Monday, February 03, 2014

Milk and Brazil nuts will send you off to sleep: Scientists concludes certain minerals and acids are linked to a sound slumber

This is self-report data and probably  includes an element of data dredging so it is no substitute for controlled experimentation

Searching for the recipe for a good night’s sleep? It could be as simple as a glass of milk and a few handfuls of nuts.

Scientists in the US studied the diets and sleep patterns of more than 4,500 adults and concluded that certain minerals and acids are linked to a sound slumber.

And their report suggests that a late-night snack of Brazil nuts – which are packed with selenium and potassium – washed down with a calcium-rich glass of milk contains all the ingredients you need for a satisfying sleep.

Lead author Dr Michael Grandner of Pennsylvania University, said: 'These findings suggest potentially natural and common-sense solutions to sleep problems.  'Although there is still important work that needs to be done on cause-and-effect, there is a lot of research showing that non-medication approaches can be very helpful.  'Even sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and insomnia can be very effectively treated.

Researchers quizzed 4,548 adults on their health, diet, lifestyle and sleep.

Women on the lowest incomes were most prone to having difficulty in getting a good night’s rest.

But even taking into account age, sex, education, salary, weight an mental health, several elements of food were seen to be significantly linked to satisfying sleep patterns.

Odds of having trouble dropping off were reduced by 20 per cent where dietary intake of the mineral selenium was doubled and by 17 per cent for calcium.

Greater consumption of carbohydrate, butanoic and dodecanoic acids – both abundant in milk – and vitamin D were linked with experiencing unbroken slumber.

Meanwhile, the chances of suffering lingering lethargy or tiredness the following day were cut by 30 per cent where there was twice as much potassium in the diet and 19 per cent for additional calcium.

Poor sleep was associated with two fats commonly found in butter and cheese – hexanoic and hexadecanoic acid – and also salt and drinking lots of fluids.

Every year, between 30 and 40 per cent of British adults suffer from insomnia with ten per cent regularly dogged by the condition.

Doctors are increasingly moving away from prescribing expensive drugs to alleviate symptoms, instead looking for therapeutic methods to treat the root causes.


No one needs a 'detox'

Is it ok for teenagers to go on detox diets?

January is the time of the year when we forget everything we know about biology, physiology and nutrition in an attempt to convince ourselves that the answer to festive over-indulgence is abstinence in one form or another. As the month draws to an end, and we start to reach for what has been denied - a glass of wine, a plate of pasta, chocolate - we should reflect on whether a few weeks of penance has done us any good whatsoever.

Alongside Dry January, one of the crazes this year has been "Veganuary", a regime in which all animal products are avoided. Beyonce and her husband, Jay-Z, are among a number of celebrities who have been extolling its virtues. I’ve lost count of the number of friends and patients who have told me they are doing it, too.

The idea is that by going animal-free for a month, you ’’cleanse’’ your body. This is just a new version of the old detox myth. People love the idea that the sins of yesterday can somehow be purged - detoxified - by some temporary change in lifestyle. Once you’ve done your penance, you’re free to go off and sin again come February 1. The drama of it all is far more seductive than what we know to be true: all things in moderation, but more fruit and veg, and less sugar, salt and fat.

The main detox regimes fall into two categories: the first, like Veganuary, involves cutting out foods that, in excess, are bad for you. Unscrupulous companies, nutritionists and health gurus then try to sell you the vitamins and minerals you ’’need’’ to supplement your meagre detox diet. But the body stores many of these, so this is quite unnecessary. More importantly, a few weeks of avoiding unhealthy foods, such as saturated fats, will make no difference to your health if you continue to eat too much of them the rest of the year. They’re still going to fur up your arteries.

The second type of detox regime relies on various potions and pills that claim to help your body expel so-called toxins. What those toxins are, or how you might have ingested them, is rarely specified - or if it is, not convincingly. Evidence is in short supply.

Could it be that these ‘‘toxins’’ are just the normal waste products that result from metabolism? In which case, the body has evolved over millions of years to remove them itself, and appeared to be doing it perfectly well before Superdrug, Boots or Holland & Barrett came along. And as for the claims that these toxins are the result of modern life - of exposure to pollution, pesticides and other chemicals - that’s pure shamanism.

If you don’t believe me, then can I point you to the charitable trust, Sense About Science, which has reviewed some of the many products claiming to have ’’detox’’ properties and found the term to be meaningless? Unfortunately, as there is no universally accepted definition for it, advertising standards are difficult to enforce, so these products can go on being sold with impunity.

The truth is that any perceived benefit from a detox regime is either down to a placebo effect or the temporary change in diet and lifestyle that accompanies it.

I’ve nothing against Veganuary or veganism per se. In fact I was once a vegan myself - until I realised that practically every food that is good to eat has been near an animal in one way or another.

In its favour, Veganuary isn’t trying to sell us something. A few people might discover healthier foods that they otherwise might not have tried, or come to appreciate that there is more to life than fatty burgers. That’s fine. But my objection to Veganuary and similar regimes is that they are rooted in cleanse-and-detox pseudoscience, and founded on a fundamental misunderstanding of how the body works. And that does none of us any good.


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