Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The great weight loss scam



You live in a world where an endless stream of diet pills and regimes are marketed to you as a way to lose weight. In addition to this, the usual marketing ploy is to represent these products as a tool to lose weight with little to no exercise. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the warning sign it should be, and so many people fall into this trap, thinking they can just pop a pill and reach a healthier, slimmer version of themselves. This isn't the case, and you need to be armed and ready to refuse products that are going to cause you more harm than good.


How does weight loss work?


Fast weight loss scams are the most predominant in the industry. This is because when people want something, they want it now, and if they believe a product can help them achieve this in 7 days, logic seems to fly out the window. Weight loss can only proceed at a logical rate however, and there is an easy way to quantify it.

To give you some form of foundation to stand on when you judge a product or diet plan, it's important to know some of the logistics of weight loss. When losing weight, the basic principle, rooted in science, is that it takes a reduction of calories to lose weight. If you're consuming more calories than your body needs on a daily basis, you gain weight. If you consume less, you lose weight. It's as simple as that.
Source: Flickr

The human body is like an engine that runs continuously. It doesn't matter whether you're actually walking around or performing some form of intense exercise, your body will still use a certain amount of energy. This is your basal metabolic rate. When you perform additional exercise, you use more energy than your BMR, but even when you lie in bed all day, you are still using the amount of energy dictated by your BMR. Essentially, even when you do absolutely nothing, your body will use energy because there are reactions taking place inside that need to be fueled.

Continuing down this track, any activity you do in a day is an additional use of energy on top of your BMR. You use an amount of energy every day just to be alive, and then the exercise you do during the day leads you to your final energy usage. You get up out of bed to check the mailbox...you're using more energy than your BMR. You take the dog for a walk...you're using more energy than your BMR. 

If at any point, the amount of calories you consume in the food you eat doesn't supply your body with enough energy to meet the total energy expenditure of your BMR and daily activity, you will lose weight. The fat stored in your body is used to replace this lost energy, and thus you become slimmer.


What is stored fat?


Your body stores energy as fat when you consume more energy than you require. This is beneficial in that it can be used for energy if you ever suffer through starvation, but leads to obesity in an age where processed foods full of calories have become common, and over-eating is actively encouraged. All over the world, we want more for our money. Bigger drinks, bigger meals. The quality is sacrificed, and the result is that you end up not only eating inferior food, but a lot more of it.
Source: Flickr

What exactly is stored fat in terms of energy though? The number that most health organisations and government agencies run with is 3500 calories per pound of fat. This is based on the caloric estimate that a gram of fat is equivalent to 9 calories, a pound is equivalent to 454 grams, and stored body fat is 87 percent actual fat. Estimates of the lipid content of body fat from studies ranges as low as 75 percent, which would equate to just over 3000 calories. To account for this range, we can say that a pound of fat contains between 3000 - 3500 calories.

This means, that for every 3500 calories you consume in excess of your energy expenditure, you will gain one pound of fat. If you were eating 500 calories more than you need every day, this leads to a weight gain of one pound per week, or over 50 pounds a year if this excess consumption is continued. The general logic to take from this is, excess energy is what causes weight gain, and energy deficits cause weight loss. There is no magical formula for weight loss other than this. 

It doesn't matter if you're eating something full of saturated fat, or full of carbohydrates. Whilst either scenario leads to other health complications like heart disease and blood glucose issues when you eat too much of one nutrient, it is the energy from the food you eat that causes the weight gain, not a specific nutrient like fat, carbs, or protein.

Source: Flickr


Energy expenditure of an average person


You energy expenditure varies based on your weight, height, age, and other factors. It's possible to come to an estimate of energy expenditure by using these variables. To estimate your energy expenditure, enter your details into the Sydney University's calculator.


Estimating calories


To estimate your caloric intake, you can also use the values in the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization's human energy requirement study.


A 20 year old male who weighs 170 pounds (80 kgs), is looking at an estimated basal metabolic rate of 1941 calories (8121 kilojoules). When you combine this with light activity during the day, this becomes a total expenditure of just over 2500 calories (10460 kilojoules).

If this man was to eat 500 calories less than his caloric maintenance per day, he'd be cutting his daily requirement by 20 percent, and over the course of a week, he could achieve a maximum weight loss of one pound of fat from this deficit. If however, he was eating 500 calories more per day, he'd gain up to one pound of fat in a week. 


How much of a deficit is healthy?


Health professionals recommend to cut your daily energy intake by no more than 25 percent for the healthiest and safest results. If you cut it down too much, you end up losing more muscle mass, and risk damaging your brain, nervous system, and organs. Starvation is not safe, and many diets place you into a condition where your body is literally starving.

