THE ARMY HEALTH BLOG

Thursday, February 09, 2017

News Roundup: Food Costs

Preparing meals and eating healthy may seem difficult on a budget, but recent research has shown that the idea of healthy food being more expensive is not necessarily true. This line of thinking is mostly based on assumptions. Not only is healthy food affordable, but government programs such as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) are beginning to nudge recipients towards healthier options.

This week’s news roundup brings a collection of articles related to the cost of food, how to shop healthy on a budget, and challenges our perception that a healthy lifestyle has to be expensive.

The Cost of Food Influences Your Perception of How Healthy It Is.SHAPE. “According to a new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, something really funky is going on with how consumers view the health level of a food relative to its price. Basically, the researchers found that the higher the price of a food, the more likely people were to think it was healthy.”

Why Healthy Food Doesn’t Have to Cost More. Consumer Reports. “When we have little or no information about a product's nutritional value, we tend to rely on price as an indicator of its healthfulness. This may be in part because the notion that healthy foods are always more expensive appears to be widespread.”

Could You Cut Your Food Bill by a Third? BBC. “If you're feeling the pinch, there are easy ways to keep more pounds in your pocket next time you head to the shops. You can save yourself more than 50% on many popular foods, or one-third on your weekly shop. With just a few changes to your buying, cooking and eating habits you can cut down your costs without cutting the flavour and nutritional value of your food.”

Food Stamp Restrictions May Encourage Healthy Eating, Discourage Grocers. NPR. “Cookies, cake, potato chips, ice cream, soda and even energy drinks — these are some of the foods and beverages deemed to cause obesity, cavities and other health problems and thus would not be eligible for purchase with food stamps, under a "junk food" bill wending its way through the General Assembly. Monday, it passed out of the House by a vote of 55-39.”


Tuesday, February 07, 2017

How can Mindfulness Meditation Benefit my Physical Health?

 

As previously discussed on the Army H.E.A.L.T.H. blog, there are many mental health benefits to practicing mindful meditation. Increased resiliency, better sleep, slowed cognitive decline associated with aging, and improved math and social skills in children, are just a few of the mental health benefits. This may come as no surprise, considering that mindful mediation has long been used to calm the mind and improve focus and attention.

In more recent history, research is starting to show that mindful mediation also yields physical health benefits for the body as well (e.g. strengthened immune system). Although this type of research is still in its infancy, there are some promising results so far. Below, we discuss what the research tells us about the physical health benefits of mindful mediation.

Reduced Blood Pressure

One study published in 2011 showed that mediation helped reduce blood pressure for young adults at risk for hypertension. Participants in the study were divided into two groups. One group received a weekly seven-step course training in meditation for 3 months. The second group, a wait list control, would not be offered the seven-step training until the end of the 3-month period.

The results showed that participants who were immediately offered the mediation course experienced a decrease in blood pressure when compared to those who hadn’t received the intervention yet. The reduction in blood pressure was also directly correlated with a decrease in in psychological stress and an increase in coping.

Reduced Acute Respiratory Illness (e.g. the flu)

In 2012, researchers examined the effect of a mindfulness mediation program or an exercise program on reducing instances if Acute Respiratory Illness (ACU), such as the flu. Participants were divided into one of three groups: mindfulness mediation, exercise, or control. The mindfulness mediation group received mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) training over an 8-week period. The exercise group participated in an 8-week physical activity program that consisted of group and at-home moderate-intensity exercise sessions. Lastly, the control group was monitored and received no intervention.

At the end of the 8-week period, the results showed that the mindfulness mediation group had less instances of ARI, as compared to the exercise and control groups. The authors of the study theorize that the MBSR training led to increased awareness of physical, emotional, and cognitive manifestations of stress. Which, in turn, led to a healthier mind-body response to stress.

Reduced Severity of Symptoms for Women with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

For this study, women with IBS were assigned to one of two groups: mindfulness meditation or a support group. Women in the mindfulness mediation group received 8-weekly training sessions involving intentionally attending to present-moment experience and cultivating non-judgmental awareness of body sensations and emotions.  The support group attended 8-weekly meetings with other women who also had IBS.

At the end of the 8 weeks, the mindfulness meditation group had reduced severity of symptoms from IBS as compared to the support group. The mindfulness mediation group also experienced improved quality of life and reduced stress.

For more on mindfulness mediation and free guided practices for beginners, check out mindful.org.


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