Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Agave Nectar: A Sweetener That is Even Worse Than Sugar


The harmful effects of sugar are among the few things that most health experts agree on.

Everyone knows that sugar is unhealthy and most health conscious people try to avoid it.

Not surprisingly, all sorts of other sweeteners have become popular, both natural and artificial.

One of those is called Agave nectar, a sweetener that is found in various "health foods."

It is claimed to be natural, and marketed as a diabetic-friendly sweetener that doesn't spike blood sugar levels.

However, if you ignore the marketing claims and take a look at what Agave nectar really contains, you will learn that it is actually even worse than plain sugar.

Let me explain why...

What Is Agave?

The Agave plant grows natively in the southern U.S. and South America. It is most commonly associated with Mexico.

Although most Westerners only recently started hearing of Agave, it has been used in Mexico for hundreds (if not thousands) of years.

Back in the day, the Mexicans used it for various purposes and believed it to have medicinal properties.

The Mexicans also used to boil the sap (sugary circulating plant fluid) to produce a sweetener known as miel de agave.

But the most common use of the Agave plant is fermenting the sugars in it to produce the alcoholic beverage called tequila.

In fact, tequila is the most common commercial use of Agave today and one of Mexico's best known export products.

Like many plants in their natural state, Agave probably does have some health benefits.

However, as is so often the case, when the product is processed and refined it tends to lose some (or all) of these beneficial health effects. This appears to be the case with the refined Agave sweetener that people are consuming today.

BOTTOM LINE: Agave is a plant that grows in large amounts in Mexico. It has a long history of use as a medicinal plant, sweetener, and can also be fermented to make tequila.

How Is Agave Nectar Made?

The sweetener commonly sold as Agave nectar would be more accurately labelled as Agave syrup.

The truth is... it has very little in common with the traditional sweetener made by the Mexicans.

The starting process is the same. They take the plant, then cut and press it to extract the sugary circulating fluid.

This fluid is high in sugar, but it also contains healthy compounds like fructans, which are linked to beneficial effects on metabolism and insulin.

However, when processed into a syrup, the manufacturers break the fructans down into fructose by exposing the sugary fluid to heat and/or enzymes.

This process destroys all of the health promoting properties of the Agave plant, but instead produces the concentrated syrup available on store shelves that is falsely claimed to be healthy.

The manufacturing process is similar to how other unhealthy sweeteners are made, such as High Fructose Corn Syrup.

So... the sweetener sold as Agave nectar is NOT truly "nectar" - it is a refined, processed sweetener made from Agave nectar.

BOTTOM LINE: The Agave sweetener sold today is made by treating the sugars with heat and enzymes, which destroys all the beneficial health effects of the Agave plant. The end product is a highly refined, unhealthy syrup.

Agave Nectar Does Not Spike Blood Sugar Much

The Glycemic Index (GI) is a measure of how quickly the sugar in a food enters your bloodstream.

Generally speaking, the higher the GI rating of a food, the greater the blood sugar spike and the worse it is for your health.

Unlike glucose, fructose does not raise blood sugar or insulin levels in the short-term.

This is why high fructose sweeteners are often marketed as "healthy" or "diabetic friendly."

Agave nectar has a very low GI, primarily because almost all of the sugar in it is fructose. It has very little glucose, at least when compared to regular sugar.

A recent study in mice compared the metabolic effects of Agave nectar and sucrose (plain sugar) after 34 days. The mice getting agave nectar gained less weight and had lower blood sugar and insulin levels (8).

This is actually what we would expect in a short-term study, as the glucose in plain sugar elevates both blood sugar and insulin levels, whereas fructose does not.

That being said... the glycemic index is just one of many things to consider when looking at the health effects of sweeteners.

The harmful effects of Agave (and sugar in general) actually have very little to do with the glycemic index but everything to do with the large amounts of fructose... and Agave nectar is very high in fructose.

BOTTOM LINE: Agave nectar is low in glucose and therefore doesn't spike blood sugar levels much. This gives the sweetener a low glycemic index.

Agave Nectar Is Dangerously High in Fructose

Sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) contain two simple sugars... about half glucose and half fructose.

Although both glucose and fructose look very similar, they have completely different effects in the body.

Glucose is an incredibly important molecule. It is found in many healthy foods (like carrots and potatoes) and our bodies even produce it to make sure that we always have enough.

