Benefits of Blueberries for the Brain

Salad with blueberries

My friend Robin D. Everson loves blueberries. She loves them so much she puts them in her daily vegetable salad pictured above. It is a bit of sweet to go with the tart of kale and the other vegetables. This is good for her because along with helping to reduce diabetes and improve arterial function, they help the brain.

Video: Benefits of Blueberries for the Brain

When you search the medical literature for studies on berries, papers like this pop up: A “‘Blueberry Muffin’ Rash”, ahh… Or, pictures of “strawberry tongue[s],” or as a way to describe “stool appearance,” though “stools truly resembling currant jelly” are not very common. What is it with pathologists’ love affair with food terminology? —the grossest of which may be the way amoeba chest infections are described, where you spit up pus that looks like “anchovy sauce,” which sounds gross—even without the pus.

There are actual studies on berry supplementation, like on how they can mitigate the negative effects of a “high [saturated-] fat diet on the brain and behavior,” but that was in mice. Maybe a better way to mitigate would be to not feed your pet mouse a stick of butter in the first place.

Then, there are studies of proprietary berry-based nutraceutical supplements, purported to improve cognitive performance. See how there’s a steeper rise in the supplement group?

Old hats will instantly recognize this as the timeless trick featured in the 1950s classic, How to Lie with Statistics. See how they don’t start the Y axis at zero? That’s to inflate the appearance. Correct the graph, and you can see the effect doesn’t look quite so impressive.

There are studies of actual berries on actual humans, but when they’re funded by berry industry trade groups, you get studies like this: “An afternoon snack of berries reduces subsequent energy intake.” Great! But that’s compared to candy. Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries—fantastic, compared, to a handful of “Jelly Babies,” which are just like coated gummy bears. Do berries offer so little that you have to compare them to candy to make them look good?

There was that famous Harvard study I did a video about, where berry-eating appeared to delay brain aging by up to two-and-a-half years. But, you don’t know if it’s cause and effect until you put it to the test. And, “[b]lueberry supplementation [was able to] improve…memory in older adults” in just 12 weeks’ time. But, that was feeding them up to six cups of wild blueberries a day. Now, this was a proof-of-concept pilot study just to see if they could get any effect. We just didn’t have any studies using more realistic doses…until, now.

How about just a cup a day of blueberries? They found that “the addition of easily achievable quantities of blueberries to the diets of older adults can improve some aspects of cognition,” like long-term memory. In terms of the number of errors, the placebo group got worse; the blueberry group got better.

You can even correlate the cognitive improvements with enhanced brain activation using fancy brain scan technology to actually visualize the improved blood flow to those same regions of the brain caused by the blueberry consumption.

Does it work in kids, too? “[B]lueberry treatments have shown positive effects on cognition in both” rats and adult humans. But, do those these “benefits transfer to children”—human children? How about a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study comparing about one cup of blueberries, to two cups, to zero cups. What did they find? “[C]ognitive performance improve[ments] across all measures,” and the more berries, the better. And, this wasn’t after twelve weeks of eating berries, but within hours of just a single blueberry meal. Sounds like a good breakfast any day our kids are having their exams.

For more information be sure to check out my latest videos including this one Benefits of Blueberries For Artery Function on NutritionFacts.org

In health,

Michael

Dr. Michael Greger

Dr. Greger is a graduate of Cornell University School of Agriculture and Tufts University School of Medicine. He is also the founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. He is a physician, author and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety and public health issues. He has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, testified before Congress, appeared on “The Dr. Oz Show” and “The Colbert Report,” and was an expert witness in the defense of Oprah Winfrey in the “meat defamation” trial. He is the author of the international bestseller “How Not To Die.” Currently, Dr. Greger serves on the advisory board for The Only Vegan At The Table and the North Texas Community Health Initiative. He is also the founder of NutritionFacts.org, a science-based nutrition information website with hundreds of videos available for free. “Mondays With Michael” is a weekly column featuring the latest in science-based nutrition information.

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Tools for a better night’s sleep

Go2Sleep ring

Not getting sufficient, restful sleep is a big problem for millions of people around the world. Daytime sleepiness has been noted for irritability that can lead to fights, the cause of work-related injuries, and vehicular accidents. Sleep apnea is a very serious condition. It affects children and adults, as well as, men and women and, if not treated, can lead to serious health issues, including, diabetes, irregular heartbeat, heart attack, obesity, stroke, and heart failure.

