Sweeteners and Sugar: The Good and Bad

 Sugar and Sweeteners- The Good and Bad

During the 1960’s sugar wasn’t blamed. In 1967, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) put the blame on saturated for heart disease on fats. Consequently, heart disease research from a food science and public health perspective is flawed. Most of all, the NEJM is one of the largest and respected medical journals in the world.

What’s Wrong With Sugar?

The Sugar Research Foundation compromised this study by giving a total of $19,000 to the head researchers. $19,000 is equivalent to $50,000 today. This study combined with bad research by Dr. Ancel Keys results in the many low fat diets seen today. Improper benefits and bad research put the public at risk by blaming the wrong substance on heart disease. Fortunately, emerging science continues to minimize the connection between saturated fat and heart disease.

Reverse the Fear: Sugars and Processed Carbs

Let’s say the bad studies linked the heart disease epidemic to sugar. Government agencies would have stricter limits on sugar and carbohydrate intake. “Warning, sugar increases the likelihood for heart disease. ” Would the U.S. still be one of the unhealthiest countries in the world? Would the obesity rates of our kids and teenagers still be high and increasing? I think not. Let’s break down common sweeteners and which are the best.

Common Sweeteners

The sweeteners listed below are highly processed. Processed means to heat, freeze, ferment, or add chemicals to make a product.

  • Sucrose aka table sugar
  • Saccharin and dextrose (Sweet N Low)
  • Sucralose and dextrose (Splenda)
  • Aspartame (Equal)
  • Maltodextrin
  • Erythritol

Evidence shows a link between artificial sweeteners and oxidative stress and inflammation which cause damage to organs and the brain. Furthermore, artificial sweeteners increase risk of excessive weight gain, metabolic syndrome, type two diabetes, and heart disease. Also, high use of artificial sweeteners alters good gut bacteria. Since sweeteners are widespread in processed foods and drinks, high accumulation is attainable.  Studies using Splenda and mice showed evidence of reduction in beneficial gut flora and reduced fecal PH (acidic). Normal body PH is alkaline. There is enough evidence to suggest removing these harmful substances from your diet. Make sure to check your ingredient labels too!

Best Sweeteners

  • Stevia rebaudiana (Sweetleaf)
  • Honey

Stevia is a popular plant because it’s sweet and may be medicinal. The healthy compound in Stevia is steviol glycosides. Stevia is an antioxidant, natural preservative, antimicrobial, and anitfungal. Stevia is thermostable therefore cooking with it will not change the chemical structure. It’s stable at 392 degrees Fahrenheit. When comparing stevia to other artificial sweeteners, stevia is much healthier by far.

I recommend Sweet Drops by SweetLeaf. Sweet Drops uses Stevia extract with natural flavors.The natural flavors contain ingredients from herbs, fruits, and vegetables. In conclusion, avoid artificial sweeteners and use SweetLeaf or local honey.

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Cranberry Juice

Cranberry Sauce or Juice?

Cranberry JuiceThanksgiving is this Thursday! Bring on the turkey, dressing, and desserts. Oh yeah, your relatives will be there too! A Thanksgiving day is not totally complete without cranberry sauce. Personally I never eat it. Something that slides out of a can and maintains its tubular shape isn’t appetizing to me, but there is a large segment of the population that obviously enjoy the taste. This article isn’t about cranberry sauce. In this article we will discuss some of the health benefits of cranberry juice.

Dental Caries and Gum Disease

Like most dark colored fruits, cranberries are loaded with polyphenols, a type of antioxidant. The polyphenols in cranberries reduce the affects of bacteria that form plaque buildup on your teeth. Also cranberry juice provides gum protection because the polyphenols inhibit the process of gum inflammation and the destructive enzymes that damage the gums.

Breast Cancer

Eating fruits and vegetables has an inverse risk for chronic diseases and cancer. In this study cranberry extract was used on breast cancer cells. The cranberry extract significantly decreased breast cancer cell replication/ reproduction. This study used cranberry extract; thus this study is limited in benefits for actual cranberry juice.

Risk for Cardiovascular Disease

This study shows low calorie cranberry juice reduced cardiovascular disease risk factors. Risk factors included blood pressure, c reactive protein (inflammation marker), triglycerides, and glucose concentrations. Low calorie cranberry juice has shown to have similar effects of an ACE inhibitor/high blood pressure medications.

