Science or snake oil: is Garcinia cambogia the magic weight-loss pill it’s hyped up to be?

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Science or snake oil: is Garcinia cambogia the magic weight-loss pill it’s hyped up to be?

June 20, 2016 6.09am AEST

Disclosure statement

Dr Nicholas Fuller has received research grants for other clinical trials funded by Australian Egg Corporation, Weight Watchers International, SOHO Flordis International, Arnotts Biscuits, Sanofi-Aventis, Novo Nordisk, Allergan, Roche products, MSD, and GlaxoSmithKline.

Partners

University of Sydney provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU.

The burgeoning field of complementary medicines, including weight-loss products, is now a billion-dollar industry. Every year, more people are spending disposable income on complementary and alternative medicines that may prove to have no benefit for our health.

Garcinia Cambogia is one such example. Marketed as a weight-loss pill, it has had an exponential rise in sales since it was featured on the Doctor Oz show.

Garcinia cambogia is the former scientific name of a native Southeast Asian plant, belonging to the family Clusiaceae, that bears a pumpkin-shaped fruit. The skin of the fruit contains the active ingredient, hydroxycitric acid (HCA). HCA inhibits an enzyme that produces fatty acid, thus suppressing fatty acid and the processing of cholesterol.

But does this mode of action translate to the weight-loss claims associated with it? Or is it just clever marketing convincing us this product helps us lose weight?

An Australian advertisement for the weight-loss supplement Garcinia Cambogia. Screenshot, http://www.garciniacambogiasave.com/, CC BY

Double-blinded, randomised controlled trials are the gold standard of clinical study and whenever possible should be conducted to test the effectiveness of a treatment compared to a placebo. Weight-loss products should be assessed for a minimum of six months, with a further six-month follow-up period (12 months total).

There has never been a long-term study investigating the efficacy of Garcinia Cambogia. Most of the studies have been conducted in animals.

In fact, the majority of well-designed trials investigating the effect of this product on weight loss have found no effect that is of clinical relevance. In a 12-week double-blind, placebo-controlled trial conducted in humans, people receiving 3000mg of Garcinia Cambogia extract (1500mg of the active component HCA) per day lost the same amount of weight as the control group.

Another 12-week study with a four-week follow-up (16 weeks total) also found no greater weight-loss effect than for a placebo control group. For those studies where a statistically significant effect was reported, the weight loss was around one kilogram more than for those receiving a placebo pill.

Positive and greater weight losses were found in some studies, but this effect is suppressed when looking at all of the studies combined.

The Garcinia Cambogia plant Livia Lacolare/Flickr, CC BY

With respect to other health benefits from taking this supplement, the evidence to suggest it can improve blood cholesterol levels is lacking.

Most importantly, the product safety profile of Garcinia Cambogia has been adequately tested and there appear to be no issues.

Some complementary medicines have been found to contribute to improved health outcomes, through increased efficacy and cost-effectiveness. However, if there is to be a role for such complementary and alternative weight-loss products and medicines, we must build upon the evidence to investigate whether these increasingly popular products are a viable treatment option.

A recent Obesity Australia and Price Waterhouse Coopers report found obesity cost Australia A$8.6 billion in 2011-2012, with the indirect costs far higher. We must establish whether complementary medicines have a role to play in preventing and treating obesity. If we take no action to reduce obesity rates, an additional 2.4 million people will become obese at a cost of $87.7 billion over 10 years.

Trust Me, I’m An Expert: Food fraud, the centuries-old problem that won’t go away

Trust Me, I’m An Expert: Food fraud, the centuries-old problem that won’t go away

What is in these products? And if additives don’t affect your health, would you care? Shutterstock
Listen Food fraud, the centuries-old problem that won’t go away

What have you eaten today? And how much do you know about how it was produced, what was added to it along the way, and how it made its way to your plate?

Even as most of us grow increasingly removed from actual food production, many consumers still take food fraud and perceptions of food purity incredibly seriously.

