Can Virgin Coconut Oil Help Treat COVID-19?

Coconut oil is making headlines again.

In a statement published by Ateneo De Manila University, researchers, Dr. Fabian Antonio Dayrit from Ateneo De Manila University and Dr. Mary Newport of Spring Hill Neonatology (USA) have suggested that the anti-viral properties of Virgin Coconut Oil might be useful in treating COVID-19 patients.

Here’s what they suggest:

1. There is significiant evidence for antiviral action of Virgin Coconut Oil.

Several in vitro, animal, and human studies support the potential of coconut oil, lauric acid and its derivatives as effective and safe agents against a virus like nCoV-2019.

Mechanistic studies on other viruses show that at least three mechanisms may be operating – disintegration of the virus membrane, inhibit virus maturation, and prevent binding of viral proteins to the host cell membrane.

2. Conduct clinical studies on the effect of Virgin Coconut Oil on COVID-19 patients.

Given the considerable scientific evidence for the antiviral activity of coconut oil, lauric acid and its derivatives and their general safety, and the absence of a cure for nCoV-2019, we urge that clinical studies be conducted among patients who have been infected with nCoV-2019. This treatment is affordable and virtually risk-free, and the potential benefits are enormous.

3. Use Virgin Coconut Oil as a general prophylactic.

On the other hand, given the safety and broad availability of virgin coconut oil (VCO), we recommend that VCO be considered as a general prophylactic against viral and microbial infection.

 

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Marketed widely as a superfood, this kitchen staple is all set to be tested by Philippine Council on Health Research and Development as a potential treatment for COVID-19, with clinical trials starting soon, as confirmed by their executive director, Dr. Jaime Montoya.

References

FILIPINAS, VIVA. “WATCH: DOST to study benefits of virgin coconut oil on COVID-19 patients.”

 

 

A ‘Spectacular’ Way To Monitor Your Eating Habits

If you’ve been trying to eat healthy or keeping a food journal, you must know how hard it can be, to remember everything you eat or drink throughout the day – especially when the eating and drinking happens around others or while you’re busy doing something else.

Researchers at the Carnegie Mellon University might have a solution for you, in their latest innovation – FitByte, a wearable diet monitor that attaches to your eyeglasses.

How Is ‘FitByte’ Different?

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The act of eating, isn’t as simple as we think it is.

It involves several actions like bringing the food or drink close to your mouth, sipping, biting or chewing and swallowing and for a sensor to capture accurately what you eat, it needs to focus on all of these. The monitors designed so far, have had a rather narrow approach and recorded only on one of these aspects which made them unable to gather reliable data in noisy, daily-life environments.

FitByte uses a combination of high-speed accelerometers, a number of gyroscopes, and infrared proximity sensors to detect and track hand-to-mouth gestures, chewing and swallowing. A camera at the front of the glasses detects all food intake, including soft things like ice cream and yogurt, detecting which had so far been a technological challenge.

The superior technology used in FitByte allows it to be highly accurate in many everyday situations like when the user is at a meeting, watching TV, snacking alone, at the gym, or hiking outdoors.

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Apart from detecting all stages of eating and drinking, FitByte can even track eating behaviors. It can tell you, for instance, in what situations you tend to eat the most, when you’re binge-eating, whether you eat more when others are around or when alone, etc.

With this invaluable information at your fingertips, you can stay mindful of patterns in your eating behavior and stay close to your health and diet goals. 

References

Bedri, Abdelkareem, et al. “FitByte: Automatic Diet Monitoring in Unconstrained Situations Using Multimodal Sensing on Eyeglasses.” Proceedings of the 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. 2020.

Drink Filtered Coffee. It’s Good For Your Heart.

If you’re holding onto a steaming mug of coffee as you read this – we hope it’s filtered. And not without good reason.

Recent research published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, found strong and convincing evidence linking coffee brewing methods and the risk of heart attacks.

The study examined 500,000 coffee drinkers, between the ages of 20-79 over a period of 20 years, and here’s what it found brewing in their cup of coffee.

So, What’s In Your Brew?

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  • Unfiltered coffee contains substances that cause an increase in ‘bad cholesterol’, which increases the risk of heart attacks. (This also includes coffee made using a cafetière)
  • Using a filter removes these lipid-raising substances, reducing the risk of premature deaths from heart attacks, by 15% on average. 
  • A single cup of unfiltered coffee contains 30 times the concentration of this lipid-raising substance compared to a cup of filtered coffee.
  • Drinking filtered-coffee is better for you than having no coffee at all. 

So, if you’ve been brewing yours without a filter, it might be time to invest in a few of these life-savers. Think Coffee. Think Filtered-Coffee!

So, How Much Coffee Is Good For You?

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Your coffee habit might be doing you more good than you realize.

