Lifestyle changes, not a magic pill, can reverse Alzheimer’s

Last summer, a research group from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) quietly published the results of a new approach in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. What they found was striking. Although the size of the study was small, every participant demonstrated such marked improvement that almost all were found to be in the normal range on testing for memory and cognition by the study’s end. Functionally, this amounts to a cure.

These are important findings, not only because Alzheimer’s disease is projected to become ever more common as the population ages, but because current treatment options offer minimal improvement at best. Last July, a large clinical trial found little benefit in patients receiving a major new drug called LMTX. And after that, another hopeful drug designed to target amyloid protein, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, failed its first large clinical trial as well. Just two months ago, Merck announced the results of its trial of a drug called verubecestat, which is designed to inhibit formation of amyloid protein. It was found to be no better than placebo.

The results from UCLA aren’t due to an incredible new drug or medical breakthrough, though. Rather, the researchers used a protocol consisting of a variety of different lifestyle modifications to optimise metabolic parameters – such as inflammation and insulin resistance – that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Participants were counselled to change their diet (a lot of veggies), exercise, develop techniques for stress management, and improve their sleep, among other interventions. The most common ‘side effect’ was weight loss.

The study is notable not only for its remarkable outcomes, but also for the alternative paradigm it represents in the treatment of a complex, chronic disease. We’ve spent billions of dollars in an effort to understand the molecular basis of Alzheimer’s in the hope that it will lead to a cure, or at least to more effective therapies. And although we have greatly enlarged our knowledge of the disease, it has not yielded many successful treatments.

The situation is analogous in kind, if not quite degree, to the many other chronic diseases with which we now struggle, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. While we do have efficacious medications for these conditions, none work perfectly, and all have negative effects. Our understanding of the cellular processes at the root of these diseases is sophisticated, but technical mastery – the grail of a cure – has remained elusive.

Acknowledging these difficulties, the researchers at UCLA opted for a different approach. Beginning from the premise that Alzheimer’s disease is a particular manifestation of a highly complex system in disarray, they sought to optimise the system by changing the inputs. Put another way, the scientists chose to set aside the molecular box which has proven so vexing, and to focus instead on the context of the box itself. Although we cannot say precisely how the intervention worked, on a cellular level, the important thing is that it did work.

The method isn’t entirely novel. Researchers have already shown that multi-faceted, comprehensive lifestyle interventions can significantly improve outcomes in cardiovascular disease, diabetes and hypertension. But it’s difficult for these approaches to gain traction for two reasons. First, these protocols are more challenging than simply taking a pill at bedtime. Patients need ongoing education, counselling and support to effect meaningful change. And second, the pharmaceutical mode of treatment is deeply embedded within our current medical system. Insurance companies are set up to pay for medication, not lifestyle change; and physicians are taught pharmacology, not nutrition.

Despite these difficulties, it’s time to start taking these approaches much more seriously. The prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease is expected to triple over the next three decades, to nearly 14 million in the United States alone. Diabetes and other chronic diseases are expected to follow a similar trajectory. Trying to confront this epidemic with medication alone will raise a new host of problems, from prohibitive cost to adverse effects, without addressing any underlying cause. We know that comprehensive lifestyle modification can work for many chronic diseases, in some cases as well as medication. It deserves more than passing mention at the end of an annual check-up – it’s time to make it a cornerstone in the treatment not only of Alzheimer’s disease, but of all chronic disease.Aeon counter – do not remove

Clayton Dalton

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

Experiencing the Moment with One Half of the Mind

As mentioned in my story, I had a tumor removed from my left temporal lobe. Before the tumor was surgically removed I experienced complex partial seizures isolated within the left hemisphere of my brain. During these one to two-minute complex partial seizures, I was unable to speak. It felt like I was entrapped within a dysfunctional mind. My silent, slurred, or illogical communication attempts during seizures were always frustrating and sometimes embarrassing.

The Wada Test

My neurosurgeon wanted to confirm that temporarily disabling the left hemisphere of my brain would indeed leave me unable to speak, and he also wanted to know if the right or left hemisphere of my brain was my primary memory operator. If the test concluded that the disabled brain hemisphere was important enough, a functional MRI would have also been performed before the surgery to ensure valuable parts of the brain were not removed. Of course, I wanted the functional MRI performed regardless of the primary memory location of my brain. Most of the time I would make a convincing argument against extreme practices for very little benefit. In this case my insurance deductible was already met, and this procedure, the Wada Test, sounded like an entertaining adventure.

The Adventure of Half of the Mind

A catheter was inserted into the femoral artery in my leg, and it was pushed all the way up to the internal carotid artery of my neck. It felt weird in my stomach area, but I couldn’t feel it move any further than that. However, I could see it through the computer screen showing an ongoing x-ray of my body. The catheter then released dye into my body which heated significantly as my body rejected the visitors. The x-ray clearly showed the dye map out all the veins in my left hemisphere.

My neuropsychologist prepared me for the memory test of random objects shown to me when the anesthetic would be released into my left hemisphere.

First as the anesthetic was being injected, I had both hands up wiggling my fingers and counting. At exactly 33 seconds I was unable to speak, and my right arm fell to the bed. As I was trying to say the number 34 I gazed at my right hand in awe as I tried to move it back to where it was originally. I was staring at it and expecting it to move where I wanted, but it wouldn’t move. My left hemisphere was undoubtedly numbed by the anesthetic.

Then the neuropsychologist started showing me the random objects. I was supposed to name them; however, I was unable to speak. Initially I thought my lack of speech was because I couldn’t think of the name of the object. I convinced myself I was just trying to remember the name before I said something. I would sometimes use filler words like umm, or uhh at times when I experienced partial seizures, or just couldn’t remember names. In this case I just couldn’t speak at all. The Wada test was like an extremely long and intense partial seizure. It felt like I was entrapped in a realistic dream where I was unable to speak. I was stuck with a goal that simply could not be accomplished.

He kept showing me the objects anyway. I was baffled by my inability to speak. In that moment I did feel confident that I knew the name for one or two things out of the fifteen. I also recognized all the objects, but the names for the others were just nowhere to be found. I was trying very hard to push the words out, but they just didn’t go. When I hear the word speechless, I think back to the Wada test experience and wonder how closely that relates to their word choice.

