Beetroot Benefits – Beetroot juice boosts stamina

Here’s some news that’s going to set the exercise world back on its ear about beetroot benefits…

A University of Exeter team has discovered that the nitrates in beetroot juice lead to a reduction in oxygen uptake, this in turn makes working out less tiring so you can exercise longer.

And, the researchers say, the effect is greater than what you get from any other known means, including regular training.

Athletes who need endurance for their sport will be thrilled, but the findings are also welcome news for elderly patients or those dealing with cardiovascular, respiratory or metabolic diseases.

The intriguing research focused on eight male subjects, ranging in age from 19-38, who were given 500 ml of organic beetroot juice a day for 6 days in a row.

They then had to complete a series of tests that involved cycling on an exercise bike. As a control, the subjects were given a placebo of blackcurrant cordial for an additional six consecutive days before having to do the same cycling tests.

When they drank the beetroot juice, subjects could cycle an average of 11.25 minutes. This was 92 seconds longer than when they drank the placebo juice.

This works out to about a 2% reduction in the time it takes to cover a set distance, or being able to add about ten minutes to your regular workout.

When asked to cycle at an easy pace, the subjects were found to use less oxygen after drinking the beetroot juice than with the placebo juice, which means the muscles of the body were able to do the same amount of work, but expend less energy.

The juice might actually help you exercise for as much as 16% longer.

Fitness experts know that you surely improve your fitness level with exercise and have always believed the oxygen uptake of the body remains fixed, meaning that a conditioned athlete and the man on the street would have identical oxygen uptakes at the same intensity of physical activity.

Yet the Exeter team found differing oxygen uptake readings in subjects who drank beetroot juice before exercise.

No one knows how the nitrate in the juice boosts stamina, but the researchers suspect it could be that the nitrate (especially concentrated in juice form) in the juice turns into nitric oxide in the body.

This causes peripheral blood vessels to dilate which improves the oxygen supply to the muscles and impacts how much oxygen is burned up while the body is exercising.

The nitrates can also improve the efficiency of muscle contraction during an exercise session.

What’s more, beetroot juice has been shown to lower blood pressure, and when the subjects in this latest study drank the juice they also had lower resting blood pressure readings.

This data supports research from the London School of Medicine and the Peninsula Medical School, appearing in the February 2008 issue of the journal Hypertension that found beetroot juice brought down high blood pressure.

Researcher Andy Jones of the University of Exeter’s School of Sport and Health Sciences as well as an adviser to a top UK athlete points out, “We were amazed by the effects of beetroot juice on oxygen uptake because these effects cannot be achieved by any other known means, including training. I am sure professional and amateur athletes will be interested in the results of this research.”

The research is published in the Journal of Applied Physiology. While more work is needed, it’s hard to deny the good-for-you benefits of nitrate rich fruits and veggies; these foods might just be the way to a healthy cardiovascular system. Beetroot juice carries nitrates just like some green, leafy veggies you may know like lettuce and spinach, though the juice form is considered especially beneficial to the body.

While beetroot juice isn’t something you’re likely to see at your local supermarket, you can find it in some health food shops or online sources.

Understand too that the amounts used in the research, 500-ml or just under a pint a day, are quite high, and the “earthy tang” of this nutrient rich juice isn’t for everyone.

You might want to start with a small amount, diluted 4:1 with water or try some of the many recipes for combination juices to see what you prefer, and how the beetroot benefits impacts your workout.

The Scary Link Between Sleep and Diabetes

A small but intriguing study out of the University of Chicago set out to look at the role sleep restriction – you know the later bedtimes and earlier wake up times we’ve all become accustomed to – might play in the risk for diabetes.  What they found was an interesting link between sleep and diabetes.

The findings of the small but detailed work suggests that those at risk of diabetes tend to get too little sleep, not enough exercise and eat calorie and saturated fat laden Western diets.

Using a randomized crossover design, the study included five men and six women of an average age 40, who had volunteered to be part of research projects.

The subjects fell into the overweight category, reported that they didn’t exercise very often but were otherwise healthy. These participants reported they slept just under 8 hours a day.

