WWB Wise Guru Series: Nobel Prize in Medicine went to Research on Circadian Rhythms. WWB Joins the Sleep Doctor, Dr. Michael Breus, for a Q&A to Discuss Why it Matters to Us…

Oct 11, 2017 by

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Laura Opening- Welcome back Dr. Breus. For all those who haven’t read your book ‘The Power of When’, here is a chance for them to learn more about your important work and pick up your book. Before we get to your ground breaking research, we first have to acknowledge the Nobel Peace Prize award in Physiology or Medicine that went to three doctors who have discovered molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm. Now when we just say this, many will wonder, well why would that matter to me?

At World Wise Beauty I try to present important research, medical science and wellness wisdom in real context. The first question I always ask is, ‘Why does it matter?’ But before we get to this, let’s start first with a simple question. What did this Nobel Prize winning research specifically unveil for us from a scientific perspective that is so ‘eye opening’? No pun intended!

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Dr. Breus: The basics behind the research showed that in fruit flies (who actually have very similar circadian rhythms as humans) the researchers were able to isolate the gene that controls our daily biological clock. This gene encodes a protein that accumulates in a cell during the evening and degrades during the daytime. This clock regulates behavior, weight loss, hormones levels, sleep and body temperature. Understanding this mechanism helps us all understand why we experience jet lag, how our internal biological clocks affect disease, our hormones, and literally everything we do. As you may remember in my new book, ‘ The Power of When’ this is EXACTLY what I have been writing about.

Laura Q- Yes you did, and hopefully more people will discover your work with this post! Now that we understand how our genes control our daily biological clock, what does that really mean if we are all different bio-individuals?

Dr. Breus: Actually we are more similar than you might think. The genetic studies that are going on in Sleep Research are on “common species” areas.

Lauroly Q– Why do circadian rhythms matter and why does understanding our unique biological clocks matter to our health?
Dr. Breus: So here is where it gets so fascinating, when I was in school, we learned that basically there was one central biological clock for time passage ( aging) and there were a few others that controlled hormone regulation, etc. Now we have found over 100 different control centers in the body. They each send information to each other. I think of it like grand central station in New York City. There are trains coming from all over the place to one central location. If one train is late, it could mess up all of the other trains going in or out. So the timing of these clocks actually controls our health, completely. These systems have a regularity to them or a rhythm. They become predictable, and more efficient. This is how the immune system, metabolic system, sleep system, all systems function.

Lauroly Q-  There is our answer. Sleep is a real regulator to everything in our ‘ biological system’. Should we all be in sync with sunrise and sunset for optimal health?

Dr. Breus: Yes, but it is really unrealistic to think that we can do it correctly. Remember that we have at least 4 different chronotypes, so there are some of us, who are more prone to late evenings and others who are morning people. As a side note, there was a great study on insomnia, where they took insomniacs out into the woods camping for 2 weeks. By the end of the study, everyone’s sleep had significantly improved. It was likely due to the sun exposure, and a reduction of EMF exposure talk about in sync with he sun!
Lauroly Q- In your book you identify many different types in the context of sleep needs.  Does the circadian ‘sync’ vary from person to person?
Dr. Breus: It does vary based on Chronotype. Lions (early risers), Bears (in-betweeners), Wolves (late nighters) and Dolphins (poor sleepers). If you want to know your type go to www.thepowerofwhenquiz.com and get it for free.
Lauroly Q–  So does this mean that some people are just genetically wired to be night owls?
Dr. Breus: Absolutely. I am. Interestingly enough you can even get this tested at 23 and Me, due to the genetic nature of chronotypes. It is based on the PER3 or Period 3 gene and its length. It effects sleep drive and timing.

Lauroly Q- While we are different genetically, is there still some unifying wellness wisdom when it comes to sleep that all human beings need to listen to?

Dr. Breus: Yes, consistency is the key. Most specifically in your wake up time, keep the same for weekdays and weekends, everything gets better, assuming you are sleeping by your chronotype.
Lauroly Q- The first thing I think of when it comes to circadian rhythms, is cultures living in the Northern Lights part of the world. How does the abundance of light exposure and then the significant decrease of light effect their circadian rhythms?
Dr. Breus: There are a lot of issues with sleep in these areas of the world. Sunlight appears to play a significant role in the human biology, from Vitamin D production to being the re-start button for the brain each morning.
Lauroly Q-Have their genes adapted over time living in these areas?
Dr. Breus: To a certain degree, yes. But I doubt that anyone is completely unaffected.
Lauroly Q- We know there is more depression associated with the decrease of light. I suppose even if you don’t live in these areas, but are vulnerable to depression, getting sunshine would be important. This correlates with the Vitamin D hormone that activates when we are exposed to the sun and then chemically regulates our serotonin synthesis. As we know, serotonin is one of the happy chemicals in our system. Take it from here Dr. Breus, I’m just trying to connect all the dots!

Dr. Breus: Light therapy is used in both depressive diagnoses and some sleep disorders. In depression the light helps re-set the persons circadian rhythms, which sends all of the other systems back in sync. This appears to play a role in the recovery from depression. While it is not the whole reason, it does seem to have a significant effect.

