Your nervous system may hold the key to weight-loss

Researchers looked at 42 overweight or obese people who took part in a 12-week weight-loss program that cut their daily calorie intake by 30 percent.

The participants' resting sympathetic nerve activity was measured at the start of the study.

The sympathetic nervous system, which spreads throughout the body, regulates many functions, including control of resting metabolic rate and the use of calories from food consumption.

The researchers found that successful weight losers had significantly higher resting sympathetic nerve activity than those who had trouble shedding pounds.

They also found that successful weight losers showed large increases in nerve activity after they ate a carbohydrate test meal. This did not occur in those who were weight-loss resistant.

The study will appear in the February 2012 issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

"We have demonstrated for the first time that resting muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) is a significant independent predictor of weight-loss outcome in a cohort of overweight or obese subjects," lead author Nora Straznicky, of the Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia, said in a journal news release.

"Our findings provide two opportunities. First, we may be able to identify those persons who would benefit most from lifestyle weight-loss interventions such as dieting.

Secondly, the findings may also help in developing weight-loss treatments through stimulating this specific nervous activity."

The science behind why we itch

The sensation of itching is hardwired into the nervous system and can be traced back to a small molecule released in the spinal cord, according to a new study in mice.

Researchers say this molecule, known as natriuretic polypeptide b (Nppb), triggers a signal that passes through the central nervous system. Ultimately, this signal is experienced as an itch. Since the nervous systems of humans and mice are similar, the researchers concluded that a similar process probably occurs in people.

"Our work shows that itch, once thought to be a low-level form of pain, is a distinct sensation that is uniquely hardwired into the nervous system with the biochemical equivalent of its own dedicated landline to the brain," study senior author Mark Hoon, a scientist at the US National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, said.

The findings might someday help scientists develop treatments for chronic itch conditions, such eczema and psoriasis, the researchers suggested.

How the study was done

For the new study, the researchers first identified the signaling components on nerve cells that contain a molecule called TRPV1. These nerve cells help to monitor certain external conditions, such as extreme temperature changes or detecting pain. In examining how these cells recognize various sensations, the study authors screened the molecule, Nppb.

"We tested Nppb for its possible role in various sensations without success," study lead author Santosh Mishra, a researcher in the Hoon laboratory, said in the news release. However, he added, "When we exposed the Nppb-deficient mice to several itch-inducing substances, it was amazing to watch. Nothing happened. The mice wouldn't scratch."

When Nppb or its nerve cell was not present, mice stopped scratching because the signal wasn't going through, the researchers explained.

The investigators also focused on the dorsal horn, an area of the spine where sensory signals from the body are routed to the brain in order to look for cells that receive incoming Nppb molecules. They identified the receptor as the protein Npra.

"The receptors were exactly in the right place in the dorsal horn," noted Hoon. "We went further and removed the Npra neurons from the spinal cord. We wanted to see if their removal would short-circuit the itch, and it did."

Because removing the receptor nerve cells did not affect other sensations -- such as temperature, pain and touch -- the researchers concluded there is a dedicated signal to the brain that conveys the sensation of itch. Although another neurotransmitter called GRP also plays a role in the sensation of itch, they pointed out that it becomes involved only after Nppb triggers the process.

However, since the Nppb molecule is also used by the heart, kidneys and other parts of the body, the researchers concluded that attempting to control itch through the neurotransmitter in the spine could have negative side effects.

"The larger scientific point remains," Hoon said. "Now the challenge is to find similar biocircuitry in people, evaluate what's there, and identify unique molecules that can be targeted to turn off chronic itch without causing unwanted side effects. So, this is a start, not a finish."

Research in animals often doesn't translate into success in human studies.

The study appeared online May 23 in the journal Science.

Minerals and your nervous system

While it is important for us to have a balanced diet that supplies all the necessary minerals to keep our bodies functioning at an optimum level, certain minerals, such as iron and iodine, are vital at certain stages of our development to ensure that our brains and nervous systems develop normally.

Iron is a mineral that is used to produce healthy haemoglobin (a biological pigment contained in the red blood cells) that is capable of transporting oxygen to the entire body. All our cells require oxygen to survive, but the brain is the most sensitive organ in the body when it comes to oxygen deprivation.

It is, therefore, understandable that an iron deficiency, which causes anaemia and reduces the capacity of the blood to transport oxygen, will have a negative effect on brain development before birth and for the first two years of life, as well as on brain function at any stage of a person’s life.

The severity and duration of iron deficiency will determine how much damage occurs. Studies have shown that the brain is most sensitive to iron deficiency during the first two years of life. If an infant or toddler is exposed to iron deficiency during these two vital years, the damage to the brain and nervous system can be permanent.

In children older than two years, decreased mental function and poor achievement at school, which is caused by iron deficiency and anaemia, can be reversed if the anaemia is treated. Problems with cognitive function and lack of psychomotor development are also linked to iron deficiency in children.

It is, therefore, essential that pregnant women should have an adequate iron intake for the duration of their pregnancy. This is the reason why most pregnant women are advised to take iron-folic acid supplements (folic acid is also important for the formation of healthy haemoglobin). Breast milk is not rich in iron and infants are often given a paediatric iron supplement to boost their iron intake.

If you, or your child, feel listless, tire easily, tend to be forgetful, irritable and nervous, then it may be a good idea to have a medical checkup and a blood test to see if you are iron-deficient. Certain behaviours such as ‘pica’ (the urge to eat soil or ice) are also associated with iron deficiency in the diet.

Food source of iron
The following foods are rich sources of iron that is easily absorbed by the human body (i.e. bioavailable):

Liver and organ meats
Red meat (beef, mutton, pork and venison)
Egg yolk
Iron-fortified breakfast cereals
Iron-fortified flour and maize meal (the SA Government has passed legislation that these staple foods must be fortified with a number of vitamins and minerals, including iron)
Dried fruit

Iron in other plant food sources (e.g. spinach) is not as bioavailable as in the foods listed above, because chemicals like phytates bind the iron. The diets of pregnant and breastfeeding women, young children, teenagers, and women with child-bearing capacity, should, therefore, include meat, eggs and liver.

Serious iron deficiencies need to be treated either by iron injections or supplements, and it is important to keep in mind that iron supplements may have to be taken for three months or longer to replenish depleted iron reserves in the body.

In the past the most common cause of brain damage and mental deficiency was lack of iodine in the diet, which caused cretinism in newborn babies. Ironically this is also the most preventable dietary cause of mental impairment and nowadays most cases of maternal goitre and infant cretinism are prevented by iodisation of table salt.

In South Africa, table salt has been enriched with iodine for many years and the incidence of cretinism has decreased. Nowadays, the number of individuals who are at risk of iodine deficiency is probably very small, e.g. persons who do not use commercial table salt.

If you do not use standard table salt (e.g. because of high blood pressure), then it is essential that you eat plenty of seafood and fish, or take kelp tablets, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Discuss your iodine intake with your doctor if you are contemplating pregnancy and do not use any iodised table salt.

Food sources of iodine:

Leafy green vegetables
Kelp tablets

The importance of an adequate mineral intake once again underlines how vital it is to eat a balanced diet that provides all the nutrients we require for good health. – (Dr I.V. van Heerden, registered dietician)

Why do we laugh when tickled?

Why tickling makes us laugh is one of those weird, unexplained questions which can only be explained by brainy scientists.

Pain and touch receptors

Molecular biology and genetics boffin Dr Emily Grossman (a science educator based in the UK) says even science can’t give a precise definition of tickling because the sensation involves a series of neurological and sensory elements.

Biologically speaking, there is no evidence to show we have specialised “tickle” receptors in our skin, adds medical physiologist at Stellenbosch University Dr Derek van Vuuren. “Rather, it seems that the perception of tickling is communicated through a combination of pain and touch receptors,” he explains.

It’s in the brain
Dr Grossman, in a Royal Institution’s video on the science behind tickling, explains that we laugh when we’re tickled because "both tickling and laughing activates the Rolandic operculum – a part of the brain that controls facial movement as well as vocal and emotional reactions".

Moreover, Dr van Vuuren says the area of your brain involved in laughing at a funny joke is "not the same as the area associated with laughter when being tickled".

Scientists believe the reason for this difference is because tickling also activates the hypothalamus, which controls body temperature, hunger, tiredness, sexual behaviour and instinctive reactions like the “fight or flight” mechanism.

Even stranger, stimulating the hypothalamus helps the body anticipate pain, say neuroscientists at the University of Tübingen in Germany, which might explain why someone may accidentally lash out at their tickler.

They believe our response to tickling goes back to earliest human evolution, and that it has become a defensive mechanism to indicate submissiveness, calm a tense situation and prevent us from getting hurt.

Why can’t I tickle myself?

We know that we laugh when tickled, especially in those sensitive areas on the stomach, near the throat or under the arms and feet, so why doesn’t it work if you tickle yourself?

Dr Grossman explains that the cerebellum at the back section of the brain makes predictions on how the sensation will feel and where it will occur, so it actually suppresses the tickle response. “This is supported by studies that have found when people try to tickle themselves, activity in the area of the brain linked to the tickle response decreases.”

In a nutshell: Because your brain continually filters out unimportant information, it is aware it does not need to produce a response to the action, so it simply doesn’t waste time interpreting the signals from a self-tickle.

Tackling potential ticklers

So if you are one of those people who really hate being tickled, can this knowledge help you in any way? It so happens that you can actually control your response to being tickled!

Next time your bratty brother or creepy classmate reaches out to torment you with merciless tickling, simply place your hands on top of theirs. “This allows your brain to better predict the sensation of their hands, therefore it will suppress and ultimately protect your tickle response,” advises Dr Grossman.