In fact, every living cell on the planet has glucose in it... because this molecule is absolutely vital to life.

Whereas every cell in the human body can metabolize glucose, the liver is the only organ that can metabolize fructose in significant amounts.

In the context of a high-carb, high-calorie Western diet, eating a lot of added fructose can wreak havoc on metabolic health.

The liver gets overloaded and starts turning the fructose into fat, which gets shipped out as VLDL particles and raises blood triglycerides. Many researchers even believe that some of the fat can lodge in the liver and cause fatty liver disease.

Although fructose doesn't raise blood sugar levels in the short-term, it can contribute to insulin resistance when consumed in large amounts.

This can cause major increases in long-term blood sugar and insulin levels, strongly raising the risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.

Eating large amounts of fructose can also have various other harmful effects... such as increasing small, dense LDL particles and oxidized LDL (very bad), cause belly fat accumulation, to name a few.

Here's where it gets really interesting... Agave nectar is about 85% fructose, which is much higher than plain sugar.

Keep in mind that none of this applies to whole fruit, which are loaded with fiber and make us feel full quickly. We are well equipped to handle the small amounts of fructose found in fruit.

This "Healthy" Sweetener Is Even Worse Than Regular Sugar

If you must add some extra sweetness to your diet, agave nectar is absolutely not the way to do it.

There are several natural sweeteners out there that are much healthier... including stevia, erythritol and xylitol.

Agave nectar may just be the unhealthiest sweetener in the world. It makes regular sugar look healthy in comparison... and that is saying something.


Source: healthline

You can find older posts regarding ASEAN politics and economics news at SBC blog, and older posts regarding health and healthcare at IIMS blog. I thank you.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Tips to Keep Joints Healthy

Digestive Myths

The Surprises of Getting Older

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Makeup and Skin Care for Acne


We put a lot of time, effort, and money into looking beautiful (or handsome, depending on your gender). Americans fork over nearly $9 billion annually for creams, scrubs, concealers, and a drawerful of other cosmetics that claim to keep our skin looking clean, clear, and more youthful.

Ironically, the very same products you rely on to keep your skin looking its best could be doing your pores a big disservice. Using the wrong makeup or cream could actually accentuate the pimples you're trying so hard to hide.





Caring for acne-prone skin requires some careful cosmetic sleuthing -- reading labels to find products that won't clog your pores and lead to more breakouts. WebMD has made the process a little easier by compiling a checklist of must-have makeup and grooming ingredients for people with acne.

Use this acne skin-care checklist when navigating the aisles of cosmetics and makeup at your local supermarket or drug store.

Moisturizers and Acne

Somehow, the idea that moisturizers are a no-no for pimple-prone skin started circulating many years back, and now a lot of people with acne avoid them like the plague. In reality, moisturizers are an essential part of the acne skin care routine. The acne treatment your dermatologist prescribed or recommended may contain drying ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, which can suck the moisture out of your skin and leave it looking red and irritated. A good moisturizer will keep the water in your skin and help avoid unsightly drying and peeling.

What to look for : Choose a lightweight, oil-free moisturizer labeled "non-comedogenic" -- which is just a fancy way of saying that it won't clog your pores. Also look for ingredients like glycerin and hyaluronic acid, which hold moisture in the skin. What to avoid? Heavy, greasy products that contain pimple-producing ingredients such as cocoa butter, mineral oil, or cold cream.

Should You Use Scrubs and Masks for Acne?

There's no need to slather your face in day-glo green or mud and scare off all the neighborhood kids. Experts say masks and scrubs do little, if anything, to improve acne. A gentle, non-abrasive cleanser that's formulated for your skin type (oily, dry, or combination) will do a lot more to keep your face pimple-free.

Acne-Friendly Aftershave Lotions

Men with acne need to pay attention to their skin care regimen, too. Shaving can be both a plus and minus for a man's skin. The plus is that shaving each day acts as a natural exfoliant, opening your pores so the excess oil can drain out. But if you shave the wrong way or use the wrong products, you could wind up with more acne. Or, you could get razor bumps, which aren't acne but look a lot like them. Razor bumps pop up when newly cut, sharp-ended hairs turn back into the skin and make the skin swell up.

