Thursday, May 11, 2017

8 ways Vitamin D helps build a healthy body

Just how essential is vitamin D? Are we getting enough of the stuff? Ashley Rosa offers her insight into the 8 reasons it remains essential…

Vitamins are those essential compounds that help the body grow and function at its optimal. Unlike carbohydrates, proteins and fats, vitamins don’t provide energy, but their regular intake helps in boosting your immunity, protecting bones from getting weak, healing wounds, strengthening your eyesight, are necessary for brain development and on top of that, have anti-cancerous properties.

It has been observed that people often give less importance to vitamin D, unlike other vitamins. But the fact is vitamin D is equally important for good overall health and strong and healthy bones. Another important role of vitamin D is to make sure your heart, muscles, lungs and brain work well and that your body can fight infection. The best source of vitamin D is within our reach. Yes, that’s true. Your body has a God gifted ability to make its own vitamin D from sunlight. It is produced when your skin is exposed to the sun. Since a very small amount of vitamin D is found in the food you eat, so you can balance the deficiency by consuming vitamin D supplement pill too.

Sometimes ‘the less is more’ philosophy doesn’t apply everywhere. A lack of vitamin D can sometimes cause a condition called rickets in youngsters and a condition called osteomalacia in adults. Both of these conditions lead to soft, thin, and brittle bones.

Here’s an overview how vitamin D helps build a healthy body:

Fighting diseases

There are numerous researches that highlight the importance of vitamin D. According to a study published in 2006, adequate intake of this important vitamin may play a role in reducing your risk of multiple sclerosis. Along with that it also decreases your chance of developing cardiovascular disease, also helps to reduce your chances of developing cold and flu.

Vitamin D fights depression

Research has shown that vitamin D influences our emotions and can play an important role in managing mood swings and depression. According to a study, researchers came to know that people with depression who received vitamin D supplements observed an improvement in their symptoms. In a similar study of people with fibromyalgia, scientists found vitamin D deficiency was more common in those who were also experiencing stress, anxiety, and depression.

Vitamin D strengthens teeth

Keep that smile because vitamin D strengthens your teeth. It has been observed that vitamin D is important for increasing the absorption of calcium and phosphate from the diet you take. Vitamin D also helps in strengthening your teeth’s battle with germs by helping your body absorb calcium and phosphate better. This important vitamin also increases the amount of good antimicrobial proteins which can destroy the germs and bacteria that cause caries.

Keeps hair healthy

Thin locks or hair loss, in general, can be a nightmare for anyone. If you are cleaning your drain more than usual, then it’s time to take a closer look at your food intake. Vitamin D and low iron levels could be the culprit behind thinning of your hair. Include salmon, fortified milk and orange juice in your diet along with vitamin D supplements.

Helps the immune system

The function of your immune system is to keep you healthy and away from diseases. Anything that supports your immune system is a boon to your health. Vitamin D is best for the immune system, and you will notice that not getting enough of it each day will land you in trouble of the risk of reduced functioning of your immune system. A weak immune system makes you vulnerable to several diseases and unwanted conditions. It’s better to increase your intake of vitamin D through diet, sun exposure, and supplements, before putting your immune system at risk.

Helps manage blood pressure

High blood pressure has always known to be a silent killer. High BP levels can lead you to several health related conditions. Therefore, it is vital to ensure that the blood pressure levels stay in the desired range for overall health and well-being. Since Vitamin D can make you feel calmer and happier, it automatically leads to lowered blood pressure, without much use of prescription medication to accomplish the same goal. Think of getting more sun exposure, because this is the way the body creates Vitamin D on its own.

Prevents cancer

As mentioned above, vitamin D may help is preventing cancer. And this reason itself is big enough to get your daily dose of vitamin D. Although a reputable institute like National Cancer Institute says that there aren’t enough facts and figures that support the claim that vitamin D helps to prevent cancer, but there are several clues that hint to it being at least slightly helpful in preventing some forms of cancer. So while it may not have been officially proven as a cancer warrior, the general concept is that its consumption definitely doesn’t hurt either.

Helps with weight loss

Vitamin D helps in reducing excess weight. Don’t be surprised, it really does. If you are following a weight loss plan, then skipping vitamin D from your daily diet will double your efforts of losing weight. If you are daydreaming about getting the desired body shape through weight loss, incorporate vitamin D into your daily routine to achieve your dream body. The options are in your hand, you can either choose to eat more foods that are rich in vitamin D, or you could also expose yourself to sun rays to make your own, or take some help from a supplement to keep your levels on the right track. Usually, a combination of all three of these options is recommended. Along with appropriate compound exercises would definitely burn fat and enhance your gains.


