( Natural News ) Cancer has been on the rise in recent years, with statistics from the American Cancer Society (ACS) estimating a grand total of more than 1.7 million new cancer cases in the US. Researchers from the ACS found that at least 42 percent of these newly diagnosed cancer cases – about 740,000 – are avoidable. This includes the 19 percent of cancers caused by smoking and the 18 percent caused by a combination of excess body weight, high alcohol intake, poor nutrition and lack of physical activity. Certain lifestyle changes help reduce the risk of cancer, but nature can also bring some surprising cancer-fighting benefits that will help you stay healthy and cancer-free . Natural ways to prevent cancer
One way to reduce your risk of cancer is through your diet. In fact, maintaining an overall healthy diet is a good line of defense against many health problems, including obesity and cardiovascular disease. Here are some reasons why a healthy diet is a good way to curb cancer:
> Decreases inflammation . Recent studies have shown that there is a link between inflammation and cancer progression. According to a study in the journal Nature, many of these cancers can start from a point of infection , chronic irritation and inflammation. Cox -2, for instance, is an enzyme responsible for both increasing inflammation and promoting cancer. This calls for increased awareness of anti-inflammatory foods and supplements to reduce the harmful effects of such compounds. For example, curcumin, the active ingredient of the spice turmeric, is widely known for its potent anti-inflammatory effects used in traditional medicine for hundreds of years. You can also include fatty fish like salmon and tuna in your diet, which are chock-full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids that also possess anti-inflammatory properties .
Prevents DNA damage . Many cancers begin with some sort of DNA damage that triggers the cells to become cancerous. One of the main suspects of DNA damage is oxidative stress caused by the accumulation of harmful molecules known as free radicals. Oxidative stress not only leaves you more vulnerable to cancer, but also increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes. You can prevent this by eating foods that are rich in antioxidants , compounds that can combat oxidative stress. These foods include blueberries, pecans and kale.
Triggers apoptosis. When a healthy cell reaches the end of its existence, it undergoes a process called apoptosis or cell death. Cancer cells, however, work differently. They ignore the signals that trigger this process and keep replicating. Nutrients like curcumin and those found in cruciferous vegetables – namely DIM I3C – can destroy cancer cells and promote their self-destruction.
Prevents metastasis. Cancers, like breast cancer, are often characterized by metastasis or the spread to nearby organs like the lungs, liver and even the brain. Certain nutrients like sulforaphane – found in cruciferous vegetables — can help inhibit the tumor’s ability to spread.
Stops blood vessels from feeding tumors. Once a tumor develops, it needs a steady supply of blood to keep growing. To do so, the body develops new blood vessels. This process is called angiogenesis. There are anti-angiogenic foods that can help inhibit this process. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which is found in abundance in green tea, is especially effective against angiogenesis.
Blocks abnormal estrogen production. Inhibitors can block the production of estrogen in the body and can lead to some serious side effects. Fortunately, there are plenty of natural ways to regulate your hormones . For example, lignans from flax seeds can bind excess aggressive estrogens present in the body and expel them. The hormone melatonin – found in cherries – can put breast cancer cells to “sleep.”
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Stay cancer-free by adopting a healthy, balanced diet full of organic and fresh foods to help you live a much longer and healthier life.
Melatonin is known for its role in sleep control, but it has a range of other roles and potential benefits. Optimal levels will ensure proper sleep quality, brain and gut health, reduced inflammation, and more. Read on to learn the factors that increase or decrease melatonin levels and discover potential synergies. Factors That Increase Melatonin Levels
Melatonin levels are a marker of sleep quality and overall health. Low or high levels don’t necessarily indicate a problem if there are no symptoms or if your doctor tells you not to worry about it. Improving your melatonin levels won’t necessarily cause improvement in sleep quality.
The following is a list of factors that may balance low melatonin levels. Though studies suggest various dietary and lifestyle factors may increase melatonin, additional large-scale studies are needed. Remember to talk to your doctor before making any major changes to your day-to-day routine. 1) Melatonin Supplements
In a review of 35 studies, researchers found that melatonin supplementation slightly improves sleep quality [ 1 ].
Melatonin shows promise in improving insomnia and reducing jet lag. It also does not have any serious side effects [ 1 ].
Although the optimal dosage is not yet determined, researchers recommend a lower dosage range. Even at low dosages, there is already a significant increase in melatonin levels after administration [ 2 ].
The recommended dosage range for elderly adults is 0.3 – 2 mg, around 1 hour before bedtime [ 2 ]. 2) Vitamins and Minerals
Folate and vitamin B6 boost the formation of serotonin , which is the precursor of melatonin [ 3 ].
In rats, vitamin B6 injections enhance melatonin production. After two months of B6 injections, the blood level of melatonin increased by 35.95% [ 4 ].
Additionally, zinc and magnesium increase the formation of melatonin from serotonin. They bind and activate the AANAT enzyme. This increases the affinity of serotonin for binding to AANAT [ 3 ].
Zinc supplementation increases melatonin levels in rats [ 5 ]. 3) Food and Drinks
4) Traditional Chinese Herbs
Factors That Increase/Activate Melatonin Receptor Activity
Agonists (activators) are agents, usually drugs, which bind and increase the activity of a receptor. The following are melatonin activators. Ramelteon is a selective MT1 and MT2 activator. Its binding affinity to melatonin receptors is higher than melatonin itself. It is used to treat insomnia [ 14 , 15 ].
Factors that Decrease Melatonin Levels
Beta blockers: Beta blockers are drugs that help lower blood pressure. Beta blockers decrease melatonin release. They do this by inhibiting specific receptors [ 17 ].
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) : NSAIDs, including aspirin and several other over the counter painkiller drugs, suppress nighttime melatonin levels [ 18 ].
2) Blue Light Exposure At Night
Blue light exposure at night can reduce melatonin levels and narrow the time window of melatonin secretion [ 19 ]. 3) Other Factors
Aging : The pineal gland, which produces melatonin, contains cells called pinealocytes. The number of pinealocytes decreases with age. This then decreases melatonin production [ 3 ].
Fasting : Fasting reduces the nighttime secretion of melatonin. Short-term fasting from 2 to 7 days reduces blood melatonin levels by 20% [ 3 ].
Nutrient deficiencies : Folate, magnesium, and zinc deficiencies are linked with lower melatonin levels in rats [ 3 ].
