Antioxidant diet could extend life

Antioxidant

Antioxidant

University of Florida Health researchers have found that putting people on a feast-or-famine diet may mimic some of the benefits of fasting, and that adding antioxidant supplements may counteract those benefits.

Fasting has been shown in mice to extend lifespan and to improve age-related diseases. But fasting every day, which could entail skipping meals or simply reducing overall caloric intake, can be hard to maintain.

“People don’t want to just under-eat for their whole lives,” said Martin Wegman, an M.D.-Ph.D. student at the UF College of Medicine and co-author of the paper recently published in the journal Rejuvenation Research. “We started thinking about the concept of intermittent fasting.”

Michael Guo, a UF M.D.-Ph.D. student who is pursuing the Ph.D. portion of the program in genetics at Harvard Medical School, said the group measured the participants’ changes in weight, blood pressure, heart rate, glucose levels, cholesterol, markers of inflammation and genes involved in protective cell responses over 10 weeks.

“We found that intermittent fasting caused a slight increase to SIRT 3, a well-known gene that promotes longevity and is involved in protective cell responses,” Guo said.

The SIRT3 gene encodes a protein also called SIRT3. The protein SIRT3 belongs to a class of proteins called sirtuins. Sirtuins, if increased in mice, can extend their lifespans, Guo said. Researchers think proteins such as SIRT3 are activated by oxidative stress, which is triggered when there are more free radicals produced in the body than the body can neutralize with antioxidants. However, small levels of free radicals can be beneficial: When the body undergoes stress — which happens during fasting — small levels of oxidative stress can trigger protective pathways, Guo said.

“The hypothesis is that if the body is intermittently exposed to low levels of oxidative stress, it can build a better response to it,” Wegman said.

The researchers found that the intermittent fasting decreased insulin levels in the participants, which means the diet could have an anti-diabetic effect as well.

The group recruited 24 study participants in the double-blinded, randomized clinical trial. During a three-week period, the participants alternated one day of eating 25 percent of their daily caloric intake with one day of eating 175 percent of their daily caloric intake. For the average man’s diet, a male participant would have eaten 650 calories on the fasting days and 4,550 calories on the feasting days. To test antioxidant supplements, the participants repeated the diet but also included vitamin C and vitamin E.

At the end of the three weeks, the researchers tested the same health parameters. They found that the beneficial sirtuin proteins such as SIRT 3 and another, SIRT1, tended to increase as a result of the diet. However, when antioxidants were supplemented on top of the diet, some of these increases disappeared. This is in line with some research that indicates flooding the system with supplemental antioxidants may counteract the effects of fasting or exercise, said Christiaan Leeuwenburgh, Ph.D., co-author of the paper and chief of the division of biology of aging in the department of aging and geriatric research.

“You need some pain, some inflammation, some oxidative stress for some regeneration or repair,” Leeuwenburgh said. “These young investigators were intrigued by the question of whether some antioxidants could blunt the healthy effects of normal fasting.”

On the study participants’ fasting days, they ate foods such as roast beef and gravy, mashed potatoes, Oreo cookies and orange sherbet — but they ate only one meal. On the feasting days, the participants ate bagels with cream cheese, oatmeal sweetened with honey and raisins, turkey sandwiches, apple sauce, spaghetti with chicken, yogurt and soda — and lemon pound cake, Snickers bars and vanilla ice cream.

“Most of the participants found that fasting was easier than the feasting day, which was a little bit surprising to me,” Guo said. “On the feasting days, we had some trouble giving them enough calories.”

Leeuwenburgh said future studies should examine a larger cohort of participants and should include studying a larger number of genes in the participants as well as examining muscle and fat tissue.

Source:  eurekalert.org

Harmful Effects of Smoking in Unborn Babies

Harmful Effects of Smoking

Harmful Effects of Smoking

 

The harmful effects of smoking during pregnancy may be reflected in the facial movements of mothers’ unborn babies, new research has suggested.

Researchers at Durham and Lancaster universities said the findings of their pilot study added weight to existing evidence that smoking is harmful to fetuses as they develop in the womb and warranted further investigation.

Observing 4-d ultrasound scans, the researchers found that fetuses whose mothers were smokers showed a significantly higher rate of mouth movements than the normal declining rate of movements expected in a fetus during pregnancy.

The researchers suggested that the reason for this might be that the fetal central nervous system, which controls movements in general and facial movements in particular did not develop at the same rate and in the same manner as in fetuses of mothers who did not smoke during pregnancy.

Previous studies have reported a delay in relation to speech processing abilities in infants exposed to smoking during pregnancy, the researchers added.

The researchers observed 80 4-d ultrasound scans of 20 fetuses, to assess subtle mouth and touch movements. Scans were taken at four different intervals between 24 and 36 weeks of pregnancy.

Four of the fetuses belonged to mothers who smoked an average of 14 cigarettes per day, while the remaining 16 fetuses were being carried by mothers who were non-smokers. All fetuses were clinically assessed and were healthy when born.

