Leptin is primarily known as a hormone that is active in the hypothalamus in the brain. It plays a role in decreasing body fat mass and suppressing food intake making you feel full. But research studying activity is showing that leptin serves a much broader purpose than telling you that you’ve had enough slices of pizza.
It turns out that hypothalamus is not the only part of the brain with leptin activity, nor is food intake control leptin’s only function. Leptin also influences “… motivation, learning, memory, cognitive function, neuroprotection, reproduction, growth, metabolism, energy expenditure and more.” This means that when leptin signaling is working properly, a lot of body and brain functions are going to run smoothly as a result. On the other side of the coin is, of course, the fact that improper or impaired leptin signaling has an impact across all sorts of systems.
One of the interesting points here is that leptin has a real effect on multiple cognitive functions; once again, evidence that nutrition affects our brains! Leptin resistance is commonly associated with obesity and increasing age, which is a bit of a vicious cycle: higher body fat levels often influence leptin resistance, which in turn leads to lower fat metabolism and increased fat mass. You can see the issue. Not only does leptin resistance negatively impact the body physically, there appears to be a growing list of cognitive functions that suffer as well.
What about strategies to try and increase metabolism and return leptin signaling to normal? One tactic is a decrease in the about of simple carbohydrates and sugars in the diet (think about how often you choose soda over a glass of water). Another is increasing aerobic exercise. When there are a lot of these simple carbs and sugars in a person’s diet, they can start to ‘build up’ as stored fat instead of being ‘”burned off”. As mentioned earlier, higher body fat gain, and so on. If we can reduce the amount of simple carbs and sugars, and increase aerobic exercise, we are likely to increase carbohydrate metabolism and, by extension, reduce the amount of fat building up from carbohydrate in the diet.
Morrison, Christopher D. “Leptin Signaling in Brain: A Link between Nutrition and Cognition?”Biochimica Et Biophysica Acta (BBA) – Molecular Basis of Disease, vol. 1792, no. 5, 2009, pp. 401–408., doi:10.1016/j.bbadis.2008.12.004
BY: FITDAY EDITOR
Planning meals is an activity that can bring a number of benefits. Whether you are cooking for one, for two or for your entire family, taking the time to sit down and plan future meals will not only save you time, effort and money but will also improve your eating habits. Here are some reasons why you should start planning your meals.
Perhaps the number one reason to begin planning meals is that it lets you eat healthier. When you already have a menu of the foods you’re going to prepare for the next several days, you won’t have to resort to eating out or ordering takeout. As you probably know, most fast foods and restaurants today fall below standard when it comes to serving nutritious foods. Unfortunately, when you find yourself coming home late from work or too busy to do the groceries, you probably resort to buying pizza, cheeseburgers or a bucket of greasy chicken. Prepackaged meals are just as bad. Most TV and microwave dinners are often processed so much that they lose whatever nutrients they contained. When you plan meals, you can avoid eating these nutritionally lacking foods. Instead, you can spend time thinking of well-balanced meals and how you can prepare them.
When you make a habit of planning your meals, you can also get to shop for groceries more efficiently. This is because you will already have a list of the ingredients you need even before you go the supermarket or grocery. This will eliminate those annoying instances when you’re in the middle of cooking and you discover that you’ve run out of a necessary ingredient, so you end up rushing to the store or doing without the ingredient. Naturally, you will also get to avoid having groceries go to waste. Perhaps you’ve experienced buying a food item with plans of using it for a meal only to have it stuck in the back of your fridge for weeks. Meal planning automatically eliminates these grocery-related problems.
When you are dining out less and shopping for groceries more efficiently, you will naturally get to save money. In fact, you can even include costs in your meal plans as well so you can have an idea how much you can expect to spend. Once you know what ingredients you will be needing, you can also find out where to buy these ingredients cheaply.
Another good thing about planning meals is that it lets you enjoy variety. Instead of eating the same dish five times a week, you can plan your menu so you are always enjoying something new. Perhaps you can cook fish on Monday, beef on Tuesday, lamb on Wednesday, a vegetarian dish on Thursday and chicken for Friday. This is particularly helpful if you have children who are picky about their food. You can also ask for their preferences when planning meals so you can be sure they will like to dishes you serve them.
BY: JEFF HAYWARD
If you constantly feel run down and can’t seem to find that extra step, you may have what some experts call Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome. Not to be confused with Adrenal Deficiency Syndrome, which is a medically proven condition, the fatigue syndrome can be brought on by prolonged stress and other factors.
However, while medical professionals still debate the existence of Adrenal Fatigue, it has a name already and you may have the associated symptoms. Luckily, there are also some ways to treat those symptoms. Here are six signs your adrenal glands, which are located atop your kidneys, may need some assistance…
We all have our bouts of being worn out, but Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (we’ll call it AFS for the purposes of this article) can leave you feeling tired even when you haven’t done anything that requires energy, according to AdrenalFatigue.org.
That can leave you with feelings of being run down and needing a nap or having trouble getting up in the morning even when you’ve had sufficient sleep. You may feel like small tasks have become overwhelmingly large because you just don’t seem to have the energy.
According to Livestrong, craving salty snacks could be a warning sign from your adrenal glands that they’re tapped out. However, salt can actually be helpful in healing the overworked glands and curbing the symptoms, according to the source.
The reason for salt cravings is low sodium and aldosterone (a steroid hormone) levels in your body, noted Livestrong. It recommends adding up to a teaspoon of salt of filtered water in the morning to give your system a kickstart.
Those with adrenal fatigue tend to feel more awake in the evening hours, after 6 p.m. The Association of Women for the Advancement of Research and Education (AWARE) explains that there’s an energy pattern with AFS—namely very fatigued in the morning, with more alertness around lunch and a lull in the afternoon.
That’s because there’s a lull in cortisol (stress hormone) production in people with AFS, with a gradual recovery in the evening with another “wall” of fatigue around 9 p.m. The website notes that people with this condition tend to do their best work in the evening.
