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Choline deficiency can trigger fatty liver disease

When most people think of liver disease, the first thing that pops into their heads is that a few too many alcoholic drinks is the culprit. But there are countless everyday habits that put stress on your liver function. Apart from drinking, eating processed foods like fructose, high fructose corn syrup, refined flours, and fried foods, not to mention taking certain supplements or prescriptions can all add up to an unhealthy liver.

Luckily, you can do much to help support your liver health. Many nutrients such as vitamins C and E, selenium, magnesium, and zinc can contribute to maintaining proper liver function. But one nutrient that often goes unrecognized can play a major role in supporting a healthy liver. Not only does the evidence show it can help prevent fatty liver disease, it might play an important role in preventing cancer. The nutrient? Choline!

What is Choline?

Choline is one of the essential nutrients your body needs for everyday function. You need a healthy intake of choline in your diet to support liver function, brain development, mental health, muscle function, nervous system health, digestion, and metabolic function. (1)

How Much Choline Do You Need?

Some people have a higher risk of choline deficiency than others. Endurance athletes, heavy drinkers, pregnant women and post-menopausal women are more likely to have a choline deficiency. (1)

Otherwise, the average adult man needs about 550 mg/day and the average adult woman needs about 425 mg/day. (2) Too much choline consumption can result in potential side effects including low blood pressure, sweating, and indigestion. (3) The average adult should not exceed 3,500 mg/day. (1)

Choline and Disease Prevention Cancer

Officially, the jury is still out on whether choline plays a role in preventing cancer. Some research suggests a lack of a connection, however several studies seem to point to a strong connection between healthy choline levels and a reduced risk of cancer.

Three separate studies point to a high consumption of choline resulting in a lower risk of breast cancer among women. (4, 5, 6) A fourth study of 1,508 women participants suggests that women who consume a lot of free choline reduce their breast cancer risk by as much as 24%. (7)

Early research from animal studies points to choline deficiencies being associated with a higher risk of liver cancer and sensitivity to environmental toxins, though we can’t be certain there are similar effects in humans. (8,14)

Non-Alcoholic-Fatty-Liver Disease

The evidence is strong that non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) can be caused by a choline deficiency. (9) There is also some evidence that even a lower than optimal dietary intake of choline can contribute to the risk of NAFLD, however more research is needed to confirm the link. (1)

When scientists studied people on a choline-restricted diet and found that over 70% of them developed liver damage, they saw that the effects were reversed once choline was reintroduced to their eating habits. (10, 11) More research suggested that the lower the choline intake, the more severe the effect on liver health. (12)

What Are the Best Foods for Choline Consumption?

You have many options for boosting your choline intake, regardless of your dietary style. The top choline sources can be found in meats, cruciferous vegetables, and some nuts: (13)

  • Beef and beef liver
  • Eggs
  • Soybeans
  • Chicken breast
  • Atlantic cod
  • Shiitake mushrooms
  • Red potatoes
  • Wheat germ
  • Kidney beans
  • Quinoa
  • Grass-fed milk and unsweetened milk products
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Tuna
  • Peanuts
  • Cauliflower
  • Peas
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Brown rice

Maintaining liver health involves much more than ensuring there’s enough choline in your diet, but that’s a great place to start! Whether you’re one of the at-risk groups of people or not, you should focus on adding choline-rich foods to your regular diet. Ask your medical care provider to evaluate your liver health and discuss appropriate steps for improving it if need be.

Study finds that women – but not men – seek to actively punish sexualized women

New research has found evidence that both men and women are prejudiced towards sexualized women. But only women are willing to endure a cost to themselves to punish a woman who appears to be promiscuous. The findings appear in Evolution and Human Behavior.

Across cultures, women and girls have been subjected to various attempts to control their sexuality. This has included slut shaming, female genital cutting, and honor killings.

