Even in environments with low air pollution, long term exposure to traffic exhaust near people’s homes may heighten their risk of stroke, according to a new study from Sweden. The culprit appears to be a fine particle air pollutant called black carbon.
The researchers came to this conclusion after investigating links between exposure to different types of particulate matter and rates of heart disease and stroke in three cities in Sweden.
The authors write that they observed “few consistent associations” between heart disease and stroke and different types of particulate matter and their sources.
Black carbon and particulate matter
Black carbon is a sooty material that comes from burning fossil fuels. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it is a significant component of fine particle air pollution.
Vehicle and other engines that run on gas and diesel and power plants that run on coal and other fossil fuels emit black carbon along with other particulate matter.
Road traffic is the primary source of black carbon emissions in cities.
Scientists have tied black carbon inhalation to respiratory conditions, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and birth abnormalities.
Dr. Ljungman and colleagues from Karolinska Institutet and other research centers in Sweden used data on 114,758 people who were participants in other studies that had collected information about cardiovascular risk factors from examinations and questionnaires.
The participants, who lived in three cities in Sweden, were healthy and middle-aged at recruitment. The study period started in 1990 and lasted for around 20 years. The dataset included the history of the participants‘ residential addresses over the period.
Over the 20 years of follow-up, 5,166 individuals developed ischemic heart disease, and 3,119 experienced strokes.
Using emissions databases and dispersion models, the team estimated how much each type of emission source contributed to particulate matter, including black carbon, at specific residential addresses.
The sources that they included in the analysis were traffic exhaust, road wear, and residential heating. They included data for two grades of particulate matter: coarse, which includes particles under 10 micrometers (10μm) in diameter (PM10), and fine, which includes particles under 2.5 μm in diameter (PM2.5). Black carbon counts as PM2.5.
Black carbon and raised stroke risk
The analysis revealed that the risk of stroke went up by 4% for every additional 0.3 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3) of black carbon air pollutant from traffic exhaust.
The researchers found no link to stroke for black carbon emissions from residential heating.
Also, they observed no links between total levels of PM10 and PM2.5 particulate matter and either heart disease or stroke.
“There was some evidence,” note the authors, “of an association between PM2.5 specifically from local emissions of residential heating and incidence of [ischemic heart disease] that warrant further investigation.”
In their study background, the authors refer to research that has linked long term exposure to PM2.5 particles and atherosclerosis, the clogged artery condition that raises the risk of heart disease and stroke.
The residential areas that the new study covered were in the cities of Gothenburg, Stockholm, and Umeå. The annual averages during the study period for PM2.5 particulate matter in these cities ranged from 5.8 to 9.2 μg/m3. This range is below the 25 μg/m3 threshold in current EU standards.
Although the EU mention black carbon as a component of PM2.5 particulate air pollution, they have no specific threshold for black carbon.
“Black carbon from traffic exhaust could be an important measure to consider when assessing air quality and health consequences.”
This is a story about Helmut Strebl. If you’ve not heard about this man before, then let me remind you that he’s the same ripped guy whose pictures are seen doing round on the internet, accompanied with captions like ‘world’s most ripped man’ and Mr. Shredder. A look at his pictures and you can’t contest the names given to this man. His extremely low body fat percentage is a testament of what can be achieved with decades of hard work and dedication coupled with good genetics. He has competed and modelled for almost two decades now and is well known for his motivational speeches apart from a godly ripped physique. Here’s his story.
Helmut is not a usual bodybuilder who gets into shape before an event. He maintains the same level of conditioning throughout the year. He weighs 205 to 215 at a height of 6’3′ all year round with a body fat percentage of around 4 to 5 percent. He is a bodybuilder and a model by profession who has competed in many events and even featured in a music video with Madonna.
He first competed at the Mr. World 1996, where he ranked 11th. The same year he went on to become Mr. Austria 1996. Thereafter he appeared for many natural bodybuilding competitions like Muscle Mania and European Natural Bodybuilding Championships. He has even won these titles more than half a dozen of times. His latest trophy was that of the Miami Pro World Championship, 2014. In the same competition, he was also crowned best muscle model over 40.
Oxford University researchers have discovered that learned knowledge is stored in different brain circuits depending on how we acquire it.
The researchers from the Department of Experimental Psychology, the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging (WIN) and the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, used an MRI scanner to observe changes in parts of the brain associated with learning and learned experiences while volunteers completed tasks that involved a reward.
Participants also attended two sessions prior to scanning to compare their individual associations between stimulus sequences and reward.
They found that the changes seen in the participants’ neural pathways associated with learning were different depending upon how each person had learned the new skill.
