The government spends billions of dollars each year on health research. It’s tough to keep up with all the discoveries, and it’s even tougher to sort those that matter from those that don’t. Here is a short list of some of the most significant findings in 2017, what you missed may surprise you.
Strength Training and Mortality
The value strength training has on longevity and quality of life continues to be validated by scientific research. A study of more than 80,000 people showed strength training to be associated with a 20% reduction in risk of death by all causes, and a 31% reduction in cancer. Multiple studies in 2017 showed that just one hour of strength training each week could reduce your risk of a variety of metabolic syndromes, including hypertension and diabetes.
It’s important to remember that these health benefits are independent of aerobic activities like running. That means if you want the benefits, you’ll have to give your muscles a workout!
Sugar and Addiction
The opioid crisis is a problem that continues to grow in magnitude. Last year there were nearly 20,000 deaths from opioid overdose in the US alone. And new research from the University of Guelph suggests that sugar may be partly to blame.
300 years ago, the average American consumed 4 lb of sugar a year. Today, the average American consumes 66 lbs of sugar a year! Having a few sugary treats every now and this is not a big deal. But, in today’s world, every occasion can be a special occasion when it comes to sugar!
So why does sugar intake continue to rise? One explanation is that science is showing that sugar can alter our brain chemistry. According to research by the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse using brain scans, sugar affects our brain similar to the way cocaine and alcohol create addiction.
As researchers began to witness a correlation between opioid abuse and poor dietary habits, they decided to investigate if sugar can contribute to addiction. What did researchers discover? The outcome of the investigation showed that chronic exposure to sugar might change the way a person’s brain and behavior responded to Oxycodone, and other opioids, increasing drug-seeking behavior.
When someone consumes large amounts of sugar, researchers believe they dull the reward centers of their brain. As a result, when this person experiences less of the ‘reward sensation’ of taking Oxycodone, they may begin taking more and more drugs to achieve the desired effect. This is an interesting discovery made in 2017, I look forward to seeing this theory tested in 2018.
You don’t have to be an addict to pain-killers to put this information to use. The truth is, sugar is everywhere, you’re probably consuming more sugar than you realize, and the dangers of consuming too much of it are still very real.
Beat Anxiety with Gut Bacteria
The significant impact probiotics can have on your health is a relatively new discovery, and every few weeks it seems experts are bringing to light the importance of gut bacteria. Your gut produces most of the neurotransmitters controlling mood and regulating cognition. For example, serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in happiness, satisfaction, and relaxation, is produced almost entirely in the gastrointestinal tract.
Having a healthy gut is essential to maintaining a positive mood and avoid getting run down by the stress of daily life or intense training. The gut has proven to have a far more intimate relationship with human behaviors than ever thought possible. From our moods to our general health, what’s going on in our stomach seems to affect a broad scope of our well-being.
And now anxiety is the latest in the long list of things believed to be influenced by gut bacteria. Based on a meta-analysis of ten studies, initial findings suggest that probiotics may be an effective way to battle anxiety. Many people suffer from anxiety, and the emotional costs of living with anxiety are impossible to calculate. But this is exciting news for those looking for a naturopathic approach to help rid their anxiety.
Probiotics and the Aging Stomach
The gut plays a pivotal role in defining our health and well-being. In 2017, one of the most significant studies of human microorganisms ever conducted found a direct correlation between health and intestinal microbes. The gut-biome for healthy individuals in their 30’s is nearly identical to the gut-biome of someone in their 90’s. One way you can compositionally shift your gut bacteria is by consuming probiotic strains of live, healthy, bacteria.
Probiotics occur naturally in fermented foods and are accessible to purchase in supplement form at most health food stores. One thing you need to know is that even though fermented foods like yogurt, kim chi, sauerkraut, and miso all contain active live cultures, the bacteria used for fermentation doesn’t necessarily have a health benefit. The bacteria used in fermentation is chosen expressly to ferment foods, not for improving human health. The implications of this: if you’re hoping to get your probiotics through food, you need to consume foods that contain probiotic strains that research has proven to be beneficial.
Science is at the beginning stages of uncovering the benefits of having a healthy gut. But one thing that has become ever more clear is that having diverse gut bacteria seems to be a sign of healthy aging. Consider supplementing with a probiotic backed by validated research. You need a brand which includes approximately one billion strains of live bacteria. Many people will benefit starting with a higher dose in the 25 to 50 billion-count range.
You can reduce your risk of death by 20% with nothing more than casual and consistent exercise. So, why not? If you’re eating too much sugar or you’re not taking care of the bacteria in your gut, making minor adjustments can have a major impact on your life. Science is still a long way off from understanding the vast complexity of the human body, but every bit of new information we glean can enrich our lives and improve our ability to make healthy choices.