Factors That Decrease/Block Melatonin Receptor Activity
During aging and Alzheimer’s disease, MT1 receptor expression in the SCN and cortex decreases. MT2 receptor expression is also reduced during Alzheimer’s disease [ 16 ].
Luzindole is a competitive MT2 melatonin receptor antagonist. This means it blocks receptor function [ 16 ]. Melatonin Potential Synergies Vitamin C , Vitamin D 3 , and Vitamin E are important antioxidants. Melatonin also has antioxidant activity. It can synergize with each vitamin individually to make a more powerful effect [ 21 , 22 , 23 ].In animals, alpha-lipoic acid works to scavenge free radicals. This means that it stops oxidative damage and has antioxidant activity [ 21 ].When used in combination with melatonin, alpha-lipoic acid stopped DNA damage 3 times more effectively than when it was used alone. Melatonin and alpha-lipoic acid worked together to protect calf DNA from oxidative stress [ 21 ]. Glutathione is a potent antioxidant that decreases lipid (fat) breakdown [ 22 ].Melatonin and glutathione combined had a greater antioxidant effect than when either was given individually. Their antioxidant activity combined to have a greater effect in rat livers [ 22 ].Melatonin also helps stimulate glutathione activity in rat brains. They work together to eliminate peroxides and free radicals that cause oxidative damage [ 24 ]. Selenium has free radical scavenger effects. It protects nerve cells and restores the activity of antioxidant enzymes [ 25 ].Melatonin and selenium work together to improve the treatment of brain ischemia and consequent damage in male rats. This combination helped reduce injury and prevented brain inflammation [ 25 ]. EGCG is responsible for most of the antioxidant effects of green tea . It prevents oxidative damage and protects cellular DNA [ 21 ].However, high doses of EGCG or green tea extracts can cause hepatotoxicity (liver damage). Melatonin reduces toxicity due to EGCG overdose [ 21 ].In one study, researchers gave mice toxic and lethal doses of EGCG. Melatonin extended the survival time of mice given toxic doses of EGCG. Meanwhile, it also helped reduce liver injury caused by a nonlethal toxic dose of EGCG [ 26 ]. Resveratrol has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. However, it can also exhibit pro-oxidant action and contribute to oxidative damage in excessive amounts [ 27 ].Resveratrol, in the presence of other antioxidants, loses its pro-oxidant action and acts as an antioxidant. Melatonin was highly effective in reversing resveratrol’s pro-oxidant DNA damage in calf DNA. However, they do not combine to make a greater (synergistic) antioxidant effect [ 21 ]. Learn More
Vitamin B3, also known as niacin, is found in a variety of foods. This nutrient is essential for the skin, heart, brain, gut, and more. As a supplement, it can improve blood lipids and skin complexion, while the effects on heart health are mixed. Read on to learn the benefits, food sources, dosage, and side effects of niacin. What is Niacin?
Vitamin B3 exists in two different forms: nicotinamide and nicotinic acid – sometimes collectively termed “niacin”. This vitamin is essential for the nervous system, digestion, skin health, and more [ 1 ].
A variety of whole and processed, fortified foods contain significant amounts of niacin. Deficiency is rare in the western world and usually limited to chronic health conditions. On the other hand, people from poor regions may lack this vitamin due to general malnutrition [ 2 ]. Health Benefits of Niacin
1) Blood Lipids
Niacin can improve blood lipids in multiple ways. A solid body of clinical evidence confirmed its potential to:
Based on these results, the FDA approved prescription niacin products for irregular blood lipids (dyslipidemia). These products typically come in doses of 500 mg or higher. On the other hand, dietary supplements contain 250 mg or less and thus may not have significant effects [ 8 ].
Niacin can improve blood lipids in patients with metabolic syndrome and also HIV/AIDS-related dyslipidemia [ 9 , 10 , 11 ].
Despite its potential to improve blood lipids, niacin doesn’t seem to prevent heart disease or reduce mortality (more details to follow) [ 12 , 13 ]. 2) Niacin Deficiency/Pellagra
Symptoms of a mild niacin deficiency include [ 14 ]: Indigestion
Severe niacin deficiency causes pellagra, which manifests with dermatitis, diarrhea, and dementia (known as the “three Ds”) [ 15 ].
Niacin (500-1000 mg daily) can resolve the symptoms within one week; it’s FDA-approved for the prevention and treatment of pellagra. Nicotinamide may be preferred over nicotinic acid because it doesn’t dilate the blood vessels [ 16 , 17 ]. 3) Skin Health
When applied topically to the skin (5%), niacin reduced fine lines, wrinkles, redness, and skin yellowing in 50 women after 12 weeks. It also improved skin elasticity [ 18 ].
In 196 women, a regiment of different skincare products with niacin was better tolerated more effective in reducing facial wrinkles than a prescription (tretinoin) treatment [ 19 ].
A 4% niacin formulation significantly reduced wrinkles in the eye area in 30 Japanese women [ 20 ]. 4) Cholera
Severe cholera can be lethal due to rapid fluid loss. In a study of 62 adults with cholera, 2 grams of niacin daily significantly reduced diarrhea and fluid loss [ 21 ].
No valid clinical evidence supports the use of niacin for any of the conditions in this section. Below is a summary of up-to-date animal studies, cell-based research, or low-quality clinical trials which should spark further investigation. However, you shouldn’t interpret them as supportive of any health benefit.
Despite the promising initial results, there’s insufficient clinical evidence to rate the effectiveness of niacin for:
Multiple older studies have indicated the potential of niacin – alone or in combination with other treatment options – to prevent heart disease and reduce related mortality [ 27 , 28 , 29 , 30 ].
However, more recent trials and comprehensive clinical reviews (over 39,000 patients included) failed to confirm these findings [ 12 , 13 , 31 , 32 ]. Important Mechanisms
Niacin Side Effects
When taken in recommended daily amounts, niacin is likely safe for healthy adults and pregnant women [ 36 ].
Flushing of the face is the most common side effect. It can result in burning, tingling, itching, and redness of the face, as well as headaches . It can occur because niacin dilates blood vessels [ 37 ].