Caffeine and its effect on your central nervous system

Caffeine, or 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine as it’s known scientifically, is one of the most popular stimulants in the world – it’s found everywhere and remains unregulated. But before you reach for that third or fourth cup of coffee of the day, read on to find out how it affects your central nervous system. 

It’s a stimulant

If you absolutely need a cup of coffee to start your day, take a moment to understand how it affects your body. You take a sip, and as the caffeine enters your bloodstream it quickly travels to the brain, acting as a central nervous system stimulant.

The effects, such as feeling more awake, are noticeable in as little as 15 minutes. Caffeine has also been known to increase mental alertness and cognitive functioning, as well as enhancing physical performance by improving endurance and reaction time.

So how does it work? Caffeine is able to mimic a neurochemical in your brain called adenosine, which is produced by neurons throughout the day. Your nervous system monitors adenosine levels and as it increases, your body starts to slow down, preparing you for the evening when you need to sleep.

Caffeine latches onto the receptors in your brain for adenosine and pushes them out the way – with the result that we’re more alert and awake.

Can you overdose on caffeine?

Before you laugh that off as being preposterous, it is actually possible to overdose on caffeine, and symptoms include confusion and hallucinations. According to a caffeine calculator designed by Caffeine Informer, if you weigh 60 kg, you should have a maximum of 2,2 cups of coffee a day (based on a 236 ml serving).

Consume 55.4 cups and you’ll overdose and die! So, the good news is you probably won’t die from drinking too much coffee – but beware of energy drinks that contain high concentrations of caffeine and are easier to chug down in quick succession.

The Mayo Clinic recommends about 400 mg of caffeine per day for healthy adults. So like everything in life, moderation is key.

If you’re not used to drinking coffee, you are also at risk of some side effects such as feeling shaky. If you suffer from an anxiety or sleep disorder, it’s probably a good idea to steer clear of caffeine.

Modern life unnerving your nervous system?

Modern life, explains Johannesburg-based clinical psychologist Dr Colinda Linde, has resulted in "a near constant activation of our nervous system, processing sensory information and making constant choices, without much break".

She adds, “Just because we’ve become used to a hectic lifestyle doesn’t mean it’s healthy or that our nervous system has adapted as rapidly as technology has evolved.” When your nervous system is out of sync, so are you!

'I can't switch off'

Neuroscientists often describe the nervous system as your body’s master computer. It continually regulates a myriad of functions and processes to keep you alive. But unlike a "real" computer machine that cleverly powers down or goes into "sleep" mode when you’re not using it, your mind and nervous system don’t actually do a great job at switching off.

Many of the clients who visit Dr Linde’s psychology practice say, "I can't switch off", "If I’m not busy, I feel like I’m not being productive", or "I don't know how to switch off, even when I’m on holiday." Sound familiar?

Now be honest. You probably like constant input and stimulation, even if it sometimes drives you crazy. Don’t believe me? Dr Linde suggests trying to sit quietly for two minutes just listening to your breath and focusing on nothing.

Unless you’re a meditation guru, she says chances are that "at the slightest sound or distraction, your mind will soon start wandering off and seek stimulus". So what are the main lifestyle culprits that are most likely to unnerve our nervous system? Stress, injuries and chronic pain top the list.


Don't underestimate the impact of stress on your life! Did you know that stress-related factors cause 85% of all disease or illness, according to The American Institute of Stress (AIS) Dr Bradley Kobsar, functional endocrinologist and clinical director at San Jose State University’s Health and Wellness Care Centre explains that when your body is under stress, the nervous system responds by increasing activity in the sympathetic nervous system.

“When you face danger, your hypothalamus stimulates the pituitary gland. This triggers your body’s stress response to release a hormone called Adrenocorticotropic Hormone (ACTH).”

After ACTH has signalled the adrenal glands to release the stress hormone cortisol, several physiological stress responses deal with the immediate danger. Once the threat has passed, other systems restore normal functioning in the body.

The problem arises when stress is prolonged or chronic, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). This occurs when your body’s stress response continues after a threat has subsided or when your source of stress is constant.

“The same nervous system chemicals that are life-saving in short bursts can suppress functions that aren't needed for immediate survival. This causes a lowered immunity and prevents digestive, reproductive and excretory systems from working normally,” remarks NIMH in an online article.

According to Dr Kobsar what happens with an ongoing stress response is that it pushes your sympathetic nervous system into overdrive, producing "harmful chemical waste that unbalances hormones, causes free radical damage and disintegrates nerve cells".

You’re unaware of these automatic processes until you notice signs like hyperactivity, restlessness, muscle tension, pain and inflammation, mental fog, fatigue, weight gain and cardiovascular stress.


Some people are prone to having a nervous system that goes out of sync easily. Your body’s framework (bones, muscles, ligaments and joints) does a good job of protecting your nervous system, but unfortunately, any of these elements risk tearing, fracturing, excessive stretching or inflammation.

When this happens, it can irritate the nervous system, causing injuries like pain, muscle spasm, loss of sensation or movement. Ignoring an injury or not taking care of it soon is unwise, since it’s likely to get worse, not better! A dysfunctional nervous system can cause narrowing of the spinal canal (stenosis) or narrowing of the spaces between your spinal discs, chronic pain or loss of mobility.

Chronic pain

We’ve all experienced pain at some stage, that unpleasant sensory and emotional experience that The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) says is "associated with actual or potential tissue or cell damage". But chronic pain that persists longer than it should is another thing altogether.

Remember, pain is very complex. It’s also subjective, so only you know exactly how pain feels when you experience it. Both the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system are involved in your perception of pain. In the peripheral nervous system, nerves and receptors pass on messages to your brain via the spinal cord.

When various parts of your body experience trauma or damage, special nervous system receptors called nociceptors pass on this information to your brain, which interprets these signals as pain. Chronic pain happens when injury or disease to nerve structures, abnormal body functions or degeneration causes these nociceptive signals to transmit continually.

This triggers an unhealthy action that allows pain signals to be sent more easily. In the process, even non-nociceptive types of nerve fibres can be "hijacked" to send signals along with the ones supposed to be doing the job. Don’t take chronic pain lightly; it may play a role in causing depression, decreased physical activity and even body ageing.

Calm your nerves!

If you want to avoid a long-term toll on your nervous system, you need to change your lifestyle. It's not always easy, but once we accept that self destructive habits not only affect our mood and health but also the way our brains function, we’ll be able to do something about it, says holistic psychiatrist Dr Larry Momaya of USA-based Amen Clinics that specialises in neuro-psychiatry. 

As we recognise the value of stilling the mind, it’s no coincidence that previously “alternative” health practices like meditation, mindfulness and yoga are gaining popularity in mainstream health, says Johannesburg clinical psychologist Dr Colinda Linde. She remarks that studies of the mind-body connection have shown these methods to be "very beneficial for physical and mental health, as well as for concentration and memory".

The most important thing, say mental health experts, is to find what lifestyle changes work for you. Their advice is not new; you simply need to look at it with new eyes.

That means reducing your commitments if you’re overloaded, doing de-stressing activities or hobbies you enjoy, watching what you eat, getting enough sleep and staying physically active with regular aerobic exercise.

Will brain freeze ice up your brain?

What’s more refreshing on a blistering summer’s day than a delicious scoop of ice cream? Nothing, except when you gulp it too quickly. The instant blinding headache that follows feels as if your brain has dropped below zero.

No wonder you can’t even pronounce sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia, the medical term for brain freeze or ice cream headache! This common occurrence happens when you eat ice cream or an icy cold drink too quickly.

Brain freeze might feel as if icicles are forming in your brain, but it actually has more to do with changes in blood flow to the brain than your brain itself, comments medical physiologist Dr Derick van Vuuren of Stellenbosch University.

“When something very cold (like slurping ice cream or an ice cold drink) comes into contact with the roof of the mouth and the back of the throat, it changes the temperature in that area.

The surrounding blood vessels that supply blood to the brain react by narrowing and dilating as a mechanism to stabilise the brain’s temperature as much as possible,” he explains.

But why the awful headache that comes out of nowhere? Neuroscientist Dr Dwayne Godwin of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center says the pain associated with brain freeze is sensed by receptors in the outer covering of the brain called the meninges, where two important arteries meet.

“The internal carotoid artery in the back of the throat feeds blood to the brain, while the anterior cerebral artery is where brain tissue starts. When the cold hits and these arteries dilate and contract, the brain interprets this sensation as pain,” he explains.

Dr van Vuuren says even though the brain has billions of neurons, it can’t actually feel pain, so scientists believe brain freeze involves referred pain. “This means when the brain receives a pain input from one part of the body, but then accidentally associates this pain with the wrong part of the body, resulting in pain felt in a different place in the body than where it originated from.”

Makes sense to the body, but why do you sometimes experience brain freeze pain in your nose or eyes?

Neuroscientist Professor Bill Griesar at Washington State University, Vancouver believes brain freeze may be connected to the trigeminal nerve that stretches across the face and helps the brain and face ‘communicate’ by transmitting information from the face to the central nervous system.
“This important nerve stretches out in three branches that contain clumps of neurons called ganglia.

It appears that narrowing and widening blood vessels put a lot of pressure on the ganglia, resulting in the trigeminal nerve sending a message to the brain that you are in pain.”
Therefore, with a brain freeze-related headache, the pain originates in the roof of your mouth, but because both the nerves in this area and the forehead “feed” into the trigeminal nerve, your body perceives the stimulation of this nerve as the forehead hurting, says Dr van Vuuren.