The power of the cranberry is a result of the antioxidants it possesses. That’s why it’s so important to eat dark colored fruits and vegetables. Not only are you optimizing many cellular functions through its vitamins and minerals, but you’ll also be receiving the fiber you need. Drinking cranberry or pomegranate juice is a convenient way to get these important micro nutrients. Pass on the cranberry sauce, and drink 3-4 oz daily of cranberry juice. You can eat them whole which would be more beneficial. When you buy cranberry juice (try this one) make sure it’s not from concentrate or has added sugars.

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Heavy Backpacks to Blame for Chronic Low Back Pain?

Heavy Backpacks to Blame for Chronic Low Back Pain?

Heavy Backpacks to Blame for Chronic Low Back Pain?

Attention parents. I have some homework that could influence your child’s health. How much does your child’s backpack weigh? If a child who weighs 100 pounds is wearing a 10 to 15 pound backpack, then that child is at an increased risk for low back pain or back pathology. Studies show that 92% of children carry backpacks that are 10% to 22% of their body weight. I was in school once, and I remember lugging around 3 to 4 heavy books, 2-3 binders, and a lunch box. Who knows, I may have been packing some Pogs or a Yo-Yo too. Let’s examine some backpack strategies to keep your kids healthy.

What Damage Can Heavy Backpacks Cause?

When a child’s backpack is over 10 to 15 percent of their body weight, the body’s normal center of gravity is shifted backwards or posteriorly. As the normal center of gravity is shifted posteriorly, abnormal loading of the spine will cause compression of the discs and associated spinal structures like articular facets. Along with spinal compression; children will compensate the weight by rounding their shoulders and jutting their head forward. Have you heard of the analogy, “As the twig is bent so grows the tree?” There is a lot of truth to that because minor spinal shifts or deviations of the spine will progress causing secondary conditions or symptoms if not corrected.

Chronic rounded shoulders can cause abnormal shoulder mechanics leading to shoulder injury. Permanent forward head posture or Anterior Head Syndrome (AHS) can cause spinal pathology and other symptoms such as headaches. Take a look at Justin Bieber’s lateral mugshot. It saddens me to see kids and teens with AHS because without a comprehensive plan to fix the shifts of the spine; spinal degeneration will accelerate at a more rapid pace. Anterior Head Syndrome is no different than your car being out of alignment. This will cause abnormal wear and tear on your tires and may cause your car to veer to one side.

Backpack Tips that Can Prevent Injury

  • Backpacks shouldn’t be big enough to hold all of your child’s books. Purchase a backpack that is just large enough to hold a few books, a binder and a lunch box.
  • Purchase a backpack that has large, padded shoulder straps. A backpack that is too heavy with narrow straps can compress nerves and arteries. With that said, use both shoulder straps. No Zack Morris backpack wearing.
  • Limit backpack weights below 10% of your child’s body weight.
  • Place the heaviest objects closest to the child’s back. This will limit changes in center of gravity  which normally is just below your belly button.
  • When picking up your backpack use the Lumbar Saving Lift.
  • Check with the teacher or child about the books needed to bring home for homework.
  • Adjust the straps so that the backpack is positioned 4 inches above the child’s waist line. Wear your backpack like NBA All-Star Kevin Durant.

You could try roller backpacks, but apparently those can be tripping hazards and may be hard to lug up stairs. A child with back pain or neck pain is extremely worrisome. Thus, it’s important to take the steps necessary to prevent future spinal problems.

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Sleep Tips for Kids

Sleep Tips for Kids

Sleep Tips for Kids

Sleep plays a vital role in health outcomes for children and adults. Unfortunately most school aged kids are getting less sleep as they progress though school. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following: 10-13 hours for 3-5 year olds (including naps), 9-12 hours for 6-12 year olds, 8-10 hours for 13-18 year olds. The National Sleep Foundation cited 75% of 18 year olds reported getting less than 8 hours per night. While there are a number of strategies to help sleep, let’s go over a few things that may hinder sleep first.

What Should I Avoid?

In 2006 adolescents reported having at least one electronic device in their bedroom. With the popularity of iPhones and tablets, it’s safe to say that number has increased. The problem with electronics is the emission of blue light. Blue light affects the secretion of melatonin which regulates your internal clock (24 hour cycle). Meletonin levels are highest at night and lowest during the morning. Blue light emitted from electronics at night will set back your internal clock delaying sleep and decreasing melatonin secretion when it’s most needed.

TV shows, movies, and video games can increase emotional arousal delaying sleep and lower sleepiness. Try watching Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead and immediately falling asleep. Good luck! In addition to emotional arousal, blue light screens will decrease melatonin levels.

The last one is obvious, but try to limit caffeine after 12 PM (noon). This includes soft drinks, coffee, and energy drinks.

