‘Pie hole’, colloquial for one’s mouth, is believed to have evolved in the USA in the 1980s from the British expression ‘cake hole’ (coined in the mid 20th century). Pie hole refers to a mouth, as in: Shut your pie hole or, in this case: Put less in your pie hole.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Slippery Slope of Sleeplessness pt I

Remember as a kid you wanted to stay up all night? If you've babysat a kid lately and heard the bedtime protest, maybe you've thought to yourself... Geez, I'll go to bed and you can stay up! Sleep is something that eludes many adults. It's stressful being a grown up and dealing with bills, work and Instagram. But children are starting to share in our grown up sleep-deficiency. Why is this a problem? Let us count the ways...

First up, it's worth knowing how much sleep you actually need:
  • Infants - 12-17 hours
  • Toddlers - 11-14 hours
  • Preschoolers - 10-13 hours
  • School age - 9-11 hours
  • Teens - 8-10 hours 
  • Adult years - 9-10 hours
Detailed description here.

The importance of sleep at a basic level covers things like mood, well-being, the ability to function by way of constructing a complete sentence or concentrating effectively at school/work, and "health".
 "Health" is a very broad. For the purpose of this article, let's break it down to these:
  • Sleep disorders
  • Diet
  • Obesity
Research finds 25-50% of preschoolers don't get enough sleep. The study found sleep-disordered breathing (including snoring, sleep apnea and mouth-breathing) strongly predicted obesity risk.

How does that work?
People who don't sleep enough are at a higher risk of obesity. People who don't sleep enough experience changes in their metabolism and hormone levels responsible for regulating hunger and appetite. Thus, feeling hungry and eating more is a sorry side effect for sleep-deprived zombies.

A vicious cycle
If lack of sleep increases one's risk of obesity, how does gaining more weight and becoming more obese impact one's ability to sleep? Negatively. Worsening one, worsens the other. Morbid yes, but face this ugly truth we must.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type of apnea. OSA is characterised by repeated events of upper airway obstruction occurring whilst sleeping. It often includes snoring, fragmented sleep and daytime sleepiness. Some sobering stats about OSA:
  • Prevalence of OSA in obese people is 30%
  • Prevalence of OSA in morbidly obese people is 50-98%
  • 60-90% of OSA patients are overweight 
Fatty tissue accumulated on the abdomen, neck and chest, and within the walls/muscles lining the airway (all associated with obesity) contribute to restricted upper airway size... Thus, OSA. Think about it, sleeping with a 50lb sack of sand on your chest would probably make breathing difficult... Or your boob-job went horribly wrong (sorry, no photo for that).

The good news: Weight reduction leads to substantial OSA improvement.
What to do?
Research found that young shorter-sleepers had significantly higher obesity markers (eg: BMI, body fat, waist and hip circumference and fat mass index). They also had poorer diet quality, which includes things like not eating enough fruit, veg and fish.

Weight gain is particularly associated with lack of sleep in younger age groups (1, 2). It is therefore pertinent to "get on this" when kids are young. Setting kids up for a healthy, happy adulthood is kinda important... and it starts all in the bedroom.

In the next installment of The Slippery Slope of Sleeplessness (pt II) we'll examine your bedside manner and how you stack up in the bedroom department. Sleep on it till next article.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Got Milk for Your Aging Brain?

In articles gone by, we've discussed at length kids and milk, kids not drinking milk, parents forcing kids to drink milk, inventive ways for kids to eat dairy other than milk, and the importance of parents setting an example by actually drinking milk. It's about time we get grandma and grandpa on the bandwagon. Milk consumption in oldies is actually important too, and for more than just bones.

A new study finds milk consumption in older adults is linked to higher levels of glutathione in the brain.

What is glutathione, you ask?
Well, it has a couple of functions, but for this here article let it be known as a potent antioxidant produced by our bodies. As such, it helps protect against oxidative stress.
 
And what precisely is oxidative stress?
Damage to tissues, cells, DNA, etc.. Caused by free radicals (molecules in an "excited" state that bounce around, bump into things, and cause damage). Antioxidants are able to convert these harmful molecules into harmless ones.

Low levels of glutathione and/or high levels of oxidative stress, are associated with many diseases including type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and more.

After age 45, glutathione levels start to recede... Not unlike one's hairline. How food may impact glutathione is a relatively new area of research. Preliminary results show an association in healthy older adults (average age 69) who drank milk, and ate cheese/calcium-rich foods and higher levels of brain glutathione. Who knew milk would be the newest "brain food" poster child?
Things to know:
  • Dairy foods may serve as a good source of building blocks for glutathione in the brain
  • This research used healthy older adults as subjects, results may differ in different age groups or if there are complicating chronic conditions involved
  • Thus far, oral glutathione supplementation in healthy people doesn't appear to reduce oxidative stress - so put down the pill bottle and steer your motorised scooter away from Walgreens...
If you've learned anything here today, it's that dairy appears a powerful component in the production of the potent antioxidant, glutathione, which is important in preventing disease, promoting health and possibly prolonging life. So just because you're old enough to grow a mustache doesn't mean you don't need a milk mustache.
Han Solo.. I mean, Harrison Ford has the right idea.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How to Police Pint-Sized Pie Holes

When it comes to kids and food, there are often two extremes: The militant, health freak parents... Or the exact opposite. The media publicised recent research showing pint-sized pie holes were pigging out on plentiful portions of pizza-pies. Should we let kids be kids: have their pizza and eat it too, or is there perhaps a more palatable plan?

The way children eat and view food is strongly tied to the attitudes and behaviours of their parents (more on that here, here, and here). If daddy sits down to dinner and says "green beans, yuck..." and then turns to little Tommy and says "eat your vegetables", what message does little Tommy get? (Daddy's a hypocrite.)

Convenience, laziness (often going hand in hand) and lack of moderation are recurring cornerstones of western living. Pizza just happens to be the food of the day.

Certain 'unnatural', 'unhealthy', 'processed' foods, like pizza, trigger the human brain into addictive eating. New research shows some foods are more addicting than others. Foods high in fat and simple sugars (eg: pizza, cake, chocolate and soda) were more addictive than less processed foods (eg: a steak or apple). The vilification of food is a dangerous thing... But can you have your cake (or pizza) and eat it too?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends my favourite 'm' word regarding what children eat. Guessed it yet? Moderation! They recommend:
  • Looking at the whole diet to determine its adequacy and healthfulness
  • Foods and food constituents (sugar, fat, etc) shouldn't be 'banned'
  • Parents step and and take responsibility (see the parents & school checklist here)
Say no to saying no to junk food, sometimes
Discipline is difficult. Discipline comes in many forms. Discipline and its execution takes strength and resilience. Discipline around food and eating are "teachable moments" delivered on a silver platter with a cherry on top.

Eating healthy isn't about rules, banning foods, vilifying ingredients or bad-mouthing cake and pizza. Remember that article where I told you to "eat those rules"? I meant it. Eating mindfully, enjoying all foods in moderation and not overthinking it are solid foundations for healthy pie holes (pint-sized and full grown.)

What to write home about:
  • Unhealthy foods are not the devil
  • Moderation rather than restriction
  • Parental pro-activeness includes teaching children about healthy foods and portion sizes
  • Parental pro-activeness also includes stepping up, leading by example and making healthy food available and desirable  
  • Think mindful eating vs mindlessly mowing through a tray of chocolate muffins
So can you have your cake and eat it too? I say, yes you can! Sometimes.