Scandals around “meat glue” or milk and honey contamination, and the skyrocketing global interest in organic foods, underscore the fact that many of us still care quite deeply about the foods we eat and how they’re produced – and that’s affecting food labelling, regulation and consumer behaviour.

One person who’s studied that terrain closely is Dr Andrew Ventimiglia, a Research Fellow at The University of Queensland, who researches food fraud and how it relates to science, culture, trademark law and food regulation.


Read more: Trust Me, I’m An Expert: Cyclone season approacheth, but this year there’s a twist


He sat down with The Conversation’s deputy politics and society editor Justin Bergman to talk about the weird history of food adulteration and certification – everything from 19th century dairy farmers adding sheep brains to skim milk to make it look frothier, to centuries-old oil and wine adulteration scandals.

Dr Ventimiglia said types of food fraud laws have been recorded as early as the 13th century, but the issue really came into focus in the 1800s.

Adulterated milk was one of the first issues that got national attention, and this was roughly in the mid 1800s to late 1800s, both particularly in the UK and the US. And the earliest form of adulterated milk that was really concerning to regulators was actually simply skim milk.

Producers who were making skim milk were adding flour or starch, sometimes carrots for sweetness, but they were also adding things that did pose a public health risk.

So, for instance, chalk was added to increase the whiteness of milk, as well as often sheep or calf brains to froth the milk […] those posed really legitimate health risks that were recognised by early analytic chemists and that really initiated some early food regulations.

And while food scandals persist today, food standards are increasingly more concerned with fraudulent claims on packaging and innovations in food production. For instance, is yoghurt made with coconut milk still considered yoghurt? What to do about foods that claim to be “all natural?”

Special thanks to our multimedia intern, Dilpreet Kaur Taggar, for editing this segment together.


Read more: Trust Me, I’m An Expert: How augmented reality may one day make music a visual, interactive experience


From food adulteration to food poisoning

We also hear from Associate Professor Shauna Murray from the UTS Plant Functional Biology and Climate Change Cluster, about her research into ciguatera fish poisoning. It’s a non-bacterial illness associated with fish consumption and symptoms in humans may include gastrointestinal, neurological and even sometimes cardiovascular problems.

Editorial intern Jordan Fermanis spoke to Dr Murray about why this tropical disease is showing up further south, and how recreational fishermen are helping researchers unlock the mysteries of ciguatera.


Trust Me, I’m An Expert is a podcast where we ask academics to surprise, delight and inform us with their research. You can download previous episodes here.

And please, do check out other podcasts from The Conversation – including The Conversation US’ Heat and Light, about 1968 in the US, and The Anthill from The Conversation UK, as well as Media Files, a brand new podcast all about the media. You can find all our podcasts over here.

Additional audio and credits

Additional editing by Dilpreet Kaur Taggar

Kindergarten by Unkle Ho, from Elefant Traks

Free Music Archive: Podington Bear, Clouds, Rain, Sun

Demand increases for organic produce, 23 ABC News.

Is your honey real honey or just “sugar syrup”? ABC News Australia.

Fake honey: Study finds disturbing results, ABC News Australia.

Meat glue secret, Today Tonight.

Chinese milk report, CNN.

Missouri Wine History, MissouriWine.

Pure. Fresh. Milk. 1991 Promo.

Australian milk ad.

Sad Marimba Planet by Lee Rosevere from Free Music Archive

Melatonin: An Anti-Tumor Agent in Hormone-Dependent Cancers.

I have discussed the benefits of melatonin many times. One of its major benefits is its anti cancer properties. It is also very safe and natural to the body.

Int J Endocrinol. 2018 Oct 2;2018:3271948. doi: 10.1155/2018/3271948. eCollection 2018.

Melatonin: An Anti-Tumor Agent in Hormone-Dependent Cancers.

Menéndez-Menéndez J1, Martínez-Campa C1.