While nerves often communicate pain to alert the body to possible threats, brain freeze ache is unlikely to be harmful. Luckily, ice cream headaches are also very fleeting, since the pain subsides as soon as the cold dissipates and the blood flow normalises, remarks Dr van Vuuren.

He says scientists are still interested in the brain freeze ‘because a lot of research indicates that changes in blood flow to the brain might explain more serious headaches like migraine and cluster headaches.’

Neuroscientist Dr Godwin confirms that by studying brain freeze (which researchers can easily induce without any long-term problems); they can ‘learn more about headache mechanisms and expand their understanding to develop better treatments."

As for preventing brain freeze, Dr Godwin’s advice is a no-brainer – don’t eat ice cream or glug icy drinks! However, if you can’t quit your ice cream fix, normalise the temperature in your mouth by pushing your tongue up to the roof of your mouth or sipping a lukewarm drink.

Relieved that brain freeze is not life threatening and doesn’t require ice-cream abstinence, I’m celebrating with a hearty dollop of my favourite icy treat!

Is it Really Possible That Does coffee cause cancer?

While scientists have not yet come up with a final verdict on whether coffee is good or bad for you, an American judge has. A Californian judge has called for coffee sellers in the state to place cancer warnings on the coffee they sell.

The problem is the chemical produced during the roasting process, known as acrylamide, a carcinogen, has been in the middle of an eight-year legal battle between a small non-profit organisation and major coffee companies in the US.

While this battle has reached a conclusion in court, scientists are still debating whether coffee can actually cause cancer. We take a closer look.

Inconsistent results

A recent study, published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, did a meta-analysis and found that "coffee consumption is not associated with overall cancer risk".

However, the results for bladder cancer were inconsistent, and a few studies analysed in the meta-analysis found that there was an increased risk of childhood leukaemia after mothers had drunk coffee during their pregnancy.

It is also important to note that, in the same report, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that drinking hot drinks (over 65 degrees) may increase the risk of oesophageal cancer. The oesophagus is the passage that connects the mouth and stomach.

Coffee may reduce cancer risk

According to Majorie McCullough, ScD, and Susan Gapstur, PhD, researchers from the American Cancer Society, the development of cancer in the liver, pancreas, breasts as well as the uterine endometrium is significantly reduced when one consumes coffee on a daily basis. This is due to the antioxidants found in coffee.

Although research is unclear as to how coffee affects patients with colon cancer, assistant professor and colon cancer expert Syed Kazmi has noted that patients who consume coffee tend to live longer than patients who do not.

Coffee drinking is associated with a reduced risk of liver cancer, possible decreased risk in oral/pharyngeal cancer as well as advanced prostate cancer.

Concerns have eased

Scientific evidence on coffee has been oscillating between benefits and risks. However, as a result of new studies finding more health benefits of coffee, concerns have eased. If you are a regular coffee drinker, the new studies indicate that you are probably not increasing your risk of cancer.

If you are not a coffee drinker, you might, however, not want to take this new evidence as a reason to start. The evidence is still uncertain, and if subsequent research does reveal a positive effect, it most likely will be small, much smaller than any benefits gained from maintaining a healthy weight or cutting down on alcohol.

Three quick ways to meditate and practise mindfulness

Setting aside even a few minutes a day for meditation and mindfulness can sometimes feel like just one more thing to do. We asked meditation teachers from various disciplines to share some quick and easy ways to help stay grounded at work, at home or on the go.

1. Mindfulness At Work by Sharon Salzberg, meditation teacher and author of "Real Happiness"

It's totally private, you don't have to sit cross-legged on the floor and start changing. No one will know you're doing it, but breathing is a powerful, simple way to come back to yourself and centre yourself.

Don't pick up the phone on the first ring. Let it ring three times, stop and breathe and then pick it up. Start to train yourself to use the sound of the phone ringing as a signal and use that time to take a breath and come back. It's a way to cut through crazy momentum of the work day.

The same can be done with email. Don't press send right away, just take a few breaths and then read it again.

2. The M-Word Technique by Emily Fletcher, former Broadway actress and founder of Ziva Meditation

Sit with your back supported and your head free. Check the time then close your eyes. Gently hear the word "one" in the background of your mind. You will have other thoughts and that's OK, simply come back to the word "one" when you notice you are fantasising about what kind of snack you would like. Don't worry about the tempo, be easy and effortless.

Check the time as often as you like while you train yourself to feel what five minutes feels like. After five minutes has passed, keep the eyes closed and let go of the word inside.

Finish with a few minutes of gratitude. List the three things you are most grateful for right now. Let that bring a smile to your face. This is simple but will give your body rest so you can perform at the top of your game.

3. Enjoy Your Chocolate by Andy Puddicombe, a former Buddhist monk and co-founder of the 10-minute meditation app Headspace

Break off a square of really good chocolate. Before you pick it up take a couple of deep breaths, breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth, to allow the body and mind to settle.

Take a moment to appreciate the chocolate. Where has it come from? Try and imagine the different ingredients in their natural growing environment, the people who might have grown it.

Before you begin to eat it, pause to notice if there's a feeling of impatience. Is there pleasure and excitement? Or guilt or unease? Take a minute to explore it with your eyes, nose and hands. Look at it closely, smell it carefully and then touch it to see how it feels.

Take a small bite, but try to resist chewing it. Notice how it feels in the mouth, the temperature and the texture. Become aware of the taste. Try to allow the chocolate to melt in the mouth by gently moving it around with your tongue, rather than chewing it.

Sit back in your chair and enjoy the moment.

How an artificial pancreas work?

We are dependent on our pancreas to release two hormones into the blood: insulin, which enables us to metabolise sugar, and glucagon, which helps raise blood sugar when glucose levels drop too low.

People with diabetes have a compromised ability to produce insulin and glucagon. Their blood glucose levels are too high because their pancreas does not provide sufficient amounts of insulin to help metabolise sugar, or the glucose levels are too low as their pancreas doesn’t produce enough glucagon.

What about pancreas transplants?

Pancreas transplants exist, but in South Africa this procedure is only done in conjunction with a kidney transplant in cases where the kidneys are extremely damaged and failing due to diabetes, says Dr Wayne May, an endocrinologist from Cape Town.

“The other way of doing a transplant is by injecting pancreatic cells in the veins of the liver, but this technique is not done in South Africa, as it is very costly, not always successful, and requires immunosuppressive drugs, which come with their own side-effects,” says Dr May.

While pancreas transplants have improved the lives of diabetics, these patients still need immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their lives to lower the risk of the body rejecting the organ. The scarcity of organ donors is also a problem.

This means that organic solutions for pancreas replacement are costly and limited. People with diabetes could therefore benefit from a less invasive, widely available treatment

The idea of an artificial pancreas system  

Type 1 diabetes is caused by a “faulty” pancreas and type 1 diabetics need to inject insulin daily to regulate their blood sugar.

The possibility of an artificial pancreas was researched because of the need to improve glucose control in diabetics and to reduce the burden of injecting insulin.

An artificial pancreas system is designed to deliver responsive insulin according to the person’s needs by reading information from a sensor. Clinical trials have shown that users felt positive about this system and that their glucose levels improved, while their risk for hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar attacks) was reduced.

In 2017 the FDA approved the artificial pancreas system and 2016 studies predicted that this device would come onto the market in 2018.

But exactly how helpful and beneficial is this system?

The benefits of an insulin pump device

The better the glucose levels are controlled, the less the risk of long-term diabetes-related health complications such as hyperglycaemia and hypoglycaemia, as well as nerve damage.

While current treatments such as insulin injections and insulin pump devices are very effective at managing diabetes, they are still invasive and there is no guarantee that optimum glucose levels would be maintained, mainly because of human error.

The insulin pump therapy option is less invasive than needles, but still requires that diabetics check their glucose levels at least four times a day. Dr May calls the patient the "brain" behind the operating system, as they are still responsible for controlling the device.

However, the artificial pancreas system promises to provide real-time, continuous glucose measurement through a controlled algorithm, leaving little room for human error. Trials have shown that this method especially benefits young children as it cuts out the need for needles and constant monitoring.

A study has shown that the risk for hypoglycaemia, especially at night when glucose levels plummet, was significantly less in the subjects who used the artificial pancreas system. This lessens the stress in parents with diabetic children.

"I think what we can say is that the artificial pancreas is definitely better than the conventional insulin pump," says Dr Betul Hatipoglu, an endocrinologist at Cleveland Clinic.

But are there downfalls?

While the advantages are considerable, preliminary research did show limitations and disadvantages. There is no doubt that an artificial pancreas system will take a huge amount of responsibility off the diabetic's shoulders, especially when they are still young.

Dr Erika Villanueva from the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Bone Disease at the Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai, New York, says in an article, "A continuous glucose monitor measures glucose level in the tissue fluid, which does not change as quickly as the glucose level in the blood, which can lead to inappropriate dosing of insulin when the blood glucose is too high or too low. Patients would need to carry an additional device (the 'brain'). And it’s currently only available for clinical trials."

Even though the artificial pancreas system is meant to be intuitive and intelligent, technology also makes mistakes. Patients have to be concerned about errors occurring in the pump and sensors of the device. This means that the device isn’t fully automated and that patient involvement is still required.

Instead of managing the condition completely, it still requires calculating and thinking by the diabetic. While the device is not as invasive as needles, scar tissue can still form around the source of the implant.

Such a device would also be costly. In America the device would cost around $6 000 to $9 000 (about R72 000 to R108 560) depending on the medical aid scheme and provider.

