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Noncompliance – Victor Montori, M.D.

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21 Health Benefits and 6 Cool Facts About Zucchini

A staple at many markets and bountiful in backyard gardens during this time of year, zucchini can range in color from yellow to deep green. It has a tender texture with a slightly sweet flavor and, at just 21 calories per cup, it makes a welcome addition to a calorie-controlled diet.

Today, August 8th, is National Zuchinni Day and Sneak Some Zucchini on Your Neighbors’ Porch Day, so let’s take a look at all the potential benefits of this SuperFood.

What Is Zucchini?

Often known globally as courgette, zucchini is a summer squash native to the Americas. It belongs to the species Cucurbita pepo, along with a few other types of squashes and pumpkins. Zucchini boasts a rich nutritional profile, and it offers many health benefits thanks to its phytonutrients, mineral and vitamin content, including:

Vitamin C

Zucchini serves as a good source of vitamin C. A water-soluble antioxidant, vitamin C dissolves in your body fluids and protects your cells from free radicals, which are highly reactive compounds that oxidize your DNA, lipids and proteins, causing cellular damage. Getting enough vitamin C in your diet also aids in nerve cell communication, helps your body metabolize cholesterol and keeps your tissues strong. A cup of chopped zucchini contains 22 milligrams of vitamin C, which is 24 percent of the recommended daily intake for men and 29 percent for women, set by the Institute of Medicine.

Lutein and Zeaxanthin

Zucchini also provides you with lutein and zeaxanthin, two phytonutrients that belong to the carotenoid family, which is the same nutrient family that includes beta-carotene, a source of vitamin A. Lutein and zeaxanthin promote healthy eyesight. They filter light rays as they enter your eye, helping to ensure that harmful rays can’t damage your eye tissues. While, as of September 2013, the Institute of Medicine has not set a recommended daily intake for lutein and zeaxanthin, the American Optometric Association notes that intakes of at least 6 milligrams per day can reduce your risk for age-related macular degeneration, an eye disease that causes blindness. A cup of chopped zucchini provides 2.6 milligrams of lutein and zeaxanthin, or 43 percent of this intake goal.

 Manganese

Consuming zucchini also boosts your intake of manganese, an essential mineral. Like vitamin C, manganese protects your tissues from harmful free radicals. It supports the function of glycosyltransferases, a family of proteins that promote healthy bone tissue development. Manganese also helps your body produce collagen essential for efficient wound healing. Each cup of chopped zucchini boasts 0.22 milligram of manganese. This provides 12 and 10 percent of the Institute of Medicine’s recommended daily intake for women and men, respectively.

 Other Cool Zucchini Facts

  • One zucchini is called zucchina.
  • The world’s largest zucchini was 69 1/2 inches long and weighed close to 30 kilos.
  • Zucchini is the only fruit that starts with the letter Z.
  • The most flavorful of zucchinis are usually small and have darker skin.
  • Even the flower of the zucchini plant is edible. You can fry the zucchini blossoms into a delicacy.
  • And lastly, the word zucchini comes from ‘zucca’, which is the Italian word for squash.

Benefits Of Zucchini

  1. Zucchini Benefits For Weight Loss

It’s super low in calories, making it the perfect light side dish for a heavy meal; one cup of sliced zucchini has about 19 calories. That’s 40 to 50% lower than the same serving size for other low-cal green veggies like broccoli and Brussels sprouts. And because it’s so versatile, you can enjoy this low-calorie food in so many different recipes, from baked fries to pesto roll-ups. Of course, you can always grill zucchini with herbs for some savory flavor, too.

Zucchini is a low-starch fruit, low in carbohydrates and high in fiber. It will fill you up and discourage overeating.

The fruit also has a high water content which can keep you full for longer periods. It is one of those foods with a low glycemic index. Increased intake of fruits and vegetables and low-fat foods has been linked to healthy weight loss and weight maintenance.  Another benefit of high-fiber foods is they require more chewing – an individual, therefore, takes more time to eat and is typically unable to gorge on a large number of calories in a brief period.

  1. Improves Heart Health

Zucchini has a good amount of potassium: 295 milligrams per cup, or 8% of your recommended daily value. According to the American Heart Association, potassium can help control blood pressure because it lessens the harmful effects of salt on your body. Studies suggest boosting your potassium intake (while also curbing sodium) can slash your stroke risk and may also lower your odds of developing heart disease.

