Sunday, August 31, 2008

Controlling Hunger During a Fast: Does Green Tea Help?

Green tea and fasting
Green tea contains more catechins but less caffeine than black tea. (Photo by Kanko*)

This past week I've been drinking green tea to see whether it's a useful way to control appetite while fasting intermittently. Before that, I tested black tea, which proved to be a decent choice when only slightly hungry but a bad choice when really hungry.

The results are pretty similar with green tea. There does seem to be a slight effect of reducing the feeling of hunger, but if I drink large amounts a few hours before breaking the 24 hour fast, I feel tired, shaky and unable to do pretty much anything. Even water would be a better option at that point, but a few hours into the fast green tea is quite nice and refreshing.

The appetite reducing effect could be due to the caffeine content in green tea - though it's less than in black tea or coffee - or it could something spesifical to green tea. To resolve the question once and for all, I'm going to try and find decaffeinated green tea and compare the two.

For more information on tea and fasting, see these posts:

Controlling Hunger During a Fast: Does Black Tea Help?
Controlling Hunger During a Fast: Does Decaffeinated Tea Help?
Controlling Hunger During a Fast: Does Coffee Help?
The Psychological Effects of Intermittent Fasting

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Controlling Hunger During a Fast: Does Black Tea Help?

Black tea, fasting and hunger
Black tea has the most caffeine of all teas. (Photo by prakhar)

So far in my ongoing experiment to find ways to control hunger during fasting, I've been drinking quite a lot of black tea. According to the U.S. Department of Nutritional Services, 5 oz (about 1,5 dl) of black tea contains between 20 and 110 milligrams of caffeine, while coffee contains between 106 and 164 milligrams. Generally, black tea contains more caffeine than green tea and green tea contains more than white tea. The exact amount depends on the type of black tea and brewing time.

I usually make about half a liter (or 17 oz) of tea and drink it during the course of a half an hour or so. Drinking tea does seem to help a little with the hunger, and especially in the morning it's a good way to start the day if I'm fasting. The downside is that if I drink it in the evening, it'll keep me up at night. I suspect most of the appetite suppressing effect is due to the caffeine, but it is of course possible that there is something in black tea that helps with hunger.

The effect is quite minor, however, so black tea is most likely not the best drink choice if you're having trouble fasting. Also, I've noticed that if I drink black tea when I'm very hungry, I get a bit dizzy and don't feel very energetic. This may be due to the fact that black tea has been shown to lower blood sugar levels. Black tea seems to be a decent choice when you're feeling a little hungry but still have the energy to something besides sleep.

For more information on tea and fasting, see these posts:

Controlling Hunger During a Fast: Does Black Tea Help?
Controlling Hunger During a Fast: Does Decaffeinated Tea Help?

Controlling Hunger During a Fast: Does Coffee Help?
The Psychological Effects of Intermittent Fasting

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Controlling Hunger During a Fast

Controlling hunger during a fast
Nicotine is one of the known appetite-suppressants. (Photo by lanier67)

During the past few days, I've been searching for studies and articles on how to suppress hunger to aid me in the intermittent fasting experiment. Eating foods with a higher satiety index will obviously keep the hunger away longer, but I'm looking for something with zero calories to drink while fasting. Unfortunately, there seems to be very little information available on the subject.

Caffeine is often said to be helpful, and while my own experience suggests these claims may have some merit, there isn't much data to back them up. All I could find on the subject was one study that mentions that the appetite-suppressant effect of nicotine is enhanced by caffeine - so be sure to have a cup of coffee with your cigarette! It remains unclear whether caffeine by itself has appetite-suppressant effects or whether it simply enhances those of nicotine.

The study referred to in this article says that chewing gum may help reduce cravings and control appetite. The reductions in calorie intake after chewing gum were not that big, but I suppose even a little is helpful. Chewing gum also improved the subjects' mood by reducing anxiety and stress.

It is reported here that the main green tea catechin, called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), caused rats to lose weight by up to 21% by suppressing appetite. However, the catechin was injected into the rats, and the study spesifically mentions that oral administration was not effective.

To find out whether there is anything helpful out there, I'll be experimenting with different substances in the coming weeks. Green tea, black tea and coffee are definitely on the list, but any other suggestions are also very welcome.

For more information on green tea, black tea and fasting, see these posts:

Controlling Hunger During a Fast: Does Black Tea Help?
Controlling Hunger During a Fast: Does Green Tea Help?
Controlling Hunger During a Fast: Does Decaffeinated Tea Help?

Controlling Hunger During a Fast: Does Coffee Help?

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Intermittent Fasting: Eat as Much as You Want, Just Don't Eat All the Time

Intermittent fasting
If you meditate hard enough, you won't hear your stomach churning. (Photo by Gurumustuk Singh)

Intermittent fasting (or IF for short) means that you eat as much as you like but do so in a restricted time frame. It's a way of achieving some of the benefits of caloric restriction without having to count calories and be hungry all the time. Also, unlike with CR, it is possible to maintain one's current weight while doing IF.

