Thursday, 3 November 2016

Top 3 benefits of Coffee ( 3 mins read)

Coffee, a major export commodity is one of the most consumed beverages all over the world. Derived from nature, coffee beans are brewed in order to produce the drink.

Coffee contains caffeine, which is a known stimulant for humans. Most of us drink coffee to fight drowsiness but there are many other health benefits associated with drinking coffee.

1. Prevents diabetes mellitus

Diabetes mellitus is a chronic illness faced by billions in this world. People with diabetes will have high blood sugar level and will need to take medications or injections to lower it. 

In this research conducted in Singapore, consuming 4 cups or more every day is associated with more than 30% chance of getting diabetes mellitus in future. A review on this issue looked at over 450000 individuals and  concluded that drinking 3 or more cups of coffee per day makes an individual 0.6 times less likely to develop diabetes in future.

A group of researchers from Korea looked at how Coffee can benefit pre-diabetic individuals. Pre-diabetics are those with higher than normal blood sugar level but is not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes mellitus. It is believed that these individuals will eventually progress to diabetes mellitus unless measures such as lifestyle changes are taken.This research concluded that drinking coffee without sugar or creamer for three times a day prevents the onset of diabetes mellitus.

However, if you have a very sweet tooth, healthier alternatives to sugar are available. Find out more about artificial sweeteners from here.

2. Prevents colon cancer

Numerous researches have been conducted in this area. In a recent research, regular consumption of coffee was associated with the lesser chance of developing colon cancer. For example, in those who consume coffee more than 2 cups per days, their chance of developing colon cancer was 0.4 compared to those who do not.

Image | Pixabay
Before cancer begins to form in the colon, few cells produce  a small pre-cancerous lesion called " colon adenoma". This colon adenoma formation is associated with progression to colon cancer, which is why regular screening is recommended for those who have a high risk of developing colon cancer ( family history etc). Scientists from Japan found a significant benefit of drinking coffee in preventing colonic adenoma. According to their research, high intake of coffee reduces the chance of developing adenoma, the precursor form of colon cancer.

Coffee also seems to prevent other types of cancers. In a review done by researchers in China, it was concluded that coffee consumption is associated with lesser risk of developing mouth, liver, colon, prostate, and womb cancer.

3. Prevents Alzheimer's disease

Image| Pixabay
Dementia is a common problem among elderly individuals. Dementia is commonly known as memory loss among the general population but dementia can also affect daily activities for example walking or even speaking. Some patients might even "forget" how to speak or perform simple tasks like drawing. Alzheimer's disease is one of the causes of dementia.

Coffee consumption has been associated with general benefits on the brain activities. In a recent review, drinking 1 to 2 cups of coffee per day were associated with reduced risk of getting dementia, Alzheimer's disease or any form of cognitive impairment. However the exact mechanism on how coffee reduces the onset of dementia is unclear.


Drinking coffee regularly is proven to be protective against colon cancer, diabetes mellitus, and dementia. However, high consumption of coffee could cause problems such as high blood pressure, anxiety, and insomnia. Thus always consume coffee in moderation and always go for regular health check-ups! 

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Safety of mosquito repellents

Why do we need mosquito repellent?

Mosquito-borne illnesses are diseases that are spread by mosquitoes. The common examples are Dengue, Chikungunya, Malaria and the recent outbreak of Zika. 

We can prevent the mosquito-borne illness by preventing mosquitoes from biting, as disease transmission occurs when the mosquito bites. 

There are many mosquito repellents in the market, some that we spray on clothes, some with roll-ons, clips and etc. But how safe are these products, especially to be used by young children and pregnant mothers? 

Let’s look into common mosquito repellents and it's ingredients. 

One of the key ingredients of mosquito repellents is Diethyltoluamide or DEET. DEET is present in varying concentration depending on the brand of the repellent.

DEET was originally developed by the American army to be used by their soldiers during wartime in the jungle. It’s a yellow oil and has a strong smell which is disliked by insects such as mosquitoes. Thus it effectively repels them. 

How safe is DEET? 