Because it is high in the antioxidant vitamin C, zucchini may help the lining of your blood cells function better, lowering blood pressure and protecting against clogged arteries. One cup of sliced zucchini has 20 milligrams, or about 33% of your daily value.

Ever heard of DASH diet? Also called the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, this diet is aimed at improving heart health by lowering hypertension. According to a report published by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, zucchini is a prominent part of the DASH diet.

Zucchini is low in cholesterol, sodium, and fat, and helps maintain a balance of carbohydrates – a requirement for optimum heart health.

Another reason zucchini works great for the heart is the presence of fiber. High intakes of fiber have been associated with significantly lower risks of developing stroke, hypertension, and heart disease.

Zucchini is also rich in folate, and as per a Chinese study, folate intake is inversely associated with heart disease risk.   The fact that it is rich in other nutrients like potassium and magnesium makes zucchini a superfood for the heart. Research has stated that deficiencies in the two nutrients can be directly linked to heart failure.

Another nutrient in zucchini that is worth your attention is riboflavin, which is a B-complex vitamin essential for energy production. In one study, children with cardiac disease were found to be shockingly deficient in riboflavin, emphasizing on the possible link between riboflavin and heart health.  Another Chinese study has linked riboflavin with alleviated cardiac failure in diabetics.

Riboflavin deficiency is also linked to certain birth defects in pregnant women, especially issues with the outflow tracts in the infant’s heart.

  1. Improves Eye Health

One doesn’t need to be reminded of the importance of vision. That said, zucchini seems to be more than food for your eyes. The fruit is rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that were found to prevent age-related macular degeneration.

It is shocking to note that certain serious (and often irreversible) eye diseases like glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration have no warning signs.  So, what’s the best approach? Including zucchini in your diet. Zucchini is also a good source of vitamin A, shown to improve eye health.  It is important for eye development and maintenance.  As per a report published by Flaum Eye Institute of the University of Rochester Medical Center, a low-fat diet could be beneficial for the eyes – and zucchini can very well be a part of this diet.

The squash is also a wonderful source of beta-carotene that can improve eye health and offer protection against infections.

  1. Helps Control Diabetes

It is but unfortunate that a household without a diabetic is a rare scene. Well, that’s the sad part. So, is zucchini good for diabetics? Yes, the good part is, zucchini can help.

Non-starchy foods like zucchini can fill you up and aid diabetes treatment.  And the dietary fiber, which zucchini is replete with, can delay glucose absorption and help the patients with type 2 diabetes.  A German study states that insoluble fiber (which zucchini has a good amount of) can be very much effective in preventing type 2 diabetes.  Another study indicates the efficacy of insoluble dietary fiber that has shown to reduce diabetes risk.

Higher fiber intake is also associated with a lower risk of metabolic syndrome, which is one of the factors contributing to diabetes.  According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, soluble fiber can improve glucose tolerance in diabetics. Zucchini contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, by the way.

  1. Helps Lower Cholesterol

Zucchini is one of the few foods that are free of cholesterol, and hence you can include it in your cholesterol-lowering diet.  Soluble fiber has been found to interfere with cholesterol absorption. This helps lower the bad cholesterol or LDL in the blood.

  1. Helps Improve Asthma

In one Iranian study, the high levels of vitamin C in zucchini were thought to even cure asthma.  The anti-inflammatory properties of zucchini also contribute to asthma treatment.

Along with the vitamin C, zucchini also contains copper that is far more effective in treating asthma.

One Finnish study has found the benefits of vitamin C in treating not only asthma attacks, but also bronchial hypersensitivity — a characteristic of asthma.

  1. Protects Against Colon Cancer

The fiber in zucchini is the most important reason it can help in the treatment of colon cancer.  The fiber does multiple things – it absorbs the excess water in the colon, retains enough moisture in the fecal matter, and helps it to pass smoothly out of the body. Though precise knowledge about the subtypes of fiber (soluble or insoluble) in this aspect is important, dietary fiber as a whole has been linked to a reduced risk of colorectal cancer.

As per a Los Angeles study, dietary fiber plays a vital role in regulating the normal intestinal functioning and maintaining a healthy mucus membrane of the intestine. Though the exact amount of fiber and the type is still not clearly known, an expert panel from the study had recommended a fiber intake of 20 to 35 grams per day to prevent colon cancer.

