Monday, October 31, 2016

Carb-Brain Link

Your body is a complex and world-class organization. Its primary source of energy is carbohydrates that it breaks down into glucose, which forms the fuel your brain, central nervous system, red-blood cells, and muscles require, to name just a few. Eating fewer healthier carbs may not be the ticket. Eating moderate amounts of healthier carbs likely is. They help supply your brain and body with the neurotransmitter serotonin, which impacts appetite, mood, and sleep, among other things. It’s a cascade effect: eat healthier carbs, blood-sugar levels rise appropriately, and insulin is released to help the amino acid tryptophan move into the brain where it ultimately creates serotonin. Too few carbs and too little serotonin can contribute to fatigue, irritability—and may even lead to depression. Too few healthy carbs may be one of the reasons that habitual dieters may have low serotonin levels in both their brain and gastrointestinal tract—a situation that can lead to bingeing.

Limiting carbs too severely or for too long a period of time is unwise and may force the body to steal from muscles or other body organs or try to use proteins and fats in an attempt to find fuel to power its many functions. There is even concern about the potential long-term impact on brain function that may result from a failure to give it sufficient amounts of high quality healthier carbs on a regular basis.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Lexophilia and Lexophiles, 7

1.   Acupuncture: a jab well done.
2.   A lot of money is tainted: ‘Taint yours, and ‘taint mine.
3.   You can tune a piano, but you can't tuna fish
4.   When Ma saw her first strands of gray hair she thought she’d dye.
5.   Velcro—what a rip off!
6.   Class trip to the Coca-Cola factory—I hope there’s no pop quiz.
7.   The dyslexic walked into a bra.
8.   The turtle won a race with a rabbit by a hair.
9.   PMS jokes aren’t funny, period.

10.        My doctor said I need glasses but I don't see why.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

All or Nothing

An all-or-nothing approach to carbohydrates is like avoiding all dogs simply because some are downright ugly and some love to bite. Yes, some dogs are vicious and yes, some carbs are unhealthy. How did carbs get such a bad rap? It likely started when big industry began ‘refining’ them, removing many healthy ingredients, and turning them into processed food on a grand scale. Metaphorically, a similar thing happened when Yellowstone National Park ‘refined’ its environment and kicked out the coyotes. Fortunately, the pendulum is swinging back toward the middle in much the same way that Yellowstone is being revitalized—now that the coyotes are back. Dropping unwanted pounds and then maintaining your weight within a more optimum range typically requires you to reduce your intake of poor quality refined and processed carbs and increase your intake of healthier unrefined carbs. Your brain, nervous system, and muscles need them. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Bad Rap

Have you been led to believe that carbohydrates are the enemy? Not so fast! Some of them are but avoid taring and feathering all carbs simply because an apple barrel contains some bad apples, so to speak. That would be like throwing out the baby with the bath water—never recommended. According to Elisa Zied RD: “Carbs are not the enemy.” The enemy is often a lack of information or a failure to turn what you learn into knowledge and practically apply it on a daily basis. Perhaps you have heard that the be-all, end-all, and cure-all for weight management is a low-carbohydrate diet. Avoid jumping on that bandwagon. Science supports the use of these carbs for weight loss and overall health. Carbohydrates are the best source of fuel for your brain—high quality carbs, of course, because they’re not all created equal. Just like calories and cars and cell phones are not all created equal. Select healthier whole-food carbs and eat them in as natural a state as possible.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Carbs & Carbs

Just like there are calories and calories and people and people, there are carbs and carbs. They are not all created equal. Some are healthier and some less healthy. The quality of the carbohydrate is key. Some carbohydrates are more nutritious than others. Highly processed and refined foods are often referred to as empty because most of the nutrition has been removed. They include refined sugar, white rice, and white flour products, along with other highly processed foods and alcohol—all of which can contribute to weight gain. The problem arises with using too many simple carbs in proportion to other foods you are eating: primarily fruits or too many refined processed foods in your menu. And sugars such as those found in candy, sodas, many pastries and desserts. Along with highly refined foods like pastas and white breads, these types of foods add calories but minimal nutrition. Consequently, it is wise to choose complex carbs in as natural a form as possible.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Soluble & Insoluble Fiber