The researchers from the University of Warwick wanted to better understand what motivates individuals to suppress female – but not male – sexuality. “If society is to understand and overcome the sexual double standard, interventionists should seek to uncover how men and women vary in their attitudes towards sexualized women,” they explained.

In the study, participants played one of three kinds of economic decision-making games. The participants were led to believe they were playing against a female opponent in real-time, but were actually only interacting with computerized responses.

The opponents varied in whether they appeared to be sexually accessible or sexually restricted. For some participants, the opponent was depicted as a woman wearing a tight, red outfit and an abundance of makeup. For others, the opponent was depicted as a woman wearing loose-fitting clothing with less makeup.

The researchers found that both male and female participants were less willing to share money with a woman wearing the tight outfit. The participants also trusted sexually-accessible opponents with a financial investment less than sexually-restrictive opponents.

Women, but not men, were also willing to inflict punishments on a sexually-accessible female opponent who made an unfair offer, even though it left them empty-handed as well.

Given the choice between receiving a small sum of money while their opponent took a large sum or having neither player receive any money at all, women tended to pick the latter option.

The study – like all research – includes some limitations. The researchers recruited nearly 1,000 participants, but the vast majority were from the United Kingdom – a country with a relatively high level of gender equality.

Nevertheless, the findings suggest that both sexes perpetuate prejudiced behaviors towards sexually-accessible women but for different reasons. The researchers believe that men seek to avoid being duped into investing in a child that isn’t their own, while women seek to keep the cost of sex high or wish to sabotage potential sexual rivals.

“More broadly, our results find that sexual suppression cannot be described as being either male – or female – driven, and that more nuanced models are needed to understand society’s propensity to suppress female sexuality,” the researchers said.

The study, “Who punishes promiscuous women? Both women and women, but only women inflict costly punishment“, was authored by Naomi K. Muggleton, Sarah R. Tarran, and Corey L. Fincher.

Theories of consciousness and reincarnation

Theories of consciousness range from the purely scientific – that personal consciousness, as we know it, is a mechanism of unique neural connections molded by genetics and experience – to the spiritual, which argue the existence of a non-corporeal component to life: the soul. Still other thinkers – like Roger Penrose – theorize that consciousness and human creativity may require a new science altogether; that, as Penrose and Hameroff (2014) put it, “consciousness results from discrete physical events; such events have always existed in the universe as non-cognitive, proto-conscious events, these acting as part of precise physical laws not yet fully understood.”

For the layperson, however, theories raise more questions than they answer, offering little comfort in confronting the essential human questions of “what makes me me?” and, more poignantly, “what happens to to me when I die?” The latter question is arguably the real question of consciousness, as it comes as a result of recognizing the presence of one’s own subjective cognition/individual consciousness and the realization that said consciousness erodes and eventually ceases with the end of physical life… or seems to. It’s an existential black mirror; the dark side of Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am.” Without a cohesive understanding of or agreement on the mechanics and laws of consciousness, that question can’t be answered. It cannot even be presumed to have an answer awaiting after death, for if death is the absolute negation of consciousness – if you cease to be when you cease to think – then there is no “finding out” after we die: there’s just the vacuum of not-being, a state of statelessness.

In the midst of these theories, however, are those that believe in a kind of recycling of consciousness: that individual selves may be reincarnated in new bodies, sometimes retaining scraps of memory – and even physical features – from the lives they lived before. One of the most prominent proponents of that theory was Dr. Ian Stevenson, a psychiatrist who worked for five decades at the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine, where he founded the Division of Perceptual Studies, which studies “phenomena related to consciousness clearly functioning beyond the confines of the physical body, as well as phenomena that are directly suggestive of post-mortem survival of consciousness.” Beginning in 1960, Stevenson traveled the world investigating thousands cases of reincarnation, documenting his findings and eventually writing several books on the subject, including his groundbreaking work Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation and the massive, two-volume Reincarnation and Biology: A Contribution to the Etiology of Birthmarks and Birth Defects. The book documents 200 different cases of children – often from very remote areas of the world – who had memories and birthmarks that corresponded with those of deceased people whose lives they claimed to have lived before. Some, who claimed to have died violently, had birthmarks or physical defects where the deceased had suffered a mortal injury, while others suffered from phobias relating to their past death.