This is a lesser symptom of AFS, but those with the syndrome can feel light-headed just by standing up too fast. You may also experience a loss of balance when standing or walking.
This might be attributed to low blood pressure when returning to a standing position, according to experts. Your blood pressure is supposed to rise when you’re upright; if this doesn’t happen it could mean your adrenal glands are overtaxed.
Since one of the causes of AFS is prolonged stress, it makes sense that more stress can prove too much for your adrenal glands, which manage your fight-or-flight responses to situations. This could mean it’s more difficult to face daily stresses such as the workplace.
AdrenalFatigue.org suggests that long periods of high cortisol from stress can be followed by a dip in cortisol due to overstimulation, making your body less prepared to deal with stress. This can lead to “burnout” that can decrease your overall tolerance to life events, which can then lead to being withdrawn socially. Adjustments to lifestyle can help you recover, said the source.
Since the stress hormone cortisol is also a natural anti-inflammatory, having an adrenal system that is working overtime can actually raise those cortisol levels too high and block your immune responses, according to AdrenalFatigueSolution.com.
Conversely, if your cortisol levels drop too low, you can also be prone to overreact to pathogens and end up with inflammation or even auto-immune diseases, said the source. You tend to have overly high levels of cortisol early in AFS, and lower levels as the condition drags on.
To better guage your adrenal’s, take our quick Adrenal Fatigue Test
Women with these and similar symptoms may not even consider hormonal imbalance as a cause. Hormonal imbalance symptoms have a wide range that includes more common symptoms like weight gain and fatigue, but also lesser known problems like hair loss, skin issues, and heart palpitations.
You can only live with your hormonal imbalance symptoms for so long before the problem begins to jeopardize your health and wellbeing. Understanding the hormonal source of your symptoms, and the confusing array of problems it can generate can show you the path to feeling better.
When your body’s hormones are balanced, your symptoms will recede and you will enjoy much better health and a lot more happiness.
At every age, your hormones are fluctuating on a daily basis, in mostly predictable patterns. But sometimes your hormones fluctuate more dramatically: puberty, pregnancy, and perimenopause. When the changes become too extreme, or if your hormones can’t return to natural balance, you’ll experience problems.
You may first sense that something is “off” or “not quite right” in your body. As the hormonal imbalance intensifies, you can experience physical and emotional symptoms that could become severe. As an imbalance worsens, symptoms can multiply, or their severity and frequency can increase.
The longer it goes on, the harder it can be to get back to a state of hormonal equilibrium. So it pays to take action sooner than later.
It can be a “eureka” moment when you first notice symptoms because they’re sending a clear message that your body is trying to juggle too many demands without getting enough support.
Even if PMS isn’t a problem and you’re not yet in menopause, you can still experience symptom-producing imbalances. Imbalances can occur in the ratios between estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and with other hormones in your neuroendocrine system.
When your body doesn’t get the necessary basics every day on a consistent basis, it’s more likely that you’ll develop one or more of the conditions related to hormonal imbalance:
For issues like these, many conventional practitioners focus only on estrogen levels. While estrogen is important, so are progesterone and testosterone — especially their ratios to each other. The levels of other hormones, like insulin, cortisol, and thyroid, matter too. For example, estrogen levels may appear to be too high, but on closer examination, those can be holding steady while instead, it’s progesterone levels that are dropping.
If you know you have hormonal imbalance symptoms, you can provide the targeted support your body needs to naturally rebalance its hormones. Effective natural options can help resolve the root cause of all your symptoms, not just a select few.
You can take our Hormonal Health Quiz to find out more about your symptoms, whether or not you are near menopause. It’s important to know that you can relieve your symptoms and feel better even if you’re frustrated right now.
Eating right and supplementing your nutrition, adding movement to your day and reducing the impact of daily stressors will tell your body that the hormonal emergency is over and that will make all the difference.
Doing activities that move your body against gravity can help prevent osteoporosis. Approximately 50 percent of all women over the age of 50 will fracture their hip, wrist or vertebra, reports PubMed Health, but men are also vulnerable. As a person ages, bones become fragile and vulnerable to fracture as they lose their strength. Exercising is one way to reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis — but not all exercise counts as weight bearing, the type you need to build bone density.
Like muscle and organs, bone is living tissue. Your body is constantly creating new bone but not always at an optimal rate. Exercise stresses the bones to stimulate a specific type of cells called osteoblasts to increase the bone’s strength and density. A paper published in a 2009 issue of “Sports Medicine” notes that the best exercises to provide this stress and promote growth are those that require high force and generate impact. These are generally referred to as weight bearing.
Weight-bearing exercise moves you against gravity and generally has you on your feet. High-impact versions, which “Sports Medicine” noted were most effective, include dancing, high-impact aerobics, hiking, running, jumping rope, climbing stairs and sports such as tennis or basketball. Strength training is another form of weight-bearing exercise. Squats, lunges and deadlifts are examples of moves that have you working your body weight or additional weight against gravity, while pushups and dips work your upper body against gravity. Upper-body weight-bearing activity is important to maintain density in your wrists and forearms, which are areas particularly vulnerable to bone loss.
Non-weight-bearing activity keeps you off your feet. Swimming, for example, suspends you in water, which means you aren’t stressing your bones. Similarly, biking doesn’t require you to bear your body weight — the bike does that for you. However, don’t give up on swimming and biking, which offer tons of other health benefits — simply alternate them with exercise that moves you against gravity. Some low-impact exercises, such as using an elliptical trainer, brisk walking and low-impact aerobics, do help build bone density.
