Right combination of diet and bacteria limits cancer progression

Diet can have significant effects on the gut microbiome, the populations of microorganisms such as bacteria that live in the human gut. It is well recognised that through complex metabolic interactions, dietary habits contribute to cancer prevention. More specifically, diets rich in fibre reduce the risk of developing specific cancers such as colorectal cancer (CRC). Although such diets are an effective means of cancer prevention, their possible roles in cancer progression and treatment remains poorly understood.

A team of scientists from the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) and the Life Sciences Research Unit (LSRU) at the University of Luxembourg has found that a combination of prebiotics, such as dietary fibre, and probiotics, i.e. specific beneficial bacteria, reduces the expression of pro-carcinogenic and drug resistance genes. The combination leads to metabolic changes that affect the growth of cancer cells and may help treat diseases such as CRC.

In order to study diet-microbiome-host interactions, the biologists worked with a unique gut-on-a-chip platform called Human-Microbial X-talk (HuMiX), which allows the cultivation of human intestinal cells together with bacteria under representative conditions. In this study, they investigated the effects of dietary regimens and a specific probiotic on CRC cells.

In contrast to individual fibre-rich or probiotic treatments, it was only the combination of fibre and probiotics that led to the observed beneficial effects. Together with their collaborators, the researchers integrated a computer-based metabolic model of the interactions between diet, host and microbiome. They identified the effects of the combined treatment: the downregulation of genes associated with colorectal cancer and drug resistance, as well as the attenuation of the self-renewal capacity of the cancer cells. Importantly, through careful molecular analyses, they also identified the cocktail of molecules produced by the combination, thereby providing a mechanistic basis for the observed beneficial effects.

“Currently, cancer patients are not provided with evidence-based personalised dietary interventions during chemotherapy treatment. Our results provide support for exploiting the food-microbiome interactions as a supportive therapeutic approach in anti-cancer therapy,” explains Dr. Kacy Greenhalgh, post-doc within the Eco-Systems Biology group at LCSB and the lead author of the study. “I hope that our results will reach patients and medical practitioners in their respective fields and that in the future, more effort is put in, including personalised dietary recommendations into cancer treatment plans.”

Dr. Elisabeth Letellier, principal investigator within the Molecular Disease Mechanisms Group at LSRU, says, “This is especially the case in CRC, where the microbiome has increasingly gained importance over the last couple of years. A deeper understanding of the microbiome-host interaction could lead to new therapeutic strategies for CRC patients.”

The research project was a collaborative effort of different groups at the University of Luxembourg. “Deciphering the complex host-diet-microbiome interactions and their effect on health and disease states requires the concerted effort of experts from different fields. The interdisciplinary approach was crucial for understanding the very complex molecular processes underlying the observed beneficial biological effects,” says Associate Professor Paul Wilmes, head of the Eco-Systems Biology group at LCSB and senior author of the study.

Are You Sleep Deprived? It Could be Affecting Your Decisions in a Very Bad Way

Do you know anyone with a newborn baby? Or a loved one who has said they just can’t get to sleep at night? This article could be very much appreciated by someone with challenges sleeping. About 11 percent of Americans are sleep deprived, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey. After surveying nearly 404,000 adults, just 31 percent said they got enough sleep every night for the past month. Most fell somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between well-rested and utterly sleep deprived. Further, among people who were unable to work, nearly 26 percent said they had not had even one good night’s sleep in the prior 30 days, along with nearly 14 percent of unemployed people. A poll by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) found a similar trend, with nearly one-third of Americans saying they couldn’t get a good night’s sleep because of worries about the economy, money or their job. In all, 27 percent of those polled said their sleep had been disturbed in the past month due to money problems, such as:

Personal finances (16 percent)

The economy (15 percent)

Losing their job (10 percent)

This lack of sleep plaguing Americans may have life-threatening repercussions in their ability to make quick decisions when under pressure. Your Ability to Think Quickly is Threatened by Sleep Deprivation A study published in an issue of Sleep examined how sleep deprivation affected information-integration, a process that relies on making instant, gut-feeling decisions. Quick thinking is crucial to a number of professions, including military officers, firefighters and police officers, as well as anyone needing to think quickly when faced with a threatening situation that calls for instant action. After following 49 U.S. military cadets and analyzing their ability to perform information integration tasks while either well rested or sleep deprived, researchers found that even moderate sleep deprivation caused an immediate loss of information-integration abilities. Specifically, accuracy of the information-integration tasks declined by 2.4 percent when the cadets who were sleep deprived improved by 4.3 percent when they were well rested. The researchers wrote: “The findings suggest that the neural systems underlying information integration strategies are not strongly affected by sleep deprivation but, rather, that the use of an information-integration strategy in a task may require active inhibition of rule-based strategies, with this inhibitory process being vulnerable to the effects of sleep deprivation.”

What Else is Impacted When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep?