This deficit means that on average, you can lose 1 - 2 pounds of fat a week without causing yourself harm. People who weigh more to begin with, can cut their calories by a little more without endangering themselves, and people who are lighter but want to tone up, should cut their calories by less.


Examining a scam diet


Now you have all this information and you're probably wondering how to actually use it. You know how much energy is stored in a pound of fat, and you have an estimate of your daily energy requirements. You know how many calories in deficit it would take to lose a certain amount of fat. Let's apply this to one of the newest, and unhealthiest scam diets: the 'Soup Mate Pro 7 day Soup Diet', which is heavily marketed on television and online.

Source: Flickr
According to their marketing, and blatantly listed on their website, they state you will "lose up to 4.5 kgs in one week". The marketer behind the program, Brendan McCarthy, even claims that he lost 10 kgs in 7 days on his diet. Let's have a look at the logistics of this.

The amount of weight loss that is claimed to be possible, is almost 10 pounds. This amount of fat, stores at least 30000 calories if we use the lowest side of the scientifically determined range from before. These 30000 calories, divided by 7 days, equates to over 4200 calories a day that would have to be decreased in order to lose this amount of weight in this time period.

The 170 pound man from our earlier example had a basal metabolic rate of just under 2000 calories per day. This means, even if he was to completely starve himself and perform no exercise whatsoever, he would lose a maximum of just over 4 pounds of fat after 7 days. Keep in mind, doing this is potentially lethal and utterly foolhardy. Even by starving himself completely, he could not lose the amount of fat they say is possible, and a large part of this weight loss would be muscle.

Let's say he adds exercise in order to boost this number up. Keep in mind once more, he's starving himself, so he wouldn't be able to exercise anyway. You don't have the capacity to exercise to any great degree during starvation. To lose those 10 pounds of fat advertised, he would have to not only starve himself, but walk at a brisk pace for 10 hours, every day for that 7 day period.

You're probably thinking, well that's a ridiculous scenario though, he wouldn't be starving himself. The problem is, he is indeed starving himself. If you take a look at the 'reviews' littered over blogs, the 'test subjects' consume an average of two bowls of soup per day, made from water and vegetables only. 

Source: Flickr
There's almost no carbohydrates in these soups because vegetables, whilst a good source of vitamins, are not energy dense like grains. There's almost no fat, which again is not good. Fat does not cause weight gain, energy excess causes weight gain. Fats are required by the body to make hormones, cell membranes, and keep your body functioning properly. Worse yet, is that there is almost no protein in the soups. When you reduce calories, you risk losing muscle, and when you consume little to no protein, there's your muscle mass down the drain right there, as well as your neurotransmitters, hair, skin, organs, brain...the amino acids from protein really are necessary for so many facets of your bodily maintenance and function.

You should also take a closer look at Brendan McCarthy's claim that he lost 10 kgs in 7 days on his soup diet. That's about double what he says you can lose over the course of the diet. In order to lose this amount of actual fat in 7 days, he would have to not only be starving himself, but walk 20 hours per day at a brisk pace. This leads to a total of 560 kms over the course of his diet. He markets this diet in Australia, so try this neat little experiment and plot in a course from Brisbane, QLD to Port Macquarie, NSW. Zoom out. Zoom out again. Get a really good look at the eastern coast of Australia. Can you see just how far he would have to walk, let alone the fact that he's starving whilst trying to do this, in order to reach the energy expenditure required to burn off 10 kgs of fat in 7 days?

Essentially, if you were to go on this diet, you would be starving yourself. Do you know how they get away with it? They call it 'weight loss', not 'fat loss'. This is the biggest scam. Whilst the words 'weight loss' aren't necessarily used to scam you by the majority, scam diet companies most certainly will use them in that way. Weight loss doesn't have to mean fat, which you want to lose. It can mean water, it can mean muscle, it can mean bone...it can mean anything that lowers your final weight on a scale.

Basically, you starve yourself, lose mostly muscle and water weight, and you think you've lost weight. They can call this weight loss. You think they mean fat loss. They aren't liable for their marketing claims, and you aren't going to improve your health. It's a terrible, legally justifiable scam, and there's nothing in the law to protect you. The only thing you can do to protect yourself and save your money and health, is to learn their tricks and scrutinize everything.

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Sunday, 13 April 2014

Natural anxiety relief



It goes without saying that you're probably feeling more stress and anxiety than you want to be feeling. If you find yourself seizing up with anxiety, you can rest assured you're not alone. Over 40 million people in the US suffer from some form of anxiety disorder, and more deal with milder anxiety. Unfortunately, prescription medications may not benefit everyone, and SSRIs in particular, can cause more problems than they allegedly fix.