An overdose of niacin can cause thrombocytopenia or low blood platelet count. This can cause bruising and excessive bleeding [ 37 ].Although there is no evidence that taking large doses of niacin can let you pass drug tests, there have been people who tried doing so. Niacin toxicity from extreme doses caused organ damage, fever, skin problems, and other health issues [ 38 ]. Niacin Sources You can meet daily vitamin B3 needs through diet. It is most abundant in [ 1 ]: Meat Eggs Fish Dairy products Vegetables Whole grains The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of niacin is 16 mg daily in adult men and 14 mg daily in adult women, which can easily be obtained from a normal diet since vitamin B3 is present in all animal, plant, and fungal food sources [ 1 ].For supplementation, studies safely used up to 1,000 mg daily, divided into multiple doses with meals [ 27 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 16 , 17 ].However, niacin can be toxic at high doses. You should not take doses higher than the RDA except under your doctor’s supervision [ 39 ].
Borage is a flowering herb full of fatty acids and antioxidants. Its oil has shown promise for premature infant growth, heart health, arthritis, and skin health. Read on to learn more. What is Borage?
Borage ( Borago officinalis ), also known as the Star Flower, is an herb native to parts of Asia, North Africa, and Europe [ 1 ].
Borage has been used since ancient times in Iranian traditional medicine as a tranquilizer. In the modern day, its oil is being researched as a potential aid in arthritis and respiratory distress [ 2 ]. Components
Polyunsaturated fatty acids make up a large portion of borage oil [ 2 ].
The herb is an excellent source of Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA), the compound responsible for many of the healing powers of borage. GLA helps maintain animal cell membranes’ structure and function. It is the precursor to many vital active compounds and hormones ( prostaglandins , thromboxanes, and leukotrienes ) [ 2 ].
Borage contains another fatty acid called stearidonic acid. Both stearidonic acid and GLA help treat conditions where people’s bodies lack these fatty acids, such as blood clotting, inflammation, and cancer [ 3 , 4 ]. Intermedin: a protein that aids in the normal function of the gut, heart, and other processes [ 8 ]
Saponins: a group of plant compounds, many of which have the potential to lower cholesterol [ 9 , 10 ]
Rosmarinic acid: an antioxidant fatty acid with potential activity against bacteria, inflammation, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease [ 13 ]
Polyphenols: a group of antioxidant plant compounds which are considered by some to be vital nutrients [ 15 , 16 ]
Borage leaves had high antioxidant activity when in hot water. Borage had high levels of tannins, flavonoids, and phenols. These compounds increase antioxidant capacity, which may protect against DNA damage and harmful mutations [ 7 ].
In one study of 38 participants, the subjects drank borage twice daily for 2 weeks. The total amount of antioxidants in their blood samples increased . This study attributed the herb’s ability to combat oxidative stress largely in its key antioxidants [ 17 ]. Potential Benefits of Borage
Borage oil supplements have not been approved by the FDA for medical use and generally lack solid clinical research. Regulations set manufacturing standards for them but don’t guarantee that they’re safe or effective. Speak with your doctor before supplementing. 1) Infant Growth
In a study of 238 premature infants, the infants were given borage and fish oil supplements for 9 months after birth. They had benefits in overall growth and development . However, there was no significant difference between the 2 groups in regards to brain development [ 18 ]. 2) Heart Health
In an 8-week study of 59 subjects, a combination of oils from borage and echium reduced total and LDL (bad) cholesterol . The oil also increased HDL (good) cholesterol levels and lessened the severity of type 2 diabetes in the short term [ 19 ].
In a 28-day study of 30 men, the participants had their heart response to stress tested. Those given borage oil supplement experienced lower blood pressure and heart rate and better performance under stress [ 20 ].
In mice, borage oil treatment protected against heart failure and heart attacks. Unlike other drugs and anti-inflammatory medicine, borage oil did not leave deformations or scars in heart tissue [ 21 ].
A borage oil diet in mice also reduced plaque buildup in the arteries that lead to coronary heart disease. The high amount of fatty acids in the oil reinforce cell membranes and blood, which is associated with improved heart health [ 22 ]. 3) Arthritis
In an 18-month study of 150 participants, the participants who took borage seed oil capsules had fewer rheumatoid arthritis symptoms [ 23 ].
Also, several studies demonstrated that borage seed oil reduced inflammation in the lining of joints (synovitis). Thus, the need for anti-inflammatory drugs was also reduced [ 24 , 25 , 26 ].
A GLA-rich diet reduced acute and chronic (long-term) inflammation in rats with arthritis [ 27 ]. 4) Skin Health
Borage oil contains high levels of omega-6 fats that are vital to the proper structure and function of the skin barrier [ 28 ].
Borage oil promotes a healthy skin barrier. In one study of 37 children, 3 to 4 weeks of topical borage oil treatment cleared skin symptoms of infantile seborrhoeic dermatitis [ 29 ].
In another study of 32 children with eczema, wearing undershirts coated with borage oil for 2 weeks improved their skin barriers. They also had relief from itch [ 30 ].
About 2 g of borage oil supplements a day increased skin hydration and reduced skin roughness and scaling in a study of 45 healthy women with sensitive and dry skin [ 31 ].
However, another study of borage oil supplements found no improvement to atopic dermatitis in 160 patients [ 32 ].Overall, the results have been more promising in trials of topical borage oil than in trials of oral borage supplements.The following purported benefits are only supported by limited, low-quality clinical studies. There is insufficient evidence to support the use of borage oil for any of the below-listed uses. Remember to speak with a doctor before taking borage supplements or using topical borage creams, and never use them in place of something your doctor recommends or prescribes. 5) Mental Health Borage extract capsules significantly reduced depression in 19 patients in a 6-week study. The borage oil contained flavonoids that contributed to antidepressant actions [ 33, 6, 34 ].In a similar, 6-week study of 24 people, borage extract capsules significantly reduced OCD symptoms and anxiety [ 35 ].In mice with an induced-brain decline, borage extract treatment helped maintain their brain function. Borage constituents reduced oxidative stress in the brain and therefore may be used for the treatment of memory impairment and Alzheimer’s disease [ 36 ].Borage extract also reduced anxiety in rats [ 37 ]. 6) Asthma Ingesting 5 mL of borage extract 3 times daily for […]
Even if you have never heard of it before, chances are you drank it. Glucuronolactone is a naturally-occurring substance and a lesser-known ingredient in energy drinks like Red Bull. It is also added to pre-workout supplements touted to increase physical performance, stamina, endurance, and detox. Find out if the popular claims about its benefits are valid and learn the potential dangers. What Is Glucuronolactone?