Sleep is an essential element of survival, and without it many of your body’s functions will fall apart. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), while rats normally live for two to three years, those deprived of all sleep only live about three weeks, and those deprived of REM sleep (the stage of sleep when we dream and during which it’s thought brain regions used in learning are stimulated) survive only about five weeks on average. At the same time, the rats developed abnormally low body temperatures and sores on their tails and paws. Researchers believe the sores indicate a sluggish immune system and suggest just how detrimental sleep deprivation can be to the immune system of humans. Further, according to the Sleep Council, insufficient sleep could:

Make you fat. People who sleep four hours a night or less are 73 percent more likely to be overweight than those who sleep enough. Even if you sleep less than six hours a night, you’re 25 percent more likely to be overweight than those who sleep longer. Increase your appetite (also causing you to gain weight). Research by University of Bristol researchers found that people who slept for five hours had 15 percent more of a hormone called ghrelin, which increases appetite, than those who slept for eight hours. Meanwhile, the short sleepers also had 15 percent less leptin, which is a hormone that suppresses appetite. Mimic the aging process. In fact, University of Chicago researchers found that sleeping for four hours a night for less than seven nights interferes with your ability to process and store carbs, and regulate hormone levels — all of which may lead to aging. Impact your brain. According to Canadian sleep expert Stanley Coren, you lose one IQ point for every hour of lost sleep you didn’t get the night before.

Further, an NSF poll found 54 percent of adults, which amounts to a potential 110 million licensed drivers, have driven when drowsy at least once in the past year, and 28 percent said they have nodded off or fallen asleep while driving. The obvious repercussions of this could be increased motor vehicle accidents and a major public safety problem. Secrets to a Sound Night’s Sleep If you’ve been sleep deprived for several days, you will create a “sleep debt” that will need to be repaid, meaning that you’ll need to sleep longer than usual just to function normally and feel rested. Here are 17 tips that will help you to not only fall asleep, but ensure your night’s sleep is peaceful and fully restorative:

Exercise, ideally everyday. This positive stress will tire out your body in a good way – – just be sure not to exercise too close to bedtime (within three hours), as it could keep you up. 2. Use a safe and natural sleep aid. 3. Stretch a bit before you lie down. You can literally stretch out some of the “kinks” and tension of the day. If muscles spasms present a problem, use a natural muscle relaxant that provides comprehensive support for acute and chronic muscle spasms. Also ask your next appointment if Magnesium Citrate and Calcium Citrate including what dosage would be most helpful for your condition. 4. Wear earplugs or an eye mask. If you can hear noisy traffic or see lights from outside, earplugs and an eye mask can give you the silence and the darkness that are ideal for sleep. 5. Create a relaxing bedtime routine. Take a bath before bed, brush your teeth, get into your PJs and turn on some soothing music that will let your mind know it’s time for slumber. 6. Once you are in bed, for a few minutes read something you are least interested in or listen to a relaxing CD to help you “shift gears” and relax into sleep. 7. Don’t drink caffeinated or alcoholic beverages near your bedtime. 8. Keep to a regular schedule that includes a standard time to go to sleep and wake up. 9. Make your room “sleepable.” A very dark, cool room is best for sleep. 10. Get a handle on your stress. It is the number-one cause of sleep problems, according to sleep experts. Ask at your next appointment for recommended comprehensive nutritional support for stress and anxiety if you can not get a handle on the stress during daytime hours. Using GABA and other calming nutrient

StressArrest effectively blocks stress and anxiety messages before they reach the motor centers of the brain. 11. Put the kibosh on work before bed. If you work or do other mentally trying activities too close to bedtime, you may have a hard time relaxing for sleep. And Now for Six Sleep Tips You May Not Know Of … 12. Get a new mattress. About 87 percent of people who purchase a new mattress say they are satisfied with their choice and its impact on their quality of sleep, the Better Sleep Council reports. Generally, a mattress’ life span is five to seven years. 13. Evaluate your prescription medications. Certain prescription and over-the-counter drugs — such as steroids, decongestants and drugs for high blood pressure, depression and asthma — can keep you up at night. If you’re having trouble sleeping, consult with your doctor to see if your medications could be to blame. 14. Make love. Sexual activity helps to relax your body! 15. Eat something. Feeling hungry can make it hard to fall asleep. A light snack, such as peanut butter on whole-grain crackers, can help you to get a good night’s sleep. 16. Massage your feet, especially with warm oil, right before bed — it’s very relaxing. 17. If you smoke, quit. Nicotine is linked to difficulty falling asleep and problems waking up.

Spring Cleaning for Your Body: 10 Steps to Detoxify and Get Healthier for Spring

Traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, the ancient healing system from India, both recommend springtime as the ideal season to detox your body. The rebirth of nature that happens during this time harmonizes with a cleansing and renewing of your body. Plus, some of us tend to get lax about our diets and exercise routines during the cold winter months, which means come spring we’re ready to come out of hibernation.

Why Do You Need to Detox?