What causes anxiety?


The cause of anxiety is largely unknown. Whilst scientists know of many things that can provoke pre-existing anxiety, they're not entirely sure why it happens. One belief is that there is either an excess of the fight or flight neurotransmitters, or there is a deficiency of GABA in the brain.

Source: Flickr
The fight or flight response occurs when you receive a shock, and this response is meant to spur you into action by fueling your muscles with glucose and kick-starting your heart. This is achieved through epinephrine and norepinephrine, which are two of the brain's primary neurotransmitters. These are sometimes referred to as adrenaline and noradrenaline. When your body produces too much of these neurotransmitters, you feel jittery and anxious. If you've ever felt jittery from caffeine, this is due to an increase of neurotransmitters, and an inhibition of GABA.

GABA on the other hand, is an inhibiting neurotransmitter. Whilst epinephrine incites you to action, GABA calms you down. A deficiency of GABA in the brain can lead to anxiety because transmissions in the brain are left uninhibited when you should be relaxed.


The role of serotonin


SSRI withdrawal

When you increase the action of a receptor, your body eventually realizes what is happening. As far as your body knows, that receptor is being stimulated too much, so it cuts down the stimulation at the receptor in order to reach homeostasis again.

This can be achieved through either down-regulation of the receptor, so that it produces a weaker response, or internalization of the receptor, where the receptor is relocated inside the cell and can't be stimulated. The end result is that by taking the drug, you reach a state of normal, and this happens with SSRIs.

When you stop taking the SSRI, because your receptors have been down-regulated, the amount of serotonin your body naturally produces, isn't enough to stimulate them properly, so you end up going through withdrawal.

Whilst the popular consensus is to call this 'SSRI discontinuation syndrome', it is a drug withdrawal, and is exactly the same process that happens when you stop taking opiates, benzodiazepines, or alcohol. Any medication that increases or decreases the action of a receptor, should not preferably be taken on a long-term basis or physical addiction will result. 

There is evidence that anxiety can stem from down-regulated 5-HT1A serotonin receptors in the brain, hence the prevailing use of serotonin reuptake inhibitors like fluoxetine (Prozac). SSRIs like Prozac bind to the serotonin transporter and inhibit it. Normally the transporter would recycle serotonin, removing it from the synapse, but when it is inhibited with an SSRI, serotonin accumulates in the synapse and thus has a greater effect.

Basically, SSRI antidepressants work by blocking the removal of serotonin, and whilst there is evidence pointing towards a relationship between anxiety and the 5-HT1A receptors, the details of such a relationship are still blurry at best. Furthermore, in order to increase the stimulation at these receptors, serotonin is increased overall, so other serotonin receptors are activated by this increase, leading to side effects.

Whilst it's likely science will gain greater knowledge of the serotonin receptors and finally be able to say with some certainty whether 5-HT1A should be targeted for anti-anxiety, until then, SSRIs are messy drugs and probably not the best treatment. It is even likely that selective 5-HT1A agonists will arise in the following years, meaning that the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor can be targeted instead of hitting every receptor at once and hoping for the best.

SSRIs have a range of side effects like weight gain, sexual dysfunction, mood changes, and with long-term use can cause an addiction. The withdrawal effects lead to an increase of anxiety and depression, as well as other effects to mood, so it's unsurprising that many people would rather avoid them.


Benzodiazepines


Xanax bars - source: flickr
Benzodiazepines are another option for the treatment of anxiety. Some people are prescribed benzodiazepines like Valium and Xanax for occasional use to abort panic attacks and during times of higher anxiety. Others however, will be placed on a benzodiazepine for a period of time whilst they commence treatment with antidepressants. This is done to relieve anxiety until the antidepressant begins to take effect.

Benzodiazepines work to relieve anxiety by binding to GABA receptors in the brain. When Valium binds to the GABA-A receptor, it increases the effect of the brain's own GABA, and this causes relaxation and anxiety relief. Whilst they are highly effective, and very safe drugs, they are addictive and many people abuse them. For this reason, they aren't used for long-term treatment of anxiety. Benzodiazepines are most effective when they are only taken every few days, to ease anxiety when you really need relief. You run the risk of addiction and withdrawals if you can't manage to use them intermittently like this.


Natural anxiety relief supplements


If you'd rather try natural anxiety relief as opposed to the standard treatments, there's a few options available to you and they're surprisingly useful. Some of these supplements include:

  • Picamilon
  • Phenibut
  • L-theanine
  • Valerian root

Picamilon


Picamilon is a combination of two natural ingredients: gamma aminobutyric acid, and niacin. You're more likely to know niacin by the name vitamin B3, as it's a necessary vitamin that your body needs every day. B vitamins allow your body to metabolise nutrients and produce energy. A deficiency of these vitamins will leave you feeling run-down and lazy, as well as leaving you more prone to stress and anxiety.