The team then put the subjects through two 14-day periods of controlled exposure to a sedentary lifestyle where unhealthy food was readily available.

The subjects stayed in a lab setting where their activity, sleep, diet and blood chemistry were monitored.

The subjects weren’t allowed to exercise, but junk food was plentiful. For one session participants were allowed to sleep 8.5 hours a day, for the other session the amount of sleep allowed was cut down to 5.5 hours – achieved by going to bed later and getting up earlier, a familiar pattern for most of us.

Without being able to exercise, and surrounded with lots of unhealthy foods, it’s no surprise that the participants gained more than four pounds, no matter how much they slept.

The difference came in their ability to control their blood sugar – depending on how much sleep they got subjects responded differently to two very common sugar tests.

If a subject didn’t sleep enough, the blood sugar reading was higher, and there was less sensitivity by the body to the sugar-lowering hormone insulin.

Taking this discovery one step further, it may well be that shorter sleep patterns might facilitate insulin resistance and reduced glucose tolerance, both risks for diabetes.

The good news is that you can significantly cut your risk of this life changing diagnosis by doing two very simple things:

1) Lose 5%-10% of your current weight, and

2) Get a half-hour of moderate exercise five days a week.

“When the unhealthy aspects of the Westernized lifestyle are combined with reduced sleep duration, this might contribute to the increased risk of many overweight and sedentary individuals developing diabetes,” explains lead researcher Plamen Penev MD, Ph.D. of the University of Chicago, “If confirmed by future larger studies, these results would indicate that a healthy lifestyle should include not only healthy eating habits and adequate amounts of physical activity, but also obtaining a sufficient amount of sleep.”

The research will appear in the September 2009 issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Of course this study involved the detailed evaluation of only a handful of subjects, so more work will be needed.

Still, if you’re at risk for diabetes, or concerned about the link between sleep and diabetes, it’s wise to consider how much sleep you get each night, and make changes to that you make enjoying enough truly restful sleep a priority – part of your overall plan of eating right and exercising to be healthy.

Stress Raises Fat Around The Middle and Heart Risks

We all know that stress is bad for us, and now new research finds that when you add chronic stress to the lives of female monkeys who eat the typical American diet they put on weight in a most dangerous place – Stress raises fat around the middle of the body, affectionately known as belly fat.

Fat in this area isn’t just awful to look at, its known to be trouble, making conditions like blocked arteries and metabolic syndrome much more likely according to Carol A. Shively, Ph.D. and her team out of Wake Forest University. The research is set to appear in the next issue of the journal Obesity.

Shively and her team had shown before how socially stressed moneys (at the bottom of the pecking order in the monkey world) get blocked arteries faster than control monkeys fed the very same diet but without the stress.

With the latest work the team wanted to learn more about stress, and how something outside your body seems to be turned into troublesome plaque on the inside of your body.

Female monkeys are much like human females in that they aren’t as likely to get heart disease as males. Yet the stressed female monkeys who had the dangerous belly fat were just as likely to develop heart disease as male monkeys.

What this says for women is that if you have visceral fat and metabolic syndrome you pretty much obliterate any protection you get from being female.

Over the two-year study period Shively and her colleagues collected a whole lot of data on female cynomolgus monkeys – ones who were considered under stress and those considered being stress free.

The stressed subjects had higher levels of cortisol, known to be a stress hormone, than did monkeys not under stress. The stressed monkeys also had abnormal menstrual cycles, meaning they were much less likely to ovulate than non-stressed monkeys.

The evaluation of the subjects included a CT scan that identified visceral fat -the medical term for the fat in your abdomen that sometimes sticks out (the “beer belly”), though other times this fat isn’t visible on the outside. Visible or not, belly fat wraps itself around the internal organs.

Even when compared to monkeys, who were the same weight, the CT scans showed that the subjects under stress had a lot more belly fat.

When the team looked at the animals’ arteries, they found plaque as well. High levels of cortisol, over the long term are known to cause belly fat to accumulate, as well as making fat cells throughout the body bigger.

This is what’s known as “sick fat” according to Harold Bays, MD, the medical director of the Louisville Metabolic and Atherosclerosis Research Center who reviewed the study.