Exercises that promote balance and better daily function can help prevent falls, which cause fractures in people with osteoporosis, but they aren’t necessarily weight bearing. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends Tai Chi and other balance exercises to strengthen your legs and hone balance. Though exercises to enhance posture are also valuable in preventing fractures along the spine, they do not count as weight bearing. Train to improve daily function, especially as you age, to prevent falls. Practicing simple movements such as getting up and out of a chair or stepping on and off a platform will help improve your balance for safety.
BY JESS BARRON
There are two primary methods of getting fish on your plate: farming them or catching them in the wild. But which is better for you and for the planet?
You may have heard that fish farms are dirty and crowded and that farmed fish are fed an unnatural diet loaded with chemical contaminants and antibiotics in an attempt to ward off disease.
Or perhaps you’ve heard that many modern commercial fishing methods are rapidly depleting wild fish in the ocean by trawling with large nets that inadvertently catch or kill bycatch (i.e. nontarget species like other fish, dolphins, whales, sea lions, marine turtles, and seabirds). According to some estimates, global bycatch may amount to 40 percent of the world’s catch, totaling 63 billion pounds per year.
The answer isn’t as clear as you may think. There are many different methods of catching fish in the wild and farming them. And it varies widely depending on the type of fish, where it is caught or farmed and the method. Even though it is complex, there are some very important things we should all know.
LIVESTRONG traveled to La Paz, Mexico, to visit Omega Blue, an open-sea fish farm in the Sea of Cortez, to meet the founders and to actually swim inside the deepwater pens with their farmed Baja Kanpachi, a type of Almaco jack with the scientific identification Seriola rivoliana, which is often labeled by restaurants on menus as yellowtail.
Like many Americans, you may not have heard of Baja Kanpachi or Almaco jack.
Even though more than 300 species of fish and shellfish are sold in the U.S., only three types — shrimp, salmon, and tuna — make up more than 55 percent of the seafood Americans consume. And, by the way, more than 90 percent of the seafood consumed in the U.S. in 2015 was imported, and more than 50 percent of all global seafood is farmed — a percentage that continues to rise, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).
The world’s population currently consumes more fish per person than ever before — about 44 pounds a year — and demand is increasing. According to a 2018 United Nations scientific report, if we keep draining our oceans, Asia could run out of fish stocks for commercial fishing by 2048.
“We’re very capable of eating these fish right out of existence,” said Sheila Bowman, manager of Culinary and Strategic Initiatives for Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, during a panel called “Taking Mass Extinction Off the Seafood Menu” at SXSW 2018 in Austin, Texas.
Omega Blue co-founders James Arthur Smith and Cody Requejo invited us to see with our own eyes exactly what sustainable and healthy farmed fish means to them. We swam in deepwater pens in the Sea of Cortez with adult Baja Kanpachi they had grown from eggs and toured their hatchery and the surrounding waters.
We had heard fish farms were crowded and unhealthy and that the fish were living in their own refuse. We wanted to see for ourselves exactly how their farmed Baja Kanpachi were being raised without antibiotics or hormones. We began to understand why this special new method of farming deserves attention.
“It has a lot to do with knowledge,” said Smith. “Most people spend all of their time on land. There are not a lot of people who go out fishing, and there are not a lot of people who witness industrial-scale commercial fishing. So what we need to do is continue to create awareness about these problems and the solutions.”
Press “play” to see our video showing what it was like to jump into the Omega Blue deepwater pens with the full-grown Baja Kanpachi:
One of the problems, Smith points out, is that when you have too many living creatures crowded into a space there is a higher chance of disease.
“With fish and aquaculture, the first large aquaculture operations followed the same model of industrial-scale agriculture, and they said: ‘How do we maximize our profits and minimize our risk?’” Smith explained. “And they did that by putting as many living creatures in a small space as possible and then giving them antibiotics to mitigate disease.”
Instead, as I saw for myself when I was invited to jump into its deepwater pens along with the Baja Kanpachi, Omega Blue has low-density pens, spread out over a large area in deep water with a strong current. When you look out at the sea from an airplane window, the pens look like large circles out in the water.
“There’s a very strict understanding and monitoring system for how the effluent is affecting the environment,” Smith said. “A primary concern for marine aquaculture operations is the potential impact to the ocean floor environment. Thus great care is taken to ensure we minimize our footprint. This includes regular monitoring and sampling of the ocean floor.”
According to Smith, Omega Blue has taken 100 fish from the wild, and through breeding them in land-based pools and carefully growing the babies before they’re large enough to be transferred for a year of living in the ocean-based pens, it has produced more than 500,000 fish to date.
Smith and Requejo, took us onto land to tour the laboratory where the fish eggs are hatched, and they also showed us the land-based indoor pools where the broodstock live and breed and several other indoor tanks where babies and juvenile fish of varying sizes are growing.
Smith points out that consumers’ demand for wild-caught fish could be encouraging destructive methods that involve massive amounts of bycatch. He mentions purse seining as an example.
“If you put out a really big net and try and encircle an entire school of tuna, swimming with that school of tuna is going to be other species of fish and sharks and dolphins. By putting out a really big net, you’re not just getting the tuna. Generally, bycatch is dead by the time it gets pulled up.”
According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, when fishermen use purse seine nets to catch tuna, salmon, and anchovies, they also may use fish aggregating devices (or FADs) to attract the fish inside the net, and “the accidental catch of juvenile fish, sharks, and other vulnerable animals can be a serious conservation concern.”
“These things are ridiculous,” he pointed out. “We shouldn’t be allowing these things to sneak into the seafood supply chain just because we arrogantly or lazily say, ‘I only want wild-caught fish.’ Ask more questions. In order for us to change the seafood supply chain and stop putting excess pressure on the wild stock, we need people to appreciate where that fish came from.”
Omega Blue co-founder and executive chef Requejo underscored the importance of consumers getting more curious about where their fish comes from.
“People really care where their beef comes from, and people really care where their produce and their chicken is from,” he said. “You go to some supermarkets and there’s a whole organic beef or protein section. And the fish just kind of gets put off to one side. So it’s kind of like the last of the Wild West, where people just assume just because it’s from the ocean that it’s a healthier option, and that just doesn’t make sense.”