Many people with sleep apnea don’t realize that they have it. They just think they didn’t sleep well and have “mental fog” or feel tired during the day. In a relationship, their partners notice it more because of the loud snoring and snorting their sleep apnea partner is doing throughout the night.

There are three kinds of sleep apnea: obstructive, central and a combination of both. Obstructive (OSA) is the most common and risk factors including being overweight, a family history of the condition, allergies, a small airway, and enlarged tonsils. In OSA breathing is interrupted by a blocked of airflow, while in Central (CSA) breathing stops due to a lack of effort to breathe. Basically, the brain’s respiratory control centers are imbalanced during sleep and the feedback necessary to keep blood levels of carbon dioxide in check do not react to maintain an even cycling rate so breathing stops. A person can “appear dead” because there are no chest movements and no struggling or gasping for air. Once the brain’s respiratory control centers turn back on there can be fast breathing as the body tries to make up for lost breathing during the apnea period. One can have a combination of the two Obstructive and Central apnea. To be diagnosed one has to experience a minimum of five apnea episodes per hour and have a sleep study done.

A good way to monitor your sleep to find out if you have sleep apnea is to wear the Go2Sleep device by SleepOn. Go2Sleep is a ring you wear on your finger before going to bed. Once asleep, the Go2Sleep ring monitors and tracks your pulse, heart rate, Sp02 blood oxygen level, and sleep apnea occurrences. Paired with your smart phone, the App gives very detailed reports and healthy ranges for total sleep, your sleep stage (how long you spent in deep sleep, light sleep and REM [rapid eye movement]), as well as your AHI (apnea-hypopnea index), resting heart rate per minute during sleep, the number of times you toss and turn during sleep, and the sleep deficient hours over a period of days. Plus, the App gives you reports by the day, week(s) and month and a sleep score so you know how well you are doing.

The Go2Sleep gives you a quick overview of your health
Go2Sleep App individual day view report
Go2Sleep App individual day sleep stage report

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having these reports are extremely helpful in seeking treatment for sleep apnea. My treatment included a CPAP machine and having the Go2Sleep ring with the SleepOn App has made me empowered to handle my condition with confidence. The information in the SleepOn reports regarding my sleep has helped me create healthful patterns to prepare myself to have a more restful sleep.

I would highly recommend getting the SleepOn’s Go2Sleep ring. It is easy to use; you just put it on your finger as noted in the user’s manual and go to sleep. Upon waking, you put the ring on its USB charging base until you are ready to use it again. You access the report information via your smart phone. It is an affordable health and well-being tool at $129 and is available through Amazon, eBay or AliExpress.

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Happy Father’s Day

Father’s Day is supposed to be a celebration honoring fathers. After all, they are responsible for creating 1/2 of you. But, for some reason, praise is given out by the truckloads to mothers. Not that I have anything against mothers or at least good mothers, but I sometimes wonder why one half of the responsible party for giving us life seems to be disregarded.

My father was born a very long time ago – 1913, to be exact. He saw a lot of life in his 77 years. He was a very enterprising man and seemed fearless in the things he set his mind to. I loved him dearly and admired him greatly. We didn’t always see eye-to-eye on everything but that was just during my teenage years and completely understandable. Parents can be so parenty.

He had lived through the Great Depression and Civil Rights movement. He had seen a lot of bad things and experienced his fair share of unfortunate events but through them all, he persevered. The year my father turned 52, I was born. While my father did the things you expected fathers to do, he didn’t do the things some kids would expect. He didn’t teach me to ride a bike. My older brother did that. What my father excelled at was providing for his family. As a child, I was thankful that I had a brand new bike complete with a blue glitter banana seat and a basket to put my Barbie dolls, plenty of good food to eat and a roof over my head. He also bought me a blue and white Smith Corona typewriter and gave me the great advice that if I learned how to type that I would always have a job. I love being a journalist.

My father was also a great cook. One of his jobs way before I was born was working on the railroad as a chef. The food for holidays was great because Dad cooked.

