Monthly Archives: April 2019

Stressed Out? Try Meditation

April is Stress Awareness Month in the UK, and our last post of this month will examine the effects of meditation programs on stress and wellness.

The definition of stress is somewhat elusive. While most of us would probably agree as to what constitutes “stress”, such as rush hour traffic or public speaking, pining down an exact definition has proved difficult. Even Dr. Hans Selye, the Hungarian-Canadian endocrinologist and pioneering researcher in stress theory, stated famously that “Everyone knows what stress is, but nobody really knows”.

While some stress in our life  may be beneficial, leading to positive changes and adaptations, long-term chronic stress is generally harmful. Chronic stress can induce harmful effects on physical and mental health.

Dr. Selye described three phases to his General Adaptation Syndrome. Phase 1 or the Alarm Stage is when the stressor occurs, which induces the sympathetic nervous system (aka “fight or flight response”). During Phase 2, the Resistance Stage, our body does it’s best to resist the stress. However during Phase 3 or the Exhaustion Stage we are unable to overcome the stress any longer and reach a stage of exhaustion. It is felt that the increase in stress hormones such as cortisol seen in chronic stress are one of the factors leading to the harmful effects on physical and mental well-being.

While we are probably all familiar with the effects of chronic stress on our mood leading to increased anxiety and depression, as well as interfering with our sleep, it is important to consider the potential effects of stress on physical health. For example, data from the REGARDS study demonstrated that those with high stress and high depressive symptoms have a 48% increased risk of heart attack or death, compared to those with low stress and fewer depressive symptoms.

A research group from John Hopkins evaluated the use of meditation on improving stress related outcomes. The researchers conducted a review and meta-analysis, which included nearly 50 trials, and over 3500 participants.

The researchers discovered that mindfulness meditation showed “moderate” evidence for improving anxiety, depression, and pain. In addition, of the nine trials that reported this particular information, none reported any adverse side effects from the meditation.

There are a multitude of ways to help manage and lower our stress levels, included a proper diet, regular exercise, good sleep hygiene, and nurturing healthy relationships with others. Given the results of this well done study at John Hopkins, we can add mindfulness meditation as another tool to help with stress.

“Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one.”–  Dr. Hans Selye

(Source- JAMA Internal Medicine, January 6, 2014)

This blog is a review of published medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone.

 

Tea Lowers Risks of Oral Cancers

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and in recognition of this today’s post will examine recent research on the consumption of tea and risk of oral cancer.

Statistics from the American Cancer Society estimate about 53,000 Americans will develop oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer in 2019. It is also estimated that nearly 11,000 will die from these types of cancer. The main risk factors appear to be tobacco use, alcohol, and HPV infection.

A recent study was performed by a group of researchers in China. They performed a review and meta-analysis of 14 case-control studies, examining the role between tea consumption and oral cancers. These studies included participants from the Africa, Asia, Europe and the US.

The researchers discovered that increased tea consumption was associated with a decreased risk of oral cancer. A dose-response analysis indicated that the risk of oral cancer was decreased when the dose and duration of tea consumption was increased. For example, with every cup of tea intake increased, the risk of oral cancer dropped by 6.2%.

Tea is known to contain many bioactive compounds, such as catechins. Catechins are flavonoid compounds, and have antioxidant properties. It is thought that catechins have anti-carcinogenic properties as well, and hence may be one of the compounds in tea that work to lower cancer risk.

The 5 year survival rate of oral cancers is about 65%. Early detection is the key to the survivability from many types of cancers, as is avoidance of known risk factors. Given the results of this study, perhaps consider tea as a healthy beverage of choice.

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”– C.S. Lewis

(Source- Medicine (2018) 97:51)

This blog is a review of published medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.

Tea Lowers Bad Cholesterol

April 21st is National Tea Day in the UK, and this post is the second in recognition of this important day. This post will examine research regarding black tea and cholesterol.

Tea remains one of the world’s most widely consumed beverages. It is estimated that the size of the global tea market is more than $70 billion. While coffee remains more popular than tea in the US, Americans still drink their fair share of tea, averaging over 8 gallons per capita consumption. Nearly a quarter of Americans drink tea daily.