In a 2014 review by the US Environmental Protection Agency1, it was concluded that DEET does not cause any harm to adults, pregnant mothers or children when used properly. Proper usage means using it on clothes, or exposed skin and not applying it over wounded skin or under clothes. This is also supported by doctors from Harvard Medical Centre2

But products containing DEET are not advised to be used on children under the age of 2 months according to American Association of Pediatrics. Those older than that are safe to use repellents as long as the DEET concentration do not exceed 30%.3

What concentration of DEET to buy?

Depending on the brand of insect repellent, the concentration of DEET varies. The effectiveness of DEET is similar regardless of the concentration of the product. But the duration of action may differ. For example, 10% DEET will provide protection against mosquito bite for about 2 hours and 30% will do the work for 5 hours. 

It’s not recommended to use a product with DEET more than 30%.

Are there any natural alternatives to DEET?
There are many alternatives to DEET. The one with evidence behind it is lemon eucalyptus oil. Often used in natural mosquito repellent products, this oil is proven to be more than 95% effective against mosquitoes for 3 hours when compared to DEET.4
While there are many products in the pharmacy which uses lemon eucalyptus oil in their mosquito repellent, we can also prepare it at home. 

Just mix 1 part of lemon eucalyptus oil to 10 parts of sunflower oil and spray it or rub it on the skin.

Protecting our loved ones and ourselves against mosquito-borne illness is important especially now. 

Always remember to wear long sleeves shirts and pants, and use mosquito repellent when going out especially in the evening.

For further reading:

  1. https://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/deet
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27548647 
  3. https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/news-features-and-safety-tips/pages/summer-safety-tips.aspx 
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24772681

Friday, 2 September 2016

Mediterranean diet

What is Mediterranean diet?

 Mediterranean diet originates from Greece and Italy. The Mediterranean diet puts emphasis on eating plant-based food and making olive oil and canola oil as the main source of fat.
This diet recently rose to fame due to multiple types of research supporting its benefits against heart diseases, cancer, and many other health problems.


Does Mediterranean diet help in preventing heart attacks?

Following Mediterranean diet has positive effects on cardiovascular health. Just recently in European Society of Cardiology meeting, a group of researchers presented their research findings. They studied 1197 patients with heart problems and found that there was 34% lesser risk of dying from heart-related issues in those who strictly followed Mediterranean diet. 

Many other types of research also strongly support Mediterranean diet. For example, a research by Bihuniak et al focused on post-menopausal women. Post-menopausal women have reduced female hormones and thus are more susceptible to heart problems when their menopause hits. In this study after 12 weeks of following Mediterranean style diet, a significant increase in HDL (good cholesterol) and reduction in bad cholesterol “triglyceride” is observed. 

Will blood sugar level be in control with this diet?

Image |Pixabay
There are two types of diabetes mellitus. Type 1 diabetes mellitus is seen among children and due to “autoimmune” disease which means our own body starts to kill off our insulin-producing cells. In a recent research, published in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition Mediterranean diet there is strong evidence to suggest Mediterranean diet improves blood glucose level in those with type 1 diabetes mellitus.

"drop in fasting blood glucose up to 2.2mmol/l (40mg/dl)"

Mediterranean diet is also proven to be effective against Type 2 diabetes mellitus, the one that commonly affect adults. In a review done by scientists from Italy, following Mediterranean diet “may help prevent type 2 diabetes” and also improved sugar control in those having diabetes. Those who followed the Mediterranean diet had a drop in fasting blood glucose up to 2.2mmol/l (40mg/dl). 
Does eating more olive oil, nuts and less meat prevent cancer?

There are many types of research claiming Mediterranean diet can prevent breast cancer and prevent relapses in those who had breast cancer. But most of the studies are small scaled and not strong in terms of evidence. For now, there is no enough evidence to say Mediterranean diet can prevent breast cancer, even though the evidence for prevention of heart diseases is strong.

How do I start eating the Mediterranean way?

Here are some simple steps to follow
  1. Increase intake of vegetables, beans, and whole grain. 
  2. Do not take red meat, substitute it with fish
  3. Use olive oil for cooking and salad dressing  
  4. Eat more fruits and use it for snack time
  5. Red wine is allowed but not more than two glasses per day
For some delicious recipes using Mediterranean diet, visit this website


For further reading

1.     European Cardiology on Mediterranean Diet

2.     Post-menopausal status and Mediterranean Diet

3.     Type 2 Diabetes and Mediterranean diet

4.     Type 1 Diabetes and Mediterranean diet

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Dangers of cooking oils

 Our daily meal often contains some form of fried food. Many of us are aware that fried food has high fat content but it is very difficult for us to get rid of. Will using different cooking oil makes fried food less harmful? 

