Healthy Byte: Special Thanksgiving Edition

Thanksgiving is practically synonymous with loved ones and giving thanks. But let’s be real: It also means plates piled high with food, a menagerie of desserts, flowing wine, and potential family drama.

For some, it’s the best time of the year. (Who doesn’t love a day of gluttonous eating with all of the people you love?) For others, the beginning of the holiday season marks the beginning of a time of pure stress — for body and mind.

After all, research suggests that the average American could chow down 4,500 calories during a typical Thanksgiving. And anxieties of the season (Aunt Carol needs to quit asking me why I don’t have a boyfriend…) can further that cycle, causing you to eat more than you would when you’re calm.

So what exactly is going on in your body as it’s overloaded with calories, alcohol, and conversation? Read on to find out.

Your brain

Before Thanksgiving dinner even begins, there’s the anticipation of it all, says Josh Klapow, PhD, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In other words, that’s when you’re thinking: “Oh, no, I don’t want to see my cousins” or “Ugh, is Dad going to get drunk?”

“Anticipatory emotions can very often set the tone of the dinner,” Klapow tells Yahoo Health. “We rarely go in with a blank slate.” Of course, what you’ll anticipate — and how you’ll react — differs from person to person. Some people will be happy; others, sad or remorseful. A third group may simply think, “Help! I don’t want to be here!” says Klapow.

“You may find yourself in all three buckets over the course of dinner — or just in one — and a lot of that drives your eating patterns,” he says. For example, you could get so caught up in conversation with an uncle that you end up not eating very much; on the other hand, you could use food as a way to check out of psychological distress, he explains. The same patterns can be said about booze. (More wine, anyone?)

Two, three, or four hours of this psychological marathon can build up and cause fatigue. “People’s emotional resiliency starts wearing down,” says Klapow. That could be why you find yourself on edge — or going from happy to sad every other minute. Complete overstimulation can lead to “emotional twitchiness,” Klapow says. “It’s not uncommon to hear that Thanksgiving was either amazing or horrific — it tends to bring out strong reactions, not neutral ones.”

As for once you start eating? Food impacts your brain too, especially as it’s flooded with amino acids from turkey, including tryptophan, says nutritional consultant Mike Roussell, PhD. But while tryptophan is often pinpointed as the cause of post-Thanksgiving-meal sleepiness, it’s actually not the biggest culprit. Instead, insulin released by the pancreas — thanks to all those excess carbs you’ve consumed — stimulates the production of serotonin, the “feel-good” hormone that can make you tired. So, really, it’s the insulin release that’s more likely the cause of your sleepiness post-meal.

Find yourself wanting to keep eating and eating even after you’re full? That may have to do with low levels of — or the overriding of signals of — a brain and intestinal hormone called GLP-1 that cues feelings of satiety, Kristin Kirkpatrick, RD, manager of nutrition services at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, tells Yahoo Health. Docs aren’t quite sure what causes low GLP-1 levels — or the signals to be overridden, for that matter — which can happen at any time. But here’s what they do know: “When the condition is reproduced in rat studies and the animals are driven to overeat, the rats overwhelmingly prefer high-fat foods,” Kirkpatrick says. (One way to prevent this may be to log zzz’s — evidence suggests that sleep deficiency can alter production of these hunger hormones.)

Your pancreas

As your blood is flooded with sugar from your feast, your pancreas — which is responsible for getting sugar out of the blood — releases massive amounts of insulin to eat up the sugar, Roussell says. “However, due to excessively high blood sugar levels, your body overshoots the amount of insulin that it needs to release,” he says.

Your blood

While amino acids enter the bloodstream — and are shuttled throughout your body to repair muscles and tissues — a spike in insulin can cause too much sugar to be pushedout of your bloodstream, leading to low blood sugar, says Roussell. This can make you feel tired. And because your body wants to bring your blood sugar back to balance, you could also be left craving, well, sugar, he says. And so the negative cycle continues.

Have a couple of glasses of wine, to boot? That’ll exacerbate the problem: Alcohol can also cause an excessive release of insulin and impair your body’s ability to recover from a low-sugar episode, Roussell says.

Your stomach

Once food hits your stomach, the digestion process begins with the help of enzymes, says Kirkpatrick. Carbohydrates such as vegetables and sweet potatoes are digested more slowly than regular potatoes or desserts because they are higher in fiber, she adds.

“As you eat, your stomach expands,” says Roussell. Normally, the stretch receptors in your stomach signal your brain that you have eaten enough and you feel full — but the desire to eat a lot at Thanksgiving can override these signals. Your stomach keeps stretching and you continue to eat. (Satiety signals are always there — you just have to choose to listen to them, he says.)

Fat cells and the lining of your stomach also secrete leptin and ghrelin, two hormones that regulate appetite, adds Kirkpatrick. “Leptin sends signals to your brain suppressing food intake, whereas ghrelin signals hunger and activates your brain’s inherent reward system, again perpetuating further consumption.

