Category Archives: Nutrition

The Power of Ginger

A new review published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences assesses findings of 60 studies surrounding ginger—as a supplement, or ingredient in food and drink. Although experts have not yet determined a specific dosage for preventive purposes, the review concludes that ginger consumption is medically sound and helpful.

The studies “have built a consensus that ginger and its major constituents exert beneficial effects against obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and related disorders,” wrote authors from China Agricultural University. The researchers focused their studies on the different aspects of metabolic syndrome—a combination of three or more risk factors for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Metabolic syndrome now affects almost a quarter of the world’s population: a growing health problem that has reached reportedly pandemic proportions.

Scientists have researched potential strategies in order to both prevent and treat metabolic syndrome, specifically non-pharmaceutical options. As ginger has a long history of treating a variety of ailments and illnesses, due to its phytochemicals and antioxidants, the general consensus is that there are several mechanisms behind ginger’s ‘superfood powers.’ The paper details the ways in which the spice plays a significant role in fat burning, carbohydrate digestion, and insulin secretion; ginger has also demonstrated an ability to inhibit oxidative stress—a form of cellular aging—in addition to anti-inflammatory properties.

During a study in which ginger was fed to rats, ginger significantly reduced body weight and systemic inflammation, while simultaneously lowering cholesterol and blood sugar. The accumulation of studies suggest that consuming ginger can also enhance calorie burn and reduce feelings of hunger, likely associated with weight loss in overweight adults. Associate professor of nutritional medicine at Columbia University Marie-Pierre St-Onge states that while the field is still developing in terms of assessing the impact of various spices, on humans, “The research is very promising.”

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Artificial Sweeteners: Tied to Stroke & Dementia

A new study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke suggests that artificial sweeteners, found in diet sodas, have considerable health risks for both the body and the brain.

The data was collected from the Framingham Heart Study, a project of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and Boston University, and involved data on 2,888 adults older than 45 and 1,484 adults older than 60 from Framingham, Massachusetts. In the group aged 45-and-older, researchers measured for increased risk of stroke; in the group aged 60-and-older, researchers measured for dementia.

The statistics analyzed how many sugary beverages and artificially sweetened soft drinks each person in the two different age groups drank, between the years 1991 and 2001. That data was than compared against the number of people who suffered from stroke or dementia in the next decade.

Researchers found that—juxtaposed against people who never drank artificially sweetened soft drinks—those who drank one per day were almost three times as likely to have an ischemic stroke. Those who drank one per day were also almost three times as likely to be diagnosed with dementia.

Previous studies have shown a strong association between the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and a host of adverse health effects, including type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. Professor and chair of neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine Dr. Ralph Sacco confirms that this article “provides further evidence on artificially sweetened beverages and their possibly effects on vascular health…we believe the pathways of which artificially sweetened beverages would affect the brain are probably through vascular mechanisms.”

Moreover, artificial sweeteners have been shown to cause glucose intolerance in mice by altering gut microbiota, and have been associated with dysbiosis and glucose intolerance in humans. The cumulative research strongly indicates that there is no benefit to using artificial sweeteners, or drinking diet soda, compared to regular sucrose or sugary drinks.

To learn more about the gut-immune-brain connection, and the different ways in which various types of inflammation can affect the body and brain, register for Module VII: Autoimmune Disease & Inflammation, from August 10-12.

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Studies on Supplements

There has been an ongoing vigorous debate in the past decade regarding the effectiveness of supplements, and whether or not taking additional doses of vitamins and additives is ultimately beneficial for health. The industry of dietary supplements, minerals, herbal products, and vitamins generates annual revenue of over $30 billion in the U.S. A recent study published in a medical journal in October revealed that 52% of adults used one or more supplements in 2012.

Data reveals that supplements are essential in treating vitamin and mineral deficiencies; moreover, certain combinations of nutrients have been found to help treat several medical conditions, like age-related macular degeneration. Evidence further suggests that those at high risk for Vitamin D deficiency—which is highly prevalent in several areas—may face serious, long-term implications for public health.

While no pill can supply the nutrients found in healthy, wholesome food, it is critical that we learn more about the ways in which vitamins and supplements work and interact, in addition to their untapped potential for wellness and nutrition.

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