Author information

Abstract

Melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine) is a hormone synthesized and secreted by the pineal gland mainly during the night, since light exposure suppresses its production. Initially, an implication of this indoleamine in malignant disease was described in endocrine-responsive breast cancer. Data from several clinical trials and multiple experimental studies performed both in vivo and in vitro have documented that the pineal hormone inhibits endocrine-dependent mammary tumors by interfering with the estrogen signaling-mediated transcription, therefore behaving as a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM). Additionally, melatonin regulates the production of estradiol through the control of the enzymes involved in its synthesis, acting as a selective estrogen enzyme modulator (SEEM). Many more mechanisms have been proposed during the past few years, including signaling triggered after activation of the membrane melatonin receptors MT-1 and MT-2, or else intracellular actions targeting molecules such as calmodulin, or binding intranuclear receptors. Similar results have been obtained in prostate (regulation of enzymes involved in androgen synthesis and modulation of androgen receptor levels and activity) and ovary cancer. Thus, tumor metabolism, gene expression, or epigenetic modifications are modulated, cell growth is impaired and angiogenesis and metastasis are inhibited. In the last decade, many more reports have demonstrated that melatonin is a promising adjuvant molecule with many potential beneficial consequences when included in chemotherapy or radiotherapy protocols designed to treat endocrine-responsive tumors. Therefore, in this state-of-the-art review, we aim to compile the knowledge about the oncostatic actions of the indoleamine in hormone-dependent tumors, and the latest findings concerning melatonin actions when administered in combination with radio- or chemotherapy in breast, prostate, and ovary cancers. As melatonin has no toxicity, it may be well deserve to be considered as an endogenously generated agent helpful in cancer prevention and treatment.

Five commonly over-diagnosed conditions and what we can do about them

Five commonly over-diagnosed conditions and what we can do about them

August 17, 2017 8.50am AEST

Some conditions should be classified as normal in some people and don’t need treatment. from http://www.shutterstock.com.au

Over-diagnosis occurs when someone is diagnosed with a disease that wouldn’t harm them, or when treatment does more harm than good. It happens because healthy people are often tested or screened to find the early signs of disease, and because diagnostic technology can see ever-smaller abnormalities.

The problem is that early detection of disease is a double-edged sword. While it can be life-saving, for some people the “abnormalities” that are diagnosed and treated would never have caused harm if left alone.

Researchers are currently investigating the size of this problem, and how many people are over-diagnosed. But existing evidence from Australia and elsewhere suggests it’s a problem across a lot of conditions.

Thyroid cancer

Researchers documented in The New England Journal of Medicine last year that Australia, like other nations including the United States, has experienced a recent tripling of the numbers of people diagnosed with thyroid cancer – many of them with very small tumours.

The problem is, as the researchers explain, many of those small tumours are in fact benign, and many of the people being diagnosed, and then treated with potentially risky operations and drugs, are over-diagnosed.

The NEJM piece estimated over 500,000 people may have been over-diagnosed in the past two decades, across 12 countries, including 10,000 people in Australia.

Some thyroid cancers which are operated on don’t need to be, as they’re benign. from http://www.shutterstock.com

ADHD

There are on-going debates about whether too many children are being diagnosed with and medicated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

A study of almost one million Canadian children found those born in December were much more likely than those born in January to receive an ADHD diagnosis and medication, which could mean immaturity is being pathologised. Researchers concluded:

These findings raise concerns about the potential harms of over-diagnosis and over-prescribing.

Prostate cancer

Concerns about over-diagnosing prostate cancer date back at least 30 years. Many men will die with prostate cancer, rather than of it. Despite evidence of unnecessary diagnoses and over-treatment, the push to test healthy men, with no symptoms, for prostate cancer continues.

While it’s hard to know exactly how many Australian men are over-diagnosed with prostate cancer, recently reported estimates from the US suggest between 20-50% of prostate cancers diagnosed via screening (during the period of screening) may be over-diagnosed – in other words they would not have caused harm if left undetected.


