Tag Archives: health

Scientifically Proven Healthy Habits- Get Back On Track!

Scientifically proven healthy habits: Stress, anxiety, and general unhappiness are all caused by an imbalance in our lives. In other words, a balanced life is a happy life. What are the healthy habits that you want to carry into the future? Love, friends, work, and family are the basic pillars of happiness, but there are other areas that play an important role as well. Exercising, eating well, spirituality, nature, altruism, and down-time are all important “secondary” areas that need to be full and thriving in order to feel the “happiness” that we all strive for. What are the 7 keys to happiness?

Healthy habits

In modern societies, our daily habits are directly related to the four most common causes of death- cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity, and cancer. The WHO (2008) warned about a global epidemic of obesity throughout the world and the costs that would come with it. Correcting just one behavior -drinking, smoking, physical exercise, or diet- ensures that you live a longer and better life. Do you feel trapped in your bad habits? Do you have a hard time finding happiness outside of drinking, going out, eating, and other potentially dangerous habits? It might not seem like it, but healthy doesn’t always mean boring, and not everything good is unhealthy!

Changing your daily habits can have countless benefits on your physical and mental health. Unlike medication and therapy, there is no extra cost, no doctors appointments, and no stigma attached to making lifestyle changes. Healthy habits can also be “neuroprotectors” and help reduce the possibility of cognitive deterioration caused by aging.

Therapy, however, is a great option for many people, especially if it seems like the problems they’re having are more serious than lifestyle changes can help. If you’re thinking about going to therapy, it’s important to know if you should see a psychologist or a psychiatrist, as they have different specialties. Due to financial and institutional pressure, it’s become more common to have “express therapy” sessions, where the psychiatrist will prescribe more medication and spend less time treating the possible psychological symptoms that the patient is suffering from. Before seeing a psychotherapist, try to make some healthy habit changes and see where it takes you.

6 Healthy habits that improve well being

1. Exercise

This healthy habit can help reduce the risk of a number of diseases and is therapeutic for a number of physical alterations from prostate cancer to diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

A number of studies have shown how exercise can help reduce the risk of depression and some neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Anxiety, eating disorders, and depression have also been shown to be reduced through exercise, as well as chronic pain and some symptoms of schizophrenia.

Both aerobic and anaerobic exercise are effective, and it seems that sessions of 30 minutes or more of high intensity workouts are most beneficial.

This healthy habit provides benefits due to its varied effects, like the release of serotonin, which improves sleep, and endorphins. The psychological effects of exercise include improved self-esteem, self perception, interruption of negative thoughts, and relaxation.

2. Diet

There is scientific evidence that proves that a healthy, balanced diet can improve well-being. The ideal diet would be made up of the following:

A diet with a mix of multicolored fruits and vegetables
Fish like salmon has omega-3 acids. Avoid fish with high mercury levels like shark, tuna, etc.
Reduce caloric intake

There are some foods like fish, vegetables, fruit, and a variety of reduced animal fats that are neuroprotectors. There are currently studies being done to test how Vitamin D, folic acid, S-Adenosyl methionine, and fish fat supplements.

healthy habits-Eating

3. Nature

For thousands of years, people knew how to use nature as a source of health and wisdom. Shamans searched for places with abundant nature, yogis delved into the jungle, and Native Americans had their visions in nature. There have been studies conducted about how being in nature can improve subjective, cognitive, emotional attention, and spiritual well-being.

Nature also offers us silence that cities and highly populated areas can’t. The constant movement of human presence has cognitive, emotional, and psychosomatic consequences, which can produce chronic stress, attentional difficulties, and sleep and cardiovascular difficulties. Nature provides with the peace to find ourselves.

4. Social Relationships

Social relationships are a healthy habits that is central to physical and mental well-being. Rich relationships have been shown to reduce health risks from the flu to stroke, death, and multiple other pathologies. Good social habits are associated with happiness, higher quality of life, resilience, cognitive capacity, and even knowledge and wisdom.

These conclusions are based in the field of social neuroscience, which shows that we are independent creatures, made to relate and empathize with others, and equipped with brain systems like mirror neurons.

This healthy habit of maintaining healthy social relationships is very important, and our society today makes us more isolated than every. For example, Americans spend less time with their family and friends, fewer intimate relationships, and are less involved in groups and communities.

5. Recreational activities

Participating in activities just for fun is a healthy habits that helps improve well-being. From a behavioral point of view, people with mood disorders don’t show interest in recreational activities, and participating in these activities has been shown to raise interest. So, the lower you feel, the more important it is to do something you enjoy!

These activities can be anything, from playing games to seeing friends. It also helps improve social relationships and maturation in children. Better sense of humor, reduced stress, and improved mood and immune system are all consequences of taking part in activities that you enjoy.