Laura Closing- Thank you for sharing your expertise with us Dr. Breus. Now that we are learning more about our biological clocks and our connection to nature, we can begin to see how everything is interdependent in wellness. As Plato so wisely said “The Part can Never be Well, unless the Whole is Well.” I encourage everyone to read ‘The Power of When’ and learn more about your own body’s internal clock. Sleeping will become a healthy habit, just like a good diet and exercise is.

Dr. Breus Closing: Thank you so much for having me, and if people want to learn more they can check out my website www.thesleepdoctor.com or learn your chronotype at www.thepowerofwhenquiz.com

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WWB WATCH: From Sizzle to Fizzle, New PURE Nutrition Study is Challenged by the Medical Community and Health Journalist. Why the Questions Raised Matters More than the Actual Study…

Sep 17, 2017 by

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While two deadly hurricanes captured our attention in the last tree weeks, there was a nutrition study called PURE stirring up an argument in the health and wellness community. To really get a good understanding of the study, you would have to read the study and the findings carefully, which most average working people don’t have the time to do, and are not trained to assess. This goes for the educated and the uneducated. Unless you are a nutritionist, doctor or scientist, you are not likely to immediately see the problems with a study of any kind.

Doctors, nutritionist and health journalist however, do take time to review new studies. What happens though, is the general media runs with the narrative the researchers provide, and create headlines that are provocative and at the same time misleading. The Pure Study came out of the gates with a very clear narrative, which was to challenge the definition of a healthy diet, and counter argue the wisdom of a primarily plant based driven diet. It is a complex study and this is a challenge when it gets released to the general public. I write all the time about the 3 minute news headlines that we see on the six o’clock news.  By the time this particular study was widely distributed, the headlines became “New Nutrition Study finds more fat in our diets maybe healthier for us.”.  What gets translated to an already obese society in the US and other western cultures is ” Yay, more cheese, butter and fat please!” If it sounds too good to be true, it is probably because it is not quite true!

Thankfully there are medical and nutrition experts out there, dissecting the data and research, and they remind us to ask the right questions. One of them is Dr. David Katz, the author of ‘Disease Proof’ and founder of the True Health Initiative. He tirelessly works to make sure we are understanding health research data that is often misconstrued and misrepresented. He also works hard to make sure we can find sound science based health wisdom, through his educational True Health Initiative non-profit. When you read his essays, you will have to wade through some of the academic language, but when you stick with him, you learn how to step back from a study, and have that ‘aha skeptical moment’ and realize the importance of ‘variables’ used in study methodologies. His review of the Pure Study is here.

“What, then, accounts for the strange reporting, implying that everything we’ve been told about vegetables, fruits, and beans is wrong? These benefits were “adjusted away” in multivariable models. When this method of statistical analysis was applied, the health benefit expressly attributable to VFL seemed to peak at about 3 servings per day. That, however, is fundamentally misleading- and the headlines, quite simply, were written by people who don’t have a clue what it really means.” ~Dr. David Katz

Beyond the actual raw data Dr. Katz  shares with us, you will also learn to ask the right questions. If you read along with Dt. Katz he will bring us back to a simple idea. There is enough science already pointing clearly to lifestyle habits and diets like the Mediterranean Diet ( already proven and thoroughly researched) to help support healthy living and improve longevity odds. More importantly, however different we may be as bio-individuals, most of the current lifestyle as medicine prescriptions available to us, can be practiced by many with personal tweaks based on their current health condition.

Another good analysis of the PURE study was made by Marion Nestle, author of many best-selling books like ‘What to Eat’. Marion Nestle is Paulette Goddard Professor, of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, Emerita, at New York University, which she chaired from 1988-2003 and from which she retired in September 2017. You can learn a lot about Food Politics at her website by the same name. Again, many of us don’t have time to read all of this, but it doesn’t hurt to seek out good objective sources when you are considering your health, diet and wellness lifestyle. It just might take more than a 3 minutes news clip on the news or a small paragraph in a magazine on the news stand.  Marion Nestle concluded her overview of the study with these thoughts…

“This study confirms that the single most important risk factor for poor health is poverty. The study results are consistent with the idea that largely plant-based diets are good for health. No single study can settle the fat vs. carbohydrate debate because people eat complicated combinations of foods and diets containing those nutrients. What we really need are well designed studies of dietary patterns—the ones done to date suggest that largely plant-based diets are associated with excellent health and longevity. ~Marion Nestle

James Hamblin who is an MD and writer for the Atlantic also wrote a very good piece on the PURE STUDY  and reminds us of the huge ‘system’ we are caught up in today, when it comes to coverage of medical and nutrition research and our voracious appetite for new information. His headline was “New Nutrition Study Changes Nothing”.

