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If you need one more excuse for your cocoa/chocolate addition, here it is: scientists from the University of Cambridge found that higher levels of chocolate consumption have been associated with a 37% reduction in the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, 31% reduction in diabetes and a 29% reduction for stroke.

Previous research has shown that cocoa products appear to have a positive antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect on heart health. A Cambridge study analyzed the results from seven previous studies involving more than 114,000 participants who consumed cocoa products including dark chocolate, milk chocolate, chocolate bars, chocolate drinks and chocolate snacks. The Cambridge analysis found a significant association between increased consumption of these cocoa products and reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes.

Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death worldwide and will kill nearly 23.6 million people by 2030 according to World Health Organization.  It is well known that heart diseases are largely preventable through lifestyle changes including diet. Cocoa products, as popular as they already are worldwide, may provide a convenient and popular way of helping prevent these illnesses.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Connie Wan

Journal Reference: Buitrago-Lopez, A., Sanderson J. et al. Chocolate consumption and cardio metabolic disorders: systematic review and meta-analysis, British Medical Journal 2011; 343 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d4448 (published 29 August 2011)

Various studies in North America, Europe, and Asia have shown consistently that coffee drinking reduces mortality, including deaths from cardiovascular disease and some cancers.  However, for some people who are sensitive to caffeine, coffee drinking can cause unpleasant side effects such as jittery, heart palpitation, anxiety and nervousness.  Therefore, there are concerns about coffee’s health benefit, particularly among people with caffeine sensitivity, and among those drinking more than 5 cups per day.

The UK Biobank is a population-based study that invited approximately 9.2 million individuals from across the United Kingdom to participate. The researchers used baseline demographic, lifestyle, and genetic data form the UK Biobank population, with follow-up beginning in 2006 and ending in 2016, to study the relationship between coffee intake and mortality.   As part of this study, the researchers especially noted the potential effect of genes that are known to modify caffeine metabolisms in the body and causes caffeine sensitivities. Of the 502,641 participants who consented with baseline data, the researchers included those who were not pregnant and had complete data on coffee intake and smoking status, which results in 498,134 volunteers to be included in the study.

The mean age of the participants was 57 years (range, 38-73 years); 271,019 (54%) were female, and 387,494 (78%) were coffee drinkers.  Over 10 years of follow-up, 14 225 deaths occurred. Coffee drinking was inversely associated with all-cause mortality. Using non–coffee drinkers as the reference group, Hazardous Ratios (HR, meaning the ratio between drinking and death) for drinking less than 1, 1, 2 to 3, 4 to 5, 6 to 7, and 8 or more cups per day were 0.94 (95% CI, 0.88-1.01), 0.92 (95% CI, 0.87-0.97), 0.88 (95% CI, 0.84-0.93), 0.88 (95% CI, 0.83-0.93), 0.84 (95% CI, 0.77-0.92), and 0.86 (95% CI, 0.77-0.95), respectively – meaning the more coffee you drink, the less likely you will die.

The researchers concluded that coffee drinking reduces mortality, including among participants drinking 1 up to 8 or more cups per day.  The reduction of mortality seems to be proportional to the amount of coffee consumed. In addition, the researchers noted that there were no differences observed in caffeine sensitive population. This study provides further evidence that coffee drinking can be part of a healthy diet and offers reassurance to coffee drinkers.

If carrying cups of coffee around is too troublesome, try Mocca Shots — packing two cups of coffee worth of caffeine in one convenient packet.  Mocca Shots lets you stay alert anytime and GET __ DONE anywhere.

Journal Reference: Erikka Loftfield; Marilyn C. Cornelis; Neil Caporaso, Association of Coffee Drinking With Mortality by Genetic Variation in Caffeine Metabolism, JAMA Intern Med. Published online July 2, 2018. Doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.2425

The health benefits of dark chocolate are well known.  These benefits have been contributed to the flavonoids found in cacao, which are extremely potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents with known mechanisms beneficial for brain and cardiovascular health.  Two resent studies, carried out by researchers from California’s Loma Linda University and presented in the Experimental Biology 2018 meeting, explored how concentrations of cacao in dark chocolate can boost cognitive function along with endocrine and cardiovascular health.  The results showed that the darker the chocolate the brighter the results.