Requejo said he believes that the more questions people ask as consumers and demand with their dollars, the more positive change will happen in the seafood supply chain.
“It really starts with the consumer,” he said. “But it should start with the chef. The chef’s name and reputation are on the line. So any good chef would want to know where everything — they would want to have documentation of where their farm is. So once a chef is educated in where all their food comes from, it trickles down to the front of the house and server staff. And then it turns to the consumer. And once the consumer and everyone is on the same page, you’ll see a huge change.”
Since 2012, Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch has been hosting the Blue Ribbon Task Force, where they invite leading chefs and culinarians from across the U.S. to “share their challenges and ideas about seafood sustainability and their role in ensuring a future with a healthy ocean.”
Last year the James Beard Foundation launched its Smart Catch program to provide training and support to chefs to help ensure that they serve seafood fished or farmed in environmentally-responsible ways. You can browse a list of restaurants nationwide that are committed to the goals of the Smart Catch program.
What the fish are being fed is important too — in terms of the nutrients in the fish meat, the impacts on people’s health and environmental sustainability.
According to Bowman, feeding farmed fish is one of the biggest potential environmental impacts of conventional fish farming “because you need to be feeding them, literally, tons of fish,” and this puts a strain on wild fish stocks to feed the farmed fish. Farmed salmon, for instance, requires about five pounds of fishmeal to grow one pound. In fact, one-third of the global annual fish catch goes to feed other animals.
There is even something called Future of Fish Feed (F3) Fish-Free Feed Challenge, a global competition and collaborative effort between NGOs, researchers, and private partnerships to accelerate the commercialization of feeds that don’t contain wild fishmeal and fish oil.
Smith explained that Omega Blue’s feed doesn’t use any land-based proteins — no soy, no corn, no chicken. And he told us the company isn’t draining the ocean of other fish to feed its Baja Kanpachi either. Instead, Omega Blue’s farmed fish are given feed certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
“We work with EWOS, a company that is taking MSC-certified tailings from a sardine cannery,” he said. “This MSC-certified cannery has very strict quotas on how many sardines are caught and where they can get these sardines and what time of year they can catch them. And those sardines are going into cans. So those canned sardines contain little filets of sardine. When you have a whole fish and you take the filets off and you put them in a can, those bones and cartilage and what’s left over — instead of it just going to waste — is then ground up and combined with algae. And that’s what goes into our feed.”
In addition to the environmental benefits of feeding sardine tailings, there are also health benefits to avoiding the flesh and meat in the feed and relying on the bones and cartilage.
“If you look at where plastics or mercury or where any other heavy metals concentrate — that’s in the flesh,” said Smith. “By taking the flesh off of the sardine and just grinding up the head, the tail, the backbone and putting that into a feed we’ve mitigated our concentration not only on the pressure on the wild fish stock but also of heavy metals and plastics in our fish. Our fish are, quantifiably, 0.04 parts per million of mercury. If you look at heavy metals in mercury in wild-caught tuna, for example, the FDA recommends that pregnant women don’t eat it. In comparison, our concentration is almost undetectable. The same sort of methodology of FDA regulations would say that it would be completely benign for anyone to eat it seven days a week, three times a day.”
Requejo talked about the Baja Kanpachi’s versatility.
“You can sear it, you can bake it, you can poach it, you can make sashimi out of it and it’s foolproof. It’s got this really sweet flavor,” he said. “There’s no lactic acid buildup in it. It’s never been stressed out, so it really shows in the flavor. And it’s just the best fish that I think that anyone can use and not screw up. And it’s very easy, it’s very friendly for the consumer or the chef.”
“This is a beautiful sushi-grade fish, said Smith. “When you taste the fish, you’ll taste this water around here, the terroir of this environment. This water smells and tastes beautiful, and it translates to the fish.”
Shrimp is, by far, Americans’ favorite seafood. According to a 2015 Consumer Reports study, we consume three times more shrimp than we did in 1980. And nearly all (94 percent) of the shrimp consumed in the U.S. is farmed in Asian countries — including Thailand, Vietnam, India, and Indonesia — in industrial tanks or shallow, man-made ponds.
“The reason why you can get a shrimp tray incredibly cheap is that it’s been farmed in this way, and the people farming it aren’t being paid a fair wage,” said Bowman. “All-you-can-eat shrimp sounds great, but it can be decimating a place elsewhere in the world.”
The same 2015 Consumer Reports study found that 60 percent of frozen shrimp in samples purchased from major U.S. chain grocery stores contained salmonella, vibrio, listeria or E. coli, and 2 percent tested positive for the superbug MRSA.
Let’s take a look at salmon because it’s one of the most popular finfish LIVESTRONG readers enjoy eating. And, in the case of salmon, wild-caught is a better choice.
If you are in a restaurant, grocery store or fish market and the salmon is called Atlantic or Scottish salmon, it is almost certainly farmed.
If it’s truly Alaskan salmon from Alaska, that means it’s wild-caught because finfish farms have been banned in Alaska since 1990 to protect wild stocks from the risk of disease and pollution and from the possibility of escaped farm fish breeding with wild fish.
Most consumers are probably not aware that there are five types of Alaskan, or Pacific, salmon: king (also known by its Native American name, chinook), sockeye, coho, keta (or chum) and pink, and they are in season and caught fresh from late spring to early fall, according to this piece in the Seattle Times.
Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch free mobile app for iOS and Android and its searchable online recommendations database help consumers to “choose seafood that’s fished or farmed in ways that have less impact on the environment.” For salmon, its site says the “Best Choice” is Alaskan sockeye salmon or pink salmon caught in Washington State with lift nets.
