9 Reasons Giving Up Is Better Than Holding On – According to Science


9 Reasons Giving Up Is Better Than Holding On - According to Science

Giving up isn’t an act of weakness, but rather an act of courage – it takes a lot of courage to give up on all those things that steal your joy and focus on something that will make you happy again.

When Giving Up Is Better Than Holding On

In the western world, we’re conditioned to pursue four key ideals: bigger, better, faster, more! This mantra is implicit in the way we’re educated and in the professional world, and it’s threaded through our culture in ways that are not always obvious to the naked eye.

These are the ideals that make us feel worthless when we fail, that tempt us to cover our mistakes (even from ourselves!), to value quantity over quality, and to neglect our feelings until it’s too late. And they contribute to a vocabulary in which the word ‘quitter’ carries more currency than the phrase ‘letting go’.

It’s not that there are no benefits to an attitude of dogged perseverance. Strong will, attached to ambition or to generous heartedness, often results in positive change, growth, and progress. The problem is that unblinking determination comes at the cost of the ability doubt, to retreat, to be present.

It’s not just the spiritually-inclined who consider these aspects of thought and being to be essential to the human experience: they’ve been proven by science to be beneficial for our health, our emotions, and yes – even for professional success.

One example of this is our over-dependence on rewards.

An expected pay-out of any kind can eclipse the profound nature of the job at hand. Our eyes are on the prize, so not only do we miss out on or rush the full experience of what we’re doing – we likely do a worse job of it. In the 1940s, psychologist Harry Harlow found that when he gave monkeys a puzzle to solve, they actually made fewer mistakes and solved more puzzles when they didn’t expect a reward. It stands to reason when you think about it: the monkey mind was on the task at hand, enjoying the game, and taking its time, when not dreaming of bananas!

This example suggests that when you find yourself struggling to fulfill an ambition – failure to get that promotion at work, for example – you might benefit from giving up. Do your job well, focus on being your best self, and who knows what other opportunities might arise instead.

More serious than monkey-puzzles and even job promotions, fixating too strongly on a difficult task can have negative health repercussions, too. One study showed that learning to disengage can save you from headaches, eczema, constipation, and of course – poor sleep.

Chasing unrealistic targets might also be connected to inflammation in the body, which can lead to diabetes and heart trouble. Of course, you don’t believe they’re unrealistic targets while you’re chasing them – but it’s a good lesson to slow down once in a while and reevaluate if and how you should proceed.

A freer and more open approach to your goals and ambitions will keep you emotionally agile and increase your chances of fulfillment.

Susan David takes the opinion that adaptability and self-honesty are essential to growth. Even if quitting isn’t the right option, realigning your goals and recalibrating your ambition can be a smart bit of emotional maintenance. And we’ve all seen friends and colleagues who have become unhappy or even angry because they are unable to consider any alternative to the success of their initial mission. This lack of flexibility can also harm the community around you: if your ethics are more malleable than your ambitions, it’s possible that you will compromise your deeply-held beliefs before you consider failure to be an option.

And that’s a shame because accepting mistakes and learning from life’s false starts and temporary diversions enrich our overall experience.

For more tips on the why, how, and when of embracing failure and giving up on harmful drives, take a look at this helpful new visual guide from NetCredit.

9 Reasons Giving Up Is Better Than Holding On – According to Science

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The Big Fat Surprise — Higher Cholesterol Levels Associated with Better Health


Saturated Fat and Cholesterol are Important Parts of a Healthy Diet

Saturated fat and cholesterol have been wrongfully vilified as the culprits of heart disease for more than six decades. Meanwhile, research has repeatedly identified refined carbs, sugar and trans fats found in processed foods as the real enemy.

The first scientific evidence linking trans fats to heart disease while exonerating saturated fats was published in 1957 by the late Fred Kummerow,1 biochemist and author of “Cholesterol Is Not the Culprit: A Guide to Preventing Heart Disease.” Unfortunately, Kummerow’s science was overshadowed by Ancel Keys’ Seven Countries Study,2,3 which linked saturated fat intake with heart disease. The rest, as they say, is history. Later reanalysis revealed cherry-picked data was responsible for creating Keys’ link, but by then the saturated fat myth was already firmly entrenched.

Keys’ biased research launched the low-fat myth and reshaped the food industry for decades to come. As saturated fat and cholesterol were shunned, the food industry switched to using sugar and trans fats (found in margarine, vegetable shortening and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils) instead.

The Big Fat Surprise

Investigative journalist Nina Teicholz was one of the first major investigative journalists to break the story on the dangers of trans fats in a 2004 Gourmet magazine article.4 In the video below, Joe Rogan interviews Teicholz on her 2014 book, “The Big Fat Surprise,” which grew out of that initial exposé.

In it, not only does she dismantle the belief that saturated fat and cholesterol make you fat and cause disease, she also reveals that while the dangers of trans fats are now becoming widely recognized, the recommended replacement — vegetable oils — may actually be even more harmful. She also delves into the politics and shady underbelly of nutritional science, revealing how the food industry has manipulated the scientific discussion and built a largely false foundation for the nutritional recommendations we’re given.

Corruption is not the sole problem, though. Teicholz notes there is a very strong tendency to “fall in love” with your own ideas and beliefs, and this is as true for scientists as it is for regular people. And, when you strongly believe something to be true, you will tend to find the evidence you’re looking for and ignore anything that refutes it. So, it’s really a human psychology problem.

Scientists are not supposed to fall into this all-too-human trap. “They’re taught to distrust their beliefs [and] shoot down their own hypothesis,” Teicholz says, “but in the case of nutrition science, that didn’t happen … They cherry-picked the evidence and completely ignored and actively suppressed, even, anything that contradicted their ideas.” This certainly included Keys, who was passionately wed to his hypothesis that saturated fat caused heart disease.

Busting the Low-Fat Myth

Teicholz points out the fact that saturated fat has been a healthy human staple for thousands of years, and how the low-fat craze has resulted in massive sugar consumption that has increased inflammation and disease.5 The American Heart Association (AHA) started encouraging Americans to limit dietary fat, particularly animal fats, to reduce their risk of heart disease in 1961, and maintains this position to this day.

