The 10 Most Counterintuitive Health and Beauty Tips

Sometimes the things everyone knows aren't exactly true, and that holds as well for health and beauty treatments as well as for anything else.

Chocolate is good for your skin

The National Institute of Health explains that chocolate’s reputation for causing breakouts is completely undeserved. “Chocolate and greasy foods are often blamed, but there is little evidence that foods have much effect on acne in most people.” In fact, dark chocolate contains antioxidant flavonoids which reduce inflammation of the skin and help acne heal. Keep portion size in mind; chocolate has health benefits, but it is still a fattening food.

Too much shampoo damages your hair

Too much cleaning can be a bad thing; shampoo strips the natural oils from hair, leaving it dry, brittle, and easy to break. In fact, hair health experts recommend shampooing only once every two to five days depending on your hair texture and scalp. The products which are supposed to add shine to hair don’t do much good either; most of them are silicone-based and cause a dull layer of build-up in your hair over time. The best ways to keep hair healthy and shiny are to use a deep conditioning treatment, allow time between washes, and keep the use of hot styling tools to a minimum.

Too much brushing can weaken and damage your teeth

Many people believe they need to brush their teeth after each meal and snack, but the truth is that the American Dental Association advises patients to brush only twice a day. Frequent brushing can wear away tooth enamel, making the teeth susceptible to cavities and discoloration. Brushing within a short time of having acidic foods or drinks is also a bad idea. The physical brushing can actually move the acid more deeply into your teeth, leaving the enamel at greater risk of erosion.

Bacteria in your gut help reduce the smells of flatulence

Thousands of bacterial species are living in your digestive system as you read this, and they’re absolutely supposed to be there. They actually aid your body to digest food for the most effective absorption of nutrients. One of the early signs of an imbalance in the bacterial ranks is an increase in the unpleasant odors of flatulence. The imbalance, most often caused by antibiotics or an unhealthy diet, can be corrected with a probiotic supplement or fermented foods like yogurt with active cultures.

Drinking more water reduces water retention

Water retention and bloating are actually caused by your kidneys going into a panic mode when they detect a drop in your overall fluid levels and cause your body to keep all of its current water. To keep your kidneys happy and prevent bloat, drink water during the day. The eight glasses a day rule is not hard and fast; any increase in your fluid intake will help. In fact, it doesn't even have to be water. Flavored and caffeinated beverages also count towards your total daily fluid intake.

Keeping the right kinds of food around helps you make healthy eating choices

Dr. Brian Wansink of Cornell University discovered a strong link between visual cues and choices about eating while researching his book Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. Each person makes over 200 decisions about eating every day, and a pleasing package or food appearance can influence a person to eat junk food or eat more than they intended. Dr. Wansink recommends that people buy healthy, convenient snacks and leave them in plain sight while hiding the treats away.

Gaining weight helps you burn fat

At least, gaining weight helps the body burn fat more effectively if the weight is lean muscle mass. Muscle is denser and weighs more than fat. More than a few women have found that after they start a weightlifting program, their weight on the scale goes up a little, even though they look more toned and their clothes are starting to fit more loosely.

Less repetitions with heavier weights increase strength

The common advice tells us that if women do weight training, they should do more reps with lighter weights than a man would use so they don’t bulk up. This is actually a very inefficient way of building strength, and women don’t develop bulky muscles without using steroids or having a terrible hormonal imbalance to start with. The small brightly-colored weights have their place for people who are just starting weight training or rehabilitating an injury, but real gains in strength come from pushing harder with heavier weights.

Unlike cardio exercise, frequent workouts are not good in weight training. Muscles should be allowed to rest between workouts so they can rebuild themselves; a good rule of thumb is to work the muscles every other day.

Adding walking to your training can improve your marathon time

Olympic runner Jeff Galloway popularized this method of training. His strategy is to walk one minute of each mile during his training runs. The rest before the body is worn out helps increase endurance and hasten recovery, which eventually shortens the marathon running time. Tim Deegan, a skeptic of Galloway’s method, tried the run-walk training and shortened his marathon time by 20 minutes.