I got the idea to try this from other people's blogs after coming to the conclusion that caloric restriction is too much of a hassle for me. As Patrick Donnelly explains in his blog, there are several ways of IF: fasting a few days a week, every other day or daily.

The first one means that you skip some or all meals on one or more days of the week. The second option means that you alternate between eating and fasting every 24 hours; for example, by eating from Monday 6 PM to Tuesday 6 PM, then fasting from Tuesday 6 PM to Wednesday 6 PM etc. The daily method means that you compress all meals into a short period each day; for example, by only eating between 12 PM and 6 PM.

At first, I tried fasting an entire day to see how it feels. It was fine but not really something I would want to do once or twice every week. As with caloric restriction, I felt hungry pretty much the whole day and had difficulty getting sleep that night. I think Sunday, when you can just relax at home, is the only day a 100% fast is somehow convenient. Combining it with working or exercising would be difficult, at least for me. Fasting only once per week might not get you all the benefits, however.

Currently, I am trying the second approach of alternating between eating and fasting every 24 hours. I've been doing it for a little less than two weeks, and so far it's gone well. My cut-off point has varied slightly between 4 PM and 6 PM, depending on my schedule. Consuming my usual amount of calories has been a little difficult, though, and I've probably lost some weight, but I'm going to try and fix that in the future.

Hunger has not been that much of an issue with this way of intermittent fasting. It's always nice when the fasting period is about to end, but I haven't felt like I was starving during the 24 hours that I'm not eating. I must admit, however, that I've occasionally cheated and drank alcohol even during fasting periods, but I'm not going to be to hard on myself for that. In fact, I'm thinking of calling this method Intermittent Fasting with Beer (or IFB), which I'm going to stick with for now.

For more information on intermittent fasting, see these posts:

A Typical Day of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent Fasting Improves Insulin Sensitivity Even without Weight Loss
Intermittent Fasting Experiment – Update after 5 Months
The Psychological Effects of Intermittent Fasting

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

How to Get Natural Sun Protection by Eating the Right Foods

Eating orange things may help protect your skin from the sun.
Eating orange things may help protect your skin from the sun. (Photo by Matt McGee)

Sun lotion and clothes may still the best guard against sunburn, but how about protecting your skin by eating the right foods?

Two nutrients proven to increase your skin's own sun protection are carotenoids and lycopene. Both can be absorbed from food or taken as supplements.

Carotenoids: the green and orange protectors

Carotenoids with molecules containing oxygen are known as xanthophylls, while unoxygenated carotenoids are known as carotenes. Xanthophylls are found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale. Carotenes are found in vegetables and fruits such as sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, mangos and apricots. Carotenes are also responsible for the orange color.

In a study by González et al., mice whose diets were enriched with lutein and zeaxanthin two common xanthophylls for two weeks had fewer negative effects from ultraviolet B irradiation. The more lutein and zeaxanthin they ate, the more protection they had. The results suggest that eating foods rich in these nutrients will provide at least some protection from the sun.

A meta-analysis by Köpcke & Krutmann concluded that beta-carotene is effective in protecting against sunburn and that time is important: the longer the duration of supplementation, the stronger the effect. A minimum of 10 weeks was needed to see results, and the protective effect increased with each additional month of supplementation.

Lycopene: the red avenger

Lycopene is found in red fruits such as tomatoes, red bell pepper and watermelon. Unlike many other fruits and vegetables, where the nutritional content is diminished through cooking, processing tomatoes actually increases the amount of bioavailable lycopene. Thus, tomato paste has much more lycopene than fresh tomatoes.

In the study mentioned here, people who consumed tomato paste had 33% more protection against sunburn compared to a control group after 12 weeks. The level of protection was equal to a sun protection factor (SPF) of 1.3, which is low compared to a good sunscreen but still quite significant. The daily amount was 55 grams (or five tablespoons) of tomato paste consumed with olive oil. It also boosted the level of procollagen in the skin, which suggests potential reversal of the skin aging process.

My personal experience

I've always burnt very easily in the sun thanks to my pale complexion, but lately I've noticed that for some reason I'm able to spend more time in the sun without sunscreen and not get sunburn. It could be simply because I've gotten older, but I haven't excluded the possibility that it may have something to do with my diet.

For example, there are claims about coconut oil – which I consumed quite liberally during my hight-fat diet – offering protection from the sun both topically and orally. However, to my knowledge there are no scientific studies to support these claims, unlike with carotenoids and lycopene.

I don't really eat that much green leafy vegetables, and apart from the occasional red palm oil, I don't think I get that much beta-carotene from my food. Thus, carotenoids probably don't play a big role in any skin-protecting effect my diet may have. Lycopene on the other hand just might, since I eat between 250 and 400 grams of crushed tomatoes daily. This would be equal to or more than the amount of lycopene consumed by the people in the tomato paste study.

