I've posted before about the disruption of circadian rhythm by lights in the bedroom, but here's more research about it. Apparently LED lights are particularly bad for melatonin cycles (the hormone in your brain that makes you sleepy and tells you it's nighttime) as their blue light spectrum is excessively bright. My advice, turn your phone off or keep it in another room when sleeping. Throw something over your alarm clock and other light-emitting sources or wear a nightshade to sleep. Simple solutions for an ever-increasingly common problem. I can't even tell you how many of my patients suffer from problems sleeping! This information could be just one piece of the puzzle in setting their circadian rhythms back.
In teddy bears, iPhones and baby sleep monitors: turn off those LED lights at night before they affect your sleep cycles and health!
Professor Abraham Haim, an authority on the biological effects of light pollution, presented his findings last week at the International Congress of Zoology (ICZ) in Haifa Israel. World experts discussed, “Light Pollution and its Ecophysiological Consequences” and came to a consensus that light pollution does have health consequences. Professor Haim’s team studied the effect of night light on blind mole rats and seeing rats. He presented his research findings indicating that the biological effects of nocturnal lights included damage to metabolic rates, body mass, oxygen consumption and the level of certain hormones including melatonin– which is known to impact sleep cycles and mood and is believed to suppress some cancers and tumors. Studies seemed to indicate that the short-wavelength blueish light emitted by Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) has an especially strong effect. Ever since humans brought light into their homes in the form of candles and oil lamps, we’ve considered artificial lights to be a positive influence in our lives. World religions reinforced this belief with the miracles of menorahs, eternal flames and the light of the world. Up through the invention of incandescent bulbs indoor lights had a color which was warmer (redder) than natural sunlight. This changed somewhat with the advent of greenish florescent lights. But a more dramatic change came very recently with the invention of efficient white light Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs).
A bit of LED history
H.J. Round was working in the UK’s Marconi labs when he noticed electroluminescence of a cat’s-whisker silicon carbide diode in 1907.
LEDs which followed in 1927 were so dim as to be impractical until Biard and Pittman of Texas Instruments made the first practical red LED in 1961. The color of an LED is proportional to the bandgap voltage which is proportional to energy which is proportional to the chances of burning out your LED before you can say, “Hey, look what I invented!”
Decades passed with only dim red and yellow-green LEDs commercially available. Finally in 1993 Shuji Nakamura worked for Nichia Corporation in Japan and combined blue LEDs with a yellow-white phosphor to produce the first white light LEDs. He moved to the University of Santa Barbara and won the millennium prize for inventing brighter green, blue and white LEDs as well as the blue lasers which make blue-ray video players possible.
The problem with LEDs
We may have learned this in grade school, a perfect mix of the primary colors red, blue and green will make white. Existing red LEDs along with Nakamura’s bright green and blue LEDs finally made this possible.
Only that’s not how most white LEDs work. After years hovering just the other side of impossible, blue LEDs became more efficient than their red and green grandparents. So most white LEDs are actually deep blue LEDs with Nakamura’s yellow-white phosphor coating. Yellow-white + blue = white.
But even though our eyes try to average it out, the strong blue spectral component remains. And that’s where the trouble comes from. It seems that the human biological clock evolved around fire so isn’t as easily fooled by reddish-yellow incandescent lights. Blue light is different: As soon as it hits our pineal gland, our melatonin levels fade and our biological clocks are reset to wake-up time. That’s all fine if you’re only exposed to blue light shortly before sunrise.
But blue-white LEDs aren’t just inside eco-efficient LED fixtures. They’re in your television and the mobile phone you use to checked your Facebook status and the iPad you use to read your bedtime novel. My son’s teddy bear, baby monitor and night light all contained blue or blue-white LEDs. And all of these devices emit enough blue light to potentially effect hormone levels and sleep patterns or cause other biological effects.
A Solution to LEDs?