Source: Flickr
Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), is the brain's primary calming signal that tells you to relax. You couldn't simply take GABA in order to relieve anxiety though, because it can't cross the blood brain barrier in any useful quantity. GABA needs to enter the brain in order to actually work, and whilst there are many GABA supplements on the market, these are largely useless for this reason. In high doses, these supplements can have a peripheral effect on the body, but they don't produce the central effect that is able to relieve anxiety.

Picamilon however, can cross the blood brain barrier because of the vitamin B3. When GABA is bound to niacin, the niacin acts somewhat like a taxi, shuttling GABA into the brain. Once picamilon crosses the blood brain barrier, it breaks back down into niacin and GABA at its destination. The GABA is then free to calm you down and relieve anxiety.

Medications like Valium are famous for their anti-anxiety, muscle-relaxant, and hypnotic effects. Whilst picamilon makes more GABA available to the brain and has similar effects, it is nowhere near as strong. Because of this, picamilon is much more gentle than benzodiazepines but is still a powerful form of natural anxiety relief.

Picamilon will also help you sleep, and helps you focus when you're feeling foggy. There's some evidence to suggest it can prevent excitotoxicity in the brain and protect against brain damage. It's also thought to help improve blood flow and the niacin in picamilon lowers blood pressure, so there's more than one reason to take picamilon.


How to take picamilon


For natural anxiety relief with picamilon, it is best to take low doses spread out over the day, and to only take picamilon every few days so it doesn't lose effect. Take either two - three doses of 50mgs to control mild symptoms, or two doses of 100mgs for stronger relief. To stop a panic attack as it begins to happen, take 100 - 150mgs at the onset of symptoms and it will quickly work to ease your anxiety and stop the panic attack from becoming worse. 

Whilst it's preferable to take picamilon on an empty stomach for maximum absorption and quick effects, this may not be possible if you're beginning to feel a panic attack coming on and you've already ate. Picamilon will still work when taken after eating, but the beneficial effects are reduced slightly.


Phenibut


Phenibut is similar to picamilon in that it interacts with the brain's GABA receptors. Phenibut doesn't do this by increasing gamma aminobutyric acid like picamilon however. The GABA present in phenibut is modified with a phenyl ring and acts as a slightly different molecule. Whilst it still acts on the GABA receptors, it does so differently.

Phenibut binds to the gaba-b receptors, in comparison to GABA, which binds to both receptors. These receptors are slower to respond to stimulation, and when they are stimulated, they have a calming effect that is somewhat different. Phenibut calms the body and relaxes the muscles much more than it sedates you. In this sense, phenibut can relieve anxiety without making you tired or causing a rebound once it wears off like Valium does.
In particular, phenibut is highly useful as a treatment for social anxiety, because it allows you to leave the house feeling confident without feeling tired and foggy. It can also ease sore muscles and help you relax after a hard day.

It's important to note that phenibut is a modified derivative of natural GABA. In this sense, some might consider it synthetic. Nevertheless, it is included in this list because it is highly effective and not entirely synthetic. It was invented in Russia and became a necessary medication to stock on space missions because it can reduce anxiety and stress without impairing the performance of astronauts like benzodiazepines would.


How to take phenibut


Phenibut is best taken in small dosages across the day. Take 250mgs up to three times a day to control mild anxiety, up to a maximum of 500mgs for anxiety that is harder to control. To abort a panic attack, take 500 - 1000mgs once, at the start of symptoms.To get the most out of phenibut, use it for a maximum of two days continuously before taking a break of at least three days. Alternatively, you can also use it only as-needed when panic attacks occur.


L-theanine


L-theanine is another supplement that works through similar mechanisms to picamilon and phenibut. This compound is found naturally in tea, especially green tea, and is responsible for tea's calm yet stimulating effect, because l-theanine prevents jitters and over-stimulation from the caffeine, whilst increasing focus.

Unlike picamilon and phenibut however, l-theanine is thought to act at the NMDA receptors to balance glutamate and GABA. Whilst GABA slows your brain down, glutamate is excitatory and speeds it up. Should GABA drop or glutamate increase, anxiety can result, but l-theanine can help balance the two neurotransmitters to relieve anxiety.


How to take l-theanine


L-theanine can either be consumed in green tea, or can be taken as a supplement. Green tea also contains caffeine however, so this may not be a good option if you're sensitive to caffeine, and the caffeine itself reverses some of the effect of l-theanine. 

