The Nerve of It:  Chocolate  

“Soothing” has a new meaning with chocolate.

A recent Australian study has found dark chocolate may increase calmness, even contentedness, through the polyphenols found in cocoa.3

Polyphenols are found naturally in plants and are a basic component of the human diet.  These compounds reduce oxidative stress, known to cause or contribute to many chronic diseases.  Oxidative stress on the body is easy to understand, and is clearly demonstrated when we see a fresh slice of apple turn brown after a few minutes in the open air.  Polyphenols are reduce the effects of many conditions, and may also have beneficial psychological effects, apart from the simply physical.

“This clinical trial is perhaps the first to scientifically demonstrate the positive effects of cocoa polyphenols on mood.”

The research was based on a 30 day randomized study involving 72 men and women, aged 40-65 years, who had no chronic illnesses.

The participants each received a dark chocolate drink mix, standardized to contain either 500mg of cocoa polyphenols, 250mg of cocoa polyphenols or none.

Three groups were in the study, participants in each having received a cocoa drink mix with a high dose, medium dose, or no polyphenols in their chocolate drink.

The drink mixes were given to participants in identical packaging so the investigators and participants were unaware of which treatment each participant was receiving. Participants drank their assigned drink once a day for 30 days.

After 30 days, those given the high dose concentration of cocoa polyphenols reported greater calmness and contentedness than those who drank either of the other drink mixes.

Charles T. Knowles is a writer and filmmaker living in North Carolina.  He has designed and produced public presentations by a Presidential Candidate, Politicians, Journalists, Authors, Musicians, and fellow Filmmakers. 

 

Slow aging with the Mediterranean Diet

In the Nurses’ Health Study, eating of the Mediterranean diet – one rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, unrefined grains, olive oil, and fish – was associated with a biomarker of aging, that is, longer telomere length.  Telomeres are repetitive DNA sequences at the ends of chromosomes that progressively shorten with age.  Shorter telomeres are associated with shorter life expectancy and greater risk for age-related diseases.

Obesity, cigarette smoking, and other lifestyle factors have been linked to shorter telomere length.  Oxidative stress and inflammation also assist in inhibiting or shortening telomere length, a marker for lengthy life.Untitled design (1)

“Fruits, vegetables, olive oil and nuts — key components of the Mediterranean diet —  have well known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that could balance out the ‘bad effects’ of smoking and obesity. . . The health benefits of greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet — reduction of overall mortality, increased longevity and reduced incidence of chronic diseases, especially major cardiovascular diseases — have been consistently demonstrated,”  said Immaculata De Vivo, MPH, PhD, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, in the December 2, 2014 British Medical Journal.

Data on nearly 5,000 healthy middle-aged women from the Nurses’ Health Study (the study that has been tracking the health of more than 120,000 U.S. nurses since 1976), showed that greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet was significantly associated with longer telomeres.

The women completed detailed food questionnaires and had a blood test to measure telomere length.  As expected, younger women had significantly longer telomeres (P < .001).  Peter Nilsson, MD, PhD, Lund University, Sweden, says the Mediterranean diet is the “cornerstone of dietary advice in cardiovascular disease prevention, and the fact that it also links with a biomarker of slower aging is reassuring.”

Charles T. Knowles is a writer and filmmaker living in North Carolina.  He has designed and produced public presentations by a Presidential Candidate, Politicians, Journalists,  Authors, Musicians, and fellow Filmmakers. 

To SLEEP…perchance to DREAM…

Grantsleeping-guy NHNed, the most important element for life of humans is the air we breathe. Next necessity is water. But it is a toss-up whether the third necessary element is food or sleep. I vote for SLEEP. We can go far longer (and remain sane) without food than we can without sleep. This decreasing segment of our days is responsible for a variety of ills.

Some more things we have recently learned about sleep are:

  1. Sleep deprivation is related to weight gain. Over a 5-night period at the University of Pennsylvania, the weights of participants of two groups were compared (sleep was limited to 4 hours a night in the sleep deprivation group compared with a sleeping group that remained in bed for 10 hours a night). The sleeping group actually lost weight, while the sleep deprived group gained weight.
  2. Lack of sleep increases the risk of:
    1. Daytime drowsiness, drowsy-driving and its consequence
    2. Psychiatric conditions, including depression and substance abuse
    3. Inattention, decreased ability to remember new information or react quickly to signals, that is, signals of all sorts
    4. Falls, injuries and even mortality
    5. People with “persistent insomnia” are 58% more likely to die of any cause than good sleepers
  3. Decreased sleep increases the risk of diabetes and heart problems.
  4. Going to bed later (not necessarily getting less sleep) is associated with more negative thinking. Researchers at Binghamton University found that individuals who go to bed very late have more negative thinking, and worry. These “night owl” worry warts may simply have delayed sleep onset because they are worrying, or interfering with normal circadian rhythms and could be the cause of the worry. You have probably noticed that problems seem much larger at nighttime than in the daytime.
  5. Diminished sleep is associated with cognitive decline in older years. Having disordered sleeping was equivalent to being 2 years older. A single sleepless night increases biomarkers for brain damage via killing of brain cells.
  6. Sleep actually clears neurotoxins from our brains. The rate of exchange between brain tissues and sleeping-woman NHNspinal fluid that gets rid of neurotoxic waste is enhanced during sleep (including neurotoxins associated with Alzheimer’s disease). Sleep serves this vital function, removing toxins that accumulate while we are awake.

So, if you stay up late, watch television and mindlessly munch on unhealthy foods, get less than 7 hours of sleep, you now know that you have chosen to:

So, if you stay up late, watch television and mindlessly munch on unhealthy foods, get less than 7 hours of sleep, you now know that you have chosen to:

  • Increase your probability of getting Alzheimer’s, diabetes and heart disease
  • Gain weight (and unhealthy waist inches)
  • Prevent the metabolism of harmful brain neurotoxins
  • Be drowsy during the day
  • Increase the probability that you will become depressed
  • Be satisfied with a slower reaction time
  • Have more worry-time
  • Needlessly die sooner than later

Now you know the choices you are making.

Minimally, sleep affects everything from increasing one’s healthy immune system to a practical vista of skillful, flexible, creative activities in handling and shaping daily life. Most adults require at least seven hours of sleep for peak-performance, optimal health and well-being. Far from being a luxury, sleep is an absolute necessity for life and healthy living.

So, how about, TONIGHT, turn off the TV, computer, cellphone (any blue light) around 9 PM, go to bed around 11 PM, sleep at least 7 hours (8 is probably better), and simply see if you can make tomorrow a better day?

And…how about progress toward a safer, saner, slimmer, more comfortable, longer, and happier life?

An upcoming article will elaborate on some innovative activities we can do to sleep better.

Charles T. Knosleeping-baby NHNwles is a writer and filmmaker living in North Carolina.  He has designed and produced public presentations by a Presidential Candidate, Politicians, Journalists,  Authors, Musicians, and fellow Filmmakers.