The lutein in zucchini may also reduce the risk of colon cancer.

  1. Enhances Digestion

According to a report published by the University of Rhode Island, green fruits and vegetables, like zucchini, promote healthy digestion.  You can have zucchini as an after-meal snack – simply shred some carrots and zucchini on a quick bread or muffins and relish the taste and health benefits.

In fact, the late Henry Bieler (a prominent American physician who championed the idea of treating disease with foods alone) used to treat digestive issues in his patients with a pureed soup broth made from zucchini.   The dietary fiber in zucchini adds bulk to your diet and aids digestion. However, ensure you introduce fiber in your diet gradually. Increasing dietary fiber in your diet too quickly can lead to bloating, abdominal cramps, and even gas.

It has been found that dietary fiber forms the major components of foods that have low energy value, and hence are of particular importance, especially when it comes to dealing with abdominal issues.  If you are suffering from digestive issues, simply including zucchini in your meal might do the trick. It has been found that the addition of fiber in bread, cookies, breakfast cereals, and even meat products was found to have desirable results.

Zucchini contains both soluble as well as insoluble fiber. The insoluble fiber, also known as ‘the regulator’, accelerates the passage of water through the digestive tract. This reduces the time available for harmful substances to come in contact with the intestinal walls.

Seek out all-natural sources of fiber, and not just zucchini alone. If you are purchasing fiber-rich foods from the supermarket, there is but one ground rule – a good source of fiber is one that has at least 2.5 grams of fiber per serving. Foods having more than 5 grams of fiber per serving are excellent.  Anything lower than 2.5 grams could just be a waste of money.

  1. Lowers Blood Pressure

If you walk down a random street and pick any person you first see, chances are they might be (or is likely soon to be) suffering from high blood pressure.  We are so stressed about everything in life that blood pressure issues have become inevitable…almost.

With zucchini by our side, there is hope for natural relief.  Zucchini, being rich in potassium, is one of the preferred foods to combat hypertension.  Surprisingly enough, zucchini has more potassium than a banana.

Potassium is vasoactive, meaning it can affect the diameter of blood vessels. And hence, the blood pressure as well.  In a London study, potassium supplementation was linked to lowered blood pressure levels.  Though the study talks about certain conflicting results in pertinence to oral potassium supplementation, potassium was never shown to elevate the blood pressure levels.

As per another New Orleans study, potassium intake is mandatory to combat hypertension, especially when the individual is unable to reduce his/her sodium intake.  In addition to controlling blood pressure, potassium also lowers the heart rate and counters the harmful effects of sodium.

According to the National Academies Press, the adequate intake of potassium for adults is 4.7 grams per day.  Echoed by the World Health Organization, this dosage of potassium had the greatest impact on blood pressure levels.  However, dosing might vary depending on the overall health of an individual. Hence, consult your doctor for further details.

So, why is potassium so important with respect to lowering blood pressure? Because the nutrient is one of the principal electrolytes in the human body.  It is required in proper balance with sodium, in a ratio of 2:1. The junk foods we so very lovingly consume every other day have higher levels of sodium than potassium. Which is why they contribute to high blood pressure like no other. Zucchini is a good source of potassium. A medium-sized fruit offers 512 milligrams of the nutrient, which roughly equals 11% of your daily need.

  1. Slows Down Aging

Anti-aging is a big market today – a multi-billion dollar industry. You probably wouldn’t have to contribute much to that segment if you have zucchinis in your kitchen.

Zucchini is a good source of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. These two carotenoids exhibit powerful anti-aging properties.  They protect the cells of the body and the skin from free radical damage, which may otherwise lead to premature aging. Lutein and zeaxanthin have also been found to lighten the skin and improve its health.

In a study, lutein was found to prevent cell loss and membrane damage.  It also has photoprotective properties that protect the skin from UV damage. Zucchini is also rich in beta-carotene, the low levels of which were found to increase mortality risk in older men.

The riboflavin in zucchini maintains the health of the skin, hair, nails, and mucus membranes. It slows down aging by boosting athletic performance and preventing age-related memory loss and other related conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.  In one study, riboflavin was found to prolong the lifespan of fruit flies – indicating a similar possibility in human beings.