The first of the studies involved five healthy volunteers who were made to avoid all other high-antioxidant foods for 48 hours beforehand. They were then fed 48 g (1.7 oz) of dark chocolate heavy in cacao – a 70 % concentration – daily over a period of eight days.  Their immune response and gene expression were then analyzed through blood samples and total RNA assays, both in the hours following and one week later, with the researchers keeping an eye out for pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines.  The researchers observed heightened T cell activation, cellular immune response and stimulation of genes associated with neural signaling and sensory perception, which signals that the brain is more receptive to muscle memory and learning new skills.

The second study involved five healthy volunteers, who were given 48 g of 70% cacao dark chocolate. Their brain activities were monitored by placing electrodes at nine different scalp locations and measuring the electroencephalography response 30 minutes and 120 minutes after consumption. The team observed heightened activity and neuroplasticity in regions associated with behavioral and brain health.

These studies suggested that the higher the concentration of cacao, the more positive the impact on cognition, memory, mood, immunity and other beneficial effects.  For an immediate results in boosting brain cognition, memory and mood and GET ____ DONE, try Mocca Shots, a caffeinated and dark chocolate infused vegan gummy coming in two delicious varieties: dark chocolate raspberry and dark chocolate orange, both can be find at https://seattlegummy.com/product/moccashots/

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Connie Wan

Journal References:

  1. Lee Berk,Kristin Bruhjell,Warren PetersPeter BastianEvertt LohmanGurinder, BainsJesusa Arevalo, and Steve Cole, Dark chocolate (70% cacao) effects human gene expression: Cacao regulates cellular immune response, neural signaling, and sensory perception, The FASEB Journal, Supplemental Issue, Vol. 32, No. 1_supplement April 2018, Abstract Number:755.1
  2.  Lee BerkJosh MillerKristin Bruhjell, Sayali Dhuri, Krisha Patel,Everett LohmanGurinder Bains, and Ryan Berk, Dark chocolate (70% organic cacao) increases acute and chronic EEG power spectral density (μV2) response of gamma frequency (25–40 Hz) for brain health: enhancement of neuroplasticity, neural synchrony, cognitive processing, learning, memory, recall, and mindfulness meditation, The FASEB Journal, Supplemental Issue, Vol. 32, No1_supplement, April 2018, Abstract Number: 878.10

According to a study conducted by Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center, just one serving of leafy green vegetables per day could help preserve memory and thinking skills as we get older. Specifically, the research seems to suggest that following such a diet may slow brain aging by up to 11 years.

The study involved 960 participants, the average age of whom was 81 years and all were dementia-free at the beginning of the study. Over an average of nearly 5 years, participants underwent an annual set of tests that assessed cognition in five domains including episodic memory, working memory, semantic memory, visuospatial ability, and perceptual speed. Data from food frequency questionnaires administered at the beginning of the study were used to assess how frequently people ate some 144 items over the previous 12 months. Dietary intake levels of the nutrients of interest were estimated from responses to all food items. The three green leafy vegetable items and their serving sizes included in the questionnaire were: spinach (1/2 cup cooked), kale/collards/greens (1/2 cup cooked), and lettuce salad (1 cup raw). Additional diet, health, and demographic information was also collected during annual visits.

In the study, consumption of green leafy vegetables was positively and significantly associated with slower cognitive decline. When comparing the highest daily consumption (median 1.3 servings a day) with the lowest (median 0.09 servings a day), the rate of cognitive decline among those who consumed the most to those who consumed the least was equivalent to being 11 years younger cognitively, based on average global cognitive scores over time. There was no evidence that the association was affected by cardiovascular conditions, depressive symptoms, low weight, or obesity. Other lifestype factors such as alcohol consumption, smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, education level and amount of physical and cognitive activities have also been accounted for in the study.

The researchers also examined the relationship between cognitive change and nutrients for which green leafy vegetables are a rich source (folate, phylloquinone, nitrate, α-tocopherol, kaempferol, and lutein). Intake of each of these nutrients was positively and significantly associated with slower rates of cognitive decline and were not due to other underlying health issues.  Further investigation indicated that phylloquinone, lutein and folate likely were the source of the effect seen on cognitive decline.

In summary, this study indicates that consumption of green leafy vegetables is associated with a slower rate of cognitive decline in older adults, possibly due to the neuroprotective actions of specific nutrients.