In his book, Children Who Remember Previous Lives: A Question of Reincarnation, Stevenson observed that:

“The most frequently occurring event or common denominator relating to rebirth is probably that of a child remembering a past life. Children usually begin to talk about their memories between the ages of two and four. Such infantile memories gradually dwindle when the child is between four and seven years old. There are of course always some exceptions, such as a child continuing to remember its previous life but not speaking about it for various reasons.

Most of the children talk about their previous identity with great intensity and feeling. Often they cannot decide for themselves which world is real and which one is not. They often experience a kind of double existence where at times one life is more prominent, and at times the other life takes over. This is why they usually speak of their past life in the present tense saying things like, ‘I have a husband and two children who live in Jaipur.’ Almost all of them are able to tell us about the events leading up to their death.”

Most of these cases were documented in Asian countries with large religious – Hindu, Buddhist – populations that believed in reincarnation. Culturally speaking, however, reincarnation is not an entirely Eastern belief. The ancient Greeks, for example, believed in a river called Lethe that the dead were required to drink from in order to wipe their memories clean before being reincarnated. Stevenson, of course, was keenly aware of this and other traditions. When asked by OMNI magazine why Westerners often reject the idea of reincarnation, Stevenson noted that “some southern European Christians believed in reincarnation until the Council of Nice banned such beliefs in 553 A.D. In The Republic, Plato described souls about to be reborn as choosing their future lives. Schopenhauer took it seriously, and Voltaire’s observation that it is no more surprising to be born twice than once is well-known.”

The major critics – including psychologist Terence Hines – of Stevenson’s work invoked Occam’s Razor, asserting that the majority of the cases could have simpler, non-paranormal explanations. Because these children often claimed to be the reincarnations of relatives, they would likely have some knowledge of the deceased they were claiming to be. It could also be that the children were just acting out fantasies, which were inadvertently encouraged by Stevenson, creating what amount to a confirmation bias/validation loop. The physical evidence could be explained as coincidence or in some cases even intentional scarring or making by the parents. In the face of these plausibilities, Stevenson himself urged caution in being too quick to jump to conclusions. “Essentially I say that the idea of reincarnation permits but doesn’t compel belief,” Stevenson told OMNI, “All the cases I’ve investigated so far have shortcomings. Even taken together, they do not offer anything like proof.”

The burden of proof aside, Stevenson’s documentation does provide an answer to the question posed by mortality.

“I wouldn’t claim to be free of the fear of death, but it is probably less in me than other people,” Stevenson said. “These children sometimes provide reassurances to adults. We’ve had two or three incidents of children going to, let’s say, a woman who has lost her husband and is inconsolable and saying, ‘You shouldn’t be crying. Death isn’t the end. Look at me. I died and I’m here again.'”

For some, that may be enough.

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Scientists concede that religion is good for your health

Theologists, scientists and thought leaders have attempted for centuries to understand the impact that religion can have on human beings; both mentally and physically. And it is commonly accepted around that world that religion and spirituality are among the most important of cultural factors – giving structure and meaning to behaviors, value systems and experiences.

Thus, there is ample reason to believe that faith in a higher power is associated with health, and in a positive way. For example, researchers at the Mayo Clinic concluded, “Most studies have shown that religious involvement and spirituality are associated with better health outcomes, including greater longevity, coping skills, and health-related quality of life (even during terminal illness) and less anxiety, depression, and suicide. Several studies have shown that addressing the spiritual needs of the patient may enhance recovery from illness.”