Glucuronolactone is a normal product of glucose breakdown in the liver. All connective tissues contain it, as well as many plant gums. The amounts found in food and those produced in the body, though, are negligible compared to the dosage in energy drinks and supplements [ 1 ].
Glucuronolactone is an ingredient in certain energy and sports drinks, such as Red Bull. As a supplement, it’s available in the powder/capsule form.
It is advertised as a supplement to enhance athletic performance, detoxify the liver, and reduce mental fatigue. However, clinical research about the specific effects of this compound is scant. Snapshot
Naturally occurring substance
No reported side effects and toxicity
Might have heart- and liver-protecting benefits
Might aid in cancer prevention
Combined with potentially harmful ingredients into energy drinks
Lack of clinical trials
Very few animal studies
Animal studies only examined its breakdown products
What Does Glucuronolactone Do?
Glucuronolactone converts to glucuronic acid in the body. This conversion occurs back and forth; there are equal amounts of each molecule in the body [ 2 ].
Glucuronic acid is involved in detox and the breakdown of glucose, as part of a specific pathway crucial for creating fatty acids, amino acids, and DNA components (known as the Pentose Phosphate Pathway) [ 3 ].
Upon glucuronolactone ingestion, glucuronic acid levels (in both blood and urine) will rapidly increase [ 4 ].
Glucuronic acid plays a key role in a detox pathway known as glucuronidation . It binds to chemical and environmental toxins, pharmaceutical drugs, and cancer-causing molecules. By joining with glucuronic acid, these toxins become [ 5 , 6 , 7 ]: More soluble
Transported faster in the body
Eliminated through urine or feces
Another product of glucuronolactone breakdown is called D-glucaro-1,4-lactone. About 25% of glucuronolactone is quickly converted to it. This compound is a potent inhibitor of beta-glucuronidase , an enzyme dominantly produced by your gut bacteria . Various tissues can also make it in lower amounts (the liver, spleen, kidney, gut, endocrine glands and sexual organs) [ 1 , 8 +].
Gut bacteria that make beta-glucuronidase can break down complex carbohydrates. However, this enzyme reverses the glucuronidation process, which slows down detox. Its levels rise with exposure to chemical and environmental pollutants, such as tobacco smoke and heavy metals [ 9 , 10 ].
High levels of beta-glucuronidase may point to [ 11 ]: Liver inflammation and cirrhosis Liver inflammation Tuberculosis Cancers: brain, colon, pancreatic, breast and prostate Potential Benefits of Glucuronolactone No valid clinical evidence supports the use of glucuronolactone for any of the conditions in this section. Below is a summary of up-to-date animal studies, cell-based research, or low-quality clinical trials which should spark further investigation. However, you shouldn’t interpret them as supportive of any health benefit. 1) Exercise Performance The effects of glucuronolactone on exercise performance and endurance have been studied in humans, but only as an ingredient in functional energy drinks.Taking a pre-workout energy supplement (mix of caffeine, taurine, glucuronolactone, beta-alanine , creatine , and amino acids) 10 minutes before resistance exercises significantly increased workout performance in eight resistance-trained men [ 12 ].In a clinical trial of 12 trained cyclists, consumption of Red Bull energy drink 40 minutes prior to exercise increased endurance and overall physical performance [ 13 ].That said, energy drinks contain numerous ingredients aside from glucuronolactone, including caffeine , taurine , glucose, and B-vitamins. Therefore, the observed benefits cannot be attributed to glucuronolactone alone. In a rat study, high doses of glucuronolactone enhanced physical performance and increased stamina given shortly before swimming exercises [ 14 ]. 2) Cognition (Nootropic Effects) In a study of 36 participants, drinking Red Bull (composed of sugar, taurine, glucuronolactone, and caffeine) led to significant improvements in attention, concentration, and memory [ 15 ].Drinking Red Bull improved driving quality, reduced variation in speed, and lowered mental strain from prolonged driving in 24 healthy volunteers [ 16 ].In an observational study of 10 graduate students, drinking Red Bull led to faster motor reaction time, improved attention and decision making when compared to the control group [ 17 ].Once again, Red Bull contains caffeine and other active ingredients that likely contributed to these results. In the lack of clinical research, we can’t estimate the nootropic effects of pure glucuronolactone. No clinical evidence supports the use of glucuronolactone for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based studies; they should guide further investigational efforts but should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit. 1) Blood Clotting and Antioxidant Protection In a study on human plasma, a product of glucuronolactone breakdown (D-glucaro 1,4-lactone) decreased damage to the blood proteins caused by free radicals. It reduced the excessive clumping of platelets that can lead to heart disease and stroke. This effect is amplified in combination with the antioxidant resveratrol , found in red wine [ 18 , 19 , 20 ]. 2) Liver Detox Glucuronolactone might protect the liver by enhancing the glucuronidation detoxification pathway.In rats with liver disease, D-glucuronolactone lowered liver inflammation ( IL-6 , NF-κB ) and tissue injury markers. In addition, it increased antioxidant liver enzyme activity ( SOD , glutathione , and glutathione peroxidase ) [ 21 ]. 4) Cancer Prevention Supplementation with a glucuronolactone breakdown product (D-glucaro 1,4-lactone) inhibited breast tumor growth in rats [ 22 ].In rats with liver cancer, the same compound increased survival rates from 45% to 70%. It also reduced the levels of a cancer marker, alpha-fetoprotein [ 23 ].Glucuronolactone plays a role in detoxifying the body from […]
For a long time, scientists believed that no part of the human brain could regenerate. What have we learned since our technology improved? This article explores whether new research offers hope for brain injury and goes over various factors that may either shrink or grow the brain.
“Once again, a flurry of new research is suggesting neurogenesis may be more common than previously thought.”
Comb jellyfish can regrow their rudimentary brains [ 1 ]. But in most mammals (including humans), neurogenesis largely ceases in adulthood. It has been observed in a few places, including the hippocampus, a relatively ancient part of the brain many animals share. In comparison, only humans have a developed neocortex [ 2 ].
The party line in neuroscience has been observational. First, we believed no part of the human brain could regenerate. And we’ve added exceptions as our technology has improved.
Who’s to say we won’t find more exceptions?
Nothing in neuroscience is absolute because the brain is still a black box.
When we sleep, the hippocampus reactivates and connects with various brain regions, including the cortex – the brain’s “crust” or outer layer – all the while emitting delta brainwaves. Scientists think that this may explain, in part, how our memories stabilize while we’re asleep. A study published in Science in 2019 suggests just this [ 3 ].