Open-net cage salmon farming in the oceans and waterways poses environmental threats like sea lice, disease, algae blooms, marine mammal deaths, waste and marine debris. Scotland’s farmed salmon has been fighting some of the worst sea lice infestations in the world, according to the Guardian. And Norway’s wild salmon population has been cut in half in recent years from sea lice and parasites, according to the New York Times. Farmed salmon can also have human health impacts, such as PCBs and contaminants and excessive antibiotic use and resistance.
Further complicating matters, much of the farmed Atlantic salmon had been coming from fish farms in waters in the Pacific Northwest where wild Pacific salmon live. Surprisingly, Washington State actually had been the largest marine finfish aquaculture industry in the U.S., with farms producing about 17 million pounds of Atlantic salmon in the Pacific Ocean each year — until last month when Alaska Governor Jay Inslee signed restrictions banning non-native fish farms from Washington State waters.
These restrictions followed eight months from last August, when a Washington State marine net pen at Cooke Aquaculture’s facility in the San Juan Islands holding more than 305,000 farmed Atlantic salmon broke open, releasing thousands of fish into Puget Sound and renewing concerns that a new proposed salmon farm could harm wild salmon stock and cause other environmental damage.
That said, there is not enough wild Alaskan salmon to support every single person in America — much less the entire world — to be eating it frequently.
When asked, Bowman recommended that salmon lovers ease up on their demand for salmon and instead look for arctic char (“a sustainable seafood superstar”) or rainbow or steelhead trout, which can be sustainably farmed in the U.S. in indoor recirculating tanks, or lake trout from the Great Lakes. These have a similar texture and flavor profile to salmon, but are more sustainable choices that are often overlooked.
According to Bowman, it’s essential that we diversify the fish that we choose in our diets, and oysters, mussels and clams are the very best sustainable seafood option. They are filter feeders that not only don’t need to be fed, but also actually clean the water, so oyster farming is actually beneficial for the environment.
Yes, there are smaller-scale finfish farms committed to sustainability, quality and health like Omega Blue. However, there are also many large industrial farms with methods that include overcrowding fish and dousing them with antibiotics and potentially hazardous pesticides used to kill sea lice.
Yes, there are clean, sustainable wild-caught fish, such as Pacific salmon from the pristine waters of Alaska. But there are more large commercial seafood suppliers practicing destructive fishing methods. It’s essential for all of us to ask questions and get specific.
By swimming with Omega Blue’s Baja Kanpachi in the deepwater pens in the Sea of Cortez — we were able to see that they were strong, healthy, clear-eyed, not crowded, not stressed. The people of Mexico call them Pez Fuerte (literally “strong fish”), and swimming in the water with them was at times nerve-racking, as they are bold and curious creatures that occasionally became a bit nippy with human visitors.
We were also able to taste the difference on our plates. We tried Omega Blue’s Baja Kanpachi, and the flesh was sweet and flavorful. These fish had led a healthy life, and raising them and harvesting them did not seem to have harmed the surrounding sea or other creatures. (Note that Omega Blue and other Baja Kanpachi farms are currently under evaluation by Seafood Watch to receive an official sustainability rating.) Apart from going directly to the Sea of Cortez to track down your fish, anyone can use the free Seafood Watch app or go to its website to find out if the fish you enjoy eating is sustainable.
You can also look for Marine Steward Council’s blue MSC certification on fish packaging and check its MSC searchable online database to find brands and fisheries that are certified sustainable. Consider buying your fish at Whole Foods, where the seafood department aims to “source from responsibly managed fish farms and fisheries that are MSC-certified and avoid the use of antibiotics or hormones.”
If you’re dining out, choose a chef from Seafood Watch’s Blue Ribbon Task Force or from the James Beard Foundation’s Smart Catch committed restaurants. We have also included a list of restaurants in New York, California, Las Vegas and Mexico that serve Omega Blue’s Baja Kanpachi at the end of this article.
“I really hope more people will go out and jump in the ocean and go sailing and come visit us down here,” said Smith. “We have this open-door policy where we invite people to come down to see the operation, to taste the feed that the fish are eating, to swim with the fish, to see the clarity of the water. Only when we know and understand and appreciate something is when we tend to care. And I think that’s part of the challenge. For some reason, there’s this ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality with people, and that allows the industry to take advantage of it, you know? And it’s the same thing that’s happening with the ocean. We just need more people to go surfing, to go swimming, to go sailing. Go spend time in the ocean. Maybe you’ll have a curiosity on where your fish is coming from. And if you ask more questions, you will change demand.”
A powerful movement has started. People are beginning to care where their beef, chicken and produce come from. Now we need to focus on seafood. We are starting to lift the veil on the harmful methods of fishing that exploit our oceans and the large-scale industrial farming that disrespects our health as consumers.
We have to start paying attention and asking questions. It’s our money and our lives.
Yes, we want the benefit of protein and omega-3s in our diets, but not at such a high cost to our health and to our planet’s future. Let’s make sure we understand what we’re eating. Use resources like the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch app and its website to research your food and make healthy ocean-friendly choices.
Let’s all try to make sure we understand what we are eating and where it really comes from. Make an effort to choose the best options. Together we can make a difference.
Fish is undeniably a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. And while we traveled to La Paz seeking answers, what we discovered is that the answers are not always clear.
It’s up to all of us to ask questions at grocery stores and in restaurants: “Where did this fish come from? How was it farmed or caught?”
Getting these answers will help us all to choose the best seafood for the health of our bodies and for the long-term health of the planet.
New York, New York: Cosme
Merida, Yucatan, Mexico: Olivia
Valle de Guadalupe, Ensenada, Mexico: Animalon by Chef Javier Plascencia
Todo Santos, BCS, Mexico: Jazamango by Chef Javier Plascencia
Los Angeles, California:
Ellie’s Long Beach
E.P. & L.P.
