Tag Archives: health

Deadly Nighttime Snacking?


I have never been good at timing when I eat. I may wake up some mornings at 8am and not eat until noon, which ends up pushing all of my eating times back. I have heard the theory that you shouldn’t eat 3 hours before you go to bed because it can result in health issues, but sometimes I eat at 10:30pm, which pushes my bedtime to past 1 am, and then the vicious cycle continues. Also none the health issues never seem to be specific, with weight gain being the only prevalent result. This did not really make a convincing argument that sleeping soon after eating was a health hazard, but since the notion does exist, I thought it was worth exploring.

My first finding was a study posted on WebMD, regarding an increased the risk of having a stroke. The subheading stated that, “people who wait an hour or more after eating before going to bed have a 66% lower stroke risk, researchers say.” I couldn’t gather much from that statement since it was positioned as a relative risk and I wasn’t sure what the normal risk of having a stroke is—which could potentially be low already.

Researcher Cristina-Maria Kastorini, a nutritionist at the University of Ioannina Medical School in Greece, conduced an survey on 500 currently “healthy” people: 250 people who had had a stroke and 250 with acute coronary syndrome—a common type of heart disease where there is a reduced blood flow to the heart because of clogged arteries, which can lead to tightness in the chest and sometimes heart-attacks. The participants were asked to complete detailed questionnaires asking about their sleep habits as well as when and what they ate.

The results stated that compared with the people who went to bed within and hour of dinner, those who waited 60 to 70 minutes were 66% less likely to have had a stroke. It also went on to say that those who waited 70 minutes to two hours had a 76% lower likelihood of having a stroke, but after two hours the reduction of risk began to taper off. I am not sure of how confident I feel in this data because the explanation is very vague and left me with a lot of questions. How did they calculate those percentages from the surveys? What factors were taking into consideration in determining the participants were healthy? Did those who waited longer end up healthier than when they began? Would the risk be the same for someone without heart-related health issues? Too many pieces went unanswered for me to buy into the concept.

What I did appreciate from this study was that the analysis took into a variety of heart disease and stroke risk factors:

  • Sex
  • Age
  • Physical activity
  • Weight
  • Smoking
  • Diet
  • Family history
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Diabetes

This thorough observation really limits the possibility of third variables playing a substantial part in the study.

The reason why waiting longer might lower the risk wasn’t really discussed other than the fact that eating too close to bedtime increase the risk of reflux disease, which leads to sleep apnea—which is associated with strokes. Overall, after reading this study I feel like I am just as unsure whether or not I should eat around bed-time as I was when I found it. No substantial evidence was made to compel me to definitively stop eating closer to the time I go to sleep, so I guess I won’t concern myself with it as much. I will probably stop doing it anyways because I feel bloated in the morning and it throws off my internal hunger clock, but this study just told me that I am probably fine either way since I don’t have heart related health issues.



The truth about cellphones. The bad, the worse, and the ugly

Today’s world is run by technology and modern inventions. One device that is at the top of it all is the cellphone. Now a days who doesn’t have one? They control our lives. We use them to communicate, organize information, browse the web, and even just to entertain ourselves. Although there are many benefits to our phones, there are also a lot of negative effects it has on us that many of us aren’t even aware of.

One of the many negative effects that constant cellphone use causes is an increase in risk of illness. Believe it or not your phone is one of the most germ-infested objects that you may come in contact with throughout the course of a day. In just a 24 hours span, a phone may encounter many germ-infested places such as your pocket/purse, your hands, and even your face. You use it while you’re eating, you use it at the gym, and you even use it while going to the bathroom. As a matter of fact speaking of bathrooms, cellphones carry ten times more bacteria than most toilet seats.

Another issue that we have all recently seen is a rise in automobile accidents caused by texting. People are so focused on being on their phones while driving that they don’t pay attention to the road and risk putting other peoples lives in danger. It has been recorded that texting and driving makes you 23 times more likely to crash and causes 1,600,000 automobile accidents per year. Even talking on the phone instead of texting is dangerous. Even though your aren’t looking at your phone anymore you are still distracted by your phone and wont have both hands on the wheel. Being concentrated on your phone dramatically reduces your reaction time, and nothing can reduce the risk besides not using the phone while driving all together.

Not only can frequent phone use have negative psychological effects, it can also be physically damaging. Constant cellphone use has been linked to chronic pain in numerous studies. It is doing us harm in ways we would never imagine. “Cell phones require constant use of your hands, especially when sending text messages and e-mails. Responding to messages at rapid speed can cause pain and inflammation of your joints”. This leads to conditions such as carpal tunnel, a condition in which there is excessive pressure on the median nerve located in the wrist that allows feeling and movement to parts of the hand. Carpal tunnel may lead to weakness and muscle damage in the hand and fingers.