One part of the cortex is called the occipital cortex is smaller than a speck of dust and it revealed cell types we had never seen before. Nor do we know exactly how memories are stored, though various scientific theories have been proposed [ 3 ].
An older but widely accepted working theory stands on long-term potentiation ( LTP ): neurons that fire together wire together. But that’s more a description than an explanation. We don’t know what induces LTP. When scientists temporarily block certain kinases to prevent neuronal connection (reconsolidation), it often reverts back [ 4 ].
So, researchers emphasize that the brain is more than its connectome (set of neuronal connections). But exactly what–that’s a focus of ongoing research.
Does new research give hope to people struggling with brain injury? Perhaps, but it’s still too early to say. Research findings are mostly limited to animal experiments.
Further studies need to clarify the relevance of neurogenesis after traumatic brain injury in humans. Until then, people with brain injury shouldn’t keep their hopes too high.
For example, induction of adult neurogenesis has been observed in normally non-neurogenic regions of the brain in response to injury and death of neurons – in animals [ 5 ].
Scientists say that upon injury in the non-neurogenic regions, there have been reports of local precursor cells generating new neurons and migrating from the neurogenic to the non-neurogenic region [ 5 ].
This has been suggested to occur in the neocortex [ 6 ], striatum, and hippocampus as a result of ischemic brain injury in rats [ 7 , 8 ].
Neurons that were being generated in the subventricular zone were able to migrate to the injured striatum and differentiate into mature neurons in these animal experiments. Scientists have hypothesized that these migrated and matured cells may help repair neurological deficits, but this remains unproven [ 9 ].
Another study suggested that mice, in response to cortical lesions, may produce new neurons in the ventricular areas. The new neurons then migrated and populated to the cortical areas [ 10 ].
The authors mention that the migration and differentiation of neurons to nonneurogenic regions suggests the brain might have much more potent regenerative capabilities than previously imagined. How and whether this is relevant in humans is still highly uncertain [ 10 ].
Further studies need to clarify the relevance of neurogenesis after traumatic brain injury in humans.
This post explores associations between neurogenesis and aspects of health.
The majority of studies we discuss deal with associations only, which means that a cause-and-effect relationship hasn’t been established.
For example, just because memory and learning have been linked with neurogenesis doesn’t mean that increasing neurogenesis will improve these processes, unless clinical data about a direct link are available. However, data are lacking to make such claims.
Additionally, even if a study did find that neurogenesis contributes to brain recovery after TBI, neurogenesis is unlikely to be the only contributing factor. Complex processes like post-stroke or post-TBI recovery always involve multiple possible factors – including symptom severity, therapeutic modalities, brain chemistry, environment, health status, and genetics – that may vary from one person to another.
If your goal is to increase neurogenesis to improve your neurological issues – including those of traumatic brain injury – it’s important to talk to your doctor, especially your symptoms are significantly impacting your daily life.
Your doctor should diagnose and treat the condition causing your symptoms.
The existing evidence does not suggest that reduced neurogenesis causes any disease.Additionally, changes in brain chemistry are not something that people can change on their own with the approaches listed below. Instead, the factors listed here are meant to reduce daily stress and support overall mental health and well-being. Therefore, you may try the additional strategies listed below if you and your doctor determine that they could be appropriate . None of these strategies should ever be done in place of what your doctor recommends or prescribes.We’re providing a summary of the existing research below, which should guide further investigational efforts.The studies listed in the sections below were mostly done in animals and should not be interpreted as supportive of health benefits in humans. Factors to Avoid that May “Shrink” the Brain It’s always a good idea to avoid unhealthy habits – such as smoking, fast food, overeating, being under a lot of stress, and drinking too much – that can bring your body and mind out of balance. Look to get regular exercise , enough nutrients, sleep, and keep a healthy circadian rhythm . Alcohol Avoid in excess. Drinking 3-4 drinks a day (rather, having an alcohol percentage of .08%) could reduce the number of cells produced in the hippocampus by 40% in one human study [ 11 ]. Stress […]
Thiamine, or Vitamin B1, is an essential nutrient required by the body. It has many health benefits, from protecting the brain and heart to boosting the immune system. What is Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)?
Thiamine, also known as Vitamin B1, is essential for every tissue in the body. It is a cofactor for enzymatic reactions in the skeletal muscles, heart, liver, kidney, and brain [ 1 ].
Ingested Vitamin B1 from food and dietary supplements is absorbed by the small intestine through active transport at nutritional doses and by passive diffusion at pharmacological doses [ 1 ].
Most dietary Vitamin B1 is in phosphorylated forms, and intestinal phosphatases hydrolyze them to free thiamine before the vitamin is absorbed. Humans store thiamine primarily in the liver, but in very small amounts [ 2 ]. Snapshot
Vital for metabolism
Boosts the Immune system
Supports brain function
Protects the heart
Functions & Benefits of Thiamine
The body needs Vitamin B1 to make ATP, the body’s main energy-carrying molecule.
Thiamine helps in the conversion of carbohydrates into glucose , which is the preferred source of energy that the body runs off of to keep your metabolism running smoothly. It also helps break down proteins and fats [ 3 ].
Thiamine is specifically needed for a system of enzyme reactions called pyruvate dehydrogenase, which works to metabolize sugars that we eat [ 4 ]. Sugar Metabolism
Thiamine (as thiamine diphosphate, the main active form of the vitamin) is essential to glucose metabolism [ 5 ].
The proportion of people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes who have low thiamine ranges from 17% to 79%. Studies have found that increasing Vitamin B1 intake decreases the severity of symptoms associated with early-stage diabetes [ 6 ]. 2) Immunity
Like other B-complex vitamins, Vitamin B1 is sometimes called an “anti-stress” vitamin because it may strengthen the immune system and improve the body’s ability to withstand stressful conditions [ 7 ].
Giving rats a Vitamin B1 blocker caused a significant decrease in immune system function [ 7 ]. 3) Brain
Previous studies have reported low levels of thiamine and pyruvate dehydrogenase dysfunction in patients with ataxia, a condition that causes loss of movement. Long-term treatment showed significant improvements [ 8 ].
Vitamin B1 appears to help with the development of the myelin sheath , a coat that wraps around nerves to protect them from damage and death [ 9 ].
In the brain, it is required both by the nerve cells and by other supporting cells in the nervous system [ 10 ].