Read more: Most people want to know risk of overdiagnosis, but aren’t told

Costly and harmful: we need to tame the tsunami of too much medicine

Resisting expanding disease empires: why we shouldn’t label healthy people as sick


Polycystic ovary syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome is an example of a condition where changes in the definition have greatly expanded the number of people potentially labelled. In a piece published today in the British medical journal, the BMJ, Tessa Copp and colleagues from the University of Sydney show how the proportion of women of reproductive age who could potentially be labelled has jumped dramatically from around 5% using the 1990 definition, to up to 21% when using the 2003 definition.

As the authors suggest, there are concerns many healthy women may be labelled unnecessarily, causing anxiety about their fertility or long-term health. The authors therefore recommended a cautious approach to diagnosing the condition.

Breast cancer

Reflecting uncertainty around exactly how to measure over-diagnosis, there are sometimes wide variations in estimates of the size of the problem. A major independent review of the global evidence suggested 19% of the breast cancers diagnosed during active mammography screening may be over-diagnosed. This means they would not have caused harm to the women because they may be benign.

Previous estimates in Australia suggest the rate could be around 30%.

What can we do about over-diagnosis?

Together with colleagues Thanya Pathirana and Justin Clark, we’ve today published a comprehensive analysis in the BMJ of possible drivers of over-diagnosis and potential solutions. Causes range from cultural beliefs that “more is better” in medicine, to financial incentives driving unnecessary tests and treatments.

The good news is doctors’ groups across the globe – including in Norway, Britain, Canada and now Australia – are now publicly acknowledging the problem of overdiagnosis.

As our BMJ analysis highlights, there are many potential solutions. There’s an urgent need for public information and awareness campaigns. New educational curricula for health professionals are a priority. And screening programs need to be reformed to make sure we’re only targeting those at high risk.

Saffron for the menopause

Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics

, Volume 297, Issue 3, pp 717–724 | Cite as

Efficacy of Crocus sativus (saffron) in treatment of major depressive disorder associated with post-menopausal hot flashes: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial

  • Ladan Kashani
  • Sophia Esalatmanesh
  • Farzaneh Eftekhari
  • Samrand Salimi
  • Tahereh Foroughifar
  • Farnaz Etesam
  • Hamideh Safiaghdam
  • Ehsan Moazen-Zadeh
  • Shahin Akhondzadeh

Abstract

Purpose

Due to concerns regarding the side effects of hormone therapy, many studies have focused on the development of non-hormonal agents for treatment of hot flashes. The aim of this study was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of saffron (stigma of Crocus sativus) in treatment of major depressive disorder associated with post-menopausal hot flashes.

Methods

Sixty women with post-menopausal hot flashes participated in this study. The patients randomly received either saffron (30 mg/day, 15 mg twice per day) or placebo for 6 weeks. The patients were assessed using the Hot Flash-Related Daily Interference Scale (HFRDIS), Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) and the adverse event checklist at baseline and also at the second, fourth, and sixth weeks of the study.

Results

Fifty-six patients completed the trial. Baseline characteristics of the participants did not differ significantly between the two groups. General linear model repeated measures demonstrated significant effect for time × treatment interaction on the HFRDIS score [F (3, 162) = 10.41, p = 0.0001] and HDRS score [F (3, 162) = 5.48, p = 0.001]. Frequency of adverse events was not significantly different between the two groups.

Conclusions

Results from this study revealed that saffron is a safe and effective treatment in improving hot flashes and depressive symptoms in post-menopausal healthy women. On the other hand, saffron, with fewer side effects, may provide a non-hormonal and alternative herbal medicine option in treatment of women with hot flashes.

Successful Low Dose Naltrexone Fibromyalgia Trial Points to Safe, Low Cost Therapy; Implications for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

+100%-In this second of two studies by Stanford researchers on  low dose naltrexone’s effectiveness in Fibromyalgia (FM), LDN was found to  significantly reduce pain and improve mood and quality of life.  About 60% of study participants reported pain reductions of at least 30%. Sleep and fatigue were not affected. The second study, a small placebo-controlled, blinded cross-over study, was a followup to a smaller less rigorous but successful first study three years ago.