Talking about your problems can make you unhappy

Dr. Guy Winch told Psychology Today that frequent complaining can cause someone to develop a learned helplessness which leads them to believe they can’t have any effect on their problems. “When we become convinced our actions will not have the impact we desire, we cease our efforts and become passive and helpless,” Dr. Winch explained.

On the other hand, a certain amount of venting can be helpful during times of stress. The key is to blow off the steam and be done with it, not complain continuously. Examining and being grateful for the good things in your life can also increase your happiness.

Non-alcoholic red wine may be better for men's health than regular wine

Red wine has long been touted as beneficial to cardiovascular health, but a research study from the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona has found that non-alcoholic red wine may actually have stronger effects.

The study involved 67 men who have either diabetes or at least three cardiovascular risk factors such as family history, obesity, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure. After a two week detox period, each man was asked to spend four weeks drinking prescribed amounts of either non-alcoholic red wine, regular red wine, or gin. After the four weeks were up, the men switched to a different beverage for the next four weeks, and finally finished with four weeks of the third beverage.

Researchers found that the non-alcoholic red wine lowered blood pressure significantly. The average drop was 6mmHg for systolic pressure and 2mmHg for diastolic pressure. This represents a risk reduction of up to 20% for stroke and 14% for heart disease. The study did not show significant effects from alcoholic red wine or gin.

Researcher Dr. Ramon Estruch, a senior consultant in the Hospital Clinic’s internal medicine department, believes these results are evidence that it is the antioxidant polyphenols in wine rather than the alcohol which cause the beneficial cardiovascular effects. In fact, the alcohol may lower the beneficial effects of the polyphenols.

Cardiologist Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of Women and Heart Disease at New York City’s Lenox Hill Hospital, welcomes the results because the non-alcoholic wine would be a way for people who can’t or don’t want to drink alcohol to get the beneficial polyphenol effects. “It’s not so much the alcohol as it is the polyphenols in wine,” said Steinbaum, who did not participate in the study.

However, Mayo Clinic cardiologist Dr. Sharonne Hayes thinks the study’s small size and lack of a control group may mean the results are skewed. This research, she explained, generated a good hypothesis to use as a point from which to start new research, but that no conclusions should be drawn just yet. She points to the lack of a detox period between each of the four week beverage-drinking periods as a potential flaw in the research. It is well-accepted that when a person who consumes even moderate amounts of alcohol stops drinking, their blood pressure will rise. The study participants could have had higher blood pressure than they normally do at the beginning of the research, which could create misleading results regarding non-alcoholic wine’s ability to lower blood pressure.

Hayes also pointed out that many previous studies have shown that alcohol is more likely the beneficial substance than polyphenols.

The Barcelona study was published in “Circulation Research” online on September 6th.

5 foods with brain benefits you may not know about

We've all heard that fish is brain food, especially the kind that is rich with omega-3s. Blueberries and spinach also have notable brain-boosting abilities. However, these aren't the only foods which can help keep your brain strong and free of disease.

Red Wine

Certain compounds found in grape seeds may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. A 2011 study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that in mice, these compounds helped prevent the formation of proteins linked to the development of Alzheimer’s. Those same grape seed compounds are found in red wine, so wine may help protect the brain when consumed in moderation.

Coffee

Fully caffeinated coffee may also help protect against Alzheimer’s. A study done at the University of South Florida fed caffeine to mice specifically bred to develop Alzheimer’s disease as they aged; some mice received caffeinated coffee, some received decaf, and others were given plain caffeine. The mice who received regular coffee showed higher levels of a hormone called granulocyte colony stimulating factor, which reduces Alzheimer’s symptoms by increasing neuron production and connection. For humans, the useful dose would translate to about four cups of coffee spread throughout the day.

Citrus Fruit

While the vitamin C in citrus may or may not be useful in preventing colds, it seems that citrus fruit may help to prevent strokes. Flavones, found in oranges and grapefruit, seem to act as anti-inflammatories and improve the function of blood vessels. A 2012 study in Stroke reported that people who ate two or more servings of citrus each day over a period of 14 years had a 10% lower risk of stroke than people who ate less. Be wary of choosing juice instead of whole fruit; many juices contain added sugar.

