Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


Stand up for health’s sake

Sitting down for just two hours can significantly increase your blood pressure.

Sitting is linked to increased risk of disease of the heart and circulatory system and it doesn’t matter if you exercise it’s the sitting that is the problem.

Blood pressure was statistically significantly elevated after two- and four-hour bouts of sitting in healthy older adults” according to scientists at Birmingham University’s school of sport, exercise and rehabilitation.

Sitting for less than two hours is significantly safer so getting up and walking around can reduce the risk.

Although the research focused on the over-70s it’s the same across all age ranges.

The American Cancer Society reported last year that people sitting for more than 6 hours a day had a 19% higher death rate than those who spent less than 3 hours seated.

Research at Liverpool John Moores University showed that prolonged sitting slows blood flow to the brain and may raise the risk of dementia.

So overall it’s clear that sitting damages health. “There is growing evidence supporting the longer-term health effects of prolonged sedentary behaviour across the life course” said the researcher at Birmingham who presented these results  at the British Science Association’s annual meeting last week.

It is important to make people aware that they need to try and reduce sitting time as well as going to the gym” she added.

So get up off your bums for you health’s sake!

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Coffee shops told to stop selling calorie-rich cakes

Public Health England (PHE) has criticised coffee shops for pushing customers to buy snacks.

They are working with the food industry to reduce the sugar content of foods in shops and are now looking at food eaten outside the home. Chief nutritionist Alison Teddistone said “Coffee shops have got a long way to go”

A muffin adds about 400 calories to an order. Just because it has a healthy sounding name it’s still part of the problem, she says, with all the little nudges to buy extras.

Major coffee chains have committed publicly to reducing sugar and now it is time for all to raise their game. More action is needed to tackle obesity”.

PHE has set a target for cafés restaurants and coffee shops to reduce sugar in their everyday products by 20% by 2020. They are also concerned about takeaway deliveries who are doing a Facebook and saying they are “only connecting people”.  The government is also keen for restaurants, cafés and take-aways to list calories on their menus.

The WHO has warned this week that the UK was the 5th out of 176 nations for cancer linked to obesity. That is truly a shocking statistic, especially for an advanced country like the UK.

PHE said people know smoking is linked to cancer but don’t realise obesity is also increasing the risk of cancer (and diabetes and stroke).

FYI

  • Costa Coffee Blueberry muffin = 434 calories with 25.7 g of sugar
  • Costa Coffee bonfire spiced hot chocolate whole milk = 311 calories with36.5 g of sugar
  • Starbucks skinny blueberry muffin = 312 calories with 24 g of sugar
  • Starbucks venti oat vanilla latte = 438 calories with 52.2 g of sugar
  • Caffe Nero blueberry-filled muffin = 418 calories with 29.1 g of sugar

NHS advises only 30 g of sugar per day

This is all very well but perhaps if people exercised more then they could enjoy these treats in moderation.

And I’ve previously posted about Costa Coffee’s decision to impose semi-skimmed milk on customers without warning or having signs anywhere. They say it’s for health reasons yet still encourage people to have syrup, marshmallows and chocolate logs in their coffee. How hypocritical is that?


Annandale Distillery…………..Scottish whisky (just!)

Another great picture blog from Kindadukish

Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

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On my recent visit to the Lake District it was suggested that I make a foray across the border to visit the Annandale Distillery (given my interest in whisky) which is the most southerly whisky distillery in Scotland. It is tucked away just outside the town of Annandale in a little valley and would be easy to miss if you weren’t looking for it.

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The buildings have been refurbished at a cost of £14 million (increased from the original estimate of £10.5 million) and they have done a magnificent job of retaining as much of the original structure as possible. The setting is simply delightful and it is reassuring to see wooden casks (used for maturing the spirit) stacked around the yard.

Background History*

The original Annandale Distillery was built in 1830 by former Elgin-based excise officer George Donald, who named the site after the valley in which it is…

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Full fat fiasco at Costa Coffee

Costa Coffee used to be my favourite coffee shop. I went in most days for a large cappuccino or more recently flat whites.

But since they became health fascists trying to dictate what kind of milk we have I am falling out of love with them.

A few weeks ago a barista mentioned that they would only be serving semi-skinned milk in future, except for the flat white family which would still have full fat, whole milk.

They are doing this by stealth. There are no signs anywhere explaining their new policy. What happened to transparency and honesty?

I tweeted (the first of several) complaints to @CostaCoffee to be told by Natalia that there had been demand for semi-skimmed from customers and team members. Well Costa team members shouldn’t be dictating what customers want and many of us want whole milk.

Since then trying to get a coffee with whole milk has proved difficult and sometimes impossible.

Family members have experienced difficulty at several stores  – Haslingden Tesco, Burnley Tesco, and Rawtenstall and Accrington Costa shops. I reported this to Costa to be told they were still adjusting delivery levels.

Well this morning they hadn’t done a very good job as after queuing for my flat white, I checked they had whole milk, to be told they hadn’t because head office hadn’t sent enough. So I walked out.

