Center for Wellness and Achievement in Education and Stanford University, July 22, 2021
Students who participated in a meditation-based Quiet Time program utilizing the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique for four months had significant improvements in overall emotional stress symptoms, quality of sleep, and English Language Arts (ELA) academic achievement according to a new randomized controlled trial published last month in Education. The study was conducted by researchers from the Center for Wellness and Achievement in Education and Stanford University. This was the first randomized control trial to investigate the effects of TM on standardized academic tests.
"Students have been experiencing increased levels of stress and it's impacting their academic performance," said Laurent Valosek, lead author of the study and Executive Director of the Center for Wellness and Achievement in Education. "This research shows the impact of meditation on the mental and physical health of high school students, and shows that meditation plays a vital role in promoting improved academic outcomes, even when compared to more time spent reading."
Student emotional well-being and its impact on academic outcomes
According to the American Psychological Association, teens report stress well above what they believe to be healthy. 31% of teens report feeling overwhelmed and 36% report feeling fatigued as a result of stress. Over a third of teens report that their stress level has increased in the past year, while around half of teens don't feel they are doing enough to manage their stress.
This increased stress is linked to poor academics, as well as a number of other measures including lower attendance, and unhealthy behaviors around sleep, eating, and substance use. Stress also increases negative affect, resulting in strained relationships with classmates and teachers, as well as rule infractions and suspensions.
Transcendental Meditation improves emotional balance and academic performance
A new randomized control study published in Education involved 98 ninth grade students at a West Coast public high school. The study found that during a four-month period, the students practicing the TM technique experienced significant improvements in measures of health and academics as compared to students who engaged in sustained silent reading.
These findings are consistent with past research on TM showing benefits related to emotional health and intelligence. This was the first randomized control trial to investigate the effects of a meditation-based school program on standardized tests.
"As a former high school administrator, I have seen first-hand the effects of stress, anxiety, and fatigue on students' mental and physical well-being. High levels of psychological distress not only lead to lower academic performance, but cause serious consequences for the whole child," said Margaret Peterson, co-author of the study and Executive Director of the California World Language Project at Stanford Graduate School of Education. "In my 30 years as an educator, Transcendental Meditation is the single, most effective tool to help reduce stress and improve performance in students."
Within students who were below proficiency at baseline, 69% of the meditation students improved at least one performance level at posttest compared to 33% of the control students. This is particularly noteworthy because the control group was doing sustained silent reading, suggesting that introducing meditation to the school day may be more effective in improving academic outcomes than additional time spent reading.
Impact of vitamin D deficiency and autoimmunity on chronic hives
University of Health Sciences (Turkey), July 19, 2021
According to news reporting from Erzurum, Turkey, by NewsRx journalists, research stated, “Background and In this study, we investigated the role of vitamin D deficiency and autoimmunity in chronic spontaneous urticaria (CSU) etiopathogenesis and their impact on the disease severity. Sixty patients with CSU aged between 18 and 65 years were enrolled to the study.”
Our news journalists obtained a quote from the research from University of Health Sciences: “The control group comprised 40 healthy individuals who had no episodes of urticaria or any other chronic diseases. An autologous serum skin test (ASST) was performed in all patients. In addition, 25 hydroxyvitamin D, thyroid autoantibodies (TA), anti-nuclear antibody (ANA), and basophils were evaluated in all groups. Urticaria activity score-7 (UAS7) and dermatological quality of life index (DLQI) of all patients were examined. Angioedema was more frequent and UAS7 was higher in ASST-positive patients than ASST-negative patients (p=0.035, p=0.018, respectively). <10 ng/mL vitamin D levels were more fraquently seen in the patients with CU than in the control group (p=0.002). The frequencies of TA and ANA positivity were higher, and basophil count was lower in all patients compared to the control group (p=0.001, p=0.001, p=0.001, respectively). The quality of life was more impaired in patients with positive ASST (p=0.011). The duration of the disease was longer, and UAS7 was higher in patients with positive-TA (p=0.012, p=0.028, respectively). UAS7 was significantly higher in ANA-positive patients (p=0.042). A significant negative correlation was found between the DLQI and basophil counts (p=0.039).”
