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Diet & Health

6 Things That Affect Your Appetite For Food

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Man staring at food

Nutrition experts say the best way to deal with our hunger and overall appetite is to follow the natural signals our bodies gives off. After all, the true driving force behind what makes anyone want to eat is the complex interaction between the body and the brain.

Appetite and hunger are sometimes viewed as one and the same, even though they’re very different in their definitions. It’s possible to have an appetite without being hungry, as evidenced by all those times you wanted to eat something (e.g. a piece of chocolate cake) after a big meal despite being full.

Your physical and psychological environments affect appetite and hunger, sometimes leading you to eat more or less than your body demands. There are many factors that influence your desire to eat, and the following are six of the most notable ones:

Leptin Production

Leptin is a hormone that acts on the hypothalamus, the brain’s hunger center, to regulate your appetite, essentially making it the hunger off switch. It is produced by fat cells, so the more fat your fat cells contain, the more leptin they produce and the less of an appetite you have.

Habitual eating patterns affect leptin production in a very interesting and counterintuitive way. If you consistently overeat, your fat cells actually reduce leptin production to accommodate your preferred eating patterns, allowing your appetite to remain large even as you get fatter.

Your body also decreases leptin levels when you lose weight, increasing your appetite. Basically, by exercising regularly, you can eat as much as your appetite demands without getting fat.

Climate

Did you know that you’re more likely to feel hungry in colder weather than in warmer ones, as well as crave higher-calorie dishes? Just think about the food that tempt you in the winter — stews, roasts, thick soups — and those you find appetizing on hot summer days — salads, chilled fruit, and sandwiches. Coincidence? We don’t think so…

Scientists believe shivering or just being cold in general can increase your metabolic rate as much as five fold, potentially providing a healthy and sustainable alternative way to burn energy and, thus calories.

Guess what? Food provides calories and fat that your body burns to keep you warm and moving. To help ensure enough warmth is provided, you processes food faster when in a cold environment, emptying your stomach quicker and feeling hungry more often.

Exercising

Healthy eating and exercise generally go hand-in-hand, and people who exercise regularly tend to have a healthy appetite. Have you ever noticed how you’re rarely hungry immediately after exercising? Well, that’s because physical activity pulls stored energy (i.e. glucose and fatty acids) out of body tissues and into the bloodstream, giving of the feeling of satiation.

Exercise, both physical and mental, also empties your stomach more slowly and slows the passage of food through the digestive tract, making you feel fuller longer. Moreover, it reduces anxiety and, thus, the desire to reach for something to munch on.

This is why eating a heavy meal right before heading for the gym or the stationary bike in your bedroom sometimes causes you to have cramps or heartburn — your stomach is stuffed with food that isn’t being digested quickly.

Sickness and Injury

Severe physical stress or trauma, such as a broken bone, surgery, a burn and a high fever, reduces appetite and slows the natural contractions of the intestinal tract.

When you become sick or get injured, your brain chemistry changes as the production of chemicals called cytokines increases. Cytokines can drive down your appetite to help conserve energy for fighting off short-term ailments, energy that would otherwise be used for digesting food.

Eating under such conditions can stretch your bowel enough to tear it and even cause food to back up in your gut, which is why intravenous feeding — that’s, getting nutrients via fluids injected into a vein — is one method doctors and nutritionists during the healing process.

Medicinal Side-Effects

Some drugs used to treat common health conditions affect appetite. Such a side effect is rarely mentioned by doctors when they prescribe a drug, perhaps because it isn’t life-threatening and usually goes away once you stop taking the drug.

Examples of drugs that increase appetite include certain antidepressants (mood elevators), antihistamines (allergy pills), diuretics (make you urinate more frequently), steroids (fight inflammation), and tranquilizers (calming drugs).

Appetite reducers, on the other hand, include some antibiotics, anti-cancer drugs, anti-seizure drugs, blood pressure medications, and cholesterol-lowering drugs.

The fact that a drug affects appetite is almost never a reason to avoid using it. However, knowing that a relationship exists between the drug and your desire for food can be helpful. Always ask your doctor and pharmacist about possible drug-appetite interactions when given drug.

Social Factors

The amount of calories consumed by the average person has increased significantly in just the span of 30 years largely because of increases in portion sizes in restaurant menu items and packaged foods. The substantial decrease in the cost of producing food combined with intense competition among food businesses means we are constantly bombarded with commercial advertising for food.

