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Disrupted Sleep - could it be making you fat?

Disrupted sleep – could it be making you fat?

New study: Disrupted sleep can increase ‘hunger hormones’

Disrupted sleep can increase ‘hunger hormones’ leading to unwanted weight gain, a new study suggests (1). The review, published recently in the Journal of Psychology, examines the various ways in which disrupted sleep and the associated problems cause increased food intake.

Disrupted Sleep and ‘Hunger Hormones’

Our experience of hunger is controlled by two hormones – leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is a hormone that tells our brain that we are feeling full, while ghrelin sends signals from our stomach to our brain to increase appetite.

Studies have found that a lack of sleep leads to an imbalance in leptin and ghrelin (2,3). Any imbalance in these hormones can spell trouble for appetite and cravings. The result is that we are left feeling hungrier than usual. This type of imbalance also means that we are less likely to feel ‘full’ after a good meal and more likely to experience cravings for sugar-laden foods.

Disrupted Sleep and Will-Power

The researchers pinpoint another mechanism that may link sleep and weight problems. “Disrupted sleep patterns may impact food intake of both adults and children via impairment of executive functions”. If you’ve ever blamed a lack of will-power for thwarted weight loss attempts, then it may be helpful to look at improving your sleep. It seems that disrupted sleep can impair the part of the brain that is responsible for ‘executive control’ and ‘impulse modulation’, and so can sabotage weight loss attempts by affecting healthy meal planning, impulse control and simple ‘will power’. (4).

Disrupted Sleep and Emotional Eating

A third factor highlighted in the review is the role that sleep plays on emotional regulation, scientifically known as the limbic system. A pattern of disrupted sleep means we are more likely to see the ‘glass half empty’ – negative emotions are amplified and emotional challenges are more difficult to manage (5).

The result is comfort eating. We begin to reach for sugar-laden or stodgy foods – sweet and energy-dense foods to rebalance our levels of ‘happy hormones’ such as serotonin and endorphins.

Solutions for disrupted sleep

“Sleep should be actively considered in efforts to modify dietary behaviour,”, this new study concludes. In other words, if you are struggling with weight loss or sticking to a healthy eating programme, then addressing sleep problems is a good place to start.

Basic sleep hygiene is important. Try to go to bed and rise at the same times each day, and refrain from doing anything too stimulating – playing computer games, checking emails, heavy exercise – in the couple of hours before bed. Make sure that your bedroom is dark and kept at a comfortable temperature.

Magnesium, the ‘relaxing mineral’ has been found to relieve sleep problems. Taking 300mg magnesium before bed, or using a topical magnesium oil, can boost your levels in order to promote healthful sleep. Magnesium salts can also be added to bath water and will be absorbed through the skin.

L-theanine, a naturally occurring amino acid, plays a role in relaxation and has been seen to improve sleep quality in recent studies (6). L-theanine works by enhancing alpha-wave activity in the brain, resulting in a more relaxed state and reduced anxiety levels.

Valerian is a herbal supplement often used for promoting healthful sleep. Many individuals have found relief with herbal sleep formulas although more research needs to be done in this area.

Finally, tart cherry juice (such as CherryActive), has also performed well in initial placebo-controlled sleep studies, probably as a result of its anti-inflammatory properties and melatonin content. This type of cherry juice has been found to improve sleep parameters such as sleep quality, efficiency and total sleep time (7).

References:

  1. Alyssa Lundahl and Timothy D Nelson (2015) Sleep and food intake: A multisystem review of mechanisms in children and adults. Journal of Health Psychology, 20(6):794-805
  2. Tatone F, Dubois L, Ramsay T, et al (2012) Sex differences in the association between sleep duration, diet and body mass index: A birth cohort study. Journal of Sleep Research 21(4): 448–460
  3. Burt J, Dube L, Thibault L, et al (2014) Sleep and eating in childhood: A potential behavioral mechanism underlying the relationship between poor sleep and obesity. Sleep Medicine Reviews 15(1): 71–75
  4. Beebe DW, Fallone G, Godiwala N, et al. (2008) Feasibility and behavioral effects of an at-home multi-night sleep restriction protocol for adolescents. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 49(9): 915–923
  5. Daniela T, Alessandro C, Giuseppe C, et al. (2010) Lack of sleep affects the evaluation of emotional stimuli. Brain Research Bulletin 82(1): 104–108
  6. Lyon MR et al (2011) The effects of L-theanine (Suntheanine®) on objective sleep quality in boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Altern Med Rev. 2011 Dec;16(4):348-54
  7. Wilfred RP et al (2010) Effects of a Tart Cherry Juice Beverage on the Sleep of Older Adults with Insomnia: A Pilot Study. J Food Med. 13(3):579-583
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Caffeine linked to low birth weight babies

A new study published in the journal BMC Medicine last month shows that caffeine is linked to low birth weight babies (1).