Vitamin D is jam-packed with goodness because it does wonders to our bodies in so many ways. There are numerous benefits of getting the proper amount of Vitamin D that you can’t afford to miss. You have a list of options to play with. The ideal way to balance the level of vitamin D is by combining food, the sunshine, and a supplement if needed. Vitamin D stands out among other vitamins because your body can actually manufacture it by getting regular exposure to the sun. So in order to enjoy a healthy, fun-filled life, start giving importance to vitamin D in your life.

Male, female hearts don't break the same way

Washington DC [USA], May 11 : Turns out, certain diseases may need diagnoses and treatments tailored to gender as a recent study has found that the male and female brains react differently during cardiovascular activity

Washington D.C. [USA], May 11 : Turns out, certain diseases may need diagnoses and treatments tailored to gender as a recent study has found that the male and female brains react differently during cardiovascular activity.

A region of the brain that helps to manage body functions including stress, heart rate and blood pressure reacts differently between men and women when presented with certain stimuli, according to the study from the UCLA School of Nursing.

The findings suggest that cardiovascular diseases also may manifest differently in women and men, which ultimately could affect how they should be diagnosed and treated.

In the study, led by Paul Macey, functional MRI or fMRI, scans were done on volunteers while they performed hand-grip exercises, which raise blood pressure and heart rate through signals from the brain. Used primarily in research, an fMRI uses magnetic resonance imaging technology to measure brain activity by detecting changes in the blood flow.

The researchers found that the portion of a brain region called the insular cortex (which is made up of gyri, or folds) showed differences in activity between men and women. In women, the right side of the front insular gyrus was activated by the hand-grip exercise more than men, who instead had a greater left-side activation of the same region. Women showed a higher resting heart rate than did males, but didn't have as great a heart rate increase when challenged with the hand-grip exercise.

The hand-grip testing was a follow-on study to earlier published research by Macey and his colleagues of the same brain region using a "Valsalva maneuver." Such a maneuver is performed by attempting to exhale against a closed airway. Participants close their mouths and pinch their noses shut while pressing out as if blowing up a balloon.

The Valsalva maneuver leads to changes in blood pressure through "fight or flight" brain responses, which are controlled by a part of the nervous system called the "sympathetic" nervous system. In contrast, the hand grip cuts back on the "rest and recovery" brain responses, called the "parasympathetic" nervous system. The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are part of the autonomic or "involuntary" nervous system. In general, the right side of the insular cortex is more sympathetic, and the left side more parasympathetic.

"With the hand grip, the differences were in the left side of the brain, while in the Valsalva study, the differences appeared on the right side, which was a surprise at first," Macey said. "What both studies show, however, is that healthy men's and women's brains respond differently, so we may have to re-evaluate separately in men and women what constitutes a disease state versus a healthy state to see if people are more or less vulnerable to cardiovascular illness according to their sex."

The research also sheds more light on the functions of the insular gyri. This middle area of the brain had been difficult to test until recently through imaging techniques, Macey said.

Ginnie Graham: Good reasons to be part of ABCD's of brain research

Laureate for Brain Researc's Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development MRI Chief Technologist Julie Owens help a participant in the study into the MRI for Brain Scan

One of the weirdest T-shirts my 9-year-old daughter wears has a scan of her brain.

It was a parting gift of her first MRI taken in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development research project, referred to as the ABCD study.

The machine had a screen for watching videos, and she practiced for weeks with staff. Still, it was a long time for a fourth-grader to stay in one place.

“They said I was a little wiggly so some pictures were blurry, but they said they got enough,” she said of the experience.

The study is an ambitious project. It is following more than 11,000 healthy children ages 9 to 10 from across the country for at least a decade, making it the largest project on brain development and child health in U.S. history.

The Laureate Institute for Brain Research, 6655 S. Yale Ave., is one of about 19 national sites participating in this National Institutes of Health-backed research. The study looks at education, culture, mental health, addiction and genetics.

It involves quarterly assessments, yearly assessments and biennial brain scans. It involved genetic swabs and a request for my daughter’s baby teeth — at least the ones we had.

The assessment questions are in-depth and personal.

So why do this? Because it could lead to the most impactful, meaningful and fruitful discoveries in child and teen development to date.

