Are dreams shaped by what we eat?

Wednesday, 24 September, 2014

Is there a link between the sort of food you eat later in the evening, and the type of dreams you may have? Seemingly not, but a snack of some sort before going to sleep doesn’t sound like a bad idea, given how active the brain is while dreaming

A dreaming brain is a hungry brain. “Sleep is a very active process and your brain needs a lot of sugar. I actually recommend to people having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before they go to bed: The bread and the jelly are great sources of simple carbohydrates, which are terrible usually, but great for sleep,” Wenk states. The theory here: Not only will you supply energy (sugar) to the busy brain, but you’re also providing it with extra serotonin – the “calming” hormone – to help usher in the onset of sleep.

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Milk, surely one of the strangest components of our diet?

Wednesday, 31 October, 2012

An interesting run down of the history of our consumption of milk, something that, going back twelve thousand years ago, wasn’t possible much beyond infancy, until we quite suddenly became lactose tolerant:

In an evolutionary eye-blink, 80 percent of Europeans became milk-drinkers; in some populations, the proportion is close to 100 percent. (Though globally, lactose intolerance is the norm; around two-thirds of humans cannot drink milk in adulthood.) The speed of this transformation is one of the weirder mysteries in the story of human evolution, more so because it’s not clear why anybody needed the mutation to begin with. Through their cleverness, our lactose-intolerant forebears had already found a way to consume dairy without getting sick, irrespective of genetics.

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Hyperactive children are not made of sugar and candy

Wednesday, 9 November, 2011

The notion that sugar consumption and hyperactivity in children are linked is a tenacious one, though not one of twelve studies in the subject have ever turned up such a connection.

Even when science shows time and again that it’s not so, we continue to persist in believing that sugar causes our kids to be hyperactive. That’s likely because there’s an association. Times when kids get a lot of sugar are often times when they are predisposed to be a little excited. Halloween. Birthday parties. Holidays. We may even be causing the problem ourselves. Some parents are so restrictive about sugar and candy that when their kids finally get it they’re quite excited. Even hyper. This does not mean that there aren’t a ton of great reasons why our kid should not ingest large quantities of sugar. As almost any parent knows, sugar has been linked to cavities and the obesity epidemic. Just don’t blame it for your child’s bad behavior.

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Consumed by confusion, the Food Pyramid is taken off the menu

Monday, 6 June, 2011

The Food Guide Pyramid, a nutritional guideline setting out recommended daily servings of food, with what are considered to be healthier foodstuffs appearing in greater quantities at its base, and sweeter and a fattier foods in smaller portions at its peak, has been supplanted by the MyPlate food guide.

The plate guide is seen as a simpler way of conveying recommended food servings by representing them set out on a plate, rather than the food pyramid format, which wasn’t quite as definitive in this regard.

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A beer only diet is unhealthy but some people will dispute this

Tuesday, 3 May, 2011

While Paulaner monks living in Germany centuries ago used to live only on water, and an extra strength beer they brewed themselves, during a period of fasting and general abstinence called Lent, how long could someone realistically be expected to survive on such a diet, especially if they decided to forego the water part?

Not more than a few months, probably. That’s when the worst effects of scurvy and protein deficiency would kick in. (Liver disease is a serious risk of chronic alcohol use, but it takes longer to arrive.) If you kept to a strict beer diet – and swore off plain water altogether – you’d likely die of dehydration in a matter of days or weeks, depending on the strength and volume of beer consumed. There’s plenty of water in beer, of course, but the alcohol’s diuretic effect makes it a net negative in terms of hydration under most conditions.

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If sugar is toxic is anything sweet therefore actually sweet?

Tuesday, 19 April, 2011

Like anything else, an over abundance of sugar can cause all sorts of health related problems, but could its consumption in the first place be a gravely underestimated hazard?

It’s one thing to suggest, as most nutritionists will, that a healthful diet includes more fruits and vegetables, and maybe less fat, red meat and salt, or less of everything. It’s entirely different to claim that one particularly cherished aspect of our diet might not just be an unhealthful indulgence but actually be toxic, that when you bake your children a birthday cake or give them lemonade on a hot summer day, you may be doing them more harm than good, despite all the love that goes with it.

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If obesity is a personal issue perhaps individuals should remedy it

Monday, 11 April, 2011

Might healthy-living vouchers, an idea advanced by Canadian researchers Neil Seeman and Patrick Luciani, be the way to tackle obesity?

So instead of spending large sums on ads to shame us into better eating habits, spend the money on vouchers handed out to the overweight and let them find whatever provider of goods or services best meets their particular dieting needs. After all, the root causes of obesity are multifarious and new ones are being added all the time – such as diet sodas, gut bacteria, genes, sleep apnea, leptin levels, medication, depression, poverty and peer pressure. So the solutions need to be multipronged, too. What works for you may not work for me.

Meanwhile locally there is the new Swap It, Don’t Stop It initiative, which suggests healthy alternatives to over eating.

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At historical highs, the debate as how much caffeine is too much

Tuesday, 5 April, 2011

While many of us probably don’t give that much thought to caffeine consumption throughout the day – whether through coffee, tea, or soft drinks – the debate as to what constitutes a “safe” level of intake has been raging for near on a century.

Hollingworth compiled his studies in a 1912 book that used a contemporary spelling for the substance: “The Influence of Caffein on Mental and Motor Efficiency.” An editorial in The Journal of the American Medical Association that year welcomed the research: “It is gratifying to have the effects on the human system of a drug like caffeine so investigated by rigorous scientific tests at the hands of capable investigators; only in this way will there be provided an adequate basis for correct conclusions as to the possible dangers of the use of caffeine-containing beverages.”

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Will we soon see government health warnings on popcorn?

Friday, 1 April, 2011

US cinemas may soon have to disclose the calorie content of popcorn – and other foods and beverages they sell – if federal regulators get their way, a measure many movie houses are not in favour of.

“If a movie theater is going to be serving people with 1,000-calorie tubs of popcorn, the least they could do is tell people about it,” said Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the center. “Just because you happen to be doing something else while you’re eating doesn’t mean that those 1,000 calories won’t stop going to your waistline.”

Considering up to one third of cinema revenue is generated through the sale of popcorn and the like, their reluctance is understandable, as such a move could have a serious impact on profitability.

Update: interesting, if sales of popcorn and other concession foods declined, movie ticket prices could increase as the sale of such items subsidises ticket prices (Thanks Max).

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Eat more fish and chips, that’s a healthy eating tip I can go for

Monday, 3 January, 2011

Up there with drinking plenty of water and not eating too late, comes news that fish and chips are among foods that form the basis of a healthy diet.

Many researchers think that the shift away from omega-3 fatty acids found in fish to the omega-6 sort floating around in vegetable oils – and the change in brain chemistry that this causes – explains the growth over recent decades of depression, manic-depression, memory loss, schizophrenia and attention-deficit disorder. It may also be responsible for rising levels of obesity and thus the heart disease which often accompanies being overweight. Some scientists go so far as to suggest that an omega-3 acid was responsible for the existence of nervous systems in the first place, and that access to large quantities of the stuff was what permitted the evolution of big brains in mankind’s more recent ancestors.

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