"This device is definitely an advance," said Thomas Donner, director of the Johns Hopkins Diabetes Center. According to a major paper on the MiniMed 670G, published in JAMA, patients who used the device for 12 weeks had improved control of their diabetes (better A1C levels, less glucose variability, and no severe low blood glucose or diabetic ketoacidosis, which is a severe complication of diabetes).

Open-loop system still used in SA

Dr May says while we currently have the insulin pump system linked to a glucose sensor available for patients in South Africa, the patient still needs to be the “brain” behind the system.

"In South Africa, we are currently making use of an open-loop system called the Medtronic. Even though the patient still needs to control it, the system has the ability to predict lows and shut off the insulin accordingly.

"But with a closed-loop system, the machine controls the insulin independently of the patient. The machine functions completely on its own. This would be very nice for patients, as they wouldn’t have to monitor or adjust insulin doses, and the risk of highs and lows would be markedly reduced," says Dr May.

If a closed-loop system were to become available, it would be of great benefit, particularly for parents of young diabetics.

Get Perfect body like boxer Anthony Joshua

Anthony Joshua
Age: 27

Athlete type: Boxer

Height: 198cm

Weight: 113kg

Deadlifts + core

Power – the kind required to knock out 19 heavyweights in 19 fights since Joshua turned pro, a year after winning Olympic gold at London 2012 – does not come from heft alone.

In both physics and physiques, power is strength multiplied by speed. As Joshua executes a variety of explosive, punching movements and woodchoppers, his trainer, Jamie Reynolds constantly demands more speed.

Joshua towers over the average Joe, and he’s adding muscle every year. It’s this massive frame that he’s leveraged to become a punishing force in the ring, combining mass and lightspeed velocity to throw knockout hits.

In his last fight, Joshua defended his IBF world heavyweight title against the veteran Ukrainian brawler Wladimir Klitschko. The pair battled relentlessly for 11 rounds, with both fighters falling to the mat and getting right back up to turn the tide with a torrent of punches.

However, it was Joshua who walked away victorious, his record unblemished, after a surge of energy did good on his promise to “unleash hell”, poleaxing Klitschko with two monster left hooks and knocking him out.

During our interview, he adopts a boxing stance and pivots slowly at the waist. “Moving side to side, power goes through my glutes, my core. I think, ‘How can I transfer all the power, and make sure everything is balanced?’” he says. Joshua throws a fast four-punch combo.

He likes to accompany words with actions. “I’ve been doing a lot of bodyweight core work. Hanging on a bar…” He moves to the edge of his seat, lifts up his huge legs – 43cm calves and all – and points them out dead straight. His arms are straight out in front of him, as if he’s hanging on an imaginary bar. He stares down at his stomach. “Because your core is so important. It controls so much. So I hold my bodyweight in the air, with my legs in position.”

Critics – Tyson Fury the most vocal among them – have accused Joshua of spending too much time in the gym. “I don’t know what else I should be doing,” he responds. “Middleweights are ripped to shreds, but nobody calls them bodybuilders. There’s this idea that because I’m a heavyweight, I’m not supposed to be in condition, that I should take advantage of the fact that I can eat. But I train and eat well, and it shows when I step on the scales.

“The only weight I picked up was for deadlifts, which are for full-body strength and glutes. And that’s where the power comes from.”

Joshua’s genetics are a double-edged sword: His frame gives him reach, but those long levers make it harder to generate power. Even so, he throws a punch that – to steal a phrase from boxing writer Kevin Mitchell, following the Whyte fight – “would have decapitated a bull”. That’s testament to Joshua’s gym work, particularly on his core

Fighting history: Joshua’s vital stats beggar belief as much as his career (19 fights, wins and KOs). But the real insight comes through testimonials from his vanquished foes:

Fists: “He hits you through your gloves, even when you’ve got your hands up.” – Matt Legg, opponent no 6, who ended up with a broken eye socket

Legs: “A lot of guys his size don’t move as well… He’s 198cm, 113kg and he’s dancing around, throwing double-jabs.” – Jason Gavern, no 11

Eyes: “Joshua is very accurate. You can have a big, hard punch, but if it’s not timed correctly then it takes the sting out.” – Matt Skelton, no 7

Six yoga poses Tips to improve your sex life

 Hate yoga? Well, there’s a pretty good reason why you might want to give it a shot: Yoga can actually improve your sex life, according to health experts.

“Because yoga helps people develop a sense of calmness, strength, stamina, agility, knowledge of their own bodies, and the ability to remain in the present moment, and make small adjustments, it can greatly enhance sexual performance and confidence, regardless of which asana (poses) are practiced,” says sex therapist Gracie Landes, LMFT, CST.

What’s more, research shows that practicing an hour of yoga daily is linked to prolonging ejaculation and enhancing overall sexual performance. That’s because certain yoga poses can work out your Kegel muscles (yes, guys – you have them, too), which can help strengthen your erection and help you last longer in bed.

(There’s also a possibility yoga can increase testosterone, thus enhancing libido, according to the book The Science of Yoga: The Risks and Rewards, but more research needs to be done to determine this.)

Hit up a yoga class with your partner and rush back home for some shower sex. You’d be surprised how much more flexible (and aroused) you’ll both be.

Here are a few poses to get you started

1. Spinal flexsion/extension

Better known as cat and cow, these movements tone the hip and pelvis, increasing blood flow to those areas and strengthening the muscles that support your genitals, which can lead to better sexual function and performance.

“Set up on hands and knees. In cat, press through the hands and round the back, paying attention to turn the sit bones to the back of the thighs. Move into cow, by tilting the pelvis and dropping the belly towards the floor. Repeat 10 times,” says Megan Kearney, a yoga instructor with Yoga Medicine.

2. Cobra

“Cobra is one of the best spine and core-strengthening postures in yoga,” says yoga instructor Dean Pohlman, the founder of Man Flow Yoga. When you have a strong core, you’re able to thrust and have more control over your pelvis, which can make for better performance, says sexologist Lawrence A Siegel, CSE, AASECT.

To do cobra, lie on your stomach, and place your hands under your shoulders with your elbows pointing straight back, close to your sides. "Spread your fingers wide and relax palms under your shoulders. Engage and rotate thighs inward so kneecaps point straight down and all toes are touching the floor. Squeeze your big toes, ankles, knees and inner thighs toward each other,” says Pohlman.

Press your pelvis into the floor and inhale as you use your core to lengthen the spine forward and slightly lift your chest away from the floor. Pull shoulder blades down and toward each other, and use your hands to pull (not push) your body forward and up. Hold the posture for 30-120 seconds, for one to two sets.

3. Boat pose

“This pose is an effective, beginner-friendly yoga posture for developing and improving pelvic floor muscles,” Pohlman says.

Sit on the floor, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor, with heels 1.5 to 2 feet (45.7 to 61cm) away from the hips. Lightly grip your knees with your hands, sit as upright as possible, and lean back slightly, says Pohlman.

“Keeping your chest lifted and your torso still, squeeze your hip flexors and abdominal muscles toward each other to engage core. Let go of knees, and reach arms forward and up, palms up,” he says.

Continue to firmly engage your abdominal muscles and hip flexors, and slowly lift your feet off the floor and straighten your legs. Pull the sternum toward the ceiling, while keeping the spine neutral. Hold the posture, inhaling as you lengthen the spine, and exhaling as you tighten the core. Hold for 30 to 90 seconds, for one to two sets.

4. Bridge pose

Bridge pose “opens the chest and upper back, increasing circulation and respiration,” says Landes. It also opens and stretches the pelvic region and tones the legs, as "squeezing your glutes together helps to improve ejaculation and blood flow in the genital area,” Pohlman says.

Lie on your back and rest your arms at your sides, palms facing up. Bend your knees and plant your feet hip-width apart, no more than a few inches away from glutes. Tighten your abs and engage the core as you prepare to lift your hips.

“On an exhale, lift your hips slowly but firmly away from the floor. Squeeze the hips, glutes and core to form a straight line from shoulders to knees. Reach your tailbone toward your knees to lengthen the spine,” Pohlman says. Hold the posture, inhaling as you lift your hips higher, and exhaling as you tighten your core. Hold for 30 to 120 seconds, for one to two sets.

5. Standing bow

“This is a great balancing exercise to increase hip mobility, stretch your chest and shoulders, and strengthen the spine. The combination of stretching and strengthening the core is great for endurance and engaging the pelvic floor,” says Pohlman.

Stand in mountain pose, with your big toes touching and your heels about 1 inch (2.5cm) apart. Face your palms forward to open the chest. Lift your left foot, bend the leg behind you and squeeze the leg to pull heel towards glutes, he says.

“Reach back with your left hand and grasp the inside of your left foot. Extend your right arm straight up. Press into the floor with your right foot. Inhale as you lengthen your body and reach fingertips higher. Exhale as you press your left foot firmly into your left hand, using this force to stretch the left hip flexors,” he says.

Hold the posture, inhaling as you lengthen the torso and exhaling as you press deeper. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, for one to two sets. Repeat on the other side.

6. Locust pose

This move “tones the back and limbs, increases respiration and stamina, and opens and stretches the pelvic region,” says Landes. Plus, it stimulates pressure on the genitals while demanding a high level of abdominal engagement from your core.

Lie on your stomach. Rest your arms at your sides, palms facing down, and straighten the legs. Engage your core and thighs and rotate your thighs inward so your toes touch the floor.

“Inhale as you lift your legs, arms, and chest away from the floor, and exhale to lengthen your body, pressing toes further back and head further up. Completely engage core and hips. Squeeze thighs to lock knees, and press the toes back as far as you can, making legs as long as possible. Squeeze arms toward each other to engage the mid-back and open the chest,” Pohlman says.