“Your body fat can become diseased like any other body tissue,” Bays explains. “Your fat cells are getting bigger and your fat tissue is getting bigger and neither the cells nor the tissues work as well as they should. The fat is sick.”

What’s more, the monkeys with all the belly fat had metabolic syndrome, just like people do. Metabolic syndrome, a problem for an estimated 50 million Americans, is actually a group of risk factors all found in one person and are what put patients at risk for heart disease, stroke and other peripheral vascular disorders as well as type 2 diabetes.

If you’re worried about your own belly bulge it’s not too late to do something about it.

While fat in this part of the body is more worrisome than carrying weight in other areas, the good news is that by making real, solid lifestyle changes (forget “miracle diets” or the latest ab-flattening gadget) and doing a few targeted abdominal exercises you can be rid of that unsightly bulge in no time.

Cut Disease With These 4 Healthy Habits

When it comes right down to it, there’s no magic formula or miracle cure to staying healthy and cut disease. The things you need to do are things we all can do…

1. Don’t smoke – if you do, try to quit

2. Get active – at least 3.5 hours a week

3. Stay away from junk food and follow a diet rich in fruits and veggies,

whole grain breads, with limited amount of lean meat.

4. Watch your weight – keep the BMI under 30

Not altogether surprising suggestions – public health officials have been saying these things for years.

The startling news is the benefit some recent research has found to doing all four things at the same time.

Living this way cuts your risk of developing some pretty serious chronic diseases by almost 80%. The result holds even after adjusting for things like age, sex, education and occupation status.

The recommendations come from a report in this month’s Archives of Internal Medicine that analyzed the lifestyle, diet and health of 23,513 German adults who were from 35 to 65 years old and part of the European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer and Nutrition-Potsdam study.

Begun in the mid 1990s and covering an eight year period, the work found that subjects with healthy habits were far less likely to be diagnosed with conditions like cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

The team analyzed each person’s body weight, height, disease history, food frequency and how well they stuck with the four healthy lifestyle tips.

Only 9% of the subjects followed all four recommendations, but most of the participants practiced from one to three of these good-for-you habits.

All in all, following all four healthy habits combined was linked to…

· 93% lower risk of type 2 diabetes

· 81% lower risk of heart attack

· 50% lower risk of stroke

· 36% lower risk of cancer

These findings reinforce the idea that making simple, everyday changes to a healthier lifestyle is worth the effort.

It’s clear that healthy habits can have a huge impact on your health over the long term. If you’re concerned about living well into your later years, this study points out things you can do today – stopping smoking, keeping your weight under control, being more active – to keep your body healthy.

Healthier, disease free living starts with you. All you have to do is commit yourself to these four totally natural lifestyle choices to keep your body in shape.

If you smoke, you probably know it’s time to stop. Luckily there’s help quitting from support groups, nicotine replacement therapy, hypnosis or with medication – talk with your doctor to see which option is right for you.

All it takes is a simple change, like cutting down on junk foods is a painless but practical first step. Before you know it you’ll have dropped a few pounds, maybe discovered some healthy foods you actually like.

Once you’re eating better you’ll be more inclined to get up and exercising, which will show rewards almost at once in how you feel.

Before you know it, you’re living better, you’ve cut disease risk, your feeling better, and on your way to a healthier, happier life.

Women and Diet – Women Together Eat More

We all love “girls nights”, an evening out without the guys (or the kids) can be such fun, a welcome break from routine for many of us.  But a recent looking at women and diet has made some interesting findings.

Beyond the laughs and silliness, you may also be prone to eating more than you planned according to a new study appearing online in the journal Appetite that finds eating alongside a big group of women encourages everyone to take in more calories.

“Women eating in groups of women tend to increase the calorie values of the food they choose,” explains study leader Meredith E. Young, PhD, a psychologist and an assistant professor in the Centre for Medical Education at Montreal’s McGill University. Eating in smaller groups, or eating with a man caused women to eat less.

For men, as you’d expect, the number or gender of the dining companion made no difference in how much they ate during a meal.

The observational study involved 469 college men and women who ate at one of three cafeterias at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

The data the researchers collected included which foods a student put in front of them at the table, the calorie content, the sex of the people eating and the size of the groups.