Our appetites have been inflated as a result of these influences and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon. In fact, studies have shown that the amount of food we consume has a strong positive correlation with the accessibility of food, how much food is put in front of us, and social pressure to eat more.

The impact of social factors on appetite cannot be denied.

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Diet & Health

Eating Turmeric Could Boost Your Memory And Mood

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Turmeric powder

In the world of superfoods, turmeric is seemingly becoming more and more super by the day. A new study has found that the spice’s active ingredient could boost memory and mood.

The 18-month study — carried out by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and published in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry — was the first long-term, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of a bioavailable form of curcumin in non-demented adults. It found that taking a daily dose of curcumin, the compound in turmeric root that gives the spice its yellow color, may not only prevent memory problems from getting worse over time, but actually improve them.

Led by UCLA’s Gary Small, the research team took 40 random people between the ages of 50 and 90 suffering from mild memory problems but not Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dementia, gave them a twice-daily 90-mg of bioavailable, easily absorbed curcumin supplement or a placebo for 18 months, conducted tests of memory and cognition that included questionnaires to measure mood and depression, and carried out brain scans to analyse the deposition of “brain gunk”—amyloid-beta plaques and tau “tangles,” the two hallmarks of Alzheimer’s.

Because the study was double-blind, even the researchers didn’t know what supplement the participants were given until after the study was over.

They found that those who took the curcumin saw their memory improve by 28% on average over the 18 month trial, while those who took the placebo (the control group) saw their scores rise slightly (possibly because they got more familiar with the tests) and then declined.

The depression scores of those taking curcumin also improved compared to the control group’s, which stayed the same, and brain scans revealed significantly less amyloid and tau accumulation in two of their brain regions — the amygdala and hypothalamus — that control anxiety, memory, decision-making, and emotion.

This lead Small’s team to conclude that taking a bioavailable curcumin supplement daily may lead to improved memory and attention in non-demented adults, which according to Forbes is an exciting discovery considering that it came from a true clinical study and earlier evidence regarding the therapeutic effects of curcumin has been mixed.

Curcuma longa root - Turmeric

It’s not exactly known how curcumin works, but researchers have long observed that people in India have lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, which they think is due in part to the higher intake of turmeric. Small said in a statement:

“Exactly how curcumin exerts its effects is not certain, but it may be due to its ability to reduce brain inflammation, which has been linked to both Alzheimer’s disease and major depression.”

One shortcoming of the study is that it was quite small and the participants were generally healthy, educated, and motivated to complete the long trial, which may not necessarily be a complete reflection of the general population. The team’s next plans to look at whether the supplement may be effective in treating people with major depression rather than memory problems.

The growth of the “food as medicine” movement is evidence of consumers’s growing interest in natural ways to improve their health. And according to Food Dive, while medical foods are still a relatively new category in the food industry, manufacturers have been looking at ways to incorporate curcumin in the formulation of nutraceuticals, dietary supplements, herbals and functional foods and beverages, especially for those consumers who don’t want to cook with turmeric but want ready-to-eat options containing the ingredient.

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Diet & Health

Move Over Kale, It’s Time For Jicama The Superfood To Shine

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Jicama Vegetable

If you don’t know what Jicama is, it’s about time you got introduced to it. It’s probably the most exciting vegetable you’re not eating, one that could potentially challenge Kale as the next big shot superfood in the world of healthy eating.

Funny name aside, Jicama is very interesting for a number of reasons. It is originally from Mexico and has a bark-like, rough-looking exterior that almost betrays its crunchy yet juicy texture and mildly sweet flavor that’s reminiscent of a savory apple; nutrient-dense and rich in vitamin C, calcium, minerals, natural sugars and fiber; and considered a prebiotic since it helps establish a gut climate in which probiotics can thrive.

Most impressive all, especially for those looking to lose weight and improve their cardiovascular profile, Jicama contains no fat and no carbohydrates. It’s also rich in antioxidants and a good source of the soluble dietary fiber insulin, making it a very viable sweet snack for those with diabetes.

Now that you know what it is, you’re probably wondering how to incorporate it into your diet. Jicama is most commonly eaten raw, whether by itself or in a salad. It can also be cooked and lends itself very well to stir-fries, soups and stews.

Jicama Sticks

Replace French fries with Jicama fries and try Jicama sticks instead of carrot sticks

You know those unhealthy French fries you can’t stop munching on? Well, Jicama can be baked as a lower-calorie replacement. Bored of carrot sticks? Try Jicama sticks for a change — they might even be healthier.