In common with other studies, the research also showed that maternal stress and depression have a significant impact on fetal movements, but that the increase in mouth and touch movements was even higher in babies whose mothers smoked.

The study also found some evidence of a bigger delay in the reduction of facial touching by fetuses whose mothers smoked, compared to the fetuses of non-smokers, but the researchers said this delay was less significant.

The research is published in the journal Acta Paediatrica.

 

Harmful Effects of Smoking

Harmful Effects of Smoking

Lead author Dr Nadja Reissland, in Durham University’s Department of Psychology, said: “Fetal facial movement patterns differ significantly between fetuses of mothers who smoked compared to those of mothers who didn’t smoke.

“Our findings concur with others that stress and depression have a significant impact on fetal movements, and need to be controlled for, but additionally these results point to the fact that nicotine exposure per se has an effect on fetal development over and above the effects of stress and depression.

“A larger study is needed to confirm these results and to investigate specific effects, including the interaction of maternal stress and smoking.”

Co-author Professor Brian Francis, of Lancaster University, added: “Technology means we can now see what was previously hidden, revealing how smoking affects the development of the fetus in ways we did not realise. This is yet further evidence of the negative effects of smoking in pregnancy.”

The researchers stressed that their research was a pilot study and that larger studies were needed to confirm and further understand the relationship between maternal smoking, stress, depression and fetal development.

They added that future studies should also take into account the smoking behaviours of fathers.

 

Source:  neurosciencenews.com

Employee Brain on Stress Quash Creativity Competitive Edge

Employee Brain on Stress Can Quash Creativity And Competitive Edge:

Employee Brain on Stress Can Quash Creativity And Competitive Edge

Employee Brain on Stress Can Quash Creativity And Competitive Edge

Right to the point. “Work stress is a major problem,” David Ballard PsyD,  He heads up the American Psychological Association’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program. Work place stress is not news. But how companies are handling the issue is worth a gander. A recent APA study found only 58 percent of employees said they have the resources necessary to manage stress. Furthermore, a 2012 SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) survey found only 11 percent of organizations have specific stress reduction programs in place. “Even those organizations that do have stress management programs generally focus on individual-level training and resources to help stressed-out employees,” says Ballard, “but they neglect preventive and organizational-level approaches that may be more effective in the long run.” With more than forty percent of American workers reporting chronic workplace stress, the long-term impact of stress and its influence on the human creative condition and business can be detrimental, says Rick Hanson PhD,  a California based neuropsychologist and author of Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time. “As ten-thousand studies have shown, when you are chronically stressed, you’re less able to be at your best. Particularly when you’re talking about a knowledge economy which really places a high premium on creativity,”. Chronic stress degrades a long list of capabilities with regard to creativity and innovation, notes Hanson. It’s harder to think outside of the box, nimbleness and dexterity take a hit, and the response to sudden change is more difficult to manage. Hanson has been examining the impact of stress on the brain and well-being, while working in the trenches in corporate America and as the co-founder of The Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom. Hanson explains, stress is like fine sand being drizzled into the brain. It might keep working, but if you dump enough sand in there, it’ll freeze up at some point. Beyond heading into the deep freeze, he says neuroscience is now showing us that the cumulative consequences of stress can be a dire thorn in the side of business innovation. “Even a small amount of stress is noisy in the brain,” says leadership consultant, David Rock, the author of Your Brain at Work and the co-founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute. The organization partnered on a survey of 6000 workers, and found that only ten percent of people do their best thinking at work. Expanded technology, multitasking and a competitively demanding (or threatening) company culture, can add to the noise in the brain which crushes creativity. “Threat makes you productive, but not necessarily effective.  It can make you productive if you don’t have to think broadly, widely or deeply,” says Rock. “A threat response, which we might think of as stress, increases motor function, while it decreases perception, cognition and creativity.” Ultimately, on the surface, stress might seem a good kick starter for productivity. But getting the creative juices flowing has more to do with the engagement of the employee and his or her disposition, notes Rock. “What neuroscience is telling us, is that creativity and engagement are essentially about making people happier,” explains Rock who adds, “It’s what is called, a “toward state” in the brain.” In that “state,” Rock explains, workers feel curious, open minded, happier and interested in what they are doing. A huge component of creating that state is to quiet the mind, and that means reducing stress. Rock discusses the neuroscience behind stress reduction here in my recent post at WorkLifeNation.com, Neuroscience Might Be New “it-strategy” to Boost Employee Creativity. Stress management programs in most companies, if they exist at all, are more of an ancillary stepchild in the wellness agenda. As David Ballard PhD said, workplace flexibility, mental healthcare coverage and on-site fitness offerings certainly help to reduce stress, but it’s not enough. Perhaps a company will do more to help employees better manage stress, if the end-game is a more creative and engaged employee.