High Sugar Diet and Behavior Disorders Could be Linked

October 28th, 2020

Pink sugar bowlDiets high in sugar may increase a person’s risk for developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder and aggressive behaviors, according to a report.

Sugar and Mental Health

The new report describes how high amounts of fructose found in refined sugars in the typical western diet may contribute to the development of behavioral disorders. Sugar does not cause these behaviors; it is just a contributing factor, researchers emphasized.

In the new report, researchers suggest that fructose, a component of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, and uric acid, a fructose metabolite, may work to bring about the onset of these disorders in those genetically predisposed to them.

By lowering energy in cells, fructose “triggers a foraging response similar to what occurs in starvation,” which effectively stimulates behaviors such as risk taking, impulsivity, rapid decision making, and aggressiveness, the researchers said.

This foraging response shares similarities with behavioral disorders such as ADHD, as well as bipolar disorder and aggressive behavior.

Historically, animals and humans used this response for survival, understanding that they needed to take certain risks to obtain food and avoid starvation and death, researchers said. However, the survival pathway is now activated by the metabolism of fructose, leading to the storage of fat in the liver and blood, the development of insulin resistance and a decrease in energy expenditure.

The introduction of refined sugar and high-fructose corn syrup into the human diet has led to a significant increase in fructose intake over the past 300 to 400 years and researchers argue that this level of intake is higher than nature intended.

The report was published on October 16 in the journal “Evolution and Human Behavior.”

Sugar and Your Health

Americans average about 270 calories of sugar each day, that’s about 17 teaspoons a day, compared to the recommended limit of about 12 teaspoons per day or 200 calories.

Sugar can be harmful to your health in a myriad of ways:

  1. Your brain: Eating sugar gives your brain a huge surge of a feel-good chemical called dopamine. Because whole foods like fruits and vegetables don’t cause the brain to release much dopamine, your brain starts to need more and more sugar to get that same feeling of pleasure.
  2. Your mood: The occasional candy or cookie can give you a quick boost of energy by raising your blood sugar levels fast. When your levels drop as your cells absorb the sugar, you may feel jittery or anxious.
  3. Your teeth: Bacteria that cause cavities love to eat sugar lingering in your mouth after you eat something sweet.
  4. Your joints: Eating lots of sweets has been shown to worsen joint pain because of the inflammation they cause in the body.
  5. Your liver: Fructose is processed in the liver and in large amounts can damage the liver. When fructose is broken down in the liver it is transformed into fat.
  6. Your heart: When you eat excess sugar, the extra insulin in your bloodstream can affect arteries all over your body. It causes their walls to get inflamed, grow thicker than normal and stiffer; this stresses your heart and damages it over time.
  7. Your pancreas: When you eat, your pancreas pumps out insulin. But if you’re eating too much sugar and your body stops responding properly to insulin, your pancreas starts pumping out even more insulin. Eventually, your overworked pancreas will break down and your blood sugar levels will rise, setting you up for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.    
  8. Your body weight: The more sugar you eat, the more you’ll weigh. Research shows that people who drink sugar-sweetened beverages tend to weigh more and be at higher risk for type 2 diabetes than those who don’t.

The dietary guidelines for Americans recommend cutting back on added sugar, limiting it to no more than 10 percent of total daily calories.

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Cup of Coffee may Help Reduce Parkinson’s Risk

October 21st, 2020

Cup of coffeeCaffeine may reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease in people who have a gene mutation associated with the disorder, researchers report.

Caffeine may Help Parkinson’s Disease

Previous studies have shown that caffeine may protect against Parkinson’s disease in people with no genetic risk factors. A new study focused on a mutation in the LRRK2 gene that increases the risk of Parkinson’s.

Not all people with this gene mutation develop Parkinson’s disease, so scientists are trying to pinpoint other contributing genetic or environmental factors.

The study compared 188 people with Parkinson’s disease to 180 people without the disease. Both groups had people with and without the LRRK2 gene mutation.

Among people with the gene mutation, those with Parkinson’s had a 76 percent lower concentration of caffeine in their blood than those without Parkinson’s. Among people without the mutation, those who had Parkinson’s had a 31 percent lower concentration of caffeine in their blood than those without Parkinson’s.

