Saturated fat has long been demonized by public health experts due to its established effect on raising cholesterol and, by proxy, association with increased cardiovascular disease. However, a recent editorial by Malhotra et al. (2016) , claiming that reduced saturated fat has no effect on coronary heart disease, has caught the attention of the media and the public, many of whom are now wondering if they can consume all of the butter and bacon they want without worrying about the health of their hearts.
Coffee drinkers can sip a little easier now that the World Health Organization has downgraded coffee’s cancer risk. Due to inadequate evidence and inconsistent findings, consumers no longer need to worry about their morning cup of Joe. In fact, drinking coffee may actually protect consumers from several chronic diseases.
According to a recent paper published the Lancet, a superbug gene that confers resistance to colistin, an antibiotic used to treat Gram-negative bacterial infections when all other drugs fail, has been discovered in China (Liu et al., 2016; TheStar, 2016). The gene in question, called MCR-1, was found in E.coli in samples from meat, hospital patients, and livestock in southeastern China. Given that China is among the countries with the highest colistin use in agriculture, resistance to the drug may have originated in that part of the world; however, new reports show that the gene is not restricted to China as the following countries have similarly discovered MCR-1 in bacterial DNA: Algeria, Canada, Denmark, England, France, Laos, Portugal, Thailand, The Netherlands, and Wales (TheStar, 2016). Some of the bacterial DNA analyzed and found positive for the MCR-1 gene was derived from specimens archived before 2015; therefore, dissemination of the gene has outpaced discovery, and the issue at hand may already be an international crisis.
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” This proverbial phrase may sound cliché, but there is wisdom that can be extracted from this saying. When it comes to health and longevity, for instance, optimism may confer significant advantages over pessimism. A Dutch study that examined elderly men and women (aged 65-85 years) over a nine-year period showed that those individuals with the highest level of optimism, compared with the lowest, had a significantly lower likelihood of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality (Giltay, Geleijnse, Zitman, Hoekstra, & Schouten, 2004). Other research has also validated the findings of this study (Brummet, Helms, Dahlstrom, & Siegler, 2006; Maruta, Colligan, Malinchoc, & Offord, 2002). Given the benefits of optimism, it is important to understand the ways by which a positive disposition influences health.
On October 26, 2015, The World Health Organization announced that processed meat is carcinogenic, and red meat probably is too.1 They defined processed meat as ‘meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavour or improve preservation’. Before you decide to pass on the bacon or defiantly include it in every meal, let’s break down the report to understand the risk.
The recent spike in opioid drug overdoses in Metro Vancouver caught the attention of Canadians when a total of 16 overdoses, including six in one hour, were reported in just one day. In recent years, Canada’s four largest provinces have seen significant increases in fentanyl-related deaths. British Columbia, for example, saw a dramatic increase from 5% of total illicit drug deaths in 2012 to over 25% in 2014 . Canadians are among the biggest users of opioid drugs in the world and fentanyl is the fastest growing drug abused in Canada .
Memory is one of the most important functions of the brain. It is needed in all aspects of our lives. Unfortunately, a combination of genetic and environmental factors can deteriorate the memory and additional cognitive functions. A new neurodegenerative disorder case is diagnosed around the world every four seconds (Brinke et al., 2013). This means that by 2050, over 115 million people worldwide will have a form of dementia (Brinke et al., 2013). The most common condition is Alzheimer’s disease. Today, the world has 47.5 million people affected, including 747,000 Canadians (Alzheimer Society Canada, 2015). If nothing changes, that number will double to 1.4 million by 2031. Several studies confirm, however, that physical activity could beneficially decrease the risk of memory loss. Indeed, one in seven cases of Alzheimer’s disease could be avoided if sedentary individuals become more physically active (Zafar, 2013). According to a meta-analysis conducted in 2009, physical activity reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 45% (Hamer & Childa, 2009). This is possible through two ways: direct and indirect.
On one hand, physical activity directly stimulates the proliferation of growth factors. These are chemicals in the brain that are responsible for the growth of nerve cells and blood vessels supplying the hippocampus, the memory center (Brinke et al., 2013). According to an Alzheimer’s disease expert in Toronto, Dr. Tiffany Chow, exercise promotes the circulation of glucose and oxygen in the brain (Zafar, 2013). Therefore, physical activity will delay not only the onset of dementia in healthy individuals but also slow the decline of cognitive functions and reduce the mortality rate of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease (Paillard, Rolland, Bareto & De Souto, 2015). Similarly, exercise is associated with an increase of blood flow in the brain, an increase in hippocampus size, as well as a high level of neurotrophic factors (or growth factors) in the plasma. These factors protect neurons from injury and/or disease.
On the other hand, physical activity can indirectly enhance memory and cognitive functions by improving our mood, sleep, and by reducing our anxiety (Brinke et al., 2013). In addition, rats that voluntarily run 10-15 kilometers for 24 hours have a higher score on spatial memory and learning tests compared to sedentary rats (Marosi & Mattson, 2013). Additionally, another study with human subjects who displayed moderate and severe cognitive impairment has shown that physical activity can improve memory (Scherder & Volkers, 2014). Not any type of exercise, however, can enhance brain activity.