After about 15 minutes the anesthetic wore off. Since half of my brain wasn’t functioning it actually felt more like 2 minutes to me. He showed me the objects again. I knew immediately if I had seen them earlier, and I could clearly remember a snapshot of the moment he showed me each one. It was very relieving because it confirmed some functional immediate memory in my right hemisphere. This meant that all of my memory would not be lost as a result of the surgery.

What I learned about myself

Shutting down my left hemisphere with an anesthetic was similar to having an intense seizure in the left hemisphere of my brain. This was an interesting realization considering hyperactive neuron firing of a seizure is the opposite of the anesthetic numbing of the Wada test. The recovery process after a complex partial seizure was also similar to the recovery process my brain needed after the Wada test. I was able to experience the effect of a seizure within a controlled experiment.

This knowledge was valuable as I prepared for the upcoming surgery and dealt with my occasional seizures. Seizures were no longer a baffling annoyance and irritation; after this procedure the experience of a seizure evolved into more of an experimental data point. For the sake of my health I did everything I could to minimize the occurrence of seizures, but seizures became less of a fear. When the occasional seizure occurred, I was able to fully accept that moment in time. Rather than push to overcome the effect of the seizure, I learned to rest within the unaffected areas of my body until the seizure had quieted.

Have you experienced a challenging situation which lead to a peaceful realization? Please share!

The Top 4 Healthy Diet Roadblocks

A consistent healthy diet is not the social norm. It seems bizarre to many that I do not eat processed foods or anything with added sugars. I have thought about the differences between my choices and the common perspective on eating. I have concluded that healthy eating is uncommon for the following reasons.

  1. Diet Trends Are Misunderstood.
  2. Processed Foods Profit Business.
  3. Unhealthy Eating Is Overlooked.
  4. The Social Norm Is Prioritized Over the Self.

Diet Trends Are Misunderstood.

My recent post discussed the Nordic and Mediterranean diet trends. This section will overview two others: the Vegan and the Paleo diet. The vegan diet recommends eating plenty of grains and no meat. The Paleo diet recommends eating minimal grains and plenty of meat. Some would bet their life on the health of the vegan diet, and others would bet their life on the Paleo diet. In my opinion, both of them have positive qualities, yet both of them are also somewhat extreme.

I do not follow the vegan diet because I value the fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals which are readily available in meat. I do not follow the Paleo diet because I value the carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, and minerals which are readily available in grains and beans.

The Pegan diet was a trendy introduction that meets somewhere in the middle, but still discourages most dairy products (vegan) as well as most starches (Paleo).

I could continue this list for another day or so, and each trendy name makes a persuasive case against all diet opponents specifying why that practice will lead to human demise. Some are valid points, but the extremes without a religious or legitimate health purpose are narrow-minded. Unfortunately, this constant battle can be overwhelming for an individual trying to make some diet changes.

Processed Foods Profit Business.

Businesses strive to make money, and enough people consistently buy their processed foods. Personally, I do not see the end to a large demand for foods modified to fit the newest diet trend, foods that are conveniently packaged, or foods that taste better than actual food. Businesses profit when their product is inexpensive to produce, appeals to the customer, and has a long shelf life.

Large-scale crops yield the cheapest grains and large-scale farms yield the cheapest milk and meat. These cornerstone calorie sources are then modified and enhanced with cheap additives to yield the highest profit.

The food itself cannot decompose within the package so it will be preserved with additives such as Brominated Oils, Potassium Bromide, BHA, and BHT, and Azodicarbonamide. Although these ingredients are banned in the EU and most other countries, the FDA of the US is still waiting for more evidence. The metal can, the packaging seals, the plastic container, and the internal lining all need to withstand the test of time. We will continue to overlook the PFOA, PFOS, phthalate, and BPA additives which achieve this goal until there is plenty more evidence of immediate health consequences.

Some will intermittently buy these foods. Some will live primarily on these foods. Businesses will continue to profit by selling the artistic presentation of blatantly over processed ingredients in soft drinks, chips, candy, cake, cereal, and ‘nutrition’ bars to name a few.

Unhealthy Eating Is Overlooked.

Unhealthy eating is overlooked because long-term toxicity is overlooked. If the processed food does not cause an immediate health issue, it is approved by the FDA. The FDA makes 4 assumptions:

  1. The modified junk food contains enough food-like substance to call it a ‘food’.
  2. The modified junk food is not addictive.
  3. The modified junk food will not be eaten in high quantities.
  4. The modified junk food will not be eaten consistently.

When the deep-fried chicken, packaged foods, and the lowest priced Mac and Cheese options are eaten consistently over a 10-year period, other factors will also play a role in the potential development of obesity, oxidized cholesterol buildup, high blood pressure, and clogged arteries; therefore, the product is defined as a food which provides the food energy necessary to the human body. And everyone who buys the product agrees with that assumption.

Many children experience candy and cake as the focal treat of desire and a primary purpose of living for the first 10 years of life. From the age of 5 to 18 the ‘healthy’ cafeteria meal often consists of a hot dog (meat?), corn (vegetable?), and jello (fruit?). After years of physical and psychological reinforcement, it is hard to break the habit. The intermixed processed food eating habit is healthy enough since it topically appears that many friends are healthy, and they follow a similar diet trend.

The Social Norm Is Prioritized Over the Self.

When part of the family celebration includes eating deep-fried chicken it feels ok to eat some deep-fried chicken. When the group of friends is drinking beer with chemical additives overlooked by the Tobacco and Alcohol Trade Bureau, it feels ok to overlook the additives and enjoy the beer. When work colleagues are enjoying a celebratory cake, it feels ok to eat a serving of the cake. The trend was ingrained within you since childhood, and those trends are hard to break.

The trend is hard to break, but here is why it feels impossible to break:

When part of the family celebration includes eating deep-fried chicken, you are perceived as rude and disrespectful to not eat the meal that was prepared for you. When the group of friends is drinking beer with chemical additives, it is perceived as stuck up, insecure, and/or uninterested to deny the beer. When work colleagues are enjoying a celebratory cake, it is perceived as antisocial and arrogant to deny the cake.