Just last summer, the AHA sent out a presidential advisory to cardiologists around the world, reiterating its 1960s advice to replace butter and coconut oil with margarine and vegetable oils to protect against heart disease. Yet historical data clearly shows this strategy is not working, because concomitant with low-fat diets becoming the cultural norm, heart disease rates have soared. The AHA also ignores research demonstrating the low-fat, low-cholesterol strategy does more harm than good. For example:

  1. In 2012, researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology examined the health and lifestyle habits of more than 52,000 adults ages 20 to 74, concluding that lower cholesterol levels increase women’s risk for heart disease, cardiac arrest and stroke. Overall, women with “high cholesterol” (greater than 270 mg/dl) actually had a 28 percent lower mortality risk than women with “low cholesterol” (less than 183 mg/dl).6
  2. In 2013, prominent London cardiologist Aseem Malhotra argued in the British Medical Journal that you should ignore advice to reduce your saturated fat intake, because it’s actually increasing your risk for obesity and heart disease.7
  3. A 2014 meta-analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, using data from nearly 80 studies and more than a half-million people, found those who consume higher amounts of saturated fat have no more heart disease than those who consume less. They also did not find less heart disease among those eating higher amounts of unsaturated fat, including both olive oil and corn oil.8,9

Related reading: Debunking More Bad Science – People With High Levels of ‘Bad Cholesterol’ Actually Live Longer Than Those With Low Levels

The following graph, from a British Journal of Nutrition study published in 2012, also shows how Europeans who eat the least saturated fats have the highest risk of heart disease, whereas those who eat the most have the lowest rates of heart disease — the complete opposite of conventional thinking and AHA claims.

Your Body Needs Saturated Fat and Cholesterol

Cholesterol is not only beneficial for your body, it’s absolutely vital for optimal functioning. For example, cholesterol is needed for the construction of your cell membranes and helps regulate the protein pathways required for cell signaling. Having insufficient amounts of cholesterol may negatively impact your brain health, hormone levels, heart disease risk and more.

Your body also needs saturated fats to function properly. One way to understand this need is to consider the foods ancient humans consumed. Many experts believe we evolved as hunter-gatherers and have eaten a variety of animal products for most of our existence on Earth. To suggest that saturated fats are suddenly harmful to us makes no sense, at least not from an evolutionary perspective.

Reducing saturated fat to extremely low levels, or shunning it altogether, also doesn’t make sense when you consider its health benefits and biological functions, which include but are not limited to:

Providing building blocks for cell membranes, hormones and hormone-like substances Facilitating mineral absorption, such as calcium Acting as carriers for fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K
Converting carotene into vitamin A Helping to lower cholesterol levels (palmitic and stearic acids) Antiviral activity (caprylic acid)
Optimal fuel for your brain Providing satiety Modulating genetic regulation and helping prevent cancer (butyric acid)

High-Carb Versus High-Fat Diets

As noted by Teicholz, by eliminating saturated fat and cholesterol-rich foods we’ve also eliminated many of the most nutrient-dense foods from our diet — eggs and liver being just two examples — and this also has its repercussions for human health and development. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble, which means you need the fat that comes naturally in animal foods along with the vitamins in order to absorb those vitamins.

Additionally, fat is very satiating, so you’re far less likely to overeat on a high-fat diet than a high-carb diet. Most people who complain about “starving” all the time are likely just eating too many carbs (quick-burning fuel) and not enough fat (slow-burning fuel).

Then there’s carb-addiction, of course, which further fuels the cycle of hunger and overeating. What’s worse, when you eat a high-carb diet for a long time, it blocks or shuts down your body’s ability to burn fat, which means all of your body fat remains right where it is, as it cannot be accessed for fuel.

By shifting your diet from high-carb to high-fat, you eventually regain the metabolic flexibility to burn both types of fuel — fat and sugar — which solves most of these problems; the hunger and cycle of overeating, weight gain, inflammation and related disease processes. Cyclical ketogenic diets are very effective for this, as is intermittent fasting and longer water fasts for those who are overweight.

The Problem with Vegetable Oils

As mentioned earlier, Teicholz’s book also delves into a new nutritional twist that has developed as the dangers of trans fats have been exposed and accepted. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has removed partially hydrogenated oils — the primary source of trans fats — from the list of “generally recognized as safe” ingredients, the vegetable oils (such as canola, peanut, corn and soy oil) that have replaced them may have even more harmful health ramifications.

When heated, vegetable oils degrade into extremely toxic oxidation products. According to Teicholz, more than 100 dangerous oxidation products have been found in a single piece of chicken fried in vegetable oils. As early as the 1940s, animal experiments showed animals would develop cirrhosis of the liver or enlarged liver when fed vegetable oils. When fed heated vegetable oils, they died prematurely.

Cyclic aldehydes are among the most toxic of these byproducts, and animal research has shown even low levels of exposure cause serious inflammation, which is associated with heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Findings like these make the AHA’s recommendation to use margarine and vegetable oils all the more troubling.

In her book, Teicholz also cites research in which aldehydes were found to cause toxic shock in animals by damaging the gastrointestinal tract. We now know a lot more about the role your gut plays in your health, and the idea that aldehydes from heated vegetable oils can damage your gastric system is frighteningly consistent with the rise we see in immune problems and gastrointestinal-related diseases.

How a Cyclical Ketogenic Diet Can Improve Your Health

Two-thirds of the American population is overweight or obese,10 more than half of all Americans struggle with chronic illness,11 1 in 5 deaths in the U.S. is obesity-related12 and 1 in 4 deaths is related to heart disease.13 Saturated dietary fats and cholesterol are not to blame for these statistics. The evidence is actually quite clear: Excessive net carbohydrate intake is the primary culprit behind these disease statistics, primarily by decimating your mitochondrial function.

To address this, you need to eat a diet that allows your body to burn fat as its primary fuel rather than sugars, and to become an efficient fat burner, you actually have to eat fat. In my latest book, “Fat for Fuel,” I detail a cyclical or targeted ketogenic diet, which has been scientifically shown to optimize metabolic and mitochondrial health. A primary difference between this program and other ketogenic diets is the cyclical component.

See: A Beginner’s Guide to the Ketogenic Diet: An Effective Way to Optimize Your Health

It’s important to realize that the “metabolic magic” in the mitochondria occurs during the refeeding phase, not during the starvation phase. If you’re constantly in ketosis, you’re missing out on one of the most valuable benefits of the ketogenic diet. Basically, once you have established ketosis, you then cycle healthy carbs back in. As a general rule, I recommend adding 100 to 150 grams of carbs on the day or days each week that you do strength training. Some of the most important benefits of this kind of eating program are:

Weight loss

By rebalancing your body’s chemistry, weight loss and/or improved weight management becomes nearly effortless. Studies have shown a ketogenic diet can double the weight lost compared to a low-fat diet.14

Reduced inflammation

When burned for fuel, dietary fat releases far fewer reactive oxygen species and secondary free radicals than sugar. Ketones are also very effective histone deacetylase inhibitors that effectively reduce inflammatory responses. In fact, many drugs are being developed to address immune related inflammatory diseases that are HDAC inhibitors.