In fact, if you’re having 1 to 4 cups of filtered coffee a day, you might be reducing your risk of death from cardiovascular diseases by 12%, if you’re a man and a whopping 20% if you are a woman.

So, all you coffee-lovers out there, go right ahead and enjoy your coffee with a clear conscience. Just make sure it’s filtered!

 

 

References:

  1. Aage Tverdal, Randi Selmer, Jacqueline M Cohen, Dag S Thelle. Coffee consumption and mortality from cardiovascular diseases and total mortality: Does the brewing method matter? European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, 2020; 204748732091444 DOI: 10.1177/2047487320914443

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 Ways To Train Your Tendons And Avoid Injuries

It’s doesn’t come as a surprise that regular exercise is not just good, but crucial for health. And if you’re someone who’s built breaking a sweat into their daily routine, being confined indoors, (in the current climate) wouldn’t have changed things too much.

If you’ve already been working on your muscle strength and endurance, we’d like to draw your attention to your tendons – the conduits that attach your muscles to your bones, allowing them to express their power and make all your movements possible.

Unfortunately, even when they play such a crucial role in keeping us on the move, the only time we really pay attention to our tendons and ligaments is when we suffer an injury. How about we look at a few ways to train and strengthen them, without waiting for one?

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But before we start, here are a few basic things to keep in mind.

  • Tendons have two properties – stiffness and elasticity. You need some of your tendons to be stiff and some to be elastic. And unlike the sound of it, tendon stiffness is a good thing. It helps you transmit more force. And having low tendon elasticity is desirable, as it means your tendons waste lesser energy in recoil.
  • Since tendons receive less blood flow than muscles, strengthening them takes more time and work, than training muscles.

Here’s How You Can Train Your Tendons

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  1. Eccentric Movements: Tendons respond well to eccentrics like walking downhill, lowering yourself slowly to the bottom pushup position, eccentric bicep or wrist curls, and anything that puts a load on the muscle-tendon complex while lengthening it.
  2. Partial reps: Partial reps of extremely heavy weights along with focus on the final 4-6 inches before lockout of the primary exercises, like bench press, overhead press, squat, and deadlift can help increase tendon strength.
  3. Plyometrics: Explosive movements can help strengthen the recoil response of tendons.
  4. Explosive isometrics: Explosive movements against something immovable, like trying to push a car with its parking brakes on, or pushing your fist against a wall, can help strengthen tendons too.
  5. Rock-climbing: Indoor or outdoor rock-climbing and other movements like holding on to a ledge with five fingertips, are a great way to increase tendon volume. The increased volume, in turn, lends them strength.
  6. Intensity training: Tendons need stress to be able to gain stiffness and elasticity – stress that’s more than what is provided by your daily activities.
  7. Deep Stretching: Deeper, longer stretches like a front squat with the hip-crease dropping below the knees, or pectoral stretches taken a bit further against a door frame, or a calf-stretch using stairs or the curb to lift toes closer to shins can help build tendon strength.
  8. Massages and foam-rolling: Massages can increase blood flow to your tendons and strengthen them. Using foam rollers and lacrosse balls is a good idea too.

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It’s important to keep in mind that mild discomfort is okay, and you can push yourself a bit, but not so much that it causes pain. Also, your tendons will need that push every day to get stronger. And you can’t rush it. The idea is to give your tendons enough time to build collagen density while making sure you’re not too harsh on your body.

Here’s to healthy tendons then, that make you stronger, more explosive, more powerful, and more resilient!

References

How to Strengthen Tendons and Ligaments for Injury Prevention

We Are Unique. And Respond Differently To The Same Food.

Here’s an interesting fact: you share 99.9% of your genes with your neighbor. And your colleague. And the rest of the human population.

And what’s more interesting is, that despite this huge similarity, you and every single one of us, are unique. 

And a recent study published in Cell confirms just that.

The study, conducted on 800 individuals who were given the same food, tracked not just their post-meal glucose levels and major blood parameters but also took into account other factors like their physical activity, lifestyle behaviors and their gut-microbiota.

And here’s something very interesting that it revealed.

Different People. Same Food. Different Blood-Glucose Levels.

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There’s a big difference in how we process food and two people don’t respond to the same diet in the same way.

More importantly,

  • People show different blood glucose levels even with the same food and their gut-microbiota has a lot to do with how they process food.
  • Dietary ingredients cannot be universally ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for everyone and one-size-fits-all diets are of little help.
  • Personally-tailored diets can successfully bring down elevated blood glucose levels and prevent the onset of metabolic syndrome.

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Interestingly, this seems to be quite in-line with the Ayurvedic concept of a ‘Metabolic Personality’ which lends people their uniqueness, and influences how their body functions – the part of them that drives their natural tendencies, the health conditions they might be prone to, and decides the complementing personalized nutrition they need, to stay in their balanced, happy state.