Sleep Tips For Kids

Set a schedule or routine for bedtime. This is the most important tip for kids and adults too. It’s best to keep a visual schedule for the whole family to see. The steps you choose will get your children relaxed and prepared for sleep. Routines can start with infants. Studies show that infants who had a bedtime routine reduced sleep latency (time to fall asleep) and number/duration of night wakening. That will make happy parents! Routines can include bathing, putting on pajamas, brushing teeth, reading a story, using the bathroom, and listening to calming music. Routines should be short and should be no longer than 1 hour. Start at 15 minutes for infants and add time continuing up to teenage years. If possible, follow your routine every night even on weekends.

Decrease the room temperature to 60-67 degrees. This is the temperature range for optimal sleep. Heat exposure increases wakefulness and decreases the amount of time spent in stages of sleep like Rapid Eye Movement (dreaming occurs) and Non-Rapid Eye Movement (deepest part of sleep).

Wear socks to bed. If your feet are cold, wear socks to dilate the blood vessels in your feet. Dilation triggers your brain to prepare itself for sleep.

Keep your the kid’s bedroom as dark as possible. As you know, light in your room can affect your melatonin levels. If you use a night light, go with a red light. Red lights have the least effect on your internal clock. Try this night light.

Do not eat or drink anything at least an hour before bed. Your body has to process anything you ingest,so if you eat or drink something before bed, your body will have to digest it. Also eating or drinking will increase risk of having to use the bathroom late at night.

Deep breaths before bedtime will help prepare your body for sleep. Try 5 slow inhales and exhales. If you inhale for 5 seconds try to exhale for 10 seconds. Parents can use this breathing exercise as part of the nightly routine.

What Happens When Sleep is Optimized?

Studies show that declarative memory is enhanced in children when recommended amounts of sleep are met. Declarative memory is the ability to remember facts or events. Wouldn’t this be helpful in school? Unfortunately there are no studies that show a positive correlation between sleep and non-declarative memory. Non-declarative memory is used in the learning of languages or learning a skill.

Also the risk for diabetes, anxiety, obesity, and depression all decrease with the recommended amount of sleep. Immunity is strengthened with better sleep. This is why you should get plenty of rest if you are starting to feel sick.

If you truly want better sleep for kids, it all starts with the parents or guardian. Enforcing the bedtime routine and setting a good example is of utmost importance. A good night’s rest is an integral part of learning and performance. Implementing these tips could set your child up for future success in and beyond school.

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Tony Romo Back Injury Analysis

Tony Romo Back Injury Analysis

Tony Romo Back Injury Analysis

College football has kicked off! Now it’s time for the pros to play starting this Thursday! Unfortunately, a few major injuries took place during preseason football. Last year, Green Bay Packer star wide receiver Jordy Nelson tore his anterior cruciate ligament running a route. This preseason Tony Romo succumbed to injury during the preseason. Let’s take a look at how the injury took place.

How Did the Injury Happen?

During the first quarter of the preseason game, Tony Romo scrambled to his left escaping the pocket. This exposed Romo’s back to defensive end Cliff Avril. Romo was starting to slide to give himself up (end the play without getting hit). Romo’s slide naturally made his chest and legs converge causing slight lumbar spine flexion. As Romo was about to slide, Cliff Avril hit Romo around the shoulders and neck causing hyper-flexion of Romo’s lumbar spine. You can watch the injury video here. Pardon the 30 second commercial.

Back Injury Analysis

Arrows represent the superior and inferior vertebral endplate

Mechanics of Injury

Romo hit the ground forcefully causing a compression fracture. Compression fractures of the spine are usually caused by a hyper-flexion injury as seen on the video. During forceful hyper-flexion, the vertebral endplates will drive toward each other creating a fracture.

How Was the Injury Confirmed?

The imaging used for Romo’s back was Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). There are two types of MRI. T1 and T2 weighted MRI show the area of compression and fluid build up representing an acute or recent injury. Imagine a halfway crushed can. That’s what Romo’s L1 vertebrae probably looked like through MRI. Romo will avoid surgery. The best treatment for a stable compression fracture is rest. The timetable for Romo’s return looks to be week 8 or 10.

How Does a Structural Correction Chiropractor Help?

As long as the compression fracture is stable, there are no contraindications to Structural Correction chiropractic. Structural Corrective adjustments at Core Chiropractic are specific and gentle with a major focus being on the top vertebral bones. If the top vertebral bone, the atlas, is directed to a more normal position the rest of the spine will be affected as well. The spine works like links of a chain. Moving the top link will affect or move the rest of the links. Structural Corrective adjustments will stabilize and align the spine to it’s most optimal position; thus, decreasing pressure on the nerves (yellow structures above) improving or correcting secondary conditions or symptoms.