Along with all of these negative effects, constant cellphone use has also been linked to loss of vision and even more severe, brain cancer. So you tell me, is all of that worth it. Of course I’m not telling you to completely get rid of your phone but using it less often will be sure to lead to better results in the long run.






The Power of Music

Music is certainly a force to be reckoned with. I’ll admit I’ve had a song make me tear up, feel inspired, or pumped me and make me feel like running a marathon. Music has the power to sway our emotions, but can music heal us? Is it possible for a series of sound waves to have an healing effect on us?


A study set to see if music could improve symptoms of those in the hospital with schizophrenia. A single blind (the assessors were blind) randomized control trial took place with 81 participants. A variety of music was played for the patients along with a trained music therapist. Those who had music therapy added to their standard care had greater improvement with their symptoms in comparison to those who just had standard care. I believe this study was set up and controlled very well. The sample size is a little bit on the small size, but I believe that it isn’t small enough to make the findings obsolete.

An article reported on the neurochemistry of music, and noted that music can have positive physical effects such as: reducing heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol levels. It adds in addition that a proposed mechanism of music is that it can regulate stress, arousal and emotions by initiating brainstem responses. It suggests that tempo plays a big role, and that the brainstem fires in response to the tempo.

Another article discusses the power of music, claiming that music affects the heart, arteries, and lungs and could even help patients who have circulatory conditions. They had volunteers listen to orchestras play, and also had them listen to two minutes of silence. Researchers found that rising crescendos raised blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration rates. In contrast, calming music did the opposite. During the two minute silence volunteer’s blood pressure and heart rate was reduced.

Can music heal? Well, it isn’t going to cure cancer, or destroy Ebola, but it definitely has some positive physical effects on our bodies. Music therapy is a field that has seen surprising and positive results and will continue to. In addition, music can certainly be cheaper than lots of other treatments with no side effects. There’s no harm in popping in some ear buds and listening to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.


Is it Time to Start Cracking Down?

Preparing to take on a challenge, I find myself pressing against my knuckles to hear that satisfying sound of my knuckles cracking – time to get to work! However, I’ve heard countless times from grandparents and parents that this habit will lead to giant joints in my fingers and arthritis. But does cracking your knuckles really cause arthritis? It’s time I get to the bottom of this age old rumor and see if there are any answers.

This article explains that there is space between your joints where dissolved gases in your joint fluid start to make tiny bubbles. These bubbles combine into bigger bubbles which get popped by the extra fluid that rushes into the space when you apply pressure to your knuckles. So is this bad for you? Dr. Donald L. Unger performed an investigation for over 60 years where he cracked the knuckles on his left hand at least twice a day, but never cracked the knuckles on his right hand. Despite this, he never found signs of arthritis in either hand. This itself doesn’t prove anything, after all some people smoke and never get lung cancer, but smoking can still lead to lung cancer.

Another interesting study was performed where twenty-eight residents of a nursing home were asked whether or not they cracked their knuckles. Those who had were less likely to have osteoarthritis in their hands. While fascinating, I believe the sample size in the study is way too small to prove much of anything, and it could very easily be due to chance.

A larger study from 1990 was conducted where researchers examined the hands of 300 people over the age of 45. The results found that those who cracked their knuckles seemed to have weaker grips, and 84% had signs of swelling in their hands. However, they still couldn’t say that knuckle crackers had more osteoarthritis. With a larger sample size, this study has more substance to it than the previous research. This article, however, makes an argument against this study: Maybe those who crack their knuckles have a proneness for problems later on, and knuckle cracking isn’t a cause, but merely an indicator.

A more recent study (2011) with over 200 participants looked at both if people cracked their knuckles and how often they did it. Ultimately, the rate of cracking didn’t make a substantial difference for arthritis, and the results of the study found that there wasn’t a different between those who did and did not crack their knuckles.

What can we take away from all of these studies? Nothing conclusion. Not enough research has been conducted on the issue, and the research that has been conducted is typically too small to make any conclusions based off it. For now, keep cracking your knuckles until actual evidence is found that it causes arthritis. Just don’t go too hog-wild. There’s no reason yet to believe your grandparents when they tell you that you’ll get giant ugly knuckles and terrible arthritis when you get old.




Can Positive Thinking Cure You?