According to the news reporters, the research concluded: “Understanding the role of vitamin D deficiency, autoimmunity in CSU etiopathogenesis may help treat severe diseases.”
Higher levels of omega-3 acids in the blood increases life expectancy by almost five years
Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (US), July 22, 2021
Levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood are as good a predictor of mortality from any cause as smoking, according to a study involving the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM), in collaboration with The Fatty Acid Research Institute in the United States and several universities in the United States and Canada. The study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, used data from a long-term study group, the Framingham Offspring Cohort, which has been monitoring residents of this Massachusetts town, in the United States, since 1971.
Researchers have found that omega-3 levels in blood erythrocytes (the so-called red blood cells) are very good mortality risk predictors. The study concludes that "Having higher levels of these acids in the blood, as a result of regularly including oily fish in the diet, increases life expectancy by almost five years", as Dr. Aleix Sala-Vila, a postdoctoral researcher in the IMIM's Cardiovascular Risk and Nutrition Research Group and author of the study, points out. In contrast, "Being a regular smoker takes 4.7 years off your life expectancy, the same as you gain if you have high levels of omega-3 acids in your blood", he adds.
2,200 people monitored over eleven years
The study analysed data on blood fatty acid levels in 2,240 people over the age of 65, who were monitored for an average of eleven years. The aim was to validate which fatty acids function as good predictors of mortality, beyond the already known factors. The results indicate that four types of fatty acids, including omega-3, fulfil this role. It is interesting that two of them are saturated fatty acids, traditionally associated with cardiovascular risk, but which, in this case, indicate longer life expectancy. "This reaffirms what we have been seeing lately", says Dr Sala-Vila, "not all saturated fatty acids are necessarily bad." Indeed, their levels in the blood cannot be modified by diet, as happens with omega-3 fatty acids.
These results may contribute to the personalisation of dietary recommendations for food intake, based on the blood concentrations of the different types of fatty acids. "What we have found is not insignificant. It reinforces the idea that small changes in diet in the right direction can have a much more powerful effect than we think, and it is never too late or too early to make these changes", remarks Dr Sala-Vila.
The researchers will now try to analyse the same indicators in similar population groups, but of European origin, to find out if the results obtained can also be applied outside the United States. The American Heart Association recommends eating oily fish such as salmon, anchovies or sardines twice a week because of the health benefits of omega-3 acids.
COVID-19: Patients with malnutrition may be more likely to have severe outcomes
Children's Hospital of Orange County, July 22, 2021
Adults and children with COVID-19 who have a history of malnutrition may have an increased likelihood of death and the need for mechanical ventilation, according to a study published in Scientific Reports.
Malnutrition hampers the proper functioning of the immune system and is known to increase the risk of severe infections for other viruses, but the potential long-term effects of malnutrition on COVID-19 outcomes are less clear.
Louis Ehwerhemuepha and colleagues investigated associations between malnutrition diagnoses and subsequent COVID-19 severity, using medical records for 8,604 children and 94,495 adults (older than 18 years) who were hospitalised with COVID-19 in the United States between March and June 2020. Patients with a diagnosis of malnutrition between 2015 and 2019 were compared to patients without.
Of 520 (6%) children with severe COVID-19, 39 (7.5%) had a previous diagnosis of malnutrition, compared to 125 (1.5%) of 7,959 (98.45%) children with mild COVID-19. Of 11,423 (11%) adults with severe COVID-19, 453 (4%) had a previous diagnosis of malnutrition, compared to 1,557 (1.8%) of 81,515 (98.13%) adults with mild COVID-19.
Children older than five and adults aged 18 to 78 years with previous diagnoses of malnutrition were found to have higher odds of severe COVID-19 than those with no history of malnutrition in the same age groups. Children younger than five and adults aged 79 or above were found to have higher odds of severe COVID-19 if they were not malnourished compared to those of the same age who were malnourished. In children, this may be due to having less medical data for those under five, according to the authors. The risk of severe COVID-19 in adults with and without malnutrition continued to rise with age above 79 years.