My dad represented strength. He was an entrepreneur and had his own advertising specialties firm. My dad also had Type 2 Diabetes. This disease can rob people of so many things – eyesight, limbs and life. Growing up, I didn’t know my father had this horrible disease. I just knew there was this little vial on the door in the refrigerator. I never touched it because I knew it wasn’t mine. I never heard my father discuss his health issues. Back then, people didn’t discuss that, or at least they didn’t with their children.

It hurt me deeply when my father died of Type 2 Diabetes. He was only 77 years old. Watching him slip away in a hospital intensive care ward was the hardest thing for me to see. He didn’t get to see me get married. But, then again, he didn’t see me get divorced either. He didn’t see me become a Type 2 diabetic and rid myself of the horrible disease through adopting a vegan diet. Ultimately, the thing that bothers me the most is that he didn’t get to see me succeed at the things I wanted to do. I want to work to ensure that others do not suffer from Type 2 diabetes and lose their loved ones to this ugly disease. Type 2 Diabetes is out of control and is a global health issue. By making a simple diet change, one can make great strides in improving their health.

I wish my father had lived longer. If he were alive today, he would be celebrating 103 years of life. As I reflect on all the time I spent with my father, I think the thing that sticks out in my mind is my father telling me not to be afraid to try something new.

I would encourage all to try something new – adopting a vegan diet can add years to your life and life to your years. What you do with those years are up to you.

If you are a Type 2 diabetic or know someone who is, I would highly recommend ordering the book “Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes, The Proven System For Reversing Diabetes.”

Originally published June 21, 2015 on The Vegan Voice. This story has been modified and updated to reflect new information.

The Vegan Voice is now VegWorld Magazine. Click here to subscribe to VegWorld.

To view my stories on vegan lifestyle click here to go to The Only Vegan At The Table.

To view my stories on life in the arts click here to go to www.RobinEverson.com.

 

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Happy Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day was started over 150 years ago (in the 1850s) as a way to improve sanitary conditions, fight disease, decrease mortality rate of children and milk contamination. It was connected to soldiers (Civil War) as a day of mourning for women who had lost their loved ones. In 1914, Mother’s Day (the second Sunday in May) was made an official holiday by President Woodrow Wilson. Mother’s Day has grown and evolved into a holiday to acknowledge and commemorate the contributions of mothers, grandmothers and all those who love and care for others. Whether you have or had a good relationship with your mother or not isn’t the point of this article.

Many people send cards, flowers, call her or take her out for a meal to acknowledge their love for their mother. But, there is one group of little ones that do not get to spend Mother’s Day with their mother. In fact, a few hours after being born these babies are ripped from mothers, some not even being able to be nursed let alone growing up and weaned from them. These babies are from the animal kingdom and they along with their mothers share the planet with us.

While I don’t care to go into horrific details about the care and treatment of these mothers and their babies at this time, I do want to make clear that the rights that we have as human beings are, in some way, considered a higher privilege to those of animals and such an ideology is not consistent with compassion.

The majority of mothers in our world would fight, cry, kick and scream if their children were ripped from them. The same goes for mothers in the animal kingdom. The mother/child bond extends beyond that of human beings and animals feel love, loss and pain just like we do.

If we are one world that practices compassion then, we should make sure it extends to all areas of our lives. Consuming animals and their by-products is not conducive to our sustainability, the planet and the lives of animals. Consuming “free-range” or “organic” doesn’t solve the problem. Eating someone’s mother is just wrong. Forcing mother cows to be perpetually pregnant in order to continue producing milk, not for her calf but, for humans to consume is wrong. Grinding up male chicks alive because they are considered “useless” and “unprofitable” is counter to the belief that we are a compassionate society of intelligent beings. Really, think about this. Would you be able to load baby chicks, crying for their mother, into a grinding machine, turn it on and watch them die?

If we truly love our mothers, the planet and all of its inhabitants, then we should live our lives in such a way that celebrates the good in all and does harm to none.

Eating a vegan diet comprised of legumes/beans, vegetables, grains and fruits is the diet that our bodies were designed to enjoy. Consuming such a diet helps us become strong people, shows compassion for our animal friends that share the planet with us and helps sustain the natural resources of the planet.