If you don’t have time cooking leafy green or hate salad, SGC’s all natural vitamin supplements, Functional Fruit, may be a good way to get your vitamins with one serving of fruits. Functional Fruit, fruit and vitamins, nothing else, that’s all. Find it here https://seattlegummy.com/product/functional-fruit-multivitamin/

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Connie Wan

References:

Morris MC, et al. Nutrients and bioactives in green leafy vegetables and cognitive declineNeurology. 2017 90:e214-e222. Research supported by NIA grants R01 AG031553 and R01 AG17917.

Kang JH, et al. Fruit and vegetable consumption and cognitive decline in aging womenAnnals Neurology. 2005 57:713–720.

Morris MC, et al. Associations of vegetable and fruit consumption with age-related cognitive changeNeurology. 2006 67:1370–1376.

A study published in The FASEB Journal, by researchers from Northwest A&F University in China suggests that EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate), the most abundant catechin and biologically active component in green tea, could alleviate high-fat and high-fructose (HFFD)-induced insulin resistance and cognitive impairment. Previous research pointed to the potential of EGCG to treat a variety of human diseases, yet until now, EGCG’s impact on insulin resistance and cognitive deficits triggered in the brain by a Western diet remained unclear.

Researchers divided 3-month-old male C57BL/6J mice into three groups based on diet: a control group fed with a standard diet, a group fed with an HFFD diet, and a group fed with an HFFD diet and 2 grams of EGCG per liter of drinking water.

For 16 weeks, researchers monitored the mice and found that those fed with HFFD had a higher final body weight than the control mice, and a significantly higher final body weight than the HFFD+EGCG mice. In performing a Morris water maze test, researchers found that mice in the HFFD group took longer to find the platform compared to mice in the control group. The HFFD+EGCG group had a significantly lower escape latency and escape distance than the HFFD group on each test day. When the hidden platform was removed to perform a probe trial, HFFD-treated mice spent less time in the target quadrant when compared with control mice, with fewer platform crossings. The HFFD+EGCG group exhibited a significant increase in the average time spent in the target quadrant and had greater numbers of platform crossings, showing that EGCG could improve HFFD-induced memory impairment.

Green tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world after water, and is grown in at least 30 countries. The ancient habit of drinking green tea may be a more acceptable alternative to medicine when it comes to combatting obesity, insulin resistance, and memory impairment.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Connie Wan

Journal Reference: Yashi Mi, Guoyuan Qi, Rong Fan, Qinglian Qiao, Yali Sun, Yuqi Gao, Xuebo Liu. EGCG ameliorates high-fat– and high-fructose–induced cognitive defects by regulating the IRS/AKT and ERK/CREB/BDNF. The FASEB Journal, 2017; fj.201700400RR DOI: 10.1096/fj.201700400RR

The immune system reacts similarly to a high fat and high calorie diet as to a bacterial infection. This is shown by a recent study led by the University of Bonn. Particularly disturbing: Unhealthy food seems to make the body’s defenses more aggressive in the long term. The body’s inflammation response stays super active long after switching to a healthy diet. These long-term changes may be involved in the development of arteriosclerosis and diabetes, diseases linked to Western diet consumption.

The UB scientists placed mice for a month on a so-called “Western diet”: high in fat, high in sugar, and low in fiber. The animals consequently developed a strong inflammatory response throughout the body, almost like after infection with dangerous bacteria. Specifically, the unhealthy diet led to an unexpected increase in the number of certain immune cells, which indicates that the genes responsible for regulating the immune response have been triggered.

What this means is that fast food causes the body to quickly recruit a huge and powerful army of immune cells, therefore causing acute inflammation. When the animal is switched to their typical cereal diet, the acute inflammation disappeared. What did not disappear was the genetic reprogramming of the immune cells: Even after these four weeks, many of the genes that had been switched on during the fast food phase were still active.

In addition to the acute inflammatory response, the Western diet also changes the way in which the genetic information is packaged. The genetic material is stored in the DNA and each cell contains several DNA strands, which together are about two meters long. However, they are typically wrapped around certain proteins in the nucleus and thus many genes in the DNA cannot be read as they are simply too inaccessible.

Unhealthy eating causes some of these normally hidden pieces of DNA to unwind, similar to a loop hanging out of a ball of wool. This area of the genetic material can then be read much easier as long as this temporary unwrapping remains active. Scientists call these phenomena epigenetic changes. The inflammation triggers such epigenetic changes that the immune system consequently even reacts to small stimuli with strong inflammatory responses.