Soluble fiber absorbs liquid, forming a gel, which can help resolve diarrhea by removing excess fluid from the bowel. It can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels, too. Soluble fiber-rich foods include strawberries, blueberries, apples, avocado, dried figs and prunes, oranges, and mangos; veggies such as asparagus, edamame, broccoli, green beans and peas, carrots, plus legumes, oats, barley, psyllium, and peanuts, which contain the highest soluble fiber per serving of all nuts. Almonds, Brazil nuts, sesame and sunflower seeds are good sources, as well. Insoluble fiber passes through the intestines largely intact. It increases stool bulk, which can help resolve constipation. Ancient whole grains top the list of insoluble fiber-rich foods, along with air-popped popcorn, zucchini, broccoli, cabbage, leafy greens, and root vegetables. It is also contained in legumes, most beans, raspberries, unpeeled apples and grapes, walnuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds. Some foods give you a two-for-one, because they contain both types of fiber. For example, oats, legumes, mangoes, almonds, avocados, cucumber, celery, and carrots. Generally, you need to eat some of each type of fiber.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Carbs – 3 Main Categories

Simple carbs contain one or two sugars. They are found in dairy products as galactose, as fructose in fruit (that also contain many valuable micronutrients); in high-fructose corn syrup, white flours, white rice, and in many refined and processed products. Double sugars such as maltose are in some vegetables, lactose in dairy, and sucrose in refined table sugar, syrups, and honey.

Complex carbs contain three or more sugars. Many vegetables are considered complex: beans, split peas, and lentils; mushrooms, spinach, onions, broccoli, peppers, and starchy vegetables; along with whole grains, including oatmeal, quinoa, barley, and brown rice. Complex carbohydrates provide calories as well as vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and other micronutrients.

Fiber (soluble and insoluble) that refers to carbohydrates the body cannot digest. Fiber is the indigestible portion of plants that pass through the intestinal tract intact and help to move waste out of the body. Fiber is not absorbed into the bloodstream and provides no calories. Legumes, nuts, seeds, the fibers in some fruits and vegetables, and ancient whole grains are rich sources of this type of carbohydrate.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Carbs to Glucose

The body turns healthy carbs into glucose, which provides fuel for all body tissues. Without glucose, your blood oxygen levels suffer, your energy levels fall, and your risk of brain fog can increase. Eating too many carbs can lead to obesity. Not getting enough can result in malnutrition or in an excessive intake of fats to make up the calories. In Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, 7th Ed, the USDA recommends that 45-65% of your daily calories are best derived from carbs. That’s because carbohydrates:
  • Are the body’s main source of fuel, can be used easily for energy by all tissues and cells, and can be stored in the muscles and liver for later use.
  • Are needed for the brain, central nervous system, kidneys, and muscles (including those of the heart) to function properly.
  • Important for gastrointestinal health and the timely and appropriate elimination of waste.
  • ·Supply energy (glucose), especially for the brain, central nervous system, and muscles
  • Prevent the breakdown of proteins (amino acids) as a source of energy and minimize ketosis from breakdown of fatty acids
  • Assist with cellular and protein recognition and provide soluble and insoluble dietary fiber

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Carbs – Main Nutrient

According to Donald Layman PhD, professor of human nutrition at the University of Illinois, carbohydrates are the only nutrients that exist solely to fuel the brain and the body. I like metaphors and I like musicalswhich have principal actors and supporting players. Think of macronutrients (carbohydrates being one of the three main types) as principal actors. They are vital nutrients that provide calories, which the brain and body use in relatively large amounts. On the other hand, think of micronutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, as the supporting players. These substances are also important to both brain and body but are needed in smaller amounts. For example, the enzyme amylase helps break down carbohydrates into glucose—the main circulating sugar or glucose in human blood and the principal source of energy for cells that make up the human brain and body. For most living things, actually. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

To Carb or Not to Carb

Many questions I receive have to do with confusion about carbohydrates, what they are, whether you really need any, and their contribution to brain-body health. Often these questioners have been lobbied by well-meaning individuals whose apparent goal was to convince the world that embracing a diet free from all carbohydrates or carbs was the preferred way to go. Such recommendations seem to ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater,’ to use that familiar saying, and their proponents urge avoiding carbs like the proverbial plague. What really are carbohydrates? They are one of the three general categories of macronutrients, the other two being fats and proteins. Are there good and bad carbs? Definitely, just as there are good and bad behaviors (or behaviors that results in either negative or positive outcomes, as I prefer to state it). Can avoiding undesirable carbs help you manage your weight and prevent some disease? That appears to be the case. Can avoiding even good carbs injure your health and sabotage brain function and fitness goals? This, too, appears to be the case. More tomorrow.