Which is why it is surprising in 2019 that there is still little quantitative research published in peer-reviewed journals exploring the relationship between spirituality, religiosity and health. A primary reason for the lack of institutional knowledge in this area of study is that as the centuries have progressed, scholars in fields of medicine, public health, psychology, sociology, spirituality, religion, economics and law, have all gone to distinct silos. Subsequently, there is a growing body of research, but it exists in disparate fields, with little overlap addressing the implications of health and health care. There is also much contention about working definitions of terms like “religious” and “spiritual,” making research difficult to standardize and impossible to randomize.

That said, the lack of knowledge linking religious behaviors and health is fascinating given that health care is deeply rooted in religious institutions, and vice versa. In fact, it was religious organizations that built many of the first hospitals, and clergy (supplementing low church wages) were often practicing physicians and medical providers. This was true both in the Middle East and in the American colonies, and included much focus on mental health services – with both positive and negative recorded histories.

However, as time passed, the link between religion and health care has slowly fallen to the wayside in favor of strict clinical practices and medical protocols. Despite multiple studies over the last several decades concluding that those who are religiously involved live longer, and that many patients welcome spiritual beliefs into their care, this is no longer the norm in America. But given how much we are learning about the influence social-emotional aspects of life can have on overall health, religious beliefs and activities should be an area of intense focus for the medical research community.

In an exploration to better understand the role that spirituality and religion play in health and care, a few key themes appeared across the various disciplines. Some of the most interesting include:

  • 80% of research on spirituality/religiousness and health focuses on mental health. This is because most associations with faith are related to how one thinks about the world and their role in it. Words that are often associated with religious beliefs include connectedness, hope, optimism, trust and purpose. All of which have been shown to boost mental health. Compassion, forgiveness and gratefulness are also qualities that are strongly associated with individuals who are spiritual and religious. Practicing these qualities is thought to be associated with deceased stress and increased resiliency.
  • Interestingly, although religion and spirituality correlate to an external locus of control (God as a higher power in control of our destiny), most research concludes that those who are religious have a strong internal sense of control. Dr. Harold Koenig of Duke University contends that as people pray, and ask God for guidance, they feel a sense of control over their own situation, helping them cope with depression and anxiety.
  • Fear that one is being punished or abandoned by God in the face of medical problems exists for some. These negative thoughts associated with religion can be linked to higher rates of depression and lower quality of life. Additional stress in these cases can also be harmful to mental health.
  • While mental and physical health are intricately intertwined, the physical manifestations of spirituality and religious beliefs are indirect. What this means is that our belief system drives the way we think and behave, which in turn impact our health-related actions. For example, people with greater depression and anxiety have more physical health problems. In turn, worse mental health and physical health lead to lower quality of life and a shorter life expectancy.
  • Caring for one’s physical body is emphasized in many faiths, including Judeo-Christianity. This leads many individuals to actually take better care of their bodies by abstaining from drinking, prioritizing meditation or not partaking in activities that have negative consequences on the body.
  • There is a chasm between doctors and patients. A 2018 survey of American physicians and patients suggests that about 64% of physicians believe in the existence of God or a higher power, and more than 90% of patients claimed the same. This is consistent with a Pew study which concluded that about 90% of Americans believe in a higher power. In contrast 25% of physicians reported uncertainty in their beliefs.
  • While many in the medical community may think it inappropriate to ask patients about beliefs and faith, patients disagree. One study concluded that 77% of patients thought physicians should consider patients’ spiritual needs. More specifically, 48% welcomed or desired that their physicians pray with them, and another 37% wanted physicians to discuss religious beliefs with them. Despite these desires, the same study found that almost 70% of patients claimed their physician had never broached the topic of religion with them.

Existential questions that cannot be answered by medical professionals often accompany seeking medical care. This is particularly true for those with more traumatic or chronic conditions. Thus, when seeking answers to questions such as, “Why me?” or “What is the meaning of this?” people often look outside traditional health care settings – including religion – to find answers. So it is natural behavior for humans to turn to faith and belief systems when touching the health care system.

Now we just need the care system and the research community to integrate the growing body of knowledge into the patient experience and continuum of care.

