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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Improving Tolerance of Carbohydrate

People who are carbohydrate intolerant can slow down their aging and reduce the risk of diabetes by taking steps to improve their carbohydrate metabolism. Furthermore, it is believe that these steps are useful for anyone over thirty as they reduce the risk of developing carbohydrate intolerance or diabetes in the future.

Reducing glycemic effect of meals : As we ingest food, the enzymes in the gastrointestinal tract break it down into small molecules, such as simple sugars, aminoacids and peptides. Many foods, from ice-cream to pizza to pop-corn, contain glucose or other sugars that are converted to glucose in the body. Usually, glucose is in the form of starch, a branched polymer made up of many glucose molecules, or sucrose, a sugar consisting of one glucose and one fructose molecule. As the food is digested, the glucose it contains is released and absorbed into the bloodstream, which causes blood glucose level to rise. (Scientists call this glycemic effect of food.) How dramatic such a rise would be depends on several factors: (1) how much glucose a meal contains; (2) in which form this glucose is (e.g. starch or sugar); (3) are there other food ingredients, such as fiber, that affect the rate glucose absorption. Meals that produce less dramatic rise of blood glucose tend to be better for one's carbohydrate metabolism. Generally, among nutritionally equivalent alternatives, the food with smaller glycemic effect should be preferred. For instance, glycemic effect of a whole grain rye bread is 32 percent smaller than that of the equivalent amount of white bread. Guess which is better for your health!

Fiber: Over the past decades, research has promoted fiber from a nearly useless non-nutrient filler in plant-derived foods to an important food constituent conducive of health and longevity. Chemically, fibers are a diverse group of plant polymers based on polysaccharide chains. In contrast to starch, which is also a type of polysaccharide, fibers cannot be digested by humans, and pass through the gastrointestinal tract fully or partially intact. Large amounts of fiber in the diet make stools soft and bulky.

Fiber came to the spotlight when physicians working in Africa noted a very low incidence of such typical "Western" conditions as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, colon cancer, diverticulosis and hemorrhoids. They also noticed that local population consumed a very high fiber diet -- their stool volume was several times greater than that of people in the West. A role of fiber in preventing diseases and obesity was hypothesized, which spawned abundant research on the subject. Some health benefits of fiber, such as colon cancer prevention, are still controversial. Others, including its ability of fiber to prevent and/or improve carbohydrate tolerance and type II diabetes, are confirmed by solid evidence. Fiber slows down the rate at which glucose is absorbed from food into the bloodstream. This gives the body more time to process carbohydrates, leading to lower blood sugar and better carbohydrate metabolism.

It is estimated that a typical citizen of a developed country consumes about one third of the amount of fiber optimal for health and longevity. Luckily, it is not as difficult to increase one's fiber intake without supplements as many people think. Keep in mind that fiber supplements, especially when used improperly, may cause intestinal obstruction, a serious health problem. (This never happens with high fiber foods though).

Exercise: Regular exercise is known to improve carbohydarate tolerance and have a variety of other health benefits. (And it's fun too!). If exercising outdoors, which is usually more fun than otherwise, make sure to protect you skin from excessive sun and wind exposure.

Supplements: Certain nutrients and botanicals have positive effect on carbohydrate metabolism. For instance, lipoic acid is known to lower blood sugar levels (see also the article about conditionally essential nutrients in this section). Some adaptogens were consistently proven to improve carbohydrate tolerance or even reverse early stages of type II diabetes. Adaptogens are substances that promote successful adaptation of the body to various forms of stress and also normalize various physiological aberrations. Most known adaptogens are derived from plants and are quite safe at commonly used doses.

Drugs: Of course, there are drugs that lower blood sugar. Vritually all of them, however, can have substantial adverse effects. Using glucose-lowering drug in people with confirmed diabetes is a reasonable trade-off. These drugs should not be used in people with mild carbohydrate intolerance. There are far safer things to try!

Connection between Skin and Blood sugar

Blood sugar, or more accurately blood glucose level, is a very important aspect of human physiology because glucose is the primary fuel for the central nervous system. If the blood level of glucose drops below a certain point for a long enough period of time, a person will lose consciousness, fall into coma and die. Very high blood glucose seen in diabetes is also harmful, although the immediate consequences are usually less dramatic.

It is less widely known that blood sugar has an important bearing on the aging process. Unfortunately, in addition to being a vital cellular fuel, glucose is also a substance that can cause damage to cells and tissues by randomly reacting with proteins, DNA and other vital molecules. (Scientists call this process glycation). Perhaps the worst consequence of glycation is cross-linking which is the formation of chemical bridges between proteins or other large molecules. A material that undergoes cross-linking usually becomes harder, less elastic and has a tendency to tear or crack. For instance, cross-linking is responsible for hardening of a rubber mat or a garden hose left in the sun. In an aging body, cross-linking causes hardening of arteries, wrinkling of the skin and stiffening of joints. Not surprisingly, diabetics, whose high blood glucose intensifies cross-linking, tend to have more skin damage (as well as vascular and other organ damage) than non-diabetics. However, even mildly high blood sugar promotes the aging process in the long run. This condition, called carbohydarate intolerance (or glucose intolerance) means that one's blood sugar tends to be higher than normal but not high enough to warrant the diagnosis of diabetes. Carbohydrate intolerance is extremely common, affecting up to fifty percent of the population in developed countries. In most carbohydrate intolerant people, fasting blood sugar is normal while blood sugar after meals is higher than it should be.

Research indicates that correcting carbohydrate intolerance is one the most important steps one can take towards slowing down the aging process.