Lodge Bread Company
Orsa & Winston
Soho House Malibu
Didrik Johnck / LIVESTRONG.COM
Tricia Traci / LIVESTRONG.COM
JESS BARRON is VP and GM for LIVESTRONG.COM, a leading healthy lifestyle website with more than 32 million unique monthly viewers. In addition to LIVESTRONG, her writing has appeared in Entrepreneur, Fortune and MyDomaine.Jess has appeared on MSNBC and ABC News and has been a keynote speaker at Health Further and a panelist at SXSW, Create & Cultivate and Digital Hollywood. Follow Jess on Instagram at @jessbeegood and Twitter too!
BY JESS BARRON
We all know that texting and driving is dangerous. Texting while driving in cars and trucks causes over 3,000 deaths and 330,000 injuries per year, according to a Harvard Center for Risk Analysis study. And texting while walking leads to even more injuries per mile.
You may have thought that using your smartphone while sitting or standing still was the safest thing you could do, but it turns out that texting while standing has health drawbacks as well.
In addition to other ways cell phones adversely affect our health, Dr. Kenneth K. Hansraj, Chief of Spine Surgery at New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine has found that tilting our heads down and forward even slightly when we look at our smartphone screens can put as much as 60 pounds of stress on our necks and spines.
Can you lift 60 pounds with your neck? That’s the weight of four bowling balls or an 8-year-old child. And, can you do it for more than two hours per day?
That’s right, the average American spends about two hours and 42 minutes on his or her cellphone per day, according to Flurry, a mobile measurement platform.
“An adult head weighs 10 to 12 pounds in the neutral position. As the head tilts forward, the forces seen by the neck surges to 27 pounds at 15 degrees, 40 pounds at 30 degrees, 49 pounds at 45 degrees and 60 pounds at 60 degrees.”
This forward head tilt while using your smartphone adds stress to the spine. “Over the years, this may deteriorate the back and neck muscles to the point of pain and discomfort — and even to the point where you may need surgery,” explained Dr. Hansraj when we spoke by phone.
Even if it’s not causing you pain and discomfort yet, the typical texting posture can make you feel less confident and even perform less successfully at work or at school because it is the opposite of the open “power poses” proven to lower our stress hormones and increase our confidence, that Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist at Harvard Business School, demonstrated in her very popular 2012 TED Talk:
1. Hold Your Smartphone Higher and Allow Eyes, Not Neck, to Drop
“We’re not against smartphones and smart devices,” said Dr. Hansraj. “But just be very aware of where your head is in space and hold the device up and allow your eyes to drop.”
In his paper, Dr. Hansraj explained that poor posture occurs with the head tilted forward and the shoulders drooping forward in a rounded position. In comparison, good posture is defined as ears aligned with the shoulders and shoulder blades retracted backward.
2. Yoga Poses Cobra and Upward Dog
“Cobra and upward dog yoga poses are the most sophisticated way to gain the proper posture,” said Dr. Hansraj. Here’s an article explaining the difference between a cobra and upward dog. Check out this video showing you how to do cobra and some twisting yoga poses to alleviate tightness and tension in the upper back and neck.
3. Flexion, Extension, Side Bends and Head Tilts
As a first step, Dr. Hansraj recommends flexion, extension, side bends and tilts, followed by isometric versions of the same exercises. Here is an article describing how to do these moves. Hansraj goes into more depth in his book “Secrets of the Cervical Spine.”
Jess Barron is head of editorial at LIVESTRONG.COM.She has appeared on MSNBC’s “The Most,” ABC News Now, and XM satellite radio. Barron’s writing has appeared on Wired.com, Yahoo! and Poprocks.com.
Chronic pain affects about 1 in 5 people in the U.S., making it difficult if not impossible to work and enjoy family and social time.
If you have chronic pain — typically defined as longer than three months and not responding to treatment — your body hasn’t turned off the pain messages to the brain, even though the original source of the pain may be gone.
The pain may be linked to a condition such as arthritis, to a sprain or other injury, or to any number of more elusive causes.
While medications abound, some prefer more natural or holistic methods to quell the pain. Others find that medication doesn’t quite give them enough relief, and are looking for natural treatments to add on to their standard treatments or replace them.
Complicating the picture is that doctors still don’t understand chronic pain, but they do know that what works for one person may not work for another. So, in this case, try, try again is good advice.
Next time chronic pain is dragging you down, consider trying a more natural route to relief. And, because pain is individual, ask your doctor for specifics about these treatments, such as doses and time to continue trying them.
1. Exercise. “People who exercise and maintain a good aerobic condition will improve most pain conditions,” says Charles Kim, MD, assistant professor of rehabilitation medicine and anesthesiology and a certified medical acupuncturist at Rusk Rehabilitation at NYU Langone Medical Center.
When we work out, he says, the body produces its own version of painkillers, such as endorphins, hormones that actually increase your pain threshold. Endorphins interact with brain receptors and can change our perception of pain.
When patients tell Dr. Kim they are in too much pain to exercise, he suggests they start slowly and do even a little burst of walking or other activity — then build up.
2. Fish Oil. Fish oil is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, and inflammation plays a large role in pain, says Michael Cronin, ND, a naturopathic physician in Scottsdale, Az., and immediate past president of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.
In one study, researchers instructed patients with neck or back pain to take 1200 milligrams a day of fish oil supplements with eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acid. After 75 days on fish oil, more than half of the 125 patients who reported back said they had stopped their prescription painkillers.
3. Turmeric. Also called Curcuma longa, turmeric is basically a root, Kim says. “It’s often found in spicy foods, very much in Indian cooking. Studies have shown it has definite anti-inflammatory properties.”
Researchers who tested a combination of turmeric with two other substances, Devil’s claw and bromelain, on patients with pain from osteoarthritis found the mixture gave noticeable pain relief. Patients took two 650-milligram capsules either two or three times a day.
4. Resveratrol. Found in red wine, grapes, and berries, resveratrol is known to have many beneficial effects, including anti-cancer, brain protective and even life-prolonging benefits.