The authors suggest that public health interventions for those at highest risk of malnutrition may help mitigate the higher likelihood of severe COVID-19 in this group.
Awareness without a sense of self
Most comprehensive study to date on the experience of pure awareness during meditation
Johannes Gutenberg University & University of Zurich, July 22, 2021
In the context of meditation practice, meditators can experience a state of "pure awareness" or "pure consciousness", in which they perceive consciousness itself. This state can be experienced in various ways, but evidently incorporates specific sensations as well as non-specific accompanying perceptions, feelings, and thoughts. These are just some of the findings of the most extensive survey of meditators ever conducted on the experience of pure consciousness. The findings of the survey recently have been published in PLOS ONE. The study was conducted by Professor Thomas Metzinger from the Department of Philosophy at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and Dr. Alex Gamma from the Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Zurich. They designed an online questionnaire comprising more than a hundred questions and asked thousands of meditators worldwide to answer it. "The goal of our research was not to learn more about meditation. We are interested in human consciousness," said Metzinger. "Our working hypothesis was that pure consciousness is the simplest form of conscious experience. And our goal was to develop a minimal model explanation of human consciousness experience on the basis of this hypothesis." The study is part of the international Minimal Phenomenal Experience (MPE) project led by Metzinger.
The online questionnaire was made available in five languages - German, English, French, Spanish, and Italian - and was completed by approximately 3,600 meditators in 2020. In addition to questions about the participants themselves, such as gender, age, and meditation techniques used, the questionnaire consisted of 92 questions about their experience of pure awareness. Instructing the meditators to select and focus on one particular experience of pure awareness, the questionnaire included questions like: "Did you experience sensations of temperature?", "Were you in a positive mood?", or "Did you experience thoughts?". Each of these could be answered on a scale from "no" to "yes, very intensely" via a slider bar. Of the questionnaires Metzinger and Gamma received back, 1,400 were filled out in full and so could be used for a so-called factor analysis. They employed this type of statistical evaluation to identify groups of questions that were frequently answered in a similar manner. "This led us to identify twelve groups, which in turn allowed us to name twelve factors that characterize pure consciousness," Metzinger explained. "According to this scheme, typical characteristics of pure consciousness seem to be, for example, the perception of silence, clarity, and an alert awareness without egoic self-consciousness. Time, effort, and desire, which can certainly transpire in parallel, are experienced somewhat less explicitly."
"Based on these twelve factors, we can now develop a prototypical minimal model of human consciousness," said Metzinger. In addition, the study opens up numerous avenues for further research. Neuroscientists from the USA, Australia, and Switzerland, for instance, have already inquired whether they can use the questionnaire for their own research. For his own part, Metzinger hopes to discover whether pure consciousness - that is, the quality of consciousness in itself - is also experienced in situations other than meditation: "The responses we received also included personal reports suggesting that pure consciousness is also experienced in other situations, such as during accidents and serious illness, at the threshold between sleep and wakefulness, or when immersed in play as a child."
Canadian Study Gives More Evidence Cancer Is A Lifestyle Disease Largely Caused By Food
Cancer Control Alberta, Alberta Health Services and University of Calgary, July 22, 2021
The cancer industrial complex is negligent in warning people that chemotherapy is now known to actually make some cancers spread and make some tumors more aggressive. Government and its myriad regulatory agencies work diligently to prevent access to natural or alternative cancer treatments, and doctors and the mainstream media give the impression that the causes of cancer are a mystery.
In reality, one can significantly reduce the likelihood of getting cancer by making lifestyle changes. According to a recently published study out of Canada, the total proportion of cancer rates which can be attributed to lifestyle and environmental factors is quite high, nearing 41%.