You can learn more about your Unique Metabolic Personality Type, here.

References

Zeevi, David, et al. “Personalized nutrition by prediction of glycemic responses.” Cell 163.5 (2015): 1079-1094.

The Same Mechanism That Protects Brain-cells Also Regulates Sleep

Here’s another very good reason for you to get your sleep schedule in order.

While it is already established that chronic sleep loss increases the risk of Alzheimer’s, it turns out, sleep and the ways that the brain protects its cells from degeneration, have a profound connection too. The same mechanism that protects your brain from degenerative illnesses like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s may also be responsible for regulating your sleep, says new research from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

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And here’s why this research is so significant.

A Signalling Pathway That Controls Abnormal Protein Build-up

This is the first time that scientists have been able to tie sleep with the protein removal mechanism of the brain, concluding that one of the important functions of sleep may be to reduce cellular-stress caused in the brain by wakefulness.

When you sleep, the brain steps up the removal of potentially harmful proteins – proteins similar to the ones that clutter the brain in diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. More specifically, researchers discovered that a signaling pathway known as PERK, that the brain uses to prevent the accumulation of abnormal protein in brain cells is also used for sleep.

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Ashwagandha – Beneficial For Sleep and Brain Cells

This connection between sleep and brain-cell protection also brings the herb Ashwagandha to mind – it is known for both these benefits.

Aswhagandha or somnifera (Latin for ‘sleep-inducing’) is known to help you sleep better. It has also been shown to increase levels of key antioxidant enzymes, clear protein plaques, increase dopamine levels, and reconstruct nerve networks and synapses. It prevents, repairs, and heals brain cell damage and helps improve muscle control, movement, balance, and memory – all of which are beneficial for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s patients. Whether it does this using the PERK signaling pathway is of course, unknown.

In the meantime, you can do your bit in helping your brain reduce cellular-stress, by making sure you get the right amount of z’s.

References 

  1. Sarah Ly, Daniel A. Lee, Ewa Strus, David A. Prober, Nirinjini Naidoo. Evolutionarily Conserved Regulation of Sleep by the Protein Translational Regulator PERKCurrent Biology, 2020; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2020.02.030

The Immune System Works Differently In Men And Women

Latest research on body fat has uncovered two things for us lay folk:

  • Body fat isn’t just fat. It is an organ.
  • Immune system in men and women operates differently.

The new study published in Nature has brought to light that men and women might be prone to different illnesses. Men, for instance, are more vulnerable to diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Women, on the other hand, are more prone to autoimmune illnesses like lupus and arthritis.

And here’s why they are.

The Difference Lies In Their Body Fat

There’s more to body fat, than what we think. It isn’t just fat stored in the body, but an organ in itself that plays a crucial role in making hormones and molecules that regulate metabolism. And here are 3 main differences between male and female body fat.

  • Males have almost 4 times as many Regulatory T cells than females. These cells help limit harmful inflammation in the body.
  • Males also have some male-specific immune cells called stromal cells, that females don’t.
  • Male fat has an abundance of pro-inflammatory cytokines, molecules that trigger an immune response.

These findings show that the immune system that operates in men and women is starkly different. And that the male body is more prone to inflammation than the female body, explaining why men have higher rates of obesity and metabolic diseases that are usually associated with inflammation.

Is Gender-Specific Healthcare The Future?

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One of the biggest implications of this study, which has brought to light the differences in the metabolism of men and women, might be the realization that the medication, treatment, and even the approach to healthcare that may work for one sex, may not work for the other.

And personalized healthcare tailored for gender, may soon become the norm, and not just remain a school of thought.

References

Vasanthakumar, A., Chisanga, D., Blume, J. et al. Sex-specific adipose tissue imprinting of regulatory T cells. Nature 579, 581–585 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2040-3

Social Distancing: Why It’s Not Okay To Meet ‘Just One Friend’

‘Maybe visiting just this one friend should be okay.’ After being stuck indoors for weeks, this is one thought that’s crossed many, many minds across the globe. So many in fact, that two leading network epidemiologists, Steven Goodreau and Martina Morris, decided to create a new website just to answer this one question.

And here’s the answer that it gives.

That one seemingly simple visit, isn’t as simple as we think and could potentially undo the effect of the entire, carefully orchestrated Social Distancing initiative. Each household deciding to have contact with just one or two others, would lead to reconnecting most households in that community, providing easy means for the COVID-19 virus to spread.

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Here’s what the website tells us:

  1. When the community follows no social distancing, it behaves like a giant cluster, where each household has plenty of social interactions including ones that could spread the COVID-19 virus.
  2. When the community follows social distancing, most households are isolated. The essential jobs still generate interactions in 26% of the community. This leaves most of the households with no potential exposure to the virus.
  3. When people visit ‘just one friend’, the community gets reconnected quickly, with 71% households connected in one large cluster. A single COVID-19 case in one of these households can potentially spread it to 3/4ths of the community.

