Monthly Archives: May 2016

If you’ve made the decision that you are truly ready to change your lifestyle and claim your birthright of vibrant health, these are the basic steps that most people need to take in order to restore their health:

Eat Right

If you drill down health to its most critical and essential element, diet plays the most important role, by far. We’ve all heard the old adage, “You are what you eat.” Once you understand the critical role diet plays in health, you will understand the absolute truth of this statement. Your diet provides every single building block your body uses to create cells, to repair tissue, to move, to breathe, to exist.

Common sense tells us, the better your diet, the better your health. But what is the best diet? Hopefully we all know the traditional American diet ranks at the bottom of the list. But which of the many alternative diets hold the top position? Vegan? Vegetarian? Paleo? There are many to choose from. But I suggest, you don’t choose.

We are all individuals with particular likes and dislikes. Unfortunately, we are habitual creatures who seem hell bent on getting stuck in the same patterns and the same ruts. But this is a time of change, so… Take the first step, cleaning out your cupboards and pantry. Toss out all of your processed foods. Get rid of anything refined. Brown rice is ok. Bread is not.

Next, you shop. A healthy diet consists of a wide variety of whole, unadulterated, unprocessed, organic foods. Meat and eggs should be free range AND organic. If you choose dairy (know that goat milk and cheese may be a better choice) be absolutely sure you choose organic. Milk is good for you if it is not pasteurized, but it’s tough finding it. And as far as meat goes, remember if you choose to eat meat, you are eating off of the top of the food chain. If that animal was fed GMO grains, you don’t want to eat it.

Vegetables should be the basis of your diet. A full 80% of your diet should consist of raw, organic, whole vegetables and fruits, more vegetables than fruit.

Grains should be whole. Why lose most of the nutrients? Remember, this new lifestyle of yours is all about nutrient dense foods.

Avoid the trap of becoming a vegan, vegetarian, or other “good” diet follower who has simply found a new way to be a junk food junkie. Processed food is processed food. Choose a great homemade smoothie instead of “healthy” cookies.

Get to know your farmer’s markets!

Start growing your own food if you can.


Good stuff in, bad stuff out. Your body has been accumulating parasites, yeast, heavy metals, and a full array of chemicals your whole life. It’s time to cleanse your body and help it to flush out all of these unwanted substances while cleansing your colon to aid in both digestion and elimination. All of those wonderful foods that you will be putting in your body need a fully functioning digestive system to extract the nutrients that will provide your body with the building blocks it needs to repair and grow tissue, to create neurotransmitters, to create hormones, to maintain and build your immune system, and more.

Detox twice a year for the greatest benefit. And always kill excess candida and balance the gut when you do.


Just move. Your lymphatic system needs you to move in order for your lymph to circulate through your body. It has no pump, no other means than the movement of your muscles. Yoga, Tai Chi, walking, rebounding, anything that gets you moving. It’s okay to start off slow and gentle. You don’t need to push it. Once you achieve vibrant health you’ll want to move. It’s one of the signs that you are on the right path. Rebounding, jumping rope, and jogging help detox the lymphatic system.

Other than that, detox and drink lots of cranberry stevia lemonade, and get good supplements (make your own if you can). Balancing your gut is a key to good health. Check out the sources for more information.

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Study offers clearer understanding of how obese people can sustain weight loss

Maintaining a stable weight loss is the biggest struggle for obese individuals, yet new research from University of Copenhagen have allowed researchers new insights into the complex processes involved in obesity and especially weight loss in obesity. It is now possible to offer overweight people a clearer understanding of how to sustain weight loss.

“This study shows that if an overweight person is able to maintain an initial weight loss — in this case for a year — the body will eventually ‘accept’ this new weight and thus not fight against it, as is otherwise normally the case when you are in a calorie-deficit state,” says Associate Professor Signe Sorensen Torekov from the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research.

The research has recently been published in the European Journal of Endocrinology.

