Monday, June 16, 2014

World Cup Health: Are You a Sports Fan?

Are there health benefits or risks of being a super sports fan? 

He shoots, he scores! And, the crowd goes wild. You can hear their roar. Hundreds of excited fans flood the streets, waving their team’s flag proudly, while horns honk in response. In homes across the country, viewers at home jump in excitement while embracing their friends, with giddy grins on their faces. A last minute win – the true sports fan’s dream. It's World Cup time -  is it affecting your health?

Sports fans of all kinds will be glued to the television with the summer season of sports ramping up. Rooting for your team can affect your health, both positively and negatively. It’s absolutely amazing that simply watching a sporting event can change your mood, hormones in your body, and they way you eat.

You’re In the Game

Oh, there is nothing quite like that feeling of glory when your team wins. Who doesn’t like to identify with successful people or teams and enjoy basking in the reflected glory? In fact, psychology researchers suggest watching your favourite team win increases self-esteem, mood, cortisol and testosterone levels.

When saliva samples of 21 male fans watching a World Cup soccer match were compared, testosterone levels increased in fans of the winning team, and decreased in fans of the losing team. The Challenge Hypothesis can explain the rise in testosterone: testosterone levels of watchers increase in preparation to defend or enhance their social status.

World Cup Science Study

During the 2010 World Cup finals between Spain and the Netherlands (since you’re itching to know, yes, Spain won), researchers observed 50 Spanish soccer fans and found similar results with testosterone levels, as well as changes in cortisol levels. Interestingly the younger and greater fans had higher cortisol levels during the game. In other words, younger and greater fans perceive that a negative outcome of the game will threaten their own social esteem.

Watching your heroes win or lose has physiological consequences. You are not just watching your sports team - your body is reacting and responding to the game. When athletes in a game are tested for testosterone level changes they experience a similar increase during a win and decrease during a loss. Thus, the physiological effects sports fans experience watching the game are a bit like those experienced by athletes in the sport – it’s almost like you are in the game.

Weight Gain and the Game's Score

The outcome of the game is likely effecting your waistline. According to a paper published in Psychology Science in 2013, when a fan’s favourite team loses it leads to consumption of less healthy food. The study found that on Monday, following a Sunday National Football League (NFL) game, fans in cities of losing teams ate more saturated fat and a higher number of calories than fans in cities where teams won.  The effect was seen more greatly in cities with more committed fans. Interestingly, in cities where the NFL team had not played on the Sunday there was no change in dietary consumption. Similar results were seen when the researchers measured food consumption of French soccer fans. 

Listen up sports fans! 

Adorn your jerseys, paint your faces and get your best cheer ready – here comes an amazing few months of sports. But, remember no matter who wins the World Cup you’re body is reacting to the outcome. So, breathe, get up and stretch and eat well so you can enjoy every amazing kick, shoot and goal of the World Cup.


Bernhardt PC. Testosterone changes during vicarious experiences of winning and losing among fans at sporting events. Physiol Behav. 1998 Aug;65(1):59-62.

Cornil Y and P Chandon. From fan to fat? Vicarious losing increases unhealthy eating, but self-affirmation is an effective remedy. Psychol Sci. 2013 Oct;24(10):1936-46. doi: 10.1177/0956797613481232. Epub 2013 Aug 7.

Van der Meij L et al. Testosterone and cortisol release among Spanish soccer fans watching the 2010 World Cup final. PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e34814. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0034814. Epub 2012 Apr 18.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Man-Up! Top Men's Health Issues & Foods/Supplements that can Help

 Men have a shorter life expectancy than women. Are you going to let the ladies have all the fun? Come on men - it's time to learn some new tricks about eating and living healthier.

It’s a Guy Thing

Many men avoid a doctor when sick, and skip regular check ups. Surveys show such men blame time or money restrictions. Yet, there is more to it – it’s a boy thing. From a young age, boys are taught to ‘tough-it-out’ from father-figures, coaches and sports heroes. When it comes to not feeling well, males tend to avoid the doctor, even when they are in their ‘wise-old age’. Wise-up, and be proud of your body – it’s time to take your health seriously.

Top 5 Men’s Health Issues:

  • Obesity
  • Prostate/Penile Health
  • Heart Disease
  • Hair Loss
  • Mental Health well as concerns with weight management, heart burn, acne, digestive troubles and a lack of energy.

The Beer Belly

Shirt a little snug?  Obesity is a big problem in men. According to a 2009 Statistics Canada report on body composition, 37% of adults are overweight; of which, more men than women are tipping the scale. Obesity is linked to many diseases. Small dietary and lifestyle changes can make a difference. Your local health food store has a plethora of whole food items, healthy snack options and supplements to help. Sporting a healthy waistline is a great way to wear your health proud.

Psst… It’s Called a Penis

The guys love to crack jokes that involve male genitalia, but its no laughing matter when penile tissue doesn’t work. Luckily, there are scientifically proven medicinal and herbal options to help improve the ability of erectile tissue to maintain an erection, including Horny Goat Weed.

Men might not have to deal with a uterus that cramps, but they do have to deal with a prostate. Enlarged prostates are common among older men, but it is not unheard of in younger men as well. Located in a sensitive area of the body, even small prostate flare-ups can lead to problems with urination and sexual function. Saw palmetto is well known for its ability to support prostate health. Anti-inflammatory nutrients such as fish oil and probiotics may also help with an inflamed prostate.