Autopsy studies have shown that thiamine-dependent enzymes have decreased activity in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease [ 11 ]. Supplemental Thiamine & the Brain
High-dose thiamine improved fatigue in patients after stroke [ 12 ].
Some researchers suspect that vitamin B1 therapy might have a favorable impact on neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Huntington’s disease [ 13 ].
Further research needs to be done before any conclusions can be made about whether it can help people with neurodegenerative conditions. 4) Cardiovascular Health
Thiamine is vital to the function of the cardiovascular system, and thiamine deficiency can cause congestive heart failure [ 5 ]. Supplemental Thiamine & the Heart In a review of 20 clinical studies, supplementation with thiamine improved cardiac function in people with heart failure [ 14 ].Compared against placebo, thiamine supplementation in 2 randomized, double-blind trials resulted in a significant improvement in left ventricular ejection fraction [ 15 ]. 5) Cataracts Recent studies suggest that thiamin may lower the risk of developing cataracts . These studies show that people who ingest plenty of protein along with vitamins A, B1, B2 , and B3 (or niacin ) in their diet are less likely to develop cataracts. Getting enough vitamins C, E, and B-complex vitamins further protect the lens of the eye ( 16 ). 6) Digestion Thiamine is also necessary for the proper functioning of the digestive system . Vitamin B1 helps to regulate the production of hydrochloric acid, which is needed for maintaining proper digestive function [ 17 ]. Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome Thiamine deficiency is the established cause of Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome (WKS), an alcohol-linked neurological disorder. Alcohol consumption can damage the brain through numerous mechanisms; one of these mechanisms involves the reduced availability of Vitamin B1 to the brain as a consequence of continued alcohol consumption [ 10 ].Thiamine deficiency causes beriberi. Some of the symptoms include swelling, tingling, or burning in the hands and feet as well as trouble breathing because of fluid in the lungs [ 18 ].People in developed countries do not usually get beriberi because staple foods such as cereals and bread are fortified with vitamin B1 [ 5 ]. Sources of Thiamine Food Serving Thiamin (mg) Lentils (cooked, boiled) ½ cup 0.17 Green peas (cooked, boiled) ½ cup 0.21 Long-grain, brown rice (cooked) 1 cup 0.19 Long-grain, white rice, enriched (cooked) 1 cup 0.26 Long-grain, white rice, unenriched (cooked) 1 cup 0.04 Whole-wheat bread 1 slice 0.10 White bread (enriched) 1 slice 0.23 Fortified breakfast cereal (wheat, puffed) 1 cup 0.31 Wheat germ breakfast cereal (toasted, plain) 1 cup 1.88 Pork, lean (loin, tenderloin, cooked, roasted) 3 ounces* 0.81 Pecans 1 ounce 0.19 Spinach (cooked, boiled) ½ cup 0.09 Orange 1 fruit 0.11 Cantaloupe ½ fruit 0.11 Egg (cooked, hard-boiled) 1 large 0.03 Dosage (RDA) Heating foods can reduce their thiamine content . For example, pasteurization reduces thiamine content by 20% in milk [ 2 ].
Some scientists think that neurogenesis may improve memory and help with anxiety and depression , though this is still uncertain. One thing’s for sure: the brain continues to birth new neurons throughout life. Read on to learn what may increase neurogenesis. Can Certain Factors Increase Neurogenesis?
If your goal is to increase neurogenesis to improve your brain- or mood-related issues – including those of depression, anxiety, or traumatic brain injury – it’s important to talk to your doctor, especially your mood is significantly impacting your daily life.
Your doctor should diagnose and treat the condition causing your symptoms.
The existing evidence does not suggest that reduced neurogenesis causes any disease.
Additionally, changes in brain chemistry are not something that people can change on their own with the approaches listed below. Instead, the factors listed here are meant to reduce daily stress and support overall mental health and well-being.
Therefore, you may try the additional strategies listed below if you and your doctor determine that they could be appropriate . None of these strategies should ever be done in place of what your doctor recommends or prescribes.
We’re providing a summary of the existing research below, which should guide further investigational efforts.
The studies listed in this section were mostly done in animals and should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit in humans. 1) Exercise
Research suggests that aerobic exercise increases the number of new neurons in the hippocampus and increases hippocampal volume [ 1 , 2 ].
Running doubled the number of new cells in the hippocampus of mice [ 3 ].
One study found that aerobic exercise increased hippocampal volume in 120 elderly adults with dementia [ 4 ]. 2) Mental Activity
Learning new skills (particularly challenging ones) increases the survival of new neurons in the hippocampus, according to some recent studies [ 5 ].
Scientists think that the hippocampus shrinks with age, and engaging in a complex mental activity is associated with less shrinkage [ 6 , 7 ]. 3) Sleep
Short-term sleep deprivation (less than one day) has little effect on neurogenesis [ 8 ].
However, chronic sleep deprivation seems to reduce neurogenesis by increasing levels of stress hormones [ 9 ].
Researchers consider that adequate sleep increases neurogenesis by lowering TNF-α and stress hormones [ 9 ]. 4) Meditation
Stress is thought to be one of the main factors that decrease neurogenesis in the adult brain [ 10 , 11 , 12 ].
Both physical and social stresses appear to decrease hippocampal neurogenesis [ 13 , 14 ].
According to limited research, meditation may increase the size of the hippocampus. Scientists think that stress reduction may underlie neurogenesis [ 15 , 16 ]. 5) Sexual Activity
Sexual activity can also help relieve stress, but animal studies suggest it may also increase neurogenesis. Scientists found this with both acute and chronic sexual activity in rats [ 17 ].
Sex prevented a decrease in neurogenesis and improved memory in chronically-stressed mice [ 18 ]. 6) Flavonoids
Flavonoids are a group of compounds found in most fruits and vegetables.
Cocoa flavonoids seemed to build up in the hippocampus and protect the brain in animal models of aging, dementia, and stroke. Human evidence is lacking [ 19 ].
Blueberries and oolong and green teas are rich in flavonoids; they also increase neurogenesis in the hippocampus in animal experiments [ 20 , 21 ].
