Tag Archives: wellness

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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Doctor Burnout: Part II

In response to the growing problem surrounding physician burnout–a national epidemic that impacts not only the health of medical practitioners, but also patient care–Stanford Medicine has hired a chief wellness officer.

In an unprecedented first move for a U.S. academic medical center, Tait Shanafelt, MD will lead Stanford Medicine’s pioneering program in the field. At a time when physician burnout “nationally has reached an all-time high,” Dr. Shanafelt will direct the WellMD Center at Stanford Medicine, while serving as associate dean.

Shanafelt has paved the field of wellness in medicine, overseeing multiple national surveys since 2008 that have included over 30,000 U.S. physicians, and 9,000 U.S. workers in other fields. The surveys have indicated increasing rates of burnout among doctors; in 2014, more than 50% of those surveyed were suffering from “emotional exhaustion, loss of meaning in work, or a sense of ineffectiveness and a lack of engagement with patients.” Shanafelt’s studies have confirmed that while physicians suffer, patients do also, as burnout leads to increased errors and increased rates of mortality among hospitalized patients.

Shanafelt has stated that the trend is “eroding the soul of medicine.” While many leaders in healthcare recognize that physician burnout is an imminent threat to their organizations, many do not know how to effectively address it. Shanafelt will work to build Stanford’s innovative WellMD Center, established in 2016, which has engaged more than 200 physicians through programs aimed at peer support, stress reduction, and a variety of ways to cultivate compassion and resilience. Furthermore, the center seeks to relieve some of the burden and pressure on physicians, through improving efficiency and simplifying workplace systems.

The conference will host the first American Conference on Physician Health in October, co-sponsored by the American Medical Association and the Mayo Clinic. This event will support opening up a national dialogue on the issue of physician burnout, while creating efforts to address physician distress through programs that promote “physician autonomy, efficiency, collegiality, and a sense of community.”

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