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Thu, 19 Oct 2017
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Health & Wellness

Apple Red

Mouse study suggests substance found in apple peels can reduce obesity by increasing muscle mass and healthy brown fat

Ursolic acid consumption increased skeletal muscle, increasing the animals' strength and endurance, and also boosted the amount of brown fat.
Obesity and its associated problems such as diabetes and fatty liver disease are increasingly common global health concerns. A new study by University of Iowa researchers shows that a natural substance found in apple peel can partially protect mice from obesity and some of its harmful effects.

The findings suggest that the substance known as ursolic acid reduces obesity and its associated health problems by increasing the amount of muscle and brown fat, two tissues recognized for their calorie-burning properties.

The study, which was published June 20 in the journal PLoS ONE, was led by Christopher Adams, M.D., Ph.D., UI associate professor of internal medicine and a Faculty Scholar at the Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center at the UI.

"From previous work, we knew that ursolic acid increases muscle mass and strength in healthy mice, which is important because it might suggest a potential therapy for muscle wasting," Adams says. "In this study, we tested ursolic acid in mice on a high-fat diet -- a mouse model of obesity and metabolic syndrome. Once again, ursolic acid increased skeletal muscle. Interestingly, it also reduced obesity, pre-diabetes and fatty liver disease.

Apple Red

5 ways to increase your body's healthy brown fat

© Paul Burns/Getty Images
When it comes to losing weight and burning fat, nothing is black and white. But new research shows there may be some benefit in looking more closely at brown-fat, that is. Researchers have long known that many of us have too much white fat: The kind that ups the risk for heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems. But now, emerging research is proving that it's possible to boost our levels of brown fat, which is considered healthful since it actually helps us burn calories and sucks white fat out of the rest of the body. (Find an explaination of the different types of body fat here.) Happily, there are some simple ways to boost your levels of brown fat:

1. Don't starve - or stuff - yourself.

We rely on hunger-regulating neurons in the brain to notify us when we've had enough. Now it turns out these neurons have another duty: Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine found that in mice, these neurons can actually encourage fat to turn brown. The study, published in the journal Cell, found that eating too few calories prevented white fat from turning brown, while eating just enough to satisfy hunger-prompting the action of the neurons-turned white fat to turn brown. Other research shows that eating too much can do harm, as well: Not only does overconsumption increase white fat, but it also results in interferes with brown fat's ability to burn calories.

Comment: More tips on increasing brown fat in the body:
Cool down for a couple hours a day. People exposed to cold temperatures for 2 hours per day have shown an increase in their brown fat.[2] This technique is not particularly pleasant, but can be effective because brown fat production is stimulated by cold temperatures.
  • Try to spend time daily in an environment that is between 14-19°C, or 57-66°F.
  • If you live in a cool climate, try taking a walk outside for a while each day. Dress warmly enough to stay safe, but limit layers so that your body cools down. Stay warm enough so that you're not shivering.
  • Sit in an air-conditioned room in summer clothing for two hours a day.
Keep your thermostat low. If you have an air-conditioner, keep it turned down to within the mid-60s F or cooler (about 18.5°C). Living in this environment at home or in your office may be enough to stimulate your body's brown fat.[4]
  • Allow temperature fluctuation in your home so you're not living at a comfortable 72° all year round. Ideally, keep your air conditioning going in summer and keep your heat low in winter.
Use ice packs on your upper body. Place ice packs on your upper back and chest for about 30 minutes each day. Most brown fat is located in your neck and collarbone area, so stimulating this area with cold may be beneficial.[6]
  • Wrap the ice pack in a towel rather than placing it directly on your skin.
  • Research is still being done about whether or not cooling one part of your body is effective in increasing brown fat.
Bathe in cold water. Take cool or cold showers instead of warm showers, or at least take contrast showers where you alternate between having the water warm and cold. If it's not too uncomfortable, you can also try sitting in an ice bath up to your waist for about 10 minutes three times per week.[8]
  • As an alternative, go for a swim in a chilly lake or pool.
Sleep at least 8 hours nightly. Melatonin is a chemical released in your brain more when you're in darkness, which is why it's related to sleep.[12] Set a regular sleep schedule for yourself so that you get 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Poor sleep is linked to weight gain, and getting adequate sleep may stimulate brown fat activity.[13]
  • Melatonin supplements are sold in pharmacies and drug stores. Discuss the use of melatonin supplements with your doctor prior to using them.
  • Create healthy sleep habits such as sleeping in a cool, dark room and going to bed at the same time each night.
Eat more garlic. Studies have shown that ingesting garlic may increase the amounts Thermogenin (UCP1) in your body, which is an uncoupling protein found in brown tissue. Chop up some fresh garlic and throw it in with your olive oil when you cook meals.

Drink green tea. Enjoy a warm cup of green tea at least a few times a week. Green tea contains epigallocatechin gallate(EGCG), which contributes to fat burning by reducing insulin triglycerides and cholesterol. Refrain from adding milk or cream to your tea as it will negate the white fat burning effects.