The trend feels impossible to break with unending and relentless force. Here is a brief snapshot of some key days within the first half of the 2018 calendar:

  • Jan 1, New Years Day: Family Meal at Grandma’s with traditional food, wine, and cookies.
  • Feb 4, Super Bowl Sunday: Friends gathering with hot dogs, fries, and beer
  • Feb 9, Winter Olympics: A few weeks of friends gathering with burgers, fries, and wine
  • Feb 13, Mardi Gras(Fat Tuesday): Church celebration with cookies and punch
  • Feb 14, Valentines Day: Chocolate and Sweet candy for everyone
  • Mar 17, St. Patrick’s Day: Green icing and beer with family and more beer with friends
  • Mar 23, Spring Break: One week of unregulated vacation food and alcohol intake
  • Apr 1, Easter Sunday: Family Meal at Grandma’s with traditional food, wine, and cookies
  • Apr 14, NBA Playoffs: 1.5 months sports bars and beers
  • May 5, Cinco de Mayo: Friends gathering with burgers, fries, cake, beer
  • May 13, Mothers Day: Eat out with both sides of the family, wine with both grandmothers
  • May 28, Memorial Day: Hot Dogs and Burgers cookout with plenty of beer

….We are half way through the year, and I have not included date specific:

  • Birthdays (yours, friends, family, colleague): more cake and beer
  • Anniversaries: more cake
  • Work Celebrations: more cake and beer afterword
  • Family Traditions: more beer

You have a few options:

  1. Follow the social norms and ignore your long-term health
  2. Move to an isolated retreat in Alaska where living is prioritized over questionable norms.
  3. Claim a health issue as your excuse for bypassing full participation in the social norm, but still attend the event (I am about 50% this option)
  4. Talk some scientific jargon about the food processing industry and chemical additives until people become disinterested in offering you junk food (…and this is my other 50%)

Here is the best option: Prioritize yourself and your well-being over the social norm. If the group denies or ridicules your choice, find a different group. If it is family, consistently apply options 2-4 from the previous list.

Leave a comment, and let me know if you have a few other ideas!

Connecting With Your True Self

As young children we inherently embrace the present experience and our true self. Therefore, our happiest and most free moments of existence are often tied to our childhood. As a child I remember following a daily routine of exploring the fenced horse field with my pet dog, and that field felt like it was my world of existence. This is not because I confined myself to that space, but because I only had a faint awareness of everything beyond that space. There was no reason to explore anything beyond the field because there was so much to learn within that area. It was a pure and complete experience of my true self.

A Glimpse of the True Self

During my high school years I had a few glimpses of my true self and a clear mind. I swam for my high school, and I thoroughly enjoyed the sport. Mostly I loved the competition within each race. The shot would fire to start the race, and my body would simply take over the experience. I was in autopilot mode.

Swim a few strokes; flip turn; repeat.

Bolt to the finishing touch pad.

The race experience was automatic. My mind was clear and I was fully experiencing the movement of my body.

Unfortunately, I slowly began to integrate some borderline obsessions. I was constantly thinking about the next swim meet, which was trumped by the more important conference meet, which was trumped by the more important sectionals meet, which was trumped by the more important state meet. Once the date arrived my day was still about preparing and waiting for the event. The event was exhilarating, but even that started to fade with time. After the event I over-analyzed the experience. How could I have performed better? What should I do to train for the next one? The experience of my true self was only a glimpse.

Culture and the Self

In many ways I feel that our culture does not promote a full embrace of the true self. With time my life evolved to focus on the pursuit of knowledge, the pursuit of labels, and the pursuit of money. I am willing to guess that everyone has struggled with balancing these factors from time to time.

I thought I had a strong grasp on the human self. I studied the science of biochemistry as well as the psychology of development and interaction. I had also studied and experienced different religious and spiritual perceptions of the self. Each were valuable perspectives, but I was unable to fully grasp the interconnectivity between each topic.

I was constantly formulating perspectives of the world around me, and I did not realize that my perception was often trapped outside of myself. My viewpoint was often intertangled with what a psychologist would describe as an adapted self. The adapted self has lost touch with the intimate identity of the true self, and the adapted self has a primary goal of adaptation to the surrounding environment. I lost touch with my true self.

As I was studying chemistry I had to be flexible. I had to adapt to the new research, and mesh with my research team. In the psychology realm I wanted to help my clients identify their barriers, so they could adapt to their surrounding environment. In the context of religious practices, my goal was to practice the faith with full and complete honesty. My overall goal was to continue to grow, learn, and adapt myself (my adapted self) to the surrounding environment. I thought that was appropriate, and it matched with what I was taught as a child, adolescent, young adult, family member, team player, and employee.

The True Self Vs. The Adapted Self

Near the end of my psychology studies I came to the following realizations:

My ‘adapted self’ became my primary focus and identity

My ‘true self’ was distant and unclear

These realizations were startling at the time. I began to question my helpfulness as a counseling psychologist after realizing that I did not even know my true self. In the field of counseling psychology, a primary goal is to help the client see their world, their sense of self, more clearly. We help our clients find a pathway to step outside of their internal dialogue of entrapment. We help them to see the picture of the true self.

I spent quite a bit of time analyzing my adapted self. I questioned why it mattered to adhere so strongly to habitual agendas, social expectations, and economic satisfaction. Was I doing this to conceptually please my true self, my adapted self, or the people around me?

Throughout my personal process of self-discovery, I was able to help my clients through their explorations as well. I helped my clients question why it mattered to adhere so strongly to habitual agendas, social expectations, and economic satisfaction. We explored ways in which their adapted self could undergo change for a more productive adaptation to their community. Eventually, we could then question the adapted self and reconnect with the long forgotten, true self.

I learned that strongly holding onto the adapted self inhibits the complete and pure experience of life. I struggled with this realization for 2 reasons.