Should you choose to drink green tea however, gyokuro is one of the most concentrated sources of l-theanine, containing far more than other forms of tea, thanks to the way it is grown. The way it is shaded before harvesting leads to a buildup of l-theanine, and the tea gains a sweeter, fresh flavour that is easily distinguishable from other green teas. It is considered Japan's finest green tea.

As far as supplements go, l-theanine can be supplemented at a dosage from 20 - 100mgs. The average tea drinker in Japan consumes 20mgs of l-theanine in tea, but this might not be effective enough for you. In any case, the FDA has determined that high dosages don't pose a danger, and l-theanine itself may be protective against excitotoxicity, heart disease, and cancers.


Valerian root


Source: Flickr
Valerian is a herb that has traditionally been used for the relief of insomnia, anxiety, and other conditions. Evidence points towards it having an effect on the GABA system, and this would explain why it can act as a mild sedative and anxiolytic. It's not entirely clear to what extent valerian root is able to influence GABA, but many people swear by it for anxiety and insomnia.


How to take valerian root


Dosages between 400 - 900mgs have been used in research models, but valerian doesn't tend to be standardised so it is difficult to find a correct dosage. With valerian, it is a case of titrating the dosage to find what works for you. Many people report that the best effects are seen with continuous use over several days, so it might take time to build up effects. It can cause side effects like dizziness and headaches but isn't considered harmful.

If you'd like to give valerian root a chance, then by all means do so, but it may not work. Picamilon, phenibut, and l-theanine will always work to some extent, because they're proven to work at the cause of anxiety. However, everyone is different, and it's up to you and your doctor to find the best medication for your own needs.


Taking anxiety supplements


If you're taking supplements for anxiety, it's important to let your doctor know and listen to your doctor's advice first. Your doctor knows your medical history and needs, and can provide input to help you choose the supplement or medication that will benefit you the most. 

Furthermore, it is important that always take a few days break from using any anxiety medication. The same rule goes for any medication, used for any purpose, that binds to a receptor. This includes opiates like codeine and morphine; benzodiazepines like diazepam, alprazolam, and temazepam; tramadol; stimulants; and many other medicines. It's not just recreational drugs that cause addiction. Medicines and supplements that are prescribed to you or purchased OTC at a pharmacy can be physically addictive too. 

The key is always balance. Don't allow medications to become a crutch, and don't take them without break if they're addictive. You'll always stay in control if you can do this, and you'll be a stronger person as a result.

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Thursday, 10 April 2014

Forskolin - get the body you want



Forskolin is a herbal supplement sourced from the Coleus forskohlii plant. This plant has been used for centuries to treat a range of complaints varying from heart problems to digestive issues, and is a traditional Ayurvedic herb used in Indian medicine. What makes forskolin so interesting however, is its weight loss and body re-composition effects, and evidence is growing to support these claims.


The benefits of forskolin


Forskolin has a range of benefits associated with its use, including:
Source: Flickr
  • Blood pressure control
  • Heart protection
  • Increases beneficial HDL cholesterol
  • Assists weight loss
  • Increases lean muscle
  • Regulates insulin
  • Prevents asthma
  • Improved respiration
  • Treats glaucoma

    Forskolin increases cAMP



    The benefits of forskolin largely stem from its ability to activate cAMP. This is primarily responsible for the body re-composition effect, and the benefits to the heart. Forskolin is unique in the way it activates cAMP though, being able to increase cAMP directly. Other substances with similar effects are only able to increase cAMP indirectly. As such, forskolin is a one of a kind supplement and may pave the way for the creation of targeted medicines for heart disease and obesity.


    What is cAMP?


    Source: Flickr
    cAMP is a secondary neurotransmitter. Its primary function is to carry the messages from certain hormones into cells. Because the hormones can't penetrate the cells themselves, cAMP carries the message from these hormones in order to allow them to work. What this means is that if you increase cAMP, you can increase the response of cells to hormones that break down fat and increase protein synthesis. In effect, you increase your metabolism and benefit your body composition by decreasing fat and increasing lean muscle.

    You might be more familiar with the effect of cAMP when it comes to your morning coffee. Like forskolin, caffeine is able to increase the effects of cAMP, but caffeine achieves this by preventing its breakdown, rather than increasing the amount available. This is thought to be responsible for caffeine's effect on weight loss, which is typically found to be around a 5 percent boost to your metabolism.

    Of course, caffeine only has a minor effect on cAMP, and if the association between caffeine and forskolin has you worried about jitters and the other side effects of caffeine, these are unlikely. This is because caffeine mainly works to block adenosine in the brain, preventing this neurotransmitter from making you sleepy. The side effect of blocking adenoside is that the 'fight or flight' hormones, epinephrine and norepinephrine (adrenaline and noradrenaline), are no longer inhibited by adenosine. These neurotransmitters cause the anxiety and over-stimulation that occurs with too much caffeine, so forskolin is unlikely to have these effects. In fact, whilst caffeine increases blood pressure, forskolin lowers it.