Zucchini, as we have seen, is rich in vitamin C. According to a South Korean study, the vitamin was found to decelerate aging in human heart cells.  Also, vitamin C is found in high levels in the skin layers, and the concentration shows a decline when we age.  Hence, intake of vitamin C appears to be a logical solution to slow down the signs of aging.

  1. Strengthens Bones And Teeth

Green vegetables and fruits, like zucchini, promote stronger bones and teeth,  The lutein and zeaxanthin in zucchini keep the bones and teeth strong. In addition, they also strengthen the blood cells.  Zucchini also contains vitamin K, which contributes to stronger bones.

Magnesium is another nutrient abundant in zucchini.  Most of the body’s magnesium resides in the bones, which helps build strong bones and teeth.  Magnesium also works along with calcium to improve muscle contraction.

The folate in zucchini also protects the bones, as does beta-carotene. Studies show that the body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, which contributes to bone growth.

Zucchini contains phytochemicals such as indoles, which, according to Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, maintain strong bones and teeth.  Similar findings have been published by the California Department of Public Health.

  1. Helps Balance Thyroid And Adrenaline Function

Zucchini is rich in manganese, a mineral that promotes the optimal functioning of the thyroid gland.

  1. Helps During Pregnancy

Dark green vegetables are a must during pregnancy, and zucchini is one of them. In the nine months of pregnancy, consuming zucchini offers adequate B-complex vitamins that help maintain the energy levels and mood.

Zucchini is rich in folic acid that has shown to reduce the risk of certain birth defects,  like spina bifida – baby’s spinal chord doesn’t develop properly –  and anencephaly – the absence of a major portion of the brain.  As per a Canadian study, over 50 countries that have fortified their food staples with folic acid saw a dramatic decrease in neural tube defects in pregnant women.

One more reason folate is beneficial to pregnant women is its ability to aid in the production of red blood cells in the body.  This also helps lower the risk of developmental problems in the baby during pregnancy.

It is important to keep in mind that folic acid (or folate) works best when taken before getting pregnant and during the first trimester.  As women need additional folic acid during pregnancy, it is advisable to take a folic acid supplement as well.  Around 400 mcg of folic acid per day is recommended for women in this aspect.

Another reason zucchini is good for pregnancy is its magnesium content. As per an Italian study, magnesium is very important for women with an elevated risk of gestosis or premature labor.

  1. Good For Babies (And Kids)

Diarrhea is one common problem amongst most kids over one year of age. Oh yes, there are medications. But changes in the diet can also help. Bland foods work well in this case, and peeled zucchini can do wonders.

Mashed zucchini can also be a good addition to your baby’s diet.  Since it is soft and bland in taste (and since it comes replete with nutrients), your baby will be able to consume it easily.   NOTE: Never leave a baby alone when he/she is eating. Keep the portions small. And avoid those foods that he/she can easily choke on – these include everything that is hard to chew.

There is likely no need to emphasize the negative effects smoking can have on pregnant women. But, what if a woman has been a smoker for a long time before getting pregnant and just can’t give the habit up? In one Portland study, the intake of vitamin C has been found to prevent lung problems in babies born to pregnant smokers.  Zucchini, being rich in vitamin C, can help in this regard. By the way, this doesn’t mean it is okay to smoke during pregnancy. It simply isn’t.

In another Denmark study, the deficiency of vitamin C was found to impair brain development in infants.  In fact, the importance of vitamin C for infants was discovered way back in the early 1900s.

Studies conducted then stressed the significance of vitamin C in preventing scurvy in infants.  Dr. F.R. Klenner, between 1948-49, cured polio in children with vitamin C, and vitamin C only.  Of course, polio is nearly eradicated today. Both show how important vitamin C has been in the improvement  of population health.

  1. Helps Prevent Gout

Zucchini’s vitamin C grabs the spotlight, yet again. One study has linked vitamin C intake with a lower risk of gout in men.  It achieves this by lowering serum uric acid levels via a process called the uricosuric effect. The vitamin was also found to prevent not just gout, but numerous other urate-related diseases as well.

You can also intake zucchini to complement your gout treatment, especially if your treatment isn’t working well. As with every health concern, dosage is important, so talk to your doctor.