  • My clients had a strong need to live within the flaws of their adapted self. Most of the time this directly related to their formulated vision of how other people saw them. It was my goal to help them modify this formulated vision for the better. The breakthrough came in directly and positively modifying the adapted self. However, the next step of abandoning the adapted self to embrace the true self was a daunting challenge.
  • I had glimpses of abandoning my adapted self and reaching my true self, but I could not maintain a connection with my true self. If I couldn’t do this for myself, why should I be counseling others?

I had too many goals to accomplish. I was trying to help my clients reach their highest potentials. I was focused on being a good family member, friend, team player, and employee. I saw the light, but I was still entrapped within my adapted self.

Social interaction was my primary concern, and if social interaction was not involved I was intertwined within too many personal distractions: Home repair projects, athletic training, watching tv, speed reading the next book, scanning social media, pursuing more education, and writing more papers. My adapted self had full control over my time.

Even though the consistent experience of my ‘true self’ had risen high on my (adapted self) list of priorities, I (my adapted self) was incapable of letting go. I was incapable of letting go because I fit the social norm quite well. I was physically active, continuously learning, financially supporting myself, saving for retirement, socially involved in several groups, and well-connected with my family. I was getting things done and accomplishing my goals. However, I was trapped within my previous accomplishments and future goals. I was disconnected from the present moment and disconnected from my true self.

I decided to fire my ‘adapted self’.

With more awareness, I learned that my adapted self was too much. My adapted self was requiring relentless effort toward constant achievement. Even my individual practices were becoming obsessions which had secondary benefit for achieving social success. My adapted self had become my identity.

I experienced my true self though meditation.

Firing my adapted self required meditation. Meditation allowed me to ‘see’ my train of thought, and eventually I was able to disconnect from it. I was able to acknowledge entrapment within goals and accomplishments. I was able to see the distance my thoughts had from my true self.

Meditation was not a quick fix for the problem. When I first started the practice of meditation I had maybe a 5-minute glimpse of my true self within the 45-minute practice. This experience reminded me of the glimpses of peace within my childhood. I wanted to experience more of my true self, so I began to focus on the thoughts which were inhibiting me from reaching that goal. I began to realize that focusing on these thoughts, focusing on the problem, was the whole problem! My adapted self really wanted to be re-hired, so it was a sneaky pursuit of re-orientation which happened a countless number of times!

Meditation eventually evolved into a 30-minute pure experience within the 45-minute meditation. My adapted self was gone. My thought director was silent. My goals pursuit coordinator was absent. My history analyst was disappeared. It was a great feeling, yet it was a bit alarming at the same time.

Nothing was in my mind other than the present experience. Rather than noticing that I was breathing, I was in the experience of breathing. Rather than noticing the feelings of my hands on my knees, my hands were simply present and touching my knees. Rather than noticing the feeling of my body sitting on the floor, my body was simply in direct contact with the floor.

No other thoughts were present, and no other thoughts were relevant.

I experienced plenty of regression within my meditation practice, and I still do to this day. I gave some credit to the adapted self earlier, but I just want to clarify that the adapted self is a remarkably efficient mastermind which is very eager to control the mind. The adapted self is a hard worker, forever available, and freely available to you. The adapted self is just waiting for an opportunity to jump back into the scene.

I applied the meditation experience to other practices.

The disconnection from the adapted self cannot be sustained if meditation is your only escape. However, the meditation experience is valuable when applying your true self to other activities. I was able to experience meditation similarities through solitary activities like biking, walking, and gardening. Initially the pure experience did not last as long when I was doing these activities, but similar to my meditation practice, time and practice helped.

Bike on a TrailWith the biking scenario it was certainly important to maintain awareness of the world around me. My goal was to enjoy life, so it was important to remain aware of things like traffic, stops signs, and deadly accidents. The first step to applied meditation was clearing my mind, and the second step was becoming one with the bike. Although the initial step of clearing the mind was more challenging in the applied biking situation, it was much easier to keep my mind clear when I was connected with the process of biking. My body became synchronized with the rotation of the pedals just as much as it was already synchronized with my heart beat. From that point I was able to expand the connection I had with my bike to the world around me. The bike synchronized with the road and the road synchronized with the traffic.

It should be noted that this goal of applied meditation has some competition with the applied self. The preparation for the experience and post experience analysis slowly begin to suffocate the true self. I still have trouble with this from time to time, but I have found ways to limit this from happening

Repositioning Your Adapted Self

The thoughts and analysis will always be there for me. I am not going to retreat to a meditation camp for years at a time to overcome this issue. I hope there will be a social shift which promotes this in the near future, but I don’t think it will happen.

That being said, I have removed my adapted self from the forefront of my mind. In high school my true self was sadly watching my adapted self maintain 99.9% of the operation. Now, my true self maintains at least 80% of the operation, and the ruminating thoughts of my adapted self still sneak in to take the other 20%. My goal is to be at 100%, but here is how I got to 80%.

I literally mapped out my physical, psychological, and rational perceptions and priorities through studying, research, practice and writing. After that extremely lengthy process I concluded that all aspects of my body and mind are only tools allowing my true self to operate on earth. I concluded that I should optimize these aspects so that my true self can fully experience each moment of life.

I continued this journey with an exploration of spirituality. I discovered many similarities and differences between the locally approved religion of Christianity and the mostly ignored religions including Taoism and Buddhism. I chose to practice one religion and continue to fully respect and experience the teachings of other religions. I recognized that religions are only tools. I choose to use these tools to help my true self be the primary operator of my mind and body.

I found that my true self needed to have some disconnection between my physical, psychological, rational, and even my spiritual references. I found that my true self was truly synchronized with the present moment in time. The practice of meditation helped me feel that experience, and I was motivated to apply that in all areas of my life.

Now my true self, my connection with the present moment, is who I am. The thoughts that are ruminating on the past and future have been quieted, and they are further from me. My adapted self has been quieted and repositioned, and my true self is my primary identity.

As always, I would love to hear your feedback and your story!

Health and Metabolism

Why the Killing Your Metabolism Slogan Misleading

Several (23.2 million based on my recent google search) health-based articles have focused on the things that are ‘killing your metabolism’:

Search Results for Metabolism 'Killers'

Many of these authors have concluded that a low metabolism is hindering your weight loss goals. I am not opposed to many of the health recommendations within these popular articles, but idealizing a fast metabolism is not a healthy approach. Within this article I will clarify the meaning behind popular recommendations and explain why the ‘killing your metabolism’ slogan is misleading. Finally, I will make a case for appreciating a lower metabolic rate and remaining physically active which both play key roles in optimizing your long-term health.