Hold the posture, inhaling to lift higher and increase arch, and exhaling to create more length from toes to head. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds for one to two sets.

What Type Of Foods We Need To Avoid with Ulcerative Colitis?

What Type Of Foods We Need To Avoid with Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic, inflammatory disease of the colon and rectum. It’s one of two main inflammatory bowel diseases, the other being Crohn’s disease.

When a person has UC, sores called ulcers develop inside the colon.

Symptoms of the disease include:

abdominal pain
blood or pus in the stool
rectal bleeding
weight loss

Researchers don’t know for sure what causes UC, but they think it may be caused by a misdirected immune reaction. Numerous things may trigger a flare, including certain foods.

Much is being learned about the role of diet and gut bacteria in inflammatory bowel diseases, but some research is still in its infancy. However, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the World Gastroenterology Organization, and the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America all agree that fiber is a protective nutrient for the colon. Fiber should only be reduced when you are experiencing acute symptoms like a flare-up or strictures.

During a flare-up of symptoms, a low-fiber diet may be helpful in reducing material in the colon, and thereby reducing symptoms and helping you recover more quickly. If your doctor has prescribed a low-fiber diet for your symptoms, follow the recommendations below. Otherwise, follow a high fiber diet.

Whole grain breads, cereals, and pastas

Foods that contain a lot of fiber tend to be difficult for people with UC to digest. Whole grain flour is high in fiber because it hasn’t had the germ or bran removed.

You should avoid eating food made from any whole grain flour, such as:


During flare-ups, choose white breads and pastas made from enriched white flour, unless you have a gluten intolerance. Flour is “enriched” when nutrients lost during the germ and bran removal process are replaced. Cereals like puffed rice, corn flakes, oats, and cream of wheat are also lower in fiber.

Brown rice and other whole grain starches

Avoid the following whole grain foods:

brown rice
wild rice

These grains still have the fibrous endosperm, germ, and bran that can irritate UC and may trigger a flare-up.

Avoid these other whole grains:

plain barley
bulgur wheat

A better option for those with UC is well-cooked white rice.

Nuts, including those cooked into other foods or made into flours, should be on your do-not-eat list if you have been prescribed a low fiber diet for UC. The fiber in nuts can be very hard to digest.

It’s best to avoid the following nuts:

macadamia nuts


Like nuts, seeds can also aggravate symptoms. Seeds are a type of insoluble fiber, which can cause bloating, diarrhea, gas, and other irritating side effects.

Some seeds to avoid include:

sesame seeds
flax seeds
pine nuts
sunflower seeds
pumpkin seeds
wild rice

Dried peas, beans, and lentils

Legumes, including beans, lentils, and peas, are high-fiber, high-protein foods. Because of the indigestible sugars in beans, they’re also notorious for causing gas. If you are experiencing a UC flare-up, you’ll want to pass on the following:

all beans, including chickpeas
adzuki beans
soy nuts, including soybeans and edamame

Fibrous fruits

While they are healthy for you, most fruits contain a lot of fiber. Fruits belong on the list of foods to avoid if they are:

have seeds that can’t be removed (like most berries)

You can eat fruit that’s been peeled and if the flesh has been cooked until very soft, such as applesauce. You can also eat canned fruits, but choose the type packed in water or in their own juice to avoid excess sugar. Most fruit juices are fine to drink, but only with the pulp removed. Skip prune juice since it’s very high in fiber.

Fibrous vegetables

Like fruits, vegetables are also full of fiber. Include them in your diet only if they are:

skinned or peeled
have no seeds
are cooked until soft

Avoid all raw or undercooked vegetables, including corn. It’s fine to consume canned vegetables and potatoes, as long as the skin has been discarded. Try pureed vegetable soups for an easy way to digest vegetables. Vegetables provide many important nutrients and it’s important to incorporate them in your diet.

Sulfate and sulfides

Sulfate is a required nutrient in the human diet that assists in many body processes, however, it can also feed certain bacteria that create H2S toxic gas in the UC patient. In fact, over 90 percent of UC patients make H2S gas rather than the normal methane gas. If you find yourself experiencing bloating and malodorous gas, you may have an overabundance of these types of bacteria in your colon, excess sulfate and sulfides in your diet, or both. Sulfate and sulfide rich foods to reduce include red meat, dairy milk, beer and wine, apple and grape juice, cruciferous vegetables, eggs, cheese, dried fruit and some well water.

Dairy products

A common food intolerance among those with UC is dairy. If you suspect dairy may be a symptom trigger for you, remove all types of dairy including butter, milk, yogurt, and cheese for at least four weeks. Many resources are available to help you learn how to follow an elimination diet, especially when you work closely with your doctor and dietitian.

Gluten-containing foods

A food intolerance that is becoming more common among those who suffer from digestive symptoms is gluten. Gluten is one protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten is not only found in common foods like bread and pasta, but is also added to prepared products like condiments, sauces, soups, and proteins. If you suspect gluten may be a symptom trigger for you, remove all types of gluten-containing grains, cereals, baked goods, and other products for at least four weeks. Many resources are available to help you learn how to follow an elimination diet, especially when you work closely with your doctor and dietitian.

Foods to enjoy

While your diet may be restricted if you are experiencing a UC flare up, it doesn’t have to be boring. Focus on the foods that you can eat rather than the foods you should avoid. The foods you can eat (unless you have an identified allergy or intolerance to any of the foods below) include:

white bread without seeds
white pasta, noodles, and macaroni
white rice
crackers and cereals made with refined white flour
canned, cooked fruits
cooked vegetables without skins or seeds
pureed vegetable soups
tender, soft meats (no gristle or skin), fish, and eggs
peanut and other nut butters
oils like olive oil and coconut oil

It’s important to remember that your diet plays a vital role in your overall health. Use this information as a guide to help you recover from acute symptoms like diarrhea, strictures, or after surgery. To increase your chances of remission, gradually reintroduce high fiber foods, since fiber protects the health of your colon tissue as well as your gut bacteria.

The Health Benefits of Psyllium know about this today

The Health Benefits of Psyllium

What is psyllium?

Psyllium is a form of fiber made from the husks of the Plantago ovata plant’s seeds. It sometimes goes by the name ispaghula.

It’s most commonly known as a laxative. However, research shows that taking psyllium is beneficial to many parts of the human body, including the heart and the pancreas.
Your bathroom buddy

Psyllium is a bulk-forming laxative. This means it soaks up water in your gut and makes bowel movements" much easier. It also helps promote regularity without increasing flatulence. It can be used as a one-off to ease constipation, or it can be added to your diet to help promote regularity and overall digestive health.

People with irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease are all too familiar with the banes of the bathroom. The results of studies on psyllium’s effectiveness in treating these conditions are still mixed.

Psyllium is a prebiotic — a substance needed for healthy colonies of probiotics to grow in the gut. A healthy colony of good bacteria in the digestive system is essential for healthy immune function. Your body is better able to fight infection, reduce inflammation, and maintain healthy tissue and cells.

Some research has shown that consuming 7.9 grams of psyllium per day (plus or minus 3.6 grams) with probiotics is a safe and effective way to treat Crohn’s disease. However, other results show soluble fiber like psyllium can make symptoms worse for some people.

Besides keeping your bowel movements regular and managing a chronic condition, psyllium has the ability to soften your stool. This can come in handy with short-term ailments, such as constipation. Used in this way, it can prevent complications of constipation, such as hemorrhoids and anal fissures.

Preliminary research shows that psyllium may help with the painful symptoms associated with these conditions. Since there is no real scientific consensus, talk to your doctor to see if psyllium could help you.

Heart health

Research has shown that taking soluble fiber can help people manage their cholesterol levels. Proper cholesterol regulation is important for everyone, but vital for people over the age of 50. One study shows that at least six weeks of daily psyllium intake is an effective way for people who are obese or overweight to lower their cholesterol with very few side effects.

If you’ve been told that you need to watch your cholesterol, ask your doctor if adding psyllium to a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet will help you.

High cholesterol is merely one way a bad diet can affect your heart. Numerous studies have shown that fiber like psyllium, taken as part of a healthy diet, can help lower a person’s risk of heart disease. Psyllium can affect your heart by lowering blood pressure, improving lipid levels, and strengthening heart muscle.

Watching your weight

Maintaining a healthy weight is a concern for many people, especially those with a chronic condition like diabetes. Besides being good for your heart and blood sugar levels, psyllium may help you lose weight.

Because psyllium absorbs liquid in your body, it can help give you a feeling of being full. This can help you control the amount of food you eat. Talk to your doctor about the possibility of taking psyllium if they’ve suggested that you lose weight.


People with diabetes are constantly watching their diet to maintain a healthy balance of insulin and blood sugar (glucose). Some research has suggested that fibers like psyllium can help people maintain a healthy glycemic balance.

One study found that taking 5 grams of psyllium twice a day can help patients with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar. Another study of people with type 2 diabetes found similar results, but stressed that psyllium therapy should be tailored to the individual.

 How can I get psyllium?

Psyllium is most commonly consumed in powder or wafer form. It’s also available in capsules, granules, and as a liquid. It’s the main ingredient in many over-the-counter laxatives, including:

Maalox Daily Fiber Therapy

Follow the directions on the packaging when taking any of these medications. Remember that a key component of how psyllium works in your lower intestine is its ability to soak up liquid, so make sure to drink plenty of water daily.

Six Simple Ways to Lose Belly Fat

Six Simple Ways to Lose Belly Fat

Belly fat is not just a problem because it can look bad.