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Summer Sandbox Safety for Your Child

Summer Sandbox Safety for Your Child

Summer Sandbox Safety for Your Child

Sandboxes can be a great way for your child to spend time outside and play. Also kids don’t tend to wander far from the sandbox; that’s a positive for parents. As you know, play time is important for neural development, and sand provides a unique texture unlike plastic toys.  Exposing your child to different surfaces to walk, crawl, or balance on promote optimal brain growth. Before you send your kids to a sandbox, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

Type of Sand Matters

The sand should be natural river sand or beach sand. Other types of sand can be a dangerous for your toddler. Sand made up of crushed limestone, marble, or crystalline silica can be inhaled and lead to occupational lung diseases later in life. I also recommend something that doesn’t create a lot of dust. This sand from Sandtastick is what you want.

Cover your Sand

When not in use, cover the sand. This is especially important for outdoor sandboxes. When it rains on sand, moisture can accumulate and harbor harmful bacteria and parasites. Even animals and bugs can use sandboxes for bathroom purposes. Cover your sandbox!

Sand Upkeep

Raking your sand is important too. Not only does this keep the sand dryer (less bacteria), but it is a good way to make sure the sand is free of unsafe objects like sharp sticks or used band aids. Gross. Also it’s a good idea to replace the sand every six months or so.

You are now a sandbox expert. I recommend not using your public sandbox. You don’t know what’s in the sand or the type of sand used.

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What Makes Micheal Phelps the Best Ever?

Micheal Phelps GOAT?

There are many factors that make Michael Phelps great. Experts say his long wing span, lung capacity, and ankle range of motion give him an edge over all of his competitors. That’s disputable because there are other Olympic swimmers with similar physical attributes, or swimmers with less impressive height and wing span that have gold medals as well. In this article, Kennan Robinson, Phelps’ strength coach, emphasizes a few things that played a part in what makes Phelps special.

Playing Multiple Sports

Robinson cites that Phelps grew up playing baseball and lacrosse which helped him avoid injuries at a young age. Specializing in one sport at a young age could increase the chances of injury and “burn out” according to the journal Sports Health. Take for instance the rise in arm injuries with youth pitchers. They pitch an excessive amount at a young age which leads to over training one side of the body. Repetitive movements can create structural shifts of the spine. Structural shifts of the spine can lead to secondary conditions or symptoms like muscle spasm, shoulder pain, and wrist injuries to name a few. Luckily for Phelps, he was able to avoid these injuries because he participated in sports that allowed for different movement patterns.

Sense of Awareness 

Robinson says Phelps has “great fluidity” in the water which allows for very little wasted motion. Wasted motion in Olympic competition can be the difference between gold and silver. I believe Robinson is referring to Phelps ability to sense his position in the water. This is known as proprioception. Abnormal structural shifts of the spine can directly affect one’s proprioception by creating stress on a muscles and tendons. Once normal structural stability and alignment are created, muscles and tendons are able to perform optimally. Optimal function of muscles and tendons improves the body’s ability to sense positions of body parts and structures. This allows for movement “fluidity.”

Normal Structure

Robinson and coaches also stress to Phelps the importance of “body alignment.” With proper body alignment, Phelps’ swimming stroke mechanics lead to greater propulsion through the water. Robinson stresses body alignment throughout the day and in the gym. When you optimize structure of the spine or direct it to a more normal position, you directly affect body alignment or posture.

Optimal structural stability leads to optimal function of the nervous system or wiring of the body. Phelps has this, and so should you.

Healthy Hamburgers and Science

Healthy Hamburgers and Science

Healthy Hamburgers and Science

People are creatures of habit. We simply do not like change. McDonald’s was the first chain restaurant to popularize hamburgers, and nothing much has changed after their first store opening in 1955. Nothing has changed because who doesn’t like a beef patty perfectly cooked and charred right off your home grill? I like cheese too, but I digress. Yes, there have been some imitations of a beef hamburger, but veggie hamburgers have not come close to satisfying meat lovers. Most veggie hamburgers taste like…. blah. Well, blah may turn into mmm after recent discoveries at Impossible Foods.

Patrick Brown of Impossible Foods is a biochemist at Stanford who set out on a mission to change the environmental impact of meat production by creating a meatless hamburger. Beef production has raised some concern about its long term sustainability and harmful environmental impact. Estimates show that it takes 7.5 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of beef. That’s a lot of grain. Producing large amounts of grain is taxing on soil and the water supply. There is more to the sustainability of beef, but let’s refocus on Dr. Brown’s potentially ground breaking meatless hamburger.