6. Relaxation and stress management

While stress is universal and often impossible to avoid, there are ways to manage it. Activities like Tai Chi and Qui Gong are becoming more and more popular in modern societies, and have been associated with physical and psychological benefits related to depression and anxiety. Some western stress management techniques are self-hypnosis, visualization, and progressive muscle relaxation. Other competitive techniques like yoga and meditation are practices by hundreds of thousands of people around the world, showing a variety of therapeutic effects.

Tips to promote healthy habits

  1. Do some kind of exercise and get some rest. You don’t have to go out an run a marathon, but getting moving for a few minutes each day will help you make it into a daily habit. And, who knows, maybe you’ll even start to like it!
  2. Reflect on your habits. Do you do anything too much (eating, drinking, etc.)? How do you feel after binging? Balance is key, and there’s time for everything.
  3. Slow down! Stress is the biggest cause of anxiety. If you’re starting to feel stressed, take a break and practice some stress relief techniques.
  4. Do something you life. Our passions are what keep us going, and your life can’t get in the way of having some time just for you.
  5. Spend time with family and friends.

Any questions? Feel free to leave me a comment below 🙂

References

Clark, C., & Stansfeld, S. A. (2007). The effect of transportation noise on health and cognitive development: A review of recent evidence. International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 20, 145–158

Deslandes, A., Moraes, H., Ferreira, C., Veiga, H., Silveria, H., Mouta, R., . . . Laks, J. (2009). Exercise and mental health: Many reasons to move. Neuropsychobiology, 59, 191–198

Gu, Y., Nieves, J. W., Stern, Y., Luchsinger, J. A., & Scarmeas, N. (2010). Food combination and Alzheimer disease risk: A protective diet. Archives of Neurology, 67, 699 –706

Hamer, M., & Chida, Y. (2009). Physical activity and risk of neurodegenerative disease: A systematic review of prospective evidence. Psychological Medicine, 39, 3–11

Jetten, J., Haslam, C., Haslam, S. A., & Branscombe, N. R. (2009). The social cure. Scientific American Mind, 20, 26 –33

Pryor, A., Townsend, M., Maller, C., & Field, K. (2006). Health and well-being naturally: ‘Contact with nature’ in health promotion for targeted individuals, communities and populations. Health Promotion Journal of Australia, 17, 114 –123

Stathopoulou, G., Powers, M., Berry, A., Smits, J., & Otto, M. (2006). Exercise interventions for mental health: A quantitative and qualitative review. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 13, 179 –193

Sui, X., Laditka, J., Church, T., Hardin, J., Chase, N., Davis, K., & Blair, S. (2009). Prospective study of cardiorespiratory fitness and depressive symptoms in women and men. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 43, 546 –552

Walsh, R., & Shapiro, S. (2006). The meeting of meditative disciplines and Western psychology: A mutually enriching dialogue. American Psychologist, 61, 227–239

This article was originally written in Spanish by Xabi Ansorena

Brain Gym: 16 Activities That Will Help Your Brain Stay Younger

Brain Gym for a healthy mind. A few years ago, we started to learn about the importance of training our brains. Today we know that in order to enjoy life to the fullest, our brain needs to be in shape as well. Find out the 16 brain gym exercises that will help your brain health.

Life expectancy has risen, and as we age, our brain starts deteriorating. A few good habits can help slow down cognitive aging and help keep the human brain in shape. In this article, we’ll talk to you about different brain gym strategies that will help you build new neural connections and boost your cognitive reserve. Lifestyle and our habits play an important role in the physical changes that our brains undergo. The sooner you start training your brain, the longer it will stay in shape. Sign up for your brain gym!

CogniFit Cognitive Brain Training adapts to your specific cognitive needs. Train your cognitive skills with this popular tool.

Is it really possible to improve a specific cognitive skill by training with a brain gym routine? Sometimes you may find yourself wondering if a brain gym routine will actually make it possible to improve our memory, planning, spatial orientation, processing speed, reasoning, creativity, etc. While there isn’t any magic recipe to keep cognitive aging at bay, you can start some exercises to slow it down and improve cognitive reserve. Take your brain seriously and try some of the brain gym exercises that we have below.

Brain Gym can your brain plasticity. The brain has the amazing ability to adapt and change depending on our experiences. Brain plasticity is what makes this adaptation easy, and is what allows us to help mold and adapt our brains to different circumstances or surroundings.

There is one notable type of brain plasticity, called functional compensatory plasticity, that causes a small group of elderly people to achieve almost the same amount or higher cognitive activity than their younger counterparts, despite their age. If we think of the average aging individual, we can expect their cognition to slowly decline as they age. However, in the case of functional compensatory plasticity, the brain actually compensates for the lack of cognitive activity, ultimately activating more brain parts than others of their own age or supposed cognitive state.