“Neophilia is a problem for science, though. And especially the sort of science pertaining to nutrition. Demand for newness leads writers and publishers to focus on narratives that upend conventional wisdom. If new research doesn’t change or challenge the way readers think about the world, why is it a story worth publishing? Eggs are in, and now they’re gone. Butter? It’s back. Every six weeks, The New York Times is legally obligated to tell us either that breakfast isn’t important or that skipping it causes death.”~James Hamblin, MD

Finally if you would like a simple overview of the study, and a grounded response anchored in common sense and wellness wisdom, it would be worth reading the article shared at Oldways a nonprofit Inspiring Good Health Through Cultural Food Traditions.

“Once again, we’re back on the nutrition roller coaster, being told that a new study has suddenly reversed everything we thought we knew about healthy eating. But has it? To help you escape that queasy roller-coaster ride, Oldways looked behind the sensationalist headlines and scrutinized the actual findings of this study. Given those anti-carb headlines, what we found may surprise you!” ~Oldways

Oldways went on to share these 3 wise takeaways:

The bottom line is that what we knew to be true about healthy eating yesterday is still true today, so we’ll leave you with three pieces of advice:

  1. The experts still agree. In November 2015, Oldways brought together leading nutrition experts representing views from Paleo to Vegan at our Finding Common Ground conference. They all agreed that focusing on quality and variety is the key to eating well. This means choosing high-quality meat, fish, and/or beans and other protein sources instead of living on bologna and bacon; eating whole grains (especially intact grains) instead of refined grains and added sugars; enjoying a range of fruits and vegetables; and favoring the heathy fats found in nuts, avocados, fish, olive oil, and other foods.
  2. Use Carb Common Sense. Everybody needs carbohydrates. Avoiding carbs makes no sense – especially when you remember that fruits and vegetables are also made up primarily of carbohydrates. Check out the Oldways Whole Grains Council’s easy guide to Carb Common Sense, to steer smoothly through your carb choices.
  3. Eating should be a pleasure, not a math exam. We used charts and numbers to prove a point today, but we are not recommending you count grams of this or percents of that as you pick the foods you eat. Traditional diets, like those Oldways champions, can vary widely in their makeup and still support good health. Look for the highest quality you can afford (see #1 and #2), and the numbers will take care of themselves.

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Now for the Sobering Reality …Why the Questions Raised Matters More than the Pure Study

As for my headline, “Why the questions raised matters more than the study’, I believe we are becoming entrenched in an argument about diet that distracts us from a bigger conversation we need to be having about food. If all of this data I shared isn’t enough motivation to lean toward a conscious value driven diet (mostly plants) for your health, then maybe you haven’t been reading enough about the environmental crisis we are headed for if we don’t begin to look at sustainable ways of living. As Albert Einstein famously said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”.

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What I find here at World Wise Beauty talking to experts from around the world, is everything is connected. The obesity crisis isn’t only related to our consumption of too much carbs, fat and protein. The health crisis has been accelerated by an industry of fast food, industrialized food manufacturing, and chemical laden ingredients that effect our chemistry and metabolism. The reason we are so obsessed about food, is because our supermarkets have been filled with ‘boxes’ of  food like ingredients and currently marketing themselves as low-fat, low carb, low sodium, sugar free and gluten free. In other words ‘health products’. Really? Yes.

But we can’t just isolate the processed food manufacturers, we also have to look at the social cultural context. We have to look at the cultural narrative in which marketers of processed food  and pharmaceutical drugs can thrive and exploit. Look at a basic commercial for arthritis pain depicting the hard-working man who does physical work and has to power through his day with a NSAID pill. He needs the quick fix. Also, look at the hard working couples who are raising several kids, and are barely making it on two salaries. They don’t necessarily have time to cook for their kids, so the inexpensive box of cereal or frozen food entree filled with either too much sugar of too much salt and a good dose of unrecognizable chemicals is the quick fix for their lifestyle. The ads for these products are feel good messages that make everyone from the parents to the kids feel good about their choices. These are all real examples of what a culture can manifest. Our culture is collective of values, (based on a number of socio-economic conditions) and maybe the hard bite to swallow, is we have been ‘buying into’ a ‘lifestyle’ that’s not sustainable for our health, our families and our planet.

As I write this piece, there was a front page NYT headline this weekend “How Big Business Got Brazil Hooked on Junk Food”. Sub header is ‘Planet Fat’ Nestle goes door to door.

“The new reality is captured by a single, stark fact: Across the world, more people are now obese than underweight. At the same time, scientists say, the growing availability of high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods is generating a new type of malnutrition, one in which a growing number of people are both overweight and undernourished. “The prevailing story is that this is the best of all possible worlds — cheap food, widely available. If you don’t think about it too hard, it makes sense,” said Anthony Winson, who studies the political economics of nutrition at the University of Guelph in Ontario. A closer look, however, reveals a much different story, he said. “To put it in stark terms: The diet is killing us.” ~NYT Article

When we think of Nestle we think of ‘cozy hot chocolate’ or chocolate chips for our homemade cookies. We also think about the nice, hard working people that work for these companies. We think about the philanthropy of these large corporations who give to various foundations ironically sometimes funding cancer research and diabetes ( an epidemic in our country). It is so hard to to question an industry and corporation that has been in our food culture for half a century. Yet, that old-fashioned company called Nestle is now a multi-national corporation and like any corporation their first priority is to please the shareholders. In order to do this,  their commitment is to sell more product, and this is regardless of the harm it may be causing. This is where our personal values come in. Is this okay? Are you okay with that?