Now, the question is how can one find out whether she has carbohydrate intolerance. An overt diabetes is relatively easy to diagnose. A doctor simply takes your fasting blood glucose to see whether it is elevated. A more sophisticated test called OGGT (oral glucose tolerance test) is needed to diagnose carbohydrate intolerance. First, your fasting blood sugar is measured. Then you are given a meal containing a standard amount of glucose, after which your blood glucose is measured every 30 minutes for 2 or 3 hours. This allows to see how quickly your blood sugar returns to normal after a carbohydrate load. The main risk factors for carbohydrate intolerance are being overweight and age over forty.

Next Article: How to improve carbohydrate tolerance?

Cellulite treatments

There is no officially proven and approved treatment for cellulite. One of the reasons is that quality research in this area has been scarce. On the other hand, there are a number of empirical treatments on the market claiming to improve cellulite. Which ones, if any, are reliably effective will remain unclear until rigorous clinical studies are conducted. Below we discuss cellulite treatments that either appear promising or are popular or both.

Caffeine creams: Caffeine is known to promote lymphatic drainage from tissues (i.e. remove excess fluid) as well as increase lipolysis (promote breakdown of cellular fat). In theory, this could counteract some of the factors contributing to cellulite. Hence, creams with caffeine or somewhat similarly acting substances (such as aminophylline) have been used to treat cellulite. As of the time of this writing, no independent study has demonstrated the effectiveness of topical caffeine for cellulite. A few studies demonstrating some benefit have been commissioned by skin care companies and cannot be considered unbiased. A single study demonstrating the effectiveness of aminophylline was small and its principal investigator appears to have had a conflict of interests.

Diet: A number of cellulite diets are being promoted by some skin care and/or nutrition experts - mainly in conjunction with sales of topicals, supplements and dieting materials. The more rational of these diets recommend foods and supplements that reduce inflammation, improve microcirculation, strengthen connective tissue and activate fat metabolism, i.e. allegedly address the key factors in the development of cellulite. The problem is that there is no proof that any diet has any effect on cellulite. Until there are any decent studies, dietary treatment of cellulite will remain a wishful thinking. Still want to try to defeat cellulite with diet? Then pick the one that makes the most sense in terms of general health: plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, high in fiber, rich in omega-3 fat, low-glycemic and so forth. You may not cure your cellulite, but at least it wouldn't be a wasted effort. Keep in mind that losing weight does not eliminate cellulite. However, it may modestly reduce the appearance of cellulite because it makes fat tissue shrink.

Directed energy: light, laser, radiofrequency: Directed energy treatments have been making inroads into the cellulite treatment business. Some of the claims are plausible because certain forms of directed energy can reach the junction between the skin and fat tissue and even further. One such device called TriActive incorporates a low-energy laser, a skin-cooling mechanism, and suction massage. The goal is to stimulate collagen, circulation, and lymphatic drainage in the lower skin layer and below while protecting the skin by cooling. A course of treatments with TriActive may cost up to $1,500. Another device VelaSmooth used a combination of radiofrequency energy, infrared laser and suction-based massage. Radiofrequency radiation deep-heats fat tissues causing some fat cells to burst; infrared light heats the juncture between skin and fat, improving circulation and inducing connective tissues remodeling; suction-based massage evens out the newly softened tissue and stimulates drainage. All of the above allegedly reduces cellulite by 50% or more over a series of ten $200 sessions ($2,000 total). The effectiveness of VelaSmooth remains to be proven in solid studies.

Mesotherapy: In essence, mesotherapy involves injecting a cocktail of chemicals, which may include vitamins, herbal extracts and off-label drugs (i.e. drugs approved for other purposes), into the area affected by cellulite. The rationale of this approach is the idea that delivering active chemicals directly to the source of the problem should be more effective than applying them topically and hoping that meaningful amounts will penetrate. The active chemicals are selected by their ability to soften connective tissue, break up fat, stimulated remodeling, circulation, drainage and so forth. The most prudent approach is to wait until more studies are performed to determine safety, effectiveness and best practices for mesotherapy. Or at least try other things first. Mesotherapy is typically performed in a series of 5-10 sessions, costing about $150 each.

Specialized massage: Many salons offer anti-cellulite massage, which usually employs rollers, shakers, suction, vibration and so-forth. Such massage does not seem to cause any sustained tissue restructuring and at best can achieve some degree of short-lived smoothening. Or just even out your excess cash.

Tomorrows Article: Connection between blood sugar & healthy skin………..

Cellulite myths & misconceptions

Cellulite is caused by diet: There is no evidence that any particular diet composition (including the amount of fluid you drink) leads to cellulite or can help prevent it. Of course, any diet that makes you gain weight will make your cellulite more prominent. However, if you do not have cellulite, simply gaining weight will not cause cellulite to appear.

Cellulite occurs only in women: This is not a complete myth in the sense that women are much more prone to cellulite than men. However, men can develop cellulite and a small percentage of them do. Notably, men with abnormally low testosterone levels develop cellulite almost as frequently as women, indicating a hormonal connection.

Exercise prevents or reverses cellulite: Exercise has no effect on cellulite. If exercise helps you lose weight, your cellulite will become less visible because improperly packaged fat will not protrude as much. However, exercise will not affect connective tissue defects, which are the key abnormality in cellulite.

Liposuction is an effective cellulite treatment: More often than not, liposuction is ineffective as a primary cellulite treatment because the main abnormality in cellulite is a connective tissue defect, not excessive or abnormal fat. In fact, liposuction sometimes makes the appearance of cellulite worse.

Only overweight people develop cellulite: Cellulite develops in people of any weight, including very slim ones. Gaining weight may make cellulite more prominent but it does not create it.

Only old people develop cellulite: Cellulite development can begin are early as teen years. However, cellulite does tend to progress with age.

Next Article: Cellulite treatments