Overactive bladder drug also activates brown fat and increases metabolism

© Image by the researchers, courtesy of Cell Metabolism
PET images of a participant given placebo (top) or mirabegron (bottom). The drug caused an increase in glucose uptake in brown fat in the neck and shoulder regions, and in tissues around the kidneys and liver.
Humans have several types of fat. White fat stores extra energy. Too much white fat, a characteristic of obesity, increases the risk of several diseases. Brown fat (also called brown adipose tissue), in contrast, burns chemical energy to create heat and help maintain body temperature. Since brown fat burns energy, boosting its activity could potentially aid in the treatment of metabolic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes.

Brown fat cells have β3-adrenergic receptors on their surface. These protein receptors span the cell membrane and serve as gatekeepers to transmit signals between the outside and inside of cells. Several other tissues also have β3-adrenergic receptors, including white fat and the bladder. A new drug called mirabegron activates these receptors and has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat overactive bladder.

Dr. Aaron Cypess-now at NIH's National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), while working at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston-and colleagues examined whether this drug might activate β3-adrenergic receptors on brown fat cells to increase metabolism in humans. The research was supported in part by NIDDK and by NIH's National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) and National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS). Results were published on January 6, 2015, in Cell Metabolism.

The team screened 15 healthy, lean men for participation in the study. Of these, 12 showed detectable levels of brown fat. These men, average age 22 years, underwent 2 additional imaging tests on 2 different days. For one test, each took a single 200 milligram dose of mirabegron. For the other test, each received a placebo.

Several hours after taking the drug or placebo, participants received infusions of a traceable form of glucose. The researchers found that participants had increased glucose uptake in several tissues, including brown fat, after taking the drug mirabegron. Using PET and CT scanning, the scientists found that the drug increased brown fat metabolic activity. Resting metabolic rate also rose by an average of 203 calories per day. The increase in metabolic rate was associated with the increase in brown fat activity.


Cell Phone

Nomophobia: 'Phone separation anxiety' is for real

Nomophobia-the fear of being without your smartphone-is affecting everyone.

You know the feeling - you have left your phone at home and feel anxious, as if you have lost your connection to the world. "Nomophobia" (short for no-mobile phobia) affects teenagers and adults alike. You can even do an online test to see if you have it. Last week, researchers from Hong Kong warned that nomophobia is infecting everyone. Their study found that people who use their phones to store, share and access personal memories suffer most. When users were asked to describe how they felt about their phones, words such as "hurt'" (neck pain was often reported) and "alone" predicted higher levels of nomophobia.

Comment: The Complete Guide to Breaking Your Smartphone Habit


Researchers reverse schizophrenia-like symptoms in mice by using pharmaceutical to increase GABA

© Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, Western University
Steven Laviolette and Justine Renard in their lab at Western University.
Researchers at Western University have found a way to use pharmaceuticals to reverse the negative psychiatric effects of THC, the psychoactive chemical found in marijuana. Chronic adolescent marijuana use has previously been linked to the development of psychiatric diseases, such as schizophrenia, in adulthood. But until now, researchers were unsure of what exactly was happening in the brain to cause this to occur.

"What is important about this study is that not only have we identified a specific mechanism in the prefrontal cortex for some of the mental health risks associated with adolescent marijuana use, but we have also identified a mechanism to reverse those risks," said Steven Laviolette, professor at Western's Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.

In a study published online today in Scientific Reports the researchers demonstrate that adolescent THC exposure modulates the activity of a neurotransmitter called GABA in the prefrontal cortex region of the brain. The team, led by Laviolette and post-doctoral fellow Justine Renard, looked specifically at GABA because of its previously shown clinical association with schizophrenia.

"GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter and plays a crucial role in regulating the excitatory activity in the frontal cortex, so if you have less GABA, your neuronal systems become hyperactive leading to behavioural changes consistent with schizophrenia," said Renard.

The study showed that the reduction of GABA as a result of THC exposure in adolescence caused the neurons in adulthood to not only be hyperactive in this part of the brain, but also to be out of synch with each other, demonstrated by abnormal oscillations called 'gamma' waves. This loss of GABA in the cortex caused a corresponding hyperactive state in the brain's dopamine system, which is commonly observed in schizophrenia.


Stomach growls and bowel sounds: What's normal and what's not?

Your body lets you know every day, in a variety of ways, that it is alive and well. One such way is the familiar growl of your stomach, which, to most of us, signals hunger.

But, are all those rumbles and noises actually coming from your stomach? Are they really a sign you need to eat? The answer to both questions is a resounding "No." I'll take this opportunity to remind you about what's really going on when you feel and hear a rumble in your belly.

Is All That Noise Coming From Your Stomach?