Have you noticed skin protective effects from consuming carotenoids or lycopene? Drop a comment.

For more information on skin care, see these posts:

Hyaluronic Acid for Skin & Hair - Experiment Begins
Topical Vitamin C, Vitamin E & Ferulic Acid - Experiment Conclusion
How I Accidentally Grew Hair on My Left Temple with Retinol - Experiment Conclusion
Biotin Supplements for Hair & Nails - Experiment Conclusion

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Nature's Hair Growth Medicines: Korean Red Ginseng Extract vs. Tea Tree Oil

Korean red ginseng, also known as the real man's carrot. (Photo by Audrey)

My experiment with tea tree oil has now been going on for about two months. To recap, the idea is to find out whether tea tree oil has the potential to affect hair growth in humans through a claimed antiandrogenic effect. If tea tree oil really is antiandrogenic - that is, if it inhibits the effects of male sex hormones - then it should increase hair growth on the scalp and reduce it elsewhere.

To see whether it works, I've been patiently mixing drops of tea tree oil into sesame oil and rubbing the resulting mixture on my leg daily. As of yet, I haven't seen any difference between the hair growth of one leg and the other. Why, you ask? Well, several possible explanations come to mind.

The first one is that I simply haven't been doing it long enough. It could take up to six months to see real results. And I admit that on some days I've forgotten to put the stuff on my leg. Still, I would've expected to at least see the hairs growing thinner or shorter.

The second possibility is that the mixture is not being properly absorbed into my skin. This would mean that I've chosen a poor carrier oil. However, sesame oil is widely used for massage and is reputed to penetrate the skin easily.

The third explanation is that the mixture is too weak. Until now, I've added 6-8 drops of tea tree oil into a few tablespoons of sesame oil and mixed them together. There is very little information available on the right dosage for this kind of experiments, so the proportions are largely the result of guesswork.

Since the third explanation seems plausible enough, I'm going to turn the heat up and start rubbing the tea tree oil straight into my skin without the carrier oil. I know, people will warn you against doing that, saying it will irritate the skin, but they're being sissies and I'm getting impatient. Besides, maybe a little skin irritation is just what this experiment needs.

And that's not where the madness ends, dear readers. Since the tea tree oil bottle is quite small, I'm only going to apply the on one side of my leg. The other side of the leg will be treated with the Korean red ginseng extract I bought earlier, which has been shown to increase hair growth in mice. Korean red ginseng apparently isn't antiandrogenic, so the effect, if there is one, must be due to something else - perhaps its claimed capability to promote cell activity.

Thus, the hypothesis to be proved or disproved by this experiment is that

- topically applied tea tree oil will decrease body hair growth (but increase scalp hair growth)
- topically applied Korean red ginseng extract will increase hair growth anywhere

For the hypothesis to be correct, the side with the tea tree oil should grow less hair and the side with the ginseng extract should grow more hair. So far, it's not looking so great, but maybe upping the ante will do the trick.

I'm sure the Korean red ginseng extract - an alcoholic extract - is also supposed to be diluted with something to prevent irritation, but it's too late to be wasting precious time and energy on such meaningless matters. I'm going at this Cajun style.

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Monday, August 4, 2008

Increasing the Absorption of MSM with Vitamin C

Onions are a good source of sulfur. (Photo by Mullica)

I've been taking one teaspoon of the MSM - chondroitin - glucosamine combo daily to see whether it has any effect. The spesific effects I'm looking for are those mentioned in the study by Ronald Lawrence: increased hair growth, brilliance and thickness, and improvement in nail strength, thickness and appearance. All this after only six weeks. Imagine that.

I haven't noticed such effects just yet, but what I have most certainly noticed is the foul taste of this stuff. Apparently the taste comes from the sulfur, which is the main ingredient of this osteoarthritis-fighting, hair-growing, nail-thickening mixture. Sulfur is also the reason why things like onions are sometimes recommended for hair loss. There may be some logic to that, as at least one study suggests that onion juice is effective for alopecia areata.

To get this vile powder down my throat, I tried adding it to a spoonful of orange jam, which made the taste quite bearable. I've since then read claims that it should be taken with vitamin C to aid its absorption, though the validity of these claims is debatable. I haven't seen any actual references to studies done on how well MSM is absorbed with and without vitamin C, so the evidence seems to be purely anecdotal.

Still, since there's no harm in taking some extra vitamin C, I'm now mixing the MSM, chondroitin and glucosamine with water, into which I dissolve a 500 mg table of vitamin C The taste is very unnatural - nothing like onions, in case you were wondering - but I'm beginning to get used to it.

It seems that people who report positive effects are taking much more than 1,000 mg of MSM daily. As far as I know, overdosing is not really a problem. If there are no results after I've finished this expensive but small bottle, I think I'm going to try and find a cheaper source and increase the dosage.

Go to next post on this experiment

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