Next Young and her team looked at what factors might affect the intake of food – the sex of the companions and the size of the group were both investigated.

The average total calories in men’s meals remained a rock-solid 716; while for women the total calories averaged 609.

When women ate with men, they took in 552 calories, the biggest difference in calorie intake was observed in dating situations.

When women ate with another woman, the total calories each consumed jumped to 665.

When two men or two women ate together they took in about the same number of calories. Women eating in mixed groups ate less then they did with other women.

“As soon as there is a man in the mix, the amount of calories a woman eats decreases,” Young points out.

As the number of men in the group went up, the calories the women diners consumed went down. But for a group of women only, the subjects would increase the calorie value of the food they ate when groups were larger.

Three women eating together had each woman eating almost 650 calories, while a meal with four women brought the total calories consumed to about 800 for each.

Though no one can say for sure precisely why this happens, Young speculates that some social signaling is at work. She points to earlier studies that have found women who eat less are judged more attractive, as are women who are thin over heavier women.

Women naturally want to look more appealing, especially if a potential mate was is the table, and this may well explain the difference in calorie intake.

In a work that echoes these findings but involved children, Sarah-Jeanne Salvy, Ph.D. assistant professor of pediatrics at the Sate University of New York at Buffalo, found that children who are overweight eat more in the company of overweight friends than when around those they don’t know.

Appearing this month in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Salvy details the results of the study that involved 23 overweight children and 42 normal weight controls, aged 9 to 15.

When eating with a friend the subjects ate a lot more than when eating with someone they didn’t know. But overweight children who ate with an overweight dining companion, friend or not, ate more than heavier kids who had a normal weight eating partner.

Maybe by eating with someone closer to their own weight the kids feel they have permission to eat more.

While neither of these studies are suggesting you eat alone, the findings that your companions might influence your choice of food (and number of calories) is certainly good to know. Especially if you’re trying to watch your weight.

Games Puzzles and Brain Health

Puzzles, games, a good book – any activity that stimulates the brain has been found in a recent study supported by the National Institute on Aging to delay the start of dementia related memory loss in older people.  So, how are puzzles and brain health linked? 

The information comes from the Bronx Aging Study that includes data on nearly 500 subjects between 75 and 85 years old who didn’t have dementia at the beginning of the research.

The work appears in the August 4, 2009 issue of Neurology and has found cognitive leisure activities seem to hold off the memory decline in those who end up being diagnosed with dementia.

Some of the factors thought to be involved include what’s called cognitive reserve, which may be affected by education early in life as well as taking part in activities that stimulate the brain.

It’s this “cognitive reserve” that’s thought to help hold off the decline in memory associated with dementia during the preclinical stages, the time before you see the symptoms.

The subjects, all part of the Bronx Aging Study, completed assessments every 12 to 18 months that told researchers if they took part in mentally stimulating out of work activities like reading, crossword puzzles, playing music, writing, playing cards or a board game or participating in a group discussion.

The subjects also indicated how often they participated in these things, daily, a few days a week or weekly. Point totals were assigned to the frequencies and tabulated by the research team.

The data on 101 of the subjects who developed dementia over the five-year follow up was evaluated carefully. The median (middle) total points for this group being 7, which worked out to taking part, on average, in 1 of the six activities each day.

In all, 10 participants reported no activities, another 11 reported only 1 activity per week.

The researchers looked especially closely at the point when memory loss accelerated for each participant.

The more mentally active subjects took longer for memory decline to become a problem. They saw that each additional activity day was linked to a delay in the onset of decline by 0.18 years for these subjects.

“The point of accelerated decline was delayed by 1.29 years for the person who participated in 11 activities per week compared to the person who participated in only four activities per week,” explains study author Charles B. Hall, PhD, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

The team also so that later-in-life mental stimulation seems to influence your overall cognitive reserve independent of education. Anyone can get the benefit of mentally challenging activities.

The average age of the world’s population is increasing at a rate we’ve never seen before. Worldwide the number of people over 65 is estimated to be 506 million in 2008; an astonishing 1.3 billion by 2040, which is 14% of the total population of the world.