MARCELA-POSITIVE-ATTITUDE-INS2Ever hear “you have to stay positive when you’re sick,” implying that positive thinking can make you better? Me too, a lot in fact. As a kid in the hospital, I heard that one plenty, so I wanted to investigate. Can positive thinking improve one’s physical health? Does the condition matter? Does stress come into the equation? First, I looked into studies that claimed positive thinking as a health benefit.

Study #1: Over five years, Steven Greer and his colleagues followed the physical and psychological conditions of 578 women who had enrolled in the study with early-stage breast cancer. Early on they classified women in “helplessness/hopelessness” or “fighting spirit” categories based on their answers to surveys. At the end, women with high “helpless/hopeless” scores were more likely to relapse or die within five years than women with a “fighting spirit.” Study #2: Next, men undergoing coronary artery bypass graft surgery were interviewed before the surgery, a few days after surgery, and then again months later. Researchers used the LOT (Life Orientation Test) to convert people’s statements about their expectations for their future health to scores to evaluate optimism. Men classified as “optimists” had fewer negative physiological changes in their electrocardiograms and fewer releases of enzymes into the bloodstream that could cause infections. Basically, the data showed that pessimists were more likely to suffer heart attacks during surgery. Pessimism also seemed to be related to slower recovery. Study #3: In 2001 researchers found that amongst war veterans, veterans determined by personality inventories to be optimists were less likely to develop heart disease than the veterans classified as pessimists. The researchers determined this result was independent (meaning not affected by) smoking habits.

In fact, further studies have found no significant data demonstrating that positive thinking improves health. The meta-analysis called “Positive Psychology in Cancer Care: Bad Science…,” reviewed 12 studies that examined the effect of “fighting spirit” on cancer progression and survival. The ten larger studies found negative results, and only the two smaller, flawed, and confounded studies found results that supported the claim that positivity improves health. They cite another meta-analysis that says positive thinking has no significant improvement effect on cardiovascular diseases or cancer. The American Cancer Society even discounts the health benefits of positive thinking.

How can we explain the results of the three studies and many others that say there is a link? First: most studies have a potential reverse causality—instead of positive thinking improving a person’s health, a person who becomes healthier could improve their attitude. Potential confounding variables (like lower SES and education) and small sample size influenced other results.  In  “Thinking differently about thinking positive,” Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger pointed out that especially in the world of breast cancer, patients feel a lot of pressure to think positively, which could coerce subjects to report more positivity than they actually feel. The questionnaires and surveys themselves can also be ambiguous, and the coding of patients’ answers is inconsistent. In one study the phrase “I try to see it in a different light, to make it seem more positive” was coded as positive thinking while “It’s best to be positive at all times. I try not to let myself get depressed, sad, or angry when things go wrong” was coded as the less positive “Type C personality” that allegedly increased risk of cancer. Inconsistent modes of measurement of positivity mean that the results are not reliable. Some also thought that stress influenced the results of conditions like heart disease and Alzheimer’s that are connected to stress. But data shows positive people are not necessarily less stressed than negative people, nor do coping methods of stress (good vs. bad) make a significant difference in physical health.

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           My Google search this week

So why do some still believe that positive thinking cures? Here’s my thought: when I was in the hospital as a kid, I liked to think that if I behaved and stayed positive I would get better. When facing terrifying illnesses, people want to do something, doctors want to as well, and the idea that positive thinking could help is comforting and within someone’s control. There might be perceptual bias like that of the doctors mentioned in class: Believers of positivity may think if they get healthier, it’s because they were positive, and if they don’t, it’s because the disease was really tough. All of that is understandable, I’ve been there, and no one likes to feel helpless. But the ACS sums it up well: Positive thinking therapy may improve quality of life, but it doesn’t prevent or cure disease. Take home message is wishing doesn’t make it so.

Studying The Beat


By Megan Butter

Music surrounds us all the time, and I can’t name one single person that doesn’t listen to it. It is  a part of our culture and everyone can relate to it some way or another. Recently studies have been conducted to see how exactly music effects our bodies.

Music stimulates our brain, and has a positive effect on our bodies. According to an article on CNN there was a study done with people who were about to undergo surgery, some were given a pill to calm their nerves, while others were told to listen to music. “The patients who listened to music had less anxiety and lower cortisol than people who took drugs,” (Landau, 2013). Music has a calming effect on the body and if some patients can be treated with music rather than drugs before surgery, then that is a great new cost effective way to help patients cope with the anxiety before surgery.

Also for some people music can give them chills. I know for me when I am in the zone and listening to a really good song by Eminem, I can feel chills, but I also feel that is because I can relate to the words that he is speaking in his rap.  According to Silvia and Nusbaum, “openness to experience was the strongest predictor of the typical experience of chills during music….Several markers of people’s experience and engagement with music in everyday life…did mediate openness’s effects,” (Silvia, Nusbaum, 2014). Hearing your life experiences in songs is incredible and can cause an overwhelming feeling to just come over you.

