How Sleep Strengthens the Brain

sleepingClear evidence has emerged that sleeping after learning strengthens connections between brain cells and enhances memory.

Conversely, lack of sleep causes rogue proteins to build up in the eye increasing the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

The study, published in Science, found that when mice learned they formed new dendritic spines — tiny structures that project from the end of nerve cells and help pass electric signals from one neuron to another — but only when they were allowed to sleep. This didn’t happen to the poor mice who were kept awake!

Professor Wen-Biao Gan, of New York University, said: “We have known for a long time sleep plays an important role in learning and memory. If you do not sleep well you will not learn well. Here we have shown how sleep helps neurons form very specific connections on dendritic branches that may facilitate long-term memory.”

High Fat Diet Linked to Learning Disabilities

fishandchipsNew research suggests that even eating a high-fat diet just for one week may cause behavioural changes that link to learning disabilities and the hyperactivity disorder ADHD.

Researchers from the University of Illinois found that mice fed a high-fat diet (60 per cent of calories from fat) versus a low fat diet (10 per cent) behaved very differently. A typical Western diet contains between 35 and 45 per cent fat.

“We found that a high-fat diet rapidly affected the metabolism of dopamine — a chemical with a key role in regulating mood — in the brains of juvenile mice, triggering anxious behaviours and learning deficiencies,” said Gregory Freund, a professor in the university’s Division of Nutritional Sciences.

Whilst switching mice from a high-fat to a low-fat diet restored memory in one week, Freund added that the effects may be more long-lasting in children.

However, I do think the type of fat is important as we do need the essential Omega 3 fats in our diet and less of the bad transfat ones found in processed foods and ‘junk’ food.

Smoothe Out Your Wrinkles Naturally!

AntioxidantsWe generate free radicals through the natural process of living but we also inhale, absorb, and digest them as well.

They come from environmental pollutants, radiation, pesticides, preservatives, cigarettes and car fumes, to name just a few.

Despite the presence of our cells own antioxidant defence system to counteract oxidative damage from free radicals, oxidative damage (which is what happens when you cut open an apple and leave it exposed to the air) accumulates and has been implicated in ageing and age-dependent diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, neurodegenerative disorders and other chronic conditions.

Free radical damage also plays a significant role in the ageing process of your skin. Over the years, the skin’s collagen suffers mercilessly from free radical attack.  Normal, healthy collagen proteins gently mesh with each other, giving skin its softness and elasticity. Once damaged, these proteins become cross-linked and hard, and ultimately collapse on themselves, preventing them from holding water and remaining plump. The overall effect is a confusion of cross-linked collagen fibres, manifested on the skin’s surface as wrinkles.

The only thing that neutralises free radicals is a group of nutrients known as antioxidants, of which the most potent are vitamins A, C, E and flavonoids found in fruits and vegetables. (For example, if you squeeze lemon juice, which is high in antioxidants, on your sliced apple, it will not oxidise so quickly.)

Antioxidants have an even greater affinity for free radicals than for tissue, and when consumed or applied to the body, they neutralise free radicals and prevent tissue damage.  The message is simple:  the more fruit and vegetables you eat, the less chance you have of developing wrinkles!

Fish Oil Could Help Protect Against Skin Cancer

Nordic-Naturals-Ultimate-Omega-D3Scientists from the University of Manchester have discovered that omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) in fish oil boost the immune system, improving the body’s ability to fight skin cancer and infection.

The research team, from the university’s photobiology unit, claim the oils reduced the sun’s impact on the immune system by half.

Around 100,000 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer were diagnosed in the UK in 2010, according to the most recent figures available.

Are Pulses Better Than Statins?

PulsesThe British Heart Foundation reports that annual statin prescriptions in England soared from 295,000 to 52 million between 1981 and 2008 with around seven million people in the UK now taking prescribed statins.

However, there are natural alternatives. According to researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, just eating one helping of pulses a day — like beans, lentils and chickpeas — is all you need to do to keep your cholesterol levels in check.

Just 130g of pulses ‘significantly’ reduce levels of LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol which equals around a five to six per cent reduction in the risk for cardiovascular disease.

Even better news is that these versatile, tasty and healthy foods are inexpensive, too!

Obviously you would not stop any medication without speaking to your doctor first…

Chew Your Food for Better Digestion

Better-DigestionMost people think that digestion begins in the stomach, but it actually begins in your mouth.

The process of chewing is a vital part of good digestion, and therefore of good health and steady energy levels. Avoid eating on the run. You need to chew your food thoroughly if you are to digest it properly and get the maximum benefit from what you eat.

So don’t eat at your desk while working, and try to avoid grabbing a bite to eat as you run from one appointment to another. Make time to ensure that you eat a proper meal rather than just the fuel you need as quickly as possible.

The next time you have a meal or snack, concentrate on noticing every morsel: what it looks, smells, and tastes like. Count to five between each bite, or put your knife and fork down between mouthfuls.

It doesn’t really take much time or effort to chew your food, and what you get in return is better digestion, better health, more energy, and a greater enjoyment and appreciation of food!

Fibre Helps Prevent Heart Attacks

FibreAccording to Harvard researchers, the more fibre you eat, the more likely you are to survive a heart attack.

For each 10g of daily fibre you eat, you decrease your chances of dying from a heart attack by 15 per cent! We should, as a nation, be eating a recommended 38g of fibre every day, but most of us fall short of that by at least 50 per cent.

Perhaps this news will encourage more people to include more vegetables, nuts, apples, whole grains and legumes in their diets! In my opinion, fibre should be naturally contained within the food not added in your diet as bran.

Fiona