Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Humpday Hint: Bird-proof Your Windows

Contributing Author: The Tortoise

You may know that cats are the major killer of wild birds (destroying almost 4 billion annually). You may not realize that the number two killer of wild birds is windows. While some migrating songbirds accidentally fly into the windows of tall buildings, over half of bird deaths occur when a bird hits the glass on shorter buildings including homes.

What can you do to prevent this? Here are three ideas.

  1. Birds fly into glass because they don’t see it as a barrier. Add some pattern on the window (decals, window film to block light and heat, even strips of tape) during prime migration periods, and the birds will recognize your windows as a danger.
  2. Song birds are afraid of birds of prey. Putting a decal of a falcon on your plate glass window, or a fake plastic owl outside, will keep some birds from a fatal crash with your glass.
  3. A pleasant way to deter these accidents is to put up a window-mounted bird feeder. Instead of flying into the glass at top speed, birds will slow down to land and peck at the food you put out for them. You still have a great view of nature unobstructed by decals, can participate in citizen science, and provide your household cats with hours of watching fun.

Image Credits:
cocoparisienne, Pixabay
Ernya, Pixabay

Monday, January 16, 2017

Three New Studies Find That 'DNA Is Not Destiny'

Contributing Author: The Tortoise

Three new studies suggest that the fate of our health is not bound irrevocably to our genetic makeup. Genetic risk has generally been viewed as unavoidable. But research is now discovering that lifestyle choices and diet can mitigate even high-risk gene variants, affect an organism's DNA gene sequence, and reduce age-related disease risk.

1 A study led by Massachusetts General Hospital investigators has found that even among people with high genetic risk of heart disease, a healthy lifestyle can cut the probability of a heart attack or similar event in half. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine on November 15, 2016, the findings will be presented at the American Heart Association (AHA) Scientific Sessions. 'The basic message of our study is that DNA is not destiny,' says Sekar Kathiresan, MD, director of the Center for Human Genetic Research at Massachusetts General Hospital. The research team analysed genetic and clinical data from more than 55,000 participants in 4 large-scale studies. Participants were assigned a genetic risk score based on whether they carried any of 50 gene variants associated with elevated heart attack risk. Four AHA defined lifestyle factors -- no current smoking, lack of obesity, physical exercise at least once a week, and a healthy dietary pattern -- were used to measure participants' level of lifestyle health. Researchers found that the presence of each healthy lifestyle factor reduced risk, and the presence of an overall favourable lifestyle could reduce the incidence of coronary events by 50 percent in participants with the highest genetic risk scores.

Read the news release here:
Read the New England Journal of Medicine paper here:

HEALTH TIP: Stop smoking, keep your Body Mass Index under 30, exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet.

2 Researchers from the University of Montreal have found that the makeup of a person's intestinal bacteria ecology (microbiome) -- an ecology largely determined by choice of diet -- may play an important role in determining if they will develop age-related macular degeneration (AMD) . AMD is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the industrialised world, and is characterised by a heightened immune response, large deposits of fat debris at the back of the eye (early AMD), destruction of nerve cells, and growth of new diseased blood vessels (late form, wet AMD). Until now, data has suggested that smoking and abdominal obesity (in men) were risk factors for AMD. The researchers found that changes in the bacterial communities of the gut, such as those brought on by a diet rich in fat, cause long-term low-grade inflammation in the whole body and promote diseases such as wet AMD. 'Our study suggests that diets rich in fat alter the gut microbiome in a way that aggravates wet AMD, a vascular disease of the aging eye. Influencing the types of microbes that reside in your gut either through diet or by other means may thus affect the chances of developing AMD and progression of this blinding disease,' says Dr Przemyslaw Sapieha, a researcher in the November 15, 2016 study.

Read the news release here:
Read the EMBO Molecular Medicine paper here:

HEALTH TIP: Eat less saturated fat, avoid processed foods, and consume more fruits and vegetables.