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Stimulating The Mind Delays Memory Decline Continued…

The issues and challenges of aging are going to be hard to ignore in the years to come, which is why learning about dementia and how to overcome it is so important.

“Our findings show that late-life cognitive activities influence cognitive reserve independent of education,” Hall noted. “These activities might help maintain brain vitality. Further studies are needed to determine if increasing participation in these activities could prevent or delay dementia.”

So, this study gives us more evidence to show that brain exercises, games and puzzles and brain health are linked.

The Link Between Cholesterol and Alzheimers Disease

Doctors know that high cholesterol brings increased risk of heart disease, and what’s worrisome is the finding about the dangers of even borderline cholesterol that comes from a new study that’s one of the largest and longest dementia trials ever conducted. Could there be a link between cholesterol and Alzheimer’s Disease?

Adults in their mid 40s with even slightly elevated cholesterol (as well as those with high cholesterol) appear to have a greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease or related conditions like vascular dementia years later.

Researchers followed over 9,800 northern California residents who were part of the same health insurance plan during the study. The researchers didn’t have information on HDL (good) and LDL (bad) cholesterol because these weren’t widely understood when the study began in the early 1960s.

Still, if total cholesterol is high, it’s logical to assume that levels of the bad cholesterol must also be high since two thirds of the total comes from the LDL (bad) type. The team looked at the total cholesterol levels of participants between 1964 and 1973 when the subjects were between 40-45 years old.

By the end of the research, almost 600 of the subjects had developed either Alzheimer’s disease (469 subjects) or a related condition (vascular dementia in 127 subjects) when they were in their 60s, 70s and 80s.

Subjects with total cholesterol in the high range (240 or higher) at the start of the study had a 66% increase in Alzheimer’s risk. Borderline high cholesterol (levels between 200-239) brought a 52% increased risk of vascular dementia but no statistically significant risk of Alzheimer’s.

“People tend to think of the brain and the heart as totally separate, but they are not,” says study co-author Rachel A. Whitmer, PhD of Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California. “We are learning that what is good for the heart is also good for the brain – and that midlife is not too soon to be thinking about risk factors for dementia.”

This work adds to the growing evidence that controlling your risk factors for heart disease as well as keeping a handle on your weight in midlife can protect the brain as you age. “Keeping your weight down, eating right, and getting regular exercise can keep your heart healthy as you age, and it may also keep your brain sharp,” adds lead author Alina Solomon of the University of Kuopio.

Recent estimates have 2.4 to 4.5 million Americans living with the terribly destructive symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, an irreversible and progressive disease that destroys thinking and memory, leaving patients without the ability to do everyday things like cooking, dressing, driving a car, making decisions.

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Even Slightly High Cholesterol Could Raise Risk Of Alzheimer’s Continued…

As yet, science doesn’t know what sets off the Alzheimer’s process, though experts think the damage starts 10 to 20 years before any mental symptoms appear, and this latest work seems to support the silent progression of this disease.

If you have high cholesterol, start by talking to your doctor to get updated cholesterol numbers and learn what you can do to take control of your diet, be more active. Also, if necessary medication can help bring your numbers under control.

Being aware of the link between cholesterol and Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as following actions might not just help your health today, but it may also contribute to your future brain health as well.

Omega 3 and heart health

A diet rich in omega-3s is known to be good for your heart, helping to cut the risk of hardening of the arteries, irregular heartbeat, heart attack, sudden cardiac death and even heart failure. And the link beween Omega 3 and heart health is only the beginning of the many benefits of these good fats.

Doses of omega-3 fatty acids aren’t just good for helping the hearts of healthy people, these nutrients also have benefits for those who have existing heart disease according to new research based on several large studies that involved more than 40,000 subjects.

These findings, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, involved a review of four studies on omega-3 and heart disease prevention and have prompted experts to recommend omega-3 fatty acids be a part of all healthy diets.

“There are clear health and heart benefits associated with increasing one’s intake of foods that are rich in Omega-3s, including oily fish like salmon, sardines, trout, herring, and oysters,” researcher Carl Lavie, MD, medical director of cardiac rehabilitation and prevention at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans explains. “Patients should talk with their doctors about whether a fish oil supplement is needed to get the right amount and, in turn, benefit from the associated cardiovascular protection.”

