HEALTHY HELPINGS

By AFM Staff – June 1, 2016
PHOTOS COURTESY OF HUFFINGTONPOST.COM

It’s been said that yoga is good for the body and mind, but a recent study questioned exactly how beneficial it is for your brain. The researchers examined 25 adults over the age of 55 who had mild cognitive impairment, mostly with memory or issues that preceded Alzheimer’s disease. The participants were randomly assigned to complete either a three-month course in yoga and meditation, or to practice memory-training exercises, consisting of skills and tricks already known to boost memory. At the end of the study, the two groups saw similar improvements in their verbal memory, which is the type of memory used when people remember names or lists of words. But those who practiced yoga had greater improvements in visual-spatial memory, the type of memory used to recall locations and navigate while driving.
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According to a study conducted by Canadian researchers, drinking diet soda and other artificially sweetened beverages during pregnancy is associated with having overweight 1-year-olds. They looked at 3,033 mothers who delivered healthy babies between the years 2009 and 2012, and had completed diet questionnaires during their pregnancies. Then they examined the babies when they were a year old. Out of all the women who took part, almost 30 percent drank artificially sweetened beverages during pregnancy.

After controlling for maternal body mass index, age, breastfeeding duration, maternal smoking, maternal diabetes, timing of the introduction of solid foods and other factors, the researchers found that compared with women who drank no diet beverages, those who drank, on average, one can of diet soda a day doubled the risk of having an overweight 1-year-old.

The study’s findings, published in JAMA Pediatrics, found no association with infant birth weight, suggesting that the effect is on postnatal, not fetal, growth. The mother’s consumption of sugarsweetened drinks was not associated with increased risk for overweight babies.
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In many health-focused studies, participants are asked to change a single variable to highlight its effect on our lives or bodies. However, researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, took an opposite approach by challenging the minimalistic method. They wondered if it was better to address all of our bad habits at once rather than try to make incremental changes to our lives. The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience examined 31 college students, who tend to have flexible daily schedules, through a series of physical, cognitive and emotional tests and gave them brain scans. While half of them continued with their regular routines, the other half overhauled their lives completely. They were put on a schedule of frequent forms of stretching, exercising, and meditation, in addition to attending lectures on nutrition and sleep. After six weeks, a final assessment was completed. The control group showed no changes, while the other group reported improved mood and self-esteem. Additionally, aside from becoming stronger and more flexible, brain scans showed an increase in ability to focus.
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