- The Truth About Turkey and Tryptophan
- This is the Best Way to Prevent Holiday Binge Eating
- Young Blood Transfusions Don’t Cure Aging
- A Thunderstorm in Australia Left Hundreds of People Struggling to Breathe
- Traditional Chinese Medical Authorities Are Unable to Stop the Booming Trade in Rare Animal Parts
- What You Should Know About the Chlorophyll Trend
Posted: 22 Nov 2016 09:26 AM PST
Here’s the lowdown: turkey contains the amino acid L-tryptophan, which produces sleep-promoting serotonin and melatonin. But turkey has about the same amount of tryptophan as other meats. It may even have a built-in secret weapon against sleepiness: an abundance of protein, which can regulate insulin levels and actually combat fatigue. So don’t blame the turkey for your tiredness; the heavy load of carbs that made up the rest of the meal are likely the culprits. Here’s what turkey really does to your body.
Posted: 22 Nov 2016 08:32 AM PST
When it comes to holiday weight gain, the problem isn’t just one or two big meals; it’s the drawn-out stream of constant parties, cookies, dinners, leftovers, and “special occasions” throughout the entire season. Even just a few days of overindulging can have real effects—not just on your waistline, but on other ways overdoing it can affect your body, as well.
But the preliminary results of a small new study suggest that if you are going to overeat, there’s something you can do to protect against those negative effects: Exercise. And if you already work out on a regular basis, all you have to do is keep up with your normal routine.
This isn’t a total surprise, of course. It’s already known that as little as one week of overindulging can impair glycemic control and insulin sensitivity—processes that help the body process calories and keep blood sugar stable. (In fact, carb-heavy holiday meals can be downright dangerous for people with diabetes, for this reason.) And exercise has been shown to protect against some of these harmful effects.
But not much is known on how exercise can influence the body’s tendency to store excess calories during an overeating binge, or the structure and function of fat tissue itself. Its effect on inflammation—a response that’s also triggered during overeating—is also not well understood.
So researchers at the University of Michigan wanted to see if a week of overindulging would have the same effects on regular exercisers as it does on people who aren’t physically active. To do so, they recruited a small sample of lean, healthy adults, some of whom got at least 150 minutes (and at least six days) of aerobic exercise per week and some who got much less.
The participants were tasked with eating 30 percent more calories than normal for seven days in a row, while continuing with their normal workout routines. (For someone who normally consumes 2,000 a day, that’s an extra 600 calories.) Before and after the experimental week, they provided samples of blood and abdominal-fat tissue.
The researchers presented their first results, on four participants in the exercise group, earlier this month at a conference sponsored by the American Physiological Society and the American College of Sports Medicine.
They found that, for these patients, a week of gluttony did not affect glucose tolerance. This finding matched those of previous studies on overeating and exercise.
But for the first time, the researchers also showed that overindulging also had no effect on markers of inflammation in volunteers blood or tissue samples. The researchers also found no change in lipolysis, a chemical process by which the body breaks down fast.
Lead author Alison Ludzki, a graduate student at the University of Michigan, says that the early results are not enough to determine any definite effects, of either overeating or exercise. Her team is in the process of recruiting and studying more participants, and hopes to have more complete data soon.
But she says that so far, they are seeing some trends to suggest metabolic differences between the groups of exercisers and non-exercisers. And that would make sense, she says, based on what’s already known about exercising and overeating.
“I think we can say that the big-picture advice here is that overeating, even for a short time, can signal some changes in the body—not just in fat, but in whole-body health,” she says. “And exercise definitely has some protective effects, especially when it comes to insulin sensitivity.”
Ludzki points out that the study participants didn’t have to do anything above and beyond their normal exercise routine to reap these protective benefits. “It was important to us that the study design was realistic and could reflect the average person who exercises regularly—not necessarily a high-level athlete.”
Laila Tabatabai, M.D., an endocrinologist and assistant professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, says that the findings presented at the conference—although too preliminary to inform any real conclusions—imply two important points.
