Mushrooms that Feed the Brain

In Asia, the Lion’s Mane Mushroom is said to give you “nerves of steel and the memory of a lion.” It’s been used by Chinese herbalists for centuries as a general restorative but also has been recognized as positively affecting brain function.

Besides being called Lion’s Mane Mushroom, Hericium erinaceus is known by various other names: bearded tooth fungus, bearded hedgehog, bearded tooth mushroom, “smart mushroom” and in Japan, yamabushitake. The “smart” aspect of the Lion’s Mane Mushroom is the focal point of western researchers, and evidence now exists that this species encompasses characteristics that help improve cognitive function, including memory, attention and creativity.1

In one of the few human studies to date, older adults with mild cognitive impairment were given 250 mg powdered Lion’s Mane Mushroom thrice daily for 16 weeks. Compared with another group that received a placebo, the group taking Lion’s Mane Mushroom scored significantly higher on the cognitive function scale, with no adverse effects. 2

Two unique compounds found in Lion’s Mane Mushroom enable it to nourish the brain. These compounds, hericenones and erinacines, are known as powerful Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) inducers. NGF is a protein that is important in the maintenance, survival and regeneration of neurons in the central and peripheral nervous systems—the compounds are able to cross the blood-brain barrier to stimulate production of neurons.3

Ongoing research continues to confirm the potency and potential of Lion’s Mane Mushroom as a brain and cognition enhancer, and therefore a valuable nutritional supplement, especially as life spans continue to lengthen. Organic Lion’s Mane Mushroom is the first ingredient in the Organic Fermented Brain Support Blend in Kenzen® Clarity, formulated so that your mind stays as nimble as your body in the pursuit of Active Wellness and healthy longevity.

  1. https://www.braintropic.com/nootropics/lions-mane-mushroom/
  2. Koichiro Mori, Satoshi Inatomi, Kenzi Ouchi, Yoshihito Azumi, Takashi Tuchida, Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (hericium ernaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Phytother Res.2009 Mar;23(3): 367-72.
  3. Koichiro Mori, Yutaro Obara, Misturu Hirota, Yoshihito Azumi, Satomi Kinugasa, Satoshi Inatomi, Norimichi Nakahata, Nerve growth factor-inducing activity of Hericium erinaceus in 1321N1 human astrocytoma cells, Colorectal Dis. 2007 Jul;9(6):549-52.

Mushrooms may help us lose weight and much more…

Mushrooms are a nutrient-dense food that are low-calorie, and when cooked or grilled, take on the consistency of some meat. Studies find that substituting mushrooms for meat may help us lose weight. Eating mushrooms as part of a meal several times a week is linked to a healthy body weight, reduced waist circumference and better overall health.1

But mushrooms provide far more benefits than just promoting weight loss. Mushrooms have been part of the Asian herbal tradition for thousands of years—practitioners of Chinese medicine have used a variety of mushrooms to prevent and address a host of physical and mental conditions. Much research has been conducted in the past decades.

Since there are an estimated 14,000 different species of mushrooms or “macrofungus,” research indicates that scientists may only know about 10 percent of them. They differ in benefits and nutrient count, but they’re mostly low in carbs, fat, sodium and sugar, and high in antioxidants, B vitamins, copper and selenium. Mushrooms are 90 percent water and therefore low in calories.

Scientists and health practitioners have taken a particular interest in the anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting traits of certain species of mushrooms.

The global appetite for herbal alternatives to chemical drugs has grown by leaps and bounds—annual sales of these products account for a big chunk of the wider market for nutritional supplements that is valued at $50 billion and seems impervious to the economic instability that has affected other business sectors. 2

Lab studies have shown various immune-enhancing and anti-aging effects with the Reishi, Shiitake, Cordyceps, Maitake and Oyster mushrooms.4 In addition to these five species, Kenzen® Immunity contains nine others. In fact Kenzen® Immunity contains six strains exclusive to Nikken, developed for the highest concentration of beneficial compounds. It would be virtually impossible to include such a high variety of mushrooms in a regular diet, so Nikken has formulated this superior nutritional supplement in order to provide a wide-spectrum range of natural biochemicals that support Active Wellness.

  1. http://healthsomeness.com/mushrooms-fattening-weight-loss
  2. A Global Look at Supplements on the Rise, 10 March 2014 http://www.nutringredients.com
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles
  4. https://thewholejourney.com/5-mushrooms-that-boost-immunity-and-fight- cancer/

When do you eat your biggest meal of the day?

In North America, there’s a good chance you eat your biggest meal at dinner. This habit is based on tradition where the family convenes after school and work to enjoy a hearty meal together. Unfortunately, this is not the healthiest way to eat. Here’s why. 