To be part of the next leap in medical, health, social and psychological knowledge is something to embrace.

Important work: At my daughter’s back-to-school night in August, recruiters from the Laureate Institute for Brain Research spoke to parents about the project. I was immediately intrigued.

By using the science of brain scans and genetic testing combined with social data, researchers can better figure out what is happening in the adolescent brain. They can ferret out what are inherited traits versus cultural ones.

Over time, cause-and-effect relationships can be better understood and confirmed, rather than assumed or hinted at. Imagine what can be learned — how much better education can be developed.

But, to reach this enlightenment, people have to come forward to participate in the studies to collect information.

While I’d love to say my daughter was pulled in by such lofty goals, it was the promise of snacks, prizes and getting paid. Not big pay. But she didn’t have to clean her room for it, so she was in.

In the loop: The assessment covers everything from our present household to any possible mental illness going back generations. My daughter was asked questions like the number of siblings, who she lived with, whether she consumed alcohol or ever hurt herself.

No names are in the files. We are just a number.

“They promised they wouldn’t tell anybody except if there was a chance of me getting hurt,” she said.

When she did her quarterly assessment and they asked if she smoked marijuana, she responded: “No. I’m only 9 for goodness sake.”

I told her to always be honest. Integrity to the study is key. Besides, I hope we’ll have the kind of relationship where she won’t hide secrets from me — or at least any serious secrets.

The scan was my daughter’s favorite part, especially being able to view the video of it later.

“You get to know what’s happening inside your head,” she said. “It’s cool seeing how you can do stuff.”

With the visits, the kids play brain games to win small prizes. The contests are fun, but also serve as a learning tool for researchers.

For participating, I think she earned a total of about $100 on a debit card in the first year. She spent it on clothes at Justice.

The first gathering of the ABCD Tulsa study participants was held last month. While the children ate pizza and played games, the parents heard an update of findings from Dr. Martin Paulus — scientific director and president of the Laureate Institute for Brain Research.

Paulus said he wants the project to be a dialogue with parents and students so we know what researchers are learning along the way.

It’s reassuring to know that whatever benefits are discovered, we’re going to be told of it.

The initial questions being examined are how much internet/television/video are being used, how it affects problem behavior and how it affects physical activity.

It appears Tulsa children are similar to others in the country. The vast majority of 9- to 10-year-olds use these devices, which is OK in small doses. As they get into excessive hours, aggressive behavior, attention problems and social problems creep up.

This discredits the movement of banning screen time completely for children. Moderate use shows no drawbacks at this point.

This is preliminary, starting data. Much more is to come.

With it, my daughter will happily be in that mix of numbers — playing games, answering questions and getting her brain scanned.

Experimental Microsoft wearable helps woman with hand tremors caused by Parkinson's disease

This week, Microsoft is hosting its Build 2017 developer conference in Seattle, where it's already made a wide range of announcements - from 500 million Windows 10 devices, to Visual Studio for Mac general availability, the public preview of Cortana Skills Kit, a range of new Microsoft Graph capabilities, and the new Azure IoT Edge platform, among others.

But along with all the other big announcements in its day one keynote, Microsoft also showcased a remarkable experimental project led by one of its researchers, which began when she met a young woman affected by hand tremors caused by Parkinson's disease.

33-year-old graphics designer Emma Lawton said that by the time she was in her late 20s, her right arm began to have "a mind of its own". She was later diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, which had left her with severe hand tremors that not only eroded her ability to draw, but also stopped her from being able to even write her own name.

Lawton met Microsoft researcher Haiyan Zhang, who was inspired to draw on her technical expertise to consider ways of helping Lawton - and, potentially, millions of others like her. Zhang is the innovation director at Microsoft Research Cambridge, one of the company's most important research hubs. Microsoft said that Zhang's team is additionally "developing a project called Fizzyo, a connected device for kids with Cystic Fibrosis that turns their daily physiotherapy exercises into a video game experience. She’s also working with colleagues to develop Project Torino, a set of physical blocks that helps children with visual impairments learn computer programming."

Zhang spent months studying Parkinson's, and considering how technology could help Emma to manage the tremors, and give her the freedom to be able to write and draw again. Those efforts evolved into Microsoft Research's Project Emma, "exploring the use of sensors and artificial intelligence (AI) to detect and monitor the complex symptoms associated with the disorder – from body rigidity and gait slowness to falling and tremors".