Finally, music can make miracles happen. There was an experiment conducted with stroke patients whose vision became impaired. The study happened in the UN and they used 16 stroke patients who had recently suffered their stroke (within a week). They had the patients either listen to classical music, white noise, or nothing. And surprise, surprise, the group with the highest score during the Behavioral InAttention Test were the patients who listened to classical music. The scientists concluded that, “listening to classical music may improve visual attention in stroke patients” (AJOT, 2013).  That is an amazing find! They want to do more studies to solidify their findings, but it is promising for all stroke patients, since majority of them suffer some sort of vision problems.

Music is universal and brings all different kinds of people together. It also has a huge influence on our health, and can change our mood in an instant. Next time you’re feeling blue you can either turn on a sad song and relate or you can turn on an upbeat jam to pump you up. Music is endless and is always changing and it will interesting to see what else scientists find it can do to our bodies and mind.








Is Food More Addictive than Crack?

source: krispykreme.com

source: krispykreme.com

“Oh my god…this [insert delicious food] is better than crack.” Everyone from professional food critics to starving college students has used the phrase time and time again. Whether they are talking about nutella, krispy kreme donuts, or canyon pizza, everyone has experience a time where they believed they loved a food so much, that its magnitude was comparable to that of an addiction to an illicit drug—but most people aren’t serious when they make this statement because of the simple fact that most of them have not tried any illicit drugs.  I will admit myself that I have experienced desserts that left me awake at night, rapt in thought of getting up in the morning to speed off to the grocery store to buy all of them off the shelf. And when I think about it more, I began to question whether or not I was addicted to food, or if it was even possible to be.


I found two articles on Time Magazine’s website that deconstructed the idea of food addiction and what it physically looked like on a person’s brain. In the first article, Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, acknowledged that the idea is controversial since many people have rejected it, however, believes that food can be as addictive as drugs. She believes that understanding the similarities between food and drug addictions could offer insight into an array of compulsive behaviors. Volkow described a similarity found between the brains with food and drug addictions—similar dysfunctions in the areas that are connected to pleasure and self-control. The neurotransmitter involved is dopamine, which these brain areas rely on, and a reduction in the number of dopamine D2 receptors were found both in drug addiction and obesity. That is why when we eat food we tend to feel happy and more relaxed, because dopamine elicits those feelings.

The second article in Time references a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry that suggests that there might not be a clear distinction between addictive and normal responses, adding to the evidence that all “addictions” act on the same motivational system. The study involved 48 health women ranging in weight from lean to overweight or obese. Their objective was to test the hypothesis that elevated “food addiction” scores are associated with similar patterns of neural activation as substance dependence. Their independent variable was whether or not the participate received a chocolate milkshake or tasteless substance—so the experiment was neither blind nor double-blind. The dependent variable was the neural response after beverage consumption. The study’s conclusion stated that there are similar patterns of neural activation in addictive-like eating habits and substance dependence, such as elevated activation in reward circuitry in response to food cues and reduced activation of inhibitory regions in response to food intake.

So currently, the evidence supports the hypothesis that one can actually become addicted to food. I feel like this study could go more in depth though, like whether or not some foods are more addict than others and if there are any negative side effects to food addiction similar to those of illicit drugs.




Juice Cleansing…Good or Bad?

Source: nyulocal.com

Source: nyulocal.com

Over the summer, I had noticed a health trend that was getting pretty popular in my age group, where you would commit to only taking in all natural pre-made juices—or sometimes you made the juices yourself—to cleanse your body of toxic build up and help you drop excess weight.  The cleanse could last for three or even up to ten days, and every meal you would only be allowed to drink your food. I found this growing trend extremely interesting because during my freshman year I tried an all liquid diet for one week, however I added ample amounts of protein into my drinks in order to maintain energy levels and not loose muscle mass. By the end of the week I felt refreshed and energized, but completely ready to go back to food. But when I was looking at some of the recipes put together for the juice cleanse programs promoted online, little to no protein was added to any drinks which made me wonder, “Could this juice cleanse fad potentially be bad for you?”


source: blueprintcleanse.com

source: blueprintcleanse.com

I was researching if there are different type of juice cleanses out there and found that there actually are; there are juice cleanses that involve blended fruits and vegetables and then there is the “Master Cleanse” which only allows the cleanser to drink a mixture of lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and water. According to Health.com, many people turn to juice cleansing because they feel like their body is off—they feel sluggish, heavy, or bloated. It is believed that only drinking these fiber-rich drinks will rid your body of the toxins that are preventing it from operating at maximum capacity, but this may not be the case. There are already organs within your body—such as your kidneys and liver—that remove all the toxins within our bodies, thus making the idea of a juice cleanse obsolete. According to the Huffington Post, the reason it seems like the juice-cleanse is actually a viable way to loose weight is because it increases the rate at which we lose water weight. Switching over to a liquid diet reduces calorie intake, causing the body to release the carbohydrate glycogen for extra energy for the body to function. Glycogen attaches to water so when it is lost, so is water—but normally the water is gained after the cleanse ends.