Katherine Tallmade, Registered Dietician and author of Diet Simple: 195 Mental Tricks, Substitutions, Habits & Inspirations, comments that “more and more research is confirming the importance of eating lighter at night and heavier during the day — for health, not just weight.”1 She goes on to explain that various studies have shown that even when the same number of calories are consumed, weight loss (or gain) may vary according to the time food is eaten. When more food is eaten during breakfast or lunch rather than at dinner, more weight is lost or a healthy weight is maintained.

Ms. Tallmade’s opinion is congruent with studies being presented by researchers in the field of nutrition as well as weight management/obesity. For example, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition contends that a body at rest overnight doesn’t need as many calories. Therefore, eating a big meal in the evening will result in fat storage. The researchers recommend eating a big breakfast and a medium lunch when a person is most active during the day so calories eaten will be used for energy. They also found that eating a substantial breakfast helped minimize impulsive snacking, helping to sustain a weight reduction program.2

John De Castro, psychology professor and researcher of eating habits, suggests that “intake in the morning of low-density foods is satiating and can reduce the amount ingested over the rest of the day to such an extent that the total amount ingested for the day is less overall. It appears that people who eat at least two thirds of their calories before dinner will consume less calories for the whole day than people who eat the majority of their calories at night.” 3

At Nikken, we help you embrace Active Wellness with organic nutritional supplements that enable you to stay on a healthy eating regimen over the long term. Isn’t your health worth it?

  1. http://katherinetallmadge.com
  2. Schlundt DG, Hill JO, Sbrocco JP, et al. The role of breakfast in the treatment of obesity: a randomized clinical trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 1992;55(3):645-651.
  3. De Castro JM. The time of day of food intake influences overall intake in humans. J Nutr. 2004;134(1):104-111.

 

The Healthiest Natural Sweetener

With obesity at an all-time high, finding healthier alternatives to sugar has become an increasingly important priority for many people. The main concern is that sugar substitutes and artificial sweeteners tend to be filled with harmful chemicals and ingredients, and some still contain calories.

According to famed nutritionist and chiropractor Dr. Josh Axe, “Monk fruit has been celebrated as a revolutionary way to sweeten foods and drinks without the harmful effects of traditional sugar and sugar substitutes.” 1

Here’s why: Monk fruit contains powerful antioxidants called mogrosides, which are metabolized differently by the body than natural sugars. In effect, monk fruit extract provides the sweet taste people crave but none of the typical side effects. That means no spike in blood sugar levels and therefore, no crash. For this reason, monk fruit is considered a zero-calorie fruit. This unusual characteristic makes monk fruit an ideal sugar replacement, especially since its compounds, when extracted, are 300 to 400 times sweeter than cane sugar. It’s practically a no-brainer that using monk fruit as a sweetener can help those already suffering from obesity and/or diabetes.

So why isn’t this healthy natural sweetener more commonly used in weight-management and diabetic-friendly products? Extraction of mogrosides is complicated, making it an expensive ingredient. In addition, monk fruit spoils very quickly after harvesting and is grown primarily in southern China. You won’t find it in supermarkets any time soon; however, you can find dried monk fruit for purchase in ethnic markets. The western world only discovered monk fruit in the 20th century, and it has only been in the last 20 years that major international attention has been drawn to it.

Where you will find monk fruit as a main ingredient is in the newly formulated Kenzen Vital Balance® Meal Replacement Mix in both vanilla and chocolate flavors. Nikken remains a pioneer in the industry and dedicated to using only the healthiest ingredients in our nutritional supplements designed for Active Wellness.

1          https://draxe.com/monk-fruit/

A Better Source of Protein for Long-term Health

The western world tends to associate protein with animal sources: meat, poultry and seafood. In the eastern world, legumes have long been key sources of protein: soy, garbanzo, lentil, bean sprouts, pea sprouts, adzuki bean and so on. The largest study to ever look at the effects of different sources of protein has found that eating plenty of plant protein was associated with a lower risk of premature death.

Mingyang Song, MD, ScD, the study’s author, says, “Overall, our findings support the importance of the sources of dietary protein for long-term health outcomes.” A research fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital, she explains, “While previous studies have primarily focused on the overall amount of protein intake—which is important—from a broad dietary perspective, the particular foods that people consume to get protein are equally important. Our findings also have public health implications and can help refine current dietary recommendations about protein intake, in light of the fact that it is not only the amount of protein but the specific food source that is critical for long-term health.”

