Smoking Does Not Keep You Slim – But There Is a Male/Female Difference

July 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Health, Medical Research & Studies

There are many health myths that we hold as truth: the last biscuit on the plate contains no calories, my grandfather drank a bottle of whisky every day of his life and died at 101 so alcohol won’t harm me and perhaps the most common is that smoking helps keep you slim so giving up means becoming hugely overweight.

In one of my previous jobs I was Press Officer to Northern Ballet and bizarrely as it seemed to me most of the dancers smoked. You would think needing the best stamina and lung capacity would militate against it but, particularly for the girls, it was seen as an easy way to suppress appetite and control weight.

Now new research from the Nordic School of Public Health (NHV) in Sweden shows that smoking doesn’t help you get thinner, despite what we may believe. While cigarette smoking has decreased in western countries, obesity has increased and recent studies have suggested that today’s smokers may have less weight problems than non-smokers. Lisa Webb, Master of Public Health at NHV, set up a study in which over 6,000 people have participated in a study on the relationship between smoking and obesity.

They used two measure of body fat: BMI (body mass index) and WHR (waist hip ratio) and what surprised them was the definite difference between the results for men and women. Compared with non-smoker, both male and female smokers had a higher WHR but women had a lower BMI.

So if you are looking to use not giving up smoking because you don’t want to put on weight, then that is no longer viable. One other interesting finding was that the difference between the WHR among female smokers and women who had never smoked actually increased during the study. So if you want to improve your waist hip ratio then giving up smoking will definitely improve your chances of that.

Allergies Affect More Than Your Physical Health

March 15, 2011 by  
Filed under Childrens Health, Health

If you live in Britain you are more likely to be allergic to plums than your neighbours in Italy and Spain where peaches and apricots are responsible for a high number of allergic reactions. Apples are more likely to be a problem in France and Germany while celery and fennel make more “victims” in Switzerland and Holland. The differences depend on the various degrees of exposure to pollen or on dietary habits, but also on the diversity of allergens found in fruits and vegetables in different countries.
Allergic reactions of course affect your health but new research by The European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology is showing that there is an emotional impact as well.

The Academy is a non-profit organisation active in the field of allergic and immunologic diseases such as asthma, rhinitis, eczema, occupational allergy, food and drug allergy and anaphylaxis and was founded in 1956 in Florence. It is now the largest medical association in Europe in the field of allergy and clinical immunology with 6100 members from 107 countries and they were interested to study the emotional response to allergies in children.

What they found was that children who are allergic to food are found to be suffering from anxiety and are increasingly more lonely; with one allergic child out of five never attending peers’ parties, while one in four always brings along “safe” food. This level of anxiety and isolation has a dramatic impact on their quality of life as their normally active and sociable lifestyle can be severely limited and frustrated by the effort to keep them away from potentially dangerous food.

It is not just food they are giving up, but also physical activity as around 5 to 15 per cent of cases of anaphylactic shock can be triggered by physical activity following the consumption of small amounts of allergenic food that would otherwise be harmless, so one allergic child out of ten also stops every kind of exercise altogether. A study done in the hospital of the University of Padua in Italy found a staggering 17 percent of allergic children, regardless of their age, never go to a party or a picnic with friends, while 24 percent are forced to bring along something to eat.

Nor does this just apply to children: allergies are often downplayed as a minor problem, but the life of an allergic person can be hell. It is estimated that over 8.5 million people every Spring by reactions to pollen for instance. Those affected tend to be more afraid of being sick and have a higher level of anxiety about food and this constant alarm surrounding their health is taking a toll on their development and well-being.”

Another concern is that one out of three allergic patients leave home without their medication, despite the fact that it can immediately reverse any symptoms in most cases.

What Can You Do?
The Institute recommends that to prevent the spread of allergies in children their parents and any adults who come into regular contact with the child should stop smoking and improve their immunity by boosting their immune system. This is as simple as avoiding processed foods and eating good quantities of fruit and vegetables, together with supplements of antioxidants and vitamin D and herbal remedies like Echinacea can be highly effective.

