Diet

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Some Interesting Health Effects of Tart Cherries

Tart cherries (Prunus cerasus) don’t get quite as much love as their sweet counterparts – other than in baked goods like cherry pie and black forest cake.

But they might deserve a little more attention from you, because science has revealed that there are surprising health benefits associated with the fruit. Tart cherries are a rich source of phenolic compounds. These chemicals have been shown to exert amazing physiological effects when consumed, including reducing inflammation, improving sleep, and even speeding up exercise recovery.

Additionally, we know from prior research that some of these compounds can modulate vascular cells in vitro – which has caused scientists to wonder if adding fruit like tart cherries to the diet could lower blood pressure through its effects on vasculature. High blood pressure is a pervasive health issue, affecting as many as 1 in 3 adults in the US, so there’s a lot of interest in finding ways to address it via lifestyle.

But as we all know, applying chemicals to cells in a petri dish does not necessarily translate to real life. Researchers from Northumbria University designed a trial to put it to the test. Click here to find out what the researchers discovered.



Which Parts of a Meal Can Make You Sleepy? (Keith Murphy Interview)

Everyone knows what it’s like to feel sleepy after a big meal. Think of what happens after Thanksgiving dinner, or after getting a huge lunch at an Indian buffet. If you’re like me, you’re ready to crash.

But why does this happen? Is it the tryptophan in the turkey? Is it from too many carbs? What you eat, how much you eat, and when you eat it all play a role. Consequently, there has been some doubt as to whether the “food coma” is even a real thing.

But recently, some clever researchers identified a good model organism for studying this phenomenon – the fruit fly. And through studying the behavior of Drosophila, we now better understand what causes a food coma, and perhaps why it occurs.

In the latest episode of humanOS Radio, I interview Keith Murphy of the Scripps Research Institute. He and his colleagues have been researching the so-called food coma, and have found some substantive evidence for this phenomenon. Listen here to find out more about his study – and some reasons why the food coma might be happening.


Social Norms – Mysterious Forces That Shape Eating

You are fully in control over your food choices, right? Well, we know that a wide range of rules govern how we act, and even our beliefs, when we are with different groups of people. Social psychologists characterize this influence as ‘social norms,’ and guess what? This influence affects eating, too.

In this latest episode of humanOS radio, I interview Emma Templeton from Thalia Wheatley’s lab at Dartmouth and Michael Stanton, Assistant Professor, Department of Nursing & Health Sciences, California State University, East Bay. Recently, they published a study in the journal, PLoS ONE, that elegantly tests the influence of social norms on the perceived healthfulness of food and also eating behavior. Listen here to listen.


Why Are We Fatter Than Our Ancestors? Interview with Dr. Stephan Guyenet

Why do so many of us overeat – even when we know it’s bad for us?

Like many questions in biology, much of the answer to this question lies in evolution. We know that animals have generally evolved to seek and consume convenient, energy-dense foods. All living things require energy to survive and reproduce, and it makes intuitive sense that genes associated with finding and eating lots of easy calories might be favored by natural selection. This instinct is also evident in humans in natural environments. Hunter-gatherers, who live in conditions similar to that of our evolutionary ancestors, gravitate to delicious high-calorie fare, although they don’t find a great deal of it. When they do get something extra tasty and high in energy – like ripe fruit, fresh meat, and honey – they will gorge on it.

Not unlike us. Modern humans are subject to these impulses as well. So what’s different? Our environment has dramatically changed. Rather than getting rare seasonal opportunities to gorge on rich foods, we are now constantly surrounded by such delicacies. We did not evolve with any need to resist these kinds of tasty treats – so perhaps it is unsurprising that we so often fail despite our best intentions.

Guest

In this episode of humanOS Radio, I talk once again with Dr. Stephan Guyenet, this time about his new book, The Hungry Brain, which was just released this week.

In his book, Stephan addresses the fundamental question of why we overeat. It’s not necessarily for a lack of education on nutrition. Rather, it is due to evolutionarily-conserved circuitry in the brain, which drives us to overeat for short-term pleasure – even when we know it’s at the expense of our health and well-being. In the show, he explains how these circuits work to regulate energy intake and body fatness.

Much of this is based on physiology and genetic predispositions – but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it. We also discuss things you can do to manage these primal impulses in a fattening world, and make sure that your daily behaviors are in alignment with your health and weight goals.


Is High Protein Actually Bad During Weight Loss? (Interview with Stephan Guyenet, Ph.D.)

Protein is really important for dieting success, right? Anyone who has interested in the science of dieting knows this, but recent research from Bettina Mittendorfer, Research Associate Professor at Washington University in St. Louis’s School of Medicine, and colleagues published in Cell Reports has raised doubts that protein is indeed a wholly-helpful solution. To shed light on this study and its findings, I invited Dr. Stephan Guyenet to join humanOS Radio for a conversation. Perhaps no other person has done more in the last few years to help the general public, and even health professionals, understand the true meaning of new research dealing with energy regulation and weight control.


Is Good Cholesterol Overrated? How to Make Your HDL Work Better

For years, we’ve heard that there are two primary types of cholesterol on a standard lipid panel that really matter for heart health.

The first one is the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad cholesterol,” which you want to keep low. The other type is high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good cholesterol,” which you want to have as much of that as possible. Right?

Well, recent research has suggested that the relationship between HDL cholesterol and cardiovascular disease is far more complicated than previously believed. In fact, having high HDL may not necessarily mean that you’re at reduced risk of having a heart attack.

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at HDL, and discuss some important nuances.


Saturated fat – What’s the real story? Interview with Dr. David Katz

Dietary fat is a class of nutrients of which there are many different types. Some types appear to have clear beneficial effects on human physiology in certain contexts, like for example olive oil, while others appear to impair our health when they comprise too high a fraction of our calorie intake over time. Saturated fat has been called out for decades by health authorities as something we should monitor and limit. Recently, however, this idea has been called into question by several meta-analyses, which is a type of scientific examination where all the research on a subject pooled and analyzed together to help determine what the weight of the evidence tells us on that subject. In this interview with Dr. David Katz at Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, we discuss not only the findings but also how to best interpret them so that you can continue to make good dietary choices in your own life.


How Olive Oil Keeps Your Blood Vessels Healthy

We’ve known for a long time that people who consume more olive oil – as opposed to other sources of dietary fat – are protected in certain ways from heart disease. And some recent research has started to uncover the reasons why.

One compelling and unappreciated way that olive oil prevents cardiovascular disease has to do with its impact on blood pressure.

High blood pressure is often characterized as a “silent killer” because it can cause permanent damage throughout the body without any obvious symptoms. Tragically, by the time the problem becomes obvious, it is sometimes too late to reverse the damage.
About 70 million adults in the US have hypertension – that’s 1 in every 3! And only around 52% of people with hypertension have it under control. It is also likely that many are walking around with the condition who don’t even know they have it.

In this post, we will discuss why consuming extra virgin olive oil seems to help keep blood pressure in check – and how you can best take advantage of this in your own diet.


Lifestyle Modifications to Extend Life by Limiting Growth

Does the ideal diet change across the lifespan? I couldn’t help circling back to this idea regularly while writing this article. In the last article on this subject of growth promotion and better aging, we discussed the concept of antagonistic pleotropy, which suggests that natural selection may favor genes that increase reproductive potential – even at the expense of long-term vitality and longevity. But can we harness an understanding of this idea to alter how we live in our post-reproductive window, to stay younger and live longer? In my latest post, I address just that – lifestyle modifications that may not only be effective to help us surviving longer, but also to live better along the way.