Based on animal and cellular studies, researchers hypothesize that several flavonoids may support brain health by [ 22 , 23 ]:
However, human data are lacking to back these mechanisms up. 7) The LMN Diet The LMN diet is a patented Medittarenean-like diet rich in polyphenols, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and soluble fiber [ 27 ].The LMN diet increased neurogenesis in mice, presumably by increasing precursor cells and mature neurons [ 28 ].This diet also appeared to increase neurogenesis in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s. The researchers claimed it delayed the formation of amyloid plaques in the hippocampus and improved cognitive function [ 29 ].Nonetheless, human studies are lacking. Plus, the main author of the studies hold the patent for the LMN diet, opening room for bias [ 27 ]. 8) Omega-3 Fatty Acids The omega-3 fatty acid DHA increased the formation of new connections in the hippocampus in gerbils [ 30 ].Increased hippocampal neurogenesis via omega-3 fatty acids has been proposed as a way to prevent PTSD , but this hasn’t been proven in humans. More research is needed [ 31 ]. 9) Coffee and Tea (Chlorogenic acid) Chlorogenic acid is found in coffee and black tea . Scientists are investigating whether it promotes hippocampal neurogenesis in cells, along with its by-product m-coumaric acid [ 32 ].Chlorogenic acid also seems to help protect the hippocampus and improve memory in animals, yet clinical trials have not explored this compound [ 33 , 34 ]. 10) Ketogenic Diets? Ketogenic diets are low-carb and high-fat, and they are claimed to induce the body to burn fat as its primary fuel source.One group of researchers found that a ketogenic diet increased neurogenesis in mice with epilepsy [ 35 ].However, another study reported that a ketogenic diet had no effect on neurogenesis in adult rats [ 36 ].Therefore, additional research is needed to determine whether–and what type of–ketogenic diets affect neurogenesis, particularly in humans. Herbs and Supplements that May Increase Neurogenesis Speak with your doctor before taking any supplements. Make sure to let them know about any prescription or over-the-counter medication you may be taking, including vitamins and herbal supplements. Remember that dietary supplements have not been approved by the FDA for medical use. Supplements generally lack solid clinical research. Regulations set manufacturing standards for them but don’t guarantee that they’re safe or effective. 11) Resveratrol In animals and cells, resveratrol appeared to increase the birth of new neurons [ 37 ].Scientists hypothesize it might increase angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels) and levels of growth factors that are associated with neurogenesis. Theoretically, these changes may lead […]
BCAAs are essential amino acids that bodybuilders and athletes use to increase power output, reduce fatigue, and improve fat loss. However, excessive BCAA usage can have negative side effects, such as increasing the risk for type 2 diabetes and other conditions. Read on for further details on the potential effects of BCAA and their correct dosage. What Are BCAAs?
There are three BCAAs: leucine , isoleucine, and valine, which are all essential amino acids – not produced by the body but needed for survival [ 1 , 2 ].
BCAAs are the largest collection of amino acids in the body, accounting for up to 35% of muscle proteins . These amino acids (especially leucine) stimulate protein production in the muscles, possibly helping with muscle building and recover [ 1 , 3 , 4 ].
They also seem to promote sugar storage in the muscles. In animal studies, BCAAs (especially isoleucine) promoted blood glucose uptake into the muscles while blocking muscle carbohydrate (glycogen) breakdown [ 5 , 6 ].
Normally, BCAAs are excreted rapidly. BCAA intermediates can be toxic at high concentrations, so functional BCAA breakdown is vital. Because BCAAs are broken down in the muscle rather than in the liver, they are thought to help produce energy during exercise [ 1 , 2 , 7 ].
BCAA formulas have been on the market since 1996, mainly for treating liver diseases such as cirrhosis and hypoalbuminemia [ 8 ].
Nowadays, BCAAs are mainly used by bodybuilders for exercise purposes, to increase energy, and boost protein synthesis (especially leucine) [ 1 ]. Snapshot
Essential amino acids
Approved for nitrogen loss
May help recover from exercise and increase body lean mass
May help with liver cirrhosis and its complications
Unclear effects on exercise performance
Excessive supplementation may trigger type 2 diabetes and ALS
May cause high ammonia levels
May interfere with the uptake of other essential amino acids
Not recommended in people with insulin resistance, McArdle’s disease, and maple syrup urine disease
An injectable 4% BCAA formulation (BranchAmin) is approved by the FDA as a nitrogen source in people with severe nitrogen loss due to poor protein absorption or septic shock [ 9 ]. Possibly Effective for:
1) Exercise Recovery
BCAA supplements taken before and after exercise reduced exercise-induced muscle soreness and damage in 8 clinical trials on 134 people. This may speed up exercise recovery while preventing injuries [ 10 , 11 , 12 , 13 , 14 , 15 , 16 , 17 ].
However, they were of little or no effectiveness in trials on 21 older volunteers performing a 2-day trail in the mountains and 30 well-trained men recovering from intense weight training [ 18 , 19 ].Supplementing with BCAAs seems to preserve muscle proteins by both preventing their breakdown and stimulating their production [ 20 , 21 , 22 ].A meta-analysis of 8 clinical trials concluded that BCAA supplementation was better than rest alone for recovery after exercise due to its ability to reduce muscle soreness and function decline [ 23 ]. Physical Performance Decline In 2 clinical trials on 21 athletes, BCAA supplementation reduced central fatigue after intense exercise [ 24 , 25 ].In 2 clinical trials on 27 well-trained people, BCAAs prevented the decline in power output after exercise [ 26 , 15 ]. Cognitive Performance Decline The reduced central fatigue caused by BCAA supplementation preserved the ability to couple movement and spatial perception (perceptual-motor skills) after exercise in a clinical trial on 9 tennis players [ 25 ].In a trial of 12 volunteers, BCAA supplementation prevented the decline in short-term memory caused by exercise [ 27 ].In another trial on 10 soccer players, BCAA supplements reduced the decline in reaction time by 10% [ 28 ].Taken together, the evidence suggests that BCAAs may help with exercise recovery, especially by reducing muscle soreness and preserving its function. You may discuss with your doctor if you may add them to your training routine. 2) Increasing Lean Mass In a clinical trial on 36 body-builders, BCAA supplements increased lean mass better than other supplements like carbohydrates and whey protein [ 29 ].In another trial on 40 men, both low (6.25 g) and high (25 g) BCAA doses were similarly effective at promoting muscle building after exercise when supplemented with high levels (5 g) of leucine [ 30 ].In 17 resistance-trained men on a low-calorie diet, BCAA supplementation maintained weight loss while preserving muscle mass . Similarly, elite wrestlers on a low-calorie diet l ost more weight when supplemented with BCAAs in a clinical trial on 25 people [ 31 , 32 ].A high dietary consumption of BCAAs was associated with a reduced incidence of obesity in 2 observational studies on over 5,500 people [ 33 , 34 ].Supplementing with BCAAs and vitamin B6 failed to promote weight loss but reduced waist-to-hip ratio and preserved legs lean in a clinical trial on 42 overweight women [ 35 ].BCAAs may also help prevent muscle loss in people at risk. In a study on 73 functionally-limited elderly people, high BCAA levels were associated with increased lean mass (both increased muscle section and reduced fat). Supplementation improved muscle mass and strength in 2 trials on 73 people with rheumatoid arthritis and 68 people with sarcopenia [ 36 , 37 , 38 ].Although limited, the evidence suggests that BCAA supplementation may help both build muscle and lose fat. However, doing more exercise and improving your diet may be safer and more effective ways to obtain these benefits. You may discuss with your doctor if BCAAs may help as a complementary strategy. 3) Liver Damage and Complications In 3 clinical trials on almost 700 people with liver cirrhosis, supplementation with BCAA granules increased survival and quality of life . The treatment was more effective when given during the night, probably because it helped spare proteins [ 39 , 40 , 41 ].The survival rate without any detrimental event was […]
For much of history, high levels of intense daily exercise was probably a necessary requirement for human survival. However, in most industrialized countries the necessity for physical activity to sustain life is declining. As a result, we are seeing a decline in physical fitness in many of these populations.