Modern living isn’t exactly pure. Every day we’re exposed to chemicals in our food and water, pollution in our air, and emotional stress in our lives. Over time, these toxins accumulate in your body and can manifest as insomnia, fatigue, digestive problems, aches and pains or even chronic disease. Detoxification gives your body a chance to rest, clear out toxins and become nourished. Generally this is done by first removing and eliminating toxins, then providing your body with healthy nutrients. There are numerous over-the-counter supplements you can take to aid in your detox, and some people even do so by fasting. During a fast, your body uses up glucose, the body’s main source of energy, and then moves on to its next source of energy, fat. It is therefore said that fasting helps with weight loss and to detoxification of your body, as toxins from pollution, food, water and more that are stored in your body fat begin to dissolve and are released by your body. There are, however, steps you can take right now to help cleanse and renew your body, none of which involve extreme fasting diets. We’ve described the top ones below.

10 Ways to Detox Your Body Naturally

1. Eat fresh,

whole organic foods. Processed foods contain preservatives, artificial colors and flavors and many other additives that are not good for your body. To really give your body a break, cut back on processed food and focus on whole, natural foods instead. Adding more raw foods to your diet is also a popular way to start a detox, as eating raw foods is said to increase energy while boosting mood, slowing aging and fighting chronic diseases. And as much as possible, choose foods free of pesticides, genetically modified ingredients and other additives. If you must budget, switch first to organic animal products (meat, eggs and dairy), as animal protein tends to accumulate toxins faster. Next, choose organic versions of the most heavily polluted produce, such as these 15 fruits and vegetables with the most pesticides. The MOST Contaminated Fruits and Veggies (Buy These Organic) A. Peach B. Apple C. Sweet Bell Pepper D. Celery E. Nectarine F. Strawberries G. Cherries H. Kale I. Lettuce J. Grapes – Imported K. Carrot L. Pear M. Collard Greens N. Spinach O. Potato

2. Exercise.

It will help you relieve stress and improves your circulation and overall health.

3. Quit smoking.

Cigarettes contain over 4,000 different chemicals.

4. Drink more pure water.

Drinking pure water helps flush toxins from your system while helping your cells function more efficiently. But be careful not to drink just any water. A recent Environmental Working Group study found 141 unregulated chemicals, and 119 regulated ones, in U.S. drinking water supplies. And bottled water, which typically comes in BPA-containing bottles and may in fact be nothing more than bottled tap water, is not a safe alternative. To put your mind at ease and get safe, superior quality water from your own kitchen, we consider a kitchen water filter that reduces chlorine, chloramines, cysts, VOCs, pesticides, and herbicides below detectable levels for the life of the filter. The best water filters combine the filtration and enhancement technologies to deliver the purest and most natural tasting water available. It should effectively reduce harmful contaminants.

5. Remove contaminants from your shower.

When you step into your hot shower, you are inadvertently exposing your body to a slew of toxins that can damage your health, inside and out. These toxins stem from a chemical that is added to the water supply on purpose, ironically to kill bacteria. The chemical is chlorine, and it’s added to all public water supplies to kill disease-causing bacteria in the transport pipes and the water itself. By taking a hot shower you end up absorbing over 600 percent more chlorine and other chemicals than you would from drinking the same un-filtered water all day!

6. Use natural cleaning products in your home.

Using typical cleaning sprays and air fresheners at least once a week can increase your risk of asthma by 30-50 percent..z Instead, opt for antimicrobial cloths, dusters and mitts for all of your cleaning needs. Look for terry cloths that contain patented built-in antimicrobial protection and are made of ultra micro fibers that are only 3 microns in size, which is even smaller than many bacteria. With antimicrobial cleaning products, unlike ordinary cleaning rags and sponges, you don’t need to use chemical cleaners to achieve the deepest clean, which makes them perfect for anyone who’s looking to keep toxic cleaners OUT of their home. If you choose to use cleaning products, you can opt for natural varieties that are environmentally excellent and safe for cleaning products lines – containing no hazardous ingredients, petrochemicals, perfumes, dyes or animal byproducts.

7. Be careful of what drugs you take.

Sometimes medication is necessary, but you may want to think twice before constantly popping pills for every ache and pain. Many can cause side effects and may contain chemicals that can damage your kidneys.

8. Limit your alcohol intake.

Alcohol is a poison, and in excess amounts it will cause harm to your body. How much is too much? According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, most adults can use alcohol moderately — meaning up to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women and older people — and not experience problems. (One drink equals one 12-ounce bottle of beer or wine cooler, one 5- ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.)

9. Switch to natural personal care products.

The vast majority — some 89 percent — of the 10,500 ingredients used in personal care products (products that you rub into your scalp and skin, spread onto your face and trust on your body) have never been evaluated for safety by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) panel, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or any other institution. Look for all natural and safe alternatives.

10. Meditate and focus on the positive.

It’s a simple (and free) way to detoxify your mind and spirit.