A safer and more rational strategy is to use a ketogenic diet, as it is one of the most effective ways to drive down your inflammation level through HDAC inhibition.

Reduced cancer risk

While all cells (including cancer cells) can use glucose for fuel, cancer cells lack the metabolic flexibility to use ketones, while regular cells thrive on these fats. Once your body enters a state of nutritional ketosis, cancer cells are more susceptible to being removed by your body through a process called autophagy. A cyclical ketogenic diet is a fundamental, essential tool that needs to be integrated in the management of nearly every cancer.

Increased muscle mass

Ketones spare branched-chain amino acids, thereby promoting muscle mass.15 However, make sure to implement cyclic ketosis. Chronic ketosis may eventually result in muscle loss as your body is impairing the mTOR pathway, which is important for anabolic growth. mTOR needs to be stimulated, just not consistently, as many people do with high protein diets.

Lowered insulin levels

Keeping your insulin level low helps prevent insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes and related diseases. Research has demonstrated that diabetics who eat a low-carb ketogenic diet are able to significantly reduce their dependency on diabetes medication and may even reverse the condition.16

Lowering insulin resistance will also reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s. Recent research strengthens the link between insulin resistance and dementia even further, particularly among those with existing heart disease.17,18,19

Mental clarity

One of the first things people really notice once they start burning fat for fuel is that any former “brain fog” lifts, and they can suddenly think very clearly. As mentioned earlier, ketones are a preferred fuel for your brain; hence, the improved mental clarity.

Increased longevity

One of the reasons you can survive a long time without food is due to the process of ketosis, which spares protein breakdown.20 A fairly consistent effect seen in people on a ketogenic diet is that blood levels of leucine and other important structural proteins go up, allowing these proteins to perform a number of important signaling functions.

Ketones also mimic the life span extending properties of calorie restriction21 (fasting), which includes improved glucose metabolism; reduced inflammation; clearing out malfunctioning immune cells;22 reduced IGF-1, one of the factors that regulate growth pathways and growth genes and which is a major player in accelerated aging; cellular/intracellular regeneration and rejuvenation (autophagy and mitophagy).23

The Big Fat Surprise: Nina Teicholz on The Joe Rogan Experience

Sources and References:

Allowing Nature to be the Example for Our Children’s Bright Future


Our Children’s Bright Future

 

“If we look at Nature, we see that absolutely everything within it is important and there for a reason. As we are all a part of Nature, this means that we are important and here for a reason as well.” — This is one of the key lessons that I teach, not only to my own 3 children, but to all of the children that I meet when I am touring with my book, “The Sapling”.

There is nothing within Nature that happens by accident. It is all planned and perfection. We are the same. There are no accidental or extra people on this Earth. We all arrive with a gift to share, which is why it is so important that we grow into who we truly are, just like a tree, for example. Because if a tree did not grow into their full potential, we would all be denied their gifts, and look at how many of us would suffer — animals, people, other plants — we all depend on the tree. In this way, the rest of the world actually depends on us being true to ourselves.

And what about those people of the world who don’t seem to be contributing? They are simply not in touch with who they really are and the true desires of their heart — for when we turn to Nature and truly connect with the Earth, we become centred, grounded, compassionate and purposeful human beings. It is hard to deny our Soul’s longing within the authenticity of Nature.

“The Sapling” follows the journey of a little tree who feels small in a big world and becomes afraid to grow. With the encouragement of her friend, the Big Tree, she realizes there is nothing to fear and becomes the Tree she is meant to be. As I’ve been touring schools, libraries, and day-cares, I have been sharing this story as well as its lessons in energy and Nature communication. I absolutely love connecting with children and feel that I am learning more than I am teaching. I am happy to say that I have been pleasantly surprised in most places I have visited. I can see that the parents and teachers have been making Nature a priority within children’s lives — and these children are open, engaged, and happy.

In other places, unfortunately, even the youngest of children have become jaded and cynical, convinced that all that exists is what they can see, and even this is with a negative slant. This, of course, is no fault of their own. When I tell them that trees can talk to us, or that it was the trees who shared the idea for my book with me, they blurt out “That’s impossible!”  Such a sad statement from such a little mouth. This is the time of their life when they should be reinforced with the knowledge that all things are possible.

Many schools and day-cares are taking regular Nature walks and planting gardens. I truly appreciate these wonderful teachers who are making the basic life skills and birthright of growing our own food a priority — especially for the children who are not fortunate enough to learn these skills at home.

I have actually had some children ask me, “Why would you grow it yourself when you can just go buy it?”  When I reply that the veggies from the garden, either theirs or a local grower, are not only tastier but are more nutritious because they are fresh and grown in kinder conditions, they look at me as though I am some sort of alien.

I have been left questioning the motives of some teachers who are discouraging having gardens for the students because they “don’t have time” or “can’t be bothered.” Is the role of a teacher not to teach? Learning how to connect with the Earth and grow your own food, literally reap what you sow and see the rewards of your efforts, should be the basis of all school curricula. Where would any of us be without nutritious food?

I was speaking with a group of students recently, aged 12-14, and teaching them about Energy and how important healthy food is to maintain a harmonious and balanced life. Their teacher, a morbidly obese woman, was sitting at her desk during this lesson, sucking on a can of Coca-Cola, proudly declaring that she was diabetic. Thankfully, her students looked as appalled as I was! In my opinion, she should not be allowed to have this kind of toxic influence upon children. Not only that, I feel that if you know what is bad for you and you still refuse to clean up your lifestyle, you should be denied health care in regards to the health issue that you yourself are refusing to take action towards reversing.  If you want to willingly poison yourself and destroy the vessel you were granted, go for it. But I shouldn’t have to pay for it. I haven’t visited a doctor in years, and it is not just because I was blessed with good health. I have made a conscious, daily lifestyle choice to honour and respect my body.

In Canada we have free health care, which is a wonderful thing for some, but has also allowed others to be irresponsible. When you are hurt in an automobile accident and take disability because you are unable to work, you are watched quite closely to ensure that you are not “cheating the system.” Perhaps the same should happen to those with diagnosed health issues. Perhaps they should be monitored to ensure they are following a plan of exercise and healthy diet, rather than happily taking the prescriptions that address only the symptoms and not changing anything else that contributes to the cause. Nature does not support those who do not to play their part, so why do we?

Needless to say, it is obvious that many of our teachers need to be de-programmed from our dysfunctional society.