Electron Stimulated Luminescence (ESL) lights are one alternative which can replace both mercury-laden CFLs and expensive blue-white LEDs but they aren’t yet easy to find and their bulky shape makes them a poor fit for many of the tight spots where LEDs shine. It is possible that by refining LED composition and control circuits, an efficient white LED will be invented which does make use of a warmer balance of red, green and blue LEDs. LEDs are rugged, efficient, long-lasting and very bright but nearly every new technology has a hidden downside which must be studied and balanced against the advantages. LEDs are no different.
Photo of glowing bear by Brian Nitz
Photo of LEDs from Shutterstock
A recently published (Journal of Food and Nutritional Disorders) bit of perspective from one of my mentors here in Stamford. Enjoy!
"Everybody Can’t Eat Everything
by Joseph S. Feuerstein, Director of Integrative Medicine, Center for Integrative Medicine and Wellness at Stamford Hospital, USA
There is a sentiment among the general public that human nutrition is egalitarian, and anyone from any part of the world, can eat anything they fancy from the other end of the planet, even if this may be first time that they or any of their predecessors, have ever been exposed to that type of food. Due to global trade in the 21st century, a person can eat all manner of varied foods like gluten, soy and milk, all together in a single sitting.
Though it would be comforting to think that everyone in the species is the same, when it comes to what foods our bodies can tolerate; the truth is that there are wide geographical and racial variations between people, as we are not equal when it comes to food. Celiac disease, an auto-immune enteropathy that occurs in individuals, carrying the alleles HLA- DQ2 and/or HLA DQ8, who are exposed to gluten in their food, is found predominantly in people of Caucasian genetic heritage, as these two alleles are regarded as primarily Caucasian genetic traits.
Though, a case series at the Celiac Disease Center of Columbia University found that, 1% of African Americans had celiac disease and celiac has been found in North Africa, the Middle East and Northern India , Celiac is still much more common in countries populated by those of European origin. The metabolism of soy by the bacteria of the human gut, and the geographical variation in people’s ability to convert the soy isoflavone, daidzein to equol and o-desmethylangolesin (ODMA), again illustrates the racial variation, in what foods the digestive systems of people from different areas of the world can metabolize.
Research done on Korean Americans and Caucasian American in the Seattle, Washington area found that compared to Western populations, Asian populations has higher equol-producer prevalence (51% vs 36%). They also found that the ODMA- producer phenotype was less common in Korean Americans (84%) than in Caucasian Americans (92%). The authors concluded that the metabolism of the soy isoflavone, daidzein, may differ between different racial groups .
Finally, the ability to digest the milk sugar, lactose, differs widely in the population. The enzyme lactase, needed to digest lactose in the gastro-intestinal tract is found in approximately 85% of people of Northern European descent but only 20% of blacks and Latinos and is found rarely in Asians . It could be argued that, as people from different geographical areas become accustomed to eating foods, that are new to their cultural eating habits, their digestive systems will adapt themselves to allow optimal digestion of these new foods.
However, an interesting point noted in the Seattle, Washington study on the digestion of soy noted that, although the Korean Americans ate approximately three times more soy foods than the Caucasian Americans did, there was no significant association between consumption of soy foods and the equol- producer phenotype. It appears that the ability to metabolize soy, was based more on genes than the amount of soy people were exposed to in their diets.
Based on the facts detailed above, one has to conclude that though we are so much alike in so many ways, when it comes to eating, we all can’t eat everything, we would like to.
1. Brar P, Lee AR, Lewis SK, Bhagat G, Green PHR (2006) Celiac disease in African-Americans. Dig Dis Sci 51: 1012-1015.
2. Song KB, Atkinson C, Frankenfeld CL, Jokela T, Wähälä K, et al. (2006) Prevalence of daidzein-metabolizing phenotypes differs between Caucasian and Korean American women and girls. J Nutr 136: 1347-1351.