To Fight Fatty Liver, Avoid Sugary Foods and Drinks

Overweight children with fatty liver disease sharply reduced the amount of fat and inflammation in their livers by cutting soft drinks, fruit juices and foods with added sugars from their diets, a rigorous new study found.

The new research, published in JAMA on Tuesday, suggests that limiting sugary foods and drinks may be a promising lifestyle strategy to help alleviate a devastating condition linked to the obesity crisis that is spreading rapidly in adults and children. An estimated 80 million to 100 million Americans have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which causes the liver to swell with dangerous levels of fat. Roughly seven million of those are adolescents and teenagers.

Fatty liver disease typically has few symptoms, and many people who have it don’t know it. But fatty liver disease raises the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and it can progress to a more severe condition called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, which is a leading cause of liver cancer, cirrhosis and liver transplants.

Current guidelines call for children who have fatty liver disease to exercise and eat a healthy diet though they do not specify particular foods. But some experts already counsel their fatty liver patients to avoid added sugars, which manufacturers commonly add to heavily processed foods and which are different than the sugars that occur naturally in foods like fruit. Added sugars are typically high in fructose, which can ramp up the production of new fat when it is metabolized by the liver.

“The current standard of care is very similar to what we would recommend for any child that is overweight,” said Dr. Miriam Vos, an author of the new study and an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Emory University School of Medicine. “Unfortunately, that general recommendation hasn’t improved the disease as much as we would like, and there are no large randomized trials looking at which diet is the best one for fatty liver.”

For the new study, Dr. Vos and her colleagues recruited 40 children, about 13 years old on average, who had fatty liver disease. Most were Hispanic, a group that has a particularly high prevalence of fatty liver disease, with an average of between 21 and 25 percent liver fat, more than four times the normal limit.

The researchers then randomly assigned the children to one of two diet groups for eight weeks.

One group limited added sugars, and the second group of children, which served as the control, remained on their usual diets. They were not given any special instructions to avoid or lower sugar.

To make the diet easier and more practical for the children in the limited-sugar group to follow, the researchers asked their families to follow it as well. They tailored the diet to the needs of each household by examining the foods they consumed in a typical week and then swapping in lower sugar alternatives. If a family routinely ate yogurts, sauces, salad dressings and breads that contained added sugar, for example, then the researchers provided them with versions of those foods that did not have sugar added to them.

Fruit juices, soft drinks and other sweet drinks were forbidden. They were replaced with unsweetened iced teas, milk, water and other non-sugary beverages. Dietitians prepared and delivered meals to the families twice a week, which helped them stick to their programs.

Ultimately, the low-sugar diet was not terribly restrictive. It was not low-carb, nor was it limited in calories. The children could eat fruit, starches and pasta, for example, and they were allowed to eat as much as they wanted. But the goal was to get their added sugar intake to less than 3 percent of their daily calories — less than the 5 to 10 percent limit for adults and children recommended by the World Health Organization.

After eight weeks, the low-sugar group had gotten their added sugar intake down to just 1 percent of their daily calories, compared to 9 percent in the control group. They also had a remarkable change in their liver health. They had a 31 percent reduction in liver fat, on average, compared to no change in the control group. They also had a 40 percent drop in their levels of alanine aminotransferase, or ALT, a liver enzyme that rises when liver cells are damaged or inflamed.

“As a practicing hepatologist, I see children weekly with fatty liver, and I would love to see this kind of improvement in my patients,” said Dr. Vos. “The exciting part was not only did the fat go down, but their liver enzymes also improved. That suggests that they also got a reduction in inflammation.”

The new study was funded in part by the Nutrition Science Initiative, a nonprofit research group that was co-founded by the science and health journalist Gary Taubes, a proponent of low-carb diets. The National Institutes of Health, the University of California, San Diego, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University also provided funding.

Dr. Joel E. Lavine, an expert who was not involved in the study, said it was cleverly done and demonstrated “some important points about what a major constituent of diet contributes to this problem in terms of liver fat and inflammation and cell injury.” He said the ubiquity of unhealthy foods makes such a diet difficult to follow, but that as a general rule doctors should advise patients and their families to check food labels for added sugars and to avoid or eliminate juices.

“The best diet, to make it very simple, is to shop the outside aisles in supermarkets and stay away from the middle aisles containing processed foods that come in boxes, cans and packages,” said Dr. Lavine, the chief of gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian.

The members of the low-sugar group lost about three pounds during the study, which may have contributed to their improvements in liver health. But Dr. Jeffrey B. Schwimmer, an author of the study, said it was unlikely to account for the large changes.