Consistently Practice a Great Night Sleep

Many popular articles recommending the ‘metabolism boost’ make a solid argument for a great night sleep. Sleep is undoubtedly important for a healthy mind and body. Individuals who do not get enough sleep are likely to be groggy the next day, and this may slightly decrease their resting metabolic rate. However, this slight decrease in the resting metabolic rate is not enough for relevant weight gain issues to be considered. The more appropriate label for chronic sleep deprivation should be titled ‘metabolic dysregulation’. Studies have confirmed reduced glucose tolerance rates, reduced insulin response to glucose, and increased proinflammatory markers in sleep deprived individuals. The take home message is that metabolic dysregulation is not a simple drop in your metabolism. These issues cannot be corrected by a cup of coffee or short-term exercise plan to re-boost your metabolism. Allowing your body to fully repair itself with a great night sleep is crucial for optimal health.

Build and Sustain Stronger Muscles

Resistance training is another common recommendation in metabolism booster articles. I am also in complete agreement with this recommendation for more resistance training to build stronger muscles. Publications have confirmed that more muscle mass and a lower BMI may slightly increase your resting metabolic rate, but the minor increase is often over praised. What should be valued is the fact that the consistent practice of weightlifting increases your metabolic rate substantially when you are weightlifting. Furthermore, the muscle tearing and rebuilding process of resistance training increases your metabolic rate for 0-2 hours after the training ends, and that increase is still notable up to 48 hours after the resistance training ends. Rather than hoping for a long-term weight loss miracle with more muscle mass, making resistance training a consistent routine is required for long-term benefits.

Avoid Processed Foods

Processed foods do not necessarily lower your resting metabolic rate. In fact, several processed foods, especially those loaded with caffeine or other stimulants will undoubtedly increase your resting metabolic rate. Regardless of the specific metabolic effect of the processed food, it is in your best interest to avoid the biochemical manipulation.

Consistently eating processed foods, especially foods which are high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, is extremely taxing on the body. This requires the body to generate high quantities of insulin to digest these sugars. When too much sugar is eaten, the body resorts to converting this excess energy to fat and storing it throughout the body. Eventually, the body may become overwhelmed by the consistent demand for insulin. If that is the case, a diabetes diagnosis is soon to follow.

The resting metabolic rate for diabetes patients is higher than average, especially when medications or dietary practices have not achieved adequate control of blood sugar levels. Additional studies have confirmed resting metabolic rates also increase with obesity, and when paired with diabetes the increase is even greater. This metabolic ‘boost’ is inevitable as the body continues to scavenge for solutions to regulate blood glucose (A1C) levels. The increased metabolic rate is caused by the body being internally overworked.

Avoid Metabolism Boosting Supplements

The misleading ‘Killing Your Metabolism’ slogan is the perfect gateway for great metabolism booster promotions. Whether the goal is to optimize workout performance or stay awake at your job, the metabolism booster products have already been targeted in your direction. Soft drinks have been around for more than 100 years, and high quantities of sugar and caffeine in these soft drinks have given their clients a thrilling short-term metabolism boost. Additional heavily marketed metabolism boosters include capsaicin (hot peppers), Arginine (a natural amino acid), L-carnitine (a natural amino acid derivative), chromium picolinate (a natural mineral), and conjugated linoleic acid (a lab synthesized mixture of cis and trans fatty acids). I would not make an argument against eating small quantities of any of these products from a natural food source, but consistently overloading the body with any of these products will undoubtedly cause unwanted stress. Using external supplements to stimulate hyperactivity within your body is not a healthy muscle-building or weight loss solution.

Be More Physically Active

Since the metabolism boost promotions may still be lingering in your mind, I need to clarify that a lower resting metabolic rate often means that your body is operating efficiently. You are healthier if you have a low resting metabolic rate because there is not a taxing health issue which your body is striving to heal or correct. You are free to apply your body to whatever adventures you are willing to take, and the more physical adventures you take (unless you consistently overdo things and break plenty of bones like I have), the healthier you will be. Research articles describe physical activity as energy expenditure (EE) practices. Data in these research articles clearly show that more physical activity directly correlates with a longer lifespan, better health, and a lower resting metabolic rate.

Conclusion

Rather than hijacking your metabolism with expensive boosters and quick fixes, the better option would be to allow your body to exist in a peaceful and healthy state. This is reached and maintained with a consistent practice of sleep, resistance training, eating nutrient dense foods, and physical activity.

Let me know what you think with some intriguing feedback!

References

  1. Sharma, S., & Kavuru, M. (2010). Sleep and Metabolism: An Overview. International Journal of Endocrinology, 2010, 270832. https://doi.org/10.1155/2010/270832
  2.  McMurray, R. G., Soares, J., Caspersen, C. J., & McCurdy, T. (2014). Examining Variations of Resting Metabolic Rate of Adults: A Public Health Perspective. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 46(7), 1352–1358. http://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0000000000000232
  3. Alawad, A. O., Merghani, T. H., & Ballal, M. A. (2013). Resting metabolic rate in obese diabetic and obese non-diabetic subjects and its relation to glycaemic control. BMC Research Notes, 6, 382. https://doi.org/10.1186/1756-0500-6-382
  4. K J Acheson, B Zahorska-Markiewicz, P Pittet, K Anantharaman, E Jéquier; Caffeine and coffee: their influence on metabolic rate and substrate utilization in normal weight and obese individuals, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 33, Issue 5, 1 May 1980, Pages 989–997, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/33.5.989
  5. Manini, T. M. (2010). Energy Expenditure and Aging. Ageing Research Reviews, 9(1), 1. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.arr.2009.08.002
  6. Jumpertz, R., Hanson, R. L., Sievers, M. L., Bennett, P. H., Nelson, R. G., & Krakoff, J. (2011). Higher Energy Expenditure in Humans Predicts Natural Mortality. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 96(6), E972–E976. http://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2010-2944

Children and Television Background Noise

My recent post discussed the objections which the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has regarding TV watching experience for infants and children. I shared my personal perspective which sided with the AAP. Feedback from the post has inspired me to continue researching the topic with a focus on non-direct television exposure (TV background noise). This article will summarize a few research studies as well some additional thoughts and perspectives on the topic.