It is possible that caffeine levels in the blood could be used as a biomarker to help identify which people with this gene will develop the disease.

The study was published online in the journal “Neurology.”

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement.

In Parkinson’s disease certain nerve cells in the brain gradually breakdown or die. Many of the symptoms are due to loss of nerve cells that produce a chemical messenger in your brain called dopamine. When dopamine levels decrease, it causes abnormal brain activity, leading to impaired movement and other symptoms of Parkinson’s.

Symptoms start gradually. Signs and symptoms can be different for everyone. Early signs may be mild and go unnoticed. These may include:

  1. Tremor: A tremor or shaking usually begins in a limb, often your hands or fingers.
  2. Slowed movement: Over time, Parkinson’s may slow your movement, making simple tasks difficult and time-consuming.
  3. Rigid muscles: Muscle stiffness may occur in any part of your body. The stiff muscles can be painful and limit your range of motion.
  4. Impaired posture and balance: Your posture may become stooped or you may have balance problems as a result of the disease.
  5. Loss of automatic movement: You may have a decreased ability to perform unconscious movements.
  6. Speech changes: You may speak softly, quickly, slur, or hesitate before talking. Your speech may be monotone rather than have the usual inflections.
  7. Writing changes: It may become hard to write and your writing may become small.

Symptoms often begin on one side of the body and usually remain worse on that side, even after symptoms begin to affect both sides.

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Genetic Mutations Cause Many Cerebral Palsy Cases

October 14th, 2020

DNA strandGenetic problems cause about 14 percent of cerebral palsy cases, and many of the implicated genes control the wiring of brain circuits during early fetal development, new research shows.

New Study on Cerebral Palsy

The largest genetic study of cerebral palsy supports previous findings and provides the strongest evidence to date that a significant portion of cerebral palsy cases can be linked to rare genetic mutations.

Researchers first searched for spontaneous mutations in the genes of 250 families in the United States, China and Australia. These rare mutations are believed to occur when cells make mistakes copying their DNA as they multiply and divide.

Cerebral palsy patients had higher levels of potentially harmful spontaneous mutations than their parents and about 12 percent of cerebral palsy cases in the study could be explained by these mutations, according to the study.  This was especially true for cases that had no known cause and represented the majority (63 percent) of cases in the study.

About two percent of cases in the study appeared to be linked to recessive or weaker versions of the genes, which increased the estimates of cases that could be linked to genetic problems to 14 percent as has been found in previous research.

The study was published in the journal “Nature Genetics.”

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that affect movement and muscle tone or posture. It is caused by damage that occurs to the immature brain.

Signs and symptoms appear during infancy or preschool years.Signs and symptoms can vary greatly. Movement and coordination problems associated with cerebral palsy include:

  • Delays in reaching motor skills milestones, such as pushing up on arms, sitting up or crawling
  • Delays in speech development or difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty walking, such as walking on toes, a crouched gait, a scissors-like gait with knees crossing, a wide gait, or an asymmetrical gait
  • Difficulty with fine motor skills
  • Difficulty with sucking or eating
  • Excessive drooling or problems swallowing
  • Favoring one side of the body, such as reaching with one hand or dragging a leg while crawling
  • Lack of balance and muscle coordination
  • Learning difficulties
  • Seizures 
  • Slow writhing movements
  • Stiff muscles and exaggerated reflexes
  • Stiff muscles with normal reflexes
  • Tremors or involuntary movements

The brain disorder causing cerebral palsy doesn’t change with time, so the symptoms do not worsen with age.

Cerebral palsy affects one in 323 children in the United States.

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“Brain Booster” Supplements may Contain Unapproved Drugs

October 7th, 2020

BrainDietary supplements marketed as “brain boosters” may contain high doses of pharmaceutical drugs that are not approved for use in the United States, according to a new study.

Unapproved Drugs Found in Supplements

The team of researchers behind the study analyzed 10 supplements with claims of memory enhancement, sharpened mental focus and more.

All the supplements were purchased online in the U.S. and were openly labeled as containing ingredients that are considered prescription drugs in countries including, Russia, China and Germany.