Appetite inhibiting hormones

The main finding in the study revealed that after one year of successful weight loss maintenance, the researchers were able to demonstrate that postprandial levels of two appetite inhibiting hormones (GLP-1 and PYY) increased (=appetite inhibition) from before-weight loss level — in contrast to the hunger hormone ghrelin, which increased immediately after weight loss but returned to normal levels (= low hunger) after one year. This demonstrates that the hormones GLP-1 and PYY are able to adjust to a new ‘set point’ and thus may facilitate the continuation of a new and lower body weight.

“We know that obese people have low levels of the appetite inhibiting hormone GLP-1. The good thing is that now we are able to show that you can actually increase the levels of this hormone as well as the appetite inhibiting hormone PYY by weight loss and that the levels are kept high (=increased appetite inhibition) when you maintain your weight loss for a year,” adds first author of the study MD and PhD student Eva Winning Iepsen.

Maintain your weight loss

Twenty healthy, but obese, individuals followed an 8-week low-calorie powder diet and lost on average 13 % of their body weight. After the initial weight loss, the participants entered a 52-week weight maintenance protocol, which consisted of regular meetings with a clinical dietician with instructions on lifestyle changes as well as diet calendar tracking. In case of weight gain, the participants could replace up to two meals per day with a low-calorie diet product.

During the study period the participants completed three meal tests — before weight loss, immediately after weight loss and after 52 weeks of weight loss maintenance, where blood samples were collected after fasting as well as postprandially and subsequently analysed.

“The interesting and uplifting news in this study is that if you are able to maintain your weight loss for a longer period of time, it seems as if you have ‘passed the critical point’, and after this point, it will actually become easier for you to maintain your weight loss than is was immediately after the initial weight loss.”

“Thus, the body is no longer fighting against you, but actually with you, which is good news for anyone trying to lose weight,” concludes Associate Professor Signe Sorensen Torekov.

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Walking dos and don’ts: Real ways to lose weight walking

Walking is one the most preferred ways to lose weight and stay in shape. It’s natural, it’s free, and it’s effective. Some people try to enhance their walking workouts with exercise accessories and following certain guidelines. There are ways to boost your walking workouts so that you burn more calories, but there are definitely tricks you shouldn’t try. Learn safe methods to get the most of your workouts with this list of dos and don’ts.

Don’t use dumbbells

Back in the 80s everyone had crazy clothes and insane ideas about exercise. A common thing to see in an aerobics class or on the streets were people swinging dumbbells around or wearing ankle weights in hopes to burn more calories. It didn’t matter how uncomfortable or silly they looked, uncomfortable and silly were the status quo in the 80s. Music and movies from the 80s thankfully survived the test of time, but unfortunately so did some exercise ideas.

Research shows that walking with one-pound dumbbells in your hands does nothing for the overall calories burned in a workout. A study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness in 2002 found that women swinging around three-pound dumbbells and 1.5-pound ankle weights during an aerobic workout burned no more calories than the women doing the same workout without the extras. You might think that the solution is to hold heavier weights while engaging in cardio. Although you may see a miniscule increase in overall calories used, the potential damage to your shoulders and elbows from the strain of holding 5-pound or heavier weights makes it not worth it. Your knees and hips are strained when you walk with ankle weights.

Bottom line: Ditch the dumbbells during cardio

Do use walking poles

Although hand weights are a bad idea, holding walking poles does make walking more effective for burning calories. Walking poles work your upper body, improve your balance, and cause you to burn between 20 and 45 percent more calories.

Bottom line: Walking poles look a little silly, but the short time you use them during workouts will improve how you look the rest of the time.

Do ditch the sidewalk and hit the trails

Free yourself from the concrete jungle and hit the trails, hiking trails that is. Walking on a trail challenges your balance, which ups your overall calories by up to 82 percent.

Bottom line: Trail walking burns almost double the amount of calories as walking on pavement.

Don’t walk slowly thinking you’ll burn more fat

People still believe that walking slower leads to fat loss because the body uses more calories from fat when at rest. The problem is that pounds of fat are made up of calories, so losing weight is really a numbers game. The more calories you burn, the more fat you lose. Therefore, pick up the pace. Brisk walking at 3 to 4 mph gets you into a moderate intensity workout zone, which is the minimum for a decent workout not only to lose weight but to increase cardiovascular fitness. Walking at 4.7 mph burns as many calories as jogging.