One cardiologist’s mission to reduce statin use for cholesterol

(CNN) High cholesterol? Here’s a pill. High blood pressure? Here’s two pills. High blood sugar? Here’s two pills and an injection. This is what many doctors routinely do without ever addressing why the cholesterol, blood pressure or blood sugar is abnormal in the first place.I used to practice this way until I realized that all I was doing was covering up the downstream effects of poor diet with a bunch of drugs, instead of changing the food.I am a practicing cardiologist. I trained at some of the finest medical institutions in the world, including Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins, and have been repeatedly recognized for great patient care. But what I really want to achieve professionally is to put myself out of work.Unfortunately, cardiologists have endless job security. And that’s because we’re treating the wrong thing. My waiting room was full of patients whose numbers I had made perfect but who still looked sick and felt terrible. Some even felt worse with all the drugs I had put them on. No cures, just a neverending revolving door of follow-up visits. This is not why I went to medical school.

Yet no one seemed to be doing anything about this or even acknowledging it. So I became obsessed with finding a better solution and founded a company that formulates foods to help lower cholesterol, backed by pharmaceutical-level science.There may be 30,000 food items in the average grocery store, but none of them has been subjected to any real scientific scrutiny. They bear all sorts of checkmarks and heart symbols, but that tells only part of the story. For example, a cereal might contain fiber — and boldly tout the ability of this nutrient to lower cholesterol — but the fine print reveals that a serving of the cereal also delivers the added sugar equivalent of three cookies. Any positive health effect of the fiber is completely negated. But how is the average consumer supposed to know this? They’re not. They’re just supposed to like the taste and feel good about buying that cereal. My patients may have been trying to “eat better,” but they were getting duped. Two decades ago, the National Institutes of Health cholesterol guidelines mandated that changing diet should be tried for three months as the first step in treating high cholesterol, before putting anyone on drugs. But today, many of my peers expressed skepticism that a food-based solution could work.It took more than 80,000 hours of training for me to become a cardiologist. How much of that time was spent on nutrition? Zero.Treatment guidelines, representing the standard of care, only pay lip service to nutrition. For example, the American Heart Association’s latest cholesterol management guideline is 120 pages long. How much of that is devoted to diet? One paragraph. The guideline mostly instructs providers on which patient to put on which drug and at what dose. Children as young as 10, according to the guidelines, can be started on statin medications such as Lipitor and Crestor.

In addition, physicians know only the prescription model. They are taught that the only truly valid proof of efficacy is a clinical trial and that everything else is conjecture. That’s why pharma rules, even though the literature is full of data about the health benefits of various foods. Food does not have “dosing data.”Did you know that doctors are monitored according to whether they prescribe medications? If I don’t follow the cholesterol guidelines by prescribing statins, insurers will send letters scolding me. If I don’t talk to you about the cholesterol-lowering effects of walnuts and oat bran, nobody cares. Physicians even get paid more when a drug is prescribed. A medical encounter that generates a prescription is considered more complex, which qualifies for higher reimbursement. In contrast, if a physician uses some of the very limited time with patients to talk about antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, they get nothing more.My solution is to give physicians, insurers and especially patients an alternative food-based option for cholesterol lowering that could compete with drugs on every level. These foods taste great and are formulated using only health-promoting ingredients. They are dosed and measured and as easy to prescribe and use as medications. Most important, they yield clinically meaningful cholesterol reductions as confirmed by a clinical trial.Given that 70 million Americans have high cholesterol, I approached big food companies and investors, naively thinking they would love my idea and want to help. They did not. Food manufacturers thought our ingredients (such as real almonds, walnuts, pecans and blueberries) were too expensive. They wanted to replace them with flavorings, artificial sweeteners and “fruit bits.” Investors thought the clinical trial we proposed doing to confirm efficacy was too uncertain. They told us we needed to have patents so we could charge prices like the pharmaceutical companies. No wonder this had never been done before. There was simply not enough profit in it. Patient health, it seems, is not very valuable.

Undeterred, my supporters and I pushed forward and, supported by grant funding, conducted a trial in two countries testing our foods in statin intolerant individuals. These were people who are candidates for statin drugs but either can’t or won’t take the medications due to side effects, such as muscle aches. The only instruction to the study participants was: “Eat these foods twice per day instead of something you’re eating already,” without making any other lifestyle changes. Literally as simple as “take this pill twice per day.”The result was that 20%, 30%, even close to 40% cholesterol reductions were found in many individuals in just 30 days. This data was submitted at an American Heart Association meeting and will be submitted for publication. These medication-level cholesterol responses were obtained with food, without the need for dietary overhauls or exercise routines. They don’t just represent an option for the estimated 20 million Americans who are statin intolerant and have no other solutions but for millions more who need to lower their cholesterol but don’t need stains.

As with medications, not everyone’s cholesterol will respond equally to a food intervention. Some people should be on statins even if their cholesterol is perfect. But given that it takes only a month of dietary change to determine whether you’re a food responder, doesn’t it make sense to give people the chance to at least try a validated food intervention before assigning them to a lifetime of pills? Especially since food doesn’t have any side effects, just side benefits such as lower blood pressure, better blood sugar control, weight loss and feeling better.Food is the comprehensive solution to a complex problem. And it just might put me — and pharmaceutical companies — out of business.