These inflammatory responses can in turn accelerate the development of vascular diseases or type 2 diabetes. In arteriosclerosis for example, the typical vascular deposits, the plaques, consist largely of lipids and immune cells. The inflammatory reaction contributes directly to their growth, because newly activated immune cells constantly migrate into the altered vessel walls. When the plaques grow too large, they can burst, leading to blood clotting and are carried away by the bloodstream and can clog vessels. Possible consequences: Stroke or heart attack.

Next time, craving for McDonald’s? Think twice before you bite into that big mac.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Connie Wan

Journal Reference: Anette Christ, Patrick Günther, Mario A.R. Lauterbach, Peter Duewell, Debjani Biswas, Karin Pelka, Claus J. Scholz, Marije Oosting, Kristian Haendler, Kevin Baßler, Kathrin Klee, Jonas Schulte-Schrepping, Thomas Ulas, Simone J.C.F.M. Moorlag, Vinod Kumar, Min Hi Park, Leo A.B. Joosten, Laszlo A. Groh, Niels P. Riksen, Terje Espevik, Andreas Schlitzer, Yang Li, Michael L. Fitzgerald, Mihai G. Netea, Joachim L. Schultze, Eicke Latz. Western Diet Triggers NLRP3-Dependent Innate Immune ReprogrammingCell, 2018; 172 (1-2): 162 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.12.013

Researchers at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute found significant improvement in verbal recall among a group of people with age-associated memory impairment who took the herbal supplement ginkgo biloba for six months when compared with a group that received a placebo.

The six-month UCLA study examined the impact of ginkgo biloba, compared to a placebo, in 10 volunteers, aged 45 to 75, who did not have dementia but complained of mild age-related memory loss. Four patients received 120 mg of ginkgo biloba twice daily, and six received a placebo or inactive substance such as a sugar pill.

Researchers used cognitive tests to measure verbal recall and positron-emission tomography (PET) to measure brain metabolism before and after the treatment regimen. Magnetic resonance imaging was used to determine regions of interest to be examined by PET.

The UCLA study found that for patients taking gingko biloba, improved recall correlated with better brain function in key brain memory centers.  Researchers noted that, although volunteers taking gingko biloba experienced better verbal recall, actual changes in brain metabolism, measured by PET, did not differ significantly between the study’s two volunteer groups.

Gingko biloba is a Chinese herb often used as a dietary supplement to treat memory loss. The herb is packed with powerful antioxidants including gingko flavone, a family of natural antioxidants that have been shown to strengthen cardiovascular system, boosts cerebral blood flow and therefore include blood supply to brain cells.

For a product packed with powerful brain boosting nutrients, check out Seattle Gummy’s Mocca (https://seattlegummy.com/product/mocca/), which taps into synergistic effect between herbal components (including Ginkgo biolba and cocoa flavonoids) and caffeine. The product provides sustained mental focus without caffeine crash and jittery.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Connie Wan

Reference: Rachael Champeau “UCLA Researchers Find Gingko Biloba May Help Improve Memory.” UCLA Newsroom, November 10, 2003. http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/UCLA-Researchers-Find-Gingko-Biloba-4691

A massive umbrella study published in the British Medical Journal has concluded that moderate coffee intake is generally safe for most of the population. The review examined over 200 meta-studies on the health effects of coffee consumption and concluded that three to five cups a day looks to be the safest maximum volume one should consume.

The rise of meta-analyses allowed scientists to take the data from scores of prior studies on a single topic and draw more comprehensive conclusions. In regards to coffee, many new studies started to account for more lifestyle factors, such as smoking and obesity. By 2017 there are literally hundreds of different coffee consumption studies examining links between the drink and a variety of different health outcomes. At the same time, there are dozens of meta-studies bringing all this data together.

The latest umbrella review gathers data from 218 different meta-analyses that examined over 60 different health outcomes.

Across almost all health outcomes reviewed, coffee consumption was found to either not increase risk or actually decrease risk to negative health outcomes. From diabetes and cirrhosis, to most cancers and cardiovascular disease, coffee consumption was seen to be generally safe with occasional mild benefits. The ideal intake found by the umbrella review was equal to or less than 400 mg of caffeine per day, or essentially no more than four to five standard cups.

The only two significant population subgroups noted by the study that showed a correlation between coffee consumption and negative effects were pregnant women, and women with high risks of bone fractures. During pregnancy coffee consumption was potentially associated with low birth weight and preterm birth.