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Which vitamins actually boost healthy looking skin?

A healthy, radiant and smooth looking skin is something we all desire. We spend a fortune on expensive lotions, masks and creams that promise us the most amazing results. Unfortunately, most of these commercially available skincare products are loaded with chemicals that do more harm than good.

In our longing for eternal youth, we often forget that beauty and a healthy looking skin come from the inside. We are what we eat. What we put in our mouths does matter, and will reflect on our skins.

Diets loaded with processed foods, sugar and unhealthy fats leave the skin looking and feeling dull, oily and discolored. Our skins reveal the stories of our lives. A nourished body fueled with whole foods and packed with skin-boosting vitamins, is the only way to glow from the inside out.

Here are five very important skin-boosting vitamins, and where to find them, to make your skin glow like never before.

Five essential vitamins for a healthy skin

  • Vitamin A

Vitamin A is necessary to maintain and repair skin tissue. It keeps the skin elastic and hydrated, and prevents premature ageing. Vitamin A deficiency can lead to a dry, flaky complexion, and can cause acne and wrinkles, too.

To make sure you get enough of this vitally important nutrient, make sure to eat plenty of vitamin A rich foods, such as mango, papaya, apricot, squash, carrots, sweet potato and dark leafy greens.

  • Vitamin B complex

Biotin, or vitamin B7, is essential to hair, nail and skin health. While our own bodies produce biotin in the liver and the kidneys, it is important to also get it through the food we eat. Thiamine, or vitamin B1, is another important member of the vitamin B complex that improves circulation and promotes skin hydration.

Deficiencies can cause skin itchiness, rashes, brittle nails and hair loss. Vitamins of the B complex can be found in eggs, salmon, cauliflower, carrots, whole grains and bananas.

  • Vitamin C

Vitamin C, known to prevent colds and boost the immune system, protects the skin against premature ageing too. It stimulates collagen production to keep the skin supple and toned.

As we age, our need for vitamin C increases. Fill up on citrus fruits, berries, grapes, leafy greens, bell peppers and cauliflower, to make sure you get enough of it to help reduce wrinkles, improve skin texture and reduce photodamage.

  • Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a free radical fighter that slows down the ageing of skin cells and restores their moisture balance. Topical use of vitamin E oil works wonders to reduce the appearance of scar tissue and soften dry, rough skin.

For a smooth, soft and supple skin, add vitamin E rich foods, such as olives, nuts and leafy greens to your diet.

  • Vitamin K

Vitamin K, often referred to as the forgotten vitamin, is an important nutrient to reduce wrinkles and the appearance of bruises and dark circles under the eyes. Dark, leafy greens are the best way to meet your needs. Or try topical use to maximize the skin boosting effect.

To make sure you look at your best, include these nutrients in your daily diet, use natural skincare products, and protect your skin against the sun’s UV rays.



Eating more spicy foods decreases your risk of early death by 14%

You may want to spice things up in your life, and no, we’re not talking about whispering sweet nothings between the sheets. According to an international team of researchers led by the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, eating spicy foods may be the key to longevity. They found that eating such foods on a regular basis can help prevent people from dying prematurely by 14 percent. While a variety of spicy foods are excellent, one in particular caught their attention.

It was noted that consumption of fresh chili pepper, compared to other spicy foods, was most effective in providing people with a lower risk of dying from cancer, ischemic heart disease and diabetes. It’s explained that fresh chili pepper’s combination of powerful ingredients are responsible for such health-boosting benefits.

Study: fresh chili pepper best spicy food to help reduce risk of early death

“Compared with non-fresh spicy foods such as dried chilli pepper, chilli sauce or chilli oil,” says Lu Qi, associate professor at Harvard School of Public Health, “fresh chilli pepper is richer in bioactive ingredients, including capsaicin, vitamin C, and other nutrients such as vitamin A, K, and B6 and potassium.”

