Tag Archives: wellness

The Biggest Wellness Trends of 2020

Last year, the rise of cannabidiol (CBD), intermittent fasting, meditation, and many other health and wellness trends dominated the $4 trillion global wellness industry. As this segment of the market continues to grow rapidly, technologic advances, emerging clinical findings, and shifting priorities are likely to influence burgeoning wellness trends for the coming year. Recently, experts from across the world gathered to forecast the biggest health trends that will take over the global wellness industry in 2020 as part of the Global Wellness Summit (GWS).

Alongside a focus on fixing disrupted circadian rhythms and mental health-promoting devices, the most significant projected trends for the forthcoming year are outlined below:

Circadian Health Optimization

According to one of the world’s leading experts on circadian health and associate professor of medicine at Harvard University Dr. Steven Lockley: “The absolute key to healthy sleep and circadian rhythms is stable, regularly-timed daily light and dark exposure—our natural daily time cues.”

Today, humans have incredibly disrupted circadian rhythms as a result of increased screen time and travel, rising stress levels, and a 24/7 culture. Current research suggests that circadian rhythms influence a variety of bodily functions ranging from hormonal fluctuations to body temperature regulation. Most importantly, they can significantly influence sleep patterns, impacting productivity and health.

As part of the solution, the concept of circadian rhythm optimization centers around adjusting the daily schedule, dietary patterns, and environmental cues to sync up with the body’s internal clock. Experts at the Global Wellness Summit predict an increased amount of people shifting their work schedules in accordance with their chronotypes, which The Sleep Foundation describes as the natural pattern by which people sleep and wake best, in an effort to optimize performance and productivity.

“Given that most of our body systems express circadian rhythms, ensuring proper alignment of our internal circadian clocks,” Dr. Lockley further explains, “starting with the management of lighting, will have major impacts on human health.”

Mental Health Technology 

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that over 42% of 46.6 million adults with mental illness in the United States received mental health treatment in 2017. In addition, the growing patient base of Millennials is more likely to address mental health concerns than previous generations, with about 70% saying they feel comfortable seeking help. Wellness technology companies have begun to capitalize on this increased acceptance and technological advancements by developing digital therapeutic products and services.

Tech-savvy individuals are increasingly using virtual therapy apps – such as TalkSpace and BetterHelp – and digital support groups to combat modern-day issues including burnout, loneliness, depression, and anxiety. The behavioral health software market is now projected to reach $2.31 billion by 2022 and as we shift toward a more holistic approach to wellbeing, will likely continue growing.

As part of this rising trend, mental wellness wearables are growing in popularity with the introduction of meditation headsets that measure heart and breathing rates and wearable biosensors that monitor physiological signals throughout the day. These devices aim to improve stress levels, sleep patterns, and daily habits based on biologic metrics directly obtained throughout the day. For example, Sentio Solutions recently announced a new product, Feel, which is an emotion-sensing wristband with integrated biosensors which measure users’ physiological signals. Paired with an accompanying cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) app, it aims to help those suffering from anxiety and depression by offering on-demand support.

However, many of these technologies are still in the early stages of clinical trials and require further investigation before they can be released.

Japanese Wellness 

In 2017, Japan had the largest per capita ratio of centenarians in the world with 67,824 people aged 100 and above. The country is known for the longevity of its population, with up to 50% of Japanese citizens born in 2007 expected to reach the age of 107. Japanese culture promotes ways to ensure long, fulfilled lives with a growing emphasis on a sense of community and work-life balance. As a result, the world is turning to Japan for longevity tips leading to the popularization of “J-wellness”, or Japanese-inspired wellness.

The practice prioritizes connecting to nature, including forest bathing which can have a beneficial effect on both mental and physical health by reducing blood pressure, stress hormones, anxiety, and depression levels. In addition, Japanese government officials emphasize social community wellness through policy measures and innovations tailored to aging societies. This includes neighborhood facilities designed for generational mingling and stress assessment programs conducted to improve work-life balance and emotional wellbeing.