Brain gyms help the brain adapt, which we have shown is an essential part to brain health, especially as we age. Changing some simple habits and practicing mentally stimulating activities can help keep the brain active which makes it easier for the brain to create neurons and connections. Take a look at our suggestions and put them into action.

Brain Gym: 10 ways to keep your brain sharp

Exercising these powerful cognitive skills helps regenerate neural connections. Brain gyms can help slow down cognitive decline, which can delay the effects of neurodegenerative effects.

1. Brain gym while you Travel

Travelling stimulates our brains, exposes to new cultures and languages, and helps us learn about the history of a new place. According to a study, having contact with different cultures gives us the ability to learn about different cultures, which helps improve creativity and has important cognitive benefits.

Brain Gym: If you have the resources to travel, do it! Visit new places, emerge yourself in the culture, and learn from the natives. If you can’t travel, make an effort to surround yourself with different cultures and people, and visit new places right in your own city.

2. Brain gym while you Listen to music

Listening to music can be a great activity because music is a powerful stimulus for our brains. Certain studies have shown how listening to music activates the transmission of information between neurons, our ability to learn, and our memory. Listening to music can also slow neurodegenerative processes (this effect was only present in those who were familiar with music).

Listening to music can also positively affect our mood and activate almost all of our brain, which makes it a great way to stimulate the brain.

Brain Gym: You can add music to so many parts of your day. Turn on the radio when you’re cooking or driving in the car. Play your favorite “cardio” or “pump-up” playlist when you’re at the gym… and remember, it’s never too late to learn how to play an instrument! There are tons of video tutorials on YouTube that can help you get started.

3. Brain gym while enjoying nature

The best gym is being in nature. It helps us disconnect from our daily routines and obligations, and reduces stress and anxiety. According to this study, being in nature, whether it be out at a park or seeing trees from the window, helps reduce attentional fatigue. Living in areas with gardens or trees improves attention and inhibits our impulses. Being in nature also gets us moving and helps us increase the amount of physical exercise we do.

Brain Gym: Being in nature is good for our health and well-being. You don’t need to go live in the countryside to get these benefits- talking away in green areas, or even hanging some pictures of nature, can give us some of these benefits. Try to get away on the weekend and go to the mountain or beach. Find a great hiking route and make it a weekend activity. You’ll get some exercise and it’s a great brain gym!

4. Write things by hand and train your brain

Take handwritten notes rather than typing on a computer or tablet. Writing by hand is a brain gym exercise because it helps boost memory and learning, according to this study. Writing also helps us process and integrate learned information.

Brain Gym: Leave your laptop at home and get yourself a notebook. You can also think about getting a tablet that allows you to write and later turns your words into text.

5. Brain gym: Physical exercise

According to many studies like this one, doing and enjoying exercise created new neurons within our brain, improves learning, cognitive performance, and boosts neuroplasticity. A recent study established that starting physical exercise when there are already signs of dementia might not be that a beneficiary as starting while being completely healthy. Therefore, you should start exercising as soon as possible.

Brain Gym: According to studies, aerobic exercise is the best for us. Get out and run, dance, swim, skate, or even just walk around. Getting started can be difficult, but just think about the pay-off!

Brain gym and exercise

6. Brain gym: Keep your work area clean and organized

A recent study has shown that doing work that doesn’t challenge your brain, as well as working in an untidy environment, can actually cause damage to your brain health in the long-run.

Brain Gym: A clean work environment makes us feel calm, which allows our brain to work better. Throw out papers and things that you don’t need. Clean up your desk and the space around you.

7. Learn a language and exercise your brain

According to a study, speaking two or more languages helps protect from cognitive deterioration. The study discovered that bilingual people had a higher IQ and received higher points in the cognitive tests compared to others in their age group. This can happen even after learning a language as an adult.

Brain Gym: Sign up for a class in French or Spanish or Portuguese or any other language you’ve ever thought about learning! Try to watch movies in their original languages (with or without subtitles), you’ll start to pick up the sounds and your brain will get a great workout. Today, we have access to great resources online, all it takes is a little searching!

8. Brain gym: Sleep

According to a study, sleeping too much or too little is associated with cognitive aging. As an adult, it has been shown that less than 6 or more than 8 hours of sleep leads to worse cognitive scores as a consequence of premature aging in the brain.

The right amount of sleep is vital for the proper function of our bodies, as well as our well-being. Both sleeping too little and sleeping too much can have negative effects on cognitive performance, response time, recognizing errors, and attention.