Also there is hope that yoghurt can help food allergies for both prevention and treatment, but it needs to be a live probiotic yoghurt. Probiotics have an effect on the immune system and restore optimal intestinal flora and this may help the body to properly recognize the allergens, without triggering a response to food that is, in itself, harmless. Lactic acid bacteria have a well-known anti-inflammatory effect, which means that they can help ease the symptoms of food allergies.

Not all types of probiotics have been shown to prevent or ease allergic symptoms though so yoghurt alone may not do the trick, but it certainly would be a good ingredient to add to the diet of anyone with food allergies – and if the allergy is to lactose then goat or sheep yoghurt could do the trick – personally I find sheep yoghurt very smooth and mild though goat is an acquired taste!

An Effective 6 Week Plan to Give Up Smoking

February 8, 2011 by  
Filed under featured, Health

I am not sure how many people there are out there who still smoke, but if you are one of them – or know someone who is – then this new book claims to help, even if you have no willpower! Think I will pass it on to the group who huddle out in the shelter of the doorway outside our choir rehearsal room whenever we have a break!

‘Love Not Smoking’ (£8.99) is the brainchild of Professors Karen Pine and Ben Fletcher and what it offers is a simple, effective, 6 week programme that guides the reader into being smoke free for good without beating them over the head with a sharp implement every time they reach for a cigarette. Leave the beating over the head to their fellow non-smokers!

Professors Ben (C) Fletcher and Karen Pine are both professors of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire and have pioneered successful behaviour change using their Do something Different technique and their research is internationally recognized, published in academic journals and presented at conferences worldwide.
They focus on motivating the smoker to quit so they can realise that they’ll “love not smoking” and get to put lots more back into their life. Giving up smoking does leave a void, so the book doesn’t preach or lecture the reader about how much they’ve smoked in the past or why they should be giving up now. Its unique approach is more holistic in its outlook and treats the individual’s psychology and their behaviours, not just their habit.

The authors’ tools and techniques are based on groundbreaking research about why people get trapped or stuck with particular habits and then enable them to break free. At its simplest it is about recognizing habits and patterns (like always having a cigarette after a meal, or with a coffee) and offering suggestions on how to change to make quitting easier.

It is all about doing something different and not being judgmental or beating yourself up if you haven’t managed to quit before. They suggest you forget willpower and withdrawal – or even the crutch that is the nicotine patch – and with this powerful method they claim you can break the cycle and pattern of smoking. With daily tasks, inspirational ideas and a wide range of instant habit-breaking tools you even get a Love Not Smoking support network on Facebook where you can share stories and get support from fellow quitters.

If you order a copy now you will have read it in plenty of time for NO SMOKING DAY on March 9th – could be a great day to start putting a plan into action – and if you have a Kindle reader there is a free download of an extract from the book at Amazon, just go here: Start to Love Not Smoking: Free Introductory Extract

March 2011 Update: The Love Not Smoking App for Iphone & Andriod is available now!

If you are a smoker, or have a loved one who smokes and wants to quit then the Love Not Smoking App will help you on your journey. It’s National No Smoking day on the 9th March so there’s no better time to start afresh and stop smoking for good.

This unique, six week scientifically-proven psychological programme retrains your brain, breaking old smoking habits and changing your life for good. The programme gets you ready gradually for your first smoke-free day, then provides daily bursts of advice and support to establish your new, smoke-free life. It has a wide range of tools including:

Daily tips, tasks and alerts
Inspirational videos from the authors
Illustrated Habit-Breaker cards
Addictive games for those Twitchy Finger moments
Inspire Me! messages to help you beat your cravings
Money Saved calculator
Love Not Smoking wallpaper for your iPhone or iPad
Advice and ideas from the Love Not Smoking Facebook support group
Integration with Twitter and email to help spread the word to your loved ones

Check out more info here:

Why low cholesterol is not always a good thing

I know that in the media there is a lot of emphasis placed on the dangers of high cholesterol, however what many people fail to realise is that cholesterol is essential for your health. It’s present in every single cell in your body where it helps to produce cell membranes, hormones, vitamin D and bile acids to help you digest fat.

Cholesterol also helps in the formation of your memories and is vital for neurological function, and now scientists have discovered that there is one specific area where having low levels of one type of cholesterol has been linked to memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease.