Caffeine intake is already a concern in pregnancy, with current guidelines recommending that pregnant women restrict themselves to no more than 200mg of caffeine (equivalent to around two cups of coffee) each day.

While the placental barrier does a good job of screening out many infectious agents, it is not able to block environmental pollutants such as pesticides, mercury and PCBs. Likewise, caffeine can cross the placental barrier, resulting in babies that are small for gestational age (SGA).

The study monitored the caffeine intake of more than 60,000 pregnant women. For every 100mg of caffeine each day, the average infant lost an estimated 21-28g. Caffeine intake also increased the length of pregnancy, with caffeine from coffee in particular having the most dramatic effect. This suggests that another substance in coffee may also contribute to the negative effects. For example, decaffeinated coffee retains other stimulants such as theophylline and theobromine.

While coffee is the primary source of caffeine in many diets, there are many other foods and drinks that contribute to overall caffeine intake. This study monitored all sources of caffeine, including coffee, tea, hot chocolate, fizzy drinks, as well as foods such as chocolate and chocolate desserts.

Coffee
Caffeine can cross the placental barrier, resulting in babies that are small for gestational age

As a general guide, a can of coke contains around 30mg caffeine, a cup of tea contains around 50mg caffeine, and a cup of instant coffee contains around 60mg caffeine. ‘Proper’ coffee will provide an even bigger caffeine hit. A medium cup of coffee from a high street coffee chain can contain around 200mg caffeine. For those who regularly visit high street coffee chains it’s important to note that the amount of caffeine in drinks from these stores can vary wildly making it very difficult to determine how much caffeine you are actually drinking.

Staying hydrated is especially important during pregnancy. Drinking plenty of fluids helps lessen the risks of problems such as constipation, urinary infections, fluid retention and haemorrhoids during pregnancy. The volume of blood in your body, which is made mostly of water, also increases during pregnancy.

So what are the best choices of beverage during pregnancy? Water is the most obvious choice for staying hydrated. Keep a bottle at your desk or carry a small bottle in your bag if you’re out and about. If plain water is too boring, try carbonated water and add a slice or two of lemon or lime.

Naturally caffeine-free teas are another good choice. Redbush tea is naturally caffeine free. Peppermint tea can help ease digestive troubles and ginger tea may help to relieve morning sickness. Fruit smoothies using probiotic yoghurt and digestive-boosters such as milled flax seeds is another great option.

Barley water makes a great anti-inflammatory agent for the urinary system which can be more prone to infection during pregnancy. Buy whole barley, put 40g in a litre of water, boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Add a slice of lemon or the juice of one lemon and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Allow to cool, then sip the water throughout the day.

Finally, green smoothies provide all the antioxidants of fruit juice without the sugar hit, and they can be a great source of minerals such as folate and iron which are needed in greater amounts during pregnancy. Try blending a handful of spinach with an avocado, a dash of apple juice, a cup of water, and three tablespoons of plain yoghurt for a refreshing folate and iron-rich green smoothie.

References

1. Sengpiel V et al. (2013) Maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy is associated with birth weight but not with gestational length: results from a large prospective observational cohort study. BMC Medicine 11:42.

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Fibre and Obesity

It is widely known that levels of obesity across the world have been rising at a staggering rate over the past few decades. We can’t miss the constant references to junk food and obesity in the news, however our obesogenic environments seem to present people with barriers to losing weight and becoming healthier.

Wholegrain Bread contains fibre
Foods like wholegrain bread contains fibre which could be good for a healthy weight and BMI.

It is important to overcome these barriers as the rises in overweight and obesity have been directly linked to low intakes of fibre rich foods such as vegetables, fruit, whole-grains and legumes (i.e. under the recommended intake of 18-30 grams of fibre a day in the UK).

Likewise, higher intakes of fibre are correlated with lower body mass index (BMI) and reduced incidence of metabolic disturbances such as hypertension, heart disease and diabetes. Fibre may also help to induce satiety, balance blood sugar and prevent hunger pangs and cravings which in turn can help to reduce energy intake, which offers another potential benefit for overweight individuals.