Another example of ‘industry before health’ and particularly targeting women in our culture, is the cosmetic and personal care industries. The manufacture and safety of cosmetics and personal care products is regulated in many countries. In the European Union (EU) certain natural and synthetic cosmetic ingredients require approval of their safety. Banned substances are listed in the EU regulation No. 1223/2009 on cosmetic products (effective in 07/2013), which does also include the ban of animal testing for cosmetic ingredients and finished products too. We have no such safety standard here in the U.S. Just another illustration of where our values are at. So they keep manufacturing makeup made of chemicals that can contribute and cause some cancers, and we keep using them, mostly because many of us are unaware.

“Does this mean that to be for health and wellness of our people we have to be against capitalism? Of course not! Just look at the millennials creating new businesses today. They are creating companies with sustainable practice and philosophy baked into their business modalities.” ~Laura Connolly, Founder of World Wise Beauty & Rise of Wise presents

I recommend you read the NYT article so you can step back objectively, and look at what has happened to our culture, and why we have such a health crisis on our hands today. I would also remind you that demonizing one company is not the point. I think we have to re-imagine food systems, and change the cultural narrative of “industry before the health of a society and the planet”. If you keep hearing experts say “it’s not sustainable’ it’s because it is not. We are left with a health crisis in our society and a health crisis of our planet because the fast cheap food systems ( among other things) is harming the soil, air and water we rely on to LIVE. That’s it in a nutshell. It’s not about being a capitalist or a socialist which is a narrative deliberately spread, so we don’t focus on what matters,–the health and well-being of our families.

So maybe the first question we all ask ourselves is ‘What matters?’ Maybe if we started out with a value driven business idea, before an ethically challenged profit motivated premise for a business, we can begin to build a true wellness culture. Label it whatever you like, but ethics and values do matter, and there is no amount of wealth to sugar coat the damage and harm a corporation can do to a culture, when there is no value system but ‘more profit’ at the center of it’s reason for being.

To leave you with an encouraging thought, here is a wise bite from another important respected voice in wellness culture Paul Hawken

“If you look at the science and you’re not pessimistic, in a sense you don’t understand it,” Hawken says in a slow, unwavering voice. “But if you look at the people who are addressing the problem at hand and don’t feel hopeful, then you don’t have a pulse.”~Paul Hawken, talking to MindBodyGreen

 

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WWB WATCH: May, Could, Might? Why Recent Research on Coffee & Media Headlines Confuse Us…

Jul 13, 2017 by

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Did you hear about the latest research on coffee? How did you miss it? It was the perfect story for all media outlets to cover this week and boy did we need some uplifting news this week in our country! Look at all the coffee buzz in the media in just two days…

  • Coffee May Help You Live Longer, Study Finds. New research from the largest study of its kind shows that coffee may help you live longer
  • Coffee drinkers live longer, according to two large-scale studies released Monday that add to extensive research indicating coffee consumption
  • Put the kettle on – two new studies have indicted that drinking coffee helps … This latest research is just the latest in a slew of reports about the
  • Pour another cup–coffee lowers disease risk
  • Coffee drinkers are waking up to some good news Tuesday after new research suggests that a cup of joe a day could keep the doctor away

I left out the media sources because I am not here to pick on individual media companies. This is breaking research news and it’s about the fuel that probably 80% of us drink to get our engines going in the morning. Coffee and the caffeine in it, is our legal drug, and like wine it is steeped in cultural rituals for so many of us. So this research about coffee is not just news, it’s happy news! But we still need to think and pause…

This research story is yet another example of how we get tangled up in the complicated ‘web’ of health studies. Butter is bad, now it’s good! Coffee is bad and may contribute to heart disease, now it may contribute to longevity and lower disease risk?  I’m not a doctor and I am not going to challenge the research from a medical perspective. I can tell you I read a lot of these research findings reports and consume quite a bit of health news. Here is what I see time and time again, and it’s important to point it out these three encouraging but also dangerous words…may, could and might.
The story I personally read on the coffee research this week came from Medical Daily. Their headline read “Your Daily Coffee Could Help You Live Longer.” I mention MD only because I am focusing on language used by the research authors and the publication’s copy. Many of the other media outlets used the same language.
Here is the sub-header following their big headline…”If you’re a regular coffee drinker, a new study might brighten your day. Researchers have found that consuming the popular beverage may increase longevity, and it doesn’t even need to be caffeinated.”

 

The lead photo for this story was this one, with a tagline that read “Researchers say that drinking one cup of coffee per day could lower the risk of death…

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Now that’s a happy story! One cup of coffee a day may save you from the risk of death! Wow, very powerful! Let’s not only drink more coffee, but also invest in Starbuck’s stock if we haven’t already!