I often ask Nature what needs to be shared, or what we need to know. The most recent message I was given was in regards to communicating with Nature, as well as with our own Souls. I was told, “The clearer your energy, the easier it will be. Think about it. How well can you communicate with someone who is drunk or stoned? This is how many of you appear.”  I take it that Nature sees many of us in a stupor, either from unhealthy food with additives and preservatives, drugs, both prescription and recreational, as well as our environment and unhealthy habits, be it smoking, gossip, or attachments to drama.

I absolutely love the way in which Nature speaks; straightforward and no-nonsense. And this leads to Nature’s next message; “Life’s only requests are that we show up and give our best.”

So how do we show up and give our best? Bringing awareness to our Energy has become the basis of my teachings now, both with children and Nature Communication workshops. Basically, we need to clean ourselves up first. This is how we will rise to our greatest potential. The Trees shared with me the importance of humanity understanding their Energy, and to become aware of what we are putting out into the world, and what we are taking in.

Some basics that I share to help others notice their Energy, bring it into balance, and maintain it:

Earthing:

Getting outside and noticing the natural world around us does wonders for our Energy bodies, and especially if we can do so in barefeet.  As we are natural conductors, being that we are mostly made of water, we need to ground this energy out, and unless we are barefoot on the Earth, it is very hard to do.

When I make my visits, most kids LOVE to be barefoot, but many reply that their mothers do not allow it.  Sometimes it is because they once happened to step on a bee or got a sliver.  These random occurrences should not keep us from connecting with the Earth and absorbing her healing energies.  Earthing has been proven to release inflammation from our bodies and reduce the risk of many common diseases, such as cancer.

In cold climates, such as Canada, going barefoot year round is not an option, but we have other ways we can ground our energy.  Simply placing our hands upon a tree or a rock and asking them to ground us will do the trick as well.  Grounding also helps us to release the energy of others that we have picked up as well.

Eating Healthy:

As mentioned earlier, eating healthy, living food, especially if it was grown yourself, is the greatest gift you can give to your body. Also, do yourself a favour and toss the microwave. They really do just scramble the Energy of our food and kill it. What is left is a toxic “filler” that will not nourish you, but instead slowly poison you.

Love Yourself:

As love is the most powerful energy of all, self-love keeps our energy bright and strong, fending off illness and revealing the true purpose of our hearts. It allows us to overcome all fears and obstacles. I would have never followed through with publishing my book if it was not for the daily practice of repeating “I love myself”, as well as looking myself in the eyes in front of a mirror while saying it. It truly moves mountains. Just as Nature has self-love and total confidence in her abilities, so should we.

Clean Environment:

Whether this is your home, your habits, or the people in your life, your environment should reflect the inner work that you are doing. Also, turn off wi-fi when you can, and limit time spent on all gadgets. When I place my hand near a device with wi-fi, it literally hurts. Our children are far more sensitive than we are, so even if you don’t realize it, it’s hurting them.

Understanding Energy:

Understanding the basics of Energy is vital — such as, what we put out we attract back to ourselves. When the Trees shared this importance with me, they showed me how we all have these many pathways extending out from ourselves, much like the branches of a tree.  As many of us are unaware of what we are putting out there, or “feeding” we often attract and create more situations that are unfavourable without even realizing it.  These pathways of Energy are similar to a stream of water.  We can stop feeding them and dry them up, or we can feed them and make them like a raging river.  It is truly our choice what kind of pathways we wish to feed.

It is also important that we understand that Energy never dies, it only transforms.

I recently once again learned this lesson. It was in regards to a stand of Oak trees that I tried desperately to save from being bulldozed. Sadly, I didn’t succeed.  Not long ago I drove by where they used to stand and I felt that same pain in my heart for them. I felt that I had failed them.  Then I was suddenly flooded with the awareness that all of my fighting and tears that I cried was not in vain. That Energy was not lost. It is now fuelling and supporting the work I am doing with “The Sapling”.  It is strengthening my reach and the message of the trees.

Change the Way You Look at Nature and Yourself:

When we learn to observe without judgement and with appreciation for what we see, Nature quickly reveals that what you look at will change for the better. Wildlife will be attracted to you, people will surprise you in the greatest of ways, and you will do the same when you start to look at yourself this way.

We know when someone looks at us in a special way, and we naturally respond. I remember how my grandparents used to look at me with such wonder and gratitude.  And I feel that I was often the brightest version of myself in their presence. Nature will do the same. It is as though she says, “Well if you think that is beautiful, then check this out!”

As I spend more and more time with more and more children, I realize that they know all of this but simply need the permission to feel it.  To be reassured that magic is real and is found in the natural world all around us, and therefore within us as well.  This is why I will have them feel their energy body within their hands.  In this way they can feel something without seeing it.

I love watching their faces light up as they exclaim, “I can feel it!”  They will share how their hands are either tingling, pulling, throbbing, being pulled together or throwing off sparks. I let them know that there is no wrong way to feel it, as everyone is different and unique. And even if they don’t feel it in their hands, it’s likely that they feel their energy flowing in their scalp, their feet, or in their chest.

It is fun to know that Nature can feel our Energy, either within our touch, our thoughts, our words, or even when we look at it. And the most comforting thing that I have learned is that Nature longs to feel us, our touch, and to absorb our Light.  We are truly meant for one another, and living in harmony is possible once again for humanity to achieve, so long as our our children, the next caretakers, understand that this is not only possible, but necessary for our happiness and continued life upon this Earth.

I love teaching children that they have an impact on the world — as everything they think, say, feel, and do is Energy, and therefore affects the world around them.

I like to ask, “What kind of impact would you like to have on the world?”

As Nature keeps us in true, uninterrupted contact with our Highest potential, I find it no surprise that in all legends and many stories from our ancestry, that the “wise ones, wizards, and healers” almost always lived in seclusion in the woods. In this way, they stayed true to what was important, away from the programming and trappings of society. They were able to commune with Nature and hear her wisdoms, and in this way, help others.

The time for change is now. Nature is here to assist and help us through this window if we are willing. She wants us to succeed and rise to our greatest potential, as she can see us, the true us that is Divine. She hurts for what we have become just as any parent would hurt for their children.

It is my hopes that all children never lose their sense of wonder and the knowing that this world is a magical place to be, so long as they keep their eyes, ears, and heart open to the truth.

The Sapling: An Inspiring Story From the Trees

By Jessie Klassen…

Learn how to communicate with Nature while enjoying fun activities and energy exercises that will encourage spiritual growth, self-confidence, and awareness in you and your child while developing a close relationship with Nature.

In “The Sapling”, author Jessie Klassen offers an inspiring story from the Trees for the children of Earth, with vivid, full colour Nature illustrations that will appeal to younger children and provide valuable Life lessons that will grow with your child — just like a Tree! Full colour demonstrations easily display dozens of activities and exercises for you and your child to enjoy.