Researchers find nearly 1 out of 5 people are misdiagnosed with MS and receive potentially dangerous treatment for years

Researchers found that nearly 1 in 5 people who had received a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis had other unrelated conditions.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a widespread disabling neurological condition in which the immune system attacks and destroys the fatty tissue that surrounds the nerves. This leads to nerve damage, which affects communication between the nerves and the brain.

People with MS may experience symptoms, including numbness or weakness in the limbs, tremors, and lack of coordination. However, some of the symptoms have similarities to other debilitating conditions, including stroke and migraine.

MS and stroke are very different conditions, but they both harm the brain. Some of the symptoms they share include attention issues, dizziness, numbness in the limbs, slurring, visual impairment, and difficulty in walking.

MS and migraine attacks also have some symptoms in common, including dizziness and vision impairment. A recent study pooled data on people who had received a wrong diagnosis of MS and found that 72 of the 110 patients had other conditions, including migraine.

Identifying traits in misdiagnosed people

A team of researchers from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Vermont in Burlington analyzed the cases of 241 people who had received an MS diagnosis. Other doctors had previously referred these people to two academic medical centers in Los Angeles.

Dr. Marwa Kaisey and Dr. Nancy Sicotte, both from the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA, led the new research.

The symptoms of MS are so similar to the symptoms of some other conditions that it can be difficult for doctors to make the right diagnosis. “The diagnosis of MS is tricky. Both the symptoms and MRI testing results can look like other conditions, such as stroke, migraines, and vitamin B12 deficiency,” Dr. Kaisey said.

The study aimed at determining how many people received a misdiagnosis of MS, and identifying common characteristics in misdiagnosed patients.

The researchers found that of the people misdiagnosed with MS, many received MS treatment for 4 years before receiving the right diagnosis.

The researchers identified that the condition most often correctly diagnosed was migraine, followed by radiologically isolated syndrome – a condition in which the results of MRI scans determined that the people had MS, despite them not experiencing any other symptoms linked to MS.

Risks and costs of incorrect diagnoses

Among people who received a wrong diagnosis, 72 percent had received treatment for MS, and of those, 48 percent had received treatments that can lead to progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), which is a rare viral infection that targets nerve cells and damages the white matter in the brain.

The researchers concluded that the estimated costs of unnecessary treatments that they identified in just this study reached almost $10 million.

“I’ve seen patients suffering side effects from the medication they were taking for a disease they didn’t have. Meanwhile, they weren’t getting treatment for what they did have. The cost to the patient is huge – medically, psychologically, financially,” Dr. Kaisey adds.

May’s issue of Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders will publish the study, and the investigators hope that these findings, along with recently funded research, will help to prevent MS misdiagnoses in the future and help improve diagnosis and treatments for people with the disease.

“The first step, which is what we’ve done here, is to identify the problem, so now we’re working on potential solutions.”

Dr. Marwa Kaisey

Nearly half of honey tested contains mostly rice syrup, wheat syrup or sugar beet syrup

Honey makers are secretly “watering” down their honey with cheap syrups that have been impossible to detect until now.

A new testing method has revealed nearly half of the honey sold in Australia, one of the world’s largest exporters of honey, is diluted with cheap sweeteners like rice syrup, wheat syrup and sugar beet syrup.

12 out of 28 honey samples taken from grocery stores around the country and tested in a reputable lab in Germany turned out to be mostly some form of cheap sugar syrup, not honey.

The scary thing is, all of these honey brands had passed the official government purity tests.

That’s because honey manufacturers have become more skilled at flying under the testing radar, researchers explain.

The official, internationally accepted, tests only pick up honey adulterated with cane sugar and corn sugar.

Manufacturers have learned they cannot detect the difference between rice syrup, sugar beet syrup and honey.

But new technology called Nuclear Magnetic Resonance can.

