asked if I would like some chopsticks. I was feeling adventurous, and (while retaining my fork) I said, “Yes”.

I quickly discovered another brain sharpening feature of eating curry: Using chopsticks. Since I’m not very good with them, it is a good neurobic exercise for me.  Neurobic exercises in a nutshell are: Doing the ordinary things in new, surprising and unexpected ways.

I wrote about neurobics in a previous post: “Upside Down and Backwards”     Of course, if you are already handy with chopsticks, it may not be that helpful for you, but still fun nevertheless.

If you really want to get a wonderful, dementia bashing benefit from eating curry, then here’s one more tip. Grab a friend – or several to join you for dinner. Studies show that social engagement – talking, laughing and sharing with others is good for your brain.

Are you beginning to feel hungry? Why not make a plan to ‘curry’ some goodness in the near future.

 

Enough to give you heartburn…

I enjoy reading dementia-related news reports and research publications from a variety of sources trying to learn as much as I can about this devastating disease.  Of course, I am always hoping that someone will discover either the definitive cause or a promising cure. Until then, we keep moving forward as best as we can.

It was with a bit of alarm, then that I began seeing a slew of articles recently regarding the correlation between heartburn medicine and dementia. It seems that there was a German study reported recently with results suggesting that there might be an association between PPIs (Proton Pump Inhibitors) and an elevated risk of developing dementia.finishing_well-in-life-heartburn

That really bothered me, as I get the occasional bout of heartburn and enjoy quick relief with an over the counter product. Wow, what a dilemma. Making a decision about whether to take a medicine now to prevent misery may cause a new type of misery later in life. That’s enough to cause anyone heartburn.

I did some more research. It turns out that even though a tremendous amount of attention has been given to this news report – to my relief – it seems that many of the headlines do not tell the entire story.

For one thing, it was a small study based on the follow-up of a smaller cohort study that had been reported in 2015.  A much larger and longer study will need to be conducted in order to provide a better picture.

David A. Johnson, MD writing for New England Journal of Medicine’s ‘Journal Watch’ advises a cautious approach.

Thankfully, at least one doctor, Dr. Valerie Thompson adds that there’s a variety of other medications available that haven’t been linked to dementia, and that  antacids were not used in the study, so that’s a relief.

Other studies have disagreed. I believe that the bottom line here is to stay as informed as possible, and if you do experience heartburn, try to take the smallest dose possible to get relief. In the meantime, here is a link to a slide show that provides tips to help avoid heartburn in the first place “Heartburn, Foods to What, Foods to Avoid” 

Undoubtedly, more studies will emerge as time goes on…stay tuned.

Drink up…habits worth brewing

My drinking habits have finally been vindicated! Coffee in the morning (it used to be all day, until I began to experience ‘wakefulness’ at night), and tea in the evening. My favorite blend is decaf Earl Grey and Chamomile with vanilla.

I just finished reading an article  about the health benefits of both coffee and chamomile tea. Yea!

Evefinishing-well-in-life-tean in the warm summer season, my husband and I enjoy our coffee and tea habit. There’s something relaxing about sharing the events of the day while sipping tasty tea from pretty cups with saucers.

When my Mama was just in the early stages of dementia, we used to have coffee in the afternoon as a treat. It became a regular habitl we would sip our coffee and sing songs. I always snuck some chocolate syrup in Daddy’s coffee because he needed to gain some weight and I added a bit of sugar-free creamer to Mama’s coffee since she didn’t.

I rejoiced to read the article, but thought that  a bit of Googling might be in order to see if there were any other studies available that would confirm what I had just read. It turns out that there is finishing-well-in-life-coffeequite a bit of information regarding these beverages.

More welcome news is that the coffee benefits come from both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee.

NPR reported on a study, published in the journal Circulation,

“The findings, published in the journal Circulation, build on a body of evidence linking a coffee habit to potential health benefits. As we’ve reported, previous research has pointed to a decreased risk of stroke. And, there’s some evidence that a coffee habit cuts the risk of Type 2 diabetes, too.”

As for Chamomile tea, a study published in The Gerontologist  finds that drinking the tea can help older women live longer.

Another Chamomile tea study in ScienceDaily reports that New Evidence Supports Health Benefits
It states that drinking chamomile tea is associated with increased antibacterial activity. This could help explain why the tea appears to boost the immune system and fight infections associated with colds, according to the researchers.

It summarizes the study by stating:
“For centuries, people who’ve felt sick or stressed have tried drinking chamomile tea as a medicinal cure-all. Now, researchers in England have found new evidence that the popular herbal tea may actually help relieve a wide range of health ailments, including colds and menstrual cramps.”

This is supported by yet another study by WebMd that says:

“German chamomile is used and studied the most. A German governmental organization (Commission E) has approved its use on the skin to reduce swelling and fight bacteria and as a tea or dietary supplement for stomach cramps. “finishing-well-in-life-tea2

So, the bottom line here is: If you, or those in your care enjoy a nice cup of coffee or tea, it’s fine to include it as part of your daily habit. And, as the studies suggest, it can be part of a healthy lifestyle.