Recently, researchers reported that the substance works on a cellular level for pain regulation.
5. Heat Therapy. Using heat as well as cold therapy are time-honored ways to quell pain, Dr. Cronin and Kim agree.
“Hot Epsom salt baths relax the mind and change the nervous input from the body to the brain,” Cronin says. “Using ice is a well-accepted modality that decreases inflammation locally.”
The key is to know when to use which.
“When you have an acute injury, put ice on it right away,” Kim says. For instance, you twist your ankle and it’s painful and swollen. Using heat in this situation will increase blood flow and increase the swelling, he says.
“If you have lingering back spasms, heat would be the best for that,” Kim says. He suggests taking a warm shower and massaging your neck or back (or whatever body part hurts) under the warm water.
6. Meditation. Meditation can quell pain, Kim says. While some people get anxious, thinking they have to do meditation a certain way, Kim tells them it’s just not true.
“Meditation is not scripted,” he says. While you can get instruction, you can also look up approaches and follow instructions, such as this information on the approach known as mindfulness meditation.
Researchers who assigned 109 patients with chronic pain to either a mindfulness meditation program or a wait list found that those who did the meditation reported more pain relief, as well as lower anxiety and depression and a better mental quality of life, than those who did not.
BY FREYDIS HJALMARSDOTTIR, MS
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the world.
One study even found EPA to be as effective against depression as Prozac, an antidepressant drug (10).
BOTTOM LINE: Omega-3 supplements may help prevent and treat depression and anxiety. EPA seems to be the most effective at fighting depression.
DHA, a type of omega-3, is a major structural component of the brain and retina of the eye (11).
BOTTOM LINE: An omega-3 fatty acid called DHA is a major structural component of the retina of the eye. It may help prevent macular degeneration, which can cause vision impairment and blindness.
Omega-3s are crucial for brain growth and development in infants.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that infants fed a DHA-fortified formula have better eyesight than infants fed a formula without it (17).
BOTTOM LINE: Getting enough omega-3s during pregnancy and early life is crucial for the development of the child. Deficiency is linked to low intelligence, poor eyesight and an increased risk of several health problems.
Since then, omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have numerous benefits for heart health (24).
Interestingly, despite all these beneficial effects on heart disease risk factors, there is no convincing evidence that omega-3 supplements can prevent heart attacks or strokes. Many studies find no benefit (41, 42).
BOTTOM LINE: Omega-3s have been found to improve numerous heart disease risk factors. However, omega-3 supplements do not reduce the risk of heart attacks or strokes.
What’s more, numerous studies have found that omega-3 supplements can actually reduce the symptoms of ADHD.
Recently, researchers evaluated the evidence behind different treatments for ADHD. They found fish oil supplementation to be one of the most promising treatments (50).
BOTTOM LINE: Omega-3 supplements can reduce the symptoms of ADHD in children. They improve attention and reduce hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and aggression, to name a few.
Metabolic syndrome is a collection of conditions.
It is a major public health concern since it increases your risk of developing many other diseases. These include heart disease and diabetes (51).
BOTTOM LINE: Omega-3s can have numerous benefits for people with metabolic syndrome. They can reduce insulin resistance, fight inflammation and improve several heart disease risk factors.
Inflammation is incredibly important. We need it to fight infections and repair damage in the body.
However, sometimes inflammation persists for a long time, even without an infection or injury is present. This is called chronic (long-term) inflammation.
BOTTOM LINE: Omega-3s can reduce chronic inflammation, which can contribute to heart disease, cancer, and various other diseases.
In autoimmune diseases, the immune system mistakes healthy cells for foreign cells and starts attacking them.
Type 1 diabetes is one prime example. In this disease, the immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
Omega-3s can help fight some of these diseases and may be especially important during early life.
Studies show that getting enough omega-3s during your first year of life is linked to a reduced risk of many autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, autoimmune diabetes in adults and multiple sclerosis (62, 63, 64).
BOTTOM LINE: Omega-3 fatty acids can help fight several autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and psoriasis.
Low omega-3 levels have been reported in people with psychiatric disorders (69).
Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids may also decrease violent behavior (72).
BOTTOM LINE: People with mental disorders often have low blood levels of omega-3 fats. Improving omega-3 status seems to improve symptoms.
A decline in brain function is one of the unavoidable consequences of aging.
Additionally, one study found that people who eat fatty fish tend to have more gray matter in the brain. This is brain tissue that processes information, memories and emotions (76).
BOTTOM LINE: Omega-3 fats may help prevent age-related mental decline and Alzheimer’s disease, but more research is needed.
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the Western world, and omega-3 fatty acids have long been claimed to reduce the risk of certain cancers.
BOTTOM LINE: Omega-3 intake may decrease the risk of some types of cancer, including colon, prostate and breast cancer.
Asthma is a chronic lung disease with symptoms like coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing.
Severe asthma attacks can be very dangerous. They are caused by inflammation and swelling in the airways of the lungs.
What’s more, asthma rates have been increasing over the past few decades (82).
BOTTOM LINE: Omega-3 intake has been associated with a lower risk of asthma in both children and young adults.
BOTTOM LINE: Omega-3s can improve bone strength and joint health. This may lead to a reduced risk of osteoporosis and arthritis.
Menstrual pain occurs in the lower abdomen and pelvis, and often radiates to the lower back and thighs.
It can result in significant negative effects on a person’s quality of life.
One study even found that an omega-3 supplement was more effective than ibuprofen in treating severe pain during menstruation (93).
BOTTOM LINE: Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce menstrual pain. One study even found that an omega-3 supplement was more effective than ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory drug.
Good sleep is one of the foundations of optimal health.
Low levels of DHA have also been linked to lower levels of the hormone melatonin, which helps you fall asleep (100).