Brown and select chefs set out to create a hamburger made without beef. This is certainly a tall task as many veggie burgers have come and gone. Thus the challenge was to make a hamburger that would satisfy beef lovers, not just vegans.

The Impossible Foods hamburger needed to match many of the components of a beef burger. Beef patties when cooked correctly form a nice crust on the outside while also being juicy. The texture and the smell of the hamburger had to mimic the beef patty. The biggest obstacle was to create the beef hamburger’s umani flavor. Umani (oo-mam-ee) is the unique flavor you get from beef. Brown was able to create umani from a plant based heme which delivers oxygen to red blood cells and gives blood it’s red coloring. After many years, Brown has debuted his meatless hamburger to the public.

Early reviews are positive. People say the Impossible Burger tastes and smells like a regular beef patty, but it’s slightly different. Reviews can be read here and here. Unfortunately the Impossible Burger is only available in select cities, but I’ll be sure to try it out once it travels down south. Here is a video of the Impossible Burger in action.

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Is Chocolate Healthy?

Is Chocolate Healthy?

Is Chocolate Healthy?

This bit of news might be the most rewarding you will read this week, because it’s about chocolate. Chocolate is not only delicious, but it also has many known health benefits. Contain your urge to immediately leave the house and head to the grocery store, because not all chocolate is the same. Sorry.

What Makes Chocolate so Healthy?

Cocoa beans are the main ingredient of chocolate. Cocoa beans have many healthy compounds; the main one being flavanol. Flavanol is known for its cardiovascular benefits.  Studies have shown a correlation between high intake of cocoa and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. A study including subjects with previous myocardial infarction showed a 66% decreased mortality rate with the group who ate chocolate twice a week. Cocoa has shown positive influences on inflammation, endothelial function, blood pressure, platelet function, and glucose transport. Unfortunately, these study participants aren’t eating Hershey’s chocolate bars.

For the Brain

Flavanol rich cocoa has benefits for brain health as well. Cocoa has properties that increase the blood flow to the brain by vasodilation. Increased blood flow to the brain could mean improved brain function. Cocoa has shown protective benefits to the electrical wiring of the brain by preventing cell death. The antioxidants in cocoa inhibit cell death by neurotoxins. Even studies that involved cognitive tests showed very slight improvements with cocoa intake leading to believe cocoa may reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Percentage of Cocoa Is Key

This next part is the most important. When buying dark chocolate, go for 75% or higher cocoa. A higher percentage of cocoa means more antioxidants. Also avoid chocolate that says “alkalized” or “Dutch-processed.” Alkalized and Dutch-process are a way of chemically removing the bitterness and harshness of cocoa beans. This greatly affects the cocoa because a large portion of the healthy compounds are removed.

There is no daily recommend amount to eat, but I suggest 1.5 oz of dark per day. Rejoice! Remember to buy dark with 75% or greater cocoa content and avoid the Dutch process or alkalization.

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Squat This Way

Squat This Way

Squat This Way

Squats are one of the most important exercises you can incorporate into your work out. If you are performing the exercise correctly, a squat activates the muscles of the lower and upper half of your body. Physiologically, squats are good for muscles and your brain. They also give great shape to your gluts, but no one notices that… Back to gluts in a moment though.

Since the squat is a complex exercise with many moving parts, it’s important to talk to your trainer or health professional about proper technique. Without proper technique and guidance, you are extremely prone to injury, especially to the knees and lower back. For this blogs sake, let’s say you’ve done your homework, and you know proper technique through Youtube videos. You might hear the trainers on the videos say, “KEEP YOUR KNEES OUT!!!!!” if you watching an intense workout video.

You might think to yourself “Why do I keep hearing this?” Instead of thinking of keeping your knees out, think about externally rotating your hip joints (hips move away from mid line). Your hip joint is made by the articulation of  two components: the femoral head and acetabulum of the ilium. Make sure you get a good look at your hip joint. Being able to envision your hip joint will help you perform this particular movement. It’s similar to concentrating on your biceps as you do a curl. If you are able to envision a activated muscle during an exercise, you’ll benefit more.

Before you squat, I want you to externally rotate both hip joints. When doing this motion, your feet will remain stationary, and you’ll feel your glutes activate if done correctly. Stand up with your feet shoulder width apart and externally rotate your hips while touching your glutes (best done in comfort of your own home). You should actively feel your glutes tense up. Activating your glutes before you start the descent of the squat will prime the muscles needed to perform your best squat. Biomechanically, external rotation will properly align your knees and ankles while performing a squat.

Also externally rotating your hip joints will help KEEP YOUR KNEES OUT!

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