Before going into the details of cooking oils, here is a brief overview on types of fats which are the main components of oil. There are three main types of fats; monounsaturated(MUFA), Polyunsaturated (PUFA), Trans fat saturated fatty acid. 

Scientists have found that using monounsaturated fat in our cooking reduces triglycerides in our blood while improving the level of HDL aka “good cholesterols”. 

Does that mean we can be healthier by using oil rich in monounsaturated fatty acids? We looked at 3 commonly used cooking oil focusing on the benefits and harms of each. 

Olive oil

Olive oil is obtained from the olive seeds and used heavily in Mediterranean diet. Apart from containing Vitamin E and K, it has 73% monounsaturated fatty acid. It is commonly used for cooking as well as salad dressing. 

One important thing to remember is that, when we heat the oil beyond its smoking point, harmful substances such as aldehydes will form. Aldehydes are known to cause cancer and is normally produced by vegetable oil when it reaches its smoking point.

Fortunately, olive oil has a moderately high smoking point, around 216 Celsius. For high temperature cooking, such as frying olive oil will reach its smoking point but since it contains mostly monounsaturated fatty acid, aldehydes production is minimal. 

Pro: Healthy, contains monounsaturated fatty acid, produces minimal aldehydes
Cons: Expensive

Sunflower oil

There are three types of sunflower oil in the market currently. All three have different processing methods and have different nutrient content. The standard sunflower oil is rich in polyunsaturated fat, while the high oleic version contains 82% monounsaturated fatty acid making it comparable with olive oil. 

Sunflower oil has approximately the same smoking point, around 227 degree Celsius, but since it contains mainly polyunsaturated fat (in the standard version), it is very unstable and produces aldehyde quickly and in higher percentage compared to olive oil. 

Sunflower oil also contains higher Omega 6 (a type of polyunsaturated fat) level, compared to Omega 3. While Omega 3 is known to reduce inflammation in body and helping in reducing heart attacks, omega 6 is pro-inflammatory. Omega 6 has the potential to increase heart diseases, and other inflammatory problems such as rheumatoid arthritis. The ratio of Omega 6: Omega 3 in sunflower oil is 40:1 which is not healthy. 

Even though theoretically this should increase inflammatory conditions, till date there is no enough evidence to prove that. 

Pro: Has omega 3, cheap
Cons: Mostly polyunsaturated fat, and Omega 6. High aldehyde production on cooking. Possibly pro-inflammatory.

Palm Oil

Palm oil is the mostly used cooking oil, especially in the Asian households. Palm oil has been linked with health risks as well as environmental risks. 


There are some strong evidences suggesting palm oil increases the risk of heart problems. For example in a research done in Costa Rica, scientists found that people consuming palm oil are more likely to develop heart attack compared to those consuming other types of oil. Another group of scientists from Singapore concluded that palm oil increases LDL cholesterol by 0.24mmol/l after looking at various researches done on this matter.

This bad effect of palm oil can be explained by presence of almost 50% of saturated fat which is proven to be harmful for our health. 

Palm oil consumption is also said to be harmful to the environment. According to a group of activists, over 300,000 different animals are found in Borneo, and Sumatra and many of them are injured, killed or displaced because of deforestation. Deforestation is done to clear the forest for palm oil plantations. According to the World Wildlife Fund, an area the equivalent size of 300 football fields of rainforest is cleared each hour to make way for palm oil production. Read more on this from here. 

Pro: Cheap, widely available

Cons : Increases risk of heart attack, leads to deforestation 


Among the available cooking oil, olive oil seems to be the best. Choose refined olive oil for deep frying as it has higher smoking point compared to extra virgin olive oil which is more suitable for shallow frying or salad dressing. 

For further reading:

Palm Oil& Environment : http://www.saynotopalmoil.com/Whats_the_issue.php