To conduct the study, the experts from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences assessed nearly 490,000 participants from the China Kadoorie Biobank. All individuals responded to a questionnaire in which they answered questions pertaining to physical measurements, general health and consumption of red meats, spicy foods, vegetables and alcohol. For example, once such question went as follows: “During the past month, about how often did you eat hot spicy foods?” Respondents selected from these options: never or almost never, only occasionally, 1 or 2 days a week, 3 to 5 days a week, or 6 or 7 days a week. Those who chose from the last three options were then directed to answer questions about the kinds of spices used, and involved choices such as fresh chilli pepper, dried chilli pepper and chilli oil.

Regular consumption of spicy foods essential

After a follow-up that averaged approximately seven years, 20,224 deaths were noted. Analysis of these people led to the finding that compared to those who ingested spicy foods less than once weekly, people who ate such foods one or two days per week had a 10 percent reduced risk of death. More impressive however, was the discovery that those who enjoyed spicy foods nearly every other day were at a 14 percent lowered risk of death compared to those who ate them less than once a week.

The findings were published in BMJ in an article titled, “Consumption of spicy foods and total and cause specific mortality: population based cohort study.” It begins by detailing use of spices throughout history as a way to enhance flavor, preserve food and change coloring. It then delves into the demographic and health information of the participants as well as methods of analysis, ultimately concluding the following:

In this large prospective study, we observed an inverse association between consumption of spicy foods and total mortality, after adjusting for potential confounders. Compared with those who ate spicy foods less than once a week, those who consumed spicy foods almost every day had a 14% lower risk of death. Inverse associations were also observed for deaths due to cancer, ischemic heart diseases, and respiratory diseases. The associations were consistent in men and women.

It’s also noted that this “…study is the first to analyze the association between daily consumption of spicy foods and mortality in a prospective cohort.”

Consider adding more spicy foods to your meals on a regular basis. They intensify flavors of other foods, making dishes even more enjoyable. Add to this the finding that such foods play a role in preventing an early death, and it’s a food addition well worth exploring.

There are so many ways to eat for your health. Eating spicy food is just one of them.

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5 simple strategies to stop overeating and maintain a healthy weight

It’s no secret that the United States is filled with obese people; it’s estimated that over one-third of adults are obese, as are approximately 17 percent of the country’s youth. That’s a lot of folks walking around with stomachs spilling over their waistbands, tired just from climbing the stairs.

Still, many of these same people continue with their junk food diets, demonstrating a preference for all things processed, sugary and filled with chemicals.

Of course, anyone who’s ever struggled to reach a healthier weight, knows that it’s not an easy process.

Woman who ‘used to overeat like a boss’ shares tips on healthy eating habits

Just ask Krista Scott-Dixon, who says she “used to overeat like a boss.” She typically turned to the excitement that surrounds Friday and the weekend (TGIF, right?), as an excuse to indulge in unhealthy foods. Additionally, her high-stress job and lengthy commute fueled her desire to eat in this manner. “The end of the work week,” Scott-Dixon explains, “meant red wine, pizza, a giant bag of chips, and bad movies. It was a Friday ritual.”

The problem was that the unhealthy eating habits worked their way into Thursday, because what the heck, almost-Friday is as good a reason as any to call the pizza delivery person.

However, thanks to the realization that continuing this way wasn’t worth the inflammation, inability to properly exercise and the general feeling of lethargy, Scott-Dixon came up with five tips to stop overeating, which you can opt to download and listen to here.

The overarching theme, by the way? Develop a healthier relationship with food.

Five easy ways to eat better, lose weight

1. Aim for “good enough” instead of “perfect”

While at first this may sound as though it has all the trappings for falling back into unhealthy food choices, just the opposite is true.

She explains that holding tight to a perfectionist approach is unrealistic, often setting people up for failure. When you think you have to follow a perfect diet, she says you may develop the all-or-nothing approach of “perfect” eating or “crap” eating, never really finding a balance. In the end, you cave in. Your desire to follow the perfect diet can take a nosedive when temptation lurks. Or, you could end up with eating disorder behaviors that stem from your overly-strict desire for so-called perfection.

She advises people to remember these wise words: “The decent method you follow is better than the ‘perfect’ one you quit.”

2. Ditch food rules

Scott-Dixon says it’s just too much to deal with all the what if’s and why not’s behind good eating, so instead, she said she “ditched the rules and let hunger be [her] guide.” Quite simply, she says to adopt what she also calls a “F*ck It” approach to eating, which means abandoning rules and instead, tuning in to your hunger and fullness cues.