Mediterranean Diet

The year has just begun and already the best diet of the year has been named the Mediterranean diet. With health benefits ranging from helping you lose weight to living longerreducing the risk of heart disease, and boosting brain health, it’s no wonder this popular eating plan is getting all the praise.

The Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional diet of Mediterranean countries and is mostly plant-based with lots of non starchy veggies, fruit, healthy fats (mostly from olives and olive oil), nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, and fish. Red meat is eaten sparingly, and sugars and refined, starchy foods are generally off limits.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t indulge on this popular eating plan. In fact, one staple of the Mediterranean diet is something that’s not only good for your heart but could also help you wind down and reduce stress: wine. Specifically, red wine.

“Trying to mimic what people drink on the Mediterranean, red wine is a more popular choice,” registered dietitian Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD, told POPSUGAR, noting that red wine offers more heart-health benefits thanks to its concentration of the antioxidant resveratrol. She recommends no more than one five-ounce glass of red wine a day for women and two for men, although she said you can drink it every day.

“One component of the Mediterranean diet is that it encourages eating meals with others, and I interpret this as including wine as well,” Lauren said, adding that if you are going to drink on this diet, do so with friends or family, rather than drinking alone.

However, just because you are following the Mediterranean diet doesn’t mean you have to imbibe. Too much alcohol is inflammatory and may cause you to gain weight and make less healthy choices. It also depends on your goals, Lauren said; if you are a woman trying to get pregnant, she doesn’t recommend drinking any wine.

Registered dietitian and chef Julie Andrews, MS, agrees. She told POPSUGAR that while many health professionals warn against drinking alcohol since excessive alcohol can have negative health effects, drinking alcohol (especially red wine) in moderation can be beneficial.

“In general, I say if you love wine and have a healthy relationship with drinking alcohol, [as in] no personal or family history [of alcohol abuse], then go for that five ounces a day,” she told POPSUGAR. “It may help support overall health, but it certainly is just a tiny part of a giant overall picture of what a healthy diet looks like. Be sure to consume plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, heart-healthy fats, lean meats, and omega-rich seafood.”Image Source: Getty / Rafa Elias

Common Chemicals in Toiletries May Lead to Early Puberty

Since the early 2000s, researchers have noticed a troubling new trend in female development: Girls are entering puberty — developing breasts, pubic hair and getting their period — at younger ages.

So, what’s driving the trend? Some researchers have long suspected that hormone-manipulating chemicals are the culprit. But these chemicals aren’t necessarily coming from contaminated water or dangerous environments. Instead, they’re found in products we use every day, including shampoo, makeup and nearly every kind of toiletry. [12 Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals & Their Health Effects]

Now, a new study, published Dec. 3 in the journal Human Reproduction,supports the possibility that the chemicals in these personal-care products are advancing the onset of puberty. In the study, public health researchers tracked a group of pregnant women and their children for 13 years, periodically measuring the concentrations of three groups of chemicals in the participants’ urine. Their findings indicate that the odds governing whether a girl enters puberty earlier — which can have both physical and mental health effects — could be shifted even before children are born.

In other words, a pregnant woman’s chemical exposure could play a role.

Indeed, the researchers suspected that chemical exposure in utero could influence the onset of puberty years after the infant’s birth, said study author Kim Harley, a public health researcher at the University of California, Berkeley.

But because so many women have detectable amounts of these chemicals in their bodies, the question wasn’t whether or not someone was exposed to the chemicals, but rather how much they were exposed to them, Harley told Live Science.

In the study, the researchers looked at three kinds of so-called hormone disruptors — chemicals that interfere with the body’s hormone system. The groups included phthalates, which are found in fragrances; parabens, which are preservatives used in cosmetics; and phenols, which, during the study period, was used in antimicrobial soaps.

The study found that women with higher concentrations of one type of phthalate in their urine during pregnancy gave birth to girls who went on to develop pubic hair earlier than girls born to women with lower concentrations of the chemical in their urine. Similarly, women with high concentrations of phenol in their urine during pregnancy gave birth to girls who went on to begin menstruating sooner. When the researchers looked at the girls on their own, they found that nine-year-olds with higher paraben concentrations in their urine entered all three stages of puberty earlier those with lower concentrations. [7 Ways Pregnant Women Affect Babies]

Generally, the researchers found, the greater the exposure, the earlier the onset of puberty. For example, each doubling in maternal phthalate levelswas associated with the early onset of the growth of pubic hair by about 1.3 months.

This shift may not seem like a big change. But there are multiple hormone-disrupting chemicals acting at once, and “it all adds up,” said Karin Michels, a professor and chair of the department of epidemiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved with the study. Michels has conducted similar research, which also found that these chemicals appear to hasten puberty.

And even a small change in puberty timing can increase the risk of certain cancers, Harley said; earlier periods are a risk factor for both breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

There’s also the concern that too-young development could be challenging to cope with. “Developing early can put a lot of strain on girls that are physically looking mature but mentally still children — it changes the way they’re treated in society,” Harley said.