A group of researchers in China investigated the relationship between black tea consumption and cholesterol parameters. They performed a review and meta-analysis of ten studies, which included over 400 participants.

The researchers discovered that the consumption of black tea led to a significant reduction in LDL concentration. LDL is the low density or so-called “bad cholesterol”. LDL contributes to the build-up of fat in the arteries, or atherosclerosis.

Given the possible reduction in “bad cholesterol”, consider tea as a healthy beverage choice. And celebrate National Tea Day!

“But indeed I would rather have nothing but tea.” – Jane Austen

(Source- Clinical Nutrition, 2014)

This blog is a review of published medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.

 

 

Enjoy a Cup of Tea Today (or three)

April 21st is National Tea Day in the UK, and in recognition of this today’s post will examine research regarding tea consumption and cardiovascular outcomes.

Tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world. Tea is derived from Carmellia sinesis leaves, and leaf buds. Carmellia sinesis is an evergreen shrub or small tree, which grows at elevation in warmer weather climates. Approximately 40% of the global tea production comes from China, with India producing about 22%. Other leading producers include Kenya, Sri Lanka, and Turkey. Turkey is the largest per capita consumer of tea, at 5 1/2 pounds per person per year. According to statistics from the Tea Association of the USA, Americans consumed over 84 billion servings of tea last year. Over 84% of that was black tea, with about 15% being green tea.

Tea is purported to have a range of health benefits, from cardiovascular benefits, to lowering risks of certain cancers, to improvement in cognitive health. Tea is composed of hundreds of bioactive compounds, including flavonoids. Flavonoids are thought to have antioxidant properties, and may be the source of some of the beneficial properties of tea.

Researchers in China performed a meta-analysis of published prospective observational studies to examine the relationship between tea consumption and various cardiovascular outcomes. Twenty-two different studies were included in the analysis, including participants from the US, Europe, and Asia. More than 850,000 subjects were enrolled in these various trials.

Researchers discovered that increased tea consumption was associated with a reduction in cardiac death, cerebral infarction, heart disease, intracerebral hemorrhage and stroke. More importantly, tea consumption was associated with a reduction in total mortality. These results were with a serving of three cups of tea per day.

This was a robust meta-analysis, with a large number of study participants, spanning the globe. Given these results, consider tea as a healthy beverage choice, and salute National Tea Day!

“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”  Henry James

(Source- European Journal of Epidemiology (2015) 30)

This blog is a review of published medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.

Acupuncture Helps With IBS

April is designated IBS Awareness Month, and in recognition of this today’s post will review a recently published study which examined acupuncture for IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).

IBS afflicts up to 12% of Americans, with women nearly twice as likely to be affected, according to data from the NIH National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Symptoms include abdominal pain and bloating. IBS is often subdivided into either a constipative variety (IBS-C) or a diarrhea predominant variety (IBS-D). The cause of IBS is not clear, but what is clear is that IBS can become quite debilitating.

Medications that are often prescribed for IBS may be minimally effective, and/or have bothersome side effects, so patients with IBS are often considering alternative therapies, including acupuncture.

An international research group including researchers from China, Hong Kong, the UK and Australia recently performed a meta-analysis of the existing research studies regarding acupuncture for IBS. They included a total of 27 random controlled trials in their analysis, encompassing over 2100 subjects, ages 18-77 years. Therapies included in the studies were acupuncture, electroacupuncture, moxibustion and Geshanxiaoyao (a Chinese herbal formula), and a combination of these. The period of follow-up of the various trials ranged from two to seven weeks.

After performing the meta-analysis researchers discovered that the combination of needle acupuncture and Geshanxiaoyao formula had the highest probability of being the best choice for improving global IBS symptoms. The sensitivity analysis indicated that moxibustion, followed by needle acupuncture plus moxibustion, had the highest probability for improving global IBS symptoms. In addition, importantly, no adverse side effects from acupuncture or the other alternative therapies was noted.

Given that many who suffer from IBS do not do well with conventional treatments or do not tolerate them, perhaps in those cases acupuncture or moxibustion should be given consideration.

“Work hard, trust in God, and keep your bowels open.”–  Oliver Cromwell

(Source- Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology, 2019, Vol. 12)

This blog is a review of published medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss and health concerns with your personal physician.