    Forskolin lowers blood pressure

    Source: Flickr

    Most medicines and supplements meant to increase weight loss do so by increasing the activity of your CNS system. As such they have a stimulant effect. These medicines include caffeine, amphetamines (Adderall, Dexedrine), phentermine (Duromine), and methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta).

    The problem with this is that whilst they can increase weight loss and help people with obesity to reach a healthier weight, they increase blood pressure and can be damaging to the heart. Forskolin is actually used medicinally to improve heart output in people with heart disease, and it decreases blood pressure.

    Whilst forskolin increases weight loss, it doesn't carry the stimulant side effects of pharmaceutical anti-obesity drugs, so you won't suffer from sleeplessness, jitters, paranoia, or anxiety with its use. These days, many people have high blood pressure which places them at risk of heart disease and the last thing you want to do is take a stimulate to exacerbate this. In comparison, forskolin can treat hypertension and help you achieve a healthier blood pressure naturally.


    Forskolin benefits the heart


    There is a great deal of active research into the beneficial effects of forskolin on the heart. Currently, forskolin is even used to stimulate heart output in patients with heart failure. In a study of congestive heart failure using human heart tissue, forskolin was found to increase heart output.

    There is also evidence to believe that forskolin may be a useful treatment after certain heart surgeries like mitral valve replacement. Mitral valve replacement is currently associated with a lower survival rate, and forskolin has been found to benefit the condition by reversing force defects. Forskolin may be able to increase survival by regulating cardiac output in this way.

    Adding to the benefits of forskolin for your heart, is the ability of forskolin to raise HDL cholesterol. This form of cholesterol is the beneficial type that prevents atherosclerosis and other forms of heart disease.

    Source: Flickr

    Lose weight and build muscle


    Forskolin can prevent weight gain, and owing to its ability to raise cAMP levels, it may be able to increase lipolysis. This increase in lipolysis leads to weight loss because the ability of your body to burn fat is increased.

    Source: Flickr
    In a 12 week study of obese men, forskolin caused significant weight loss. Subjects lost 11 percent of their total body fat, gained just under 6 kgs of muscle, and increased their bone density by over 8 percent. This suggests that forskolin has a dramatic effect on body composition and can not only help you lose weight, but replace it with muscle and healthier bones, making you stronger, leaner, and less pone to osteoporosis and injuries.

    Whilst forskolin benefited body composition, it also boosted free testosterone levels. In aging men where testosterone levels are declining, this could help increase vitality and health in general. Because forskolin increases testosterone by increasing the function of leydig cells in men and boosting the testosterone production that is already occurring, this effect is limited to males. It is unknown whether forskolin could have a similar effect on estrogen in women.

    Another beneficial effect on body composition could be traced to forskolin's effects on insulin. Forskolin increases sensitivity to insulin following ingestion of glucose, so it may be able to benefit diabetes and regulate energy and glucose levels.


    Asthma and respiration


    When given to subjects as a treatment for asthma, Forskolin is able to reduce the severity of asthmatic attacks and prevent them from occurring. It was found to be a significantly better treatment for asthma than sodium cromoglycate, which is a medicine commonly used to treat asthma. Forskolin might show promise as a future asthma treatment.


    Forskolin treats glaucoma
    Source: Flickr


    Glaucoma is a disease of the eye where the pressure inside the eye increases. This rise in intra-ocular pressure is able to cause permanent damage to your vision, and can even send you blind if its left untreated. Forskolin has been found to be a natural treatment for glaucoma.

    In the treatment of glaucoma, forskolin is applied topically as eye drops. Subjects in a clinical study who used the eye drops were examined and a 70 percent reduction in outflow pressure was found.

    More importantly, forskolin continued to maintain a reduced intra-ocular pressure for up to 5 hours after application. This could mean that forskolin is an effective way to treat glaucoma and prevent blindness associated with the diseases.


    How to use forskolin


    Forskolin should be taken twice a day for best effect, as this is how it is administered in most clinical studies. The weight loss and muscle building effects of forskolin occured following a twice daily administration of 250mgs of forskolin extract, which was standardised to 10 percent. This means that 25mgs of actual forskolin was taken twice a day.
    Source: Flickr

    As with any supplement, consult your doctor before use, especially if you suffer from a chronic disease. Whilst forskolin is safe and has been used in its natural plant root form since ancient times, only your doctor knows your unique medical needs and can provide the right guidance to achieve the best results.