BOTTOM LINE: Omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA, may improve the length and quality of sleep in children and adults.
DHA is a structural component of the skin. It is responsible for the health of cell membranes, which make up a large part of the skin.
A healthy cell membrane results in soft, moist, supple and wrinkle-free skin.
Omega-3s can also protect your skin from sun damage. EPA helps block the release of substances that eat away at the collagen in your skin after sun exposure (101).
BOTTOM LINE: Omega-3s can help keep skin cells healthy, preventing premature aging and more. They may also help protect the skin from sun damage.
Omega-3 fatty acids are incredibly important for optimal health.
Getting them from whole foods, such as eating fatty fish 2 times per week, is the best way to ensure optimal omega-3 intake.
However, if you don’t eat a lot of fatty fish, then you may want to consider taking an omega-3 supplement.
For people who are lacking in omega-3, this is a cheap and highly effective way to improve health.
Written by Freydis Hjalmarsdottir, MS
BY JESSICA MIGALA
People tend to focus on the dangerous particles in the outdoor air—and for good reason: check out what air pollution can do to your body. But the air in your house can be up to five times more polluted than what you’re breathing outdoors, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. And don’t forget you spend up to 90 percent of your time indoors, reports the American Lung Association. That’s a lot of exposure to potentially contaminated air.
Now that energy-efficient buildings keep air leakage to a minimum, there’s a big uptick in the concentration of air pollutants, says Ian Colbeck, Ph.D., professor in the school of biological sciences at the University of Essex. Pollutants that should pique your concern include tobacco smoke, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, particulate matter agents, formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and radon, he says.
The sneaky sources of pollution you find indoors can trigger asthma attacks, heart disease, strokes, and some cause lung cancer, says Janice Nolen, assistant vice president of national policy at the American Lung Association. “There are significant risks for anyone, particularly children and the elderly,” she says.
After slapping on a couple coats, you might store nearly empty paint cans in your garage. “The cans can give off VOC gases in the garage, causing problems with indoor and outdoor air quality that impacts breathing,” says Nolen. Some of these VOCs have even been linked to cancer. Look for low-VOC paints.
Sometimes the products inside your home are not only damaging indoor air, but contributing to outdoor pollution as well. A surprising new study concluded that household items like aerosols, including cleaning and personal care products, make up half of outdoor VOC emissions in cities. Decrease this pollution load by avoiding using aerosol sprays whenever possible.
You may love when your home “smells” clean, but many cleaning supplies are also a big source of VOCs in your air. To reduce the amount they release, Nolen recommends using unscented products and cleaning with basic, natural things like water and vinegar or baking soda. “These are really good cleaning tools and can be helpful in reducing your exposure indoors,” she says.
If your clothing label gives you the option of hand-washing or dry cleaning, choose DIY. A 2011 study found that residues of a carcinogenic VOC called perchloroethylene hang out on dry-cleaned clothes and then release into the air. Wool, polyester, and cotton clothing were particular offenders; silk didn’t retain these chemicals.
Their divine smell and ambiance are nice, but candles release a lot of trouble. “Candles can be substantial sources of ultra-fine and fine particles that contribute substantially to the exposure to indoor particulate matter, which is associated with inflammation in lungs,” says Dr. Colbeck. What’s more, scented candles can also emit harmful formaldehyde. If you really like to use candles, look for beeswax or soy options, he says. Read on for more reasons to avoid scented candles.
Some people looking for a pleasant-smelling abode turn to air fresheners. “These can emit over 100 different chemicals; some of these can react to form a new set of pollutants,” explains Dr. Colbeck. The cocktail can trigger migraines, asthma attacks, and breathing troubles. To keep air smelling clean, the Environmental Working Group suggests a simple solution: Open a window or run a fan.
To score smooth skin in the winter, you may crank up your humidifier. But keep it below 50 percent humidity, recommends Nolen. Any higher encourages mold formation and dust mites to flourish, two huge sources of indoor allergens that can impact your ability to breathe. Here are 15 ways to decrease indoor allergy triggers in your home. Then read about how to clean your humidifier.
Granite countertops can produce radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. But you can breathe easy here: The EPA notes that indoor granite doesn’t significantly increase indoor radon. The main source is through cracks in your home, like in walls and the foundation. Rather than replacing your countertop, focus your efforts on plugging up these areas in your home. First, check if your home has radon by ordering a radon test kit. You can also hire a professional to test your house.
Lighting a fire in your home may make things cozy, but it can also muck up your air. Burning wood and cleaning up the ash later can create high levels of particulate pollution and carbon monoxide exposure in your home, says Dr. Colbeck. (He notes that the amount depends on factors like the size of the room and how well ventilated it is.) Here are other scary ways your fireplace can be toxic.
Attention, home chefs: Gas stoves may whip up Pinterest-worthy meals, but the flame creates nitrogen oxide emissions, and cooking itself produces particles, says Nolen. “You’re not going to give up cooking, but be sure to use an exhaust to get rid of these things,” she says. While the vent above the stove is a good first start, that’s usually not enough unless you know it’s ventilating the air outside your home. (Some simply move the air to another part of the kitchen, she says). A second option: Crack a window while you cook.
If you can believe it, some air filtration systems will make your air worse. “Avoid anything that generates ozone, which some are marketed to do,” says Nolen. “Indoors, ozone can be harmful to your health,” she adds. If you are buying a filtration device, look for a model that has a HEPA filter, she says, although preventing pollutants entirely—skipping the purifier—is your best bet for cleaner air indoors.
A normal existence leads to an increase in some indoor air pollutants—walking, cleaning, or cooking can all add to the load, says Dr. Colbeck. You can’t avoid doing those things, and you shouldn’t. Just take a few measures to keep the air inside safer, he recommends: Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter, open windows when you’re using pollutant-releasing products, and take your shoes off at the door. Your lungs will thank you.
Thank you Jessica Migala – Author