Monday, October 17, 2016


Recently several young people came up to me and asked about the difference between BPD and APD. With all the acronyms floating around these days I thought it prudent to ask what those two represented in their vocabularies. They laughed and said that a classmate had been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and they wanted to know how that differed from Antisocial Personality Disorder. Interestingly enough, I had just spent some time with a cousin who is a psychiatrist. In the conversation he mentioned that his view was the BPD is diagnosed much more commonly in females and that likely APD is the male equivalent, it being diagnosed much more commonly in males. I did some blogs on this topic last August and you may want to access those if you missed them.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Lexophilia and Lexophiles, 6

1.   A calendar’s days are numbered.
2.   A boiled egg is very hard to beat.
3.   He had a photographic memory that was never developed.
4.   A plateau is a high form of flattery.
5.   Those who get too big for their britches will find themselves exposed in the end.
6.   When you’ve seen one shopping center you’ve seen a mall.
7.   If you jump off a Paris bridge, you are in Seine.
8.   Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead to know basis.

9.   Santa’s helpers are subordinate clauses.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Singing and Cancer

Studies have demonstrated that singing in a choir can have a range of social, emotional, and psychological benefits. Turns out singing has some biological effects, as well. No surprise, people impacted by cancer often experience stress, anxiety, and depression—all of which can negatively impact immune system function. A study was designed to evaluate the impact of singing on mood, stress, and immune response in three population groups diagnosed with cancer. Researchers discovered that just one hour of singing was associated with significant reductions in negative affect, increases in positive affect, and significant increases in cytokines. They believe this provides preliminary evidence that singing improves mood state and modulates components of the immune system. Start singing!


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Singing, Immune System, and Brain

Do you like to sing? You may want to join a choir! Don't know if you like to sing? Try it! Researchers led by Daisy Fancourt PhD studied the mechanisms behind the effect of music on the immune system. Her research in this field won the 2014 Arnold Bentley New Initiatives Award, the 2015 Young Investigator Scholarship from the American Psychosomatic Society, and the 2015 Ruth Bowden Scholarship for academic excellence in a doctorate in the field of medicine from the British Federation of Women Graduates. Impressive! Studies performed in South Wales found that singing in a choir for only one hour can improve mood, reduce stress, and even boost immune proteins. The greatest improvements in mood were seen among those experiencing the highest level of depression and the lowest sense of mental well being overall. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Auditory System and Rhythm

Study results have suggested that musical rhythmic abilities correlate with improved performance in non-music areas. This appears to be particularly true with language. Rhythm ability is inherently part of music and of language and it may be that hearing is a common basis for these associations. Perhaps musical training, with an emphasis on rhythmic skills, exercises the auditory system. In turn this may lead to strong sound-to-meaning associations that are so essential in learning to read. (Although hearing may not be the only basis, as was clearly pointed out with the Mirror Ball Trophy winner recently who was hearing impaired!) Reportedly researches are working on a multi-year study evaluating the effects of musical training on beat synchronization, response consistency, and reading skills in children who engage in musical training. You might want to make sure the children in your family get musical training—and role-modeling begins with you. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Music and the Brain

When you hear rhythmic music or sounds with a beat, do you tap your finger, nod your head, or move your foot? A news release issued by the Society for Neuroscience reported on a study in the Journal of Neuroscience. Researchers examined links between the brain’s response to sound and the ability of individuals to keep a beat. It has been known for some time that children who have musical training seem to do better in the study of other types of information, mathematics, for example. This study found that music movement ability improves skill in non-music areas. Moving to a beat correlated with better brain responses to speech. Individuals who were better able to move to a beat showed more consistent brain responses to speech than those with less rhythm. It may be that musical training, with an emphasis on rhythmic skills, exercises the auditory system, leading to strong sound-to-meaning associations that are so essential in learning to read. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Is Wphubbing Next?