Fertility Healthcare

The growing de-stigmatization of infertility and reproductive health has opened the dialogue and increased awareness of these prevalent issues, encouraging more companies to offer fertility treatments – such as in-vitro fertilization and egg freezing- as benefits to their employees. Fertility healthcare is projected to rise to the top of wellness trends to support the 12 out of 100 couples in the United State struggling to become pregnant, per data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Current fertility benefits do not cover all procedures and reproductive assistance technologies tend to be expensive with a single round of IVF averaging above $20,000. According to the GWS report, fertility clinics are forecasted to democratize and simplify access to care, alongside innovative fertility-focused wearable technology and smartphone apps that help educate individuals and monitor important fertility metrics. Furthermore, a growing number of fertility start-ups such as KindBody, which received $10 million in investor funding last year, are beginning to infiltrate the space. Current data indicate that the femtech sector could reach a market size of $50 billion within the next five years.

Continuous research initiatives and emerging technological advancements are spurring the global wellness industry at a 12.8% compound annual growth rate. In 2020, the wellness economy will be more accessible to the average consumer than ever before, making the above trends increasingly relevant in the practice setting. Physicians should be equipped with the latest clinical knowledge to better educate patients on the potential risks and benefits of these emerging solutions and ensure their health and safety.

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Turmeric: Boosting Memory & Mood

Curcumin, the most active substance of turmeric, is commonly used in Indian cooking as a primary spice—and often used in mustard, butter, and cheese. Findings of a new study have revealed that it may also help improve memory and mood.

In a study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry last week, Gary Small, from UCLA’s Longevity Center, and fellow researchers found that giving 90 milligrams of curcumin daily improved the memory and mood of older adults with mild memory complaints.

The subjects were given standardised cognitive assessments at the start of the study, and at six month intervals. The curcumin levels in the blood were monitored at the start of the study and after 18 months. Thirty of the volunteers underwent positron emission tomography, or PET scans, to determine the levels of amyloid and tau in their brains at the start of the study and after 18 months.

The findings revealed that people who took curcumin experienced significant improvements in their memory and attention abilities, while the subjects who received placebo did not, Small said. People taking curcumin improved by 28 per cent over the 18 months in their memory tests. There were mild improvements in mood for people taking curcumin. The PET scans of their brain showed significantly less amyloid and tau signals in the amygdala and hypothalamus than those who took placebos. The amygdala and hypothalamus are regions of the brain that control several memory and emotional functions.

The researchers also found less signals of tau and amyloid proteins in those who were given curcumin supplements: proteins linked to the development of Alzheimer’s Disease. “Exactly how curcumin may exert cognitive and mood effects is not certain, but several potential mechanisms could explain our findings,” researchers wrote in their study. “Curcumin reduces inflammation, and heightened brain inflammation has been linked to both Alzheimer disease and major depression.”

Countries such as India, where people eat curcumin at levels of about 100 mg to 200 mg a day over long periods of time, have low prevalence of cancer. Researchers suspect this may have something to do with the health benefits of turmeric.

Earlier studies have shown other possible beneficial effects of consuming curcumin on health. In a 2001 study involving patients with precancerous changes, investigators found that curcumin could stop precancerous changes in organs from developing into cancer. “Our results also suggest a biologic effect of curcumin in the chemoprevention of cancer,” the researchers wrote in their study.

Lab tests also showed that turmeric extract that contains curcumin may help stabilize colorectal cancer that did not benefit from other forms of treatment. Other preliminary lab studies also suggest that turmeric may provide protection against high cholesterol, colitis, stomach ulcers, diabetes, depression, and viral infections.

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The Benefits of Mindful Eating

Recent studies indicate that meal timing and frequency may impact cardiovascular health, and disease risks. While eating patterns vary from person to person, research indicates that effective management of cardiometabolic health should focus on ‘intentional eating’–paying attention to standardize eating times, meal sizes, and food content. 

One of the primary critical factors in evaluating the effect of meal frequency and timing on cardiovascular health was what constituted a meal that potentially impacted metabolism. Data shows that distributing calories over a defined period of the day, coupled with maintaining a consistent overnight fast period, could ultimately yield positive benefits surrounding cardiometabolic health–in addition to eating a larger portion of one’s daily caloric intake earlier in the day.

Skipping meals and snacking, which have become increasingly prevalent, have various effects on cardiometabolic health markers: namely obesity, lipid profile, insulin resistance, and blood pressure. Because irregular eating patterns do not lead to a healthy cardiometabolic profile, intentional eating–with mindful attention to the timing and frequency of eating occasions–will lead to a healthier lifestyle. Most importantly, planning each meal with a variety of healthy foods, and timing meals, can help manage hunger, achieve desired portion control, and improve nutrition quality.

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