Last week I told you about research findings linking green tea to a lower stroke risk. However, while green tea rocks your socks off when it comes to health, one of my favourite elixirs – coffee — isn’t too far behind in that department. In fact, despite years of negative publicity surrounding coffee, its rightful place in health and diet is being reclaimed. Mind you, too much of a good thing is never a good thing, but there has been renewed interest the multitude of compounds in coffee that extend far beyond the most popular, i.e. caffeine.
Globally, 7 million tons of coffee is consumed per year. Wow! That’s a a lot of beans. Moreover, just think of the infinite tons that have been consumed since coffee’s energizing properties were first discovered prior to the start of the 14th Century in Ethiopia. Aside from it stimulative properties, what other treasures lurk each time we reach for a cuppa?
According an extensive review in the online edition of Maturitas, there may be a lot to be gained by consuming this delightful beverage (can you tell how excited coffee makes me?!). Indeed, when the researchers searched and evaluated 22 years of articles, they discovered that the compounds in coffee that are most beneficially linked to health are polyphenols, the most abundant antioxidants in the human diet. Much like chocolate and even green tea, coffee is rich in polyphenols, and the most common are known as phenolic acids, which appears to slow the release of glucose into the bloodstream. This may be an important reason why research has repeatedly shown that coffee has a protective effect against diabetes, although one needs to have a moderate to high intake (4-6 cups a day) to achieve the best protection.
Drinking coffee may also help defend against liver damage, regardless if the culprit is a virus, drugs, alcohol or abnormal, malignant cells, although experts can’t yet explain why. Still, in studies, this protection was seen in both healthy and at-risk populations in numerous studies.
Another potentially important benefit of coffee is a reduced risk of Parkinson’s Disease; significant reviews have suggested that this reduction may be as high as a third. An important part of this story is that in postmenopausal women, HRT may shift this benefit to the negative side, and actually convert the protective role of caffeine into a risk factor for Parkinson’s (yet another reason to reconsider taking hormones).
So, what about heart disease? The buzz has long been that drinking coffee can increase blood pressure, worsen irregular heart rhythms and raise cholesterol levels. The review authors say that better and more ample clinical data, coupled with a greater understanding of the multiple components of coffee other than caffeine, have changed the paradigm. Importantly, the very compounds mentioned earlier — phenolic acids – and the pattern they form depending on the variety of coffee, roasting and processing, may help neutralize or reverse the negative. The most important hero in this story is a derivative of a common type of phenolic acid: chlorogenic acid.
Chlorgenic acid improves the function of cells that line the blood vessels and may work to attenuate increases in blood pressure. In women, coffee intake and perhaps the activity of chlorogenic acid may lower coronary heart disease. Moreover, detailed evaluation of available evidence fails to demonstrate a higher risk for abnormal heart rate or sudden cardiac death. And, while the verdict is still out, the researchers say that coffee may even exert a protective effect against cancer, possibly asa result of its antioxidant/antiinflammatory effect.
Before you up your daily caffeine intake, keep in mind that there is still much to be discovered about coffee. Many of these studies were observational studies, meaning that there was no attempt to control the outcomes with treatment. And response to certain compounds within coffee may be individually-driven. Still, in moderation, coffee may be less harmful (and more beneficial) than we have been led to believe.
Coffee equals the black, irreplaceable elixir in any language. To your health? Indeed!
I am on a roll! On a roll around my midsection, that is.
Ever wonder why women may be likelier than men to gain fat in their abdominal area, especially as they go through menopause? Yup, we’ve talked lots on Flashfree about estrogen, exercise and even stress and the release of cortisol and how they affect that growing tummy donut. However, researchers are now adding another factor into the mix that may occur especially in women: a high-fat diet. Mind you, this particular study, which is published online in Diabetes journal, was conducted in mice so it’s way too early to comment on how the findings affect actual humans. But what it does imply is that diet might not be the only factor at play and in women, genetics and gender play an equally important role.
Researchers say that when female mice were fed a high fat diet, it triggered the production of an enzyme (called aldehyde dehydrogenase 1) that produce a hormone — retinoic acid — that boosts the formation of fat around the abdomen. Let’s step back; high fat diet leads to enzyme, leads to retinoic acid leads to belly fat. Got it?
Interestingly, not only is this enzyme activated at nine times the level in female versus male mice, but when removed, this domino effect disappears. What’s more? Estrogen can suppress the enzyme so when it starts to decline, women become more prone to developing that midsection bulge.
The culprit here is vitamin A and how the female body processes it. One of the functions of vitamin A is to produce a molecule that supports how the body burns both fat for energy and retinoic acid. Evidently, high fat diets can directly shut down the fat burning molecule and the domino effect begins, resulting in the midlife bulge many of us have come to know so well.
The good news is that on a regular diet, female mice barely produced retinoic acid, meaning the simple solution for women may be to stay away from high fat meals as much as possible.
