Why Would Herbs Provide Useful Substances to Animals?

From a philosophical viewpoint, the synthesis of substances by plants and their transfer to animals is interesting. Clearly the substances produced by plants mostly provide some benefit to the plant. However, in some cases the plant will synthesise chemicals, such as nectar, specifically to attract animals, such that they can then be used to spread pollen. Many substances from plants are useful to animals, and so the question arises, as to why all plants are not poisonous? This would allow the plant to avoid predation by herbivores and this would be a survival advantage. Clearly when animals eat plants they derive some beneficial health effects but at the same time some animals such as grazing animals can cause significant damage to the plants. The synergism in nature that exists between plants and animals is hard to theorise from a scientific position unless you accept the notion that the plants have been provided for the animals to eat. As well as energy, plants also produce medicine for animals and yet there is no reason for them to do this. 

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RdB

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The Energy Content of Vegetables

Vegetables have been shown to possess a number of health effects. One of the main health effects that relates to regular consumption of vegetables is weight loss. The weight loss effects of vegetables are related to the high water content and low energy content they possess. In addition, the energy present is usually in the form of starch or protein, and this means that rapid rises in blood glucose are not present after eating vegetables, even in large amounts. However, one factor that is often not considered regarding the energy content of vegetables is the use of fibre as an energy source. Humans do not possess the necessary enzymes to digest many carbohydrates in plants and as such they are referred to as non-digestible polysaccharides or dietary fibre. However, the human colonic microflora can digest this fibre and convert it to usable energy in the form of short chain fatty acids. Therefore the label claims for the total energy in vegetables is often underestimated, and the true value is higher than is stated. 

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Gestalt Theory of Change

Gestalt theory is a theory that suggests that the whole is more than the sum of the parts. This is sometimes nutritionally referred to as synergy. This is an important principle that underlies all nutritional interventions. Change to a diet should be made up of small changes in a number of areas. Changing just one thing will only cause a very small and imperceptible change to the individual concerned. This is the reason that clinical trials involving nutrition often do not yield significant results, as the change is so small as to be immeasurable. However, when changes are numerous the changes not only become added together, but their whole (the total change) becomes greater than the sum of the parts. This is the main argument in nutritional therapy for eliciting change through an overall approach to the diet that requires many small changes in different areas of the overall eating strategy. Therefore a successful eating protocol to produce improvements in overall health should address multiple small changes to create synergism.  

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Icariins and Bone Health

Bone health is highly complex and there are a number of factors that relate to the health of the bones. While hormonal factors likely play the main role in determining the health of the bones, nutrition is also highly important. A high quality diet contributing all of the essential nutrients will go a long way to ensuring correct bone health, especially if combined with weight bearing exercise. However, a number of specific nutrients that directly affect bone growth and regeneration have been identified. Iccariin is a flavonoid nutrient derived from the Chinese medicinal herb Epimedii. Icariins are flavonoid nutrients and as such share many of the chemical properties of other flavonoids including the ability to act as antioxidants and the ability to affect gene regulation. Icariins appear to promote bone growth through their ability to stimulate oestrogenic activity. Studies show that in women, icariins prevent post-menopausal bone loss without the negative side effects associated with oestrogen therapy. 

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Wang, Z., Wang, D., Yang, D., Zhen, W., Zhang, J. and Peng, S. 2018. The effect of icariin on bone metabolism and its potential clinical application. Osteoporosis International. 29(3): 535-544
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Why Does Processed Food Have Such a Long Shelf Life?

One of the principal characteristics of most processed food is that it possesses a long shelf life. The preservation of such foods is not by accident, as food manufacturers know that foods that spoil quickly have lower profit margins. Over time, food manufacturers have therefore learnt to increase the shelf lives of foods, and processing of the foods is a necessary stage in that process. Processing of foods can increase the sugar content of the food, relative to other nutrients, and this perseveres the food because microorganisms cannot survive in such osmotically unfavourable conditions. Heating and sterilising the food as in canning, can also increase the shelf life because it removes any microorganisms from the food. However, this is at the cost of the nutritional content. Lastly, adding preservatives can also improve shelf life, but such preservatives may also have detrimental effects on the consumer. Most processed foods are therefore of low nutritional value and often possess anti-nutrients that can negatively affect health. 