Germany’s Quality Services International lab was commissioned by Australian horticulturalist Robert Costa to conduct both types of tests.

While all 28 samples passed the official government C4 sugar test, only 14 passed the NMR tests.

“The C4 test picks up most fake honey, because most of the cheap sugar syrups used to make fake honey came from C4 plants, like corn and sugar cane,” explains University of Newcastle molecular nutritionist Emma Beckett.

“But newer substitutes, like rice, wheat, and beet syrups, come from C3 plants, and so won’t be picked up.”

QSI’s managing director Gudrun Beckh, who has been testing honey for almost 30 years, said NMR is the most comprehensive test for detecting adulteration.

“Fake honey always existed, but in the last years it’s a growing problem because of the people who adulterate using more and more sophisticated methods, so it’s more complicated to detect it,” she said.

A 2018 study found an additional 27 percent of other Australian honey brands had been watered down with cane sugar or corn syrup, using the traditional C4 testing method.

The contaminated brands were those that had foreign honey, typically from China, blended in with them, not 100% Australian honey.

While there is no standard or testing for honey purity in the United States, it is likely the problem is similar or worse here.

A 2011 lab analysis showed 76 percent of honey sold in the United States has no pollen in it, indicating it is probably sourced illegally from China, diluted with cheap sweeteners and contains illegal antibiotics.

Food Safety News commissioned premier melissopalynologist and professor Vaughn Bryant from Texas A&M University to test 60 brands of honey from stores around the United Stares.

76 percent of samples from grocery stores, and 100 percent of samples from drug stores and fast food restaurants, contained no pollen,

Removal of all pollen from honey “makes no sense,” Mark Jensen, president of the American Honey Producers Association, told Food Safety News.

“Elimination of all pollen can only be achieved by ultra-filtering and this filtration process does nothing but cost money and diminish the quality of the honey,” he said.

“In my judgment, it is pretty safe to assume that any ultra-filtered honey on store shelves is Chinese honey and it’s even safer to assume that it entered the country uninspected and in violation of federal law.”

“It’s no secret to anyone in the business that the only reason all the pollen is filtered out is to hide where it initially came from and the fact is that in almost all cases, that is China,” added beekeeper Richard Adee.

The FDA has sent a letter to industry stating that “the FDA does not consider ‘ultra-filtered’ honey to be honey,” agency press officer Tamara Ward told Food Safety News.

Buying brands labeled organic increased chances of it being real honey. The lab found 71% of brands labeled organic were pollen-rich.

Perhaps a better way if ensuring honey is real is to buy raw, unfiltered honey.

One ounce of raw, unfiltered honey contains approximately 20 vitamins, 18 amino acids, 16 minerals, and a ton of antioxidants and phytonutrients. Raw honey is an antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal substance. It is also highly nutritious. It contains significant amounts of B2, B3, B5, B6, C, magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium chlorine, sulfur, and phosphate.

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Schools in England will have mindfulness and meditation added to the curriculum

Apart from the increasing number of young children that are showing signs of early onset depression and anxiety, NHS reports have also shown that 1 in 8 British children have mental disorders. Despite these facts, only 1 out of 5 children with mental issues are able to get access to treatment.

England isn’t the only country that has added mindfulness as a subject among schools. In 2016, a school in Baltimore decided to replace detention for an area where the children could go to an practice some breathing and stretching exercises instead. This is a way to keep the students calmer in order to increase their focus within the classroom.

A student that was sent to the ‘mindful moment room’ for pushing and name-calling a fellow classmate describes it to CNN as: “I did some deep breathing, had a little snack, and I got myself together. Then I apologized to my class.”

The school believes this is an improved manner the problem, rather than punishing and embarrassing the child in front of their peers, which was probably the cause of the problem from the very beginning.

Teaching children how to deal with emotions will most likely be very foreign and uncomfortable, but it will reap the benefits in the end. The goal is to have the children master the habit of clearing their mind from stress and anxiety, and being present and more focused in class.