Regarding the methods used in the study:
We estimated summary population attributable risk estimates for 24 risk factors (smoking [both passive and active], overweight and obesity, inadequate physical activity, diet [inadequate fruit and vegetable consumption, inadequate fibre intake, excess red and processed meat consumption, salt consumption, inadequate calcium and vitamin D intake], alcohol, hormones [oral contraceptives and hormone therapy], infections [Epstein-Barr virus, hepatitis B and C viruses, human papillomavirus, Helicobacter pylori], air pollution, natural and artificial ultraviolet radiation, radon and water disinfection by-products) by combining population attributable risk estimates for each of the 24 factors that had been previously estimated. [Source]
Overall, we estimated that 40.8% of incident cancer cases were attributable to exposure to the 24 factors included in the analysis (Table 2). Tobacco smoking was responsible for the greatest cancer burden, accounting for an estimated 15.7% of all incident cancer cases (2485 cases), followed by physical inactivity and excess body weight, which were responsible for an estimated 7.2% and 4.3% of incident cancer cases, respectively. All other exposures of interest were estimated to be responsible for less than 4.0% of incident cancer cases each. [Source]
Within this information is the revelation that so much of our food system works against good health. Perhaps the greatest secret here in all of this is the growing awareness of the negative affects that consumption of sugar has on human health. Now, some 80% of all packaged products contain some form of fructose, and sugar has been identified as a top cause of the global cancer epidemic.
In the face of such frightening statistical evidence on rising cancer rates, it is imperative to remember that the individual has more control over their health than the mainstream would have us believe.
Coffee doesn't raise your risk for heart rhythm problems
University of California at San Francisco, July 20, 2021
In the largest study of its kind, an investigation by UC San Francisco has found no evidence that moderate coffee consumption can cause cardiac arrhythmia.
In fact, each additional daily cup of coffee consumed among several hundred thousand individuals was associated with a 3 percent lower risk of any arrhythmia occurring, including atrial fibrillation, premature ventricular contractions, or other common heart conditions, the researchers report. The study included a four-year follow up.
The paper is published July 19, 2021, in JAMA Internal Medicine.
"Coffee is the primary source of caffeine for most people, and it has a reputation for causing or exacerbating arrhythmias," said senior and corresponding author Gregory Marcus, MD, professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology at UCSF.
"But we found no evidence that caffeine consumption leads to a greater risk of arrhythmias," said Marcus, who specializes in the treatment of arrhythmias. "Our population-based study provides reassurance that common prohibitions against caffeine to reduce arrhythmia risk are likely unwarranted."
While some professional societies suggest avoiding caffeinated products to lower the risk for arrhythmia, this connection has not been consistently demonstrated - indeed, coffee consumption may have anti-inflammatory benefits and is associated with reduced risks of some illnesses including cancer, diabetes, and Parkinson disease.
In the new study, UCSF scientists explored whether habitual coffee intake was associated with a risk of arrhythmia, and whether genetic variants that affect caffeine metabolism could modify that association. Their investigation was conducted via the community-based UK Biobank, a prospective study of participants in England's National Health Services.
Some 386,258 coffee drinkers took part in the coffee research, with an average mean age of 56 years; slightly more than half were female. It was an unprecedented sample size for this type of inquiry.
In addition to a conventional analysis examining self-reported coffee consumption as a predictor of future arrhythmias, the investigators employed a technique called "Mendelian Randomization," leveraging genetic data to infer causal relationships. As those with the genetic variants associated with faster caffeine metabolism drank more coffee, this analysis provided a method to test the caffeine-arrhythmia relationship in a way that did not rely on participant self-report and should have been immune to much of the confounding inherent to most observational studies.
With a mean four-year follow up, data were adjusted for demographic characteristics, health and lifestyle habits.
Ultimately, approximately 4 percent of the sample developed an arrhythmia. No evidence of a heightened risk of arrhythmias was observed among those genetically predisposed to metabolize caffeine differently. The researchers said that higher amounts of coffee were actually associated with a 3 percent reduced risk of developing an arrhythmia.
The authors noted limitations including the self-reporting nature of the study, and that detailed information on the type of coffee - such as espresso or not - was unavailable.
"Only a randomized clinical trial can definitively demonstrate clear effects of coffee or caffeine consumption," said Marcus. "But our study found no evidence that consuming caffeinated beverages increased the risk of arrhythmia. Coffee's antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties may play a role, and some properties of caffeine could be protective against some arrhythmias."