“One, exercise is protective against the harmful effects of consuming excess calories,” says Tabatabai, who was not involved in the research, “and two, the adverse effects of overeating are measurable after just seven days of excess caloric intake.”
She does note, however, that lean and active adults may be better equipped to handle overeating in general—regardless of whether they exercise during their binge or not.
Overall, she says the study is encouraging. “It emphasizes what we already know—that exercise is protective against inflammation and glucose intolerance,” she says. “The new and interesting finding is that perhaps exercising could help offset brief periods of overeating, such as during the holiday season.”
Ludzki agrees. “I would definitely suggest staying active,” she says, “especially if you’re going to be indulging in Thanksgiving treats over the next few weeks.”
Posted: 22 Nov 2016 08:25 AM PST
The search for cutting edge ways to extend life has led to some curious experiments, including the idea that young blood could help improve the aging process. Venture capitalist Peter Thiel has said he’s interested in the possibility of young blood transfusions, and one company called Ambrosia is currently conducting a human trial of such transfusions.
The idea comes from research by scientists at institutions including Berkeley and Stanford who have conducted studies of parabiosis—the joining of two living things—in mice models. Some of the findings have been promising. But the researches argue their experiments are not ready for primetime, and in fact, there’s no solid evidence that young blood transfusions work. In a new study published in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers show that the compounds in old blood appear to have a much more negative impact on aging than any rejuvenating effect from young blood.
In 2005, researchers Irina Conboy and Michael Conboy of the University of California, Berkeley and their colleagues published findings that suggested tissue improvements in older mice that were surgically sutured to younger mice so that they exchanged blood. The takeaway was not that young blood is a cure-all, but entrepreneurs and other interested parties ran with the idea.
“Since then, the story has switched into a highly exaggerated search of young blood and its derived silver bullets to combat aging,” says study co-author Irina Conboy, an associate professor in the department of bioengineering at UC Berkeley.
In the new study, the scientists created a way to exchange the blood of young and old mice so that the mixture was 50-50. They found that old mice had some improvements in muscle repair and liver fibrosis, but young mice experienced worsened cell formation in the brain and impaired coordination, and the declines happened rapidly.
“The big result is that a single exchange hurts the young partner more than it helps the old partner,” says study co-author Michael Conboy of UC Berkeley. “That means the negative stuff in old blood is more potent and overriding than the good stuff in young blood, at least in the short term.”
The researchers plan to expand on their findings and look into a way to remove specific key inhibitors of old blood that may be causing health issues, but the science isn’t there yet. “Donor blood can save lives when it is depleted in surgery or trauma, but using it to rejuvenate oneself is counterproductive,” says Irina.
Much more research is needed to understand whether there are therapies that could slow aging by targeting compounds in a person’s blood. “A hot fad today may not survive tomorrow, so be conservative on what you try at home in order to live healthier and longer,” says Michael.
Posted: 21 Nov 2016 10:48 PM PST
A thunderstorm in the Australian city of Melbourne on Monday caused an “unprecedented” outbreak of asthma and respiratory distress, according to local emergency officials.
The BBC says that 800 calls reporting asthma attacks or other breathing difficulties were made to local ambulance services during a five-hour period.
Mick Stephenson, executive director of emergency operations for ambulance services in the state of Victoria, told the BBC that the situation was “extraordinarily busy, it was unprecedented.”
Private hospitals were forced to open to the public in order to accommodate what state health minister Jill Hennessy called an “emergency management surge.”
Many patients had not experienced an asthma attack before, the BBC reports, adding that the outbreak was caused by severe levels of rye grass pollen in the air as a result of storm winds. Rain broke down the pollen into smaller particles, making it easier to inhale.
“Because it’s so small, it will get into the lungs,” Robin Ould, head of a local asthma foundation, told the BBC.
Two deaths were reported during the storm. Investigators are assessing if they are related to the asthma outbreak.