    Best forskolin supplement


    To get the most benefits, the forskolin supplement you choose has to be standardised for forskolin. Coleus forskohlii supplements that aren't standardised may not contain enough forskolin, and you lack the knowledge of exactly how much is there. Whilst it doesn't matter whether the Coleus forskohlii extract is standardised to a certain percentage, you want a product that can give you at least 25mgs of forskolin per dosage.

    When looking for a forskolin supplement, always look at the amount of forskolin present. Some supplement manufacturers will list their ingredient as Coleus forskohlii rather than forskolin, and this refers to the whole plant, so 100mgs of Coleus forskohlii is not 100mgs of forskolin. A reputable product will list the actual forskolin component.

    For a great forskolin supplement, try Forskolin 250 by New You Vitamins. This product is standardised to contain 20 percent forskolin, yielding 50mgs per capsule. You can either take one of these capsules a day, or split the contents in half to take it twice daily and meet the same dosage used by the studies. Because you get 90 capsules per bottle, the entire bottle will last 3 months.


    Source: Flickr

    Side effects of forskolin


    Forskolin is a mild supplement, and is largely devoid of side effects. However, forskolin does decrease blood pressure, so if you suffer from low blood pressure, or currently take medications that decrease your blood pressure, forskolin is not for you. You should also avoid forskolin if you take blood-thinning medications or have clotting problems.

    Blood pressure that falls too low can lead to fainting and fatigue, as well as headaches. The headache that occurs in this case is because blood flow in the brain is increased. For those who are curious, this is why caffeine is used as a headache remedy, because it constricts blood vessels and alleviates these headaches, and the headache that occurs following caffeine withdrawal is a rebound from this effect.


    More weight loss information


    Green tea for weight loss
    Source: Flickr
    • Green tea increases your metabolism and can help you get the most out of your diet by increasing weight loss.
    HIIT training
    • HIIT training can help you burn fat, and increase your endurance and fitness. What's more is that it can take less than 12 minutes a day for great results.
    More weight loss tips
    • If you're struggling to lose weight, make sure you're not making one of the common mistakes. Here's 5 tips to help you fast track your weight loss and get the most out of your diet.

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    Friday, 4 April 2014

    Blueberries - a modern superfood

    Blueberries
    Source: Flickr
    When you think of healthy foods, the humble blueberry may not be the first thing that comes to mind. The health benefits of blueberries are numerous however, and they are one of the best healthy foods to eat if you want to keep your body in optimum health.

    Benefits of blueberries


    • High in antioxidants
    • High in vitamins
    • Reduce fat
    • Improve heart health
    • Boost memory
    • Reduce cancer risk

    Antioxidants


    Blueberries are very high in antioxidants. In fact, they have been found to contain more antioxidants than most other fruits, and this carries significant health benefits. These health benefits include a better complexion, reduced risk of cancer, and a stronger immune system.You may even end up looking younger as you age.
    Blueberry cereal
    Source: Flickr

    In this Cambridge study looking at serum levels of antioxidants, blueberries caused a significant increase to the serum level and reduced free radicals after a high fat meal. This shows that the antioxidants in blueberries are able to be absorbed and have a dramatic effect on your body's ability to deal with free radicals.

    Vitamins and minerals


    Blueberries are also high in certain vitamins and minerals like most fruits. They are rather high in manganese, and contribute to your intake of other minerals, vitamin C, and vitamin K. Manganese in particular may be important in the prevention of diabetes.

    People with diabetes are shown to have a lower intake of manganese, and this may mean that insufficient intake of this mineral is a contributor to type 2 diabetes. A lack of manganese can even provoke glucose tolerance. Other symptoms of deficiency include abnormal bones, decreased wound healing, and decreased metabolism of other nutrients you eat. Blueberries are such a good source of manganese that they make it easy to avoid all of this.

    Bowl of blueberries
    Source: Flickr

    Weight loss


    There are studies into the anti-obesity properties of whole blueberries and their active antioxidant compounds. In one such study, rats that were fed a diet promoting obesity were found to avoid excess weight gain when blueberry juice or blueberry antioxidants were added to their diet. This is compared to rats fed an obesogenic diet without blueberries, which caused weight gain. This suggests that blueberries are able to decrease the weight gain associated with an unhealthy high calorie diet, and may be able to benefit weight loss overall.





    In another study concerning diabetes, subjects who were either non-diabetic, obese, or insulin-resistant were given blueberry extract. The extract was found to improve insulin sensitivity in all subjects. What this means is that blueberries could be a way to reduce your risk of diabetes and maintain high insulin sensitivity over time.