The best gift you can give to your mother is the gift of love and good health. Taking her out to a vegan restaurant or preparing a healthy, wholesome vegan meal for her will show her that you love her and care about her well being. Not sure how to make a vegan meal? There are some wonderful cookbooks that can help you. Vegan mother and recipe developer Dreena Burton has an excellent cookbook called Plant-Powered Families: Over 100 Kid-Tested, Whole-Foods Vegan Recipes is a good place to start. Also, Julie Piatt, wife of ultra marathoner Rich Roll and vegan mother of four children, has a new cookbook “The Plantpower Way” that is filled with great tips for the newbie vegan and tasty recipes.

Consider helping out a local farm sanctuary to keep our animal friends safe and happy or by getting involved in advocacy work to spread the message of compassion.

No matter how you choose to spend Mother’s Day, I wish you peace and joy today and every day.

Robin

This article was originally published May 10, 2015 on The Vegan Voice. This story has been modified and updated to reflect new information.

The Vegan Voice is now VegWorld Magazine. Click here to subscribe to VegWorld.

To view my stories on vegan lifestyle click here to go to The Only Vegan At The Table.

To view my stories on life in the arts click here to go to www.RobinEverson.com.

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A double dose of Mondays With Michael

In today’s Mondays with Michael, I share two of Dr. Michael Greger’s blog posts/videos regarding turmeric and cancer.

April 17 has traditionally been a sad day for me. My mother, Rose L. Jackson Everson, 2/2/1932 (2/29/1932) – 4/17/2011, died of “metastatic breast cancer.” Just those three words and you know it isn’t going to end well. She, like my aunt Ruby, died of cancer. Cancer was unheard of in our family health history until these two women were diagnosed with it. Their diet of affluence played a huge part in death by the fork. The science is clear on the power of a whole food, plant-based diet to reverse disease – including cancer. One can wonder if she had changed her diet to a whole food, plant-based diet after her first breast cancer surgery, would she have gotten cancer again 29 years later. (more…)

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Topical Application of Turmeric Curcumin for Cancer

Researchers showed that those at high risk for colon cancer could reverse the progression of their disease by taking curcumin, the yellow pigment in the spices turmeric and curry powder, cutting down on precancerous lesions, and even pre-precancerous lesions. Are there other high-risk lesions we can try spicing up?

How about giving turmeric extracts to people who just had bladder cancer taken out, or who have an early stage of squamous cell carcinoma skin cancer caused by arsenic exposure, or early stage cervical cancer, or precancerous lesions in the mouth or the stomach? In about a quarter of the patients, the lesions started to get better. One out of the two bladder cancer survivors, two out of seven precancerous mouth lesions, one out of six precancerous stomach lesions, one out of four early stage cervical cancer cases and two out of six early stage skin cancer, all without any noticeable side-effects. (more…)

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Turmeric Curcumin & Pancreatic Cancer

Turmeric powder is a powerful cancer fighter

Carcinogens in grilled and baked chicken may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer, while curcumin, the yellow pigment in the spice turmeric, may sometimes help even in advanced stages of the disease.

Pancreatic cancer is among the most aggressive forms of human cancer with a very high mortality rate. It represents the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States with an annual mortality of 32,000 dead. With a 5-year survival rate of only 3% and an average survival of less than 6 months, diagnosis of pancreatic cancer carries one of the poorest prognoses. It’s one of the worst things a doctor ever has to tell a patient. The only FDA-approved therapies for it, gemcitabine and erlotinib, produce objective responses in less than 10% of patients while causing severe side-effects in the majority. There is a desperate need for new options. (more…)

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How To Make Your Own Fruit and Vegetable Wash

How might we reduce our exposure to pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables? What about staying away from imported produce? Turns out domestic produce may be even worse, dispelling this notion that imported fruits and vegetables pose greater potential health threats to consumers.

Buying organic dramatically reduces dietary exposure to pesticides, but does not eliminate the potential risk. Pesticide residues are detectable in about 1 in 10 organic crop samples, due to cross-contamination from neighboring fields, the continued presence of very persistent pesticides like DDT in the soil, or accidental or fraudulent use.

By choosing organic, one hopes to shift exposures from a range of uncertain risk to more of a range of negligible risk, but even if all we had to eat were the most pesticide-laden of conventional produce, there is a clear consensus in the scientific community that the health benefits from consuming fruits and vegetables outweigh any potential risks from pesticide residues. But we can easily reduce whatever risk there is by rinsing our fruits and vegetables under running water.