Pointing to the three drugs already approved for FM, the researchers suggested  LDN as a possible fourth.

No LDN studies have been done in chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) and none are underway, but it’s the  first drug Dr. Klimas, a prominent ME/CFS physician, turns to for pain in ME/CFS and fibromyalgia.

Low Dose Naltrexone

Low dose naltrexone is cheap, readily available and safe...but does it work in FM and ME/CFS?

Usually used in high doses to combat alcoholism and narcotics withdrawal, low dose naltrexone is being examined in a variety of  disorders including fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia. LDN  blocks the opioid/endorphin receptors in the brain and has the advantage of being cheap (@ $40/month),  readily  available and safe.

LDN been used in fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome and other disorders for years but only lately have studies begun to examine its effectiveness.  Cheap,  unpatentable and  readily available at compounding pharmacies, LDN is no gold mine for drug companies but could be a boon for patients on a budget.

Despite the lack of interest from drug companies,  23 LDN  drug trials are underway on disorders ranging from fibromyalgia to multiple sclerosis to alcoholism to Crohn’s disease to Schizophrenia.  The American Fibromyalgia Association funded the two Stanford low dose naltrexone fibromyalgia trials.

Why Low Dose Naltrexone Might be Effective in Fibromyalgia  or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

LDN could be reducing pain and improving mood in several ways.

Endorphin Release – By blocking the receptors for endorphins, one of the ‘feel good’ substances in the brain,  low doses of naltrexone appear to trick the brain in producing more  endorphins. Given that endorphins are known as ‘natural pain relievers’ some of LDN’s effects in FM could be from endorphin related pain relief.  Several studies suggest altered endorphin levels are present in the brains of people with fibromyalgia.

Endorphins are produced by the HPA axis, which is impaired in both ME/CFS and FM, and during such activities as exercise, meditation, sex etc. all of which are probably fairly rare in people with these disorders.

Natural Killer Cell Stimulation  – LDN enhances the responses of natural killer cells, an area of much interest in ME/CFS.

B-cell Inhibition – LDN inhibition of  B-cell activity is intriguing in light of the Rituximab findings and the LDN studies underway in autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis.

Mouse studies found  LDN provided a ‘remarkable neuroprotective effect’ on mice engineered to have autoimmune encephalitis. One third of the mice, for instance, injected with LDN did not show any signs of neurological disturbance (compared to 100% of non-injected mice),   and disease severity was greatly reduced overall.

Glial cells in the central nervous system. Microglial cell activation could be contributing to the pain and fatigue in fibromyalgia and to the neuroinflammation found in other neurological disorders.

Microglial Cell Inhibition – The Stanford researchers believe  fibromyalgia is a neuro-inflammatory disorder characterized by ‘hyper-sensitive’ microglial cells; the main immune cells in the central nervous system.

Structurally similar to the macrophages found in the body, resting microglial cells display little activity but transform themselves, after being activated by inflammation, infection or cell death, into ‘hairy monsters’ that spew out pro-inflammatory cytokines, excitatory amino acids such as glutamate and nitric oxide with glutamate being a primary agent of damage. (Interestingly,  glutamate production appears to be associated with reduced glutathione levels that occur during microglial activation. )

Microglial cells are  responsible for producing neuropathic pain and flu-like symptoms such as pain, fatigue, etc.  (eg sickness behavior). Rodent studies suggest LDN blocks the activity of toll-like receptors (TLR4) found  on the  microglial cells .

 New Drug Target

Microglia produced neuroinflammation could  be contributing  to a wide variety of neurological conditions including multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson’s disease and others and researchers are beginning to explore ways to keep microglial cells from becoming over-activated. The authors of this study stated they  expected that new compounds aimed at keeping microglial cells quiet are under development and being tested.