What to look for: Use a non-irritating, lubricating shaving gel, or a prescription shaving foam containing benzoyl peroxide or a topical antibiotic that's designed for men with acne. When you shave, use a sharp razor so you don't pull on the hair or cut your skin. Shave downward, in the direction of growth of the hair follicles, to prevent irritation. After shaving, skip the splash of cologne or alcohol-based aftershave, which can irritate your skin -- not to mention leave you in agony if you have any open cuts or recently popped pimples. Use an oil-free moisturizer or a prescription topical antibiotic lotion or gel instead.

Wearing Makeup When You Have Acne

People have been covering up their blemishes for centuries. In the 1600s, women wore star-and moon-shaped silk patches to hide their smallpox scars. Today, we use makeup to camouflage our pimples, but applying layer after layer of cover-up when you have acne isn't necessarily the best approach. Makeup can be very good at hiding pimples, but it can also accentuate zits if you use the wrong kind of concealer or slather it on too thickly. The redness and peeling many acne treatments leave behind can look even worse when smeared with thick makeup.

What to look for: All of your makeup, from blush to eye shadow, should be non-greasy, non-comedogenic (or non-acnegenic), hypoallergenic, non-irritating, and oil-free. Read the ingredients -- the very first one should be water. Mineral-based cosmetics contain added ingredients like silica, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide, which both absorb oil and hide redness without irritating skin and causing pimples. Another ingredient to look for is dimethicone, which also conceals redness while smoothing out uneven skin.

Pick a makeup color that complements your skin tone. When applying foundation, a little goes a long way. Use about a quarter-sized amount, and blend it into your entire face. Allow your foundation to dry for a few minutes before putting on the rest of your makeup.

If you notice that your skin is red, itchy, or swollen after you apply a certain type of makeup, stop using it. Some ingredients in cosmetics cause an allergic irritation known as contact dermatitis in certain people.

Sunscreen for People With Acne

Contrary to popular belief, sunscreen doesn't cause acne. And while red, sunburned skin might temporarily hide your pimples, getting burned too many times can also leave you with premature lines and wrinkles, and increase your risk for skin cancer. You want to protect your skin when you're outside in the sun without slathering on gobs of greasy sunscreen.

What to look for: Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to protect against both UVA and UVB light. A water-based or light liquid-based gel or spray-on sunscreen is best for people who tend to get breakouts. You can also look for light lotions and powder sunscreens. Look for “noncomedogenic” on the label, which means it should not clog your skin’s pores. Watch out for chemicals such as PABA and benzophenone, which can irritate sensitive skin. Look for physical sunscreens that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.

Source WebMD

You can find older posts regarding ASEAN politics and economics news at SBC blog, and older posts regarding health and healthcare at IIMS blog. I thank you.

Vegetarian and Vegan Diets Explained


The simplest definition of vegetarianism is a diet free of meat, fish, and fowl flesh. But eating habits of vegetarians cover a wide spectrum. At one end are lacto-ovo vegetarians, who avoid animal flesh but eat eggs and milk products. At the other end are vegans, who forgo eating (and often wearing) all animal-based products, including honey. Raw foodists are vegans who eat mainly raw fruits, vegetables, legumes, sprouts, and nuts.

There are also pescatarians, who eat fish and seafood; and lacto-vegetarians, who eat dairy products but not eggs. Fruitarians follow a diet that includes fruits, nuts, seeds, and other plant food. Those who follow a macrobiotic diet eat mostly grains but can also eat fish. They don't necessarily identify as vegetarians.

Flexitarians refer to vegetarians who occasionally eat meat and fish.

Reasons for Becoming a Vegetarian

Many adherents of vegetarianism and veganism – former Beatle Paul McCartney and actor Alec Baldwin are two celebrities who happily promote the cause -- regard a flesh-free diet not only as more healthful, but as a more ethical way to live. They point to the cruel practices and the high environmental cost of raising animals for food as reasons for excluding meat from the diet.

Most Americans, however, continue to eat some form of meat or fish. Ten percent of people consider themselves to be vegetarians, according to a 2013 Gallup poll.

Vegetarianism and Health

Most doctors and nutritionists agree that a low-fat diet high in fruits, vegetables, and nuts can be a boon to health. There’s also research suggesting that reducing or eliminating red meat from the diet may cut your risk of heart disease.

Research also has shown that a vegan or vegetarian diet may lower your risk of getting type 2 diabetes. And a 2011 study found that vegetarians had lower triglycerides, glucose levels, blood pressure, and body mass index (BMI).

