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Blog archives: Physical activity improves cognitive function

Back in January we highlighted a nice post on the New York Times Health blog about a few recent studies showing that physical activity including aerobic exercise and weight training can enhance cognitive functions like memory. Several of these studies have demonstrated that physical activity can actually change the brain by increasing neurogenesis (the formation of new neurons) and increasing levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Neurogenesis and BDNF (low levels) have also been implicated in depression and might be at least partly responsible for the anti-depressant-like effects of physical activity that some people report experiencing.

Exercise might not always be the first thing we think of doing when we’re feeling sluggish or not so sharp, but it might be exactly what we need.

Thoughts on meat…

A number of meat recalls over the past couple of weeks have me thinking about meat even more than usual these days. If you haven’t been paying close attention, just since the beginning of August there has been a recall of ground turkey due to salmonella contamination, a recall of HEB lean cooked burgers due to contamination with metal fragments, two separate recalls of ground beef due to E. coli contamination, a recall of diced bacon due to listeria contamination, and just yesterday, a recall of sausage due to E. coli contamination. Wow, are you concerned about your meat supply yet?

I’m not.

Why I am not concerned? Because I know precisely where my meat comes from. I know the people who raise the animals and if I have an hour to spare, I can drive out to their farm to visit or ask questions. In addition to the comfort that I have surrounding the safety of this food source, I am also encouraged by the underlying philosophy of my local farmers and the approaches that they take to ensure high standards of animal welfare, conservation of natural resources, and responsible stewardship of their land. Here is a brief passage from their website:

We strive to create an agriculture that steps aside the often-ambiguous meanings embedded in labels.  Face it, there’s a great deal of “gray area” in the use of most any label….be it “organic”, “all-natural”, “conventional”, “sustainable”, “grass-fed”, “grain-fed”, “local”….this list goes on and on.  While we choose to share using some of these declarations, we want you to understand, participate in, and take stock in what we toil to offer.  We want you to identify the food you prepare in the kitchen and ultimately feast upon at the table as food as unique as the land, beast, farmer, and philosophy from which it came.

 We hope you enjoy our meat and eggs because it is “WE Farm meat and eggs”. It must come with the assurances the claims we make about its creation fit your notions of how good food should nourish your body, mind, and perhaps, provide that which cannot quite be described.

I can attest that the beef, pork, and chicken from our local farm has been outright delicious. Perhaps part of my reaction has been “placebo effect” from knowing that the food I was eating was safe, local, raised responsibly, treated humanely, and delivered freshly. Nonetheless, a placebo effect still counts as an effect, and for all of the above reasons, I am still thinking about that wonderful meat…


New survey reveals moms’ secrets

The results of a new survey conducted by and of 26,000 moms has been making headlines recently. Why? Because the survey asks about “secrets” or “confessions” that many people would be reluctant to admit (e.g., Q: do you have a favorite child? A: 14% responded yes).

The graphic above displays three very interesting and related survey questions and responses. First, 52.6% of moms would prefer a night of uninterrupted sleep over mind-blowing sex. Second, 44.5% of moms would prefer to lose 15 pounds than to add 15 points to their child’s IQ. Third, 58% or moms would prefer to spend more time with their kid(s) than to get a 50% raise at work. Bottom line, moms want more quality sleep, they want to lose weight, and they want more time to spend with their kids.

Now, we know that there are links between poor sleep and weight gain (or conversely, quality sleep and weight loss). Dan recently presented on this precise topic at the Ancestral Health Symposium (link to previous blog post here) and we have discussed the topic on this blog in the past (links between sleep and obesity in children, links between sleep and health, and links between daytime activity and nighttime sleep). We have also highlighted the critical important role that the nutritional gatekeeper of a household has on (most often, her) family and how food additives might be associated with reduced attention and concentration in children.

So what are we (moms and otherwise) to do? Well, one option is to focus our recreational or “down time” more closely around food and physical activity. Try to replace sedentary activities (TV, computer, video games, movies) with activities that involve movement (walking, going to the playground, playing with a pet, playing sports). This could result in spending more time with your kids and incorporating more movement into your day (and your child’s day) will likely lead to better sleep. And, better sleep leads to weight loss. Making fresh and healthy meals also leads to weight loss and together with a good night’s rest, might also help improve everyone’s concentration at work and at school. Many kids love helping out in the kitchen too, so if you can find age-appropriate tasks for them, you can replace those sedentary activities with ones that will encourage their imagination and teach them how to design and create awesome things that they can eat.

So, perhaps with a little restructuring, we can have it all – great sleep and great sex, smart kids and fit parents, time together and greater productivity at work.



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