Eating chocolate makes us feel good, right? But is there actually any evidence that it can combat conditions like depression? Well, a new survey-based study of over 13,000 people suggests there is, but only if you eat dark chocolate. Having analysed data from the United States National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the researchers concluded that there was no link between eating dark chocolate and a reduction in depressive symptoms. However, when they looked specifically at dark chocolate consumption, they found people who ate this type of chocolate were 70% less likely to report depressive symptoms than individuals who ate no chocolate at all. Furthermore, the analysis also showed that people who ate the most chocolate (regardless of type) were less likely to experience depression than people who ate no chocolate. While chocolate lovers might rejoice at these findings, more research is needed. That’s because the study is merely observational, so no causational conclusions can be drawn. If subsequent research is performed and does suggest that a link exists between eating chocolate and a lower risk of depression, the biological reasons why will need to be investigated. For now, if you’re a fan of dark chocolate in moderation, you could be reducing your chances of developing depression.
Every year, on February 14, people all over the world celebrate Valentine’s Day by giving cards, flowers, chocolates and other special gifts to that special someone in their life. But where does Valentine’s Day have its origins and who was St Valentine? Valentine’s Day is thought to have its roots way back in the third century AD. According to popular belief, Roman Emperor Claudius II was adamant that single men made better soldiers, so he outlawed marriage. In defiance of the Emperor’s orders, a Roman Catholic priest named Valentine carried out secret marriage ceremonies for couples. When Claudius found out, Valentine was thrown into jail and condemned to die. While in jail, it is said that Valentine fell in love with the jailer’s daughter. On February 14, the day he was executed, Valentine sent a letter to the jailer’s daughter, which he signed “from your Valentine.” However, it wasn’t until a few hundred years later in around 496 AD that Valentine’s Day actually became a thing. At the time, the Romans held an annual festival in the middle of February known as Lupercalia. Part of the celebrations involved boys drawing the names of girls from a box. The couple would remain boyfriend and girlfriend for the rest of the festival and even get married sometimes. Lupercalia became a Christian celebration and its name was changed to Valentine’s Day to remember the priest (now a saint) who had died all those years before. Ever since, it has been celebrated on February 14 and become synonymous with people showing their feelings to those they love.
So-called “freakshakes” (milkshakes that contain chocolates, sweets, cake, cream, sauce and more) should be banned because they have “grotesque levels of sugar and calories,” a UK charity has said. Action on Sugar, a charity concerned with sugar and its effects on our health, has called for the belt-busting creations to be removed from sale, following a survey it conducted. For the study, the charity surveyed milkshakes sold in restaurants and fast food shops across the UK to see how much sugar and how many calories they contained. Topping the survey (not in a good way) was the Toby Carvery Unicorn Freakshake, which contains an eye-watering 39 teaspoons of sugar and 1,280 calories. That’s more than half the recommended number of daily calories for an adult and over six times the amount of daily sugar for a seven to 10-year-old. Many of the milkshakes looked at by Action on Sugar contained more than half the recommended daily amount of calories for an adult. More worryingly, out of the 46 products looked at by the charity, all would be labelled red/high for excessive levels of sugar per serving. Speaking about the findings of the survey, Action on Sugar chairman, Graham MacGregor, said: “These very high calorie drinks, if consumed on a daily basis, would result in children becoming obese and suffering from tooth decay - that is not acceptable. “These high calorie milkshakes need to be reduced immediately below 300kcal per serving.” [Related reading: Why being overweight increases your risk of cancer]
Are you partial to blueberry muffins? If you are, did you ever stop and think that just one could contain more than your entire recommended daily sugar allowance? According to an analysis in January by Action on Sugar and the Obesity Health Alliance, a single blueberry muffin can contain as much as eight teaspoons of sugar. The recommended daily intake for adults in the UK is just seven and it’s even less for children. The analysis highlights just how easy it is for people to exceed the recommended daily intake without even knowing it. For the analysis, Action on Sugar and the Obesity Health Alliance looked at 28 different muffins sold in a variety of locations, such as train stations and supermarkets. It found that 61% contained at least six teaspoons of sugar. Furthermore, muffins purchased at train station retailers had 19% more sugar per portion and were 32% bigger than those found in supermarkets. Caroline Cerny, from the Obesity Health Alliance, said: "We may think grabbing a blueberry muffin is a reasonably healthy option for a snack on the go compared to other cakes or a chocolate bar - yet the figures suggest otherwise. "There is huge variation in both the size of muffins and the sugar content, and with limited nutrition labelling, it's all too easy to eat a huge amount of sugar in just one serving."
We recently reported that childhood obesity rates are 10 times higher today than they were in 1975. This worrying trend is only set to continue unless more is done to tackle obesity in children. So-called “sugar taxes” on soft drinks in various countries around the world and France’s decision to ban unlimited fizzy drinks in restaurants, fast food-chains, schools and holiday camps, are definitely steps in the right direction. Now, hospitals in England have laid out plans to ban the sale of any sweets or chocolate that contain more than 250 calories. Going forward, super-sized chocolate bars will become a thing of the past in hospital vending machines and canteens. In addition, pre-packed sandwiches with more than 450 calories and/or 5g of saturated fat per 100g will also be banned. Hospitals will be given a cash boost to help them facilitate the changes. The decision to ban fattening and sugary food products in hospitals is actually win-win for the National Health Service (NHS). These foods are major contributors to obesity and many other conditions/diseases, such as preventable diabetes, tooth decay, heart disease and cancer – all of which put enormous strain on the health service. Public Health England says hospitals have an "important role" in tackling obesity and not just dealing with the consequences.