Unfortunately it’s impossible to directly assess microglial functioning in humans but recent advances in positron emission tomography may be peeling away some of the fog currently veiling microglial activity in humans.

A New Class of Neuroprotective  Drugs?

LDN is not the only possible microglial inhibitor that might work in FM or ME/CFS.  Other possibilities include naltrexone’s close relative naloxone, dextromethorphan, 3-hydroxymorphinan and ibudilast. Each of these drugs was developed for other purposes and later found to have microglial inhibiting properties and the optimal doses for each, interestingly enough, is likely to be much lower than suggested for their original purposes.

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In fact the authors  propose that finding the correct dose will play a key role in how effective these drugs are.  The authors expected that testing was probably underway to determine that.

Conclusions

LDN’s availability has kept drug companies from pursuing it but it’s an intriguing option in Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS. It’s no panacea and the latest study suggested it may not be effective against fatigue but chronic fatigue syndrome is also a pain disorder and LDN’s  ability to improve mood and quality of life would be welcome indeed

Beauty is skin-deep: why our complexion is so important to us

Beauty is skin-deep: why our complexion is so important to us

This article is part of our series about skin: why we have it, what it does, and what can go wrong. Read other articles in the series here.


We’re all attracted to a beautiful face. We like to look at them, we feel drawn to them and we aspire to have one. Many researchers and others have investigated what we humans identify as “beautiful”: symmetry, large evenly spaced eyes, white teeth, a well-proportioned nose and of course, a flawless complexion. The skin is of utmost importance when people judge someone as beautiful.

When choosing a mate, men rank female beauty more highly than women rate male appearance. Female beauty is thought to signal youth, fertility and health.

Beauty can also signal high status. People with “plain looks” earn about 10% less than people who are average-looking, who in turn earn around 5% less than people who are good-looking.


Read more: The skin is a very important (and our largest) organ: what does it do?


Skin as a marker of health and beauty

Even the best facial structure can be unbalanced by skin that is flawed.

There are many skin conditions that are perfectly natural, yet because of our beliefs around skin and health, these can cause the sufferers extreme self-consciousness.

Examples include: chloasma, the facial pigmentation that often occurs during pregnancy; starburst telangiectasias, the broken capillaries that appear on the lower thighs and calves of many women as they age; and dermatosis papulosa nigra, the brown marks that accumulate on the upper cheeks and temples, especially in people of Asian or African descent.

Chloasma (pigmentation) often affects pregnant women. from http://www.shutterstock.com

Teenagers with acne are more likely to withdraw socially. It may impair school performance and result in severe depression and even suicide.

There are hundreds of skin diseases that can change facial appearance, including rashes such as rosacea and skin cancers. Surgery for skin cancer can leave noticeable marks and scars that make the survivor self-conscious.


Read more: Why does Australia have so much skin cancer? (Hint: it’s not because of an ozone hole)


Industries built on our self-consciousness

Perhaps alongside the greying of the hair, skin is the most visible sign of ageing. As we age the skin changes. These changes are most pronounced in the areas exposed daily to the sun, such as the face, neck and the backs of our hands.

There the skin thins, loses volume and elasticity and becomes dull. Dark rings develop under the eyes. Wrinkles appear. The skin sags and blemishes and scars accumulate.

Despite having no negative physical health effects, acne can cause major self-esteem problems in youth. from http://www.shutterstock.com

People spend a lot of money in attempts to regain their youthful appearance. The global cosmetics industry is worth about US$500 billion. Sales of skin and sun care products, make-up and colour cosmetics generate over 36% of the worldwide cosmetic market.

We use foundation makeup to conceal freckles and blemishes, moisturisers and fillers to hide dryness, concealers to disguise broken capillaries and pimples. And increasingly people are using botox to remove wrinkles, fillers to replace volume, and laser to remove flaws from the top layer of skin.