If you can’t burn it, and you can’t rely on estrogen to keep the fire going (or take it away -ironic, right?!), then take some steps and do it yourself. D is for diet. F is for female. The endgoal? Do the math.Read More
I’ve written a lot about diet and maintaining a healthy weight , as well as impact on overall health as you age. And I will continue to do so as long as Flashfree is published. However, I have not written much on diet and how it affects symptoms, mostly because the evidence is pretty scant in that regard. Still, it has come up in conversations repeatedly and I feel that it’s time to at least broach the topic, especially since I discovered Dr. Akiko Sugahara, a Tokyo-based nutrition, anti-aging and women’s health specialist and her book, Menopause Recipes for Health and Beauty.
When it comes to maintaining health, obtaining minerals and vitamins through dietary sources is always preferable although not always possible. And while I cannot vouch for anything that Dr. Sugahara has shared in her book, her publicist did reach out with an offer to let me share a few pages here. Draw your own conclusions; we do know that not all soy products are created equal, and that isoflavone benefits may vary as well. Still, Dr. Sughara’s message is health comes first, which is why I chose this particular section to reprint in part. Please note that in her ebook, Dr. Sughara actually provides 10 ideas, which I have condensed for space purposes. If you want to read more, do download her book on her Facebook page.
Thank you Dr. Sughara, for providing your words to this post.
A deterioration in your physical condition during menopause renders you more vulnerable mentally. In this section, we present concrete ideas that will help you to manage menopause skillfully and improve your physical and mental health.
Taking a closer look at your everyday diet and identifying the problems.
Food preparation at home can sometimes fall below standard once the children have grown up. Before you know it, you might find yourself snacking instead of eating proper meals, eating lots of precooked meals and instant foods from your local supermarket or eating out more than you should. Where your diet is concerned, it is well worth making that extra effort for the sake of your own health and that of your family.
To identify potential problem areas, let’s first itemize your food balance.
Fermented soybean products more effective than supplements
The effectiveness of isoflavone in alleviating menopausal disorders is often discussed on television, and the link between soybeans and isoflavone is now common knowledge. Daily consumption of raw tofu, dried tofu, fermented soybeans, boiled beans or other soybean products is essential in treating and preventing menopausal disorders. Soybean milk, for example, is a convenient source of such also chill your body somewhat, so it is best consumed as an ingredient in stews and other hot dishes. Fermented foods, such as miso and vinegar, are more readily absorbed by the body and therefore provide isoflavone with a stronger effect.
Constipation relief as the basis for menopause relief
Many women with severe menopausal symptoms suffer from constipation. This condition also renders its sufferers more sensitive to the cold, often contaminating the blood and preventing it from flowing smoothly. This in turn reduces the amount of oxygen reaching the brain, making you absentminded and unable to organize your thoughts to get things done. Curing constipation therefore restores the blood flow to your extremities, bringing back the warmth to your hands and feet. The most effective cure for constipation is a diet of foods rich in isoflavone and polyphenols and especially dietary fibre, and sprouted brown rice is a prime example of these. Be wary of long-term use of medicinal laxatives, since they cause body chills that are felt deep inside your body.
Combating obesity with foods in 5 colours
Menopause is often accompanied by weight gain. Overeating to console loneliness is a primary cause, and a healthy digestive system will readily convert any excess intake into fat. This often results in a shortage of essential B- group vitamins, which promote complete combustion of nutrients and improve rain function, making it difficult to burn stored body fat. To combat weight gain, you should reduce your consumption of sweets and fruit and increase your consumption of stews made from as many as possible of the ingredients in the five basic colours. If you are susceptible to weight gain, then a staple of sprouted brown rice and wholegrain bread and an appropriate amount of exercise are recommended. This alone should eliminate obesity, helping menopausal symptoms to disappear naturally.
Dried foods effective for chills and abdominal ptosis
Many women who suffer from chills also have abdominal ptosis, or drooping of the viscera. This condition causes a deterioration in the secretion of gastric acid, preventing the essential absorption of iron and copper. It also causes the stomach to become bloated, so fatty foods lose their taste, and at the same time it restricts the consumption of plain foods. Consequently, some women skip breakfast or lunch or eat too little generally, resulting in a diet deficient in protein, iron and vitamins. To make things worse, the greater sensitivity to the cold that accompanies this condition can cause insomnia. The solution is to eat lots of shellfish, prunes and other dried fruits, cooked foods with iron and copper-rich whole-fish dishes and fried liver and vegetables. To compensate for the reduced amount of stomach acid, perhaps it would be a good idea to also eat foods containing vinegar and hot Chinese-style dishes with flavoured vinegar or to use pickled Japanese apricots in your cooking.
Idea 5: Combating osteoporosis with dried foods and fermented foods
Female hormones strengthen the bones to mitigate the effects of bone aging. As the secretion of female hormones declines, more bone cells are destroyed than are produced, and osteoporosis soon sets in, leaving the bones thinner and more porous and brittle. One way of dealing with osteoporosis is to include calcium-rich small fish, dried foods and fermented foods in your diet and to walk between 30 minutes and one hour every day. Another is to compensate for the decline in female hormones by eating plenty of isoflavone-rich foods such as miso soup and fermented soybeans to prevent body chills. Whenever possible, it is preferable to cure yourself using your own efforts rather than relying on yourdoctor.