Scientists studied more than 3,500 civil servants to investigate how levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol were associated with memory. HDL cholesterol can influence the formation of the beta-amyloid “plaques” that are a distinctive feature in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Higher levels of HDL are also believed to protect against damage to blood supply caused by the narrowing of the arteries.

After the five-year study period, the researchers found that people with low levels of HDL were 53% more likely to suffer memory loss than people with the highest levels of HDL. Those with impaired memory are at an increased risk of developing dementia later in life, and that is not the only area where low cholesterol levels can cause you health problems.

The Risks of Low Cholesterol

Other risks related to neurological function are depression, suicidal tendencies and may lead to violent behaviour and aggression. Cholesterol levels that are too low can also increase your risk of cancer and Parkinson’s disease so trying to reduce your cholesterol to unreasonably low levels is doing your long-term health no favours.

Why do cholesterol levels rise?

High cholesterol has become such a hot topic that many people don’t realise that it is not a disease in itself. It is actually a perfectly normal response when something has gone wrong and your body needs to make new, healthy cells. Because cholesterol is produced whenever your cells become damaged, it will show as high cholesterol levels, but if you have a lot of damaged cells, you’re also going to have a lot of cholesterol in your bloodstream. This is a good thing, because it means your cells are being repaired.

Instead of just trying to reduce the high cholesterol, it makes more sense to search for what’s causing the damage in the first place, rather than moving straight on to cholesterol-lowering drugs.

One of the most common causes of high cholesterol is inflammation, and that can be brought on by a number of factors, including:

** Too many processed foods
** Smoking
** Not enough exercise
** Emotional stress

Healthy cholesterol levels are essential to keep your cells functioning at their best, and all of those risk factors above are within your control so that might be the place to start. If stress is the issue, have a look at the website for my book on How To Cope Successfully With Stress at

Prostate health and Zinc

As I am a great believer in pro-active health care, there is another story about prostate health that came up this week that I thought might prove revealing. The risk of prostate cancer is increased if a man is exposed to enough cadmium, a toxic heavy metal that many people are regularly exposed to. It is present in cigarette smoke, so anyone exposed to that – even secondhand – is at risk.

Cadmium is also an environmental pollutant, pumped into the air by various industries and the burning of coal and household wastes. Once airborne, cadmium can travel long distances, eventually falling to ground or into water. We can then ingest it through our diet; particularly from fish and shellfish or vegetables grown in soil that has absorbed cadmium from the air water. According to the Department of Health and Human Resources, “Cadmium stays in the body a very long time and can build up from many years of exposure to low levels. However, it is not all doom and gloom because just adding a little of the mineral zinc to your diet can counteract its effects as US researchers at Rochester have found. Apparently, zinc prompts the production of a protein that binds cadmium to help move the toxin out of the body. Plus, zinc enhances your immune system, helps repair damaged tissues, inhibits the abnormal clotting that contributes to cardiovascular disease, assists in maintaining healthy vision, and is one of the key elements required for DNA reproduction and repair. Sounds like it’s worth increasing in your diet doesn’t it? Good dietary sources of zinc include cabbage, red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, whole grains, and dairy products.

Women smokers at greater risk for heart attacks

Traditionally women have enjoyed a natural shield against a major cardiac event such as a heart attack. Being a woman has ensured a huge nine year barrier before women become more prone to heart disease, but now a new finding has been reported by the American Heart Association. A study of more than 7,000 men and women undertaken at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore has found that women who smoke eliminate that beneficial barrier and their risk of a heart attack is exactly the same as a man’s.

In real terms, this means that up to now, women who do not smoke would not normally present with heart problems until on average around the age of 71 but women smokers are being seen with heart problems at around the age of 62. That is a loss of nine years, but if you need an even greater incentive to give up – or persuade the woman in your life to do so = then the researchers also found that if a woman quits smoking for at least six months, her risk factors for heart attacks reverts to average.

Interestingly, the analysis of men showed virtually the same, although men only lost 3.8 years because of smoking. Men who didn’t smoke tended to show up with a heart attack at age 61; men who smoked showed up at the emergency room when they were 57.

A final cheery note from the director of the New York University Women’s Health Program. “Smoking among women causes heart attacks, lung disease, and wrinkles so this study is just another reason for women to quit or never start. It takes nine years off your life.”