3. Eliminate “cheat days”

Rather than give yourself one measly day to have so-called “bad” foods, give yourself permission to eat what you feel is appropriate throughout the entire week. Cheat days can easily lead to overindulging, not to mention that it’s not fun to return to the non-cheat days with a down mood from all those “no, I can’t have that until Saturday” (or whenever your cheat day is) thoughts.

4. Own your own choices

Forget battling with the good versus bad choices and silly justifications. Simply own up to your choices, and know that it’s not the end of the world if you mess up along the way. “I started owning my choices,” she says, “and letting my adult values and deeper principles guide me when I sat down to eat.”

5. Stop rationalizing

Enough with the excuses, says Scott-Dixon. She explains that emotions and circumstances shouldn’t drive your eating decisions. Instead, get in touch with your feelings and understand how they might be the driving force behind your choice to reach for ice cream instead of fresh fruit.

By taking these steps into consideration, it’s entirely possible for you to reach a healthier weight, or maintain the good weight you already have.

Trust me, I know. Her advice is sound; after losing 70 pounds myself many years ago, I’m familiar with every point she makes. I know how easy it is to fall into perfectionist eating traps, as well as the other aspects she delves into. Her five steps are right on.

Go easier on yourself, and the good health that comes with weight loss (and maintenance) will be yours!

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10 nutritional deficiencies that may cause depression

Do you ever wonder where you positive emotions went?

If your optimistic outlook on life has soured, then you should know that – beyond psychological approaches – nutrition plays a key role in maintaining your moods.

There are several nutritional deficiencies that can lead to feelings of depression.

You may want to consider asking your healthcare practitioner if you’re lacking in any of the important nutrients below. If your healthcare practitioner is not open to considering nutritional deficiencies as a cause of depression, then you might consider firing your healthcare practitioner.

Correcting a poor diet and adding the right supplements should be primary objectives for any doctor with proper education and integrity. Getting your nutritional needs met is the least expensive, least invasive, safest and most effective means of restoring balance to your body.

Here are 10 nutrients to research and test:

1 – Amino Acids

As protein’s essential building blocks, amino acids play a key role in helping your brain function properly. When you aren’t getting enough amino acids in your diet, you may begin to feel depressed, unfocused, and sluggish. Increase your intake of red meat, beans, seeds, and nuts in order to ensure you are getting enough of these vital nutrients.

2 – B Complex Vitamins

According to a study conducted in 2009, more than a quarter of all older women diagnosed with severe depression were deficient in B complex vitamins, suggesting that these are far more important for our mental health that anyone previously realized.

Today, the National Institute of Health suggests a daily intake of 2.4mcg of B-12 and 1.5-1.7mg of B-6. These essential nutrients can be found in meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, and seafood such as mussels, clams, and crab.

3 – Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiencies have not only been linked to depression, but to autism and dementia as well. The easiest time to become vitamin D deficient is during the fall and winter months, when we’re receiving less sunlight. According to the National Institutes of Health, adults need 600 IUs of vitamin D per day.

However, according to Dr. Mark Hyman, this number should actually be between 5,000-10,000 IU for maximum mental health.

4 – Folate

A low folate level has been shown to seriously lessen the effectiveness of antidepressants. In fact, some enlightened psychiatrists now prescribe folate for depression.

Most adults require a minimum of 400mcg daily, which can be consumed by eating plenty of dark leafy greens, citrus fruits and juices, legumes, and beans.

5 – Iodine

Iodine is critical to your thyroid function. Though it seems small, the thyroid affects almost every system in your body – your energy level, body temperature, metabolism, immune system, brain function, and more. When you are low on iodine, your thyroid function suffers, leading to feelings of depression among other symptoms.

6 – Iron

It’s estimated that nearly 20 percent of all women suffer from an iron deficiency. This can cause symptoms that are very similar to depression, including: fatigue, inability to focus, and irritability. It’s important to make sure you are consuming between 8 and 18mg of iron each day.