Lately, I’ve been focusing on diet, exercise and weight a lot of Flashfree, mostly because women consistently talk about the changes that they are trying to make to eat more healthy foods, incorporate regular exercise into their busy schedules and pay closer attention to the more granular details of their lives, like stress and schedules. So, I was truly intrigued when I ran across a study in Psychological Reports discussing how music and lighting can also impact both how much we enjoy our food but also, how much we eat during a meal.
Although this research focuses on fast food restaurants, I believe that it could easily be extrapolated to the home setting or influence our choices of setting when we eat out. When the researchers did a partial makeover on a local Hardees, adding softer lighting and less jarring music to half the restaurant, they found that patrons who ate in the ‘chill section actually lingered longer and consumed roughly 18% less of what they ordered. Moreover, they rated the food more enjoyable.
When was the last time you sat down for a proper meal, turned off the cell phone and email, dimmed the lights and put on some relaxing music? I was fortunate to do so over the weekend with a good friend and it was just what the doctor ordered. I wasn’t paying too much attention to how much I was eating but rather, that it was such a nice to treat to simply hang out and talk for hours.
Perhaps it’s time to change the focus towards atmosphere. It may make a world of difference.Read More
A lot of you have written to me back channel to see if there is any evidence that diet affects menopausal symptoms. Up until now, I have run across many articles but little evidence on the topic. Hence, I was heartened to read about the positive effect of dietary changes and weight loss on hot flashes and night sweats in the online edition of Menopause.
The original intent of this study of over 17,000 women was to assess how a low-fat diet might benefit heart disease, breast and colorectal cancer and fracture risk among postmenopausal women. Nearly half of the women were asked to reduce their fat intake to only 20% of total energy and increase daily fruits and veggies intake to at least 5 servings daily, and whole grains, to 6 servings daily. Over the course of 5 years, they also received regular, intensive behavioral training conducted by a nutritionists and registered dietitians. The other half of the women only received a copy of Dietary Guidelines for Americans and other health-related materials. All were between the ages of 50 and 79.
Although weight loss was not a study goal, per se, on average women who agreed to changes in their diet lost an average of 4 pounds in the first year. And these women were able to reduce night sweats and hot flashes. What’s more? Women who lost more than 10% of their overall weight were significantly likely to eliminate their symptoms entirely (note that only a small proportion of women — 1% — reported having severe night sweats or hot flashes and symptoms were mostly mild to moderate in intensity). But, the findings get even more granular. The researchers write that when they did an additional analysis that women who lost the most weight (22 lbs) had more than twice the odds of eliminating moderate or severe vasomotor symptoms compared with women who maintained their weight.
Although the reasons are unclear, weight loss may reduce the amount of adipose tissue -the tissue that stores fat — and by default, reduce its insulation-type, thereby boosting the body’s ability to attack excessive body heat. Regardless, there are many reasons to maintain weight as we age. If this is an additional benefit, I say bring on the fruits and vegs!
This post will not be very popular amongst some people. And I apologize in advance for that. But I only share information that you may find useful; it’s up to you to decide how to use it.
Lately, there’s been a craze to consume diets high in protein and low in carbs in order to stave off weight and theoretically, certain diseases. But what if a diet out of balance is placing your heart at risk? That’s exactly what researchers are reporting in a large study of almost 44,000 Swedish women that was published this week in the open access British Medical Journal. You can find that study here. Mind you, the researchers caution that the findings don’t address whether or not there are benefits to eating such a diet in the short term. But this is what they do show:
- After examining questionnaires collected over a 15+ year period in this group of relatively young women (ages 30 to 49), they observed 1,270 heart events, including heart disease, stroke, hemorrhage and peripheral disease of the arteries.
- When they scored the diets based on protein or carb intake (with 1 being ‘very high’ and 10, ‘very low) or a mixed diet (with 2 associated with hi carb/lo protein and 20, every low carb and very high protein) they learned that a 1 point decline in intake of carbohydrates or 1 point increase in protein was associated with a 4% increase in heart events.
- Each 2 point increase in low carb/high protein diets (which is equivalent to a 5 gram increase in daily protein intake and a 20 gram decline in daily carbohydrate intake, was linked to a significant 5% increase in heart events. Moreover, these risks did not differ substantially among women whose protein intake primarily derived from animal or plant origin.
The researchers state that “vegetables, fruits, cereals and legumes, which have been found in several studies to be core components of healthy dietary patterns, are important sources of carbohydrates so reduced intake of these food groups is likely to have adverse effects on cardiovascular health,” adding that “several studies have reported that meat consumption or hight intake of protein from animal sources may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.”
So, what’s the primary message here? Well, like any other study, nothing is definitive. And yet, we know that heart disease risk naturally increases as women age. Should you continue to ascribe to the low-carb/high-protein craze, you may want to pay extra attention to your heart health. You may look like a million bucks and your insulin levels may be fabulous but your heart may be struggling to keep up. Meanwhile? Concentrate on low fat animal proteins and try to stay with the 80-20 rule if you refuse to change your ways, i.e., 80% protein, 20% carbohydrates. Seriously? Have a heart.Read More