There are, however, a plethora of products alleged by advertisers to reduce fruit and produce pesticide residues more effectively than water, and touted to concerned consumers. For example, Procter & Gamble introduced a fruit and vegetable wash in the year 2000. As part of the introduction, T.G.I. Fridays jumped on board, bragging on their menus that the cheese and bacon puddles they call potato skins were first washed with the new product. After all, it was proclaimed proven to be 98% more effective than water in removing pesticides. So researchers put it to the test, and it did no better than plain tap water. Shortly thereafter, Procter & Gamble discontinued the product, but numerous others took its place, claiming their vegetable washes are three, four, five, or even ten times more effective than water–to which the researcher replied, “That’s mathematically impossible.” If water removes like 50%, you can’t take off ten times more than 50%. They actually found water removes up to 80% of pesticide residues, like the fungicide captan for example, so for other brands of veggie washes to brag three, four, five, or ten times better than water is mathematically impossible indeed.

Other fruit and vegetable washes have since been put to the test. They compared Fruit & Vegetable Wash to FIT, to two I’ve never heard of, OrganiClean, and Vegi-Clean, compared to using dishwashing soap, all compared to just rinsing in plain tap water. 196 samples of lettuce, strawberries, and tomatoes were tested, and they found little or no difference between just rinsing with tap water compared to any of the veggie washes, or the dish soap. They all just seemed like a waste of money. The researchers concluded that just the mechanical action of rubbing the produce under tap water seemed to do it, and that using detergents or fruit and vegetable washes do not enhance the removal of pesticide residues from produce above that of just rinsing with tap water alone.

That may not be saying much though. Captan appears to be the exception. When rinsing with plain water was tried against a half dozen other pesticides, less than half the residues were removed. Fingernail polish remover works better, but the goal is to end up with a less toxic, not more toxic tomato. We need a straightforward, plausible, and safe method for enhanced pesticide removal, although the efficacy of pesticide removal from fruits and vegetables has been rarely reported in the medical literature. Anything we can add to the tap water to boost its pesticide-stripping abilities?

If you soak potatoes in water, between about 2% to 13% of the pesticides are removed, but a 5% acetic acid solution removes up to 100%. What’s that? Plain white vinegar. But 5% is full strength. What about diluted vinegar? Diluted vinegar seemed only marginally better than tap water for removing pesticide residues. Using full-strength vinegar would get expensive, though. Thankfully, there’s something cheaper that works even better: salt water. A 10% salt water solution appears to work as good or better than full-strength vinegar. To make a 10% salt solution you just have to mix up 1 part salt and 9 parts water, though make sure to rinse all the salt off before eating the fruit or vegetable.

There’s not much you can do for the pesticides in animal products, though. The top sources of some pesticides are fruits and vegetables; but for others, it’s dairy, eggs, and meat, because the chemicals build up in the fat. So, what to do about pesticides in meat, egg yolks or egg whites? Hard boiling appears to destroy more pesticides than scrambling, but for the pesticides that build up in the fat in fish or chicken, cooking can sometimes increase pesticide levels that you can’t just wash off. In fact washing meat, poultry, or eggs is considered one of the top ten dangerous food safety mistakes.

Next week, I’ll answer the question, Are Organic Foods Healthier? For more information be sure to check out my latest videos including this one How To Make Your Own Fruit and Vegetable Wash on NutritionFacts.org

In health,

Michael

Dr. Michael Greger

Dr. Greger is a graduate of Cornell University School of Agriculture and Tufts University School of Medicine. He is also the founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. He is a physician, author and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety and public health issues. He has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, testified before Congress, appeared on “The Dr. Oz Show” and “The Colbert Report,” and was an expert witness in the defense of Oprah Winfrey in the “meat defamation” trial. He is the author of the international bestseller “How Not To Die.” Currently, Dr. Greger serves on the advisory board for The Only Vegan At The Table and the North Texas Community Health Initiative. He is also the founder of NutritionFacts.org, a nutrition information website with hundreds of videos available for free. “Monday’s With Michael” is a weekly column featuring the latest in science-based nutrition information.