7 – Magnesium

Nearly half of all Americans are deficient in magnesium. This is because consuming too much salt, caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and experiencing chronic stress can all deplete the body’s stores of magnesium. Magnesium is one of the most efficient minerals at combating the harmful effects of constant stress. Men require between 400 and 420mg per day, and women should consume between 310 and 320mg per day.

8 – Omega-3 Fatty Acids

You may have heard that these are important for heart health, but they can have a serious impact on your mental health as well. Even if you take a daily fish oil supplement, you may still not be getting enough Omega-3s in your diet.

Your body can’t make these compounds on their own – you need to eat them (in the form of fish like salmon, halibut, and tuna or nuts like walnuts and flaxseeds) and take supplements to ensure you’re getting all of the nutrients you need.

9 – Selenium

Selenium is also important for optimum thyroid function. It is also an important antioxidant, helping to keep polyunsaturated acids in the cell membrane from becoming oxidized. Most of us need a minimum of 55mcg of selenium to stay physically and mentally healthy.

10 – Zinc

Zinc is another nutrient that is vital to many of the systems in our body. Not only does it aid digestion, it also helps our DNA produce and repair proteins. It can boost immune system function and helps to control inflammation in the body.

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Overweight Ups Your Diabetes Risk

Wondering if you’re going to develop diabetes in your lifetime? Spend a minute on the bathroom scale: According to new research, your weight can provide a good indication of your future risk.

Nearly three out of four morbidly obese 18-year-old men, for example, will develop type 2 diabetes in their lifetime. And 35 percent of 18-year-old women who are simply overweight will contract the disease.

“This is the first time we were able to collect the type of data needed for these observations,” said study author Dr. K.M. Venkat Narayan, chief epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The research “can help us to know where to focus our attention.”

Narayan’s report is one of several studies into diabetes risk factors that are being released at the American Diabetes Association’s annual scientific sessions, in Washington, D.C.

In the Narayan study, researchers examined the results of a national survey of almost 800,000 U.S. adults completed between 1997 and 2004. The researchers wanted to find out how body mass index (BMI) — a ratio of weight to height — translates into diabetes risk.

According to the study, an obese man with a BMI around 30 — say, a 6-foot-tall man who weighs 225 pounds — has a 57 percent chance of developing type 2 diabetes. A woman with the same BMI — say, weighing 190 at 5-feet, 6-inches — has a 55 percent chance.

By contrast, just 20 percent and 17 percent of 18-year-old men and women of normal weight, respectively, are expected to develop type 2 diabetes, the study found.

“The message here is, compared to a person with normal weight, a person who is overweight or obese at age 18 has a substantially higher chance of developing diabetes during his or her lifetime,” Narayan said.

Among people aged 65 and older, “the additional risk of being overweight added a bit of extra risk, but not so much,” Narayan said. “It’s a very different situation from an 18-year-old who’s overweight.”

But older people who are obese had a “substantially higher” risk of type 2 diabetes than those who weighed less, Narayan said.

Why are overweight people at risk of diabetes? The reasons aren’t clear, but they appear to have something to do with how fat disrupts the ability of cells to work with the hormone insulin, which helps convert blood sugar into energy for the body, Narayan said.

An estimated 19 million Americans have type 2 diabetes, and studies suggest that one-third of adults with the disease don’t even know they have it. If left untreated, the disease can lead to complications such as heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, nerve problems, and foot or limb amputation.

Being overweight is thought to be a key risk factor for the disease.

Dr. Robert J. Rushakoff, an associate clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said the study findings are “alarming” but valuable to doctors.

“Since prevention is so important, physicians and other health-care providers can make use of these dramatic numbers to talk to patients and try to start a move to better diet and exercise,” he said.

In another study released at the diabetes meeting, Swedish researchers have linked three gene variants to type 2 diabetes. People with two or more of the variations have the highest risk of the disease. But, the researchers added, it’s too early to predict for sure if someone will develop the disease.

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Soft drinks cause behavioral problems in young children

It is safe to say that the link between soda consumption and health conditions like diabetes and weight gain has been clearly established by a plethora of scientific research published in recent years. But what has not necessarily been fully recognized or understood is how consuming soft drinks affects the behavioral normalcy of children, particularly young children — that is, until now.