The purpose of this article is to explore the scientific literature and uncover the role that physical activity plays in the maintenance of good health and the avoidance of chronic disease. We will also discuss different types of exercise and why, for some people, exercise may not be a great option. What is Exercise?
Physical exercise refers to any bodily activity that enhances or maintains physical fitness, health, and wellbeing [ 1 ].
The idea that physical activity is important for health and disease prevention is not a new concept but has been appreciated for millennia. Indeed, Hippocrates (∼450 BC) stated that the body falls sick when exercise is deficient.
The Global Burden of Disease Study carried out by the World Health Organization included physical inactivity as one of the most important risk factors threatening global health [ 2 ].
In fact, research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has attributed 23.3% of US deaths to the lack of regular exercise. Health Benefits of Exercise
1) Enhances Cognition
Exercise boosts BDNF , which increases neuronal survival, enhances learning, and protects against cognitive decline [ 3 ].
One study found that three 60 minute sessions of moderate physical activity per week increased memory. This was possibly due to increased blood flow to certain parts of the brain (hippocampus) [ 4 ].
Even in old people, aerobic exercise can increase cognition, brain size, and power [ 5 ].
Studies have shown that without a regular exercise regime the brain deteriorates and loses cognitive power much faster [ 6 ].
In fact, one study found that elderly people who engage in aerobic exercise had bigger brains. Non-aerobic yoga or toning exercises did not produce the same effect [ 7 ].
In obese children, physical activity improved executive function and mathematics test scores [ 8 ].
By supporting nerve growth, metabolism, and vascular function, exercise promotes brain plasticity [ 9 ].
Moderate physical activity increases neurotrophins, proteins that support brain plasticity (ability to change). As such, exercise is probably even more important for the young (<25), developing brain [ 10 ].
Recent studies have shown that the beneficial effects of exercise on the brain can be increased by the consumption of natural products like omega-3 fatty acids or plant polyphenols [ 11 ]. 2) Supports Heart Health
Many studies have shown that regular physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease [ 12 ].
One long-term study looked at the effects of regular exercise on men and women over the age of 73. It found that total exercise, exercise intensity, and leisure time intensity were all associated with a l ower risk of heart attack [ 13 ].
For women, the beneficial effects of exercise on the heart requires just 1 hour of walking per week [ 14 ].
Energy expenditure of 1600-2200 calories per week via exercise is needed for mild heart disease [ 15 , 16 ].
Low-intensity exercise (<45% of max intensity) improves the health of people with heart disease [ 17 ].
A recent study confirmed that regular walking is the best form of physical activity for heart health [ 18 ].
Exercise improves heart health by reducing “bad” cholesterol ( LDL ) and increasing “good” cholesterol ( HDL ) [ 19 , 20 ]. 3) Helps With Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome
Aerobic and anaerobic training decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes [ 21 , 22 , 23 ].
In one study, every extra 500kcal burned per week through exercise decreased the risk of diabetes by 6% [ 24 ].
40 minutes of intense exercise per week reduced the risk of diabetes in middle-aged men [ 26 ]. Weight loss via exercise can reduce the risk of diabetes by 40-60% among overweight individuals [ 27 ].Moderate physical activity for >150 minutes per week was found to be more effective than the drug metformin [ 27 ].One study showed that diabetics who walked at least two hours per week had 39-54% lower mortality [ 28 ].Inactive men with diabetes were found to be 1.7 times more likely to die than physically active diabetics. This relationship also applies to those with metabolic syndrome [ 29 , 30 ].Resistance training (e.g. weightlifting) might help regulate blood sugar more than aerobic exercise [ 31 ]. 4) Improves Mental Health People who engage in regular physical activity experience fewer depressive and anxious symptoms [ 32 ].Both aerobic (e.g swimming) and anaerobic (e.g. weight training) exercise effectively lower depression and enhance mood [ 33 ].Individuals who maintain a reasonable level of aerobic fitness are less likely to relapse into depression [ 34 ].People with chronic anxiety often have a dysregulated HPA axis . Studies have shown that exercise improves the way the HPA axis modulates stress reactivity and anxiety [ 35 , 36 ].High levels of physical activity are associated with improved heart rate variability scores (stress resilience marker) [ 37 ].One study found that college students who exercised regularly experienced less stress and hassle than those who didn’t [ 38 ].Another study found that regular physical activity buffered the stressful effects of widowhood in elderly subjects [ 39 ].Exercise increases norepinephrine , which helps the brain deal with stress more effectively [ 40 ].In one study, both African dance (rigorous exercise) and yoga caused significant improvements in stress levels [ 41 ].As well as reducing mental stress, some forms of exercise are very effective at reducing cellular stress. For example, yoga has been shown to improve antioxidant status and limit oxidative damage [ 42 ]. 5) Boosts Sleep Quality The idea that exercise helps sleep has existed for thousands of years [ 43 ].Disturbed sleep is a common symptom of anxiety. Thus, exercise’s positive effect on sleep may be […]