Before we begin, I admit that I used to over-watch the television. Between the NFL, NBA, college sports, news, weather, and prime-time television, I was often close to the national average of television watching time.  Currently, my wife and I do enjoy a few entertainment shows; however, we watch them only when our daughter is asleep. They do not offer any educational value, and I am not willing to admit the names of the shows. Feel free to guess our current preferences in the comments section!

Research on Television Background Noise

One of the most inclusive research summaries of background television noise found that children aged 0-2 years old are exposed to an average of 5.5 hours of background television per day. Television noise of 5.5 hours per day is 38.5 hours per week which is 83.4 days (24 hour periods of time) per year. This is equal to approximately 3 months per year. Nearly ¼ of the year is clouded with television shows and commercials. This extensive quantity of time is a crucial data point which is often overlooked when considering the specific effects of background television noise exposure.

A more recent publication has clarified the impact television background noise has on child development. Children exposed to significant tv background noise develop shorter attention spans and decreased playtime focus abilities. Even if they do not care to watch the television, they are cognitively distracted by the noise. Since they are also experiencing less person to person communication as well as less content rich communication, they consistently test at lower levels of language development, receptive vocabulary, and cognitive development.

In summary, television background noise is limiting the thought processing and developmental potentials of the child, and it is distracting the adult from high quality parent-child interactions.

Does the Specific Distraction Content Matter?

Very little research has been completed on the content specifics. What is the difference between watching Jeopardy vs Judge Judy? Higher fractions of Jeopardy content are more content rich and educational. Commercials are also slightly more content rich, and the emotional tone is much less negative. That being said, background noise from either source is a cloud of distraction. The closer and louder it is for the child, the more distracting it will be. The repercussions are also dependent on the parent’s level of investment. If you are only distracted from the child for 5 minutes of a Judge Judy show vs 15 minutes of a Jeopardy show, then Judge Judy might be the better option.

Children playing with constant television background noise

Although the television is high on the list of distractions within today’s norms, the broader distraction issue is the primary concern. Other potential distractions include the radio, cell phone, computer, books, magazines, and newspaper to name a few. If you are focused on something else you cannot be fully present with your child. For this reason, very little research has delved into the specifics in terms of distraction rankings for the impact on child development. Silent options might be slightly better since they are not directly distracting the child. However, they are often more fully displacing the interest of the parent. Noise only options like the radio may be better since they might be less distracting for the parent, but the child is exposed to the constant sound. If the radio content is a flurry of negative news and commercials, it is probably not the best option for yourself or your child. If the content is positive music with plenty of co-singing and dancing involved, then we have probably ventured into the realm of positivity for child development.

Maximize Learning Potentials

I am the first to admit that interacting with an 8-month child is not the most entertaining experience. However, I assure you that children are soaking up your words and actions like a sponge. If your language is distracted and inconsistent, regardless of the cause, valuable knowledge is not present to be absorbed. At this point you might be wondering if you should hire out jobs like washing dishes, doing laundry, and cleaning the house in order to maximize positive parent-child interaction time 24/7.

I am not making  a case for obsessive catering to all of your child’s immediate desires, as this will probably do more harm than good. However, your child is very perceptive to your presence. Rather than distracting yourself and your child with TV background noise, consider including some fascinating self-dialogue about the dish washing experience, laundry organization process, and the house cleaning chores. With these habits you are maximizing the child’s focusing and language acquisition potentials.

Consider limiting your newspaper or magazine scan to just a few minutes, or better yet, read the details while your child is asleep. Then, your child would love to hear your perceptions of the content, especially if it closely relates to the order and efficiency which all the toys are removed from the toy bin. When a text is received make sure to verbalize who contacted you, what they have to say, and the thoughts behind your response. Two or three years later they will have much more valuable input when you are working together to formulate an ideal text response for family updates.

Outdoor time is a valuable experience for child development as well as parental sanity. Consider taking a walk highlighting the sights, sounds, textures, and smells of the great outdoors. Another blogger has already beat me to writing a great research summary clarifying how the outdoor experience allows your child’s the imagination, patience, and peace to truly flourish.

In conclusion, if you feel that your time could be invested more productively for yourself and your child, then I highly recommend you clarify and pursue your goals. For me it seems fair and logical to provide a pathway for my daughter to reach her highest potentials. One big step in the right direction is simply pressing the off button on the TV remote and remaining present with my daughter.

Applied Meditation

Before our daughter was born I meditated for at least 30 minutes per day. My wife and I would often follow a guided meditation including a few hand motions and about 20 minutes of calm background music. The meditation would then include the following quote:

“Just for today, I am free from anger. I am free from worry.
I am humble. I am honest. I am compassionate toward myself and others.”

Now that practice has been reduced to about 30 minutes per week. I have chosen to title this post ‘applied’ meditation because I have found that I am still practicing components of meditation each day. As I am calming Madelyn before bed time, when she is fussy, or when she just seems interested in hearing me speak, I often state the quote to her. It usually helps calm her, and I feel like it also helps me remain calm. This is especially true during more challenging situations of parenting.

The meaning I feel within the quote:

  • Each day I optimize my psychological self by remaining perceptive to the destructive and counterproductive feeling of anger. Although I accept the immediate emotion of anger, I do not cognitively reproduce or reconstruct feelings of anger into my rational thoughts. I am free from anger.
  • Each day I optimize my rational self by remaining perceptive to the emotions that I feel, and I choose to accept challenges which are presented to me. I follow the drive of my spiritual self and accept the present moment. I am free from worry.
  • Each day I optimize my spiritual self by being thankful. I am not possessive of anything I have or anything I have done. I choose to live in the present, and graciously accept each present moment. I am humble.
  • Each day I optimize my spiritual self by fully exploring the innermost thoughts and feelings I am experiencing. I fully accept what they are, and I learn more about myself. I choose to share my thoughts and feelings with those who would benefit from them. I am honest.
  • Each day I optimize the person that I am so that I can share love with the people around me. I value and care for my physical, psychological, rational and spiritual foundation. I pursue the complete awareness of who I am, and this allows me to pursue a genuine awareness of the people around me. With this fully encompassing awareness I strive to share an open-minded acceptance in all situations. I am compassionate toward myself and others.