As we know, the COVID-19 virus can spread through social interactions like hugging and kissing or even by just being in the same room. And social distancing measures like staying at home, wearing face masks and keeping at least six feet distance from others when out making essential trips to the grocery store or pharmacy, ensure that this spread is contained as much as possible, leading to a ‘flattening of the curve’.

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So, do meet the one friend. But online, for now. By not visiting them you’ll not just be helping your immediate neighbors, but ensuring your entire community’s safety. The way they are ensuring yours.

References

Skums, Pavel, et al. “Global transmission network of SARS-CoV-2: from outbreak to pandemic.” medRxiv (2020).

Regular Exercise Strengthens The Immune System And Delays Its Aging

Here’s some strong motivation for you to continue working out during the lockdown.

While we all know that being physically active is great for the Immune system, its immediate impact on it has been debated widely for decades now, with some studies even suggesting that our immunity is suppressed temporarily after a strenuous bout of exercise.

Now, here’s the good news.

A recent article published in the journal Frontiers In Immunology, debunks this age-old myth, establishing that the changes taking place in the immune system after a strenuous bout of exercise boost the immune system, rather than leaving it suppressed.

The earlier studies suggested that the hours after rigorous exercise acted as an ‘open-window’ during which the immune system is compromised, exposing the body and leading to subsequent infections over the next few days.

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In reality, however, here’s what happens when you exercise:

  • The number of natural killer cells in the bloodstream increases by up to 10 times.
  • In the next few hours these cells, primed by exercise, get redistributed to outlying tissues in the lungs and other places, which increases immune surveillance leading to enhanced antibacterial and antiviral immunity.
  • A reduction in inflammation improves the immune function and delays immunological aging.

Implications amidst the current outbreak?

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Staying physically active not only reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and type II diabetes, but also diminishes the risk of contracting communicable diseases including viral and bacterial infections. This study further emphasizes that people should not put off exercise worrying that it will dampen their immune response.

In the context of the current viral outbreak, while the most important consideration is to reduce exposure from other people carrying the virus, the importance of staying active and healthy during this time, cannot be overlooked.

Regular exercise then, away from others, is just what the doctor has ordered.

References

  1. John P. Campbell, James E. Turner. Debunking the Myth of Exercise-Induced Immune Suppression: Redefining the Impact of Exercise on Immunological Health Across the LifespanFrontiers in Immunology, 2018; 9 DOI: 10.3389/fimmu.2018.00648

Should You Live In The Moment Or Plan Ahead?

Misplaced keys, running late or dealing with a kid having a sudden meltdown. For those of us living typical modern lives, these are just a few of the stressors we face daily. And what follows, just as typically, are bad moods.

Is there a way to keep the stress from these everyday setbacks from getting to us? Looks like there is!

Mindfulness and Proactive Coping

In a recent study conducted by professor Shevaun Neupert and his team at the North Carolina State University, researchers looked at how mindfulness and proactive coping, two seemingly conflicting behaviors, can influence how people deal with daily stress.

  • Mindfulness is when we are living in the present moment and not worrying about the past or the future.
  • Proactive coping, on the other hand, is when we plan ahead for the future, and be better prepared.

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The study included 223 participants aged between 18 – 90 years, who were first assessed on their tendency for proactive planning. They were then asked to complete questionnaires for 8 days that explored the variations in their mindfulness, all day long. They were also asked to report daily stressors and how they impacted their moods.

The researchers found that:

  • Engaging in proactive planning helped limit the effect of daily stressors, but this advantage disappeared on days when participants showed low mindfulness.
  • People of all ages, who used a combination of proactive planning and mindfulness showed much more resilience in the face of daily stressors.

Our best bet then is to strike the delicate balance between the two – have some plans in place for the future, but don’t get preoccupied with those plans thereafter. Give every moment your full attention.  

The Bhagwad Gita has some great insights on mindfulness: “Think holistically before you act. While doing, don’t think about what you are going to get out of it.”

Yoga for Mindfulness

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Yoga can help you get better at being in the present moment, especially these three parts of Yoga:

  • Pranayama (focusing and controlling one’s breathing),
  • Dharana (focusing one’s mind), and
  • Dhyana (meditation – emptying one’s mind).

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In the present-day scenario, while we are all indoors, striking this balance would mean – planning on and taking all the necessary steps to stay comfortable and safe, but not worrying about the future and making the most of this time that we’ve got with our loved ones at home,

References

Polk, Melody G., et al. “Thinking ahead and staying in the present: Implications for reactivity to daily stressors.” Personality and Individual Differences 161 (2020): 109971.