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Benefits of a Window at Work

If your desk is near a window in your office, you probably sleep longer and better at home, get more physical activity, and overall have a better quality of life than co-workers whose desks aren’t so well positioned. Those findings come from a new study by researchers at Northwestern Medicine and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who examined the effects of exposure to natural light in the workplace. All told, the study found that employees lucky enough to sit by a window received 173 percent more white light exposure at work and slept an average of 46 minutes more nightly than those who had no natural light exposure during working hours. Increasing evidence shows that exposure to light during the day, particularly in the morning, benefits health through its effects on mood, alertness and metabolism, according to study senior author Phyllis Zee, M.D., a neurologist and sleep specialist at Northwestern Medicine. Study participants included 49 day-shift office workers, 27 who worked in windowless surroundings and 22 whose workplaces had windows. Some wore devices on their wrists to measure and monitor light exposure, activity and sleep. The researchers said that for natural light at work to have an effect, your desk should be within 20 to 25 feet of walls containing windows.

My take? These study results support what we’ve known for some time - that exposure to natural light is beneficial to health. Sleep expert Ruben Naiman, Ph.D., notes that many people get insufficient light during the day, particularly in the morning, and most of us spend the bulk of our waking hours indoors in what Dr. Naiman describes as relatively dampened light. Healthy levels of light naturally energize us, drawing us outward into the world, and regular patterns of light exposure also help us maintain normal circadian cycles, Dr. Naiman says. If your day-to-day routine and work environment don't provide much exposure to natural light, you might consider using a light therapy box – special devices that aim to replicate sunlight.

Sources:
Phyllis Zee and M. Boubekri et al, “Impact of windows and daylight exposure on overall health and sleep quality of office workers: a case-control pilot study.” Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, doi: 10.5664/jcsm.3780

Are Your Vitamins “Good”?

Confused about which nutritional supplements to choose? Dr. Weil has spent a lifetime researching nutrition and health, including which forms of nutrients are the most bioactive – or have the greatest potential to provide benefits. Here are some of his chief insights among the major supplement classes:

  • Vitamin A: Some forms of supplemental vitamin A, when taken in even moderate daily doses, can be toxic. I recommend the use of mixed carotenoids - these are substances that the body converts to vitamin A, avoiding toxicity potential and maximizing effectiveness.
  • Vitamin D: Inexpensive vitamins tend to contain vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol), the kind synthesized by plants. But when humans eat plant-derived D2, it needs to be converted by the body to D3 (choleciferol), the form most readily used by the human body and which skin makes when exposed to ultraviolet light. Although vitamin D2 will contribute to adequate daily intakes, I recommend D3 as this form has been shown to have greater biological activity in human tissue.
  • Vitamin E: In nature, this vitamin is found as a combination of eight different active compounds - four tocopherols, and four tocotrienols. Many manufacturers use inexpensive, synthetic versions of one or only a few of those eight forms. I recommend a complete, naturally derived mixed tocopherol/tocotrienol complex that more closely mirrors the natural vitamin E found in foods.
  • Calcium: Manufacturers make calcium supplements in many forms, including calcium carbonate (the main constituent of chalk, and the most common supplement type), calcium lactate and calcium aspartate. I suggest calcium citrate because it is more easily absorbed, especially by older people who may have less stomach acid. Although more expensive, calcium citrate is more than twice as bioavailable as calcium carbonate.
  • Fish Oils: Oils derived from the fat of cold-water fish are an excellent source of essential omega-3 fatty acids. Unless carefully sourced, however, these otherwise natural compounds can be contaminated with toxic heavy metals. Look for products derived from fresh catches and waterways with minimal pollution, and those that have received the highest rating for purity - five out of five stars - from the International Fish Oil Standards program.

In every case above, the form Dr. Weil recommends is the one that is available in the Weil Vitamin Advisor. Dr. Weil donates all of his after-tax profits from royalties from sales of Weil Vitamin Advisor products and Weil Nutritional Supplements directly to the Weil Foundation, an organization dedicated to sustaining the vision of integrative medicine.

Motivating for Health and Well-Being (Video)

Fear is a common motivator in health - when something goes wrong with our health, we are motivated to see a doctor and find a quick fix. Dr. Weil believes fear is not a good motivator for good health and instead believes education is a better option for motivation of making lifestyle changes. See what else Dr. Weil says about motivating people to make better choices in life and their health.