The Sapling” is the first book in Jessie’s Nature Child Children’s Book Series, committed to helping children grow into who they truly are meant to be through a close relationship with Nature. You can get your copy via www.jessieklassen.com, as well as Amazon and Indigo outlets worldwide.

Synesthesia’s Molecular Roots Traced Back to Rare DNA Mutations


For people with auditory-visual synesthesia, striking a piano key may ignite visions of turquoise geometric patterns or a twanging guitar string could create the sensation of billowing orange foam. Many aspects of life may feel like a sober LSD trip for people who experience this neurological phenomenon, and in a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists came one step closer to characterizing exactly who these people are.

In a statement released Monday, scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguists and the University of Cambridge report a discovery that they hope will eventually “explain the biology of synaesthesia.”

Previous brain-imaging studies have demonstrated that the visual areas of synesthetes’ brains are more active and that synesthetes have altered cortical wiring at the embryo stage, but until now scientists haven’t been able to trace the phenomenon back to its molecular roots. In the new paper, they show that auditory-visual synesthetes — one of at least 60 known sense variants — carry variants of genes related to the development of neural connections and cell migrations. Characterizing these genes, the authors write, is the first step in understanding how a person’s genes influences these extrasensory associations.

synesthesia, Pharrell Williams
When Pharrell Williams listens to Earth, Wind, and Fire he sees baby blue.

Synesthesia is known to run in families, so the scientists examined DNA samples belonging to several generations of three families with multiple cases of auditory-visual synesthesia. Using genomic sequencing, the scientists searched the DNA for changes that altered the way genes code for proteins. There were consistent variations on genes associated with cell migration and axogenesis, the process that enables brain cells to wire up to their correct partners — a consistent theme across all three families. Six genes were altered within these synesthetes: COL4A1, ITGA2, MYO10, ROBO3, SLC9A6, and SLIT2.

“These results are consistent with the neuroimaging-based hypothesis about the role of hyperconnectivity in the etiology of synesthesia and offer a potential entry point into the neurobiology that organizes our sensory experiences,” the scientists write.

Frank Ocean
Lorde says her synesthesia helped her write “Melodrama.”

Now that these genes have been identified, the scientists hope to better understand how and when they turn on during development and affect the way the brain is wired. Of course, there’s still a huge amount to learn when it comes to understanding how people can experience something as spectacular as the blending of color and sound. That’s why the team behind this study has put out the call for other synesthetes — especially families of them — to come and participate in future studies. The scientists have also created this short quiz that people can use to test for the ability: If you pass, you join the just one percent of folks who pulsate with the involuntary cross-activation of their senses.

How Necessary Are Opioids for Chronic Pain?


The continued ravages of the opioid epidemic have prompted researchers to reconsider whether opioids are an appropriate treatment strategy for chronic non-cancer pain. In this 150-Second Analysis, F. Perry Wilson MD, MSCE, looks at a trial appearing Tuesday in JAMA that compared opioid to non-opioid therapy in patients with chronic knee and back pain and found virtually no data to support using opioids in this setting.

When two treatment modalities are being compared, I can usually find something positive to say about both of them.

But today we have this study, appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, comparing opioid to non-opioid regimens for chronic back or knee pain and I am hard-pressed to find a single data point that argues FOR the use of opioids in this setting.

240 Veterans Affairs patients with moderate to severe chronic knee or back pain were randomized to one of the two treatment strategies, each of which had three tiers. Take a look:

The opioid group first tier was characterized by short-acting pain killers, then escalated to longer acting agents, and finally capped out with transdermal fentanyl.

The non-opioid regimen was a bit more clever, in my opinion. Tier 1 was acetaminophen and NSAIDs. Providers could then escalate to other oral meds (I particularly like the underused amitriptyline appearing in this tier) and topicals, and finally capped out with tramadol.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t tramadol an opioid? I asked lead author Dr. Erin Krebs that very question. She reminded me that this trial started in 2010: “This was before all the concerns about opioid overdose and addiction and back then a big concern was is it ethical to deprive patients of opioids if they fail all these non-opioid medications.”

Times have certainly changed. But regardless, only 13 patients in the non-opioid group ever required escalation all the way to tramadol.

And the results did not look good for opioids. The primary outcome was pain-related function which improved substantially in both groups but did not differ between the groups. Raw pain scores ended up being a bit better in the non-opioid arm.

Adverse events, as you might expect, were significantly higher in the opioid group, but fortunately no opioid abuse was detected.

One common criticism you hear about opioid trials is that researchers simply didn’t give enough – if they had titrated up more aggressively, patients would have better pain control. While the investigators limited the total morphine equivalents to 100 mg per day, Dr. Krebs told me very few patients bumped into that ceiling.

“The vast majority of folks stopped before 50, and it wasn’t because we had a limit there. It’s because simply that seemed to be the best dose for them.”

Are opioids dead for chronic back or knee pain? I think they are on life support. But the real key to this study was the careful titration of non-opioid pain medication in that group. Most of us try Tylenol and Advil and then give up. With close monitoring, patient feedback, and a willingness to try multiple interconnected agents including tricyclics, physicians may find that treating chronic pain is not so painful after all.

What Caused This Woman to Give Off Toxic Fumes?


There aren’t a lot of people whose deaths inspired episodes of “The X-Files.” But none of them deserved it as much as Gloria Ramirez. They called her “the toxic lady,” and to this day, we’re not sure what happened to her.

A Perilous Patient

Here’s what we know for sure. At 8:15 p.m. on February 19, 1994, 31-year-old cervical cancer patient Gloria Ramirez was admitted to Riverside General Hospital in Riverside, California. She was conscious, but suffering. Her breaths were shallow, her heart was beating rapidly, and her blood pressure was plummeting. They injected her with a suite of standard medications, and attempted to inject air into her lungs with a device known as an Ambu-bag (think a bellows, but shaped like a football). Two things seemed strange about her condition: her skin seemed to have a slightly oily sheen, and her breath had a smell like fruit and garlic. And then, they attempted to take her blood.

A nurse named Susan Kane was assigned that task and noticed that the room began to take on a strange, chemical smell as the syringe filled with blood. She gave the syringe to respiratory therapist Maureen Welch, who thought the blood smelled funny — not like the telltale scent of chemotherapy drugs, but more like ammonia. Welch then passed the syringe to medical resident Julie Gorchynski, who saw small, manila-colored particles floating in it. That’s when Kane, who’d been leaning over Ramirez to find the source of the smell, fainted.