Onions

Onions are full of antioxidants which may help prevent brain damage if a person has a stroke; the antioxidants can work to block the formation of oxygen compounds which damage the barrier between blood and brain. A study published in Nutrition reported feeding some mice an onion supplement. When researchers induced stroke in all the mice, the control group showed significantly higher brain damage than did the onion-fed group.

Eggs

Eggs are rich in choline, a nutrient which is required to produce acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter which is linked to brain health and memory. A 2011 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at nearly 1400 adults and found that those who consumed the most choline performed best on memory tests. The subjects with high choline intake were also less likely to have signs of potential dementia such as blood vessel disease in the brain.

7 Health Risks for Middle Aged Men

The most common causes of death for men of middle age and older are all the usual suspects--cancer, stroke, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, respiratory disease, injuries, and suicide. Fortunately, some minor changes to bad habits can reduce the chances of dying of one of these perils.

Sun Overexposure

Men are two times more likely than women to develop fatal skin cancer. 60% of the cases of the deadliest skin cancer, melanoma, are found in white males of age 50 and older. Unfortunately, less than half of adult men protect themselves with shade, sunscreen, or protective clothing, as opposed to 65% of adult women.

Nor are men overexposed to sun likely to have their skin tumors found and treated early; a 2001 Academy of American Dermatology study found that men middle aged and above are less likely than other demographics to see a dermatologist or examine their own skin for signs of tumors. Men over 65, however, have a higher chance of having skin tumors found by a physician, possibly because older people have more medical appointments in general.

Excess Time Sitting Down with Electronics

Psychologists have not yet worked out whether Internet addiction is a valid diagnosis, but it is true that time which could be devoted to healthy activities like social interaction, walking, and other forms of exercise is instead being spent staring at computer monitors, laptops, smartphones, televisions, and video games. Physical social isolation has been linked to an increase in the risk for depression and dementia.

A 2011 study in JAMA found that on average, Americans spend five hours watching television each day, and that doesn’t account for time spent seated at computers. Extended sitting over a long period is associated with obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. In fact, a 2012 Australian study found that adults 45 and older who spent 11 hours or more per day seated had a 40% increase in their risk of death.

Depression

In 2009, 79% of all suicides were men. Men over age 65 commit suicide seven times more frequently than do women in the same age group. Social isolation, common in the elderly, is often a key cause.

More than 60% of people who commit suicide have major depression. Men tend to equate depression with ordinary sadness or grief, so they fail to recognize the warning signs such as fatigue, trouble concentrating or thinking clearly, agitation, and changes in sleep patterns.

The National Institute of Mental Health has found that depression can be successfully treated no matter the age of the patient.

Being Single

Many studies have shown that married men, particularly of middle age, are healthier than their unmarried peers. One theory is that marriage tends to increase a man’s overall social circle, which decreases stress and depression which can cause chronic ailments.

Unmarried men may also have less healthy habits than married men, such as poor eating and rare medical checkups.

However, men who marry after age 25 tend to have better health than those who marry at a younger age, and staying in a strained marriage actually causes poorer overall health than does singlehood.

Poor Diet

Men on the younger side of middle age are likely to eat an excess of junk food and red meat, which leads to common ailments like high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Older men may fail to prepare adequate meals for themselves and wind up suffering malnutrition.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found in 2010 that 35.5% of men are obese, compared to 27.5% in 2000.

Smoking

The negative effects of smoking tend to be worse in older people. They are likely to be heavier smokers and to have smoked for longer, which means their lungs have sustained more damage. 90% of all cases of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder, the fourth leading cause of death in men, are caused by smoking, as are 80 to 90% of lung cancer cases. Men over 65 who smoke double their chances of fatal stroke.

Quitting shows immediate results, no matter the person’s age. The risks of lung disease, stroke, and cancer drop immediately, and the risk of heart disease is cut in half after only one year.

Driving Errors

Males in their 50s and 60s are twice as likely to die in car accidents as their female peers. Injuries, including car accidents, are the leading cause of death for men in the 40 to 44 age group, third most common cause in men aged 45 to 64, and eighth most common in men 65 and older.

The car accident causes tend to be avoidable, such as running red lights and stop signs, driving over the speed limit, and falling asleep at the wheel.

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