Zhang created a prototype smartwatch, itself known as 'Emma'. The Emma Watch followed six months of research into the root cause of tremors, and the creation of many other prototypes. Microsoft said that "she sometimes worked in her London home, soldering wires to PC boards and tinkering with coin cell motors to create vibrations. She tested early versions with four other people with Parkinson’s, producing promising results for three, spurring the idea forward."

The Emma Watch vibrates with a particular rhythm, and has a specially designed companion app running on a Windows 10 tablet, that controls the pattern and speed of the vibrations. Microsoft explained:

In people with Parkinson’s, the brain fires off extra signals to muscles, creating a chaotic, internal feedback loop that causes muscles to essentially panic and perform many movements at once. That creates tremors. The vibrations from the watch seem to cause Lawton’s brain to focus on her right wrist, apparently reducing the brain’s messages to that spot.

“It’s like injecting white noise into that feedback loop in order to disrupt it,” Zhang said.

The watch enabled Emma to write her own name again - an extraordinary and emotional moment captured in Microsoft's video, shown below.

Microsoft is now exploring ways to "streamline and optimize the Emma Watch - and scale the technology", working in collaboration with a neuroscience team based in London, with the first wider-scale trials already being planned.

You can see the overview video that Microsoft showed in its keynote below...

...and the device was also featured by BBC Stories a few months ago:

FDA approves first new drug for ALS in 2 decades

The drug, known chemically as edaravone, has been sold by Japan-based Mitsubishi Tanabe in Japan and South Korea since 2015. The drug, known chemically as edaravone, has been sold by Japan-based Mitsubishi Tanabe in Japan and South Korea since 2015

After nearly two decades FDA has finally approved a drug for the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The drug, known chemically as edaravone, has been sold by Japan-based Mitsubishi Tanabe in Japan and South Korea since 2015.

ALS, or "Lou Gehrig's Disease," is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The FDA granted this drug orphan drug designation, which provides incentives to assist and encourage the development of drugs for rare diseases.

The new medicine, called Radicava is given intravenuously on a daily or near-daily basis for 14 days, followed by 14 days off the drug. A year's course of the medicine will cost about $145,000 before discounts to governments or insurance companies are included.

The new approval will bring much needed relief to millions of ALS patients across the world. Mr Eric Bastings, MD, deputy director of the Division of Neurology Products in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, “After learning about the use of edaravone to treat ALS in Japan, we rapidly engaged with the drug developer about filing a marketing application in the United States. This is the first new treatment approved by the FDA for ALS in many years, and we are pleased that people with ALS will now have an additional option."

The only other approved ALS medicine in the US is, generic riluzole, which modestly slows the progression of the disease in some people. As per reports, “the efficacy of edaravone for the treatment of ALS was demonstrated in a six-month clinical trial conducted in Japan. In the trial, 137 participants were randomized to receive edaravone or placebo. At Week 24, individuals receiving edaravone declined less on a clinical assessment of daily functioning compared to those receiving a placebo.”

The data was presented last year at the AAN Annual Meeting, and showed the edaravone-treated group had a change in their ALS Functional Rating Scale-Revised (ALSFRS-R) score of -5.01 ± 0.64 compared to -7.50 ± 0.66 in the placebo group (P = .001). The most common adverse events were contusion (16%), and dysphagia (13%).

In 2014, ALS returned to the spotlight with the "Ice Bucket Challenge," which involved people pouring ice-cold water over their heads, posting a video on social media, and donating funds for research on the condition. The rare progressive condition attacks nerve cells located in the brain and spinal cord responsible for controlling voluntary muscles.

Eventually, the brain's ability to start and control voluntary movement is lost, and the patient succumbs to the disease - usually three to five years from the onset of symptoms.

Protect your heart to protect your brain

By Drs. Mehmet Oz and Michael Roizen

Cyclone Debbie wreaked havoc on the coast of northeastern Australia this spring. The torrential rains caused three major rivers to crest their banks, eventually creating a giant brown plume of sludge stretching 11 miles out to sea, polluting the waters around the Great Barrier Reef.

That sludge caused double damage to the reef by blocking the light that plants and animals need to survive and depositing high levels of nitrogen. Some scientists are saying the bleaching that’s devastating the reef is irreversible.

Just as those rivers ended up causing double damage to the reef, when you damage your arteries with smoking, obesity, high blood sugar, high LDL cholesterol and high blood pressure, you’re hurting your heart and your brain!

