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Hitting the fridge and going to town is one of the well known effects of taking cannabis. But up until now scientists have been unable to explain the relationship; how does the active ingredient of cannabis (tetrahydrocannabinol or THC) cause such a surge in appetite?
But a new study by researchers at the University of Bordeaux has found that THC binds to cannabinol receptors in the brain dramatically increasing the sense of taste and smell which in turn stimulates the appetite. Although the tests were done on mice, if the findings are the same for humans, says The New Scientist, then doctors might one day be able to treat common conditions like obesity and anorexia with a simple nasal spray that either suppress or increases appetite through manipulation of the cannabinoid receptors in the brain.
It has been widely accepted that doing brain teasers like sudoku or crosswords can protect against the onset of degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. However there is now a growing amount of evidence that physical exercise is just as important. In a new study by the University of Pittsburgh, on subjects aged between 60 to 80 years, it has been discovered that two crucial parts of the brain (the Hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex) can be regenerated through exercise.
The subjects simply walked briskly for 30-45 minutes a day. The reversal was the equivalent to turning back their biological clock by 1-2 years, but only for those that stuck to the exercise programme for a whole year.
“The results suggest that the brain and cognitive function of older adults remains..highly malleable” said the leader of the study, Professor Kirk Erickson. “There is not this inevitable decline that we thought there was”.
So for those of you with aged relatives or as e all approach older age, let’s get moving!
By Adam Atkinson
In a survey by Imperial College London parents were found to be just a little blind to the state of their children’s health. 77% of parents of overweight children refuse to accept that their child is fat. Even among those who do accept it, only 41% of them think that they are putting their child’s health at risk.
Concern grew over the past 2 weeks for the state of Britain’s health and the obesity crisis with the publication of a report showing that in some English towns nearly 75% of the population is overweight. The fattest county was named as Cumbria with 68% of residents being overweight or obese. Next on the list was Linconshire closely followed by North Yorkshire and Staffordshire. All of these three showed a whopping 67% of inhabitants as being overweight.
Most of the fattest districts are North of the Wash; in the Cumbrian area of Copeland, 75% of people are classed as overweight; in Doncaster, South Yorkshire 74%; East Lindsey in Linconshire showed a 74% rate of obesity.
Some southern counties also showed similar rates of obesity with both Essex and Somerset having high rates.
However London was found to have a much lower ratio of fat people; Kensington and Chelsea has 45% with a smiler percentage throughout the city. In the UK as a whole the percentage of the population classed as being overweight currently stands at 63%, reports BBC online.
Every year, many of us decide to go dry for the month of January, not drinking alcohol to make up for the debauchery of the festive season. Some reports are sceptical about the benefits of this one month “fad”, so a ten of staff at the New Scientist magazine decided to go dry and study the results properly.
On October the 5th of last year, 14 members of the magazine’s staff (all of whom regarded themselves as “normal” drinkers) were given various tests and questionnaires to asses the state of their livers and overall health. For the next 5 weeks, 10 drank no alcohol, while the remaining four carried on as normal. They then returned to the laboratory to repeat the tests. For the four drinkers, there were no notable changes.
But for those who had gone dry, the effects were significant. Their levels of liver fat (an indicator of possible future liver damage) had fallen by an average of 15%. Their blood glucose levels (connected to the onset of diabetes) had taken a huge plunge by 23%, from 5.1 to 4.3 mmols per litre. The normal range is 3.9-5.6.
They also lost weight. This is without a specific effort to do so, and they lost an average of 1.5kg. Their blood cholesterol (an early indicator for heart disease) had also dropped by 5% from 4.6 to 4.4mmol. 5.2 or below is considered healthy.
The dry group also reported have better concentration levels as well as sleeping more soundly, rating their sleep as improved by 10%.
Kevin Moore, a consultant in liver sciences for University College London declared that he was amazed by the results.
“What you have is a pretty average group of people who would not consider themselves heavy drinkers, yet stopping drinking for a month alters liver fat, cholesterol and blood sugar, and helped them to lose weight”. “If someone had a product that did that they would be raking it in”.
Although most of start our new year’s resolutions with the best of intentions, the statistics show that within just one week we will have failed.
There are steps we can all take, however, to ensure that we actually succeed this year!
Set a shorter term goal. Instead of thinking “I will never…” try to set a more achievable time limit of three weeks or 21 days. This is much more do-able and breaks down the “forever” part of your resolution into smaller, more manageable steps.
