On holiday

HumanaNatura is on holiday for the remainder of November. Regular breaks from our routines are a chance for fun, unplanned experiences, and new perspectives. If you struggle to make time for breaks and healthy non-work time in your life, learn how you can move to a 1000 hour work-year – working six hours a day, four days a week, and forty weeks a year – via Mark Lundegren’s popular article The Real New Economy. Wishing you new health, and see you in December!  HumanaNatura

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Big and beefy

Though there is a natural limit to the amount of red meat we should eat, it is not zero…especially when it comes to lean meats. This satisfying salad meal starts with a big bed of arugula and adds julienne cucumber, diced kiwi, and mixed cherry tomatoes. It includes a sauté of cubed beef and red onion…and is garnished with parsley, marjoram, coriander, and red and black pepper. Yum!

Learn about our guidelines for healthy natural nutrition and how to make delicious salad meals via our popular article Perfect Salad Meals or through the Natural Eating section of HumanaNatura’s comprehensive Personal Health Program.

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At HumanaNatura, our goal is to both inspire and inform, so that each of us makes progressively healthier and higher quality choices over time. This strategy is in keeping with the scientific foundations of our natural health system, and with research suggesting that a mix of good facts and feelings best steers us toward improved life and health.

A new study by Harvard University affords a nice informational or teachable moment, one that can help us better understand and make use of the health research we encounter. In the new study, public health researchers found that reported soft drink consumption in teens was closely associated with reported violent behavior. For our discussion, the key words from the study are “associated” and “reported.”

When researchers state an association or correlation like this, they are indicating that two or more things have been observed moving together in a pattern. Correlations can be positive (with things moving in the same direction) or negative (moving in opposite directions) but they cannot be neutral (since no movement means no correlated or concurrent change). Importantly, association or correlation never means that causation or cause and effect has been established (that A causes B, or the reverse). In reporting on the new study, the researchers took pains to highlight that they have not shown causation between soft drinks and teen violence, in either a forward or backward direction.

When studies like this talk about a reported behavior or condition, they mean just that. Participants were asked one or more questions and gave a reply or report. As you might suspect, what we say we do and what we actually do can be substantially at odds with one another, either because we are intentionally withholding or exaggerating information, or because we have a distorted recollection or sense of the information. A much more reliable source of information is observed or measured behavior or data, and even better than this are observations and measurements that are double-blind (where neither the observed person nor observer is privy to key details of the measurement process).

If correlational and reported behavior studies are each less valuable than available alternatives, why have them at all? First, because they are often easier and much less expensive to perform. Second, they can suggest areas for more intensive follow-up research. And in the case of correlational research in particular, while it does not provide causal information, it can lead to insights that are quite useful. In this case, researchers have discovered that quite innocuous information about soda consumption may be a signal for teenagers that are at risk of acting violently, potentially leading to better directed social service interventions.

If you would like to learn more about research techniques to investigate correlation and causation, check out Correlation Does Not Imply Causation.

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More than skinny

A newly released five-year study underscores there is more to health than being skinny, for men and women.

In the new research, scientists at the University of Oklahoma tracked the habits of roughly 4,000 middle to older-aged women. They found that daily consumption of sugary drinks was associated with a four-fold increase in blood fats know as triglycerides, important markers for cardiovascular disease. Importantly, the researchers observed that this association held for women who were not overweight, suggesting that an absence of visible weight-gain from these drinks does not signal an absence of underlying health impairment.

Though news reports have focused on the finding related to skinny women, we would note the study also found that sugary drink consumption was highly and expectedly correlated with increased waist fat and fasting glucose levels overall – indicators of increased cardiovascular and diabetes risks, respectively. The new study contrasts nicely with other research showing atherosclerosis (blood vessel plaques) among skinny people on unnatural diets that reduce carbohydrates but allow high dietary fat intake. In both cases, the lesson is clear: skinny does not always mean healthy.