3 We are what we eat, goes the old saying. Now researchers at the University of Oxford have demonstrated that the diets of organisms can affect the DNA sequences of their genes, by studying groups of eukaryotic parasites and bacterial parasites that infect different plant or animal hosts. Dr Steven Kelly, from Oxford's Department of Plant Sciences, says: 'Organisms construct their DNA using building blocks they get from food. Our hypothesis was that the composition of this food could alter an organism's DNA. For example, could a vegetarian panda have predictable genetic differences from a meat-eating polar bear? To test this hypothesis, we picked simple groups of parasites to use as a model system. These parasites share a common ancestor but have evolved to infect different hosts and eat very different foods. We found that different levels of nitrogen in a parasite's diet contributed to changes in its DNA. Specifically, parasites with low-nitrogen, high-sugar diets had DNA sequences that used less nitrogen than parasites with nitrogen-rich, high-protein diets.' Doctoral candidate Emily Seward, from the same department, says: 'It has been unclear why very closely related organisms can look so different in their genetic makeup. So many factors...can influence the DNA sequence of an organism. But our study explains a very high percentage of these differences and provides evidence that we really are what we eat.'

Read the news release here:
Read the Genome Biology paper here:

HEALTH TIP: As before: Eat less saturated fat, avoid processed foods, and consume more fruits and vegetables.

Images credit: Pixabay

Friday, January 13, 2017

6 Body Fat Fighting Facts We Don't Know About

Contributing Author: The Tortoise

Dr Zoe Williams of the 'Obesity: Outsmart Your Fat' BBC programme enlightens us about 6 body fat facts most of us probably do not know. Read on for her 6 eye-opening everyday tips to win your fight against fat.

#1 The body needs enough sleep
Dr Williams says: "If you don't get enough shut eye, this can cause your metabolism to slow down, as your body tries to conserve energy. And also trigger the release of the hormone cortisol, which makes you more likely to eat foods that are high in fat and sugar."
#2 Move every 20 minutes
Dr Williams says: "The muscles, when active, produce a very clever enzyme called lipoprotein lipase, and this enzyme actually breaks down your fat. If you sit for 20 minutes or longer, then that switches off. So you just have to get up and move, to switch it on again."
#3 Thirst or hunger?
Dr Williams says: "The brain can sometimes misinterpret thirst for hunger, so by drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated, you reduce the risk of reaching for the snacks."
#4 The after-meal walk
Dr Williams says: "After you eat, whenever you can, try and build in a brisk stroll for about 15 minutes.This can help to normalise blood sugar levels for up to three hours afterwards. And if you can't manage 15 minutes, then 10 minutes or even just 5 can give you some of the benefits."
#5 Stress feeds fat
Dr Williams says: "Thousands of years ago, a stressful situation would normally mean you were being chased or having to fight. Our bodies haven't changed much since then, but our environment has. Most of us these days deal with a stressful situation sitting at our desk, but our bodies still think we need to replenish those calories, even though we probably don't."
#6 The 7-minute full on
Dr Williams says: "Sometimes, the last thing you want to do is go to the gym. But you don't always have to. You can do a 7-minute high-intensity workout at home, and not only will you burn fat during the workout, your body will keep burning fat for 24 hours afterward."


Williams, Zoe, 'Nine ways to outsmart your fat', BBC

Images Credit: Pixabay

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Humpday Hint: If You Simply Must Have a Midmorning Snack

Contributing Author: Gentle Heron

We’ve all heard that if we’re dieting or simply watching our weight, it’s best to avoid snacking in the morning unless you’re absolutely hungry. (Try distracting yourself with a drink of water or a stick of sugar-free gum.) Research indicates that there is a connection between snacking between breakfast and lunch and slower weight loss in some dieters1.

If you absolutely must snack mid-morning, limit yourself to a single piece of fruit to keep calories below 100. A banana or pear has about 100 calories, an orange has 60, and a peach has 40 calories. Dried fruit also works, but the portions have to be smaller: 8 dried apricot halves, 3 dates or prunes, 2 Tablespoons dried cherries, or 1 Tablespoon of raisins. Fruit is a good snack choice because it also contributes dietary fiber.

1 Kong, A., Beresford, S. A., Alfano, C. M., Foster-Schubert, K. E., Neuhouser, M. L., Johnson, D. B., et al. (2011). Associations between snacking and weight loss and nutrient intake among postmenopausal overweight to obese women in a dietary weight-loss intervention. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 111(12), 1898-1903.