This Medical Daily report does highlight the benefits and risks of drinking coffee and points to previous negative research about coffee. There is balance, which I always seek when reading reports on research findings. Throughout the piece you will find…yes, three words–may, could and might buried in the headlines and the happy picture of coffee. These important words get lost. If we all took the time to read the entire story we would would also find this interesting statement from the lead study author…

“Although this study does not show causation or point to what chemicals in coffee may have this ‘elixir effect,’ it is clear that coffee can be incorporated into a healthy diet and lifestyle.”

There’s that word ‘may’ again. I hate to break it to the researchers, but centuries of human culture has shown us that coffee can be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle in moderation. What they didn’t know back then scientifically is that it can have adverse side effects for some people. Which brings me back to the concept of bio-individuality. Some people can eat loads of fat their entire lives and live to be 100, and others can’t and drop dead sooner. In comparison, some people can drink coffee at 10pm and go right to sleep, while others can’t drink it past 2pm without being up all night. With regards to the people eating lots of fat, what is often overlooked is the poor quality of life of people who are obese because of their diet and bad lifestyle habits. Everything gluttonous or in excess pays a price in health. We all seem to know this intuitively but just conveniently forget it.

The healers and philosophers of  ancient Greece knew that moderation was the prescription for  good health, and they also knew good sleep and regular exercise is important to longevity. It doesn’t get more simple than this, but we still look for a ‘magic elixir’ and hope it makes up for our neglect in one area or another. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in Super-Foods ( like coffee), because every culture has them and in some ways they compensate for other nutrients missing in their diets because of  factors like climate. I did a Q&A with the author of 30 Secrets of the World’s Healthiest Cuisines a few years ago, and the big takeaway is each of the world’s healthiest cuisines have a super-food and very specific lifestyle habits that contribute to their longevity. This book was published long before the Blue Zones Solution, which is also a good book on how many various lifestyle factors contribute to health and longevity. Both books confirm lifestyle matters my friends, and our diet is one very big part of our lifestyle.

So let’s be real about the research this week. We don’t know why coffee may help us live longer. We can however, identify healthy antioxidants and phenolic compounds in coffee, that we know can be good for preventing cancer. Avoiding cancer is one very effective way to achieve longevity!

It’s not that research shouldn’t be done, it’s not that we shouldn’t learn about the research findings, it’s just how we share the research, interpret the research, and use the research. The last paragraph of the Medical Daily story this week summed up the coffee research with this statement…

“Further studies are needed to gain a better understanding of how coffee might increase mortality. In the meantime, the researchers say that we should enjoy our daily cup of joe; it could be doing us the world of good.”

From everything I have read, the facts are, in moderation and in combination with other good lifestyle habits, coffee can’t hurt us, and it’s definitely a good jump starter in the morning for most of us.  It can hurt some of us with certain heart conditions, and for some it can also disturb chemistry, stomach linings, and our sleep. This much science has established. Does it contribute to living longer? May, could or might…

 

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WWB Wise Guru Q&A Series: Newly Released Book ‘The Nature Fix’ Presents Cutting Edge Science on How Nature Affects our Health & Well-Being from a World Wise Perspective…

Mar 15, 2017 by

NatureFix_2 with frame.jpgWWB Wise Guru: Florence Williams is an American journalist and nonfiction author whose work focuses on the environment, health and science. She is a contributing editor at Outside magazine and a freelance writer for National Geographic, the New York Times, New York Times Magazine, The New York Review of Books, Slate, Mother Jones, High Country News, O-Oprah, W., Bicycling and numerous other publications.

Her first book, Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History, received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in science and technology and the 2013 Audie in general nonfiction. The New York Times named it a notable book of 2012.

She was a Scripps Fellow at the Center of Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado. She is a fellow at the Center for Humans and Nature and a visiting scholar at George Washington University. She serves on the board of nonprofit environmental magazine, High Country News.

WWB Featured Book: ‘The Nature Fix, Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier and More Creative’ explores the science behind our connection to nature and proposes that for optimal well-being, regular doses of nature are not only recommended but required.

 

Lauroly Opening- I am so honored and pleased Florence Williams could join me for a Q&A. Her book is a favorite of mine, and so glad she wrote it. Perhaps it’s a favorite because it speaks to me on a very personal level. Nature has always been my fix, without a doubt. Having said this, I never classified myself as ‘Nature Girl’. I didn’t camp as a kid and I didn’t hike until my 20’s. But being outside and playing in nature was always a big part of my life experience. I can thank my Dad for that. I have this in common with the author! I only saw him on weekends growing up, and every weekend, weather permitted, we were either horseback riding in the woods, walking in the woods, or rowing a boat on a lake next to the woods. Those early experiences and the need to be outdoors has never left me. I like the term Florence used in the book, “drinking the tonic of nature.”I wrote a piece for this very blog on Nature Therapy in 2015 and briefly discussed ‘Forest Bathing’ in Japan which she covers quite extensively in the book. Later in my life, traveling for business, I would always make a point to find a Public Garden no matter where I was, so I could reconnect with nature and myself. Reading ‘The Nature Fix’ confirmed what I have had always felt intuitively about nature…I’m a part of it and it’s a part of me.