In fact, having lots of fat in the abdominal area is strongly linked to diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

For this reason, losing belly fat has massive benefits for your health and can help you live longer.

Belly fat is usually estimated by measuring the circumference around your waist. This can easily be done at home with a simple tape measure.

Anything above 40 inches (102 cm) in men and 35 inches (88 cm) in women is known as abdominal obesity.

If you have a lot of excess fat around your waistline, then you should take some steps to get rid of it even if you're not very heavy overall.

Fortunately, there are a few proven strategies that have been shown to target the fat in the belly area more than other areas of the body.

Here are 6 evidence-based ways to lose belly fat.

1. Don't eat sugar and avoid sugar-sweetened drinks

Added sugar is very unhealthy.

Studies show that it has uniquely harmful effects on metabolic health.

Sugar is half glucose, half fructose, and fructose can only be metabolized by the liver in significant amounts.

When you eat a lot of added sugar, the liver gets overloaded with fructose and is forced to turn it into fat.

Numerous studies have shown that excess sugar, mostly due to the large amounts of fructose, can lead to increased accumulation of fat in the belly and liver

Some believe that this is the primary mechanism behind sugar's harmful effects on health. It increases belly fat and liver fat, which leads to insulin resistance and a host of metabolic problems

Liquid sugar is even worse in this regard. Liquid calories don't get "registered" by the brain in the same way as solid calories, so when you drink sugar-sweetened beverages, you end up eating more total calories

Studies show that sugar-sweetened beverages are linked to a 60% increased risk of obesity in children, for each daily serving

Make a decision to minimize the amount of sugar in your diet, and consider completely eliminating sugary drinks.

This includes sugar-sweetened beverages, sugary sodas, fruit juices and various high-sugar sports drinks.

Keep in mind that none of this applies to whole fruit, which are extremely healthy and have plenty of fiber that mitigates the negative effects of fructose.

The amount of fructose you get from fruit is negligible compared to what you get from a diet high in refined sugar.

If you want to cut back on refined sugar, then you must start reading labels. Even foods marketed as health foods can contain huge amounts of sugar.

2. Eating more protein is a great long-term strategy to reduce belly fat

Protein is the most important macronutrient when it comes to losing weight.

It has been shown to reduce cravings by 60%, boost metabolism by 80-100 calories per day and help you eat up to 441 fewer calories per day

If weight loss is your goal, then adding protein is perhaps the single most effective change you can make to your diet.

Not only will it help you lose, it also helps you avoid re-gaining weight if you ever decide to abandon your weight loss efforts

There is also some evidence that protein is particularly effective against belly fat.

One study showed that the amount and quality of protein consumed was inversely related to fat in the belly. That is, people who ate more and better protein had much less belly fat

Another study showed that protein was linked to significantly reduced risk of belly fat gain over a period of 5 years

This study also showed that refined carbs and oils were linked to increased amounts of belly fat, but fruits and vegetables linked to reduced amounts.

Many of the studies showing protein to be effective had protein at 25-30% of calories. That's what you should aim for.

So make an effort to increase your intake of high-protein foods such as whole eggs, fish, seafood, legumes, nuts, meat and dairy products. These are the best protein sources in the diet.

If you struggle with getting enough protein in your diet, then a quality protein supplement (like whey protein) is a healthy and convenient way to boost your total intake.

If you're a vegetarian or vegan, then check out this article on how to increase your protein intake.

Bonus tip: Consider cooking your foods in coconut oil. Some studies have shown that 30 mL (about 2 tablespoons) of coconut oil per day reduces belly fat slightly

3. Cut carbs from your diet

Carb restriction is a very effective way to lose fat.

This is supported by numerous studies. When people cut carbs, their appetite goes down and they lose weight

Over 20 randomized controlled trials have now shown that low-carb diets lead to 2-3 times more weight loss than low-fat diets

This is true even when the low-carb groups are allowed to eat as much as they want, while the low-fat groups are calorie restricted and hungry.

Low-carb diets also lead to quick reductions in water weight, which gives people near instant results. A difference on the scale is often seen within 1-2 days.

There are also studies comparing low-carb and low-fat diets, showing that low-carb diets specifically target the fat in the belly, and around the organs and liver

What this means is that a particularly high proportion of the fat lost on a low-carb diet is the dangerous and disease promoting abdominal fat.

Just avoiding the refined carbs (sugar, candy, white bread, etc) should be sufficient, especially if you keep your protein intake high.

However, if you need to lose weight fast, then consider dropping your carbs down to 50 grams per day. This will put your body into ketosis, killing your appetite and making your body start burning primarily fats for fuel.

Of course, low-carb diets have many other health benefits besides just weight loss. They can have life-saving effects in type 2 diabetics, for example

4. Eat foods rich in fiber, especially viscous fiber

Dietary fiber is mostly indigestible plant matter.

It is often claimed that eating plenty of fiber can help with weight loss.

This is true, but it's important to keep in mind that not all fiber is created equal.

It seems to be mostly the soluble and viscous fibers that have an effect on your weight.

These are fibers that bind water and form a thick gel that "sits" in the gut.

This gel can dramatically slow the movement of food through your digestive system, and slow down the digestion and absorption of nutrients. The end result is a prolonged feeling of fullness and reduced appetite.

One review study found that an additional 14 grams of fiber per day were linked to a 10% decrease in calorie intake and weight loss of 4.5 lbs (2 kg) over 4 months.

In one 5-year study, eating 10 grams of soluble fiber per day was linked to a 3.7% reduction in the amount of fat in the abdominal cavity.

What this implies, is that soluble fiber may be particularly effective at reducing the harmful belly fat.

The best way to get more fiber is to eat a lot of plant foods like vegetables and fruit. Legumes are also a good source, as well as some cereals like whole oats.

Then you could also try taking a fiber supplement like glucomannan. This is one of the most viscous dietary fibers in existence, and has been shown to cause weight loss in several studies (30, 31).

5. Exercise is very effective at reducing belly fat

Exercise is important for various reasons.

It is among the best things you can do if you want to live a long, healthy life and avoid disease.

Listing all of the amazing health benefits of exercise is beyond the scope of this article, but exercise does appear to be effective at reducing belly fat.

However, keep in mind that I'm not talking about abdominal exercises here. Spot reduction (losing fat in one spot) is not possible, and doing endless amounts of ab exercises will not make you lose fat from the belly.

In one study, 6 weeks of training just the abdominal muscles had no measurable effect on waist circumference or the amount of fat in the abdominal cavity.

That being said, other types of exercise can be very effective.

Aerobic exercise (like walking, running, swimming, etc) has been shown to cause major reductions in belly fat in numerous studies.

Another study found that exercise completely prevented people from re-gaining abdominal fat after weight loss, implying that exercise is particularly important during weight maintenance.

Exercise also leads to reduced inflammation, lower blood sugar levels and improvements in all the other metabolic abnormalities that are associated with excess abdominal fat.

6. Track your foods and figure out exactly what and how much you are eating

What you eat is important. Pretty much everyone knows this.

However, most people actually don't have a clue what they are really eating.

People think they're eating "high protein," "low-carb" or something else, but tend to drastically over- or underestimate.

I think that for anyone who truly wants to optimize their diet, tracking things for a while is absolutely essential.

It doesn't mean you need to weigh and measure everything for the rest of your life, but doing it every now and then for a few days in a row can help you realize where you need to make changes.

If you want to boost your protein intake to 25-30% of calories, as recommended above, just eating more protein rich foods won't be enough. You need to actually measure and fine tune in order to reach that goal.

Check out these articles here for a calorie calculator and a list of free online tools and apps to track what you are eating.

I personally do this every few months. I weigh and measure everything I eat to see what my current diet looks like.

Then I know exactly where to make adjustments in order to get closer to my goals.

Ten High-Fiber Foods You Should Eat

Ten High-Fiber Foods You Should Eat

Fiber is incredibly important.

It escapes digestion in the stomach and ends up reaching the gut.

There, it feeds the friendly gut bacteria, leading to all sorts of health benefits

Fiber also promotes weight loss, lowers blood sugar levels and fights constipation

The recommended daily intake is 25 grams for women, and 38 grams for men

However, most people are only eating around half of that, or 15-17 grams of fiber per day.

Fortunately, increasing your fiber intake is relatively simple. Here are 22 high-fiber foods that are both healthy and satisfying.

1. Pears (3.1%)

The pear is a popular type of fruit that is both tasty and nutritious. It is one of the best fruit sources of fiber.

Fiber content: 5.5 grams in a medium-sized pear, or 3.1 grams per 100 grams.

2. Strawberries (2%)

Strawberries are incredibly delicious. They taste better than any junk food in my opinion.

Interestingly, they are also among the most nutrient dense fruits you can eat. They are loaded with vitamin C, manganese and all sorts of powerful antioxidants.

Fiber content: 3 grams in a cup, or 2 grams per 100 grams. This is very high given the low calorie content of strawberries.

3. Avocado (6.7%)

The avocado is different from most fruits. Instead of being high in carbohydrates, it is loaded with healthy fats.

Avocados are very high in vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, vitamin E and various different B-vitamins. They also have numerous health benefits.

Fiber content: 10 grams in a cup, or 6.7 grams per 100 grams.

4. Apples (2.4%)
Apples are among the tastiest and most satisfying fruits you can eat. They are also relatively high in fiber.

Fiber content: 4.4 grams in a medium-sized apple, or 2.4 grams per 100 grams.

5. Raspberries (6.5%)

Raspberries are highly nutritious berries with a very strong flavor. They are loaded with vitamin C and manganese.