Though gout generally affects men over the age of 40 or anyone with a family history of the disease, it can occur anytime to anyone. It is caused by the excessive build-up of uric acid in the body, leading to its accumulation in tissues in the form of needle-shaped crystals. Apart from taking zucchini and other foods rich in vitamin C, something as simple as drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water daily can prevent gout.

  1. Promotes Prostate Health

When it comes to men’s health, zucchini is one of the vegetables that is often overlooked, but its phytonutrients greatly benefit the prostate.  The high carotenoid content of zucchini also associates it with a reduced risk of prostate cancer.

We have seen that zucchini is rich in beta-carotene and vitamin C. Both of these nutrients, as per a study, were found to be positively associated with prostate cancer.  Vitamin C reduces oxidative DNA damage and hampers the growth and ability of prostate cancer cells.

Lutein is also found in zucchini. As per a report published by the University of California San Francisco, lutein intake is inversely associated with prostate cancer.

Dietary fiber has been found to bind with carcinogens and eliminate them from the body. It also has the ability to prevent prostate cancer progression, and phytonutrients protect the cells from damage.  Both of these healthful compounds are abundant in zucchini, making it a powerful weapon to combat prostate cancer.

  1. Aids Collagen Formation

As we have seen, zucchini contains riboflavin, whose deficiency was found to affect the maturation of collagen.   The vitamin C in the squash plays a major part in the synthesis of collagen, which, as we know, is quite important to maintain the health of joints, cartilage, skin, and blood vessels.  The vitamin also protects the body from cellular damage.  In addition to collagen, vitamin C also helps in the production of elastin, both of which are essential for radiant and healthy skin.

A few other nutrients contribute to collagen formation, like potassium, zeaxanthin, and folate.  Zucchini is replete with these.

  1. Helps In Skin Hydration

Zucchini hydrates the body (and the skin) and helps it deal with the summer heat.

The lutein in zucchini encourages skin health by reducing inflammation responses. But how does that promote skin hydration? Well, here’s the science behind it. When the skin is exposed to sunlight, lutein reduces the inflammation response. This means the sunlight will cause less damage to the skin, and that means less damage to the moisture barrier of the skin as well.  And the result? Well hydrated skin.

Zucchini is 95% water.  This translates to hydrating the skin well. Keep in mind  only about 20% of our daily water intake is met through foods. Hence, it is also important we drink 8-10 glasses of water every day as skin cells need water to function at their best.

  1. Improves Brain Functioning And Memory

Green foods, especially zucchini, are rich in folate and are excellent for brain health.  Folate also helps in the production of DNA and RNA, the body’s genetic material. The nutrient, apart from improving mental health, also enhances emotional health.

The deficiency of folate is linked to megaloblastic anemia, which results in weakness and fatigue. Increased folate intake has been linked to reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in women.

Also, our brain is 75% water. When there is adequate water in your system, you will be more focused, think quick, and also display greater creativity. More importantly, sufficient water efficiently delivers nutrients to your brain and aids toxin removal. This results in enhanced concentration and mental alertness.  Zucchini, apart from being rich in water, also contains vitamin C, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids – all of which largely contribute to brain health.

Though not very rich in iron, zucchini contains the nutrient in acceptable amounts. As per a study, early iron deficiency can lead to permanent neurobehavioral problems despite diagnosis and treatment.  Early iron deficiency can even affect the brain’s physical structure. Iron is also important for producing myelin, the fatty sheath that coats the brain’s nerves and accelerates brain communications.

  1. Promotes Hair Growth

Zucchini, being rich in zinc, promotes hair growth.  The vitamin C in zucchini can help heal dry and splitting hair.  It also makes your hair strands strong and supple.  Lack of vitamin C can result in the enlargement of hair follicles, which might eventually stall hair growth.

  1. Enhances Immunity

The vitamin C found in zucchini is an active form of ascorbic acid that boosts the immune system, and it does this in several ways. First, vitamin C helps develop the body’s T cells (a type of white blood cell) into functional T cells that defend against diseases. It also helps you produce more immune cells. The antioxidant properties of vitamin C also prevent cells from dying due to inflammation. The RDA of vitamin C is 90 mg in males and 74 mg in females.

Low levels of vitamin C are linked to increased risk of infection. In fact, high levels of vitamin C are frequently recommended for HIV-positive individuals to enhance their immunity.

In a Switzerland study, vitamin C and zinc were found to enhance immunity, so much that they had even improved the health of patients suffering from certain immune-deficient diseases like malaria and diarrhea.

