3 Key Reasons for Having a Massage

Nothing like a good massage after a long week at work, right? It’s relaxing, gets the little aches and pains relieved – but massages are more than simply rubbing oil and a lot of really good hand-work. It actually has carefully studied health benefits that could help us live longer and have a better quality of life.

3 Key Reasons for Having a Massage

Here are the 3 most promising health benefits of massage based on science.

1. Stress Relief

Being a great stress reliever is one of the best things we all love about massages. We know what stress does to our body. Stress is normally fought off by the body but with today’s busy world it seems stressors are just everywhere and we end up accumulating it until it blows up and gives us all sorts of diseases, some of which are fatal. Fortunately, studies show a simple massage can actually provide a lot of relief from stress.

Source:
Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy.  Oct 2005 – International Journal of Neuroscience

2. Better Sleep

There’s a joke on how we see getting a good night’s sleep as a form of reward the older we get. It’s funny but it’s actually a lot more realistic when you look at it. The CDC warns of sleep insufficiency as a public health problem and it’s more than simply nodding back and forth during classes or meetings.  People experiencing sleep insufficiency are also more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity, as well as from cancer, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life and productivity.

When you look at it that way, the need for a good shuteye sinks in and when counting sheep stops working science says a good old massage is the answer.

Source:
Insufficient Sleep Is a Public Health Problem – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation (2006) – National Academies

3. Improved immunity

A strong immune system means less chances of acquiring diseases and that could potentially extend our lifespan. It sounds far-fetched but massage can actually improve our immune system. There’s a lot of studies that cover this particular health benefit of massage and most of them all agree that a good massage can make us resist diseases better. One study even says it helps with immune preservation in HIV+ children.

Sources:
A Preliminary Study of the Effects of a Single Session of Swedish Massage on Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Adrenal and Immune Function in Normal Individuals – Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (Oct 2010)
Impact of a massage therapy clinical trial on immune status in young Dominican children infected with HIV-1 – Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (Jul 2006)

 

Whether you prefer being massaged as a reward or as part of a treatment, the science behind the life-extending benefits of massages cannot be ignored. Luckily there are just about as many health benefits of massaging to the number of massage styles available which should make the experience something to look forward to.

A coffee a day keeps the grim reaper away

Coffee is one of the most widely consumed substances around the globe and over the past few years, various studies have revealed that drinking coffee in small amounts can add years to the average human lifespan. This inverse association has been observed for deaths due to heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes, and infections, but not for deaths due to cancer.

coffee a day keeps the grim reaper away

How coffee enhances longevity

Consumption of moderate amounts of caffeine on a daily basis has been shown to decrease the age-related decline in the cognitive functions, thereby preventing diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and preserving intellectual capabilities. Animal studies showed this function to be partly due to the ability of caffeine to decrease the production of beta amyloid in the brain, which is one of the principal factors that can induce cognitive deficit and AD.

Although consumption of coffee has not been linked with increase in the risk of heart diseases like arrhythmias, it has been proved that drinking approximately 4 cups of coffee every day can lower the risk of heart attack from coronary heart diseases, one of the leading causes of mortality around the world. Studies reveal that components of caffeine can reverse the endothelial dysfunction which is the primary reason of plaque formation in the vessel walls and atherosclerosis, the basic pathology underlying the coronary heart diseases.

Caffeine has been shown not to be linked with increase in blood pressure which is also a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. A prospective study also ruled out any causal relationship between caffeine intake and the risk of stroke, another major killer and suggested that caffeine can slightly lower the chances of stroke.

By protecting against different kinds of diseases associated with a high risk of mortality and declining the age-related decrease in the cognitive functions, caffeine has been shown to enhance the average lifespan in humans.

What do the guidelines say?

In the year 2015, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published a guideline “Scientific Opinion on Caffeine” on the intake of caffeine, postulating that the total intake of caffeine from all sources was safe within the limits of 400 mg per day.