In three-quarters of the products, labels listed inaccurate quantities of these ingredients. Plus in some of the supplements, the researchers found other unapproved drugs that were not listed on the product labels, the study found.

Combining different drugs can make them more risky, and some of the combinations in these products have never been studied for safety or efficacy.

For the new study, researchers looked at two scientific databases—the National Medicines database and the National Institutes of Health’s Dietary Supplement Label Database—to identify ingredients that were chemically similar to piracetam that had been previously found in other “brain boosting” supplements.

Piracetam and the similar chemicals that the researchers looked for in the study are not approved for use in the U.S., but are prescribed to treat dementia, strokes, brain injuries, and other neurological issues in some countries in Europe, Asia and Latin America.

Some of the supplements that contained piracetam-like chemicals contained two to four times the typical pharmaceutical dose of these compounds, according to the study.

Along with the labeled chemicals, researchers also detected picamilon and phenibut in these supplements. The FDA has previously warned companies that it’s not legal to sell picamilon, which is used in Russia to treat neurological conditions, as a supplement. They have sent out similar letters about phenibut, which is used to treat anxiety and sleep problems in Russia.

Some of the particular pharmaceutical drugs found in the new study have been associated with serious effects, including increased and decreased blood pressure, insomnia, agitation, dependence, sedation, and hospitalization.

The study was published September 23 in the journal “Neurology Clinical Practice.”

Brain Health

To help keep your brain sharp, you don’t need to go running to the pharmacy. Here are some ways that you can help your brain:

  1. Healthy heart: When artery walls get thick with plaque it is difficult to get enough blood to the brain and nurture its cells.
  2. Plenty of quality sleep: A key way to keep your brain working is to shut it off for seven to nine hours a night. New research shows that during sleep, the brain clears out toxins called beta-amyloids that can lead to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
  3. Move your body: Exercise keeps you slim and fit and it could improve your cognitive health too. Exercise boosts blood flow to the brain. And studies have shown it can increase the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory, which naturally shrinks as you age.
  4. Eat well: A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, low in saturated fat, full of the nutrients found in leafy green vegetables, along with whole grains can help keep your brain healthy throughout your life.
  5. Be social: Spend as much time as you can with friends because when you socialize the blood circulates to several parts of your brain as you are listening and formulating responses.
  6. Try new things: Building new skills throughout your lifetime helps keep your brain healthy by consistently creating new connections between brain cells.

Scientists have found that brainy activities stimulate new connections between nerve cells and may even help the brain generate new cells, developing neurological “plasticity” and building up a functional reserve that provides a hedge against future cell loss.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to keep your brain healthy, whether that is through diet and exercise or hanging out with friends. IAA knows that keeping your brain sharp now can help you down the road later in life.

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Is the Pandemic Affecting Your Teeth?

September 30th, 2020

Teeth being brushedHas your jaw been feeling sore lately? Have you been having dental issues? The pandemic may be the cause.

Increase in Damaged Teeth

Pandemic-related anxiety is affecting our country’s mental health. That stress in turn, leads to clenching and grinding, which can damage teeth.

Tooth trauma may be the result of:

  1. Working from home: Many Americans are working from home, often wherever they can create a work station.  The awkward body positions that result from this can cause us to hunch our shoulders forward, curving the spine into a C-shape. Poor posture during the day can lead to a grinding problem at night.
  2. Poor sleep: Due to the stress of the coronavirus, the body stays in a heightened battle-ready state, instead of recharging.  All that tension goes straight to the teeth.

Loss of regular routine may also be contributing. People often brush their teeth before going to work, but now that people are not going into the office, they may wind up skipping a few brushes.

Finding Solutions

Good dental hygiene is important to overall health. Here are some tips for keeping your teeth in shape during the pandemic:

  • Awareness is key: Are your teeth touching? That is a sign you are doing damage. Your teeth should not be touching throughout the day at all, unless you are actually eating and chewing your food. Instead, your jaw should be relaxed, with a bit of space between the teeth when the lips are closed.
  • Change it up: Try to mix it up with standing whenever possible and incorporating more movement.
  • Posture: Ideally, when you are seated, your shoulders should be over your hips and your ears should be over your shoulders.

It is also important to try to keep up with routine dental care so long as your dentist allows.

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