Read more: Common skin rashes and what to do about them


We should all use sunscreen to protect the skin from sun damage and prescription medications to cure the skin of diseases when necessary.

In 2018, we find ourselves living longer, working later and remarrying more. We’re having to trade on our beauty much later in life.

In a better world, beauty would be irrelevant. Unfortunately in our world it’s one of our most valuable assets. The best we can do is to protect our skin from sunburn, seek advice from a dermatologist when we notice any skin problems, and accept we weren’t born with the skin of Beyonce.

Five types of food to increase your psychological well-being

Five types of food to increase your psychological well-being

Foods that contain omega 3 have been found to increase brain function. from http://www.shutterstock.com

We all know eating “healthy” food is good for our physical health and can decrease our risk of developing diabetes, cancer, obesity and heart disease. What is not as well known is that eating healthy food is also good for our mental health and can decrease our risk of depression and anxiety.

Mental health disorders are increasing at an alarming rate and therapies and medications cost $US2.5 trillion dollars a year globally.

There is now evidence dietary changes can decrease the development of mental health issues and alleviate this growing burden. Australia’s clinical guidelines recommend addressing diet when treating depression.

Recently there have been major advances addressing the influence certain foods have on psychological well-being. Increasing these nutrients could not only increase personal well-being but could also decrease the cost of mental health issues all around the world.


Read more: You are what you eat: how diet affects mental well-being


1. Complex carbohydrates

One way to increase psychological well-being is by fuelling brain cells correctly through the carbohydrates in our food. Complex carbohydrates are sugars made up of large molecules contained within fibre and starch. They are found in fruit, vegetables, and wholegrains and are beneficial for brain health as they release glucose slowly into our system. This helps stabilise our mood.

Simple carbohydrates found in sugary snacks and drinks create sugar highs and lows that rapidly increase and decrease feelings of happiness and produce a negative effect on our psychological well-being.

We often use these types of sugary foods to comfort us when we’re feeling down. But this can create an addiction-like response in the brain, similar to illicit drugs that increase mood for the short term but have negative long-term effects.

Increasing intake of complex carbohydrates and decreasing sugary drinks and snacks could be the first step in increased happiness and well-being.

Avoiding sugar highs and lows stabilises our mood. from shutterstock.com.au

Read more: Poor nutrition can put children at higher risk of mental illness


2. Antioxidants

Oxidation is a normal process our cells carry out to function. Oxidation produces energy for our body and brain. Unfortunately, this process also creates oxidative stress and more of this happens in the brain than any other part of the body.

Chemicals that promote happiness in the brain such as dopamine and serotonin are reduced due to oxidation and this can contribute to a decrease in mental health. Antioxidants found in brightly coloured foods such as fruit and vegetables act as a defence against oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain and body.

Antioxidants also repair oxidative damage and scavenge free radicals that cause cell damage in the brain. Eating more antioxidant-rich foods can increase the feel-good chemicals in our brain and heighten mood.

Antioxidants can help restore the happy chemicals in the brain. http://www.shutterstock.com.au

3. Omega 3

Omega 3 are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are involved in the process of converting food into energy. They are important for the health of the brain and the communication of its feel-good chemicals dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine.

Omega 3 fatty acids are commonly found in oily fish, nuts, seeds, leafy vegetables, eggs, and in grass fed meats. Omega 3 has been found to increase brain functioning, can slow down the progression of dementia and may improve symptoms of depression.

Omega 3 are essential nutrients that are not readily produced by the body and can only be found in the foods we eat, so it’s imperative we include more foods high in omega 3 in our everyday diet.

Omega 3 has been found to slow the progress of dementia. from http://www.shutterstock.com

Read more: Mellow yellow? The mood and cognitive effects of curcumin from turmeric


4. B vitamins

B vitamins play a large role in the production of our brain’s happiness chemicals serotonin and dopamine and can be found in green vegetables, beans, bananas, and beetroot. High amounts of vitamins B6, B12, and folate in the diet have been known to protect against depression and too low amounts to increase the severity of symptoms.