Although the report said that caffeine neither has any adverse effects on human reproductive system and the pregnancy outcomes nor does it have any teratogenic effects on the fetus, it was stipulated that the consumption of caffeine should be curbed during pregnancy. The guideline recommended that the amount of caffeine intake from all sources should be reduced to 200 mg per day in pregnant or nursing women.

How much caffeine in a cup of coffee?

Here are some typical caffeine contents – for a full list see http://coffeeandhealth.org/topic-overview/sources-of-caffeine/

  • Espresso (30 ml) = 60 mg
  • Filtered coffee (125 ml) = 85 mg
  • Tea (150 ml) = 32 mg

You might want to check with your favourite coffee shop how much espresso they put in as standard – for example since 2012 Starbucks have used two shots in their lattes and cappuccinos.

References

Freedman, Neal D., et al. “Association of coffee drinking with total and cause-specific mortality.” New England Journal of Medicine 366.20 (2012): 1891-1904.
Santos C. et al. (2010) Caffeine intake and dementia: systematic review and meta-analysis. J Alzheimers Dis, 20 Suppl1: S187-204.
Arendash, G. W., et al. “Caffeine protects Alzheimer’s mice against cognitive impairment and reduces brain β-amyloid production.” Neuroscience 142.4 (2006): 941-952.
Heckman M.A. et al. (2010) Caffeine (1, 3, 7-trimethylxanthine) in foods: a comprehensive review on consumption, functionality, safety, and regulatory matters. J Food Sci, 75: R77-87
Pelchovitz D.J. et al. (2011) Caffeine and cardiac arrhythmias: a review of the evidence. Am J Med, 124(4): 284-9.
Mostofsky E. et al. (2012) Habitual coffee consumption and risk of heart failure: a dose-response meta-analysis. Circ Heart Fail, 5(4): 401-5.
Duffy, Stephen J., et al. “Short-and long-term black tea consumption reverses endothelial dysfunction in patients with coronary artery disease.” Circulation 104.2 (2001): 151-156.
Geleijnse J.M. (2008) Habitual coffee consumption and blood pressure: an epidemiological perspective. Vasc Health Risk Manag, 4(5): 963-70.
Illy A. et al. (1995) Espresso Coffee. The chemistry of quality. Academic Press, London.
Harland B.F. (2000) Caffeine and nutrition. Nutrition, 7/8: 522-526.
Lopez-Garcia, Esther, et al. “Coffee consumption and risk of stroke in women.” Circulation 119.8 (2009): 1116-1123.

Daily weight fluctuations… or “I sh!t a pound”!

I’m currently monitoring my weight, and more importantly my fat percentage, to see how quickly a low fat diet has an effect – blog post on that to come later.

As part of weighing myself every week I wondered how much variation there was in the figures and therefore could I really tell if I’d had a good or bad week?

So as a little mini-experiment I weighed myself every hour or so throughout one day to see how much the measurements fluctuated – and here’s the graphs.

daily weight fluctation

daily fat percentage fluctations

You can see that my weight rises throughout the day with spikes after lunch and dinner, and conversely my fat percentage drops throughout the day – with corresponding troughs after meals.

Which seems to make sense to me – eating a good meal doesn’t immediately convert it into fat and so the fat percentage is temporarily lowered – but you’re back where you started the next morning.

Results

Through-out the day, although it was random variations, my weight varied plus or minus 0.5kg (+/- 0.4% fat). And I guess this amount of variation should be no surprise as even a small glass of water weighs 0.1kg.

So for anybody watching their weight anything less than this shouldn’t be considered a success – as Peter Kay famously said in his stand-up routine on Slimming World – “I shit a pound!

Scales Accuracy

I also did a micro-experiment within the mini experiment as I wanted to see how much the fluctuations were due to the accuracy of the bathroom scales (OMRON BF508 Body Composition Monitor).

Taking 3 measurements immediately after each other, and without moving the scales in case floor position has an effect, they showed a variation of +/- 0.1kg (+/- 0.2% fat) which seems as good as you’re going to get for a consumer product.