Commit! Instead of thinking ” well, I really should stop smoking this year” or “maybe it really is time I laid off the chocolates” really commit to going all the way, 100%. To break a habit create a picture of your ideal self. Close your eyes and imagine the ideal you – put some detail in too, what clothes are you wearing, do you look happy? Make this image bright and bold and it will really help to build your motivation mentally.
Think about the long term consequences of your habit, not the short term gain. Instead of thinking about how great that piece of chocolate tastes and makes you feel, see each chocolate bar not as a single event, but a chain of events that are connected to you and will follow you all the way through your life. With this chain in place how will you be looking and feeling at the end of the chain? What will the effects of this lifetime be on your health and happiness?
Replace a habit with a need. If you are smoking its likely that that cigarette break has become important as special “you” time. If you stop smoking but do not replace this reward with something then it’s likely that you will start again. So instead of the cigarette break, take 5 minutes to have a cup of tea, listen to a favourite piece of music or sit quietly to think. Make sure that it’s a reward tailored to you.
Feel achievement ahead of time. If you can create the feeling of having succeeded in your head before you have done so then you will be positively encouraged to hit your targets. Using a hypnotherapy trick, imaging floating out of yourself. Then look at the you that’s now below. This is not the old you, but the new you, who has succeeded in his/her goals. Look at the steps that the new you took to be successful. This may sound silly, but this type of NLP is a very powerful tool for success.
Embrace the setback. If you fall off the wagon, all is not lost. You have not “ruined” the whole process. It’s just one mistake. The problem is not making one or two mistakes, it’s the thought process that the one mistake has spoiled all your efforts that causes failure.
Make yourself accountable to others. By making your quest public you add weight and importance to the resolution. This makes it harder to fail. Put it on Facebook and other social networks. Tell friends and family. Get someone close to you to do an assessment one month on.
Get help. If your car breaks, you get a mechanic. If your computer needs fixing you get a computer geek. So if you want to get fitter, get a trainer. If you want to loose weight hire a nutritionist. If you are an emotional eater get a hypnotherapist or counsellor. Even one session with a professional can really help.
Celebrate every success. Try to enjoy the journey instead of just focussing on just the destination. Instead of thinking about losing a stone, break the target down into sections. After each give yourself a pat on the back and even a little treat!
Keep it positive. Instead of thinking “I must stop….” try to make resolutions that are positive. For example “I will try to get more sleep”. “I will try to spend more time doing fun things”.
“I will look after myself better this year”. These sentiments can have more power than the negative.
Robert Adam Atkinson.
So another year has gone by and leaves us to reflect on 2013 fitness tips. This past year science and research fine-tuned and expanded what we know about physical activity and how it effects our brains, heart, joints and even our DNA before we have been born. We learned that our lifespans can be greatly increased with exercise, particularly if we go reasonably hard and fast.
This year we were both encouraged – fitness can happen in 7 minutes a day – and depressed (especially if we thought that barefoot running could improve our form and prevent injury). It was at times validating (why cool downs are not really necessary), enlightening (why gentle exercise does not quash our appetite’s as much as we thought), boring (boredom with food can be a great appetite suppressant) and down right strange (chewing gum helps focus the brain).
However the lesson they emerged gain and again was they intensity in exercise matters. The 7 minute workout as popularised by the New York Times was one of the most popular topics for the whole year, especially for those wanting to get their exercise over and done with quickly. The time commitment may seem small, but for the session to work the effort must be vigorous. To gain all the health benefits from this HIIT (high intensity interval training) you need to work at 90% of maximum heart rate and be very, very breathless and sweaty. But on top of getting fitter and healthier, HIIT also suppresses the appetite more than traditional aerobic based exercise.
The research on HIIT also undermined the common excuse not to get any exercise – “I don’t have the time”. Again, the emphasis must be on intensity and not the short duration.
Intensity winning over duration was also proved in a small study where out of shape volunteers ran on a treadmill at high speed for just 4 minutes three times a week. They increased their VO2 max (maximum oxygen uptake) by about 10% (in ten weeks) while improving blood sugar control and blood pressure.
We also learned in 2013 how pervasive the effects of exercise are. In another experiment, rodents that ran on wheels for several weeks responded far better to stressful situations than their non-exercising counterparts.
But one of the most interesting studies of 2013 showed how exercise can effect the very fabric of our being. In experiments, scientists found that exercise reshapes the genes within human cells. By changing how atoms attach to parts of our DNA the behaviour of the gene changes. Researchers found that in some cases, six months of moderate exercise remodelled genes related to the risk for diabetes and heart disease. Foe those of us wanting a slightly faster result, another study found that just a single session of cycling altered the genes in the muscle cells of the volunteers.