Still, Harley said, “We need more research to make sure what we found is real and not chance and holds out in other populations.” For example, a majority of the women and girls in the study lived below the poverty line and the women worked in agriculture, where they could be exposed to a range of other chemicals. Harley said future studies plan to address pesticide exposure, but there isn’t research showing that exposure to agriculture pesticides changes how hormone disruptors behave in the body, and most of the research on how pesticides impact development was done on chemicals that have now been almost completely phased out, such as DDT.

Michels, however, said that, based on her own research, lower-income individuals are generally exposed to more of these hormone-disrupting chemicals than others and are also more likely to be obese — which is known to shift puberty into an earlier start. Harley acknowledged this influence, too: Over half of the pregnant mothers and children in her study were overweight, Harley said, though her group accounted for that in their analysis.

As the research continues, consumers can mostly opt out of using these chemicals, Harley noted. The easiest to avoid is the phenol called triclosan, which now appears in only one brand of toothpaste. Shoppers can also look for products that are advertised as being “paraben-free”, but phthalates will be harder to avoid, since they’re often included in trade-secret scents, and companies don’t always have to disclose phthalates as an ingredient, she said.

There also needs to be a boost in education efforts, Michels said. And not just on these chemicals, but the effects of all chemical exposures as well as the effects of childhood obesity: Mothers try to do their best by their children, Michels said, but sometimes, it’s a matter of having the right information. As she pointed out, “Protecting children, from time of conception or even prior, is very important because they don’t take charge of it themselves.”

Lack of Sleep Hurting Your Business??

There was once a time — when I was younger — when I bragged about how little sleep I needed: “I can go on just three or four hours of sleep,” I remember telling people, thinking that it was a sign of strength. I’ve since learned that not getting enough sleep isn’t a sign of strength — it’s more of a weakness. It hurts our businesses and it could kill us.

Kill us?

Yes, that’s according to professor Matthew Walker, who is the director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley. His book, called Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams has just been released. Lack of sleep has been linked to many diseases — from cancer to Alzheimer’s — as well as obesity, diabetes, and poor mental health.

“Once you know that after just one night of only four or five hours’ sleep, your natural killer cells — the ones that attack the cancer cells that appear in your body every day — drop by 70%, or that a lack of sleep is linked to cancer of the bowel, prostate and breast, or even just that the World Health Organisation has classed any form of night-time shift work as a probable carcinogen, how could you do anything else?” Walker said in an interview with the Guardian.

It’s a huge problem that affects us personally. And it also affects our businesses.

Not getting enough sleep diminishes our mental abilities. It clouds our decision-making. It makes us irritable. It causes us to do things that we may not have done if we were thinking with a clearer head. As business owners, our employees, customers, suppliers, partners, and their families are relying on us to make the best decisions we can so that our companies can continue not only to survive, but also to grow and provide a livelihood for all.

RELATED: Stressed? Not Sleeping? Here’s What Science Says About Sleep and How Much You Need to Be a Productive Small Business Owner

Purposely not taking care of ourselves is violating the fiduciary responsibility that we all assume when we choose to lead.

Of course, there are many people who suffer from insomnia and this is a condition that is challenging to treat. But there are others, like me, who often choose to stay up later to watch the end of the game or a movie, do more work, have another drink, or read a little more. This just pushes our bodies too far.

Happily, I changed my habits a few years ago:

  • I stopped having that last glass of wine late in the night.
  • I drank that last cup of coffee at lunch, not dinner.
  • I made it a point to get the lights out around 10 p.m.

Sure, sometimes I don’t fall asleep right away. But relaxing and deep breathing in a quiet, darkened room without any stimulants is meditative. I admit that not all nights are the same and sometimes my travel schedule interrupts this routine. But I try to close my eyes and catch some sleep on longer flights or even — and this is true — put my head down for a 30-minute catnap at my desk. I don’t think these practices replace the value of a good night’s rest. But they help. Walker suggests going even further, like alarming oneself 30 minutes before going to bed in order to begin to “wind down.”

Our jobs as business owners require us to be healthy and mentally alert. The smartest business owners I know are balanced. They are not workaholics. They understand the benefits of moderation. They work hard, but then they know when to stop. They play hard, but then they know when to rest. They take care of their bodies and their minds because they know they are not only harming themselves, but potentially the others around them if they don’t.

So listen to me: Go to bed. Trust me, the world will continue to turn and you’ll be more able to deal with tomorrow’s problems after a good eight hours’ rest.

How much sleep do you need each night to run your business successfully the next day?

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Value Of Exercise & Keeping Your Body In Motion

If you’re sitting down while reading this, stand up. Guidelines released Monday by the federal government show that most Americans are not getting the exercise they need, costing the health care system over $100 billion each year.

