For Valentine's Day: The Sweet Benefits of Dark Chocolate

On Valentine's Day, thoughts often turn to that heart-shaped box of chocolates. Studies have often shown the health benefits of dark chocolate, but yesterday's podcast from the University of Florida Health Science Center actually set out to explain why. Here's an excerpt from their commentary:

We know chocolate comforts a broken heart, but studies show dark chocolate literally helps the heart by improving flexibility in the arteries and preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels.

It sounds counterintuitive, but dark chocolate may also help prevent diabetes. A study published last year in the British Journal of Nutrition found the flavonoids in dark chocolate help control insulin sensitivity.

You can read the whole transcript here, or you may listen to the audio file I've posted. So if you reach for that piece of chocolate today, make sure it is dark chocolate. Happy Valentine's Day! 

Can eating seafood reduce depression?

As January comes to a close, I discovered a recent podcast from the University of Florida that looks at the link between eating seafood and a lessened risk for depression. Here is an excerpt from the program's transcript:

A study published in the Journal of Epidemiology found that eating seafood is linked to a 17 percent reduced risk of depression. To conduct the study, the research team analyzed data from relevant studies published between 2001 and 2014. They focused on 16 studies, including data from more than 150,000 patients. Most of the people the researchers analyzed were from Europe and North America. Results showed there was a 20 percent reduced risk of depression in men and a 16 percent reduced risk in women who ate seafood on a regular basis.

Depression is the world’s leading cause of disability, affecting an estimated 350 million people. By 2020, depression is also predicted to become the world’s second-leading cause of disease. This studies findings are certainly worth considering as these winter months continue.

Time to Quit?

Today marks the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout. Every November, they set aside the third Thursday to encourage smokers to go the distance, and to finally give up smoking. With the help of acupuncture, smokers have a greater chance of success!

As Diane Joswick, L.Ac. points out in her article for the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, "acupuncture is not a panacea or a magic cure in the treatment of any addiction, including smoking. But, acupuncture is effective in making it easier to quit and remain smoke-free. If you are highly motivated and ready to quit, acupuncture can empower you to take control and begin a healthy and smoke-free life!"

If you are thinking about quitting, you may want to know that there are documented benefits:

20 minutes: heart rate and blood pressure drop
12 hours: carbon monoxide levels in blood drop to normal
2 weeks to 3 months: circulation and lung function improve
1 year: excess coronary heart disease risk cut in half
5 years: risk of mouth, throat and bladder cancer cut in half
10 years: risk of dying of lung cancer cut in half
15 years: risk of coronary heart disease same as non-smokers'

Cliff Douglas, vice president for tobacco control, said in a cancer society news release "The most important step is the first one: making the decision to quit. We hope the Great American Smokeout gives smokers an opportunity to consider making a lifesaving change." Are you ready to take the first step?

Acupuncture for Hot Flashes

The Mayo Clinic has produced a series of videos to help demonstrate the value of acupuncture in treating a variety of conditions. Stress, digestive problems, headaches, mood disorders, infertility and chronic pain are just some of the ailments acupuncture may help. This video discusses acupuncture as a treatment for hot flashes.

Hot flashes are sudden feelings of warmth, which are usually most intense over the face, neck and chest. Although other hormonal conditions can cause them, hot flashes most commonly are due to menopause. In fact, hot flashes are the most common symptom of the menopausal transition.

Researchers from the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) analyzed 12 studies and found acupuncture has the power to reduce hot flash frequency, severity, and other menopausal symptoms. The study also found menopausal women between the ages of 40 and 60 had lessened the frequency and severity of their hot flashes for as long as three months after an acupuncture treatment.

Take a Deep Breath

This time of year, I see a number of patients for the treatment of seasonal allergies. The following article explores another benefit to deep breathing and reminded me that someone struggling with allergies or asthma may also be having trouble controlling weight. Treating for one may actually benefit the other.

When You Lose Fat, Where Does It Go? 
(from Health in A Heart Beat podcast University of FL 3/31/15)

Picture this: Breathe in and fill those lungs — and breathe out fat.

The image may be an exaggeration, but it’s not much of one. According to the law of the conservation of mass, matter is neither created nor destroyed. So the widely held belief that fat is burned off as extra energy or heat, or is converted into muscle, is incorrect, according to researchers from Australia’s University of South Wales. The researchers reported their findings in the holiday issue of The British Medical Journal.

To solve the mystery of where fat goes, researchers began with what type of fat we actually lose, a type of fat called triglyceride. In order for you to get rid of it, the fat must be broken down into the atoms that make it up. This happens through a process called oxidation.

When triglyceride is oxidized, it breaks into carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, which researchers then tracked.

Turns out, a good portion of the triglyceride is exhaled as carbon dioxide. The researchers found that for 10 kilograms of human fat to be oxidized, humans must inhale 29 kilograms of oxygen. When the fat reacts with the oxygen, 11 kilograms of water and 28 kilograms of carbon dioxide are produced.

The researchers think this means your lungs are responsible for releasing your fat. The water produced exits your body in other typical ways: Through your urine, sweat and other bodily functions. Throughout the day, a 155-pound person exhales at least 200 grams of carbon per day. He or she takes it in by eating and drinking.

When you exercise, you breathe more frequently and deeply, ridding your body of even more carbon. The researchers say that one hour of moderate exercise can remove an additional 40 grams of carbon from the body.

So next time you exercise, don’t feel bad about huffing and puffing. You’re actually just blowing the fat away.