Posted: 21 Nov 2016 07:24 PM PST
The array of shapes and sizes leaves one agog. A bull’s penis is 2 ft. long and almost translucent; deer penis has a meaty, pink hue; snake penis looks like a bifurcated twig. “Snake penis has become more popular in China since the one-child policy ended,” says restaurant manager Zhang Yang, sparking another cigarette. “Many people ask for it now because they want a second child.”
Business is good at the Guo Lizhuang penis restaurant, which has 19 outlets across China. At Zhang’s branch, in Beijing’s well-heeled Sanlitun neighborhood, tables are booked weeks in advance, and the overwhelmingly male patrons of late middle age typically part with several hundred dollars for dishes that they believe will restore masculine or “yang” energy and, in turn, libido and sexual virility. A bull’s penis comes cheapest at 200 renminbi ($30); the most coveted is a fur seal’s penis at 2,800 renminbi ($400). “Fur-seal penis is the most expensive as it has lots of elements that are good for the body,” says Zhang, “but it’s also quite mild so you don’t get the inner fire.”
For that burn, there’s only one place to look. “In terms of nourishing the yang, tiger penis is definitely top. If you handle tiger penis properly, and mix together with Chinese herbs, it really has the best possible effect — much better than Viagra,” says Zhang. “Lots of people come here asking for tiger penis, but it’s illegal, so we don’t sell it.”
The pharmacopoeia of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) stretches back millennia, rooted in a system of balancing energy levels through diet, herbs and physical techniques like qigong, acupuncture or the circulation-aiding cupping therapy made world famous by U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps at the Rio Olympics. In these ways, TCM itself is benign. However, despite attempts by leading organizations to quash the belief, many ordinary Chinese labor under the false idea that TCM ascribes extraordinary health benefits to rare animal parts — and that is causing a real headache for practitioners and conservationists.
China’s growing affluence means that TCM is undergoing a legitimate renaissance, buoyed by government sponsorship as Beijing seeks to boost its global soft power. TCM had an almighty publicity coup when the chemist Tu Youyou won the 2015 Nobel Prize for her wormwood-based malaria treatment, artemisinin. The number of TCM-related papers in Science Citation Index journals has also soared 30-fold to 3,000 annually over the past two decades.
In August, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology revealed that revenues from TCM made up 22.4% of the national pharmaceutical industry in the first half of 2016. The General Office of the State Council has even recommended that TCM be promoted in nations along Xi Jinping’s proposed “One Belt, One Road” trade route. According to Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at New York’s Council for Foreign Relations, advocates have engendered “a discourse that makes support of TCM a patriotic duty in China.”
However, conservationists warn that TCM’s resurgence has spawned a lot of unregulated quackery that, in turn, is related to an uptick in wildlife trafficking — a nefarious global trade that, the U.N. says, already generates $19 billion a year. The most trafficked animal on earth, for instance, is presently the pangolin or scaly anteater. An estimated 1 million of the creatures have been plucked from the wild across Asia and Africa for consumption almost exclusively in China, where many people believe their scales can be used to treat everything from rheumatoid arthritis to inflammation. In response, international prohibitions have been ramped up. On Sept. 28, the Convention on Illegal Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) conference in South Africa banned all trade in all eight species of pangolin.
However, international efforts to protect endangered animals are often not supported by domestic legislation and enforcement, so trafficking hot spots continue to boom. In Mong La, a seedy entrepôt in northernmost Burma (officially now called Myanmar), tiger penis is very much on the menu. Sitting across from China’s Yunnan province, the town lies outside central Burmese government control, and is instead run by an ethnically aligned rebel army, which turns a blind eye to myriad illicit activities. A legion of bare-legged sex workers emerge with the setting sun, handing out calling cards with labored smiles, while bleary-eyed gamblers hammer away at betting machines in dingy casinos.
But vice is only half the draw. Each morning, Mong La’s central marketplace teems with hawkers selling pangolin skins, the pelts of clouded leopards and tins of bear-bile powder. The town’s restaurants are flanked by live animals in cages — pangolin, civet cats, rare birds. Beneath a velvet curtain, four whole tiger carcasses wallow in a vat of grain alcohol atop a carpet of glistening ginseng root. “They’ve been in there for two years,” says a waitress. “But I don’t know where they came from.”