Besides my personal connection to the topic of your book, I found it to be the perfect non-fiction book. It is well researched, highly informative and very entertaining as well. I love how she takes us through the research via her own personal travel. Her travel takes us to Japan, Korea, Singapore, Finland, Sweden, Scotland, and we learn a lot about their cultures and wellness philosophies. Florence packed so much into this book, I found myself really challenged about where to start. I remind myself that I do these Q&A’s to recommend books and motivate people to go and read the books. I hope to touch on some of the many important findings in this book…

 

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Lauroly Q- Welcome Florence Williams! So if everyone hasn’t heard yet, nature is good for civilization!  What you set out to do is to find the science to support why nature is so important to our humanity and our everyday well-being. To do that we need to understand our senses and how much of how we function is synced with nature.  It seems to me that when we are out in nature we are fully alive, because many of our senses are engaged in our experience. This explains to me personally why I am generally happier when I am outside. There is an enlightening chapter where you focus on a man in Sweden who experienced a personal tragedy and later came to understand how important nature therapy is to patients with depression. Yet like everything else with humans, the dose of nature varies from human to human.  What do we know so far about nature as therapy? Tell us more…

 

 

 

flopromoBarrOutdoorFlorence Williams: Yes, Lauroly, you are exactly right that it does seem to be the full-sensory experience that awakens our sense of well-being, and that there are many studies that support this idea. But the science is still young, and many of the studies are very small. It’s actually quite difficult for scientists to tease apart exactly which elements of nature are most helpful or which senses are most engaged. I was struck by the studies in Japan, led by Japanese anthropologist Yoshifumi Miyazaki, that measured physiological changes to the nervous system after just 20 minutes of being in the woods. These studies showed a 20-minute stroll on a forest trail can reduce your blood pressure an average 11 percent and lower your cortisol hormones (a measure of stress) by six percent. Perhaps because of the practice of forest bathing in Japan, people there are attuned to using all their senses in the woods – so they’re really paying attention to what they’re smelling and feeling and hearing and seeing. It seems that shortcut to mindfulness really helps us feel calmer and relaxed more quickly when we’re out in nature.
 

Lauroly Q– Glad you started with Japan. We can’t discuss your book without talking about ‘ Shinren Yoku (Forest Bathing)’. What is it about the Japanese culture, that has them embracing Forest Bathing so fervently that it has become part of their national healthcare policy? When you asked Miyazaki why nature is so important to their culture, he had this to say, “In our culture, nature is part of our minds and bodies and philosophy. In our tradition, all things are relative to something else.” Loved his answer. But it is amazing how the Japanese ended up being so far removed from the very thing that defined them isn’t it?

Florence Williams: Japan industrialized very quickly. The cities grew fast and there was intense economic competition for good jobs, good schooling and feeding the corporate culture. People are stressed out there, and they work and study incredibly long hours, effectively removing them from a lot of time in the countryside. But it would be mistake to say that modern life has disconnected them from nature. The Japanese still internalize a close connection to plants, for example, in their practices of bonsai and flower arranging, in their tiny gardens and through their lens of wabi sabi, which celebrates the seasons and simple nature. I think in many ways the Japanese definition of nature is more generous that the western one, which looks at spaces like parks and wilderness areas, rather than integrating elements of the natural world into everyday life and homes. That said, the Japanese do seem to relish getting outside when they can. As a result of Miyazaki’s data, the country has designated 48 “forest therapy” trails where overworked, urban citizens are now urged to go unwind, and it looks like more trails are being created.

Lauroly Q- One of the things I was wondering about while reading about your research in Finland, is related to Vitamin D (sun) and the deprivation they experience in winter. Have any researchers looked at how tree therapy might counteract the negative effects of not having enough sun? This is a good time to tell us about why Cypress Trees seem to have such a positive effect on our senses. As you put it, in the book “we enjoy a neural bath of happy hormones”! Below is a quick video you created to illustrate the beneficial effects of nature…

 

Florence Williams: Trees are certainly magical and wonderful, and hit a lot of our happy buttons, from providing rich visuals, especially fractal patterns (known to promote alpha brainwaves) to creating habitat for birds that in turn relax us with their birdsong. The smell piece is fascinating, as tree aerosols from cypress trees in Japan were found to lower blood pressure and increase Killer T immune cells in humans. That said, even in Finland and even in winter, being outside provides more brightness and full-spectrum light than being inside, and so the light aspect is still important. Full spectrum light is linked to wellbeing, and vitamin D is linked to all sorts of good things, from shaping our retinas to strengthening our bones. The lumens outside is generally 10 times greater than the lumens inside, except of course at night. Even the darkness, though, can help reset our circadian rhythms so we sleep better.

