The quality of PE class can transform kids’ academic success
Extraordinary athletes know the extraordinary power of physical activity to reshape your mind and the mind’s power to transform your body. ShifuYan Lei, who teaches Shaolin Qigong, says, “If you ever lack the motivation to train, then think what happens to your mind and body when you don’t.” Golfer Sam Snead put it another way: “Practice puts brains in your muscles.” And tennis great Martina Hingis said, “I didn’t have the same fitness or ability as other girls, so I had to beat them with my mind.”
Turns out that the complex relationship between body and mind is as true for kids as for pros. An analysis of 19 studies involving 8,676 children and teens shows that when school physical education programs are upgraded, kids’ brainpower and math skills increase.
Interestingly, it doesn’t make a difference if the number or length of PE sessions increases. What makes a difference is if the PE classes added cognitively-challenging activities like dance or martial arts, the lessons were led by a PE specialist or the PE sessions involved high-intensity activities, sports and team games. The researchers, writing in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, suspect the benefits come from neurobiological, psychological and behavioral changes that happen when kids engage mind and body while physically active.
Dehydration: Don’t sweat it
As Wolverine, actor Hugh Jackman made the contours of his muscles, veins and bones pop out by intentionally becoming super-dehydrated for 36 hours before shooting shirtless scenes. Risky business. In 1992, 33-year-old pro bodybuilder Mohammed Benaziza died following a competition when severe dehydration caused heart failure. And even if you don’t collapse, repeatedly becoming dehydrated can cause long-term reduction in muscle strength.
Just as risky — unintentional dehydration. It can sneak up on you, especially in the summer. And we’re an under-watered country! One study in the American Journal of Public Health found that half of kids don’t get adequate hydration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says American adults only take in about 39 ounces of water daily (that’s around three tall glasses) — not nearly what’s needed to keep your bowels, kidneys and heart happy. Add temperatures in the 80s and above and — we hope — an hour of aerobic exercise, and you could be 40 to 80-plus ounces short of what you need!
Signs of a dehydration crisis include dizziness, fatigue, confusion, headache and less volume or darker urine. But by the time you’re thirsty and have a dry mouth, you’re already starting to dry out inside! Your best bet is to have 16 ounces of water first thing in the morning and then drink a glass of water every couple of hours — we’re talking water, not some sugary soda or sports or energy drink. When you exercise, drink every 15 minutes, outdoors or in the gym. And remember to have a glass of water after every alcoholic beverage.
Artificial sweeteners turn bacteria in your gut against you
Victor Lustig was a true con man, offering fake shares in fake businesses (Al Capone fell for it), counterfeiting money and even selling the Eiffel Tower. But all those artificial enterprises just ended him up in Alcatraz, where he died in 1947.
Turns out that you all have been equally conned by artificial sweeteners — they offer the illusion of sugary flavors with none of the health hazards, but it’s just make-believe.
We have known for a while that the sugar substitutes can fuel your sweet tooth and cause the body to crank up your sugar craving. But until U.K. researchers published their recent study in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, it wasn’t known just how much damage saccharin, sucralose and aspartame can do to the lining of the walls of your intestine — letting harmful gut bacteria seep into your blood stream, congregate in your lymph nodes, liver and spleen and put you at risk for serious infections.
All it took was the equivalent of two cans of diet soda for the researchers to see that artificial sweeteners significantly increased harmful bacteria’s (E. coli and E. faecalis) stickiness to cells in the lining of the gut. That leads to increased formation of biofilms and opened up entryways for the bacteria to move throughout the body.
The bottom line: Cultivate a taste for the natural sweetness in foods like 100 percent whole grains, fruits, vegetables and spices. Just like vaping is not a healthy alternative to cigarettes, artificial sweeteners are not the way to avoid sugary foods.
Let’s talk turkey
It’s hard to believe, but in 2020, Americans ate 5.26 billion pounds of turkey — around 16 pounds per person. If the myth about tryptophan in turkey making you sleepy were true, very few folks would contend with insomnia (up to 30 percent do). But it’s not, even though tryptophan does have special powers.
Tryptophan, an essential amino acid and building block for proteins, is used by the body to make niacin — vitamin B3 — which supports healthy digestion, nerve function and skin. It also helps produce the neurotransmitter serotonin, a hormone that affects your brain and guts (it’s made both places), helps nervous system cells communicate and promotes healthy digestion, strong bones and, yes, sleep. To top it off, tryptophan helps control body-wide inflammation and uplifts your mood.
Your body’s ability to use it for all that good stuff diminishes with age, and that has consequences. That’s the conclusion of a study in the journal Molecular Sciences. Researchers reported that just eight weeks on a low-tryptophan diet disrupts gut bacteria, triggering higher levels of systemic inflammation and reduced production of serotonin — in mice. They call this an “unnatural” process of aging that’s associated in humans with impaired digestive health, declining cognitive function and a compromised immune system.
So here’s your menu for a steady supply of tryptophan and a younger you: canned tuna (27 milligrams per ounce); poultry (20 milligrams per ounce in dark-meat turkey, 14 milligrams per ounce in light-meat chicken), oats (147 milligrams per cup), whole wheat bread (up to 19 milligrams per slice), chocolate (up to 18 milligrams per ounce) and fruits (banana 11 milligrams; a prune, 2 milligrams).
Sowing the seeds of health
“The Demon Seed,” “The Dragon Seed,” “The Seed of Chucky” — based on those movie titles you might think seeds were a menace to us all. Quite the opposite. Seeds contain a bounty of nutrients that fight disease and help prevent premature aging. Here are some seeds you might not have tried yet. (Recipes and more info for these are on www.DoctorOz.com and in Dr. Mike’s “What to Eat When Cookbook.”)
■ Pumpkin seeds: 1 ounce delivers 7 grams of protein; 18 percent of your recommended dietary intake for vitamin K, 33 percent for phosphorus, 42 percent for manganese, 37 percent for magnesium, 23 percent for zinc; plus 6 grams of omega-6s and 7 grams of polyunsaturated fats. They boost your nutrition and fight inflammation.
■ Flaxseed (pre-ground or grind at home) delivers the most ALA omega-3 fatty acids of any plant source in the North American diet, as well as a good dose of lignans, a phytoestrogen that’s linked to a reduced risk of osteoporosis, heart disease and cancer. It also has soluble fiber, which boosts digestion, lowers lousy LDL cholesterol, stabilizes blood sugar and lowers the risk of heart disease.
■ Plus: Hempseed (pre-ground or grind at home) delivers all nine essential amino acids — the building blocks of proteins. Sunflower seeds are high in healthy fats, protein, fiber and a super-source of vitamin E (almost 20 mg in 3 ounces). Chia seeds are super-charged with healthy omega-3 fatty acids loaded with 5 grams of fiber per tablespoon, and contain iron, calcium and zinc. We love seeds.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.