Our bodies can’t make these omega-3 fatty acids on their own, so 500 milligrams a day of components EPA (eiosapentaenoic acid) plus DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is what’s recommended for healthy adults.

Anyone with heart disease or heart failure will want to double the amount to a range of 800 to 1,000 milligrams a day, as the study found this to offer a strong protective effect. Daily supplementation of DHA and EPA for these patients was found to bring a 30% reduction in terms of heart related death.

When it comes to heart failure, adding omega-3 supplements showed a definite preventive effect, reducing deaths in those with heart failure by 9%. Considering the grave prognosis often given these patients, this number is encouraging.

Omega-3 fatty acids work at the cell membrane level and may be what helps the electrical activity of the heart as well as improving muscle tone, stabilizing plaque, blood pressure and other things associated with a healthy heart. “If we translate this finding, it means that we only need to treat 56 patients for four years to prevent one death,” Lavie continues. “And we are talking about a very safe and relatively inexpensive therapy.”

The typical American diet has a ratio of bad to good fats of 20 to 1, that’s 1 omega-3 overwhelmed by many more of the more dangerous type of fatty acids.

Getting good fats from food is the best way to go as 90% of the nutrient (vs. 50% of the supplement form) is absorbed into the body. Natural sources of good fats include walnuts, canola oil, broccoli, cauliflower, kidney beans, spinach, grape leaves, cantaloupe, Chinese cabbage, flaxseed as well as fish like herring, mackerel, sturgeon and anchovies.

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Omega-3s Great For Your Heart Continued…

If you decide to use fish oil or other supplements to get the omega-3 you need, remember that these products aren’t as regulated as they might be, even in the U.S.

Beware “too good to be true” claims or research of dubious quality that isn’t printed in a respected journal. Don’t settle for anything less than quality manufacturing, reputable companies will trumpet this fact.

Know too that fish oil capsules are likely to contain the same contaminants as fresh fish, and have been known to leave you with an unpleasant odor to your body.

The link between Omega 3 and heart health seems to be getting stronger all the time, so have a look at your intake levels and make sure you are getting enough.

The link between debt and health

In today’s economy lots of us are dealing with mounting debts and shrinking incomes. But beyond the stress to your bank account, it has been found that if you are carrying too much debt, your health and particularly your weight may be impacted.

This according to the findings of a new cross sectional study out of the University of Mainz in Germany that appears in the early online edition of BMC Public Health.

The research team evaluated data on more than 9.000 subjects, 949 who were in debt and filled out a questionnaire that reported a full 25% of those who were in debt also met criteria for obesity.

By contrast, of the 8,318 subjects intended to represent a cross section of the general population, questioned in a 2003 telephone survey, only 11% could be categorized as obese.

These numbers held even after taking into account income level and other socioeconomic factors (age, sex, education) and health issues (depression, smoking) of the subjects.

Socio-economic status is usually measured using education, income and job status; the amount of household debt isn’t usually a part of the mix.

Over-indebtedness is defined as when the level of debt is no longer manageable, a state that’s become all-too-familiar for too many households.

The team found that over-indebtedness was linked to an increased prevalence of overweight and obesity that was unexplained by traditional definitions of socioeconomic status. Still, it’s important to note that because of the design of the study, cause and effect can’t be absolutely confirmed.

“Our survey has shown that there is an increased probability that a private individual who is over-indebted will be overweight, that is, clinically obese, irrespective of whether the other cited socio-economic factors apply,” points out lead researcher Eva Munster, a professor out of the Institute of Occupational, Social, and Environmental Medicine. “We’ve shown that debt can be associated with the probability of being overweight or obese, independent of these factors.”

The team also speculates that obese or overweight people are more likely to lose their jobs, and job loss is the most likely cause of falling into debt.

When it comes to financial hard times, Munster and her team believe that there are lifestyle changes that come with increased debt, things like comfort eating, poorer food choices (energy dense foods like sweets and snacks are less expensive as a rule) and being less active during the day.