Lauroly Q- As a psychology major I found a lot of the research on education, and brain disorders like ADHD fascinating with respect to nature. Besides the specific special needs of children on the spectrum, your book explores the idea that children in general really need nature and play. I loved the section on Friedrich Frobel and his research. He focused on cultivating curiosity and freedom in childhood. Tell us how ‘kindergarten’ was originally conceptualized, and how nature was at the center of child education…

Florence Williams: Friedrich Froebel, who was born in Germany in 1782, was an educator heavily influenced by Rousseau, who said, “Everything is good as it comes from the hands of the Author of Nature.” Rousseau and Froebel both made a case for allowing young children to explore and learn based on their own curiosity. Froebel believed that an education filled with nature and art could instill a lifelong readiness to learn and also develop empathy and a love for living things. He really invented kindergarten, and it was nature-based from the beginning. Unfortunately, many cultures now consider kindergarten the new first-grade, and are taking children inside to sit at desks and learn their academics. We are not devoting enough time to considering what has been lost in this new model.

Lauroly Closing: I hope we don’t lose that model. Cultures change, but we don’t have to lose the wisdom that has already been acquired, especially when it comes to child development. Thank you Florence for joining me at World Wise Beauty, to discuss your important and wonderful book. I am going to make it my personal duty to share this book with everyone! I know they will love it and your research will resonate for them. I believe we are realizing nature is not a luxury but an absolute essential to our personal wellness, our humanity and our culture. See you out there Florence!

Florence Williams Closing: Thanks so much for your interest, Lauroly. It was so much fun reporting and writing this book, and it’s certainly made me spend more time outside. I will hope it will influence others as well.

 

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How to Live a Long and Pleasurable Life…Doctor, & Author of “The Olive Oil Diet” Shares the Wellness Secrets of the Mediterranean Culture & Lifestyle

Feb 10, 2017 by

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WWB Wise Guru: Dr. Simon Poole  MBBS DRCOG is a Cambridge based medical doctor, author, broadcaster and commentator with expertise in the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle.

Featured Book: The Olive Oil Diet –Nutritional Secrets of the Original SuperFood –The book has just been nominated for the International Gourmand Prize for food and cookery writing, and shortlisted for the “Best of the World” which is described as the food writing equivalent of the “Oscars”.

Professional Profile: As well as being a full time GP, Dr Simon Poole is a renowned international commentator on the Mediterranean Diet and a member of the Council of Directors of the True Health Initiative in the USA. He has written regularly on matters related to primary care in medicine and nutrition for a diverse range of media including The Guardian, Nutrition and Food Science and the Journal of the Royal College of Surgeons as well as consumer magazines such as Cook Vegetarian and Body Language. He also has extensive experience broadcasting and writing for local, national and international radio, television and web based organisations and regularly speaks at and chairs conferences attended by physicians, the media, politicians and the food industry on subject matters relating to health, politics and nutrition.

 

 

 

 

Lauroly Opening: I am pleased to introduce another doctor/expert from the True Health Initiative. For those just learning about THI, it is a growing coalition of more than 250 world renowned health experts committed to cutting through the noise, and educating on only time-honored, proven principles of lifestyle as medicine. The THI coalition members include physicians, scientists, nutritionists, and authors from nearly 30 countries. An example of their collective collaboration is Dr. Poole will be joining Dr. David Katz (founder of THI and wellness expert here in the U.S) in Italy for the International Food Values Conference in Rome. World leading experts in nutrition, health and sustainability will gather under the patronage of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences next week to debate the urgent need for policies to be adopted which encourage more traditional diets such as the Mediterranean Diet. 

 We have heard about the Mediterranean Diet over the years, and many other diets have come along since, but there has been no other diet that has so much research and science behind it world-wide. How lucky we are to have Dr. Simon Poole here to discuss the diet and his book ‘The Olive Oil Diet’. Personally I am not a promoter of any one diet or any one super-food, because we all are so different bio-individually.  What I will say is the Mediterranean diet has ancient wisdom and a lot of modern science based research behind it, and seems to be enjoyed by many centenarian people. The prospect of healthy longevity gets my attention! At the center of the Mediterranean Diet is ‘Olive Oil’ and Dr. Poole has a passion for Olive Oil! Let’s find out why…

 

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Lauroly Q- Welcome Dr.Poole! Thank you for joining me to discuss your new book, ‘The Olive Oil Diet’ Nutritional Secrets of the Original Superfood’. What I didn’t mention in the opening is I am big olive oil user and cook with it exclusively. Even as the coconut oil trend has accelerated I have stuck with my olive oil. One of my reasons for this, is the amount of research behind the healthy heart properties of olive oil is substantially greater than that available for coconut oil. So let’s start with a hot topic! Is Olive oil better for you or healthier than coconut oil? I realize you are biased because you wrote a book about Olive Oil, but you are also a doctor who cares greatly about Public Health.

 

DR.SPDr. Poole: Extra virgin olive oil is a fundamental cooking and flavouring ingredient in all the regional variations of what has become known collectively as the Mediterranean Diet. Researchers who have demonstrated the myriad of benefits of this pattern of eating invariably include the regular use of olive oil as the main source of fat as a measure of adherence to the diet. Whatever the argument about the differences in saturated fat types in coconut oil which may make it less likely to have an adverse effect on harmful LDL cholesterol, it is perhaps the unique combination of antioxidant compounds in olive oil which may contribute even more to health than the high level of monounsaturated fat.