Potential Side Effects Of Consuming Zucchini

  1. Digestive issues

Zucchini might cause digestive issues in people suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). In such a case, consume it with caution, or avoid it altogether.  Bitter zucchini might also cause stomach cramps, diarrhea or both,

  1. Allergies

Zucchini might cause allergies in individuals who are sensitive to it. These include nausea, pruritus (severe skin itching), and certain kinds of oral allergies.

  1. Alzheimer’s

Yes, this can be contradictory to what was covered earlier in the article. Iron does help prevent brain ailments. But studies suggest that too much of it can cause neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s.  Though iron is not abundant in zucchini, it still is better to consider its effects.

  1. Excessive beta-carotene

Since zucchini is a very good source of beta-carotene, this could be a concern for certain individuals. Large doses of beta-carotene might be inadvisable for pregnant and lactating women, people who smoke, people who have been exposed to asbestos, and individuals who have undergone angioplasty.

Beta-carotene might also interact with medications – especially those used for lowering cholesterol and other medicines like niacin.

How much of zucchini is too much?

These side effects need not worry you unless you happen to take zucchini in excess. It sure is a super-food, yet there is conflicting information about just how much is too much, so please consult your doctor for more guidance.

 Zucchini – Tips For Selection And Storage

How to select zucchini

Zucchini is usually picked and sold even before it matures. Hence, the seeds and skin are tender, and you can cook it even without peeling. The zucchini must be clean and blemish-free. You must be able to pierce the skin easily with your fingernail.

Also, ensure the zucchini you select is small to medium in size – no more than 6 to 8 inches, and free of pricks and cuts. Some say it is better if it has one inch of stem attached.

How to store zucchini

Zucchini must be stored in a refrigerator. Remember to wrap it tightly.

If you want to freeze zucchini, choose the one with tender skin. Wash and slice it and scald for 3 minutes. Cool and drain and then pack it in a freezer container. You can also freeze shredded zucchini, provided you do it immediately.

If you are planning to grow zucchini in your backyard, you must remember that it grows best when surrounded by mulch, which keeps the soil moist. You also need to add two inches of water every week for the plant to thrive.

How To Prepare Zucchini

  1. As a healthy snack

Simply take raw zucchini sticks or slices and enjoy them with your favorite dip. You can also pack them in your lunchbox for a healthy afternoon snack.

  1. Mashed Zucchini

Wondering what to use as a side dish for your meal? Zucchini! Steam it and mash it. You can then puree this with other root vegetables and serve. Much better (and healthier) than mashed potatoes!

  1. Grilled Zucchini

Who said only meat can be thrown on the grill? Slice zucchini into 1/2-inch thick disks, or cut the zucchini lengthwise, and brush them with cooking oil.  Season as you desire, and grill right on the grate.

  1. Stuffed Zucchini

Pretty simple: Cut the zucchini lengthwise and scoop out the insides. Fill the empty zucchini cups with chopped vegetables, meat, and cheese. Bake for about 40 minutes at 375° F, or until they turn golden brown. Serve while hot.

  1. Use in salads

Make your salad healthier by slicing in zucchini.

Can you eat zucchini skin?

In fact, you should, as zucchini is 95% water. Most of this water is found in the flesh – which means most of the nutrients are found in the skin. Peeling the skin deprives you of vitamins C and K, fiber, potassium, antioxidants, and the other nutrients. Eating zucchini without the skin is almost like drinking plain water – only that you would be chewing in this case.

How To Make Zucchini For Baby

Zucchini can be wonderful for babies. It has a mild flavor. It is soft to chew, and it offers super nutrients.

But, remember this – zucchini, particularly because of its skin, can cause a bit of stomach upset in some individuals. Hence, you must wait till your baby is eating stage 2 foods, which would happen when (s)he is around 8 months old.

In case your child is prone to stomach upsets, peel the zucchini before cooking and observe how your child receives it. If things are alright, try with the skin the next time.

