Is fasting a free health fix – or is it just a fad? | Life and style | The Guardian

Restricting the amount you eat is said to fight disease, extend lifespan and improve wellbeing. As well as dieters, people with diabetes and MS could benefit

Source: Is fasting a free health fix – or is it just a fad? | Life and style | The Guardian

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Cheap vitamin D ‘would boost health’

Vitamin-DGreater access to cheap vitamin D supplements would improve the health of at-risk groups, experts say.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) says up to 25% of UK children are vitamin D deficient, leading to a rise in rickets cases.

In the BBC’s Scrubbing Up column, the college’s Prof Mitch Blair called for concerted action to tackle the problem.

The government said those with the greatest need already received free supplements.

The RCPCH said other options to increase vitamin D levels, such as fortifying a wider range of foods, should be considered.

Half of the UK’s white population, and up to 90% of the black and Asian people in the country are thought to be affected by vitamin D deficiency.

The first signs of deficiency include muscle and bone pain as well as swelling around the wrists and ribs.

A lack of the nutrient is linked to a higher incidence of diabetes, tuberculosis, multiple sclerosis as well as rickets – a disease that causes bones to become soft and deformed.

The number of cases of rickets has been rising, from 183 in 1996 to 762 in 2011. Continue reading Cheap vitamin D ‘would boost health’

Intermittent Fasting by Emma Young

For a healthier body and mind, forget food fads and try the age-old practice of going without.

THERE’S a fuzz in my brain and an ache in my gut. My legs are leaden and my eyesight is blurry. But I have only myself to blame. Besides, I have been assured that these symptoms will pass. Between 10 days and three weeks from now, my body will adjust to the new regime, which entails fasting for two days each week. In the meantime, I just need to keep my eyes on the prize. Forget breakfast and second breakfast, ignore the call of multiple afternoon snacks, because the pay offs of doing without could be enormous.

Fasting is most commonly associated with religious observation. It is the fourth of the Five Pillars of Islam. Buddhists consider it a means to practise self-control and advocate abstaining from food after the noon meal. For some Christians, temporary fasts are seen as a way of getting closer to God. But the benefits I am hoping for are more corporeal.

A new surge of interest in fasting suggests that it might indeed help people with cancer. It could also reduce the risk of developing cancer, guard against diabetes and heart disease, help control asthma and even stave off Parkinson’s disease and dementia. Many of the scientists who study fasting practise what they research, and they tell me that at my age (39) it could be vital that I start now. “We know from animal models,” says Mark Mattson at the US National Institute on Aging, “that if we start an intermittent fasting diet at what would be the equivalent of middle age in people, we can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.” Surely it’s worth a try? Continue reading Intermittent Fasting by Emma Young

Is Alzheimers Disease Type 3 Diabetes ?

THE human brain evolved to seek out foods high in fat and sugar. But a preference that started out as a survival mechanism has, in our age of plenty, become a self-destructive compulsion.

It is well known that bad diets can trigger obesity and diabetes. There is growing evidence that they trigger Alzheimer’s disease too, and some researchers now see it as just another form of diabetes.

If correct, this has enormous, and grave, implications. The world already faces an epidemic of diabetes. The prospect of a parallel epidemic of Alzheimer’s is truly frightening, in terms of human suffering and monetary cost.

This outcome will not be easily averted. Few people need to be told that too much high-fat, high-sugar food is a health hazard. And yet sales of fast food remain healthy (or should that be hefty?). Part of the reason is “future discounting”, another evolved feature of the human brain that makes us value short-term rewards over long-term risks.

What can be done? One option is to call in the lawyers. Some moderately successful attempts have already been made to sue food companies for their role in creating the obesity epidemic. If a causal link between fatty, sugary food and Alzheimer’s can be established, it is highly likely that more lawsuits will follow. Such actions have their place, but this is a laborious and expensive way to enact change.

Nor do the policy levers at our disposal appear promising. Public awareness campaigns have been of limited use in reversing the tide of obesity. Will the added threat of dementia prove harder to ignore? “Sin taxes” on unhealthy foods may work – Denmark and a handful of other countries are experimenting with them – but it is not yet clear whether they make any real difference. What’s more, they raise questions about personal responsibility and nanny-statism.

We may be left with only the option of medically blocking either the craving for fast food, or its consequences. That has its own complications, and sidesteps the problem rather than addressing it. But the human brain also evolved to find ingenious solutions to intractable problems. It may yet come to its own rescue. Continue reading Is Alzheimers Disease Type 3 Diabetes ?

Exercise – Probably the best Medicine of all

From dementia and diabetes to high blood pressure – no pill protects us against ill health like exercise does.

A plethora of recent studies shows that exercise protects us from heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, obesity, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and depression. It even boosts memory. And it has the potential to prevent more premature deaths than any other single treatment, with none of the side effects of actual medication. “It’s a wonder drug,” says Erik Richter, a diabetes researcher at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. “There’s probably not a single organ in the body that’s unaffected by it.”

Throughout evolution, humans have been active. Our ancestors chased prey as hunter-gatherers and fled from predators. More recently, they laboured on farms and in factories. But the decline of agricultural and industrial labour, plus the invention of the car, a multitude of labour-saving devices and – most perniciously – TV, computers and video games, mean we’ve all ground to a sudden and catastrophic standstill.

“We were built to be active, but the way our environment has changed and the way we live our lives has led us to become inactive,” says Christopher Hughes, senior lecturer in sport and exercise medicine at Queen Mary, University of London. Continue reading Exercise – Probably the best Medicine of all