The Meditation Experience

I started meditating about 5 years ago, and from the start I felt like meditation allowed me to be a more peaceful individual. I know meditation is a journey which is never mastered, but I was starting to feel very comfortable with my habits and the corresponding peace which had entered my life. Now that Madelyn is here, my meditation habits have changed. I am surprised that the quotes I had repeated for years within my meditation practice have started to synchronize with my daily activities more clearly. This experience has truly opened my eyes to the direct application potentials of meditation.

The experience of silent meditation in a quiet place certainly has its advantages. It is easier to disconnect from the human self and find a place of peace. As the mind starts to wander back into the scene, it is possible to refocus on background rhythm, meditation posture, or a place of peace and drift back to a pure nothingness. The clear mind is certainly a valuable experience. There is a new connection between the mind and the body, and there is a disconnection between the mind and the thought within it.

Applied Meditation

Applied meditation with my daughter certainly has its differences. I am usually holding her, and I am often starting the meditation at random. Also, rather than clearing my mind at the start, I am starting with the meditation quote which I continuously repeat. If I am holding her, laying next to her, or feeding her, I remain fully aware of her physical presence as well as my own. However, the thought within my own mind does eventually disconnect. I simply become present in the room with her.

Both meditation practices allow the experience of pure nothingness, but the applied meditation practice allows me to remain connected with the people around me. Each day I am grateful for the opportunity to experience and share that peace.

I look forward to hearing your feedback, and here is the quick link to the comments!

Weight Loss Dieting

The Popular Presentation of Weight Loss

Weight Loss Dieting Magazine Cover

I saw this magazine as I was waiting in the checkout line at the local grocery store. This fitness magazine is for women, and this seems fit the content norms that I am accustomed to seeing. There is a model saturated in make-up on the cover. I can’t see the name of the magazine since the adequate amounts of hair product are maximizing hair volume to cover the letters. Weight-loss is the main theme as usual. There are processed food treats (upper left corner) to entice the reader to eat low-calorie junk food and read the magazine content. There are at least 4 miraculous well-being cures (in this case tiredness and stress are solved, and beauty and inexpensive supplements will resolve many health concerns). For me, the most ridiculous part of the magazine was the ‘Drop 19 lbs in 10 Days’ promo in the bottom right corner.

I am sure that a few of the natural remedy ideas do have some merit. Many natural foods do indeed support health. Maybe the tiredness and stress resolutions also have some credibility. Maybe they are referring to dropping 19 pounds of water into a water basin over a period of 10 days. I hope that is the case because promoting a weight loss plan where 19 lbs of fat is lost in a period of 10 days is pure and complete ignorance.

The Mathematics of Weight Loss

One pound of fat stored in the body is equivalent to approximately 3500 calories of energy. In order to actually lose 19 pounds of fat you would have to metabolize 66,500 calories of energy. The magazine said we could do it, so let’s do some math.

Approximately 100 calories are burned for each mile that is run. Over a 10 day period you would need to run 665 miles, 66.5 miles per day. If you can run 66.5 miles per day for 10 consecutive days, you probably have goals more along the lines of shattering world records or maybe marketing your superhuman qualities to save the world. I am not a huge fan of distance running, but the weightlifting, swimming, or biking equivalents would also be impossible.

The Negative Impact of Extreme Diets

In my previous breakdown I did insert the word ‘fat’ into the weightless scheme. The magazine cover didn’t say fat, so we can assume that their scheme probably has some water weight loss built-in. Losing water weight is rarely a healthy practice. The scale may read slightly lower and you may look thinner for a short period of time, but it is crucial to stay adequately hydrated. The magazine may have made an argument against adequate hydration under the junk food promo, but I can only tackle one issue at a time.

Another consideration is the likelihood of the loss of muscle mass. If enough calories are cut from the diet, the body quickly resorts to a convenient fuel source, muscle tissue. Even without adequate caloric intake, your muscles still require fuel to move your body. During times of inadequate caloric intake, this energy source often comes from your muscle tissues. On a side note, studies have shown that adequate protein intake and weight training is best method for maintaining muscle mass while burning stored fat.

In conclusion, losing 19 pounds of weight in 10 days is not a healthy goal. This would require extreme caloric deficits, lost muscle mass, lost water weight, and some burned fat. The most concerning issue is the decrease in your metabolic rates. Let’s take a moment to explore what this means.

Decreased metabolic rates mean that your body is aware that your food intake will be less than what is needed. Crucial internal functions will slow down. Your GI tract will not process food as quickly. At the same time your body will become much more aggressive when selecting food to store for later. If there is ever an abundance of carbohydrates available, as much as possible will be stored as fat. That is the great mystery of dieting. That is why the person who posts a Facebook story about losing 20 pounds on their favorite diet plan will quickly recover their losses (and that post probably won’t be created for you to see).

A Realistic Health Perspective

If you are exploring some weight loss options, initial goals should include building muscle mass in order to support your mind and body through the weight loss process. Once you have synchronized your muscles with an exercise routine, your body will begin using stored energy within your fat tissues to achieve your exercise demands. As long as you focus on optimizing your health rather than demanding lower weight scale numbers, your body will re-synchronize with a more healthy infrastructure and eventually display the physical potentials which you have built within your body.

*Check out the shortened version published by the Carmel Current!

Please let me know if you would like me to expand on any of these topics, and here is a quick link to the comments section.

Children Watching Television

Concerns and Research on Children Television Time

Infants and children seem to love watching the television, and many adults love seeing their kids watch TV as well. After my daughter was born, I searched for some articles clarifying the impact which television sights and sounds have on young children. Our families, friends, co-workers, and even the random lady at the grocery store have advice about TV time (and pretty much any topic), and advice from one person to the next is frequently contradictory. Fortunately, there is plenty of research describing the implications of increased amounts of television exposure. A great summary on national data is available here, and the specific learning implications are specified here.