Your heart

“When you overeat, your heart has a lot to deal with,” says Roussell. Think about it this way: The food digestion process is supported by your parasympathetic nervous system — “the rest and digest” side of your nervous system, linked with relaxation and a reduced heart rate.

The problem? After you eat a big meal, your body makes digestion high-priority and calls for a lot of blood. “In order to get blood to your digestive system, your blood vessels dilate,” he says, noting that this can cause a drop in blood pressure. (This could lead to light-headedness, fatigue, and nausea.) Scientists call this postprandial hypotension (postprandial means “after eating”) — and the effect peaks 30 to 60 minutes after a meal, he says. So, instead of a reduced heart rate, you’re left with your heart working harder than normal to get blood to your digestive system and an increased heart rate. “For some people, this can be upward of 110 beats per minute, which is essentially low-intensity exercise!” Roussell says. You could feel your heart racing or even feel dizzy because of this.

Your liver

Since wine — or any kind of alcohol — is a toxin, your body wants to get rid of it pronto, says Kirkpatrick. Sips of Sauvignon Blanc are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and then to the primary site of alcohol metabolism: your liver.

There, your liver converts alcohol from a noxious compound to an innocuous one, says Kirkpatrick. One problem: When alcohol is broken down, byproducts prevent it from properly breaking down carbs (ahem, like that stuffing), says Roussell. “So despite your body having ample carbohydrates (you just ate a ton), your liver essentially can’t access and use these carbohydrates. The alcohol also blocks your liver from breaking down and using fats,” he says.

And as for why you wind up drunk on Thanksgiving — even after chowing down? Your body can only process one drink an hour. “Any remaining alcohol continues to circulate in your blood — thus the genesis of the term blood alcohol concentration (BAC),” Kirkpatrick says.


Originally Posted HERE

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Healthy Byte: Pavlov-ed Body Size Perception


It takes two minutes to change your perception of body size

A new study from Macquarie University has found that people’s perception of their own and other people’s body weight can change in as little as two minutes.

The study looked at how the perceptual mechanisms in a person’s brain adapt in response to images of one’s own or other people’s bodies that have been manipulated to look thinner or fatter than they really are.

“After two minutes of being exposed to images of thinner versions of themselves or others, we saw that the neural mechanisms controlling participants’ perceptions actually adapted to see thin images as normal,” lead author Associate Professor Kevin Brooks explained.

“Original sized body images now looked fatter to them.”

The opposite was also true: exposure to fatter body types made participants see original body sizes as skinny.

The researchers also found that while there were different brain mechanisms controlling a person’s perception of their own body size and the body size of other people, the two mechanisms can also affect each other.

“This means that being exposed to images of skinny people doesn’t just make you feel bad about your own body size, which has been known for a while, it actually affects the perceptual mechanisms in your brain and makes you think you are bigger or smaller than you really are,” said Dr Ian Stephen, another author of the study.

“Duration and frequency of exposure definitely play a role, but the fact that the brain adapts after such a short exposure time suggests we are incredibly susceptible to being manipulated by images of different sized bodies.”

The researchers say that the results add another piece of the puzzle to our current understanding of mental health problems involving body image disturbance, such as anorexia nervosa and muscle dysmorphia, and could potentially be used in the development of treatments for such conditions.

“There is only one way for information to be received by our brains: through the perceptual and neural mechanisms fed by our senses. By unpacking the details of the neural mechanisms involved in body size perception we are hoping to discover more about how the brain deals with this information as a whole, so that we can understand how conditions involving body image disturbance arise,” Associate Professor Brooks concluded.

Originally Posted HERE

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Healthy Byte: Workout Smarter Not Longer


What if you could get all the benefits of a sweaty bike ride and a trip to the weight room in 7 minutes?

There’s an app for that — and it’s the best one we saw this past year.

Originally envisioned by a personal trainer and an exercise physiologist, the 7-minute workout app builds on new research suggesting that short spurts of intense exercise can provide long lasting benefits comparable to longer, more grueling regimens.

Anyone can use the app — all it takes is a smartphone, a spare wall, and a chair.

The Workout

The 7-minute session (which was so successful it inspired the New York Times to release their own version of the app a few months after the original came out) consists of 12 relatively standard exercises like jumping jacks, sit-ups, and push-ups. Ten of them require nothing but your own body (you’ll need a chair that can support your weight for the other two).

times 7-minute workoutHere’s the Times app counting down: 18 more seconds of jumping jacks. Screenshot

Here’s the full set of exercises, which I tried out myself:

1. Jumping Jacks

2. Wall sits

3. Push-ups

4. Crunches

5. Step-up (on chair)

6. Squats

7. Triceps dips (on chair)

8. Planks

9. High knees/running in place

10. Lunges

11. Push-ups and rotations

12. Side planks

Between each exercise, you rest for 10 seconds.

Worth The Hype?

The workout is quick, unpleasant (in the way only a good workout can be), and came with some pretty quick results — I was slightly sore in two areas of my body that my 5-day-a-week yoga regimen hasn’t seemed to have reached. I also noticed a little bit of extra mental clarity and decreased anxiety (which is why I do yoga) immediately after the workout.