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Okinawans Revere Aging (Video)

Dr. Weil discusses the diet and lifestyle of Okinawans, a group of people who live on the island of Okinawa, south of Japan. Okinawa, has the world's highest concentration of centenarians, a unique trait that many scientists are studying to determine the factors leading to this trait. Obesity and common Western diseases such as breast and prostate cancer are also rare there. Dr. Weil describes his experience while visiting this tiny island and how Okinawans revered the elderly.

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Are You Deficient In Magnesium?

Magnesium - the fourth most abundant mineral in the body – is in your bones, teeth, and red blood cells. It is essential for proper functioning of the nervous, muscular and cardiovascular systems, it helps maintain bones, promotes normal blood pressure and is involved in energy metabolism.

How do you know if you aren’t getting enough? Signs of magnesium deficiency include:

  • Irritability
  • Muscle weakness
  • Irregular heartbeat

I recommend adult males get 270-400 mg per day; adult females get 280-300 mg; pregnant females get 320 mg daily; and breastfeeding females get 340-355 mg. Consider taking half as much magnesium as you do calcium, to offset calcium's constipating effect and to ensure the appropriate balance of these two key minerals in the body. Look for magnesium citrate, chelate, or glycinate, and avoid magnesium oxide, which can be irritating to the digestive tract.

Good dietary sources of magnesium include whole grains, leafy green vegetables (spinach is a great source), almonds, cashews and other nuts, avocados, beans, soybeans and halibut. A diet high in fat may cause less magnesium to be absorbed, and cooking may decrease the magnesium content of food.

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Why Your Health Matters (Video)

Listen as Dr. Weil speaks about why health matters and what we can do to live a long and healthy life. Part of Dr. Weil's vision for a healthier world is providing integrative medicine and using natural ways to enhance our healthy living. The Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, founded by Dr. Weil in Tucson, Arizona, is leading the way of providing integrative medicine.

Learn more about the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine:
http://integrativemedicine.arizona.edu/

Learn more about the Integrative Health Center in Phoenix:
http://ihc.arizona.edu/

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How Vegetables Can Save Your Life

Eating more vegetables – and fruit – can literally lengthen your lifeEating more vegetables – and fruit – can literally lengthen your life, according to an ongoing study from Europe. Researchers from 10 countries have been following more than 450,000 people for over 13 years, during which time about 26,000 of the study participants have died. An analysis of the data shows that eating about 2.4 cups of vegetables or more daily reduced the risk of death by 10 percent and delayed that risk for 1.12 years compared to the risks of people who consumed less than nine ounces (about one cup) of vegetables and fruit daily. The researchers also reported that for every increase of about one cup in daily vegetable and fruit consumption, the mortality risk drops by six percent, and calculated that if everyone were eating the recommended 2.4 cups of vegetables and fruits daily, the mortality risk could drop by about three percent. Most of the deaths seen in the study were from cardiovascular disease. The highest (between 30 and 40 percent) reduction in the risk of death associated with fruit and vegetable consumption was observed among study participants who also drank alcohol, and a 20 percent risk reduction linked to eating fruits and vegetables was also seen for obese people. Eating a lot of raw vegetables had a big impact, too – high consumption was linked to a 16 percent reduction in the risk of death.

My take? This study’s findings are impressive, especially since the amount of fruits and vegetables that made a difference was relatively low – 2.4 cups a day is not that much. We know from earlier studies that individuals who consume five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily have a 30 percent lower risk of heart disease or stroke than do those who eat fewer than 1.5 servings per day. Similarly, increasing intake of fruits and vegetables has been shown to reduce high blood pressure, a primary risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Earlier results from this same European study published in 2010 showed no risk reduction for cancer deaths, but the research team didn't look at the effects of specific nutrients on cancer risk. As far as that is concerned, I believe you can benefit from regular consumption of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, which contain a cancer-preventing compound so potent that it is being investigated as a chemotherapy agent. I also continue to recommend eating berries and other brightly colored fruits and vegetables for their protective phytonutrients and antioxidants. My anti-inflammatory diet calls for four to five servings of vegetables (cooked or raw) and three to four servings of fruit daily.

Source:
Marie-Jose Sánchez-Perez et al, “Fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality: European prospective investigation into cancer and nutrition,” American Journal of Epidemiology August 15, 2013 doi: 10.1093/aje/kwt006. Epub 2013 Apr 18