In order to investigate the effect of overweight individuals’ fibre intake in particular, one study (1) compared the fibre intakes from healthy diet, supplementation or a placebo on body composition and other metabolic measures. This study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, aimed to discover the effects of additional fibre intakes on metabolic outcomes and also to determine the amount of fibre that would be the most effective. The study used four groups where subjects either consumed a placebo powder (breadcrumbs) with their usual diet (control), a fibre supplement in the form of 12g of psyllium husks with their usual diet, a healthy eating diet with placebo and finally healthy eating diet with fibre supplementation. The researchers found that compared to the control group, who simply ate their usual diet with a placebo, the subjects in all groups increased their daily fibre intakes. Specifically, the healthy eating diet with psyllium husk supplementation group increased their fibre intake by a massive 39g a day, which was in comparison to an 11g increase for health eating alone.

The authors noted that the addition of the fibre supplement to a normal diet was enough to produce improvements in weight, BMI and % body fat. However, they stated that it is the combination of a healthy diet with fibre supplementation that produced the greatest improvements in all bodily measures (including total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, insulin, body weight and BMI) for overweight individuals. This led the authors to conclude that an intake of fibre above 30g per day from both dietary sources and fibre supplements was the most suitable for those who are overweight, and not simply the adoption of a healthy diet alone. Therefore, if you are interested in losing weight, increasing your health and reducing your risks of metabolic conditions, you may wish to include the following high fibre foods into your diet along with fibre supplements such as psyllium, rice bran, wheat bran etc:

– Vegetables; including split peas (around 8g of fibre per 100g).

– Seeds; for example flax seeds provide 2.7g of fibre per tablespoon.

– Cereals; e.g a medium size bowl of All-Bran contains 9.8g of fibre; Two pieces of Shredded Wheat contain 4.3g of fibre; Two Weetabix contain 3.6g of fibre.

– Legumes such as red kidney beans; three tablespoons of red kidney beans contain 5.4g of fibre.

– Fruits such as apricots; three whole apricots contain 5g of fibre; Three whole prunes contain 4.6g of fibre and a medium size pear (with skin) contains 3.7g of fibre.

Written by Lauren Foster

References

(1) Pal, S. Khossousi, A., Binns, C., Dhaliwal, S. & Ellis, V. (2011). The effect of a fibre supplement compared to a healthy diet on body composition, lipids, glucose, insulin and other metabolic syndrome risk factors in overweight and obese individuals. British Journal of Nutrition, 105, 90100.

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Could Probiotics help with Weight Management?

Some research exists to suggest that probiotics could help with weight management – but how would that work, and how sound is the research?

In 2006, a seminal study[1] published in the well-respected journal, Nature, showed a clear difference in the gut bacteria of obese people as opposed to their lean counterparts. What’s more, when obese participants later lost weight, their gut bacteria reverted back to those observed in lean participants.

Since then, smaller studies continue to support the theory that gut bacteria could influence weight. In 2009, a trial[2] found that women who took Lactobacillus & Bifidobacterium probiotics during pregnancy and breastfeeding were less likely to be obese 6 months following birth. 25% of the women who had received dietary advice alongside probiotic supplementation had excess abdominal fat, as opposed to in 43% of women who had received dietary advice with a placebo.

Weight Loss
Weight Loss may be supported by a higher probiotic bacteria balance in the gut

Could we be doing more to fight the obesity epidemic?

In 2010, a double-blind, randomised placebo-controlled trial in Japan[3] found a Lactobacillus probiotic to reduce abdominal fat by 4.6% and subcutaneous fat (just below the skin) by 3.3%. The trial recruited 87 overweight participants and randomly assigned a daily dose of fermented milk either with or without the probiotics, for a period of 12 weeks. The probiotic group given milk containing the probiotic Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055, showed significant decreases in body weight BMI, in waist circumference, and in the hips.

How could Probiotics encourage Weight Loss?

No one knows for certain just yet, but mechanisms could include:

  • Better breakdown of foods (a well understood benefit of probiotics).
  • Displacement of pathogenic bacteria associated with weight gain.
  • Stimulating the body’s production of natural substances associated with decreased body fat.
  • L. acidophilus was found in a small study in 2008[5] to increase the body’s production of leptin (a protein commonly accepted to decrease appetite and increase metabolism) and to result in weight loss.
  • In 2010 scientists in Ireland found another Lactobacillus probiotic to influence the fat composition of the host, via production of the fatty acid t10, c12 CLA; a molecule previously associated with decreased body fat.
  • Correlation between obesity & digestive health issues such as constipation. Fascinating ongoing research in the USA by Dr Mark Pimental suggests that those with constipation could be absorbing more calories, potentially because when the gut performs at a slower rate the body has more time to absorb calories.[6] As probiotics could help to support bowel regularity (especially well-researched strains such as Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12Ò [7],[8]), a more efficient digestive process could lead to fewer calories being absorbed.