Vitamin B deficiency can result in a reduced production of happiness chemicals in our brain and can lead to the onset of low mood that could lead to mental health issues over a long period. Increasing B vitamins in our diet could increase the production of the feel good chemicals in our brain which promote happiness and well-being.

B vitamins can protect against depression. from http://www.shutterstock.com

5. Prebiotics and probiotics

The trillions of good and bad bacteria living in our tummies also influence our mood, behaviour and brain health. Chemical messengers produced in our stomach influence our emotions, appetite and our reactions to stressful situations.

Prebiotics and probiotics found in yoghurt, cheese and fermented foods such as kombucha, sauerkraut and kimchi work on the same pathways in the brain as antidepressant medications and studies have found they might have similar effects.

Prebiotics and Probiotics have been found to suppress immune reactions in the body, reduce inflammation in the brain, decrease depressed and anxious states and elevate happy emotions.

Incorporating these foods into our diet will not only increase our physical health but will have beneficial effects on our mental health, including reducing our risk of disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Fermented foods affect the same pathways as anti-depressant medications. from ww

The history of natural progesterone, the never-ending story.

Climacteric. 2018 Aug;21(4):308-314. doi: 10.1080/13697137.2018.1462792. Epub 2018 May 28.

The history of natural progesterone, the never-ending story.

Abstract

The term progesterone should only be used for the natural hormone produced by the ovaries or included in a registered drug. The modern history of progesterone begins with the first book-length description of the female reproductive system including the corpus luteum and later with the Nobel Prize winner, Adolf Butenandt who took a crucial step when he succeeded in converting pregnanediol into a chemically pure form of progesterone, the corpus luteum hormone. The deficient production of progesterone was shown first to be the cause of the luteal-phase deficiency responsible for infertility and early pregnancy loss due to inadequate secretory transformation of the endometrium. Later, progesterone was confirmed to be the best and safest method of providing luteal-phase support in assisted reproductive technology.

Progesterone provides adequate endometrial protection and is suggested to be the optimal progestagen in menopausal hormone therapy in terms of cardiovascular effects, venous thromboembolism, probably stroke and even breast cancer risk

. Neuroprotective effects of progesterone have also been demonstrated in several of experimental models including cerebral ischemic stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.

Vaginal progesterone was shown to decrease the risk of preterm birth in women with a mid-trimester sonographic short cervix and to improve perinatal outcomes in singleton and twin gestations.

Menopausal hormone therapy and breast cancer

Climacteric. 2018 Oct 9:1-8. doi: 10.1080/13697137.2018.1514008. [Epub ahead of print]

Menopausal hormone therapy and breast cancer: what is the evidence from randomized trials?

Hodis HN1, Sarrel PM2,3.

Author information

Abstract

The relationship between menopausal hormone therapy (HT) and breast cancer is complex and further complicated by misinformation, perception, and overgeneralization of data. These issues are addressed in this mini-review through the lens of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) that has colored the view of HT and breast cancer. In the WHI, unopposed conjugated equine estrogen (CEE) reduced breast cancer risk and mortality. In the WHI CEE plus continuously combined medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA) trial, although the hazard ratio (HR) was elevated it was statistically non-significant for an association between CEE + MPA and breast cancer. In fact, the increased HR was not due to an increased breast cancer incidence rate in women randomized to CEE + MPA therapy but rather due to a decreased and unexpectedly low breast cancer rate in the subgroup of women with prior HT use randomized to placebo. For women who were HT naïve when randomized to the WHI, the breast cancer incidence rate was not affected by CEE + MPA therapy relative to placebo for up to 11 years of follow-up. The current state of science indicates that HT may or may not cause breast cancer but the totality of data neither establish nor refute this possibility. Further, any association that may exist between HT and breast cancer appears to be rare and no greater than other medications commonly used in clinical medicine.