Brain Gym: Try to keep an adequate sleep schedule by creating a routine. Try to go to sleep and wake up everyday at the same time. If your one of those people who tends to sleep too little, try going to bed a little earlier over time. Put your phone, TV, computer, etc. away at least 30 minutes before bedtime to reduce any symptoms of technological insomnia. Make sure your room is a comfortable temperature, there’s not too much light or sound coming in, and that your room is clean and ready to be slept in. Doing this can even help you become a morning person!

9. Brain Gym: Read

People who don’t read a lot have been shown to have lower cognitive performance compared to avid readers, according to a study. Those who don’t read often receive lower scores in processing speed, attention, language, and abstract processing.

According to researchers, this low performance in subjects who read little affects their brain’s ability to adapt after suffering from brain damage. More highly educated people use their brain’s resources to compensate for the cognitive deterioration due to aging. In others words, they have a higher level of functional compensatory plasticity, as we mentioned before. This can be applied the same was for people who read often.

Brain Gym: If you like to read, you’ve got it pretty easy. If you don’t like reading and it doesn’t appeal to do, don’t worry! There are tons of different genres to try out. You’ll find that some things are easier to read, like graphic novels. You can read magazines, newspapers, etc. about anything you like, and you’ll still get all the benefits of reading. It’s just a matter of keeping your brain active.

10. Brain gym: Practice yoga and meditation

Meditation can have long-term changes in your brain, according to this study. People who have been meditating for years have more gyri in the (ridges in the brain that are used in quickly processing information). This is also another proof of neuroplasticity, as our brain can adapt and change depending on our experiences.

According to another study, practicing yoga for 20 minutes improves speed and precision in working memory and inhibitory control (the ability to inhibit behavior when it’s necessary) tests. These measurements are associated with the ability to pay attention, and hold on to and use new information.

Yoga and meditation help us use our mental resources more efficiently, and helps us reduce stress and anxiety, which improves our performance.

Brain Gym: Meditation and yoga are “in” right now, so it shouldn’t be hard to find classes and get started. If you don’t want to go to a class, there are tons of instructors on YouTube to show you how to meditate and do yoga, without having to leave the house.

11. Brain gym: Eat well and avoid drugs

What we eat affects our brains. Eating well helps keep our brains young and prevents cognitive decline. We already know that there are “superfoods” can work together to help keep our bodies healthy. However, a diet of varied fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, and few processed foods, can also greatly improve our overall health. A healthy diet doesn’t only help prevent a large number of diseases caused by diet, but it also helps slow down physical and cognitive aging. Brain Gym comes also from the consumption of different nutrients. Watch below to discover how food affects your brain.

Alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs all contribute to an increased risk of suffering from different types of diseases and contributes to premature aging.

Brain Gym: If you want to learn how to eat well, you should talk to a nutritionist or doctor who can best guide you to the best diet for you. Don’t trust “miracle diets”, they don’t work and can be dangerous for your health. Choose fruits and vegetables over sweets and whole grains over white bread. Keep an eye on how much sugar and fat your eating, and cut out as much alcohol as possible. It can be hard to get started, but ask for stop smoking tips if you need it!

12. Brain Gym: Control your stress levels!

Take care of your mental health! Mental health issues and constantly thinking negatively affects our overall well-being. However, this study has shown that it also affects our brain in the long-term. Having suffered from depression or anxiety disorders increases the risk of having dementia.

Brain Gym: Control your stress levels with some relaxation techniques. Listening to relaxing music helps relieve stress, and practicing yoga or meditation can also help keep stress at bay. If you’re not sure if you have a mental health issue, get in touch with a mental health specialist.

13. Brain Gym: Try new things

New studies have shown that immersing yourself in new hobbies that require some kind of mental challenge helps improve and maintain cognitive function and can help prevent cognitive deterioration.

Brain Gym: Take the time to try to learn new things. It doesn’t matter if you’re good at them or not! The important thing is that you have fun and you challenge your brain. Try learning how to play chess, how to sew, take on a DIY project, draw, write, learn how to play an instrument, etc.

14. Brain Gym: Spend time with your family and friends

Social relationships stimulate our brains, which helps keep it active and younger for longer. Socializing also helps reduce stress and improves our mood, which helps with our overall mental health.

Brain Gym: Spend more time with your loved ones (especially those who transmit positivity), meet new people, make new groups of friends, etc.

15. Brain Gym: Use your brain whenever you can

“Use it or lose it”, kind of. The best way to make sure your brain keeps working the best that it can is to constantly use and challenge it. We have access to new technology, which makes our lives easier, but it also makes our brain lazy. Before, we had to make an effort to learn and remember something. Now, many tasks have become computerized, which makes our brains go on autopilot. Try to give your brain the chance to work before reaching for the calculator or the GPS or Google.

Brain Gym: Try to solve math problems without a calculator, limit how often you use your GPS, and try to remember information on your own.