Sometimes staff miraculously find some as we walk away. Sometimes staff are borderline rude about our asking for it as if they know best.

They say it’s part of a health drive. Don’t make me laugh! This country has an obesity problem and the coffee culture has a lot to answer for apparently.

People are drinking more elaborate coffees (you with the syrup and the whipped cream for example) and have cakes on the side. Lots and lots of calories. And Costa is no different.When asked why they still serve people with sugary syrups and the like they say “those are extras”.

Milk provides a lot of nutrients — including a few that most people don’t get enough of, like vitamin D. Calcium is important for kids and teenagers who are still building bone and for adults who need to maintain the bone they have.

Although it’s lower in fat and calories, semi-skimmed milk also has lower levels of fat-soluble vitamins, including A and E, than whole milk, so children and grown-ups might be missing out on nutrition

Research from America found that people who drink whole milk have a lower risk of diabetes than those who don’t.

The 15-year-long study by Tufts University looked at 3,333 people aged between 30 and 75. The researchers found that people with high levels of three different by-products of full-fat dairy in their bodies had a 46% lower risk of diabetes mellitus than those who had low levels of dairy fat.

Dr Dariush Mozaffarian, whose findings were published in the journal Circulation, told Time:  “I think these findings, together with those from other studies do call for a change in the policy of recommending only low-fat dairy products. There is no prospective human evidence that people who eat low-fat dairy do better than people who eat whole-fat dairy.”

As a psychologist I wonder if they are taking advantage of something called moral licensing. This is a phenomenon that causes people to overeat by giving them permission to indulge, the psychological tendency to indulge ourselves in one area of our life when we’re being good in another. 

The phenomenon accounts for why many runners gain weight while training for a race. They expend more calories during their runs, but by rewarding themselves with indulgences throughout their day like an insulin-spiking post-workout “sports drink,” they ultimately negate many of the health benefits of exercise.

Some studies found participants who believed multivitamin pills provided significant health benefits also exercised less, were less likely to choose healthy food, and smoked more.

So having a skinny decaff latte (can you actually call that coffee?) doesn’t justify that syrup and whipped cream you are adding to it, and the sticky bun on the side.

Costa should rethink this policy. They are still selling syrup, whipped cream, marshmallows etc so they aren’t really serious about the health issues.

Furthermore they are foisting this on people unknowingly – not very honest. Why haven’t they put up signs or posted it on their web-sites?

There are half a dozen other coffee shops in the town centre. Costa shouldn’t take customers for granted.


Live longer – drink more coffee!

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s1032160_2Coffee has its detractors I know but without my daily input of caffeine  I’d be lost. I know I’m only topping up my caffeine levels to what feels normal but that’s OK. And I have no truck with the coffee bar habitués who order skinny de-caffs – what’s the point? And even worse those who order skinny decaffs with a cream and cherry syrup topping or have a chocolate/caramel/sticky toffee bun on the side. Who are they kidding? Having skinny decaff doesn’t really give you a licence to indulge on other high calorie goodies.

But I digress. The latest research says that drinking three or more cups of coffee a day makes it less likely you will die an early death.

American researchers have found that coffee contains bioactive chemicals that may protect drinkers against diseases such as diabetes and dementia.

Three cups a day lowers your risk of premature…

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Being a greedy guts can make you more stupid

Neuroscientists in Germany have found that not only does getting fat age your brain quicker but also affects your problem solving and speed of thinking.

And it’s slightly worse for women than men and for people with paunches, rather than for people who put on weight elsewhere on their bodies e.g. their hips.

The findings, by Veronica Witte and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Human and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, might help to explain why overweight and obese people face a greater risk of cognitive decline and dementia in later life.

They brain-scanned almost 3,000 adults and got them to complete a series of cognitive tests. They found that being overweight seemed to alter the structure of the brain. Basically people with a higher BMI score or a broader waist to to hips comparison had less brain tissue and performed worse in quick-thinking tests.

They can’t prove that obesity changes the brain as they didn’t do a study over a long period and it could be that as people lose white matter in their brains they also lose some control functions and over-eat.

However the scientists believe that “low grade” inflammation that stems from fat cells may gradually eat away sensitive parts of the brain.

Dementia is now the most common cause of death in Britain and effects almost a million people.

Do you need a better reason to eat healthily and exercise?


10,000 steps has no scientific basis. Another health myth bites the dust

Public Health chiefs have announced that you are better off going for a brisk walk than trying to achieve 10,000 steps a day.

They think the 10,000 steps idea came from a pedometer manufacturer in Japan and has no scientific basis.

In terms of people getting the full health benefits they really need to make sure that they exercise to a moderate intensity. That includes walking, gardening and housework as long as it makes you breathe faster and raises your heart rate.

Two and a half hours a week or half that if you do vigorous exercise such as running. As 20% of middle-aged adults only do half an hour a week there is a long way to go. Starting with a daily ten-minute brisk walk – half the official guidance – would be a good start.

Previous posts on exercise