Fiber content: A cup contains 8 grams of fiber, with 6.5 grams per 100 grams.

6. Bananas (2.6%)

Bananas are a good source of many nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin B6 and potassium.

Fiber content: 3.1 grams in a medium-sized banana, or 2.6 grams per 100 grams.

A green or unripe banana also contains a significant amount of resistant starch, a type of indigestible carbohydrate that functions like fiber.
Other High-Fiber Fruits

Blueberries (3.6 grams per cup) and blackberries (7.6 grams per cup).

7. Carrots (2.8%)

The carrot is a root vegetable that is tasty, crunchy and highly nutritious.

It is high in vitamin K, vitamin B6, magnesium and beta-carotene, an antioxidant that gets turned into vitamin A in the body.

Fiber content: 3.4 grams in a cup, or 2.8 grams per 100 grams. This is very high given the low calorie content of of carrots.

8. Beets (2.8%)

The beet, or beetroot, is a root vegetable that is high in various important nutrients, such as folate, iron, copper, manganese and potassium.

Beets are also loaded with inorganic nitrates, nutrients shown to have various benefits related to blood pressure regulation and exercise performance.

Fiber content: 3.8 grams per cup, or 2.8 grams per 100 grams.

9. Broccoli (2.6%)

Broccoli is a type of cruciferous vegetable, and is one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet.

It is loaded with vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, B vitamins, potassium, iron and manganese, and contains antioxidants and potent cancer-fighting nutrients.

Broccoli is also relatively high in protein compared to most vegetables.

Fiber content: 2.4 grams per cup, or 2.6 grams per 100 grams.

10. Artichoke (5.4%)

The artichoke is a type of vegetable that isn't talked about very often. However, it is high in many nutrients, and is one of the world's best sources of fiber.

Fiber content: 6.9 grams in an artichoke, or 5.4 grams per 100 grams.

Six Science Healthy Benefits of Moringa Oleifera

Six Science Healthy Benefits of Moringa Oleifera

oringa oleifera is a plant that has been praised for its health benefits for thousands of years.

It is very rich in healthy antioxidants and bioactive plant compounds.

So far, scientists have only investigated a fraction of the many reputed health benefits.

Here are 6 health benefits of Moringa oleifera that are supported by scientific research.

1. Moringa Oleifera Is Very Nutritious

Moringa oleifera is a fairly large tree native to North India.

It goes by a variety of names, such as drumstick tree, horseradish tree or ben oil tree.

Almost all parts of the tree are eaten or used as ingredients in traditional herbal medicines.

This especially applies to the leaves and pods, which are commonly eaten in parts of India and Africa

Moringa leaves are an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals. One cup of fresh, chopped leaves (21 grams) contains (2):

Protein: 2 grams
Vitamin B6: 19% of the RDA
Vitamin C: 12% of the RDA
Iron: 11% of the RDA
Riboflavin (B2): 11% of the RDA
Vitamin A (from beta-carotene): 9% of the RDA
Magnesium: 8% of the RDA

In Western countries, the dried leaves are sold as dietary supplements, either in powder or capsule form.

Compared to the leaves, the pods are generally lower in vitamins and minerals. However, they are exceptionally rich in vitamin C. One cup of fresh, sliced pods (100 grams) contains 157% of your daily requirement.

The diet of people in developing nations sometimes lacks vitamins, minerals and protein. In these countries, Moringa oleifera can be an important source of many essential nutrients.

However, there is one downside: Moringa leaves may also contain high levels of antinutrients, which can reduce the absorption of minerals and protein (3, 4).

Another thing to keep in mind is that taking Moringa oleifera supplements in capsules won’t supply a large number of nutrients.

The amounts are negligible compared to what you consume if you eat a balanced diet based on whole foods.

2. Moringa Oleifera Is Rich in Antioxidants

Antioxidants are compounds that act against free radicals in your body.

High levels of free radicals may cause oxidative stress, which is associated with chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes

Several antioxidant plant compounds have been found in the leaves of Moringa oleifera

In addition to vitamin C and beta-carotene, these include

Quercetin: This powerful antioxidant may help lower blood pressure
Chlorogenic acid: Also found in high amounts in coffee, chlorogenic acid may help moderate blood sugar levels after meals

One study in women found that taking 1.5 teaspoons (7 grams) of moringa leaf powder every day for three months significantly increased blood antioxidant levels

Moringa leaf extract may also be used as a food preservative. It increases the shelf life of meat by reducing oxidation

3. Moringa May Lower Blood Sugar Levels

High blood sugar can be a serious health problem. In fact, it’s the main characteristic of diabetes.

Over time, high blood sugar levels raise the risk of many serious health problems, including heart disease. For this reason, it’s important to keep your blood sugar within healthy limits.

Interestingly, several studies have shown that Moringa oleifera may help lower blood sugar levels.

However, most of the evidence is based on animal studies. Only a few human-based studies exist, and they’re generally of low quality

One study in 30 women showed that taking 1.5 teaspoons (7 grams) of moringa leaf powder every day for three months reduced fasting blood sugar levels by 13.5%, on average

Another small study in six people with diabetes found that adding 50 grams of moringa leaves to a meal reduced the rise in blood sugar by 21%

Scientists believe these effects are caused by plant compounds such as isothiocyanates

4. Moringa Oleifera May Reduce Inflammation

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to infection or injury.

It’s an essential protective mechanism but may become a major health issue if it continues over a long period of time.

In fact, sustained inflammation is linked to many chronic health problems, including heart disease and cancer

Most whole fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices have anti-inflammatory properties. However, the degree to which they can help depends on the types and amounts of anti-inflammatory compounds they contain.

Scientists believe that isothiocyanates are the main anti-inflammatory compounds in moringa leaves, pods and seeds

But so far, research has been limited to test-tube and animal studies. It remains to be seen if Moringa oleifera has similar anti-inflammatory effects in humans.

4. Moringa Oleifera May Reduce Inflammation

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to infection or injury.

It’s an essential protective mechanism but may become a major health issue if it continues over a long period of time.

In fact, sustained inflammation is linked to many chronic health problems, including heart disease and cancer

Most whole fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices have anti-inflammatory properties. However, the degree to which they can help depends on the types and amounts of anti-inflammatory compounds they contain.

Scientists believe that isothiocyanates are the main anti-inflammatory compounds in moringa leaves, pods and seeds

But so far, research has been limited to test-tube and animal studies. It remains to be seen if Moringa oleifera has similar anti-inflammatory effects in humans.

5. Moringa Can Lower Cholesterol

Having high cholesterol has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.

Fortunately, many plant foods can effectively reduce cholesterol. These include flaxseeds, oats and almonds.

Both animal- and human-based studies have shown that Moringa oleifera may have similar cholesterol-lowering effects

6. Moringa Oleifera May Protect Against Arsenic Toxicity

Arsenic contamination of food and water is a problem in many parts of the world. Certain types of rice may contain particularly high levels

Long-term exposure to high levels of arsenic may lead to health problems over time.

For instance, studies have linked long-term exposure to an increased risk of cancer and heart disease

Interestingly, several studies in mice and rats have shown that the leaves and seeds of Moringa oleifera may protect against some of the effects of arsenic toxicity

These results are promising, but it’s not yet known whether this also applies to humans.

Ten Leading Causes and reasons of Weight Gain and Obesity

Ten Leading Causes and reasons of Weight Gain and Obesity

Obesity is one of the biggest health problems in the world.

It’s associated with several related conditions, collectively known as metabolic syndrome. These include high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar and a poor blood lipid profile.

People with metabolic syndrome are at a much higher risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, compared to those whose weight is in a normal range.

Over the past decades, much research has focused on the causes of obesity and how it could be prevented or treated.

Obesity and Willpower

Many people seem to think that weight gain and obesity are caused by a lack of willpower.

That’s not entirely true. Although weight gain is largely a result of eating behavior and lifestyle, some people are at a disadvantage when it comes to controlling their eating habits.

The thing is, overeating is driven by various biological factors like genetics and hormones. Certain people are simply predisposed to gaining weight (1).

Of course, people can overcome their genetic disadvantages by changing their lifestyle and behavior. Lifestyle changes require willpower, dedication and perseverance.

Nevertheless, claims that behavior is purely a function of willpower is far too simplistic.

They don’t take into account all the other factors that ultimately determine what people do and when they do it.

Here are 10 factors that are leading causes of weight gain, obesity and metabolic disease, many of which have nothing to do with willpower.

Obesity is one of the biggest health problems in the world.

It’s associated with several related conditions, collectively known as metabolic syndrome. These include high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar and a poor blood lipid profile.

People with metabolic syndrome are at a much higher risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, compared to those whose weight is in a normal range.

Over the past decades, much research has focused on the causes of obesity and how it could be prevented or treated.

Obesity and Willpower

Many people seem to think that weight gain and obesity are caused by a lack of willpower.

That’s not entirely true. Although weight gain is largely a result of eating behavior and lifestyle, some people are at a disadvantage when it comes to controlling their eating habits.

The thing is, overeating is driven by various biological factors like genetics and hormones. Certain people are simply predisposed to gaining weight (1).

Of course, people can overcome their genetic disadvantages by changing their lifestyle and behavior. Lifestyle changes require willpower, dedication and perseverance.

Nevertheless, claims that behavior is purely a function of willpower is far too simplistic.

They don’t take into account all the other factors that ultimately determine what people do and when they do it.

Here are 10 factors that are leading causes of weight gain, obesity and metabolic disease, many of which have nothing to do with willpower.

1. Genetics

Obesity has a strong genetic component. Children of obese parents are much more likely to become obese than children of lean parents.