Memorize a list of words. For example, try to memorize your grocery list before leaving the house and time how long it takes you to remember it.

In the following video, you’ll see how you can help your brain work well and stay young. We can help our brains create new neurons, even as adults. Sandrine Thuret explains how we can help create new neurons.

This post was originally written in Spanish by CogniFit psychologist Andrea Garcia Cerdan

What is MSG: Everything you need to know about this flavor enhancer

What is MSG and what is it used for? What is the relationship between MSG and the fifth flavor or umami? Should we avoid this flavor enhancer? In this article we explain everything about monosodium glutamate: With what other names this food additive is known, what foods contain it, its relationship with obesity, the Chinese restaurant syndrome, and we give you some advice.

What is MSG

You may have heard the word glutamate somewhere, but do not know very well what it is, or what it means. Sometimes we even get information of how bad it is but have no idea why. For example, we hear about the effects of foods with glutamate in our body. In this article, we will develop what you need to know about this amino acid.

What is MSG or monosodium glutamate? This substance, also known as MSG or sodium glutamate, is the sodium salt of glutamic acid (one of the most abundant essential amino acids in nature). MSG is a food additive, which provides the same “umami” flavor that we can find naturally in some foods. Chemically, they are the same. The food industry uses and commercializes monosodium glutamate as a food additive or “seasoning” to enhance the flavor of some foods.

MSG, by itself, does not have a pleasant taste. It is necessary to complement this substance with other foods so that it can enhance, harmonize, and balance the flavor of certain dishes, making them more appetizing.

What is MSG in foods? Monosodium glutamate combines very well with different foods: Meats, fish, vegetables, soups, sauces and contributes for these to have a more pleasant taste.

This additive has been considered non-toxic and safe if consumed in normal quantities. However, there seems to be a group of people who manifest symptoms, such as vomiting, nausea or diarrhea, when they consume foods prepared with MSG.

What is MSG and its relationship with “umami” or fifth flavor?

We all know the basic flavors of taste (sweet, bitter, salty and acidic). Well, in addition to these, we have to include the umami, the taste of monosodium glutamate. For many it may sound like something new or strange, however, it was identified as a flavor by Kikunae Ikeda in 1908.

This scientist investigated algae rich in umami and managed to isolate one of the components of these algae, MSG or Monosodium Glutamate.

“Umami” in Japanese, means “delicious” or “deep flavor” because, after eating it, the flavor remains in your mouth. In fact, it has such a pleasant taste that it encourages to continue eating more of that product.

  • We can learn to identify MSG taste by concentrating on the center of our tongue. The biologist Charles Zuker, determined in 2001 that the largest number of taste receptors specific for this taste are there, in the center of the tongue.

Surely, you have eaten foods that had this characteristic flavor, but since we do not have this word in our vocabulary, we simply describe it with either a “mmmm” or  “wow this is so tasty!” You may even have tried some pre-cooked food or bag snacks and commented, “I don’t know why but I can not stop eating it!”.

Even if you stop to think about it, there are various commercials, which indirectly allude to the properties of Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). They bet that “you won’t resist just eating one” or they warn you, suggestively, that “once you pop open the bag, you won’t be able to stop”.

What is MSG and what other names does it have?

Monosodium Glutamate is a flavor enhancer that appears on food labels in different ways. This amino acid receives different names, such as:

  • E-621
  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
  • Self-leavening yeast
  • Hydrolyzed casein
  • Hydrolyzed corn
  • Hydrolyzed Wheat Gluten
  • Proteins
  • Whey protein concentrate
  • Citric acid
  • Partially hydrolyzed whey
  • Hydrolyzed milk protein

What is MSG and what food contains it?

There are many other foods that contain monosodium glutamate added to generate this flavor and increase its consumption. We could consider it a sort of “trick” of the food industry to raise its income, increasing the demand for these “succulent snacks”:

  • Appetizers, fried foods, snacks
  • Cold meats and sausages
  • Pâtes
  • Olives, pickles, pickles …
  • Pre-cooked food
  • Instant soup
  • Frozen food
  • Prepared sauces and soy sauce
  • Junk Food (frozen pizzas, kebabs, hamburgers …)

What is MSG ?- MSG effects?  Relationship between MSG and obesity

Should you avoid MSG? After reading this article, the next time you go to the supermarket you will start reading the labels and you will find that MSG is everywhere in its E621 form.

Glutamate can affect us negatively when we exceed a certain intake. However, this is like with everything. If you exceed in eating fruit it can be negative for your health as well. Nothing is good in excess, therefore it is advisable to limit consumption.