A new study set to appear in the Journal of Pediatrics has found, perhaps not surprisingly, that soft drinks like soda pop and processed juice can make children hyper, irritable and unable to focus, especially compared to their non-soda-drinking peers. Sugar-filled beverages, it turns out, can also make children aggressive, violent and even suicidal, altering brain chemistry and disrupting normal physiological balance.

To come to these conclusions, Shakira Suglia, Sc.D., and her colleagues from Columbia University, the University of Vermont and the Harvard School of Public Health assessed roughly 3,000 five-year-old children enrolled in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. The participating children came from 20 large U.S. cities, and their mothers reported information on their soft drink consumption patterns and behavioral profiles.

Upon analysis, it was found that a shocking 43 percent of children consumed at least one serving of soda or other soft drink per day, and four percent consumed four or more servings daily. But the really disturbing part is that, with each increase in soda consumption among all the children, aggression issues, withdrawal, attention disorders and other conditions became more pronounced.

In essence, after accounting for various outside influencing factors like socioeconomic status, parental stability (or lack thereof) and living situations, the study team verified that soda consumption is a direct cause of behavioral problems in young children. In fact, children who drank four or more soft drinks per day were found to be twice as likely as their peers to get in fights, destroy other people’s property and physically attack others.

“We found that the child’s aggressive behavior score increased with every increase in soft drinks servings per day,” says Dr. Suglia about the findings.

People of all ages damage their brains by drinking soft drinks, research shows

Earlier studies have found that older children, teenagers and even adults are behaviorally affected by soft drink consumption as well. A 2011 study published in the journal Injury Prevention, for instance, found that teenagers who drink at least five cans of soda per week, less than one per day, are more likely to have violent, aggressive tendencies.

Similarly, individuals of all ages were found in another study by the same authors to be more prone to mood-related behavioral problems, including feelings of belligerence, depression and suicide. All across the board, drinking soda and other sugar-dense beverages is a surefire way to mess up your brain and mental health, based on this collective research.

“Soft drinks are highly processed products containing carbonated water, high-fructose corn syrup, aspartame, sodium benzoate, phosphoric or citric acid, and often caffeine, any of which might affect behavior,” say the authors of the Journal of Pediatrics study.

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Reduce childhood obesity by replacing junk food with organic alternatives

According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, the rate of childhood obesity has tripled in the last 30 years. Junk food is one of the culprits for the obesity epidemic. Kids are exposed to junk food in many ways, from unhealthy parental role models to marketing geared towards kids and teens that encourages them to make unhealthy food choices. Kids are also offered poor food choices at school. A clean environment is the first step in helping kids make healthier choices. School lunches and vending machines are loaded with extra fat and calories. Replacing these junk foods with organic alternatives gives kids better options.

The problem with fast food items and junk food is they lack nutritional value, while also delivering a high dose of fat, calories, sugar, salt and carbs. These foods are robbing kids of essential vitamins and minerals. Eating excessive amounts of these foods leads to obesity and malnutrition.

Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010 that lets the government set new guidelines for nutrition standards in schools. This bill involves totally revamping the current school lunch program. Healthy organic alternatives are to replace french fries, pizza, fried chicken, nachos and corndogs.

School cafeterias are only part of the problem though. 74% of middle schools and 98% of high schools have vending machines and snack bars that offer endless choices of junk food. Its important to give kids healthy options. Some healthy alternatives to junk food include: organic yogurt, gluten-free snacks, nuts, whole grain crackers and whole fruits.

Junk food and processed foods are cheap and easy to serve. That has made them easy choices for school lunches until now. Cost has always been a factor in providing a healthier school lunch. The higher cost of school lunches will be offset by an increase in government funding provided by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Federal funds are to increase 6 cents per school lunch thanks to this bill. It is expected to cover the higher cost of whole foods and may include the use of healthy vending machines.

Replacing junk food with organic alternatives will ensure that kids get at least one nutritious meal per day. Trimming calories and fat from school lunches alone won’t cure childhood obesity. Healthy choices need to be made at home as well, but removing junk food from school lunches and vending machines is a good start.

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