These studies are an important and inspirational remainder of the robust effect exercise can have on the human body, even at the level of our DNA.
And my favourite piece of fitness news in 2013? The blerch, via Frances Lindsay; thanks girl, keep running!Of course, any exercise can be substituted for running.
Those smokers who quit, even in later life, may be able to repair their cardiovascular health in as little as 8 years, a new study has shown. Studies in the past have shown that it takes longer; it was previously thought that 15 years was needed to reduce the ex-smoker’s chances of death from cardiovascular disease to become the same as a non-smokers.
But a new study that tested candidates who were 65 years or older and who had smoked fewer than 32 “pack years” found that for half of them the damage only took 8 years be healed. (A pack year is a formula to work out how much someone has smoked over time. It’s the multiple of the number of cigarettes smoked a day by the number of years smoked. So 10 cigarettes a day over ten years would be 100 pack years).
Despite the healing process the ex-smokers still had a greater risk of cancer and emphysema than those who had never smoked. And those who had smoked more than 32 pack years had higher risks of death from any health condition.
Smoking is the biggest cause of preventable death in the world, but id you smoke, “stop early” says professor Ali Ahmed of the University of Alabama who led the study.
In a separate study, researchers in South Korea found that the effects of passive smoking are also worse than expected. Even the outdoor air quality 30 feet away from a smoker is worse and contains significantly raised levels of fine particle pollutants the research showed.
Want to stop smoking? Never mind the patches – would you really give crack to a crack addict trying to stop? Hypnotherapy, counselling, group therapy and in particular NLP have the highest success rates. Try here for the most successful way to quit.
A sound and simple guide to cardio-vascular health, the resting heart rate of Britain’s children is on the rise. Over the past 30 years it has increased by one beat per minute in girls and two beats per minute for boys, both aged from 9 to 11 years old.
Researchers at the University College London describe the rise as modest, but worrying all the same; resting heart rate in the young can be an indicator of health problems in later life. High resting heart rates are commonly associated with coronary heart disease.
Part of the rise is believed to be linked to higher obesity rates among children in the same age groups, but the figures show that body weight and fat percentage alone could not be the only cause. More time spent doing sedentary activities, leading to an overall decline in fitness levels most likely also played a role, said the researchers.
Their findings were based on analysis from 5 studies covering 23,000 children in the same age group.
Some simple and well known exercises can be all you need to see if you are fit for your age. Or not!
1 – Push up test.
How many push-ups can you do continuously until failure? For men this is a full push up with the shoulders, knees and hips in a straight line. The tempo should be slow – 2 seconds down and two seconds up; you should go to a depth where your elbows are at 90 degrees. For women the same applies but do them from the knee. A poor score in this test means that you have low upper body strength and suffer from sarcopenia; this is the natural muscle wastage that happens to us all with ageing.
Scores: Women – aged 30-39 – 13 or above is good. Below 13 is poor. Women 40-49 – 11 reps is good, below 11 poor. Women 50-59 – 7 or above is good, below 7 is poor. Women 60-69 5 or above is good, less than 5 is poor.
Scores men: 30-39: 17 or above is good, less than 17 is poor. 40-49: 13 or above is good, less than 13 poor. 50-59: 10 or above is good, less is poor. 60-69: 8 or above is good, less than 8 is poor.
2 – Stand up sit down test.This is a simple yet one of the most functional moves there is. Using only one hand, from a cross legged position, how many times can you get up and sit down in 2 minutes? Regardless of sex, if you are under 40 you should be able to do 15. According to a Brazilian study of 2,000 people and published in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention, this simple test is a strong predictor of how long you are likely to live. Those who had to use both hands or who needed to get up on both knees were 6 times more likely to die prematurely.
3 – What is your running speed? A simple but perhaps painful test. How fast can you run 1 mile? Running speed in midlife has been closely linked to the likelihood of heart disease.
1) a man is his fifties who can run a mile in 8 minutes or fewer (9 min for a woman) had a 10% lifetime risk of heart problems.
2) a man who could run a 9 minute mile (10 min 30s for a woman) had a 20% risk
3) a man who could only do a mile in more than 10 minutes (12 minutes for females) had a 30% risk.
The study concluded that the exercise that you do in your 40s has a large bearing on your health in your 80s.
3 – How far can you walk in 6 minutes?
Studies show that not only is this test an indicator of cardiovascular health, but it is also a guide to how well you will stave off aches and pains like a bad back in later life. Distances to aim for are: men and women under 60: 650-900m. men aged 60-64: 600m (women 500m). Men aged 65-69: 515m (women 460m). Men aged 70-74: 500m (women 440m).