Later, she said her face felt as though it was burning. Her fellow staff placed her limp body on a gurney and carried it out of the trauma center. Gorchynski felt the lightheadedness next, barely making it out of the room before she fainted as well. She also began showing other symptoms: her whole body began to shake and she would intermittently stop breathing. Welch fainted next, and when she woke up, she couldn’t control her limbs. Several other staff members at the hospital began exhibiting similar symptoms, and administrators declared a state of emergency as doctors, nurses, and patients were filed into the building’s parking lot. A skeleton crew remained behind to tend to Ramirez, who was eventually declared dead at 8:50 p.m. By the time the incident passed, 23 people had fallen ill and 5 would need hospitalization.

A Chemical Chain Reaction

Staff members continued to fall prey to whatever it was that happened to Gloria Ramirez even after she passed away. As you can probably imagine, the event sparked a massive investigation. But at the first pass, medical detectives came up with distinctly unsatisfying solutions ranging from a coincidental emission of poisonous sewer gas to a case of mass hysteria. Most frustrating of all, no sign of toxic chemicals was discovered in the hospital in the aftermath. But in Ramirez’s autopsy, doctors turned up elevated levels of dimethyl sulfone.

Another theory began to emerge — one that didn’t rely on blaming symptoms such as hepatitis, pancreatitis, and avascular necrosis to mass hysteria. If, hypothetically, Ramirez had been using a popular home remedy known as DMSO to alleviate her cancer symptoms, it may have combined with the oxygen in her oxygen mask to form the dimethyl sulfone. Investigators attempted exposing DMSO to oxygen to see if such a thing were possible, and were able to form large amounts of manila-colored dimethyl sulfone crystals in the process.

There’s just one problem: dimethyl sulfone isn’t toxic either. But it might have kicked off a chain reaction that resulted in a massive amount of toxic fumes. When one molecule of oxygen combines with DMSO, you get dimethyl sulfone. But when two molecules of oxygen combine with dimethyl sulfone, you get dimethyl sulfate, which really does cause serious problems. When absorbed into the body, it can cause convulsions, delirium, paralysis, coma, and delayed damage to various organs. The good news? Not much — except that people don’t really use DMSO to treat themselves anymore.

Scientists Finally Know Why Tattoo Ink Lasts Even Though Skin Regenerates


If the skin regenerates itself every couple of weeks, then why do tattoos last for years? Sure, we know that tattoo ink is inserted into the layer right beneath the outermost layer of skin, but even the cells there must regenerate eventually. The seeming paradox of tattoo permanence has hurt the brains of even the most science-savvy ink enthusiasts. Fortunately, on Tuesday, a team of researchers report they’ve found a solution.

In a paper published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, French scientists showed that tattoos stay in the skin because cells in the skin actively ensure the ink pigments stay in one place. The particles of ink pigment, they write, are repeatedly passed on from old cells to the new ones that are coming to replace them, sort of like an immune system relay race baton. The key finding is the identity of those cells: the macrophages, immune system cells that encapsulate foreign bodies like bacteria or tattoo pigments.

“A lack of consensus regarding how to identify the immune cell types present in the skin has hampered the precise identification of the cells that capture the ink particles found in tattoo paste and retain them in situ for an extended period,” Sandrine Henri, Ph.D., and Bernard Malissen, Ph.D., both at the Immunology Centre of Marseille-Luminy in France, tell Inverse in a joint email. Henri and Malissen co-authored the paper along with 12 other researchers.

Macrophages are super tenacious in their efforts to hold onto ink pigments, which explains why even after laser tattoo removal surgery, traces of the ink still remain. New macrophages gobble up the scattered fragments of ink and hold them in place within the skin.

This research fills in a significant gap in scientific understanding about why tattoos remain in the skin for so long. Even though we have tattooed each other for thousands of years, we’re only now beginning to understand exactly how tattoos behave inside our bodies. Now that science is showing exactly how this process occurs beneath the surface of the skin, the study’s authors hope to improve tattoo removal techniques.

The first step to understanding what was happening was figuring out what sorts of cells were involved with the ink pigments in the first place. While conducting earlier research, the team discovered that the skin of black mice contains immune system cells called melanophages, which in turn contain pigment they consumed from dying melanocytes, the cells that produce the pigment that makes their skin and fur dark (this same pigment is responsible for the various shades of human skin). They wondered whether the same process is responsible for the persistence of tattoo ink.

“While analyzing the dynamics and turnover of melanophages, we started wondering how the pigments that are contained in tattoo ink are retained inside the skin for a long period,” say Henri and Malissen.

To investigate, they tattooed the tails of mice and then, after three weeks, when they could safely assume all the ink had been sequestered within the macrophages in the tails, they killed the macrophages in the mice’s skin with injections of diphtheri toxin. Their hypothesis was confirmed: Even though the scientists killed off the cells that contained the ink, the ink remained.

Scientists observed tattooed mouse tails before (left) and after (right) they killed dermal macrophages that hold tattoo ink. They found that these immune cells passed on the ink to new cells, which means the ink stayed put.
Scientists observed tattooed mouse tails before (left) and after (right) they killed dermal macrophages that hold tattoo ink. They found that these immune cells passed on the ink to new cells, which means the ink stayed put.

They conclude that the ink must have been recaptured by the macrophages that were coming to replace the dead ones.

This, in turn, explains why laser tattoo removal can take as many as 10 sessions to complete. The lasers used break up pigment particles but don’t destroy macrophages, so every time one is blasted at a bit of ink, new living macrophages readily swoop in, scoop up the broken pieces, and put them back every time.

Therefore, scientists suspect that effective tattoo removal will require killing off the macrophages at the same time that a laser is breaking up the pigment.

Macrophages encapsulate green tattoo ink pigment (left) and release it when the cells are killed (center). But 90 days later, new macrophages develop and swallow up the pigment again (right).
Macrophages encapsulate green tattoo ink pigment (left) and release it when the cells are killed (center). But 90 days later, new macrophages develop and swallow up the pigment again (right).

Henri and Malissen say they want to partner with dermatologists to develop and test this approach for human use. To do this, they’d need to first be able to ensure that their technique would destroy only macrophages and not other neighboring cells (as that would be dangerous). To do so, they will have to identify a specific antibody in human skin macrophages that they could target with an engineered antibody-toxin combination, then they’ll have to deliver this precisely targeted package to the macrophages at the same time that someone receives laser treatment.

“This approach would allow to kill simultaneously all the macrophages that are laden with tattoo ink,” say Henri and Malissen. “Therefore, all the tattoo ink will be free within the dermis at the same time and accessible to the laser to break it in small pieces.”