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RdB

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Fake Food

The typical Western diet is defined as the normal diet of the majority of the population that lives in Australia, Canada, the United States and Western Europe. This diet consists of highly processed and refined foods that are associated with poor health outcomes. There has been a gradual trend over recent times for the processing of the food eaten in the Western diet to increase, and as a result many of the foods that are present could be defined as fake foods. That is to say, the nutrition and substance of the food has deviated so far from its original makeup that it is not long able to be defined in terms of a natural food. Supermarkets are replete with such food, and they are often easy to identify by their long shelf lives, large ingredients list, large number of additives and preservatives, as well as very low amounts of essential nutrients. Such foods are effectively empty calories that gradually poison the consumer through the delivery of synthetic chemicals, while at the same time causing severe nutritional deficiencies. 

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The benefits of Friendly Gut Bacteria

There are two main reasons for the benefits of gut bacteria, one is a direct effect of their existence and one is an indirect effect. The main direct effect of gut bacteria is that they provide a method of synthesising a number of nutrients that cannot be synthesised by the host. For example, gut bacteria synthesise short chain fatty acids for humans from non-digestible starch. This provides the host with a source of energy and short chain fatty acids may also have specific health effects. In addition, gut bacteria can synthesise a number of vitamins including vitamin B12 and vitamin K. The main indirect way that gut bacteria are able to improve the health of the host is by outcompeting harmful microorganisms from colonising the gut. Food sources are finite and the growth of the friendly gut bacteria can inhibit invasion by harmful organisms. In addition, the synthesis of an acidic environment through the production of short chain fatty acids may actually inhibit the growth of yeast such as Saccharomyces ceriviciae by creating a low pH. 

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The Propensity to Overeat Food

Overeating food is considered by many to be the primary cause of weight gain. While the evidence at first glance does appear to support this, the solution, which is to eat less food, has been consistently shown not to cause weight loss. One of the main problems with the “overeating” hypothesis of weight grain is that it does not take into account the types of food eaten. Overeating sweet high fat foods is relatively easy and will indeed cause weight gain. But the main problem lies in the low quality of the foods. They taste good so people eat them in large amounts, and this results in metabolic damage and weight gain. Reducing the amount eaten does not reverse the metabolic damage. Healthy foods such as vegetables, tinned tuna fish and some of the less sweet fruits are difficult to overeat because their taste is not so desirable. Not only does this reduce total energy intake, but it also is not associated with metabolic damage, and so such foods generally cannot cause any significant weight gain. 

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Tryptophan and Light Exposure to Improve Mood?

Tryptophan is an amino acid that is a precursor of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that may become depleted in the brain in cases of depression and related mood disorders. As serotonin is in turn a precursor to melatonin, and melatonin is required for correct sleep, this may explain the reason that depression is associated with poor quality sleep. One hypothesis suggests that supplementation of tryptophan in the diet may improve mood disorders and sleep times. For example, in one study researchers fed a tryptophan rich breakfast to Japanese students in order to investigate the effects on sleep times. At the same time the students were also exposed to incandescent light during the day to help create a strong circadian rhythm in the participants. The results of the study showed that light exposure in combination with a tryptophan rich breakfast was significantly able to improve salivary melatonin levels and also was significantly able to improve sleep time in the study participants. 

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RdB

Wada, K., Yata, S., Akimitsu, O., Krejci, M., Noji, T., Nakade, M., Takeuchi, H. and Harada, T. 2013. A tryptophan-rich breakfast and exposure to light with low color temperature at night improve sleep and salivary melatonin level in Japanese students. Journal of Circadian Rhythms. 11(1): 1-9
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Coenzyme Q10 Requirements

Coenzyme Q10 is also called ubiquinone, on account of its wide distribution in all tissues. Coenzyme Q10 is found in all cells that respire it as it forms part of the respiratory transport chain. The respiratory transport chain is a series of reactions that pass electrons, generated through the energy releasing pathways of the cell, to oxygen to form water. This process releases energy and provides all living things with their metabolic energy.  Coenzyme Q10 is available as a supplement, and is often taken as an antioxidant nutrient on account of its ability to sequester lone pairs of electrons. Coenzyme Q10 supplements are not generally taken to increase energy production as the cell can make its own supply. However, as an individual ages, coenzyme Q10 synthesis rates can decline, and there is a line or reasoning that suggests that supplements may be beneficial and may improve energy production in older individuals. The best way to take coenzyme Q10 is as a n oil based supplement due to its fat soluble nature. 

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RdB

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