Another plus to the 7-minute-regimen: I live in a New York apartment with very little extra space, but I was nevertheless able to do the whole workout in a corner of my living room using just my phone, a yoga mat, and a fold-up chair.

A Few Caveats

7-minute workout times appThe Times app illustrates how to do a wall sit. Screenshot

As expected, the physical benefits didn’t seem to last quite as long as my 1.5-hour yoga sessions. While my heart raced and my mind cleared for a few minutes immediately after the workout, those side effects wore off within a few hours. I only did it twice, though, so perhaps if I committed to a daily 7-minute workout the benefits would persist.

Also, since this specific workout is so new, there are no long-term studies comparing its results to those of longer cardio and weight-training workouts. In general, though, the evidence researchers do have supports the benefits of high-intensity intervals, both in terms of building muscle mass and improving heart health.

Even for patients with coronary artery disease, short bouts of intense interval training were found to be more beneficial in helping them regain heart function than traditional, continuous workouts — though anyone with a heart condition should consult a doctor before trying a new exercise routine.

The Science

The workout is based on the idea of interval training, an exercise style of short, intense periods of exercise broken up by brief periods of rest. Despite being far less time consuming, an interval workout may actually be more beneficial than a comprehensive, hours-long bout of exercise, according to some research done in the past decade.

So instead of a grueling one-hour run followed by weight-lifting, for example, you can do several minutes’ worth of intense push-ups, squats, and jumping jacks for similar results.

That’s pretty significant considering that many of us skip working out because we feel we don’t have enough time, because the weather is bad, or because a gym membership is too expensive.

The Mayo Clinic endorses interval training, as does the American Council on Exercise. A 2012 study comparing two groups of runners — one who trained by doing traditional, continuous runs and another which did interval training — found both groups achieved nearly the same results (the only difference being that the interval trainers had better peak oxygen uptake, an important measure of endurance). And a recent study in the journal Diabetologia found that doing walking interval training — walking briskly for three minutes and resting for three minutes for an hour — helped people with diabetes control their blood sugar levels far better than simply walking at the same pace continuously.

The most important thing when doing interval training is committing as much effort as possible throughout the whole workout, making sure to push yourself. After all, each exercise only lasts 30 seconds.

Seven hellish minutes later, you’re done.

Originally Posted HERE

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Healthy Byte: Interval vs Marathon

So you swore you’d run a marathon this year.

Good news: You can stop feeling guilty about not starting to train for it yet.

As it turns out, you can get some of the same benefits of long-distance running and other types of endurance training without ever passing the five-mile mark.

That’s right. Running fast and hard for five to 10 minutes a day can add years to your life, just as running for hours can. In fact, people who run for less than an hour a week — so long as they get in their few minutes of daily running — getsimilar benefits in terms of heart health compared with people who run more than three hours a week.

That finding squares with recent research showing that short bursts of intense exercise can provide some of the same health benefits as long, endurance-style workouts.

Marathoners, meet interval training
One of the most popular forms of the quick workout — and the one that has been studied the most — is interval training. Basically, you work yourself as hard and fast as you can for a few minutes, rest, then do it again.

The best part? It typically lasts between five and 10 minutes total. (There’s even a New York Times workout app based on the idea, called the 7-Minute Workout. More on that here.)

Despite consuming far less time than a marathon training session, an interval workout may actually be healthier in the long run (pun intended), according to some research done in the past decade.

A 2012 study comparing a group of runners who did traditional, continuous runs with a group of runners who did interval training found that both groups achieved nearly the same results. There was one small difference, though: The interval trainers had better peak oxygen uptake, an important measure of endurance.

And a recent study in the journal Diabetologia found that doing walking interval training — an hour of alternating between three minutes of brisk walking and three minutes of stopping — helped people with diabetes control their blood-sugar levels far better than simply walking at the same pace continuously.

Still not convinced?
Consider this: Distance running could actually be bad for you.

There’s some evidence to suggest that prolonged, intense exercise — such as the type necessary in the weeks and months before a marathon and in the race itself — can have some unhealthy side effects, from reduced immune function to digestive issues.

Working the body to its maximum, some research shows, can reduce the body’s natural ability to fend off upper-respiratory infections including colds and the flu. Short bouts of activity, on the other hand, improve immune function. Quick workouts appear to not only reduce your chances of getting sick, but also to reduce the severity of an illness when you do come down with something.

Up to 71% of long-distance runners also experience abdominal cramping and diarrhea. (The latter is so frequent that runners have a term for it: “runner’s trots,” aka “runner’s diarrhea.”) Many runners, even those without a history of it, experience acid reflux — a condition with effects like heartburn, indigestion, coughing, hoarseness, and asthma — during and immediately after a long run.

Here’s what it all comes down to: Whether you stick to a long-distance routine or opt for a quicker, daily exercise plan, it’s important to keep in mind that more is not always better.

Original Article Posted HERE

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