Does Being a Vegetarian Lower Cancer Risk?

It’s difficult to say whether being a vegetarian or a vegan lowers cancer risk. This is mainly because of the diversity within the vegetarian population.

Many studies of the cancer-vegetarian relationship conclude that diets rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, isoflavones (found in soybeans, chickpeas, peanuts, and more), and carotenoids (found in carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, kale, spinach, tomatoes, red peppers, and more), seem to protect against disease, including cancer, when part of a health-conscious lifestyle.

An 11-year study in Germany examined colon cancer among 1,900 vegetarians. Researchers noted fewer deaths from cancers of the stomach, colon, and lung in study participants than in the general population -- particularly among those who practiced some form of vegetarianism for at least 20 years. They suggested, however, that other factors, like body weight and amount of exercise, likely affected mortality rates in the vegetarians they studied.

Vegetarianism and Nutrition

A meatless diet can be healthy, but vegetarians -- especially vegans -- need to make sure they're getting enough vitamin B12, calcium, iron, and zinc.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics warns of the risk of vitamin B12 deficiencies in vegetarians and vegans. Vitamin B12 is found naturally only in animal products. A lack of vitamin B12 can lead to anemia and blindness. It can also cause muscle weakness, tingling, and numbness. To counteract the increased risk, vegans should include B12 supplements, or fortified cereals and veggie burgers. Stay tuned for more information, but B12 has been found in varying amounts in mushrooms, particularly in the outer peel, but it's too soon to consider it a food source of the vitamin.

Vegans and ovo-vegetarians, who eat eggs but not dairy, need to find foods (dark green vegetables, tofu, edamame, soy nuts, butternut squash, calcium-fortified non-dairy beverages) or supplements that compensate for the missing calcium from their diets. Absorbable calcium is critical to protect against osteoporosis, or thinning bones.

Is a Vegan Diet Safe During Pregnancy?

The nutrition warnings are a bit more urgent for pregnant and lactating women who are vegan. Having a vitamin B12 deficiency, particularly, has been shown to impair neurological development in infants nursed by vegetarian mothers. A lack of vitamin D and calcium also can result in bone demineralization in breastfeeding women.

Similarly, children under age 5 who are reared on vegetarian and vegan diets can suffer impaired growth. That's because of the potential for a vitamin B12 deficiency, which can also result in anemia and vitamin D deficiency which can cause rickets. DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid found mostly in fish, is important for optimal brain development the first 2 years of life. Consult a registered dietitian who can help design a well-planned diet that can meet all the nutritional needs.

Key Nutrients for Vegetarians and Vegans

The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers dietary guidelines for vegetarians on its web site. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is another good source for dietary recommendations.

Regardless of the kind of meat-free diet practiced, vegetarians should focus on getting enough protein, iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin B12, riboflavin, alpha-linolenic acid, and vitamin D.

Here are some ways to incorporate these nutrients into a vegetarian diet:
  • Protein: Choose tofu, edamame, tempeh, veggie burgers with 5 grams of protein or more, beans and other legumes, nuts, nut butters, eggs, and higher-protein whole grains such as quinoa, amaranth, and kamut.
  • Iron: Eggs, fortified breakfast cereals, soy-based foods, dried prunes, dried apricots, nuts, beans, legumes, and fortified whole wheat bread are good choices.
  • Calcium, which builds bone, is plentiful in cheese, yogurt, milk, edamame, tofu, almonds, sesame tahini, calcium-fortified orange juice, calcium-fortified non-dairy beverages like soy or almond milk, and dark green leafy vegetables like collard greens, spinach, and bok choy.
  • Zinc, which boosts the immune system, is ample in soybeans, soy milk, veggie "meats," eggs, cheese and yogurt, fortified breakfast cereals, nuts, seeds, mushrooms, lentils, black-eyed peas, split peas, and wheat germ.
  • Vitamin B12: Soy-based beverages, some breakfast cereals, and fortified veggie "meats."
  • Riboflavin: Almonds, fortified cereals, cow's milk, yogurt, mushrooms, and soy milk are riboflavin-rich foods.
  • Alpha-Linolenic Acid (Omega-3): Canola oil, ground flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, walnuts, walnut oil, soybeans, and tofu are good choices.



Source: WebMD

You can find older posts regarding ASEAN politics and economics news at SBC blog, and older posts regarding health and healthcare at IIMS blog. I thank you.