Miriam Klein-Flugge of the Department of Experimental Psychology, said: “We know that humans can learn in different ways. Sometimes we learn simply by observing relationships in the world, such as learning the layout of a new town, or relationships between people. But another way to learn is by setting particular goals, like children learning to operate toys by trial and error.
“This research shows that we have multiple networks in the brain that help us store learned knowledge or associations, which means that damage to one part of the brain will still leave alternative mechanisms available for learning.
“We also learned that some of this knowledge is very persistent, and the brain does not forget about it even when it becomes irrelevant, while knowledge acquired through an alternative learning mechanisms is more flexible and can more easily be changed to new knowledge.”
As well as showing that the brain can learn in different ways and that these multiple mechanisms for learning rely on the concerted effort of multiple different brain networks, the study also showed that unlearning associations can be easier when they were acquired by observation compared to a goal-directed manner.
Miriam Klein-Flugge added: “It is well known that it is good for our brains to continue to learn new things throughout life, which is why understanding the different ways in which we learn and store knowledge could be beneficial and help each of us to find out which way of learning suits us best.”
The full article, “Multiple associative structures created by reinforcement and incidental statistical learning mechanisms,” is published in Nature Communications.
Berberine is a chemical found in several plants including European barberry, goldenseal, goldthread, Oregon grape, phellodendron, and tree turmeric.
Berberine is most commonly taken by mouth for diabetes, high levels of cholesterol or other fats (lipids) in the blood (hyperlipidemia), and high blood pressure. It is also applied to the skin to treat burns and canker sores, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.
How does it work?
Berberine might cause stronger heartbeats. This might help people with certain heart conditions. Berberine might also help regulate how the body uses sugar in the blood. This might help people with diabetes. It also might also be able to kill bacteria and reduce swelling.
Quercetin is a plant pigment (flavonoid). It is found in many plants and foods, such as red wine, onions, green tea, apples, berries, Ginkgo biloba, St. John’s wort, American elder, and others. Buckwheat tea has a large amount of quercetin. People use quercetin as a medicine.
Quercetin is most commonly taken by mouth to treat conditions of the heart and blood vessels and prevent cancer. It is also used for arthritis, bladder infections, and diabetes. But there is limited scientific evidence to support these uses.
How does it work?
Quercetin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects which might help reduce inflammation, kill cancer cells, control blood sugar, and help prevent heart disease.
Resveratrol is part of a group of compounds called polyphenols. They’re thought to act like antioxidants, protecting the body against damage that can put you at higher risk for things like cancer and heart disease.
It’s in the skin of red grapes, but you can also find it in peanuts and berries.
Manufacturers have tried to capitalize on its powers by selling resveratrol supplements. Most resveratrol capsules sold in the U.S. contain extracts from an Asian plant called Polygonum cuspidatum. Other resveratrol supplements are made from red wine or red grape extracts.
Ads touting these supplements on the Internet promise everything from weight loss to a healthier, longer life.
Do resveratrol supplements really deliver on those promises?
It’s gained a lot of attention for its reported anti-aging and disease-fighting powers. Still, it’s important to note that while experts agree that it does have potential, there’s still not enough data to confirm its effectiveness. Still, early research does suggest it might help protect you against:
Melatonin works together with your body’s circadian rhythm.
In simple terms, the circadian rhythm is your body’s internal clock. It lets you know when it’s time to sleep, wake and eat.
Melatonin also helps regulate your body temperature, blood pressure and hormone levels.
Melatonin levels start to rise in your body when it is dark outside, signaling to your body that it is time to sleep.
It also binds to receptors in the body and can help you relax. For instance, melatonin binds to receptors in the brain to help reduce nerve activity. In the eyes, it can help reduce dopamine levels, a hormone that helps you stay awake.
Although the exact way melatonin helps you fall asleep is unclear, research suggests these processes can help you fall asleep.
Conversely, light suppresses melatonin production. This is one way that your body knows it is time to wake up.
As melatonin helps your body prepare for sleep, people who don’t make enough of it at night can struggle to fall asleep.
There are many factors that may cause low levels at night. Stress, smoking, exposure to too much light at night (including blue light), not getting enough natural light during the day, shift work and aging all affect melatonin production.
Taking a melatonin supplement may help counter low levels and normalize your internal clock.
SUMMARY:Melatonin works closely with your body’s circadian rhythm to help prepare you for sleep. Its levels rise at night-time.
Evidence shows that taking melatonin before bed can help you get to sleep.
In an analysis of 19 studies on people with sleep disorders, scientists found that melatonin helped reduce the time it took to fall asleep by an average of 7 minutes.
In many of these studies, people also reported significantly better quality of sleep .
Additionally, melatonin can help with jet lag, a temporary sleep disorder.