Try not to get too caught up on this. It’s true that there is a relationship between MSG and overweight, but it doesn’t mean that monosodium glutamate is directly fattening. MSG’s relationship with obesity is as follows:

Consume high processed foods like snacks, junk food, pre-cooked food, etc:

  • One of the main characteristics of this type of food is that it is loaded with sugars and trans fats, which in turn make us feel not satisfied nor full. Apart from these additions, we might guess that MSG is also added to the mix, to make it more flavorful and increase our intake of the product. Thus, Monosodium Glutamate contributes indirectly to weight gain, but it isn’t alone. What really fattens us is the consumption of hypercaloric foods, especially if it is part of our regular diet.
  • Lack of self-control: There are people who are more controlled at mealtimes than others. As much as a food carries MSG and your brain asks you for more, we are owners of our actions. Therefore, it is up to us, and only us, to decide to eat only a portion or less. This is highly related to impulsive behaviors and the immediate gratification of a desire or need.

What is MSG and its relationship with Chinese food?- Chinese Restaurant Syndrome

What is MSG- Chinese Restaurant Syndrome

You may have heard about how Chinese food or products used can be detrimental to your health. Some things you have heard will be rumors or speculations. However, there is something that is real.

These restaurants have become common to produce certain symptoms that have been labeled part of the “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome”.

Something I want to clarify before is that these symptoms are a consequence of free-form amino acids.

  • Origin: It was first described by Dr. Kwok
  • Beginning: Appearance around 15-20 minutes of starting a meal prepared with MSG.
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Symptoms:
    • Cervical hardening with pain radiating to both arms and back.
    • General weakness
    • Palpitations
    • Headache
    • Sickness

Dr. Taliaferro undertook an analysis of the situation in the Journal of Environmental Health, stating: “All competent international agencies agree that the normal and controlled use of Monosodium Glutamate does not pose a health hazard”.

The Committee of Experts on Food Additives of the World Health Organization,  Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), the Scientific Committee for Food of the European Community, and the American Medical Association have expressed this on different occasions. Even the demanding US FDA has classified Glutamate as generally recognized as safe or GRAS substance in the same group as salt, pepper or sugar.

“There is no scientific evidence establishing that glutamate causes, in particular, severe adverse reactions or that  reactions from low concentrations pose a threat “- US FDA

What does this all say? There are people who are more vulnerable or sensitive to MSG. The best thing is to do is to control consumption and not eat large quantities of food containing this product.

What is MSG-Recommendations

Health seems to be the key to the survival human beings. We aim for stability, good habits, superb cognitive skills, physical and brain training routines and a balanced diet. With MSG it’s the same, to be healthy just try to consume it with moderation and always within a balanced diet.
On the other hand, knowledge is power and, with food, it is very important to know what you are eating. We have already seen what other names MSG has on labels, therefore, it is your decision if you want to ingest it or not.

Anyway, these are our conclusions. You can contribute more information if you like. What do you think? Have you suffered any of the Chinese restaurant syndrome symptoms? Have you ever heard of Monosodium Glutamate? Do you know any myths or truths about this amino acid? Just remember are what we eat.

As always, I invite you to comment below!

This article is originally in Spanish written by Patricia Sanchez Seisdedos, translated by Alejandra Salazar.

Child Vaccinations – The Facts: Keeping Our Children Healthy

Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO) list vaccination as the greatest, and most cost-effective, public health achievement of the 20th century. The WHO estimates that immunization and child vaccinations currently avert an estimated 2 to 3 million deaths every year, but if global vaccination rates improve, an additional 1.5 million deaths could be avoided. However, the rate of global child vaccinations coverage, which is the proportion of the world’s children who receive recommended vaccines, has remained constant for the past few years.

Child vaccinations have saved many lives all over the world

Child vaccinations

In 2015, about 116 million children worldwide under the age of 1 received their recommended doses of the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine. This and other vaccines protect these children against serious illnesses or disabilities, with some diseases even being fatal. Vaccination is one of the best ways parents can protect infants, children, and teens from serious, and potentially harmful diseases. Vaccines basically work by helping the body’s natural defenses to help it safely develop immunity to disease, and reducing the risk of infection. Vaccines help the body develop that immunity by imitating the bacteria or virus, without causing actual illness. The vaccine causes the immune system to develop the same response as it does to a real infection so the body can recognize and fight the germs in the future.

Child vaccinations: What is a vaccine?

A vaccine is a biological preparation that improves immunity to a particular disease. A vaccine is made from or contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism. This agent is made from weakened or killed form of the microbe, its toxins, or one of its surface proteins. The active agent stimulates the body’s immune system to recognize the agent as foreign, destroy it, and then “remember” it, so that the immune system can easily recognize and destroy any of these microorganisms that may enter the body later.
The CDC and other physicians work to update the vaccine recommendations and schedules every year based on the latest research and science. Immunizations have had a very large impact on improving the health of everyone in the United States. Vaccine-preventable diseases can be very serious, or even deadly, especially in infants and young children.