Moving Forward

In England our rates of obesity have doubled over the last 25 years, with 60% of adults overweight or obese today[9]. Any natural support in tackling this obesity epidemic could therefore play a fundamental role in the future. Currently evidence remains too sparse for any firm conclusions, although the results certainly look promising. Of course we needn’t tell you that taking a holistic approach and also looking at diet, fitness and exercise is always to be encouraged.

For individuals looking to lose weight a high quality daily probiotic might be suggested. For daily wellbeing EXTRA Strength contains 20 billion high quality Lactobacillus & Bifidobacteria probiotics. L. acidophilus NCFM is thought to be the most researched strain of acidophilus in the world which can be found in this probiotic supplement.

 

References:

1.Bajzer, M, & Seeley, R. ‘Phsyiology: Obesity and Gut Flora.’ Nature, 2006, Vol. 444, pp.1009 -1010.

2.News release, 17th European Congress on Obesity. 17th European Congress on obesity meeting, Amsterdam, Netherlands, May 6-9, 2009.

3. Y. Kadooka et al., ‘Regulation of abdominal adiposity by probiotics (Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055) in adults with obese tendencies in a randomised controlled trial.’ European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010, vol. 64, No. 6, pp.636-643.

4. Rosberg-Cody, E. ‘Recombinant Lactobacilli expressing linolic acid isomerise can modulate the fatty acid composition of host adipose tissue in mice’. Microbiology, Dec, 22, 2012 DOI: 10. 1099/mic.0.043406-0.

5. R. Sousa et al., ‘Effect of Lactobacillus acidophilus supernatants on body weight and leptin expression in rats’. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2008, 8:5 doi: 10.1186/6882-8-5.

6. BBC Radio 4, Tuesday 8th March 2011 2100-2130h ‘Programme no. 9 – gut bacteria’ Radio science unit. Presented by Mark Porter; contributors: Glenn Gibson, Christine Edwards, Thomas Broody, Alisdair Macchonnachie, Mark Pimentel & Ian Rowland.

7. Matsumoto, M. et al. (2001) Effect of yoghurt with Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12 in improving fecal microflora and defecation of healthy volunteers. Journal of Intestinal Microbiology; 14(2): pp.97-102.

8. Pitkala, K, H. et al. (2007) Fermented cereal with specific Bifidobacteria normalises bowel movements in elderly nursing home residents. A randomised, controlled trial. Journal of Nutriitonal Health and Ageing; 11.(4): pp.305-311.

9. guardian.co.uk/sustainable-business/food-companies-health-wellbeing

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New Evidence for Green Coffee Extract and Weight Loss

A new study suggests that green coffee extract may be an effective supplement in aiding weight loss (1). The supplement was linked with substantial weight loss, decreased body fat, and a decrease in blood pressure over the short study period.

The research, published in the journal Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity, followed a group of 16 adults over a course of 22 weeks.

Green Coffee Extract may help weight
Green Coffee Extract may help weight management (4.)

Each participant was overweight or obese, and aged between 22 and 26 years. The study used a high dose capsule (1050mg), a low dose capsule (700mg) and a placebo. The study was a “cross-over” design, meaning that participants cycled through the dose active doses and the placebo, taking each for 6 weeks. Each person essentially acted as his or her own “control”, meaning that the study results were more likely to be accurate and meaningful.

The diets of the participants were monitored throughout. “Their calories, carbohydrates, fats and protein intake did not change during the study, nor did their exercise regimen change,” study leader Vinson said. On average, the participants were eating around 2400 calories per day.

The subjects lost an average of 17 pounds over the course of the study. This was equal to 10.5% of their overall body weight. Each participant also lost an average of 16% body fat. Telephone interviews conducted 4 months after the study ended found that 14 of the 16 subjects had maintained their weight loss.

The caffeine in the supplement is unlikely to have contributed to the result. In total, the supplements provided up to 20mg caffeine – about the amount in a regular cup of coffee.