Christmas is literally just around the corner, but before we enter the festive season and stuff ourselves silly, there's the month of November to navigate first. Here are a few of the excellent food-focused events you can attend in France this month: Les Sarmentelles de Beaujeu, Rhône, November 16-20 Every year, on the third Thursday in November, at 12:01 a.m., Beaujolais Nouveau is released in France and over 100 related parties and festivals kick off. The most famous of these - Les Sarmentelles - is held in the town of Beaujeu, the capital of the Beaujolais region. Chocolate Fair, Lyon, November 11-13 Chocolate lovers rejoice! The sixth edition of the Lyon chocolate fair this year, held at the Cité Internationale, will feature culinary demos, cooking workshops and the famous parade of chocolate dresses. Festival of the Herring - Fête du Hareng Roi - Throughout November Not a huge fan of chocolate? How about herring? Throughout November, the people of Normandy celebrate their favourite fish, the herring. Different parts of the region celebrate at different times and the main activity is eating herring in many wonderfully delicious forms. Christmas Market Colmar - November 25-December 30 What better way to get you into the Christmas spirit than a Christmas market in November! Despite seeming a little early, the picturesque town of Colmar in the Alsace region hosts a beautiful Christmas market at the end of November. The city is illuminated and decorated like something out of a fairytale, and you can try Alsatian specialties with a cup of mulled wine.
Most people get cravings for high-calories foods, such as chocolate and pizza, from time to time. But new research suggests that such cravings can be reduced by consuming a supplement called inulin-propionate ester. Researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Glasgow found that study participants who drank milkshakes containing the gut bacteria-based supplement were less likely to crave high-calorie foods. Presenting their findings in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the researchers said the supplement works by increasing the amount of propionate in the gut - a compound that is released naturally when a person consumes the fibre inulin, which is found in artichokes, bananas and asparagus. Inulin slows digestion, increase fullness and reduces appetite, and it is already used as a dietary supplement today. For the study, the researchers asked a group of 20 healthy men to drink milkshakes. Half of the group's milkshakes contained inulin-propionate ester, while the other half contained just inulin alone. The researchers then showed the men pictures of different foods; some high calorie, some low calorie. The study participants' brain activities were monitored throughout to see how they reacted to the various pictures. The group that drank the milkshakes containing inulin-propionate ester displayed reduced activity in their brains' reward centres - the caudate and the nucleus accumbens (both associated with food cravings) - but only when they were looking at images of high-calorie foods. In addition to being showed the food images, the men were then given equal-sized bowls of pasta and told to eat as much as they wanted. The inulin-propionate ester group consumed around 10% less than their inulin only counterparts. Dr. Douglas Morrison from the University of Glasgow, who co-authored the study, said that the research illustrates how important gut microbiota signals are for regulating appetite and influencing people's food choices.
The New Year is finally here and many of you will have undoubtedly made New Year’s resolutions for 2015. And whether you’ve set yourself the goal of giving up smoking, eating better or going to the gym more, they’re all objectives that are very much health-related. But why is that? Maybe it’s because we’ve gorged ourselves over the festive period and the subconscious guilt that we’re all feeling urges us to make some changes to our lifestyle going forward. No matter what the reason for our sudden urge to improve our health, it remains our greatest wealth and asset and so taking good care of it is in all our best interests. However, New Year’s resolutions often fail and people who make them without the right intentions will find them extremely difficult to adhere to. That’s why, when it comes to adhering to your newly set goals, intention is critical. For example, being more specific about the reasons behind your New Year resolutions will see you more likely stay the course. The trick is to constantly remind yourself why you’ve quit smoking, stopped eating chocolate or started exercising more – all of which are to improve your overall health. Write down all the reasons and display them in plain sight, so that they can be used as a constant reminder to keep you on track. Making a few lifestyle changes now could make all the difference to your health in the long-run. It’s all up to you…
Christmas is a time of over-indulgence where people eat, drink and generally be merry. Of course there is nothing wrong with this but if you choose not to look after yourself this Christmas then your New Year might not get off to a very healthy start. Follow these tips to ensure you have fun but stay healthy this Christmas: Drink enough water – remaining hydrated is key to staying healthy. If you choose to drink alcohol over Christmas then keeping your water levels up is particularly important. Get enough sleep – 7-8 hours of sleep is generally the recommended amount. Even if you are enjoying the party season make sure you catch up on your sleep the next day to remain fresh and healthy. Relax – most people have some time off work over Christmas so use it to relax and de-stress so that you can return to work feeling rejuvenated and ready to take on the new year. Watch what you eat – Christmas can appear to be about sweets, chocolate and puddings but remember to eat your fair share of fruit and pile up the vegetables on your Christmas dinner so you can make sure you don’t leave your body feeling sluggish. Photo credit: Flickr
Bayonne is a city in the south west of France and a perfect location to consider traveling for high quality healthcare services, excellent surgical teams and a great place to relax and recover after your surgery. Whilst you may have to spend some time in hospital after your surgery it is important to out of bed and up and about as soon as possible. Research has shown that this will help to speed up your recovery. If you have chosen to have your surgery in Bayonne then you will certainly be wanting to get up and about as soon as possible. With so many fantastic sights it will be difficult not to fall in love with this city. The Cathedrale Sainte-Marie is an imposing yet elegant building from the Gothic period which was constructed in the 12th and 13th century and should definitely not be missed. The Musee Bonnat is a perfect visit for art lovers, whilst if liqueur is more your thing then you can visit the distillery of the local liqueur Izarra. Just remember you may not be able to drink alcohol whilst recovering from surgery. There are many tours of the city due to the fantastic history and these can be arranged in any tourist information centre. You can indulge in Bayonne’s other famous product – chocolate! Photo credits: Flickr