As for where you can find this tasty, seemingly miraculous vegetable, supermarkets like Walmart should carry it. If not, head to your nearest specialty produce, Mexican, Latin American, or Asian grocer.

According David Sax, author of The Tastemakers, for a vegetable to enjoy the superfood status that kale long has, it needs to be versatile, available, and have cultural significance. Jicama scores high on all those criteria, and an increasing number of consumers seem to agree.

Nielsen Perishables, an industry expert in fresh food consulting, noted in a research article that Jicama led U.S. sales in the specialty vegetable category in 2016, accounting for $11.4 million of the total $25.3 million in sales.

Kale has been riding high in healthy eating circles for quite some time now, but other vegetables have been predicted to kick it off the pedestal. 2017 was suppose to be the year of the Jackfruit and some believe rutabaga will enjoy a meteoric rise in popularity in 2018. But it’s Jicama that could potentially unseat Kale as the darling of the produce isle.

In an interview with Fresh Plaza, Karen Caplan, president and CEO of Frieda’s, noted that more and more retailers are offering fresh-cut jicama sticks and that it has only taken 45 years for Jicama to become a household name since Frieda’s introduced it to produce retailers in 1972. She was quoted as saying:

“With all the research and development in the field of the gut microbiome, I believe that produce like jicama and Sunchokes will continue to be in high demand for 2018 and beyond.”

It remains to be seen whether Jicama will become more popular than Kale, but one thing we’re certain of is that it can be a tasty, versatile and extremely healthy addition to just about anyone’s diet, especially those looking to lose weight but have a sweet tooth.

Have you had the opportunity to try Jicama? If so, how do you like to eat it? If not, do you plan on incorporating it into your diet and how? Let us know in the comments below.

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Diet & Health

Scientists Have Identified The Brain Cells That Control Appetite

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Beef Steak on table

Steak makes people feel fuller

Scientists have finally identified the cells in the brain that detect nutrients in food and help trigger feelings of satiety, effectively suppressing and controlling our appetite. It could revolutionize dieting as we know it and help curb the obesity crisis.

Discovered by Nicholas Dale, Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Warwick, the cells are called tanycytes and are found in the part of the brain that controls energy levels.

Tanycytes respond to amino acids in foods through the same receptors on our taste buds that sense the flavor of amino acids (i.e. “umami” taste), detecting nutrients in the food and directly telling the brain what has just been have eaten.

Arginine and lysine are two amino acids that react most with tanycytes and are, therefore, likely to make you feel fuller. Foods high in arginine and lysine concentration include beef sirloin steak, pork shoulder, chicken, mackerel, plums, apricots, avocadoes, lentils and almonds — eating them will activate the tanycytes and make you feel less hungry quicker than other foods.

avocado cut in half

Avocados also trigger satiety quickly

The researchers made the discovery by adding concentrated amounts of arginine and lysine into brain cells. They observed that the tanycytes detected and responded to the amino acids within thirty seconds, releasing information to the part of the brain that controls appetite and body weight.

Even more, it was found that signals from amino acids are directly detected by the umami taste receptors responsible for one of the five basic tastes humans experience. When these receptors were removed or blocked, the amino acids no longer reacted with tanycytes.

Commenting on the research, which was published in Molecular Metabolism, Professor Dale stated:

“Amino acid levels in blood and brain following a meal are a very important signal that imparts the sensation of feeling full. Finding that tanycytes, located at the centre of the brain region that controls body weight, directly sense amino acids has very significant implications for coming up with new ways to help people to control their body weight within healthy bounds.”

He added that the ground-breaking discovery has opened up new possibilities for creating more effective diets and even future treatments to suppress a person’s appetite by directly activating the brain’s tanycytes. In other words, trick the mind and body into not wanting food, or at least less of it.

Obesity Crisis

More than 1.9 billion adults worldwide, 18 years and older, are considered overweight

Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975, according to the World Health Organization, and it’s only getting worse. In 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were considered overweight, 650 million of whom were obese. Billions of dollars are spent every year on treatment for diabetes and other conditions — cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke etc. — related to being overweight or obese.

Researchers are confident that the discovery of tanycytes and new understanding of how appetite functions could curb the growing obesity crisis.

So now that you know, do you plan on changing up your diet? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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