Is My Medical Condition Making Me Angry?


Anger is a natural, healthy emotion. But frequent outbursts can be harmful to your health. You could have some emotions you need to sort through, or there could be a medical reason. A number of conditions and some medical treatments have rage as a side effect.


Could It Be Alzheimer’s?

As this form of dementia progresses, people tend to lash out in frustration. It can be especially tough on the caregiver to deal with sudden bouts of fury. Anger is a common symptom, so caregivers should take a step back and look for the immediate cause, whether it’s physical discomfort or trouble communicating.

Could It Be Anxiety Drugs or Sleeping Pills?

Benzodiazepines are widely prescribed for a number of anxiety conditions such as panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Doctors also may use them treat insomnia. Fits of anger are a rare but harmful side effect of these drugs, especially for those with an already aggressive personality.

Could It Be Autism?

Anger is not unusual for people on the autism spectrum. The rage can come on suddenly, seemingly from nowhere, and then vanish just as quickly. Triggers include stress, sensory overload, being ignored, and a change in routine. A person with autism spectrum disorder may have trouble communicating, making things even harder. They may not even realize they are acting out of anger. Part of the solution is becoming more aware of themselves and situations.

Could It Be Cholesterol Medicine?

Statins are widely prescribed to lower cholesterol. But some studies show that these drugs are connected to aggression as well. Experts say that low cholesterol also lowers levels of serotonin (your happiness hormone), which can lead to a short temper and depression.

Could It Be Depression?

Irritability often goes along with despair. Depressed men in particular are more likely to have violent explosions. It’s often described as “anger turned inward,” but it can be turned outward, too. This mood disorder is treatable with medication and therapy.

Could It Be Diabetes?

When you're told you have a serious illness like diabetes, you're likely to have a lot of emotions, including anger. People might resent having to change their lifestyle. They might also be scared about how it will affect their future. With diabetes, there is a link between lower-than-normal blood sugar numbers and flying off the handle. This is because the hormones used to control your glucose (sugar) levels are the same ones used to regulate your stress. Keeping your glucose in check will help.

Could It Be Epilepsy?

An epileptic seizure is an electrical disturbance in the brain. It can cause uncontrollable shaking and even loss of consciousness. That can be scary and confusing for someone. It's rare, but sometimes people lash out right after having a seizure. People with epilepsy are also more likely to feel self-conscious, depressed, and anxious. Sometimes anti-seizure medicines can cause behavior changes or outbursts, particularly in kids.

Could It Be Liver Failure?

Chinese medicine ties chronic anger with poor liver function. Left untreated, inflammation, the early stages of diseases like cirrhosis and hepatitis, can damage the liver. When this organ fails, it stops removing toxic substances from the body. The buildup of poisons can lead to hepatic encephalopathy, a brain disorder that causes personality changes and loss of control.

Could It Be PMS or Menopause?

Some men might joke about it, but the agitation felt during a woman’s period is real. With premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a more intense but less frequent form of PMS, anger can be extreme. Levels of estrogen and progesterone (hormones) fall the week before a woman's period. This in turn can affect her serotonin levels. The drop in hormones is also the reason for the moodiness associated with menopause.

Could It Be a Stroke?

A stroke can physically damage the brain. And if it strikes the area responsible for emotions, this can lead to changes in behavior like a rise in irritability. This new shift is typical after such a life-changing scare.

Could It Be an Overactive Thyroid?

Hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. This hormone has a direct effect on a person’s mood, linking the condition with a rise in tension and anxiety. It's treated with medication.

Could It Be Wilson’s Disease?

This rare genetic defect causes a buildup of copper in the liver or brain. If the disease attacks the frontal lobe of the brain, which is tied to personality, it can cause aggravation and fury.

If you think one of these conditions or treatments might be causing your rage, talk to your doctor.

Need help managing your anger? Ask your doctor to refer you to a counselor.

Here are some other useful tips:

o    Try deep breathing and positive self-talk.
o    Talk through your feelings and seek the support of others.
o    Keep a log of your angry thoughts.
o    Learn to assert yourself in healthy, productive ways.
o    Look for the humor in situations.

Soucre WebMD

You can find older posts regarding ASEAN politics and economics news at SBC blog, and older posts regarding health and healthcare at IIMS blog. I thank you.