The active ingredient in the supplement actually appears to be chlorogenic acid. This is a compound naturally present in green coffee which acts as a strong anti-oxidant, quenching free oxygen radicals. Chlorogenic acid has been found to slow down the absorption of fat from the intestine and to activate fat metabolism in the liver (2). It also inhibits sugar absorption and influences glucose metabolism (3). Chlorogenic acid breaks down when coffee beans are roasted, meaning that drinking regular coffee will not offer the same benefits.

The design of the study used only a short break between each ‘cycle’, where the subjects swapped between supplements, and this may have affected the result. Despite this limitation, the authors concluded that the green coffee supplement may be “an effective neutraceutical in reducing weight in preobese adults, and may be an inexpensive means of preventing obesity in overweight adults.”

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

References

1. Vinson J, Burnham B, Nagendran MV (2012) Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, linear dose, crossover study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of a green coffee bean extract in overweight subjects. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 5: 21-27.

2. Shimoda H, Seki E, Aitani M (2006) Inhibitory effect of green coffee bean extract on fat accumulation and body weight gain in mice. BMC Complement Altern Med 17;6:9.

3. Narita Y, Inouye K. (2009) Kinetic analysis and mechanism on the inhibition of chlorogenic acid and its components against porcine pancreas alpha-amylase isozymes I and II. J Agric Food Chem. 14;57(19):9218-25.

4. Image courtesy of Foto76

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Diabetes epidemic on a global scale

The number of people dignosed with Type 2 diabetes has more than doubled since the 1980s, and this number continues to grow in almost every part of the world.

In a large-scale study published in The Lancet last month, researchers found that rates of diabetes have either risen or at best remained the same in virtually all parts of the world in the past 30 years.

Glaucometer
The number of people dignosed with Type 2 diabetes has more than doubled since the 1980s (2)

While Type 1 diabetes is an automimmune disorder, Type 2 is a preventable condition caused by factors such as diet and lifestyle.  Type 2 diabetes occurs when the cells of the body become ‘insulin resistant’, meaning that they are no longer able to take up sugar.  As a result, sugar continues to circulate in the bloodstream where it can cause damage around the body.

The long term risks of diabetes include damage to the nerves, kidneys and retinas, as well as increased rates of cardiovascular disease and stroke.  Many of those diagnosed with Type 2 diabates end up taking long-term prescription medications to control blood glucose levels.

The new study is the largest of its kind for diabetes, and was conducted by an international group of researchers in collaboration with the World Health Organisation.

It found that between 1980 and 2008, the number of adults with diabetes rose from 153 million to 347 million. Much of this rise was a result of population growth and longevity.  However, 30% of the rise was due to higher prevalence.  Currently 9.8% of men and 9.2% of women now suffer with Type 2 diabetes.

Goodarz Danaei, from the Harvard School of Public Health, added “Unless we develop better programs for detecting people with elevated blood sugar and helping them to improve their diet and physical activity and control their weight, diabetes will inevitably continue to impose a major burden on health systems around the world.”  These three simple changes to your diet can help reduce your risk of diabetes:

Cut the sugar

Refined carbohydrates cause sharp rises in your blood sugar levels.  Over time this can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes.
Start by replacing sugary foods with more healthy alternatives.  Replace sugary sodas and energy drinks with herbal teas and green tea. Switch sweets and chocolate for a piece of fruit.  Avoid sugary breakfast cereal and start the day with eggs on wholegrain toast or fruit and yoghurt.

BioCare Get Up and Go Low GL Breakfast Shake Powder - 300g Powder
Try a high fibre smoothie, such as Biocare’s Get Up and Go Low GL Breakfast Shake.

Increase your fibre intake

A high fibre diet decreases your risk of diabetes, and you should aim for between 20 and 35g fibre each day.
Easy ways to increase your fibre intake include replacing fruit juice with a piece of fruit or a fruit smoothie, and replacing white pasta, rice and bread with wholegrain alternatives.  You could also try a high fibre smoothie, such as BioCare’s Get Up and Go Low GL Breakfast Shake.

Add lean protein

Including a source of lean protein with each meal can help you to control your blood sugar.

Replace fatty and processed meats such as burgers, bacon and sausages with lean meats such as chicken and turkey.  Other good sources of lean protein include eggs, cottage cheese, reduced fat hummus, tofu, and pulses such as beans, lentils and chickpeas.

Written by Nadia Mason
References
Goodarz Danaei et al. (2011) National, regional, and global trends in fasting plasma glucose and diabetes prevalence since 1980: systematic analysis of health examination surveys and epidemiological studies with 370 country-years and 2.7 million participants.  The Lancet. 378(9875):31-40

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