Jet lag occurs when your body’s internal clock is out of sync with the new time zone. Shift workers may also experience jet lag symptoms since they work during a time normally saved for sleep.
Melatonin can help reduce jet lag by syncing your internal clock with the time change .
For instance, an analysis of 10 studies explored the effects of melatonin in people who traveled through five or more time zones. Scientists found that melatonin was remarkably effective at reducing the effects of jet lag.
The analysis also found that both lower doses (0.5 mg) and higher doses (5 mg) were equally effective at reducing jet lag .
Taking melatonin may provide you with other health benefits as well.
May Support Eye Health
Healthy melatonin levels may support eye health.
It has powerful antioxidant benefits that could help lower the risk of eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
In one study, scientists asked 100 people with AMD to take 3 mg of melatonin over 6 to 24 months. Taking melatonin daily helped protect the retinas and delay damage from AMD, without any significant side effects.
A study with 21 participants found that taking melatonin and tryptophan along with omeprazole — a common medication for acid reflux — helped heal stomach ulcers caused by the bacteria H. pylori faster.
In another study, 36 people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) were given either melatonin, omeprazole (a medicine that helps treat GERD) or a combination of both to treat GERD and its symptoms.
Melatonin helped reduce heartburn and was even more effective when combined with omeprazole.
However, this area of research is fairly new. Future studies will help clarify how effective melatonin is in treating stomach ulcers and heartburn.
May Reduce Symptoms of Tinnitus
Tinnitus is a condition characterized by a constant ringing in the ears. It is often worse when there is less background noise, such as when you’re trying to fall asleep.
Interestingly, taking melatonin may help reduce symptoms of tinnitus and help you get to sleep.
In one study, 61 adults with tinnitus took 3 mg of melatonin before bed for 30 days. It helped reduce the effects of tinnitus and significantly improved sleep quality.
May Help Increase Growth Hormone Levels in Men
Human growth hormone is naturally released during sleep. In healthy young men, taking melatonin may help increase growth hormone levels.
Studies have shown that melatonin can make the pituitary gland, the organ that releases growth hormone, more sensitive to the hormone that releases growth hormone .
In addition, studies have shown that both lower (0.5 mg) and higher (5.0 mg) melatonin doses are effective at stimulating growth hormone release .
May Help With Seasonal Depression
Seasonal depression is commonly known as the “winter blues” or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It may affect up to 20% of adults in the US .
Some evidence shows that seasonal depression is affected by changes in light and sleep cycles (36Trusted Source).
In turn, melatonin could possibly help reduce symptoms of seasonal depression by helping with the sleep cycle.
However, the evidence is not entirely clear. Future studies will help clarify if melatonin could be useful for treating seasonal depression.
SUMMARY:Melatonin may support eye health, ease tinnitus symptoms, treat stomach ulcers and heartburn, increase growth hormone levels in young men and help with seasonal depression.
If you would like to try melatonin, start with a lower dose supplement.
For instance, start with 0.5 mg (500 mcg) or 1 mg 30 minutes before going to bed. If that doesn’t seem to help you fall asleep, try increasing your dose to 3–5 mg.
Taking more melatonin than this likely won’t help you fall asleep faster. The goal is to find the lowest dose that will help you fall asleep.
However, it is best to follow the instructions that come with your supplement.
Melatonin is widely available in the US. You will need a prescription for melatonin in other places, such as the European Union and Australia.
SUMMARY:If you want to try melatonin, start with 0.5 mg or 1 mg 30 minutes before bed. If that doesn’t work, then try increasing it to 3–5 mg or follow the instructions on the supplement.
Safety and Side Effects
Current evidence suggests that melatonin supplements are safe, non-toxic and not addictive.
That being said, some people may experience mild side effects, such as sleepiness, dizziness, headaches and nausea.
Melatonin may also interact with a variety of medications. These include blood thinners, blood pressure medication and antidepressants .
If you take any of the above, it’s best to check with your doctor before beginning a supplement.
There is also some concern that taking too much melatonin will stop your body from making it naturally. However, several studies have found that taking melatonin won’t affect your body’s ability to make it on its own .
SUMMARY:Current studies show that melatonin is safe, non-toxic and not addictive. However, it may interact with blood thinners, blood pressure medications and antidepressants.
The Bottom Line
Melatonin is an effective supplement that can help you fall asleep, especially if you have insomnia or jet lag. It may have other health benefits, as well.
If you would like to try melatonin, start with a lower dose of 0.5–1 mg, taken 30 minutes before bed. If that doesn’t work, you can increase your dose to 3–5 mg.
Looking to cut back on sugar? We’ll give you some sweet tips
Our Nutrition newsletter’s 10 day sugar challenge guides you in bringing more awareness to the sugars in the foods you eat and gives you the tools you need to make healthier choices.
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