You may not realize stomach growling actually originates as muscular activity in both your stomach and your small intestine. To better understand what causes it, let's take a closer look at how your body digests the foods and beverages you consume. As you probably know, one of the primary components of your digestive system is a long hollow tube called the esophagus, which runs from the back of your mouth all the way to your anus.

Your esophagus connects with all of your various organs along your gastrointestinal tract, such as your gallbladder, liver, pancreas and stomach, as well as your small and large intestines (also referred to as your bowels).

The walls of your esophagus are primarily composed of layers of smooth muscle, which are squeezed and contracted as a means of digesting and propelling food through your body. This process is called peristalsis. As peristalsis does its work, the food and beverages you consume are steadily being moved along from your stomach to your anus.


Mouse study suggests medicated skin patch that delivers fat-shrinking drug could be used to treat metabolic disorders

Researchers have devised a medicated skin patch that can turn energy-storing white fat into energy-burning brown fat locally while raising the body's overall metabolism. The patch could be used to burn off pockets of unwanted fat such as "love handles" and treat metabolic disorders like obesity and diabetes, according to researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and the University of North Carolina.

The findings, from experiments in mice, were published online today in ACS Nano.

Humans have two types of fat. White fat stores excess energy in large triglyceride droplets. Brown fat has smaller droplets and a high number of mitochondria that burn fat to produce heat. Newborns have a relative abundance of brown fat, which protects against exposure to cold temperatures. But by adulthood, most brown fat is lost.

For years, researchers have been searching for therapies that can transform an adult's white fat into brown fat-a process named browning-which can happen naturally when the body is exposed to cold temperatures-as a treatment for obesity and diabetes.

"There are several clinically available drugs that promote browning, but all must be given as pills or injections," said study co-leader Li Qiang, PhD, assistant professor of pathology and cell biology at CUMC. "This exposes the whole body to the drugs, which can lead to side effects such as stomach upset, weight gain, and bone fractures. Our skin patch appears to alleviate these complications by delivering most drugs directly to fat tissue."

Comment: Cold therapy is a much safer method to increase metabolism by encouraging "unhealthy" white fat to change into "healthy" brown fat. In addition cold therapy has other benefits including boosting the body's immune response, easing chronic pain and healing nerve damage.


Researchers use experimental drug to convert white fat into calorie-burning brown fat

An experimental drug causes loss of weight and fat in mice, a new study has found. The study results will be presented Friday at the Endocrine Society's 97th annual meeting in San Diego.

Known as GC-1, the drug reportedly speeds up metabolism, or burning off, of fat cells.

"GC-1 dramatically increases the metabolic rate, essentially converting white fat, which stores excess calories and is associated with obesity and metabolic disease, into a fat like calorie-burning brown fat," said study author Kevin Phillips, PhD, a researcher at Houston Methodist Research Institute, Houston.

Until several years ago, scientists thought that only animals and human infants have energy-burning, "good" brown fat.

"It is now clear," Phillips said, "that human adults do have brown fat, but appear to lose its calorie-burning activity over time."


Antidepressants found to increase risk of death by preventing major organs from functioning properly

Antidepressant medications, most commonly prescribed to reduce depression and anxiety, increase the risk of death, according to new findings by a McMaster-led team of researchers.

It's widely known that brain serotonin affects mood, and that most commonly used antidepressant treatment for depression blocks the absorption of serotonin by neurons. It is less widely known, though, that all the major organs of the body-the heart, kidneys, lungs, liver-use serotonin from the bloodstream.

Antidepressants block the absorption of serotonin in these organs as well, and the researchers warn that antidepressants could increase the risk of death by preventing multiple organs from functioning properly.

The researchers reviewed studies involving hundreds of thousands of people and found that antidepressant users had a 33% higher chance of death than non-users. Antidepressant users also had a 14% higher risk of cardiovascular events, such as strokes and heart attacks. The findings were published today in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics.

"We are very concerned by these results. They suggest that we shouldn't be taking antidepressant drugs without understanding precisely how they interact with the body," says author Paul Andrews, an associate professor at McMaster University who led the research team.

Comment: With the mounting evidence that these drugs often don't work as intended and the many side-effects, it's clear that the medical establishment is the only real beneficiary: More useful information to help combat depression:


The electric body: How your body's voltage can help you heal

Your body runs on bioelectricity, and having a deeper understanding of how it works can be quite helpful when it comes to optimizing your health. Natural health pioneer Dr. Jerry Tennant has written an excellent book on this topic called "Healing Is Voltage: The Handbook."

The Electric Brain

Trained as an ophthalmologist, Tennant transitioned into natural health as a result of being forced to solve his own health challenges. After doing laser eye surgery on a patient with leukemia, Tennant ended up developing encephalitis. He believes the virus, which is not killed by laser, traveled from the patient's cornea, through the mask, up through his nose into his brain. He was forced to quit work in November 1995, and spent the next seven years bedridden, without hope for recovery.

Comment: Further reading: How electrons affect our lives: Dr Jack Kruse