Child vaccinations: What is the purpose of a vaccine?

Child vaccination rates are holding steady globally

Every year, thousands of Americans get sick from diseases that could be prevented by vaccines. Some of these people are hospitalized, or may even die. However, vaccines have greatly reduced the occurrence of diseases that once infected or killed many infants, children, and adults regularly, and with severe consequences. And, since the germs that cause this vaccine-preventable disease still exist, and can be spread to people who are not protected by vaccines, getting immunized is the best protection against these diseases. The recommended vaccines and the vaccine schedules for children, teens, and adults are based on factors such as age, previous health conditions, lifestyle, jobs, and travel.
Recently, there have been measles outbreaks in several states. The number of measles cases in 2008 nearly tripled to a total of 140 cases. Most of these cases were linked to a just few unvaccinated children who had traveled out of the United States. The number of measles outbreaks continues to rise, and this brings up another point: unvaccinated children can put others, even vaccinated children at risk for getting a vaccine-preventable disease. This can be because they were too young to receive the vaccination, could not be vaccinated, or because the vaccine they received did not work. Vaccination is important because it protects not only the person or child who gets the vaccine, but it also helps to keep diseases, like measles, from spreading to other children and adults.

Child vaccination schedule

According to the CDC, these are the vaccines that are routinely given to children up to 18 years old, which are all on the latest immunization schedule to protect them against 15 vaccine-preventable illnesses. Unlike diseases such as smallpox, none of these illnesses has been eradicated, even with the available vaccines against these viruses and bacteria:

  • Hepatitis B1 (HepB) – Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver.
    Rotavirus – Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhoeal disease in young children in the world.
  • Diphtheria, tetanus, & acellular pertussis (DTaP) – Diphtheria produces a toxin when in the respiratory system, and produces a toxin that destroys the healthy tissues and may spread to the bloodstream and affect the heart, kidney, and nerves. Tetanus is caused by a bacteria that also produces a toxin in the body that causes painful muscle contractions and lockjaw. Pertussis, or whooping cough, causes uncontrollable, violent coughing which often makes it hard to breathe.
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) – Haemophilus influenzae causes meningitis and pneumonia.
  • Pneumococcal conjugate – This vaccine protects against Streptococcus pneumoniae, which causes pneumonia and meningitis, and other types of pneumococcal infections. This includes bronchitis, rhinitis, acute sinusitis, conjunctivitis, sepsis, septic arthritis, endocarditis, pericarditis, and brain abscess.
  • Inactivated poliovirus – Polio is highly contagious and can cause irreversible paralysis.
  • Influenza – The flu is caused by a rapidly evolving virus, and so the vaccine must evolve right along with it.
  • Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) – Measles usually results in a high fever and rash and can lead to blindness, encephalitis or death. Mumps causes painful swelling at the side of the face under the ears (the parotid glands), fever, headache, and muscle aches, and can lead to viral meningitis. Rubella can lead to defects of the brain, heart, eyes and ears.
  • Varicella (VAR) – Varicella, otherwise known as chickenpox, can cause complications such as pneumonia, inflammation of the brain, or bacterial infections of the skin. It is more severe in adults.
  • Hepatitis A (HepA) – Hepatitis A is an infectious disease of the liver caused by a virus and causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, fever, and abdominal pain.
  • Meningococcal A – Meningitis is an acute inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. It can cause permanent severe brain damage and is often deadly.
  • Tetanus, diphtheria, & acellular pertussis (Tdap) – This vaccine is similar to the DTaP vaccine, but has different concentrations of the dosage.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) – the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract, and can cause cervical cancer, other types of cancer, and genital warts in both men and women.
  • Meningococcal B – This vaccine protects against serotype B meningococcal disease, a different form of meningitis.
  • Pneumococcal polysaccharide (PPSV23) – This vaccine is recommended for children and adults in high-risk groups, such as those with heart conditions, lung conditions, HIV, or some cancers.

Although not a part of the routine child vaccination schedule, vaccines are available to protect against a number of other vaccine-preventable diseases, including cholera, yellow fever, typhoid, rabies, and tuberculosis.
There has been so much progress made in vaccine research and development during recent years, and also in several countries. Just last year in 2016, WHO declared that the world is closer than ever to eradicating polio, and the virus is restricted to just a few areas of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria. The Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) is working to provide more equitable access to vaccines and aiming to achieve adult and child vaccinations coverage of at least 90% nationally and at least 80% in every district by 2020. It also works to stimulate research and development for the next generation of vaccines. Currently, more than 80 vaccines are in the late stages of clinical testing, including vaccines for malaria and dengue fever.
With new research and information emerging constantly, educating yourself and avoiding vaccine misinformation can help make sure that you and your children are fully vaccinated and safe from vaccine-preventable diseases.

