Today’s Headlines: Comfort Food, Yoga and Glucosamine/Chondroitin

Mood bounces back even without comfort food. When you’re feeling down or stressed, it can seem easy to turn to comfort foods. But new research shows that you’d probably feel better even without the food. “The research was funded by NASA in hopes of improving the mood of astronauts on space missions. Astronauts tend to lose weight in space, where the work demands are stressful and the food quality less than stellar. The researchers wanted to know whether giving people comfort food would boost their mood, a finding that might help astronauts during a long, taxing voyage to Mars.” Participants identified foods they didn’t think would influence their mood along with their favorite comfort foods. They then watched movies that made them feel sad, anxious or angry. “Some subjects were then served triple-portion-size helpings of a comfort food. Others were given a food they liked but didn’t consider a mood booster, and some were given the neutrally rated granola bar. Some weren’t given any food. Three minutes later, the subjects took another mood questionnaire.” Mood improved similarly regardless of whether the participants ate comfort food, other foods or no food at all. (NYT)

Yoga can help guard against heart disease, too. Yoga has long been touted as a way to improve strength and flexibility. New data has also found that it may have heart benefits. “A review of 37 studies involving nearly 3,000 people found yoga was linked to a lowering of heart risk factors. Compared with no exercise, yoga was linked to a lower risk of obesity, high blood pressure and raised cholesterol. When pitched against other types of exercise, such as brisk walking or jogging, yoga was no better or worse based on the same measures of heart risk. It is not clear why yoga might be beneficial, but experts say it could be due to its calming effect. Stress has been linked to heart disease and high blood pressure.” While there are other benefits to more strenuous exercise related to increased endurance, those looking to start out a new regimen might consider yoga. As one author put it, “These results indicate that yoga is potentially very useful and worth pursuing as a heart risk improvement practice.” (BBC)

Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements don’t help osteoarthritis in the knees. Glucosamine and chondroitin have long been touted by supplement manufacturers for their beneficial effect in those with arthritis. But study after study has failed to reliably show this to be the case, and doctors have found no indication that the components of these pills actually ends up in your joints. A new study out this week adds to that research. “The study analyzed data on 1,625 adults who had osteoarthritis in at least one knee and had X-rays taken annually to assess damage to the affected joint. At the start of the study, none of the participants had taken glucosamine or chondroitin, singly or together, but during the next three years, 18 percent of them started taking the supplements at least four days a week. Nearly everyone took them in combination. The results from X-rays and standardized scales rating pain, stiffness and function showed no difference between those taking and not taking the supplements. Glucosamine/chondroitin neither helped symptoms nor slowed progression of the disease.” Those with osteoarthritis should instead consult with their doctor about the effective ways to best manage and reduce their symptoms. (Washington Post)