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As Debt Increases So Do Our Waistlines Continued…

Lots of times people aren’t aware of cheaper but still good-for-you foods, so they see no choice but to put unhealthy things into their bodies. Not to mention the tremendous stress load people in debt are dealing with each and every day. What’s more, the level of indebtedness affects everyone in the house, adults and kids.

At the end of 2008, credit card debt in America had reached the astonishing $972.73 billion mark, a rise of 1.12% from the year before.

In light of this latest work on debt and health, and the potential for debt to drive more of us to pack on the pounds. If you’re struggling with debt, don’t let this rob you of your health, do all you can to stay healthy. Look for lower cost, healthy foods, be sure to stay active both to burn calories and help with the added stress.

Vitamin D intake in children is shockingly low

The findings of the latest nationwide study on vitamin D level brings more evidence that children as well as adults are lacking this important nutrient with vitamin D intake at a shockingly low level.

The numbers of adults without enough vitamin D made news a year ago, but experts like Dr. Michal L. Melamed of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine suspect the slide has been going on for more than two decades.

So it isn’t that researchers are surprised by the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in our children, it’s the sheer magnitude of the problem that is the troubling piece of news.

“Several small studies had found a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in specific populations of children, but no one had examined this issue nationwide,” explains study leader Melamed.

Where once in this country bone diseases like rickets, a result of too little vitamin D, were nearly extinct, physicians have diagnosed over 150 new cases of the disease in Philadelphia in 2008, up from zero only three years before.

The researchers believe the reasons for the low levels of vitamin D in children are poor diet and lack of time spent outside in the sun, which makes sense if you consider the lifestyle of most kids today.

Still this nutrient is important for helping the body to metabolize calcium, as well as being involved with immune function, cell proliferation, heart health, even offering protection against diseases like diabetes and cancers like colon, breast and ovarian.

The research involved analyzing over 6,000 subjects, ages 1 to 21 who had supplied data to the Nutrition Examination Survey 2001-2004.

The team found that 9% (7.6 million kids nationwide) were vitamin D deficient. Another 61% (50.8 million across the U.S.) were vitamin D insufficient. Low levels were common in girls, African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, obese kids or those who drank milk less than one time a week.

Kids who spent more than 4 hours a day watching TV, using a computer or playing video games were also more likely to lack vitamin D.

The situation is complicated by the fact that vitamin D isn’t naturally a part of many foods. Fish like salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel as well as cod liver oils are the best sources – though hardly popular favorites.

Beef liver, cheese and egg yolks have a small amount, as do some mushrooms. Fortified foods give us most of the vitamin D we need. Milk, ready to eat breakfast cereals, some brands of orange juice, yogurt or margarine are products allowed to add vitamin D.

Recommendations adopted in 2008 by the American Academy of Pediatrics call for infants, children and teens to take in 400 IU of vitamin D each day in a supplement form.

There are many experts who suggest both children and adults get at least 1,000 IU per day. In the study, children who took a vitamin D supplement were less likely to be deficient, but only a small percentage (4%) of the total study participants were using supplements at the time.

The good news for those of us who want to get more vitamin D is that our own bodies make this vitamin naturally. All you have to do is spend time in the sun, though this ability varies greatly depending on your skin color (lighter skin processes vitamin D more efficiently) and where you’re located on the globe (northern latitudes aren’t as good for vitamin making).

As we age our bodies aren’t able to make vitamin D from sunlight as well as they used to, so older people are just as likely to need supplements as the young.

Continues below…


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Startlingly Low Vitamin D Levels Continued…

And while concern over skin cancer is warranted, and should keep you out of the sun, unprotected, during peak hours; you can still get natural sunlight safely.

Enjoy sunlight during the early morning hours, or later in the afternoon. Remember that covering your skin in sunscreen blocks UVB rays, the precise rays the body uses to change a form of cholesterol in your skin into vitamin D.

If you’re concerned about your child’s (or your own) vitamin D levels, there are tests that can be done to screen for a special form of the vitamin known as 25-hydroxy vitamin D so that you know where you stand. Getting kids to spend more time outside in the fresh air and sunshine is a recommendation of the research that might just help increase vitamin D intake the natural way.