Abstract: Here we describe a new mouse model that exploits the pattern of expression of the high-affinity IgG receptor (CD64) and allows diphtheria toxin (DT)–mediated ablation of tissue-resident macrophages and monocyte-derived cells. We found that the myeloid cells of the ear skin dermis are dominated by DT-sensitive, melanin-laden cells that have been missed in previous studies and correspond to macrophages that have ingested melanosomes from neighboring melanocytes. Those cells have been referred to as melanophages in humans. We also identified melanophages in melanocytic melanoma. Benefiting of our knowledge on melanophage dynamics, we determined the identity, origin, and dynamics of the skin myeloid cells that capture and retain tattoo pigment particles. We showed that they are exclusively made of dermal macrophages. Using the possibility to delete them, we further demonstrated that tattoo pigment particles can undergo successive cycles of capture– release–recapture without any tattoo vanishing. Terefore, congruent with dermal macrophage dynamics, long-term tattoo persistence likely relies on macrophage renewal rather than on macrophage longevity.

Simple Walking Test Helps Diagnose Treatable Cause of Dementia


A simple walking test may help identify one cause of dementia that may be reversible but is often misdiagnosed, a new study suggests.

Idiopathic normal-pressure hydrocephalus (iNPH) is estimated to affect about 2.7 million people in the United States and Europe. It is caused by excess fluid in the brain and can often be reversed with the insertion of a ventriculoperitoneal shunt. However, it is usually not diagnosed because it shares symptoms with other neurologic conditions, such as walking and balance dysfunction and cognitive impairment.

The other condition most often confused with iNPH is progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), a neurodegenerative disease with no cure.

Researchers from Germany have reported new results suggesting that these two conditions can be distinguished from each other by a dual-task walking test. This involves assessing how fast a person can walk while doing something else at the same time, such as counting backwards or carrying a tray.

The study was published online on February 21 in Neurology.

“iNPH is one of the rare causes of a potentially treatable and reversible dementia syndrome and gait disorder, but it is still underdiagnosed,” lead author, Charlotte Selge, MD, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany, told Medscape Medical News.

“It is important that iNPH is accurately diagnosed as treatments are available,” she added. “A simple walking test may help determine if a person has iNPH or PSP relatively early in the course of the disease. Our study found that adding another task while someone walks, and evaluating how it affects their walking ability, improves accuracy of the diagnosis.”

The study included 27 patients with iNPH, 38 patients with PSP, and 38 healthy individuals matched by age and sex.

For the test, all participants walked along a 22-foot-long pressure-sensitive carpet to assess their gait. They were asked to walk at three different speeds and then to also perform another task involving cognitive function, counting backwards, or motor function (carrying a tray).

Results showed that the cognitive dual task showed a greater reduction of walking speed in those with PSP than in those with iNPH. Walking speed was reduced by 34% in those with PSP and by 17% in those with iNPH.

In addition, when patients were engaged in the motor dual task, gait worsened for those with PSP but actually improved for those with iNPH.

“People with PSP appear to be more sensitive to these dual-task walking tests than people with iNPH,” Selge said.

By just assessing gait, researchers were able to accurately differentiate between patients with PSP and those with iNPH 82% of the time. But when both dual-task tests were added to the assessment, diagnostic accuracy increased to 97%.

“Our findings suggest that adding these dual-task tests would be an inexpensive and effective way to improve diagnosis of iNPH,” Selge concluded.

“Future studies may want to increase the complexity of tasks to see if they provide even more accuracy, as well as insight into how the two diseases affect gait,” she added.

Vegan Diet Rapidly Improves Type 2 Diabetes Markers in Adults


In overweight adults with no history of diabetes, a low-fat, plant-based vegan diet can reduce visceral fat and significantly improve both pancreatic beta-cell function and insulin resistance, potentially decreasing the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to researchers.

The 16-week randomized controlled trial in 73 adults showed that participants who ate a diet of vegetables, grains, legumes, and fruits significantly improved their overall metabolic condition, say Hana Kahleova, MD, PhD, of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, DC, and colleagues.

“Our study suggests the potential of a low-fat plant-based diet in diabetes prevention, addressing both core pathophysiologic mechanisms — insulin resistance and diminished beta-cell function — at the same time,” they write in their article, published online February 9 in Nutrients.

In a statement by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Kahleova said the study “has important implications for diabetes prevention.” An estimated 30 million Americans have type 2 diabetes and it is projected that a third of the population will develop diabetes, she pointed out.

“Fortunately, this study adds to the growing evidence that food really is medicine and that eating a healthful plant-based diet can go a long way in preventing diabetes.”

Vegan vs Normal Diet

Previous studies have shown that the prevalence of diabetes is 46% to 74% lower in people who eat a plant-based diet compared with meat lovers in the general population, according to background information in the article.

 

A vegan diet has also been shown to improve glycemic control in type 2 diabetes better than calorie-restricted, low-carbohydrate diets, the researchers note.

Insulin resistance leading to impaired pancreatic beta-cell function is a key factor in type 2 diabetes, even though current treatment isn’t usually focused on improving beta-cell function, they add.

The study, conducted between October 2016 and June 2017, enrolled eight men and 67 women, age 25 to 75 years, with a body mass index (BMI) of 28 to 40 kg/m2. Participants on the vegan diet were told to avoid animal products and added fats, and they took a daily vitamin B12 supplement (500 μg).

The vegan diet provided 75% of caloric energy from carbohydrates, 15% from protein, and 10% from fats (20–30 grams/day). There was no calorie restriction in the vegan diet. The control group was asked to make no changes to their diet. However, alcohol intake was restricted in both groups: one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.

The vegan diet elicited marked increases in meal-stimulated insulin secretion and beta-cell glucose sensitivity, along with decreased fasting insulin resistance and decreased fasting and postprandial plasma glucose concentrations in individuals with no history of diabetes.

Specifically, the homeostasis model assessment – insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) index, used to assess fasting insulin resistance, fell significantly in the intervention group (P < .001), but not in controls (treatment effect −1.0). No significant change in oral glucose insulin sensitivity was observed in either group.

Notably, changes in the HOMA-IR index correlated positively with changes in BMI (r = 0.34; P = .009) and visceral fat volume (r = 0.42; P = .001), and the latter remained significant after adjusting for changes in BMI. Changes in glucose-induced insulin secretion correlated negatively with changes in BMI (r = −0.25; P = .04), but not visceral fat.

In the control group, beta-cell glucose sensitivity did not improve.

As HOMA-IR primarily reflects hepatic insulin resistance, the results “suggest a marked improvement in hepatic, rather than peripheral, insulin sensitivity,” the researchers note. Also, the decrease in insulin resistance was related to loss of visceral fat, independent of changes in BMI, while changes in glucose-induced insulin secretion were related to changes in BMI only.