Learn about the new study at Sugary Drinks Hurt Skinny Women and explore delicious health-promoting natural alternatives to junk foods of all kinds via the Natural Eating section of HumanaNatura’s four-part Personal Health Program.

Photo courtesy of Skinny Jeans.

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Warm ‘n cool

Yummy sliced pork and red onion saute with a bed of arugula, mixed cherry tomatoes, diced cucumber, and dried cranberries…garnished with sliced almonds, coriander, and red and black pepper.

Learn about our guidelines for healthy natural nutrition and how to make delicious salad meals via our popular article Perfect Salad Meals or through the Natural Eating section of HumanaNatura’s comprehensive Personal Health Program.

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Seeds of life

Have you considered exactly how life began on earth? Core evolutionary principles explain the way non-living organic and pre-organic compounds can naturally combine and become selected for growth. But there is an ongoing question regarding the degree to which the seeding of our earth with organic compounds from space contributed to life’s inception here.

Early evolutionary scientists often considered the earth in isolation and presumed that organic compounds primarily evolved on earth from inorganic ones, via chance encounters of these simpler molecules (a process known as abiogenesis). But more recent research has suggested that our universe may more actively provide planets with advanced organic compounds, via supernovae and the gradual formation of complex molecules in interstellar dust clouds. A newly published analysis by the University of Hong Kong supports this changing view.

In the new analysis, researchers examined infrared studies of interstellar dust and found evidence of more complex organic materials than was previously appreciated. The analysis used a novel technique that compared newer dust clouds with older ones, which indicated considerable organic compound formation in these clouds over time. This research suggests significant development of organic compounds in space – or that our universe naturally and widely contains and provides the seeds of life.

You can learn more about the new study at Organic Dust and trace the development of natural life and health on earth via the Our Past section of HumanaNatura’s science-based Personal Health Program.

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Defeating Zombies

If you are a gamer or occultist looking for zombie-slaying tips, this story isn’t going to help. But if you personally would like to live longer and better in the real world, it just might prove informative and useful. New research by the Mayo Clinic has demonstrated the potential power of therapies to help us rid our bodies of older, non-reproducing “zombie” cells. These cells can build up with aging and/or reduced immune system functioning, leading to chronic tissue inflammation and a variety of resulting health impairments, from cataracts all the way up to large-organ cancers.

In the new study, researchers genetically altered mice so that zombie cells could be destroyed at will via the administration of a drug. As hypothesized, they found that enhanced cleansing of these cells increased health and reduced symptoms of aging. Beyond highlighting a potential area for new anti-aging therapies, the study is important for at least other two reasons: 1) it is a different approach from other promising longevity research involving telomere (DNA tip) health, and 2) it may help to explain why daily low-dose aspirin therapies have been shown to reduce cancers (by preventing chronic tissue inflammation from zombie cells, encouraging their removal, or both).

Learn more about the new research at Defeating Zombies and see other NaturaLife stories on longevity science via Gains In Aging Research, which discusses research showing the importance of telomere health, and Aspirin Again, which covers recent research on aspirin’s role in cancer prevention.

Photo courtesy of Zombie Walk.

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Checking perceptions

A key aspect of achieving more attentive and higher quality life is regularly checking our perceptions. Much like optical illusions, perceptual biases exist in all our lives, often limiting the power of our choices and leading us astray. A good example of natural bias comes from research just published by Harvard University, this time involving the newly re-ignited topic of wealth distribution in the United States. In the study, researchers surveyed people to see what they thought would be an ideal wealth distribution and the country’s actual wealth distribution, and also asked questions about their background and behavior. As the summary chart shows, people’s perceptions of actual wealth levels were significantly at odds with reality. But there is more here related to perceptual bias than this simple misjudgment.

