Koslo's Nutrition Solutions

Friday, August 22, 2014

More Natural Light Exposure at the Office Enhances Health

Instead of artificially boosting workplace energy levels with caffeine and sugar-filled drinks, increase your productivity by getting more natural light throughout the day. A new study has indicated that more natural light exposure in the workplace could benefit workers’ mood and metabolism.

Office workers with more natural light exposure at the office had longer sleep duration, better sleep quality, more physical activity and better quality of life compared to those with less light exposure in the workplace, according to researchers at Northwestern Medicine and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Let The Sun Shine In

The workers with windows in the office received an average of 173 percent more white light during work hours and slept an average of 46 minutes more per night than those employees who were deprived of the natural light exposure in the workplace. The workers with more light exposure also tended to be more physically active.

Light exposure, activity and sleep were measured by actigraphy in a representative subset of 21 participants including 10 in windowless workplaces and 11 in workplaces with windows, the study reports. Actigraphy is a device worn on the wrist that gives measures of light exposure as well as activity and sleep.

When the participants were asked questions about quality of life, the workers without windows reported lower scores related to physical problems and vitality, as well as poorer outcomes on measure of overall sleep quality and sleep disturbances.

Daylight and Circadian Rhythms

The link between darkness and depression has been established in numerous studies and the researchers of this new study report that there is a growing body of evidence showing how light exposure, especially in the morning, benefits your health via its effects on mood, alertness and metabolism.

According to the researchers, light synchronizes our internal biological rhythms with the earth’s daily rotation, which has been shown to be essential to health. These biological or circadian rhythms dictate sleep-wake cycles, hormone release, body temperature and other important bodily functions.

Exposure to sunshine also helps the body to produce vitamin D, dubbed the “sunshine vitamin” by health experts. Low levels have been linked to depression and to an increased risk of developing diabetes, multiple sclerosis and high blood pressure.

Working More Natural Light Into Your Day

The researchers state that the study results highlight the importance of exposure to natural light to employee health and suggest that architectural designs of office environments should ensure that workstations are within 20 to 25 feet of the peripheral walls containing the windows. Beyond 25 feet and daylight from windows vanishes.

If moving from your cubicle to a corner office isn’t in the bosses’ plans, take your lunch outside or plan 10-minute walk breaks around the office to increase your sun exposure. Taking a sunshine break will provide a better and long lasting energy boost than a caffeine and sugar-filled can of soda.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Physical Activity Can Reduce Alzheimer's Risk

Physical activity is essential for maintaining good blood flow to the brain, and a new groundbreaking study shows that even moderate amounts may help to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological disorder in which the death of brain cells causes memory loss and cognitive decline. It is a neurodegenerative disease, which means there is progressive brain cell death that happens slowly over time. The disease can strike anyone.

New Evidence

Previous research has found that older adults who engage in regular physical activity have increased blood flow to the brain and improved memory. In the new study, scientists took a closer look at brain structure to find out if exercise could slow the progression of the brain shrinkage that is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. It is thought that the disease silently increases the rate at which the hippocampus, the part of your brain involved in memory processing, atrophies. While some brain shrinkage is a natural part of aging, in people with Alzheimer’s disease this process is greatly accelerated.

For the study, researchers recruited almost 100 older men and women, aged 65 to 89. The researchers were specifically investigating the effect of physical activity on adults who had a high genetic risk for developing the disease. Genetic testing among the participants determined that about half of the group carried the specific gene, APOE epsilon4 allele or the e4 gene for short.

In the study scientists divided the volunteers into four groups based on their e4 status and exercise habits. One group included those people with the e4 gene who did not exercise; a second group consisted of those with the e4 gene who did exercise; and the other two groups consisted of those without the gene who did or did not exercise regularly.

The scientists then did brain scans on each volunteer focusing on the hippocampus. They repeated the scans again at the end of 18 months.

The results after just this brief period of time were startling: The volunteers with the e4 gene who did not exercise showed significant shrinkage of the hippocampus. On average, this area of the brain shrunk by 3 percent! However, in the people with the e4 gene who did exercise regularly there was almost no brain shrinkage. The volunteers who did not carry the gene and who did or did not exercise showed little change to the hippocampus.

How exercise was protecting the brains of the people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease remains unclear. What is clear is that exercise is protective for the brain and counteracts some of the negative effects of the e4 gene. The researchers emphasize that while many of us do not carry the e4 gene, everyone has some chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Exercise and Your Brain

According to the researchers, exercise is one of the most promising non-pharmacological treatments to improve brain health. Aerobic exercise improves the amount of oxygen you consume, which improves blood flow to the brain and helps to prevent brain cell loss. In addition, physical activities that involve mental activity like planning a walking route or making choices, improve memory, reasoning, judgment and thinking function.

If you have not exercised for some time, check with your healthcare provider before starting any new physical activity. If you are healthy enough to exercise, choose activities that are suitable and enjoyable. Local community or sports centers often provide a range of organized exercise and physical activity sessions such as tai chi, swimming, and dance. Walking, gardening and housework are also good forms of exercise.

If exercise can reduce your risk for developing this devastating disease, why not make a commitment to get up and get active.

Give the Gift of Gift Rocket!

I had the opportunity to be the recipient of a GiftRocket gift card recently and wanted to share my experience. GiftRocket is basically a gift card you send by email or as a printable card with a twist: On the card you can suggest a business for spending the gift or you can leave it blank and let the recipient decide. The thing I like the most is that you can either redeem it online of you can choose to transfer the money to a PayPal account, a bank account, a credit card or get a check in the mail.

Next time you are thinking about buying someone a gift card, I would recommend checking GiftRocket out and save yourself some time perusing the gift card aisle.