    Heart health


    Blueberry smoothie
    Source: Flickr
    Blueberries may also have a beneficial role in heart health. In studies of heart damage, blueberries were found to protect the heart from ischemia. They are also able to reduce hypertension in rat subjects who are prone to strokes, reducing the chance of suffering a stroke. After 6 weeks, systolic blood pressure in the blueberry group was reduced by 30 percent. Finally, blueberries can reduce LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol. High LDL cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease, and lowering it accordingly can reduce your risk.

    Memory


    Whilst the jury is still out on this one, there is some evidence that eating blueberries every day can contribute to a boosted and healthy memory. In a study of older adults concerning memory, blueberry juice was found to improve word recall and learning. Similarly, rats fed a blueberry supplement showed improved object recognition compared to controls, and blueberries may protect against brain damage from ischemia.

    It's still early days when it comes to the health benefits of blueberries for the brain and memory, but based on these studies, it's apparent that blueberries could become the next big thing for natural dementia prevention and cognitive health.

    Blueberries and pineapple
    Source: Flickr

    Prevent cancer


    On top of all the other benefits of blueberries, they may also reduce your chances of getting cancer. In particular, a protective effect is seen towards prostate cancer and colon cancer. A study into the phenolic compounds like anthocyanins in blueberries demonstrated a dramatic 50 percent inhibition of liver cancer growth. More than that, blueberries may even trigger apoptosis in cancer cells, helping to kill tumours. 

    The implications of this doesn't mean that blueberries should be used as a treatment for cancer, but they may have some ability to enhance other conventional cancer treatments, and to prevent cancers from occurring in the first place.

    How many blueberries should you eat?


    When it comes to how many of these tasty morsels you should eat every day, there's no one-size fits all mentality. Of course, if they're one of your favourite foods, feel free to eat as much as you want, they're very low in calories and healthier than other snacks. 

    To get the most benefits from blueberries however, aim for at least one cup of blueberries per day. This amount is enough to reap the benefits to your brain, and the antioxidants from these blueberries surpass the quantity found in much larger servings of other fruits and vegetables. 

    If eating fresh blueberries is a problem due to availability or shelf life, you can try frozen blueberries instead. Thaw a cup of frozen blueberries in the fridge every night and you'll have plenty of blueberries ready to eat every day.

    Blueberries
    Source: Flickr

    Eating more blueberries


    Eating more blueberries isn't hard considering how delicious they are. It's more a matter of substituting them for the less healthy desserts and snacks you usually eat. By eating blueberries and other fresh fruit instead of foods like chocolate and cake, you cut out a lot of calories whilst boosting your intake of vitamins and minerals. Because blueberries are full of water, they can even keep you more hydrated if you eat them daily.

    Some of the ways you might want to enjoy blueberries could include eating them by themselves or with other forms of berries as a snack, mixing them into yogurt, spreading blueberry jam onto your morning toast, or incorporating a blueberry compote into you favourite dessert. Sauces like compotes are lower in sugar compared to a lot of other dessert sauces because they're made from reduced fruit, and they usually don't include added fat, which tends to already be high in most desserts. Blueberry compote is also a low GI food, so it's absorbed and converted into energy over a longer period of time compared to other foods.

    To kick-start your interest in blueberries, you might want to try a few new recipes:


    Blueberry compote


    Blueberry compote
    Source: Flickr
    • 400 grams fresh blueberries
    • 3 Tbs raw sugar
    • 3 Tbs of water
    • 1 tsp lemon juice
    1. To make compote, you essentially want to slowly simmer fruit until it begins to breakdown and release its moisture, creating a fruit reduction. Start by mixing all ingredients together in a pan on moderate heat. 
    2. Bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce the heat down and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes.
    3. Serve compote warm

    When making blueberry compote, you can feel free to substitute fresh blueberries for canned or frozen blueberries. Frozen blueberries in particular will break down and form a smooth sauce when defrosted quickly in the pan. In this case, what is usually an annoyance, is actually beneficial to making a velvety sauce. 

    You can also decide on your own consistency, cooking the mixture until it is smooth and thick, or incorporating more fresh berries into the cooked mixture to add a little bite. The sugar can be increased or decreased as desired, but remember that less sugar, whilst not tasting as sweet, is better for your health.

    Blueberry muffin
    Source: Flickr
    Other recipes you might enjoy






    It's important to have a balanced diet. This means lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein, low-fat dairy, eggs, and nuts. Blueberries are just one of the great ingredients you can add to your recipes to vamp them up and increase nutrition, and other berries like raspberries and strawberries are also very beneficial to your health. The best way to eat a balanced diet and incorporate lots of fresh ingredients is to take the recipes you enjoy and look at how you can add more nutrition to them. You'll feel and look better as a result.

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