For products with caffeine, check out our Mocca gummies at https://seattlegummy.com/product/mocca-box/, in which each gummy provides the equivalent of one cup of coffee worth of caffeine.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Connie Wan

Journal Reference: Poole, R.; Roderick, P. and Hayes, P.C., Coffee consumption and health: umbrella review of meta-analyses of multiple health outcomes, British Medical Journal, 2017; 359 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j5024

The investigation into the holistic effect of the gut microbiome on the human body has been continuously expanding in the past 10 years. We are rapidly discovering that the vast communities of bacteria that live in our gut are actually playing roles in everything from Multiple Sclerosis to depression. Two additional studies have now found connections between the gut microbiome and Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin compared the gut microbiome of 25 human subjects with Alzheimer’s disease to 25 cognitively healthy human subjects.  DNA sequencing was used to take the ‘snapshot’ of gut bacterial composition during the study. The researchers found that individuals with dementia had decreased microbial richness and diversity in their gut microbiome compared to people without a diagnosis of dementia.   The researchers were able to identify broad taxonomical changes in gut bacterial composition, as well as changes in abundance of a number of bacterial groups, some of which were more abundant in people with dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease and some of which were less abundant.

The results of this study support a previous study by the researchers from the University of Chicago in 2016, which suggested that gut bacteria plays a role in the accumulation of amyloid plaques, a buildup of proteins characteristic of a number of diseases including Alzheimer’s, diabetes and Huntington’s disease. Specifically, the U Chicago study showed that the prolonged shifts in gut microbial composition and diversity induced by long-term antibiotic treatment regime decreases amyloid plaque deposition.

These findings suggested that the gut microbiota community diversity can impact amyloidosis hence progression of Alzheimer’s. Keeping a healthy gut microbiota might be an additional tool to delay the progression of the disease.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Connie Wan

Journal References:

  1. Nicholas M. Vogt,Robert L. Kerby,Kimberly A. Dill-McFarland, Sandra J. Harding, Andrew P. Merluzzi, Sterling C. Johnson, Cynthia M. Carlsson, Sanjay Asthana, Henrik Zetterberg, Kaj Blennow, Barbara B. Bendlin, Federico E. Rey, Gut microbiome alterations in Alzheimer’s disease Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 13537(2017); doi:10.1038/s41598-017-13601-y
  2. Myles R. Minter,Can Zhang,Vanessa Leone, Daina L. Ringus, Xiaoqiong Zhang, Paul Oyler-Castrillo, Mark W. Musch, Fan Liao, Joseph F. Ward, David M. Holtzman, Eugene B. Chang, Rudolph E. Tanzi, Sangram S. Sisodia, Antibiotic-induced perturbations in gut microbial diversity influences neuro-inflammation and amyloidosis in a murine model of Alzheimer’s disease, Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 30028 (2016); doi:10.1038/srep30028

Ginkgo biloba has a long history of use in treating blood disorders and memory issues.  In Chinese traditional medicine, Ginkgo biloba is often used for cognitive enhancement or to alleviate cognitive decline.  The extract of the Ginkgo biloba is rich in antioxidants such as flavonoids and terpenoids.  Laboratory studies have shown that the extract improves blood circulation by opening up blood vessels and making blood less sticky.

A recent study, published in Neural Regeneration Research, provides one additional explanation for the herb’s cognitive enhancing function.  It seems that Ginkgo biloba is capable of promoting neural stem cells growth and therefore combat cognitive decline and impairments due to old age.

Led by Professor Jiwei Wang from Weifang Medical University, the research team studies the effect of Ginkgo biloba extract using a rat model with vascular dementia.  In the experiment, rats were supplemented with Ginkgo biloba extract at 50mg/Kg per day for a period of time.  Over the course of the treatment, the rats learning and memory abilities were assessed using the water maze.  In addition, the endogenous neural stem cells in rats’ brain were measured.

Researchers found that Gingko biloba extract significantly improve learning and memory in the rats.  In addition, the analysis showed that the number and proliferation of neuronal stem cells were significantly higher in rats given the extract. The researchers concluded that Ginkgo biloba extract may be used to treats memory loss and cognitive impairments in patients with senile dementia.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Connie Wan

Journal Reference: Wang JW, Chen W, Wang YL. A ginkgo biloba extract promotes proliferation of endogenous neural stem cells in vascular dementia ratsNeural Regeneration Research, 2013; 8 (18): 1655-1662 DOI: 10.3969/j.issn.1673-5374.2013.18.003