There are many important details within each article, but the following quote sums it up quite well: “Audible television is associated with decreased exposure to discernible human adult speech and decreased child vocalizations. These results may explain the association between infant television exposure and delayed language development.”

Children and the Television Experience

As the child views the screen they are processing the non-stop and overstimulating content to the best of their ability. It is the item of peak interest. There is an entire world of complexity beyond reality and beyond imagination all encompassed within a viewing box in the living room. The child is completely invested in the television moment, and the adults are grateful for the short break from the trials and tribulations of parenthood.
Once the world of fascination is turned off, the mind of the child is slow to disconnect from the television. Nothing in the actual living area is able to reach that level of stimulation, but it doesn’t matter because their mind is still attempting to process and store the massive quantity of information which was recently projected onto them.

Children and the overstimulating tv

Imagine the most thrilling movie you saw when you were 10-12 years old. After you watched that thrilling movie, what was it like as you left the theater?

You were probably feeling some emotional excitement, and you may have been feeling a bit exhausted from the theatrical journey of the movie. Most importantly, you are engrossed within each moment of the movie. After the movie you enjoyed remembering the specifics of what you saw and re-experienced the excitement of your favorite scenes.

When a young child watches the television, there are some similarities. They are also completely engrossed within each moment of the show, and they are also emotionally stimulated by the screen activity.
The child is also hyper stimulated with the thrilling experience of non-stop motion, happy sounds, and bright colors. Their ability to categorize and discuss the events are lacking, so the experience is inefficiently stored within their developing mind. The TV experience takes priority over the sights, sounds, smells, touches, and tastes of their current experience, and their ability to process their surrounding environment is hindered.

Perceptions after the TV Experience

Children are still experiencing the stimulation of the television after it is turned off, just as you continued to experience the stimulation of the thrilling movie after you walked out of the theater. The journey of learning, and the sensory experiences of reality are altered by the television experience for two reasons.

  1. The lights and sounds of the living room and the family experience are not up to par with the television.
  2. The child’s experience of television excitement requires additional ‘processing’ even after the television is turned off.

Since infants and young children are incapable of adequately processing that level of stimulation, the jumbled excitement is scattered across their mind. Sensory learning experiences become secondary and different from what they were before the television stimulation. Processing the words of people is less interesting, and communicating with people becomes less relevant.

Recommendations for Families

NPR has a great article summarizing the recent recommendations changes made by American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). ‘No screen time before the age of 2’ has been replaced with allowing limited educational content after 15 months, and video chat communication (Skype or iPhone Facetime) are OK for communication with family and friends.

However, if you read beyond the quoted headlines, the AAP has three important recommendations for children under 5 years old:

  1. Only allow the children to watch the best educational content options including Sesame Workshops and PBS.
  2. Limit screen time to no more than 1 hour per day.
  3. Always co-experience the screen time with the child to support adequate information processing.

I am in full support of the AAP recommendations. Rather than exposing my daughter to overwhelming screen stimulation, I will do my best to fill her day with broad ranges of human interaction, toys for learning and imagination, and as much time outdoors as possible.

Please let me know if you would like me to expand on any of these topics, and here is a quick link to the comments section.

Prioritizing Sleep

Why Quality Sleep Is Often Overlooked

In high school and in college there were times when I overlooked sleep on the weekend. Staying up late with friends was higher on my list of priorities. Other than that, I cannot think of a time-stretch when I did not prioritize a good night of sleep. During my time with roommates I discovered that the sleep priority was abnormal. I had trouble understanding why I would walk downstairs at 8:00 a.m. to find a roommate asleep on the couch with the tv still on (the electric bill might have also been on my mind at that time).

Within the last 9 months I have also bargained with my sleep priorities. Sleeping BabyMadelyn’s well-being has taken first place. We have yet to perfect her sleep schedule, and we are not yet in the category of excited parents posting their child’s sleep miracles. Madelyn had about 2 months when she was awake every two hours. Now she is up for one reason or another at least once per night, and I am happy to take plenty of turns helping her when she needs it. Fortunately, Lorean and I have offset sleep schedules, so we both get at least 8 hours each night. I sleep from 12-8 and she is sleeping from 9-5 most nights.

Regardless of whether the sleep issue is choice, circumstance, or somewhere in between, insufficient sleep is a modern health epidemic according to me and the CDC. The world of psychology has some great ideas to help, but I think it is crucial to gain a better understanding of the impact which a lack of sleep has on the human body.

The Negative Impacts of Insufficient Sleep.

I am going to skip over the metabolic specifics and jump right to resulting items of interest. The deprioritization of a good night sleep is a major cause of the obesity and diabetes epidemics of today.

I wish that would be enough motivation for everyone to go to sleep early and that would solve the issue. Unfortunately, the debilitating health effects of processed foods, over-medication, physical under-activity, and excessive light stimulation have each been associated with the cause of the current sleep epidemic. The lack of quality sleep, which the average individual attains, inevitably enhances the degrading health effects of processed foods, over-medication, physical under-activity, and excessive light stimulation. And the cycle continues.

It is fascinating that these seemingly unrelated topics have harmoniously synchronized into the major problem it is today. I do not have a quick fix for the sleep problem. Although plenty of other sources have some great ideas, the only way to truly correct the problem is to re-prioritize your health.

Optimizing Your Potential for a Good Night Sleep

This means that a healthy diet, more physical activity, less exposure to toxicity, and minimized evening light stimulation need to be prioritized. Health practices should be the first line of defense and the major form of treatment for obesity and blood sugar challenges. Finally, positive night time habits including visual or audio books, family communication, outdoor time, indoor games or puzzles, and meditation are great options to be included within nightly routines.

Our sleep time schedule is not extremely consistent and certainly not perfect, but I am appreciative that our general health as well as our nighttime habits do allow us the restorative pleasure of a good night sleep.

Let me know if you would like me to expand on any of these topics, and here is a quick link to the comments section.