Phubbing in the workplace was not addressed in the study by Roberts and David. However, similar problems with inattentiveness and disruption have been observed anecdotally in work settings, as well. The brain was not designed to multi-task and when one or more individuals in a group are distracted by checking their mobile communication device, they may miss key points in a discussion or fail to contribute appropriately. Moreover, their Wphubbing (snubbing someone in a Work setting in favor of your mobile phone) can distract others. It can be particularly annoying to a speaker when the behavior of attendees indicate that their cellphone is more important than paying attention to the presentation. Have you been phubbed? Done any phubbing yourself? Use your brain to evaluate if phubbing is negatively impacting your relationships, personal and professional. If the answer is ‘yes,’ you may want to disconnect periodically from communication technology rather than risk strangling your relationship—or sending a nonverbal message that you would never put into words.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Downside of Phubbing

The authors of the study on phubbing or Ppubbing found that the higher the incidence of phubbing behaviors, the more likely a romantic couple were to experience conflict in the relationship and have lower levels of satisfaction. “But they aren’t saying anything,” you may say. Perhaps not verbally, but the nonverbal behavior sends a message to the other partner ‘loud and nclear.' This implied message can reveal the partner’s priorities, suggest that the mobile device is more exciting than the person who is physically present or that whomever is calling or texting is more important than the partner. Unless I am out eating alone, my practice is to keep my mobile phone out of sight. On the rare occasions when I am expecting a call from overseas, I will tell my friend(s) in advance: “If my cell phone rings and it is an overseas call, I need to take it. Anyone else can leave a message and I’ll get to it later.” My little French grandmother used to say ‘a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.’ I want to honor and respect the individual I am with and the time they are giving to me, which is really all each of us has to give another—that no other person can—our time.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Phubbing and Pphubbing

 Results of a study by James. A. Roberts and Meredith E. David at the Hankamer School of Business, Baylor University, were published in Computers in Human Behavior. Nearly half of participants reported they’d been ‘phubbed’ or Pphubbed by their Partner and almost half of those indicated this had caused conflict. The researchers identified eight types of phubbing or Pphubbing. For example: keeping the phone in sight—if not in hand—while the couple is together; answering the phone even when in the middle of a conversation; glancing at the mobile device while talking, and so on. The authors reported that while people often assume that momentary distractions by their cellphones are not a big deal, the more often a couple’s time spent together is interrupted by the other’s cellphone, the less likely the first individual is to be satisfied with the overall relationship. A lower level of relationship satisfaction tends toward lower levels of life satisfaction. Ultimately, this can contribute to higher levels of depression. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Vehicle-Traffic Metaphor

Remember the vehicle-traffic metaphor? Well, try this: the brain creates technology and, in turn, technology impacts the brain—sometimes positively and sometimes negatively. Whatever else the human brain is, it is relational. It has a relationship with the mind; with other brains; and with technology. Technology is everywhere but there have been relatively few studies evaluating the impact of technology on the brain and the mind. James. A. Roberts and Meredith E. David, researchers at researchers at the Hankamer School of Business of Baylor University, are authors of what may be the first formal study of the impact on a relationship when a person uses or is distracted by his/her cell phone while in the company of the person’s relationship partner. The researchers reportedly created the term ‘phubbing’ to describe what has been referred to as the ultimate modern-day snub: snubbing someone in favor of your mobile phone. “I’d never do that!” you say. Think again. More tomorrow.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Brain or Mind: Which Came First?

Recently a colleague and I were discussing the various theories about the brain versus the mind—and there are several. For example, which came first, the chicken or the egg—oops, I meant the brain or the mind? Does the brain create the mind or does the mind create the brain? Is the mind an organ of the brain much as the stomach is an organ of the digestive system? There will likely never be 100% consensus, seeing as every brain on the planet is different. For purposes of discussion, let’s say that the brain creates the mind; but then the mind can change the brain. I like the ‘vehicle-traffic metaphor’ to describe that phenomenon. Vehicles create traffic. Sometimes it’s worse than others. Once created, however, the vehicles can be hampered or impeded by the traffic. As luck would have it, that discussion veered off into the area of technology and the brain or the brain and technology. More tomorrow.