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Underestimating the
Healing Power of the Mind


What if I told you that just looking at a picture of someone sneezing might protect you from getting sick?

Sounds a bit crazy, right? Well, in a surprising case of mind-over-matter it turns out it very well might be true.

Scientists at the University of Columbia completed a small, but very interesting, study on how what we see may have a direct effect on our body’s immune system and our ability to fight disease.

A group of 28 volunteers was divided into two groups and shown slide shows. Blood samples were taken before and after each of the sessions.

Researchers later introduced bacteria to the samples to stimulate an immune response. They then tested for the amount of interluken-6 (IL-6), a protein that’s produced by white blood cells in response to illness or physical harm to the body.

Volunteers who saw pictures of furniture had no measurable response in the IL-6 levels. But those shown pictures of people pointing guns at them had a 7% rise immune response. And volunteers who saw disease symptom photos (like skin lesions, pox, and sneezing) had an astonishing 24% jump in IL-6 levels!

Turns out that just seeing the photos of ill people sent the volunteers bodies into self-defense mode, kicking their immune systems into high gear.

At-risk obese rats were fed a cherry-enriched "Western Diet," characterized by high fat and moderate carbohydrate - in line with the typical American diet - for 90 days. Cherry-enriched diets, which consisted of whole tart cherry powder as 1 percent of the diet, reduced risk factors for heart disease including cholesterol, body weight, fat mass and known markers of inflammation. While inflammation is a normal process the body uses to fight off infection or injury, according to recent science, a chronic state of inflammation increases the risk for diseases.

"Chronic inflammation is a whole body condition that can affect overall health, especially when it comes to the heart," said study co-author Mitch Seymour, PhD, at the University of Michigan. "This study offers further promise that foods rich in antioxidants, such as cherries, could potentially reduce inflammation and have the potential to lower disease risk."

A second pilot study found similar results in humans. Ten overweight or obese adults drank eight ounces of tart cherry juice daily for four weeks. At the end of the trial, there were significant reductions in several markers of inflammation, in addition to lower levels of , another key risk factors for heart disease.

Researchers say both studies are encouraging and will lead to further clinical studies in humans to explore the link between diet, inflammation and lowering disease risk.

The Power of Eating Red

This new study is the latest linking cherries to protection against heart disease and inflammation. Researchers believe it's the anthocyanins - powerful antioxidant compounds in cherries - also responsible for the fruit's bright red color, that link cherries to reduced inflammation, even inflammation related to muscle recovery post-exercise.

Since cherries are available year-round in dried, frozen and juice forms, it's easy and delicious to incorporate them into the daily diet to help manage inflammation, from topping dried cherries in oatmeal to enjoying a post-exercise smoothie of cherry juice and lowfat yogurt.



May 4, 2010

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