If you have any questions, leave me a comment below and I’ll answer as quickly as possible 🙂

References:

CDC. Recommended Immunization Schedule for Children and Adolescents Aged 18 Years or Younger, UNITED STATES, 2017. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/hcp/child-adolescent.html.

American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement. Recommended Childhood and Adolescent Immunization Schedule. Pediatrics. 2011;127;387-388.

American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement. Increasing Immunization Coverage, 2011. Pediatrics. 2010;125(6);1295-1304.

WHO. Immunization Coverage. 2017. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs378/en/

Zika Virus and Microcephaly: What to Know

The weather’s getting warmer and school is coming to a close. This can only mean one thing- summer is here! But with summer fun also comes those darn mosquitos. No doubt that by now you’ve heard of the Zika virus and its dangers, especially for pregnant women. Infection of the virus during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects for your child. Learn more about how the Zika virus and microcephaly, and how you can prevent getting infected. 

Zika Virus and Microcephaly

Zika virus: knowing the basics

The Zika virus gives rise to what is known as Zika fever. Symptoms are usually mild, including joint pain, fever, rash, or conjunctivitis. The symptoms last about a week at most, and are are usually not serious enough to require hospitalization. In fact, many people don’t show symptoms of the virus, and may not even realize that they have it. And once you’ve been infected with the virus, you’re safe from future infections.

So where did it come from? The Zika virus is named after the Zika forest in Uganda, where it was originally discovered in 1947. For years, the virus infected those in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. The virus was actually considered to be somewhat harmless, considering that most people didn’t show symptoms, or the symptoms weren’t severe enough to cause hospitalization. But the real problem began when people started noticing the dramatic increase in birth defects, especially in places like Brazil. Since then, its rapid and unpredictable spread has send public health officials in a frenzy.

The Zika virus and microcephaly

Microcephaly is a serious birth defect where the baby’s head is much smaller than usual. The small size indicates the lack of full brain development, which predicts developmental delays, intellectual disabilities, seizure, hearing and vision loss, and more. The severity of microcephaly can vary, but the more serious cases can be life-threatening.

How does this happen?

Like all other viruses, the Zika virus is able to survive in the body by inserting its genetic material into a host cell in our body. Once inside, the virus can use the cell’s machinery to make copies of its genes, so that new viruses can be made. In some cases, when the virus is replicated the host cell is destroyed.

When a fetus’ brain is developing, it expands enough to create pressure on the skull to cause it to expand. However, a virus can stop brain growth and cause the pressure to drop and the skull to collapse. Everything else continues to develop, but the baby’s head is much smaller than what it needs to be.

Mild cases of microcephaly typically won’t need any treatment or services, just careful monitoring of development. The more severe cases require treatment of lifelong conditions. Services provided early on can help reduce developmental and intellectual delays. Therapy can also be used to improve speech and physical impairments. In some cases, medications may be used to control seizures and other conditions.

How to prevent transmission of the Zika virus

Prevent getting mosquito bites

This seems like common sense, but it may be harder than you think. Mosquitos are everywhere, but you can take preventative steps to avoid the dreaded bites. Try to limit skin exposure by wearing long sleeve shirts and long pants. If you do have any skin exposed, use an Environmental Protection Agency approved insect repellant. These repellants are tested to make sure that they are safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women. You can also try to stay in places with air conditioners and window screens to keep the mosquitos out. Be sure to avoid areas where mosquitos like to stay and breed, such as containers of still water.

Avoid traveling to areas where the Zika virus is prevalent

If you’re planning a vacation before the baby comes, this is something to pay attention to. According to the CDC, Zika virus outbreaks occurred in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands before 2015. Since then, the outbreak has spread through many countries and territories. But fear not, you don’t have to completely cancel your vacation plans. Just be sure to check the CDC’s website for information about Zika virus in the area you’re visiting.

Practice safe sex

Aside from mosquito bites, the virus can be spread through sexual contact. If your partner has been in an area infected with Zika virus, be sure to use protection when having sex. The virus can spread before, during or after the infected person displays symptoms. If you’re not sure if your partner is infected, check with your doctor just to be safe.

Check with your doctor regularly

If you’ve traveled to an area infected with the Zika virus, or if you live in an area where its common, this is crucial. If you start to show signs of a rash, fever, joint pain and red eyes, consult with your doctor as soon as possible. The only way to know if your child will have any birth defects is to track its growth during the pregnancy. So even if you don’t feel sick, check in with your doctor every so often to make sure everything’s okay.