The new standards are similar to those released 10 years ago, but the government is scrapping a recommendation that physical activity occur in 10-minute blocks, instead telling Americans to “move more and sit less” whenever possible.
Any amount of exercise has some health benefits, officials say, and some benefits are even immediate, like better quality of sleep or reduced anxiety.
“The new guidelines demonstrate that, based on the best science, everyone can dramatically improve their health just by moving — anytime, anywhere, and by any means that gets you active,” said Dr. Brett P. Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services.
The guidelines recommend an hour of “moderate-to-vigorous” activity each day for children 6 to 17, along with muscle-strengthening activities two days a week, like climbing on playground equipment or playing basketball. For the first time, the guidelines also recommend that preschool-age children have at least three hours of “active play” each day.
For older children and adults, moderate-to-vigorous activity can include brisk walking, running or “anything that makes the heart beat faster,” and adults should aim for about 2½ hours each week.
But just 26% of men, 19% of women and 20% of adolescents are meeting the standards, officials said, costing the US health care system $117 billion each year and leading to about 10% of premature deaths. The findings were published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
“When we move more, we have better cardiovascular health, we are stronger and less susceptible to disease, and we feel better,” Giroir said. “Physical activity can help manage chronic conditions that many Americans already have.”
Based on new evidence, the updated guidelines say exercise can reduce symptoms of anxiety, slow the progression of hypertension and Type 2 diabetes, and help prevent eight types of cancer in adults.
Exercise can also improve cognition in those with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or dementia, the guidelines say, and even reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
“These guidelines are fairly clear that there’s strong evidence that physical activity reduces a person’s risk for developing dementia,” said Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach at the Alzheimer’s Association.
The group, which was not involved in crafting the guidelines, says that exercise isn’t a cure for Alzheimer’s, but it notes that physical activity and other lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of cognitive decline. “That’s something you can do right now, today,” Fargo said, “People can begin to take their risk for dementia into their own hands.”
The American Heart Association announced Monday that it would adopt the government’s exercise standards.
“We urge other health groups and interested parties across the country to adopt the guidelines and join us in committing to help ensure more people get moving,” said Dr. Ivor Benjamin, the group’s president, adding that exercise can “help people live longer, healthier lives for themselves, their families and their communities.”

What Is Keto Cycling, & Is It Effective?

Chances are at least a few of your friends and family members are on the keto diet or have tried it. If you’re anything like me, the mere thought of bidding adieu to pasta and bread probably sends chills down your spine. But if you’re looking for a balance between getting the benefits of the keto diet without foregoing your carb fix altogether, keto cycling may be right up your alley.

But first things first: What is keto cycling? Although it’s essentially a form of the keto diet, it hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention.

“Keto cycling differs from the classical ketogenic diet because it allows more customization,” registered dietitian Robert Santos-Prowse tells SheKnows. “With a strict ketogenic diet, you need to restrict your carbs to minuscule amounts all the time. “With a cyclical approach, you are allowing yourself the freedom to enjoy some carbohydrates on a regular basis but still get the benefits of the ketogenic diet.”

Although doctors and nutritionists don’t have an agreed-upon protocol for keto cycling, Alex Jatzke, lead dietitian at Simplex Health, recommends five to six days of a strict ketogenic diet followed by one or two days of higher carbohydrate intake.

“While the ketogenic diet requires a more long-term low-carbohydrate and high-fat diet, keto cycling allows for more flexibility with carbohydrate intake while still resulting in the long-term health benefits of a ketogenic diet,” Jatzke explains.

More: 25 Incredible Keto Recipes Anyone Will Love 

If you’ve tried the keto diet and found it too difficult to maintain (or you have a hunch that it will simply be too restrictive), Jatzke tells SheKnows keto cycling may be beneficial in these situations. Additionally, she notes that “cycling in and out of carb restriction” could be particularly beneficial for balancing hormone levels in women.

“The cyclical ketogenic diet is very effective because of the ketogenic diet itself. The main benefit of a cyclical approach is that it improves the sustainability of the diet,” Santos-Prowse says. Although the keto diet is effective for weight loss, blood glucose control and blood pressure management, it’s incredibly restrictive, he adds.

“You have to restrict your carbohydrate intake to the equivalent of less than one apple a day. That’s hard to stick with long-term,” Santos-Prowse explains. “A cyclical approach allows you to add in a bit more carbs on a regular schedule.”

More: What Is “Keto Flu,” & How Do You Treat It? 

Of course, nutrition still matters on those higher carb days. Jatzke suggests getting your carbs from starchy vegetables, fruits and whole grains on those days.

“If you have a tendency towards binging behaviors, keto cycling should be avoided,” she adds — and if you have a history of eating disorders, Jatzke says a strict ketogenic diet is generally not recommended. In fact, she recommends that people with any type of preexisting medical condition consult with their doctors before starting keto cycling or the keto diet.

But not all doctors and nutritionists are on board with the keto diet. “I recommend keto cycling over the keto diet if clients are set on some sort of fad diet,” Sam Olmsted, consultant for All Inclusive Health, tells SheKnows. “However, it’s much more beneficial to simply have a balanced meal. Stick to whole grains, protein and vegetables while avoiding processed foods.”