There is a myth which exists suggesting that cooking with saturated fats like coconut oil is more healthy because of higher “smoke points”, which is the temperature at which heated fats begin to break down to form potentially harmful by-products. In fact, not only are cooking temperatures in general well below the smoke point of extra virgin olive oil, but most of the beneficial antioxidants tolerate heating as well. Try telling a centenarian from the beautiful island of Ikaria, famed for its healthy Mediterranean lifestyle not to use olive oil as part of his or her daily life, and I rather think you would get a short reply!

 

 

Lauroly Q- Your book pretty much platforms the Mediterranean Diet as the ‘Ultimate Diet’. You have a chapter entitled ‘Keeping a Healthy Weight–The End of Dieting.  As a ‘Healthy Epicurean’ which means I value health and enjoy eating, I find the Mediterranean diet most appealing, because it really isn’t a diet as much as it is a cultural lifestyle. As a physician, why do you believe it is the ultimate diet?

Dr. Poole: You are exactly right to make the point that the Mediterranean Diet is a lifestyle rather than simply a pattern of eating. Whilst in the western world we have come to view a “diet” as a way to lose weight, the term actually originates from the ancient Greek word “diaita” which means way of life. Research shows that adopting a Mediterranean Diet is in fact better than a low fat diet at helping people to achieve and maintain a healthy weight and because people enjoy it, they are more likely to continue to eat healthily. I call it the “ultimate diet” because it has the added benefits of many other health advantages, including an association with lower rates of heart disease, stroke, many cancers and even dementia. The lifestyle itself which promotes the enjoyment of food as part of an experience of conviviality and community is also an important aspect.

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Lauroly Q- What I love about your book, is it is a comprehensive health book and cooking book all rolled in one. Your book takes an authoritative and science based look at olive oil, while also exploring the joys of cooking with it. Like some books on wine, your book on olive oil teaches us that growing regions matter, and we discover not all olive oils are the same. You have a dedicated chapter to learning how to buy olive oil. Does this mean cheaper olive oil is not as good as the more expensive? Many wine connoisseurs will tell you that price does not determine a good bottle of wine. Does this apply to olive oil as well?

oilDr. Poole: The “Olive Oil Diet” is designed to help people understand more about the regular use of olive oil, and how to maximise its health benefits in everyday life. It looks at the Mediterranean diet from the perspective of the ubiquitous presence of olive oil. There are different grades of olive oil and even different properties of extra virgin olive oil which depend on the variety, land, agricultural practices, production methods and storage. Oil deteriorates over time and its quality is dependent on limiting exposure to air and light. In the book we describe the indicators of better quality oils and how to recognise markers of excellence. Often the oils with the best nutritional characteristics, including low acidity and powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers are grown in traditional ways with passion and care from individual farmers or small cooperatives. Some oils can be bought very cheaply, but often these are sourced from international markets and are a mixture of variable oils from different countries. So, our advice is to get to know a little about olive oils and try different ones from different regions as well as “pairing” different tasting oils with different dishes. There are lots of discoveries readers can enjoy!

 

Lauroly Q- I have never heard Olive Oil called the ‘the medicinal fruit juice’ before, and your chapter on all the health benefits really explains how you could call it that. There are so many health conditions olive oil can help with. Most people think of the highly publicized research on heart disease, but you really connect all the medicinal dots for us in the book. What makes Olive Oil a superfood and how does it help with other diseases beyond heart disease?

Dr. Poole: Olive oil really does qualify as a “superfood” because not only is it a fundamental building block of one of the healthiest diets in the World, specifically recommended in the latest US Dietary Guidelines, but also because research has shown that olive oil by itself can have measurable health benefits. So many chronic illnesses are now considered to be associated with chronic inflammation including conditions such as heart disease, stroke, arthritis and even dementia. The numerous plant compounds designed to protect the olive fruit from the effects of “oxidative stress” in the challenging environment and climate in which the olive tree grows may play a role in decreasing inflammation in our bodies. Type 2 Diabetes is another condition which predisposes people to heart disease and other complications, and the way that olive oil in the diet reduces the spiking of sugar levels from a meal with carbohydrates also contributes to the way the diet can protect us, and even help to reverse the very early stages of diabetes. Olive oil also helps to improve the absorption of important nutrients, including fat soluble vitamins and antioxidants in other foods. So it is a real “superfood” especially when combined with super healthy vegetables.

 

Lauroly Closing: Dr. Poole, thank you so much for visiting World Wise Beauty. I wish I could join you for the ‘Food Values’ conference in Italy this year but I am sure you will come back and share the great wisdom gleaned from gathering with experts in favor of traditional diets. Who knows maybe you will share your wisdom at a ‘Rise of Wise’ event here in the states soon! We would be honored and thrilled to have you visit! In the meantime everyone should read your book and become a connoisseur of olive oil. Keeping in mind that it is what you do with the olive oil that will determine the pleasure of eating it. Check out the tasty recipes in the book and you will be well on your way to having a passion for olive oil too!

Dr. Poole Closing: Thank you. It has been a pleasure Laura and yes, it would be a privilege to attend one of your exciting events perhaps some day soon.

 

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