While the origin of this contraband is murky, its destination is never in doubt. Though it is very much part of Burma, the de facto language of Mong La is Mandarin, the clocks run on Beijing time, signs are in Chinese and Chinese cell-phone coverage can be picked up 30 miles before the border. As China’s economy has grown, so has Mong La’s wildlife trade. According to a study in the journal Biological Conservation, the number of shops selling wildcat parts in Mong La, for instance, increased from six in 2006 to 21 in 2014.
TCM has shown itself to be responsive to the plight of threatened animals in the past. During the 1980s, rhinos were on the brink of extinction as poachers killed the creatures for their horns. China was still a poor country at this time, thus the biggest markets for rhino horn were the booming but relatively small markets of Taiwan and Hong Kong. Following a public outcry, rhino was removed from the official TCM pharmacopeia and placed on CITES Index I — the strongest level of protection. Coupled with stringent domestic laws prohibiting sale and transportation, this led demand and price to plummet, allowing the rhino population to recover.
Today, however, the game has changed entirely, and demand is far beyond anything that TCM authorities are able to discourage or contain. That is the result of a rapidly developing China, whose 1.3 billion people wield far more purchasing clout than the combined 32 million of Taiwan and Hong Kong — and that means that rhinos are, once again, under threat. The upwardly mobile, 89 million Vietnamese are also partial to rhino horn. According to a survey by the San Francisco–based charity WildAid, 71% of respondents in the Vietnamese cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh believed that rhino horn had health benefits, with 62% believing it could cure assorted diseases and 37.5% specifically saying that it could cure cancer.
Reputable TCM practitioners have explicitly distanced themselves from animal-based remedies. Animal penises, for one, do not help male performance, says TCM expert Chen Shilin, dean of the Institute of Chinese Materia Medica at the Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences in Beijing. “It is merely a folk therapy,” he says. “And using tiger bones is now obsolete.”
Yet misinformation is rife and official protection is lax. In July, China rebooted its Wildlife Law — the first review of this key legislation in three decades. Given the overriding threat posed to many endangered species by the world’s most populous nation, this should have been a golden moment for environmentalists. However, the final draft left loopholes that essentially allow for endangered-animal farming and trading for “special purposes.”
That means that tigers, for one, can be reared and slaughtered for ornaments like tiger-skin rugs and tiger-bone wine. Bears can also be farmed for their pelts and bile — which is taken by many Chinese for gall-bladder and liver conditions, even though there are herbal alternatives that do not involve harming animals. Such farming sustains the perception that exotic animal parts are valuable and to be coveted. The World Federation of Traditional Chinese Medicine Societies removed tiger from its pharmacopeia as long ago as 1993, but that hasn’t stopped the growth of some 200 Chinese commercial farms, where experts estimate that between 5,000 and 6,000 tigers are being raised today.
Pangolin is another example. A CITES Index I listing used to mean that pangolin would automatically be afforded Grade I National Protection status in China. But the revised Wildlife Law allows the government the discretion whether to grant that protection or not, and currently it permits an annual legal quota of 20 tons (the illicit trade is, of course, far greater). Ultimately, “CITES is not particularly useful without full domestic implementation,” says Vicky Lee, trade-and-policy analyst for the Environmental Investigation Agency, a British NGO.
Unregulated TCM is not just dangerous for wildlife: it harms people too. One recent fad has been for manta-ray gill raker plates — the thin filaments these majestic creatures use to filter food from seawater. In China’s southern province of Guangdong, they can fetch $500 per kilo. But manta rays, which are on CITES Index II, are not rapid breeders. In fact, they typically produce one pup every two years, meaning this trade is especially destructive to their populations.