The general consensus is that taking part in a juice cleanse isn’t a sustainable way to lose weight—it is still suggested to watch what you eat and exercise regularly.  However, there is nothing that shows doing a cleanse for a couple of days would do detrimental harm—so if you’re particularly interested in taking part it is generally safe. However, it would be unwise to partake for more than 10 days because there are not any commercial juice cleanses that go past that length.


source: whatsgabycooking.com

source: whatsgabycooking.com



Yoga has been around for a while and I’ve done a little here and there. However, up until this summer, my knowledge of yoga was little to none. My friends begged me all winter long to go to class with them at the local studio in my town but the straw that broke my back and forced me to go was my best friend’s mother. She took my mom and I to the “Hot Yoga Spot,” a studio about five minutes from my house, specializing in hot yoga. I got into it quickly and started taking classes four times a week and started referring all of my friends to yoga. It also helped that I think yoga clothes are super cute and I love the way it makes me feel. Hot yoga is a general umbrella of classes but can refer to different types of heated yoga classes, postures, temperatures and tempos.

This brings me to my first point. I’m clearly no scientist, hence why I’m taking this class, and I’m also not a yoga expert because I just started a few months ago. If you’ve never heard of hot yoga, it’s basically a yoga class in a heated room. One might not think that yoga is a hard form of exercise, but believe me, after about ten minutes in class, you will be sweating from places you didn’t know existed. I know as a non-scientist, there are benefits to sweating a lot, I’m just not sure what. I also know that yoga makes you more flexible, and the heat helps muscles become more bendy and work better. Heat is also why we are encouraged to stretch and do other exercises after building up our heat rate, when we’re sweaty. From my experience, doing yoga in a heated room increases the intensity of the workout and your overall heart rate, making it harder than normal yoga. Yoga also has a tendency to make you happy. After leaving yoga class, I always have peace of mind, a feeling I encourage everyone to search for. Hot yoga creates an emptiness in the mind even more than non-heated classes because all I think about is the heat and the poses.

But that’s just me. I know that there are more benefits, but as I said, I’m no expert, so I had to look online for some information. Although gym rats and lots of athletes I know bash on yoga, it really does help improve strength. Yoga doesn’t feel like running five miles or doing squats but I swear, holding “warrior 2” for more than a few seconds is one of the hardest thing in the world. Yoga tends to tone your body instead of building bulky muscles.

Poses that cause you contract muscles and use balance, combined with the heat have been shown to have the same effects on heart rate as running or any other cardio activity. In fact, according to Yoganonymous, a 90 minute class of hot yoga can burn up to 1,000 calories.

Another benefit is the detox that comes with sweating and twisting. Sweating in large amounts releases toxins through the skin that would otherwise be in our bodies. I’ve learned that certain poses, which your body doesn’t normally twist into, help to stretch out your organs and make them function better. Each pose has its own organ benefits, due to the massaging of the organs in positions you wouldn’t normally be in.

Hot yoga has the benefit of strengthening essential body parts such as the spine and injury prone spots to prevent these happenings. It’s been proven to be good for arthritis patients, sufferers of carpal tunnel, and people nursing joint injuries.

Honestly hot yoga has the power to just make you feel awesome. No other activity is as fun for me or has to power to make me feel as good. I’m able to focus on something so intensely for an hour a day that I forget about all the stresses of my life. Plus, the best at my studio at home is at the end when you’re in the final pose, “Savasana,” the instructors walk around with cooled towels infused with mint extract. I also love seeing progress in my yoga practice, between weeks of classes, and just in a single class itself. “Downward Facing Dog” becomes ten times easier from the beginning to the end of class.

The moral of this blog post is to go to hot yoga, or at the minimum, regular yoga! Remember, when attending hot yoga, make sure you drink plenty of fluids continually throughout the day, get energy from healthy foods, and definitely bring a towel to wipe up your sweat. Although unlikely, if any of you ever end up in the Capital District in New York and are looking for a yoga studio, go to the Hot Yoga Spot— it’s the best!