A new study that tracked more than 300 people for over 20 years found that middle-age folks with just one risk factor for heart disease (that’s smoking, obesity, high LDL cholesterol or high blood pressure again) were almost twice as likely by the time they were seniors to end up with amyloid deposits in the brain. Obesity was the strongest risk factor.

When blood vessels are damaged, amyloid can leak out into brain tissue-and then Alzheimer’s-related amyloid tangles build up.

Luckily, your damage may be reversible: You can save your brain by doing what’s best for your heart: If you smoke, quit; ditch the Five Food Felons; get in your 10,000 steps a day; lose weight if you need to; and reduce your blood pressure and lousy cholesterol using lifestyle changes and medications if needed.

Pain relief from dietary omega-3s

When comedian Joan Rivers commented on her emotional wounds and worries, the world laughed: “I knew I was an unwanted baby when I saw that my bath toys were a toaster and a radio.” Finding ways to ease pain is one of the strongest human impulses — and one of the hardest things to do successfully.

So it was great news when a recent study published in Arthritis Care & Research reported that consumption of dietary omega-3s (but not supplements) eases pain in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers found that after taking an RA medication, methotrexate, for three months, about 20 percent of study participants still had pain. A clear difference? Folks with persistent pain had measurably lower dietary intake of omega-3s.

When the dietary ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s in polyunsaturated oils — such as corn, safflower and soybean — is skewed, as it is in the American diet (should be a ratio of 1-to-1 but is 16-to-1 in favor of omega-6s) problems related to inflammation, such as pain, happen. Increasing dietary omega-3s helps restore a healthier balance. The researchers suggest that such pain-relieving benefits may happen because omega-3s boost production of resolvins (that’s the name!) that tamp down inflammatory immune responses and reduce nerve inflammation. Other studies also point to omega-3s’ pain-relieving powers (including from supplements).

So if you have chronic pain, increase your weekly consumption of fish, such as salmon or sea trout; they’re loaded with DHA and EPA omega-3s. And go for plant sources that contain ALA omega-3: flax and chia seeds, walnuts, soybeans, canola oil, avocados and pumpkin seeds.

Be an active commuter

Most Mayan pyramids had 91 steps on each of their four sides, with one last step up to the altar (total 365). That meant the High Priest did a minimum of 92 stair steps — which translates to just over 3,000 flat walking steps — before starting work.

If you’re finding it hard to get your 10,000 daily steps into your busy workday schedule, we suggest you follow the Mayan example and anoint yourself High Priest or Priestess of your own health: Build some of your 10,000 steps a day into your commute!

For most Americans, the commute averages about 26 minutes. But nearly 17 percent of workers have a travel time of 45 minutes or more. Use that time to:

• Drive to a parking spot that’s some distance from your work and walk the rest of the way, or park further away and take your bike out of your car and pedal to the office.

• Bike or walk from your house to a train/bus/light rail station that’ll bring you close to work. Then walk from there. Reverse the process after work.

• Get to work 15-30 minutes early and do stair-climbing (like the Mayan priests) before going to your desk. Walking downstairs burns 175 to 275 calories per hour, depending upon your weight. Climbing upstairs burns 530 to 835 calories per hour, also weight dependent.

Remember; it seems to take between 21 and 66 days to make something an ingrained habit, but you can do this.

Woof — it’s good for kiddie gut biome

George Graham Vest was a U.S. senator in the late 1800s, but it’s the way he represented one of his constituents’ dogs, Old Drum, that has made him part of American history. To commemorate the passing of the loyal pooch, he declared: “The one absolutely unselfish friend man can have in this selfish world is … his dog.” A statue of Old Drum still stands outside the Warrensburg, Missouri, courthouse.

Turns out, unconditional love is not the only benefit of having a canine companion. A new study, published in Microbiome, found that infants who are exposed to furry pets have a healthier mix of gut bacteria. Researchers analyzed fecal samples from more than 700 babies at around 3 months of age; those who had spent more time around four-legged friends had twice the normal levels of Ruminococcus and Oscillospira bacteria.

Past studies have linked higher levels of Ruminococcus in infancy to a lower risk of childhood allergies, and greater amounts of Oscillospira to a lower risk of obesity later in life. This new study adds to existing research that shows kids in regular contact with dogs in their first year of life have a 13 percent lower risk of asthma.

So if you’re thinking about starting or expanding your family, you might want to add a dog to the mix. Prenatal exposure also confers benefits to newborns and gives you time to get the animal settled into household routines. Bonus: Besides giving unconditional love, a dog encourages more exercise and reduces stress.