3. Swagerty DL Jr, Walling AD, Klein RM (2002) Lactose intolerance. Am Fam Physician 65: 1845-1850.
*Corresponding author: Joseph S. Feuerstein, Director of Integrative Medicine, Center for Integrative Medicine and Wellness at Stamford Hospital, 32 Strawberry Hill Ct Suite 41043, Stamford, CT 06902, USA, Tel: (203) 276-4777; E-mail: JFeuerstein@stamhealth.org
Received: September 03, 2012 Accepted: September 04, 2012 Published: September 06, 2012"
This is something all acupuncture practitioners know, but now there's scientific proof! Acupuncture is an ancient healing technique originating in China using small needles inserted into specific locations along lines of energy called meridians. The meridians, when properly balanced, allow the vital force energy (aka Chi) to flow properly throughout the body, warding off disease and illness. Acupuncture has gained wide popularity in complementary medicine practices and is now being accepted as a valid form of healing. Those of us who use acupuncture every day, know the power it has to help patients with all sorts of ailments, especially chronic pain. Here's the scoop on the latest data from NCCAM - source: http://nccam.nih.gov/research/results/spotlight/091012.
"A recent National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) -funded study, employing individual patient data meta-analyses and published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, provides the most rigorous evidence to date that acupuncture may be helpful for chronic pain. In addition, results from the study provide robust evidence that the effects of acupuncture on pain are attributable to two components. The larger component includes factors such as the patient’s belief that treatment will be effective, as well as placebo and other context effects. A smaller acupuncture-specific component involves such issues as the locations of specific needling points or depth of needling.
Although millions of Americans use acupuncture each year, often for chronic pain, there has been considerable controversy surrounding its value as a therapy and whether it is anything more than an elaborate placebo. Research exploring a number of possible mechanisms for acupuncture’s pain-relieving effects is ongoing.
Researchers from the Acupuncture Trialists’ Collaboration, a group that was established to synthesize data from high-quality randomized trials on acupuncture for chronic pain, conducted an analysis of individual patient data from 29 high-quality randomized controlled trials, including a total of 17,922 people. These trials investigated the use of acupuncture for back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, shoulder pain, or chronic headache.
For all pain types studied, the researchers found modest but statistically significant differences between acupuncture versus simulated acupuncture approaches (i.e., specific effects), and larger differences between acupuncture versus a no-acupuncture controls (i.e., non-specific effects). (In traditional acupuncture, needles are inserted at specific points on the body. Simulated acupuncture includes a variety of approaches which mimic this procedure; some approaches do not pierce the skin or use specific points on the body.) The sizes of the effects were generally similar across all pain conditions studied.
The authors noted that these findings suggest that the total effects of acupuncture, as experienced by patients in clinical practice, are clinically relevant. They also noted that their study provides the most robust evidence to date that acupuncture is more than just placebo and a reasonable referral option for patients with chronic pain.
For many women, gaining weight after menopause seems inevitable, and losing it nearly impossible. However, a new study from the University of Pittsburgh suggests that a few simple changes can make a big difference. Researchers followed 465 overweight and obese postmenopausal women for four years to evaluate weight-loss strategies that worked best. The women were divided into two groups. Those in one group underwent intensive nutrition and exercise counseling, while those in the other group received a more general weight loss program. All of the women kept a daily record of what they ate, and where they ate, for the duration of the study. When the investigators reviewed all the factors that made the difference for the women who successfully lost weight, they found that the winning strategy was replacing meats and cheeses in the diet with fruits and vegetables. Eating fewer desserts and drinking fewer sugar-sweetened beverages also proved important. The effect of substituting fruit and vegetables wasn't noticeable at the study's six-month mark but had the greatest impact on sustained weight loss and prevention of weight gain over the long-term, the researchers reported. The study was published in the September 2012 issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
So less meats and cheeses. More fruits and veggies...it's so simple and it CAN be done!
Dr. Maltz earned a Medical Degree and Master in Public Health from the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston, TX. She completed a combined Internal and Preventive Medicine Residency at UTMB in June, 2011. She then completed a 2-year Integrative Medicine Fellowship at Stamford Hospital in Stamford, CT, during which she simultaneously underwent an intensive 1000-hour curriculum created by The University of Arizona Integrative Medicine Program founded by Dr. Andrew Weil.