In addition to revealing popular perceptions of society that are significantly at odds with reality, the study surfaced at least four of many underlying natural biases or blind spots we all are subject to: 1) overuse of information that is at hand or easy to obtain to assess reality (judging the world by what we immediately see around us), 2) stated preferences at odds with actual behaviors (since many in the survey reported not voting for parties favoring redistribution), 3) a consistent and likely innate intuition of what social conditions “ought” to look like (spanning respondents from different backgrounds and countries), and 4) the more subtle belief that our intuitive sense of fairness is roughly optimal (with the research team cautioning eager readers that an objectively optimal wealth distribution is still being researched and not yet known).

If you would like to look for and check these and other perceptual biases in your life, especially in important areas that may affect your health and quality of life, there is a fairly reliable way to start. It involves examining specific outlooks and choices that have one or more of three critical qualities:

  • Importance – actions and outlooks with important consequences, which often involve complex issues and promote oversimplification
  • Frequency – choices and behaviors that recur regularly, potentially leading to the repeating of past interpretations and decisions without considering better alternatives
  • Certainty – outlooks and choices where we feel we are acting ideally, which are often good places to look for bias since this is rarely true

In checking your perceptions, you can start anywhere, even with the next few choices you make or actions you take, and gradually develop a new intuition for and control over your natural biases. Importantly, this process can and should include the essential self-awareness strategy of looking for evidence that both supports and counters our views and plans.

Read about the new wealth perception study at What We Know About Wealth and consider practical ways to get around perpetual bias via the popular HumanaNatura article Understanding Personal Empowerment. You can also begin to move toward more deliberate and optimal life via the Natural Living section of HumanaNatura’s comprehensive Personal Health Program.

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Cross-quarter greetings!

Greetings from HumanaNatura at the cross-quarter! In the natural year, we are at the halfway point between the relative balance and calm of the passing equinox and the extremes of light and darkness of the coming solstice.

Now is an ideal time to make solid progress on your Natural Life Plan, taking steps to realize your goals for greater health and quality of life in the weeks ahead. In this way, you will be able to mark your accomplishments when the solstice arrives, along with its natural pull toward others and celebration.

If you do not yet have a Natural Life Plan – guiding your use and expression of the advanced HumanaNatura health techniques of Natural Living and Natural Communities – the link above will take you to our planning worksheets and get you started.

Our newest member newsletter was released today as well, which is published eight times yearly in harmony with the natural year. To receive future HumanaNatura newsletters and learn about the benefits of membership in our global practitioner-advocate network, go to Join HumanaNatura.

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Daily Aspirin For Greater Health

Aspirin was back in the news this week…and yes, it’s good news again. A new study published by researchers at the Universities of Newcastle and Leeds has found that a daily aspirin regimen signficantly reduced lower intestinal cancers in people who were at high risk of this illness. The new research used randomized clinical trials and involved nearly 1000 people from 16 countries who had been diagnosed with Lynch syndrome, a genetic condition that predisposes people to certain cancers. After two years, study participants who had taken a 600 milligram daily dose of aspirin were found to have a roughly 60 percent lower incidence of colorectal cancer than those receiving a placebo.

Although the aspirin dosage used in the study is not appropriate for most people on a daily basis, due to the risk of stomach bleeding and other side effects, earlier research has found significant reductions in large organ cancers, with few side-effect risks, via a sustained daily low-dose (81 milligram or less) aspirin regimen. The causal link for aspirin’s anti-cancer effects is not yet known, but researchers speculate that it may be due to its general anti-inflammatory properties or an ability to encourage natural removal of unhealthy cells, in both cases helping to preserve cancer-inhibiting tissue integrity.

Based on growing anti-cancer research (and well-established heart health studies) supporting daily low-dose aspirin supplementation for adults, and given its low-cost and infrequent side-effects, HumanaNatura now recommends this as part of our science-based Personal Health Program with a physician’s consent. Learn more about the new study at Aspirin May Reduce Colon Cancer and earlier research on daily low-dose aspirin supplementation at Aspirin & Cancer Prevention. You can also review HumanaNatura’s guidelines for low-dose aspirin supplementation at HumanaNatura Supplement Guidelines (see Item #7) .

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