This is despite the fact that manta ray has never been included in any TCM pharmacopeia; its use was simply concocted by seafood salesmen, who flaunted rake plates as a cure for everything from cancer to chickenpox, creating a trade estimated to be worth $11.3 million a year where none existed before. More worryingly, gill raker plates have been marketed as an aid for lactating mothers. But when WildAid did tests, they found very high levels of cadmium, arsenic, lead and other toxins present. “They were saying manta rays can help mothers produce more breast milk, but given the heavy metals present, this was really not a good thing,” says John Baker, managing director of WildAid.
Even though remedies like animal penis or manta ray are never prescribed in reputable TCM hospitals, there is nothing stopping restaurants or salesmen from advocating their health benefits. Lixin Huang, who is both the executive director of the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine and an animal-conservation activist, wants strict regulations and heavy penalties to “completely separate” the practice of TCM in reputable clinics from the animal-based “folk remedy” industry. Yet there doesn’t appear to be the political will in China to make that happen.
Says Huang: “Consumers are really confused, and that does no good for protecting wildlife or the TCM practiced by the medical profession.”
—With reporting by Zhang Chi / Beijing
Posted: 21 Nov 2016 12:48 PM PST
From chlorophyll pills to cholrophyll energy bars, the green pigment has been showing up in all sorts of products lately. You may remember from high school biology that chlorophyll is essential for photosynthesis, the process plants use to convert sunlight into energy. So why is it suddenly appearing in our foods? Is it really a super-nutrient worth seeking out—or just a passing fad? Here are a few things to know about the chlorophyll craze.
Chlorophyll is touted for a number of perks
Proponents say it detoxifies the body, promotes healing, boosts metabolism, fights bad breath and protects against multiple diseases—and the list goes on. While the evidence behind these claims is largely anecdotal, there is research on some of the benefits of chlorophyll. For example, one 2014 study looked at 38 overweight women who were following a weight-loss plan. The researchers found that over the course of 12 weeks, those who took a chlorophyll supplement once a day lost three additional pounds, on average, compared to those taking a placebo. The women in the chlorophyll group also experienced a greater decrease in LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol, and a reduction in sweet cravings. Other research has suggested that chlorophyll may have antioxidant properties.
It’s worth noting that many of the other studies to date have involved intravenous or topical chlorophyll.
There are many unknowns about chlorophyll
Since chlorophyll hasn’t been studied extensively, there’s no established optimal dosage, or a recommended way to consume it. Some of the research has been conducted with compounds derived from chlorophyll, rather than the pigment in its whole form—which means the same results may or may not occur if you have chlorophyll in its natural form.
Health.com: 13 Veggies You Only Think You Don’t Like
Supplements may cause side effects
While chlorophyll supplements are considered fairly safe, there are a few interactions you should be aware of. For example, they may increase your sensitivity to sunlight. So you should probably skip them if you’re taking any medications that have the same effect (such as certain antidepressants, antibiotics, antihistamines, blood pressure, and cholesterol meds). There have also been some reports of nausea, digestive problems, and allergic reactions.
Chlorophyll comes in many forms
Chlorophyll is abundant in dark green leafy vegetables (think spinach, kale, and mustard greens), as well as other green produce like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, green bell peppers, asparagus, green cabbage, kiwi, green apples, and herbs like parsley. In other words, you don’t need a special supplement to include chlorophyll in your diet. Simply adding more green plants to your meals will ensure you’re getting plenty of chlorophyll.
Health.com: 6 Ways to Add More Veggies to Your Diet
How you eat your greens makes a difference
Cooking chlorophyll-rich foods, especially for longer lengths of time, seems to lower their chlorophyll levels. Storing them in the freezer for several months can have a similar effect. So to best preserve the chlorophyll content of your greens, eat them raw or use short, light cooking methods, like steaming or low-heat sautéing.
If you do decide to try a new chlorophyll product, be sure to read the ingredient list, and try to steer clear of artificial additives, and potentially risky herbs or stimulants. But most importantly, keep on eating (and drinking) your greens!
Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and consultant for the New York Yankees. See her full bio here.
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