“In this context, it seems plausible that a low-fat vegan diet in our study decreased hepatic insulin resistance and led to a subsequent improvement in beta-cell function,” the researchers observe.

There was also improvement in plasma lipid concentrations in response to a low-fat vegan diet, which is consistent with previous studies.

Food intake was based on participants’ own dietary records, which may limit the generalizability of the findings, the study authors acknowledge.

Jury Still Out on Benefits of Vegan Diet

As previously reported by Medscape Medical News, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics said in its 2016 position statement that plant-based diets are appropriate for people from infancy to old age, and during pregnancy.

For others, however, the jury’s still out on the disease-prevention merits of a vegan diet.

The definition of a plant-based diet can vary widely, the authors of one report point out. Another warns that vegetarian and vegan diets might be associated with nutrient deficiencies that could be harmful during pregnancy.

And recently, a National Institutes of Health study linked a vegetarian diet to higher risk of depression in men.

Vegetarian or Mediterranean? Both Diets Improve Weight, Lipids


Three months of a low-calorie vegetarian and a low-calorie Mediterranean diet were equally beneficial in reducing weight and improving cardiovascular risk profiles, in the first randomized crossover trial comparing the two directly.

The vegetarian diet was more effective in reducing LDL cholesterol, whereas the Mediterranean diet led to a greater reduction in triglycerides, which was not surprising, the researchers say.

These findings from the Cardiovascular Prevention With Vegetarian Diet (CARDIVEG) by Francesco Sofi, MD, PhD (University of Florence, Italy), and colleagues were published online February 26 in Circulation.

Participants received individual, in-person counseling from nutritionists on how to adhere to each of the two evidence-based healthy eating patterns. The vegetarian diet excluded meat and fish but included dairy and eggs.

This was the first “intervention study that follows the principles of evidence-based medicine, in a general population at low risk of cardiovascular disease, that compared these two beneficial diets,” Sofi told theheart.org | Medscape Cardiology.

“We can conclude that both diets are beneficial for heart health,” she said. The result was not surprising, she said, because both diets have a strong foundation of healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.

“We [now] have data on two strategies that might be helpful in reducing cardiovascular risk and promoting cardiovascular health,” Cheryl AM Anderson, PhD, MPH, MS, University of California, San Diego, author of an accompanying editorial, told theheart.org | Medscape Cardiology.

“This is a study that provides some evidence base on which you can begin to feel reasonably reassured in counseling patients that there’s not necessarily one path to Rome, but multiple strategies can be helpful.”

“It’s easy to focus on meat vs no meat, but what’s really important is the rest of the diet,” Anderson stressed.

A healthy diet should be “nutrient dense; rich in vegetables and fruits, whole grains, legumes and nuts; low in refined grains and commercially processed foods with added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium; sustainable; culturally relevant; and enjoyable.”

There is helpful information and tools online at ChooseMyPlate.gov, she noted, which are based on the most recent US guidelines.

Two Healthy Diets

The Mediterranean diet is widely reported to be one of the healthiest eating patterns to prevent cardiovascular disease, Sofi and colleagues note. In an earlier meta-analysis, the researchers reported that a vegetarian eating pattern was associated with improvements in cardiovascular risk factors.

To compare the two diets, the CARDIVEG trial randomly assigned 118 participants (78% women) living in Florence in 2014 to 2015 who were age 18 to 75 years and overweight (BMI ≥ 25 kg/m2).

The participants also had one or more of the following risk factors for cardiovascular disease, as defined by the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) guidelines: total cholesterol greater than 190 mg/dL, LDL cholesterol greater than 115 mg/dL, triglycerides greater than 150 mg/dL, and glucose greater than 110 but less than 126 mg/dL.

On average, they were 51 years of age, weighed 84 kg, and had a BMI of 31 kg/m2. Close to half (48%) were obese (BMI > 30 kg/m2).

All participants received in-person, individual counseling as well as a detailed, 1-week menu plan for each diet and recipes for the vegetarian diet.

After a run-in period, they ate a vegetarian or Mediterranean diet for 3 months and then switched diets for another 3 months. A total of 85% of the participants (50 for each intervention) completed the study.

Both diets had similar low calories and consisted of 50% to 55% carbohydrates, 25% to 30% fat, and 15% to 20% protein.

The participants ate a similar number of servings of cereals, fruits and vegetables, potatoes, sweets, and olive oil on both diets, but on the vegetarian diet they ate more legumes, nuts, eggs, and dairy products, as well as flaxseed and avocado (to compensate for the lack of essential fatty acids from fish).

Both diets were similarly effective for weight loss. After 3 months, the participants lost a mean of 1.88 kg and 1.77 kg while on the vegetarian and Mediterranean diets, respectively.

They also lost a similar amount of fat mass (about 1.3 kg) and lowered their BMI by a similar amount (about 0.65 kg/m2).

During the vegetarian diet, 46 participants (44%) modified their cardiovascular risk category by reaching ESC-recommended target levels: Sixteen reached the target for total cholesterol, 17 for LDL cholesterol, 6 for triglycerides, and 14 for BMI.

During the Mediterranean diet, 35 participants (34%) modified their cardiovascular risk category: Seven reached the target for total cholesterol, 6 for LDL cholesterol, 8 for triglycerides, and 10 for BMI.

The vegetarian diet is low in cholesterol, total fat, and saturated fatty acid, leading to lower rates of cholesterol in the bloodstream, whereas the Mediterranean diet “can reduce triglyceride levels through its beneficial components, including olive oil, dietary fiber, and many phytonutrients,” Sofi and colleagues explain.

Vitamin B12 levels were significantly lower with the vegetarian diet.

However, there were no significant differences in levels of oxidative stress markers or inflammatory cytokines after 3 months of each diet.

The study shows that “if a person would like to follow a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet he/she can obtain a beneficial effect as well as with the Mediterranean diet, or probably in a greater extent as for cholesterol and lipid variables,” Sofi said. “The most important thing is that he/she needs to be followed and instructed by an expert nutritionist in order to avoid possible deficiencies.”

Although these diets should be investigated in larger studies in other populations, this research suggests that “a low-calorie healthy vegetarian or Mediterranean diet pattern may offer a possible solution to the ongoing challenges to prevent and manage obesity and cardiovascular diseases,” Anderson said.

The researchers are continuing to follow the study participants, Sofi said, and “a considerable portion of them declared that they learned how to eat without meat, at least in part and for a short period. In my opinion, this is already a good result.”

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