Don’t hide under the sheets if you are having problems in the bedroom – your health may be at risk. Clinical and epidemiological studies show a link between sexual dysfunction and physical and psychological health.  Listen up, boys - all men have a prostate and a penis. You won’t be the first patient to ask a doctor about his ‘boy-parts’.  So, Man-Up! And, go talk to your health care provider about your prostate or penis-related concerns. 

Huddle Up

Fact: Men have a lower life expectancy. So, what’s our game plan? Men aren’t dying due to their ‘need for speed’ or other masculine impulses. Men have a higher death rate from coronary heart disease than women.  Researchers have found that cardiovascular disease appears about 10 years earlier in men than in women. And, clinical studies show that cardiovascular disease is largely preventable through lifestyle modification.  The game plan is simple: more exercise, vegetables, fish oil and fibre.  And, our ‘special teams’ will feature a few heart-health promoting supplements like hawthorne, plant sterols or CoQ10. 

Lowering Stress

While some people may appear to thrive on it, stress is a risk factor in many diseases, including heart disease, mental illness and some intestinal conditions. Stress can also affect your immune system leaving you weak.  Need some help chillin’ out, boys? Try yoga, tai-chi, or herbal medicines including California poppy, kava, or ginseng. 

The Better Gender?

Men can tolerate more pain than women (really, it’s a proven fact). But, that doesn’t mean they should ignore the signals their body is giving them. Be a man about it, and talk straight with your doctor about your health concerns. Wear your health with pride – it looks good on you. 


Health Canada

Kaufman JS, Cheek DJ. Men's cardiovascular and pulmonary health. Nurs Clin North Am. 2004 Jun;39(2):283-300.

Moyad MA. The optimal male health diet and dietary supplement program. Urol Clin North Am. 2012 Feb;39(1):89-107.

Pinkhasov RM, Shteynshlyuger A, Hakimian P, Lindsay GK, Samadi DB, Shabsigh R. Are men shortchanged on health? Perspective on life expectancy, morbidity, and mortality in men and women in the United States. Int J Clin Pract. 2010 Mar;64(4):465-74.

Statistics Canada

Tan HM et al. Men's health: sexual dysfunction, physical, and psychological health--is there a link? J Sex Med. 2012 Mar;9(3):663-71.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Argh! Why Can't I Lose this Weight?!

As the market place is full of quick weight loss solutions promising drastic reductions in weight with a flip of their magical wand, it’s important to understand why we are obese and why we should care how heavy we are.

Why are we so fat? 
According to the World Health Organization we are fat because we’ve transitioned our food choices towards refined foods, food of animal origin, and increased fat. According to all of these experts, we are fat because we may have genes that tell us to overeat, we eat more with each generation and we choose the wrong foods.

Why do we care if we are fat?
Some experts say that it’s because humans have similar eating patterns to the rat – humans will eat until overfed. This is an evolutionary response to eat and store energy to be able to survive a future famine. However, when, if ever, does the local supermarket run out of food? We are not likely to see a famine in the near future in North America. Therefore, we never find a need to use all of this energy we are storing. With each generation we appear to be storing more energy for this fictional upcoming famine. According to Professor Roland Auer, of the University of Calgary we are fat because we eat 15% more   
   calories with each generation.

Clothes come in all sizes and body fat is useful as it keeps us warm in the winter. What is the concern? Well, obesity is a concern because it is associated with disease. Excessive body fat is associated with an increased cancer risk. A study that observed 900,000 people for 16 years estimated that excess body fat may account for 14% of all cancer deaths in men and, 20% of cancer deaths in women. This type of convincing research warns us of the danger of obesity.

Physical Activity for Weight Loss?

Although obesity has strong genetic determinants, it is generally accepted that it results from an imbalance between food intake and daily physical activity. We eat too much food and exercise too little. This is reflected in the health guidelines across North America which focuses on two particular lifestyle factors: increasing levels of physical activity and reducing the intakes of fat and sugars.

Most health experts agree that all long term weight loss programs should include regular exercise. However, does exercise directly reduce weight? There is disagreement among the scientific experts as to how much exercise is needed to achieve weight loss and whether or not there is a dose response effect.

For those of you who cringe at the idea of a weight loss plan that includes intense workouts such as the stair climber that makes you feel like you are climbing Mount Everest, or the rowing machine seems like it’s in the ocean during a hurricane – never fear. The Journal of the American Medical Association reported a study of women who were put on a calorie reduced diet and varying exercise programs for a year. They found that regardless of exercise intensity the women attained weight loss (average 13 to 20 lbs), maintained the weight loss and improved cardiovascular fitness. In other words, you do not have to train for a marathon to lose weight.

Any amount of exercise can help with weight management. Do what you can so that you will keep doing it. Everest and the ocean are not necessary to achieve weight loss. Most importantly, exercise and physical fitness are associated with increased energy, feelings of contentment and reduced risk of some diseases. Exercise is a part of a healthy lifestyle and should be a part of everyone’s daily routines.

How to Lose Weight?

The shelves are packed with various books touting the latest diet plan. Each diet book promising to offer greater weight loss effects than the others. However, we have yet to find the be-all-end-all of diets. Scientific investigation of various diet forms has found that in the end a diet that is rich in vegetables, whole grains and low-fat foods is a good way to loose weight. However, the only scientifically proven way to loose weight is to have a net caloric loss of 500 calories per day. This can be achieved by cutting back on snacks, dressings and high calorie drinks, in addition to participating in a daily exercise plan. This year be successful and achieve your desired weight loss goal with a healthy diet and some exercise.  

From A. Tannis, Vitality: Quest for a healthy diet, Volumes Publishing: Kitchener, 2005.