Types of exercises
Aerobic exercises encourage hippocampus growth, particularly in regions responsible for verbal memory and learning, unlike muscle strength and balance activities which have very little impact on memory (Brinke et al., 2013). The Public Health Agency of Canada (2010) recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercises. This may seem a lot for those who are sedentary but by increasing their performance regularly and by doing simple exercises, such as walking for at least one hour a day, they may accomplish the aforementioned recommendations. Several studies investigating brain memory also show the benefits of speed walking (Paillard, Rolland De Souto & Barreto, 2015). According to the same source, two factors increase the effect of physical activity on memory: socialization and motivation. Indeed, people who hold a conversation during speed walking are more successful on memory tests than those who walk alone. Likewise, rats running voluntarily (in other words, who had a high level of motivation) had better memory than those who were forced to run. Concerning the duration of aerobic exercices, one study shows the presence of cognitive benefits after only four weeks (Nouchi et al., 2013).
In summary, the link between physical activity and memory is undeniable. Exercise can directly increase brain growth factors, or indirectly enhance cognitive memory by improving mood and sleep. It also takes 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week to maintain good mental health. This could have a big impact on public health since physical exercise is a cheaper alternative to expensive pharmacological interventions. It is clear that in addition to protecting against coronary heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, and anxiety, physical activity also provides an advantage against neurodegenerative diseases. Thus, physical activity is perhaps not far from a panacea for all illnesses of the XXI century.
Alzheimer Society Canada (2015) Dementia numbers in Canada. Retrieved from http://www.alzheimer.ca/en/About-dementia/What-is-dementia/Dementia-numbers
Brinke, L. F. T., Bolandzadeh, N., Nagamatsu, L., Hsu, C. L., Davis, J. C., Miran-Khan, K., & Liu-Ambrose, T. (2013). Aerobic exercise increases hippocampal volume in older women with probable mild cognitive impairment: a 6-month randomised controlled trial. British Journal of Sports Medecine. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2013-093184
Hamer, M., & Childa, Y. (2009). Physical activity and risk of neurodegenerative disease: a systematic review of prospective evidence. Psychological Medicine, 39(1), 3-11. doi:10.1017/S0033291708003681
Paillard, T., Rolland, Y., & De Souto Barreto, P. (2015). Protective Effects of Physical Exercise in Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease: A Narrative Review. Journal of Clinical Neurology, 11(3), 212-219. doi:10.3988/jcn.2015.11.3.212
Public Health Agency of Canada (2010) Chapter 3: The Health and Well-being of Canadian Seniors, The Chief Public Health Officer’s Report on The State of Public Health in Canada 2010. Retrieved from http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/cphorsphc-respcacsp/2010/fr-rc/cphorsphc-respcacsp-06-eng.php
Marosi, K., & Mattson, M. P. (2013). BDNF Mediates Adaptive Brain and Body Responses to Energetic Challenges. Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism, 25(2), 89-98. doi: 10.1016/j.tem.2013.10.006
Nouchi, R., Taki, Y., Takeuchi, H., Sekiguchi, A., Hashizume, H., Nozama, T., Nouchi, H., & Kawashima, R. (2013). Four weeks of combination exercise training improved executive functions, episodic memory, and processing speed in healthy elderly people. doi: 10.1007/s11357-013-9588-x
Volkers, K. M., & Scherder, E. J. A. (2014). Physical Performance Is Associated with Working Memory in Older People with Mild to Severe Cognitive Impairment. BioMed Research International. doi:10.1155/2014/762986
Zafar, A. (2013). Alzheimer’s prevention strategy prescribes exercise. CBC News Health. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/alzheimer-s-prevention-strategy-prescribes-exercise-1.1304156
In today’s supermarket, a variety of products labelled “gluten-free” can be found often targeting health-conscious individuals who are adversely affected by “gluten,” a protein found in wheat and other similar grains (Health Canada, 2012). Given the ubiquity of wheat and related grains in many processed foods, the government of Canada implemented regulations in 2011 that mandated the labelling of products containing gluten or gluten-containing grains in order to allow consumers to make informed choices (Health Canada, 2011). In current medical literature, the umbrella term “gluten-related disorders” is used to describe all diseases and adverse reactions that result from gluten ingestion. At present, there are three main classifications of gluten-related disorders: allergic reactions, autoimmune diseases, and immune-mediated responses (Ludvigsson et al., 2013; Sapone et al., 2012).
According to the World Health Organization, depression is a common mental disorder, characterized by sorrow, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness, and poor concentration. (WHO, 2015). About 60% of people who suffer from this disease commit suicide in Canada (Statistics Canada, 2012). The most frequently used methods are hanging, poisoning, and firearms. Taking all this into consideration, are health professionals at risk?
On January 1st, 2015, the Earth completed its 365-day elliptic trajectory around the Sun. With the conclusion of the yearly orbital cycle, a new yet familiar cycle emerged that gave many a sense of opportunity for growth and development. As such, at the start of every New Year, a throng of Canadian desires and goals are consolidated in the form of “New Year’s Resolutions” which are often health-related. These resolutions may include, but are not limited to, weight loss, cessation of smoking, increasing levels of exercise, and consumption of healthy food (Thestar.com, 2013). Regardless of the particular health-related objective, adhering to self-made yearly commitments can be challenging; therefore, in addition to goal setting, employing a variety of strategies to address potential difficulties should be implemented to ensure the actualization of our resolutions. Continue reading New Year’s Resolutions: Shooting for Success