That doesn’t mean that obesity is completely predetermined. What you eat can have a major effect on which genes are expressed and which are not.

Non-industrialized societies rapidly become obese when they start eating a typical Western diet. Their genes didn't change, but the environment and the signals they sent to their genes did.

Put simply, genetic components do affect your susceptibility to gaining weight. Studies on identical twins demonstrate this very well

2. Engineered Junk Foods

Heavily processed foods are often little more than refined ingredients mixed with additives.

These products are designed to be cheap, last long on the shelf and taste so incredibly good that they are hard to resist.

By making foods as tasty as possible, food manufacturers are trying to increase sales. But they also promote overeating.

Most processed foods today don't resemble whole foods at all. These are highly engineered products, designed to get people hooked.

3. Food Addiction

Many sugar-sweetened, high-fat junk foods stimulate the reward centers in your brain (3, 4).

In fact, these foods are often compared to commonly abused drugs like alcohol, cocaine, nicotine and cannabis.

Junk foods can cause addiction in susceptible individuals. These people lose control over their eating behavior, similar to people struggling with alcohol addiction losing control over their drinking behavior.

Addiction is a complex issue that can be very difficult to overcome. When you become addicted to something, you lose your freedom of choice and the biochemistry in your brain starts calling the shots for you.

4. Aggressive Marketing
Junk food producers are very aggressive marketers.

Their tactics can get unethical at times and they sometimes try to market very unhealthy products as healthy foods.

These companies also make misleading claims. What’s worse, they target their marketing specifically towards children.

In today’s world, children are becoming obese, diabetic and addicted to junk foods long before they're old enough to make informed decisions about these things.

5. Insulin

Insulin is a very important hormone that regulates energy storage, among other things.

One of its functions is to tell fat cells to store fat and to hold on to the fat they already carry.

The Western diet promotes insulin resistance in many overweight and obese individuals. This elevates insulin levels all over the body, causing energy to get stored in fat cells instead of being available for use (5).

While insulin’s role in obesity is controversial, several studies suggest that high insulin levels have a causal role in the development of obesity (6).

One of the best ways to lower your insulin is to cut back on simple or refined carbohydrates while increasing fiber intake (7).

This usually leads to an automatic reduction in calorie intake and effortless weight loss — no calorie counting or portion control needed (8, 9).

6. Certain Medications

Many pharmaceutical drugs can cause weight gain as a side effect (10).

For example, antidepressants have been linked to modest weight gain over time (11).

Other examples include diabetes medication and antipsychotics (12, 13).

These drugs don't decrease your willpower. They alter the function of your body and brain, reducing metabolic rate or increasing appetite (14, 15).

7. Leptin Resistance

Leptin is another hormone that plays an important role in obesity.

It is produced by fat cells and its blood levels increase with higher fat mass. For this reason, leptin levels are especially high in people with obesity.

In healthy people, high leptin levels are linked to reduced appetite. When working properly, it should tell your brain how high your fat stores are.

The problem is that leptin isn't working as it should in many obese people, because for some reason it cannot cross the blood-brain barrier (16).

This condition is called leptin resistance and is believed to be a leading factor in the pathogenesis of obesity.

8. Food Availability
Another factor that dramatically influences people’s waistline is food availability, which has increased massively in the past few centuries.

Food, especially junk food, is everywhere now. Shops display tempting foods where they are most likely to gain your attention.

Another problem is that junk food is often cheaper than healthy, whole foods, especially in America.

Some people, especially in poorer neighborhoods, don't even have the option of purchasing real foods, like fresh fruit and vegetables.

Convenience stores in these areas only sell sodas, candy and processed, packaged junk foods.

How can it be a matter of choice if there is none?

9. Sugar

Added sugar may be the single worst aspect of the modern diet.

That’s because sugar changes the hormones and biochemistry of your body when consumed in excess. This, in turn, contributes to weight gain.

Added sugar is half glucose, half fructose. People get glucose from a variety of foods, including starches, but the majority of fructose comes from added sugar.

Excess fructose intake may cause insulin resistance and elevated insulin levels. It also doesn't promote satiety in the same way glucose does (17, 18, 19).

For all these reasons, sugar contributes to increased energy storage and, ultimately, obesity.

10. Misinformation
People all over the world are being misinformed about health and nutrition.

There are many reasons for this, but the problem largely depends on where people get their information from.

Many websites, for example, spread inaccurate or even incorrect information about health and nutrition.

Some news outlets also oversimplify or misinterpret the results of scientific studies and the results are frequently taken out of context.

Other information may simply be outdated or based on theories that have never been fully proven.

Food companies also play a role. Some promote products, such as weight loss supplements, that do not work.

Weight loss strategies based on false information can hold back your progress. It’s important to choose your sources well.

Natural cancer remedies sorting fact from fiction

Natural cancer remedies sorting fact from fiction

Certain fruits and herbs may help cure your cancer. Get the go-ahead from your registered physician or oncologist to include the following natural cancer fighters in your cancer fighting regime

When it comes to natural remedies for cancer therapy, many patients are given anecdotal advice about the usefulness of alternative traditional medicines. They are also often told to combine these with their conventional medication for added effect.

While conventional treatments are subjected to rigorous research before they can be recommended for clinical use, alternative treatments are not.

These “natural” remedies are either turned into over-the-counter medicines or can be taken in their natural forms.

It is important to note that alternative methods labelled “natural” are not necessarily “good”. Nor do they necessarily translate into healing.

The use of traditional remedies should always be discussed with a physician or an oncologist. They may have adverse effects or may reduce the efficacy of conventional treatment.

Many alternative or traditional medicines claim to have the ability to heal but there is no scientific evidence to support this. In some cases scientific evidence may even contradict the claims.

Here are some of the myths and facts about natural products that purportedly have anti-cancer properties.

Overripe bananas

in 2009, an article investigating cancer-related biological activity in ripened bananas was published. The study could not make any direct link to the fruit as an anti-cancer remedy but included the following statement:

Due to the association between immunostimulatory and anti-oxidative effects, oral banana intake has the potential to help prevent lifestyle-related diseases and carcinogenesis.

The statement went viral in the media with many memes posted on Facebook suggesting ripened bananas could reduce cancer risk. While studies have demonstrated that antioxidants play an important role in protecting body cells against potential cancer agents, the article does not say bananas have an active ingredient that can combat cancer.

There are, however, remedies that have seen more positive results.

Fruit and vegetable pits

For generations the pits of many fruits, particularly apricots or kernels, have been promoted anecdotally to treat cancer. Traditionally the pits were chewed in their natural form.

Amygdalin found inside apricot pits was thought to be the active ingredient linked to tales of its powerful anti-cancer properties.But after nearly four decades of research, scientists cannot find any proof of its elusive chemotherapeutic effects.

What has been reported and is nearly guaranteed is that a person who uses this remedy will suffer the adverse effects of chronic poisoning caused by the cyanide found in some of these pits.

South African rooibos herbal tea

Rooibos, which is only found in the Cederberg region of the Western Cape, South Africa, is known for its aromatic flavour. The plant has been found to have anti-cancer properties in in vitro and in vivo animal models.

Additional research shows that the herbal tea possesses ingredients that reduce oesophageal and liver cancer and skin tumours. Clinical trials in humans are being planned.

he Cancer Association of South Africa has endorsed the herbal tea’s potential as a form of natural chemoprevention. This means it can aid in preventing cancer and even possibly reduce the growth of cancer cells. And it has funded research projects aimed at identifying the active ingredients.

The tropical guayabano fruit

A member of the custard apple family fruit tree, Annona muricata, which is more commonly known as soursop, graviola or guayabano, is extensively eaten by indigenous communities in the tropical parts of northern Africa and South America. It is an oval-shaped, dark green, prickly fruit with a mildly acidic, whitish flesh.

When the plant was put through scientific tests, studies found that several parts had potentially potent anti-cancer properties. This was particularly shown to be the case when used as an adjunct treatment.

Research showed that the leaves have active ingredients that possess anti-cancer properties that kill lung, prostate, colon, breast, and pancreatic cancer cells. Its seeds display properties that perform the same task that chemotherapy treatment would, killing breast, oral and lung cancer cells. And its fruit component has anti-prostate cancer potential.

Traditionally, the leaves and or roots would have been brewed or crushed for consumption, and the fruit eaten. But extracts of the active ingredients from the leaves have been made into tablets and sold commercially. These are taken in conjunction with conventional chemotherapy.

The Sutherlandia frutescens plant

This shrub-like plant has bitter, aromatic leaves and is known for its red-orange flowers during spring to mid-summer.

Studies show that it has anti-cancer properties against oesophageal, prostate, liver, breast and lung cancer cells. Recent studies proposed that cancer bush, the name it is commonly known by, may be a promising adjunctive therapy because of its potent anti-oxidative properties.

Preliminary clinical studies proved that it had no negative effects. And the indications are that it may act as an immune stimulant to support the cancer patient.

It has been made into tablet form and commercialised but studies are continuing to produce more definitive evidence of its benefits.It is currently being marketed as a natural remedy that can be used alongside conventional treatment.

Coix seed

Traditional Chinese Medicine is a significant component of alternative medicine. Initially confined to Asian countries, big Western pharmaceutical companies have recently started sifting through the orient’s vast indigenous knowledge for natural cancer remedies.

Kanglaite is an anti-tumour drug that was developed using modern technology. It contains extracts from coix seeds.

Research shows that Kanglaite has anti-cancer effects particularly in gastric, lung, and liver cancer. After passing the phase three clinical trials it was marketed along with conventional therapy to improve the patient’s quality of life.