The study was published in August 2016 in JAMA Internal Medicine and analyzed comprehensive health data on more than 170,000 participants since the 1980s. Participants completed overall health questionnaires every two years and provided information on their dietary intake every four years. The researchers found that a high consumption of protein from animal sources combined with at least one factor associated with an unhealthy lifestyle, increased the risk of mortality. Unhealthy lifestyle factors included being obese or underweight, as well as behaviors such as heavy drinking, smoking, or not being physically active. In contrast, high consumption of protein from plant sources was associated with a lower mortality rate.

Kenzen Vital Balance® Meal Replacement Mix in Vanilla or Chocolate flavors is formulated with naturally-sourced protein from organic pea, organic rice and organic chlorella—no saturated fat and calories associated with animal protein. Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian or just health-conscious, KVB helps you put plant protein into your diet for health and Active Wellness.

The Zero Calorie that Leads to Weight Gain

Once considered to be a helpful weight loss tool and an alternative to sugar for diabetics, the zero-calorie artificial sweetener has gone from the role of savior to devil. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved five artificial sweeteners: saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose. These artificial sweeteners are intended to save you the calories from sugar, but there’s growing evidence that there are numerous adverse effects.

As summarized on the Harvard School of Public Health website, the concern is that sweetness without calories is unnatural and may stimulate hormonal changes that encourage overeating. Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity and weight-loss specialist at Harvard-affiliated Boston Children’s Hospital, says one concern is that people who use artificial sweeteners may replace the lost calories through other sources, possibly offsetting weight loss or health benefits.

There are also studies emerging that show how artificial sweeteners can trigger “sweet receptors” in the stomach that tell the body to produce insulin, even though there is no actual consumption of sugar. Replicating the body’s response to real sugar, these high insulin levels may promote fat storage and trigger unhealthy food cravings.

In a landmark study published in Nature in 2014, scientists showed that artificial sweeteners wreak havoc in the gut microbiome and lead to obesity, glucose intolerance, and diabetes. Another recent study has shown that replacing sugary drinks with artificially sweetened drinks does not reduce the risk for diabetes and other metabolic diseases, as originally intended.

There has been, and still is, ongoing controversy over the use of artificial sweeteners; however, there are certain indisputable facts. For example, 10 percent of aspartame is broken down into methanol, a known poison. Another fact is that sucralose is manufactured with chlorine. More negative side effects attributed to artificial sweeteners are reported to the FDA than any other types of additives.

Be vigilant and read ingredient listings to avoid artificial sweeteners. Eat food that is naturally sweet, like fruit and vegetables. Choose organic-based nutritional supplements. Nikken is here to help you create a win-win Active Wellness lifestyle!

The Secret to Health and Longevity: “hara hachi bu”

According to recent estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau, there are approximately 80,000 centenarians in the United States, which equates to about 25 persons who are 100 years or older per 100,000 population. On the small island of Okinawa, centenarian ratios are considered to be most likely the world’s highest with 50 plus per 100,000. So what’s their secret?

Longevity is complex, but in a nutshell, good genes and healthy living are the prerequisites. Researchers who participated in the Okinawa Centenarian Study were able to identify so called “human longevity genes” but also isolated non-genetic advantages for the ideal combination. Non-genetic advantages include the traditional Okinawan dietary habits, physical activity, psychological and social aspects. Their study was not widely translated but in recent years, an increasing number of western scientists have taken an interest in the phenomenal longevity of the islanders, most specifically Dr. Bradley Willcox and Dr. Craig Willcox, co-principal investigators. Led by Dr. Makoto Suzuki, principal investigator, the Okinawa Centenarian Study is now in its 28th year, one of the longest running centenarian studies in the world.

We can’t change our genes but we can certainly emulate the Okinawan diet and lifestyle. The traditional Okinawan diet emphasizes vegetables, whole grains, fruits, legumes (soy) and fish, with limited amounts of lean meats and monounsaturated fats and omega 3s. There is a notable lack of processed or fast food and desserts.

Okinawans take this healthy eating a step further with the cultural habit of “hara hachi bu.” This means “eat until you are 80 percent full.” When you think about it, it is another way of implementing portion control. Since it takes about 20-30 minutes for the stomach to register that it’s full, if we eat to 100 percent fullness, we’ve actually overdone it. Many of us are too familiar with that uncomfortable feeling of being stuffed. This is the result of eating until the stomach is stretched to capacity. If we practice “hara hachi bu,” we would be giving our stomachs time to feel full.

Most of us want to live long lives, but how many of us are willing to exercise not only our bodies but our will power as well? It seems such a small price to pay for a long and healthy life of Active Wellness.