Here is how you can cook zucchini for your child:

  1. Select a zucchini with a firm and shiny skin. It must be free of bruises and any other visible damage. Keep it unwashed in a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator (until you are ready to cook it, which would usually be up to 4-5 days).
  2. Divide the zucchini widthwise into half. Prepare the zucchini one half at a time. You can keep the second half back in the refrigerator until you want to use it next time.
  3. Slice the end of the zucchini. Wash it thoroughly under a stream of cold water.
  4. Cut it into thin slices.
  5. Fill a saucepan with cold water and bring it to a boil.
  6. Add the sliced zucchini to it. Once the water boils, decrease the heat to medium.
  7. Keep boiling the zucchini until it turns tender – this should take about 10 minutes.
  8. Drain the water and transfer the boiled zucchini into a food processor. Process it until it is completely pureed. You can add a little cold water if it appears too thick.
  9. Wait till the puree cools before you feed it to your little one. You can store the leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
  10. You can prepare the other half of zucchini in a similar way.

As always, it is best to consult your baby’s pediatrician before introducing new foods in his/her diet.

Conclusion

Celebrate the  end-of-summer with the super food zucchini . Try grated zucchini in cookies and bread for added moisture, or, stuff between tortillas for a simple veggie quesadilla.  Packed with beneficial nutrients, including Vitamins C and A, potassium, folate, and fiber, zucchini contributes to a healthy heart by decreasing the risk of stroke, reducing high blood pressure, and lowering cholesterol. Get maximum benefits by eating either raw or cooked zucchini and feel free to eat the skin– it’s edible.

And, if you are looking for a physician in your area to advise you on how to take control of your nutritional health, go to HealthLynked.com to find a provider who fits the bill.  We connect providers to Patients and providers to providers to improve overall population health in a novel social ecosystem.

Ready to get Lynked?  Got to HealthLynked.com today to register for free and be entered into our “End of Summer” Contest.

Adapted from the Following Sources:

Tadimalla, Ravi Teja.  21 Amazing Benefits Of Zucchini For Skin, Hair, And Health. Stylecraze, February 20, 2018.

TREMBLAY, MSC, Steve.  The Health Benefits of Zucchini.  LiveStrong.com, OCT. 03, 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Diabetes Reaching Epidemic Proportions? Yes, but New Discoveries Offer Hope.

Diabetes has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. – genetics, sugary diets and the lack of exercise all play a part. In a recent Instagram survey ( it is now the second largest search engine in the world, btw) it was found 97% of us know someone with diabetes.  That number surprised me, as I assumed it would be 100%.

The CDC reports the prevalence of diagnosed diabetes increased from 0.93% in 1958 to 9.40% in 2015. In 2015, 23.4 million people had diagnosed diabetes, compared to only 1.6 million, and it is estimated that number has now risen to above 30 million.   If current disease rates continue, one in three Americans will have diabetes by 2050. Over time, the condition can lead to kidney failure, limb amputations and blindness, among other complications.

The CDC report called the trend alarming, yet there is hope.

A Little History – Insulin Isolated in Toronto

On this day in 1958, at the University of Toronto, Canadian scientists Frederick Banting and Charles Best successfully isolate insulin–a hormone they believe could prevent diabetes–for the first time. Within a year, the first human sufferers of diabetes were receiving insulin treatments, and countless lives were saved from what was previously regarded as a fatal disease.

Diabetes has been recognized as a distinct medical condition for more than 3,000 years, but its exact cause was a mystery until the 20th century. By the early 1920s, many researchers strongly suspected that diabetes was caused by a malfunction in the digestive system related to the pancreas gland, a small organ that sits on top of the liver. At that time, the only way to treat the fatal disease was through a diet low in carbohydrates and sugar and high in fat and protein. Instead of dying shortly after diagnosis, this diet allowed diabetics to live–for about a year.

A breakthrough came at the University of Toronto in the summer of 1921, when Canadians Frederick Banting and Charles Best successfully isolated insulin from canine test subjects, produced diabetic symptoms in the animals, and then began a program of insulin injections that returned the dogs to normalcy. On November 14, the discovery was announced to the world.

Two months later, with the support of J.J.R. MacLeod of the University of Toronto, the two scientists began preparations for an insulin treatment of a human subject. Enlisting the aid of biochemist J.B. Collip, they were able to extract a reasonably pure formula of insulin from the pancreases of cattle from slaughterhouses. On January 23, 1921, they began treating 14-year-old Leonard Thompson with insulin injections. The diabetic teenager improved dramatically, and the University of Toronto immediately gave pharmaceutical companies license to produce insulin, free of royalties. By 1923, insulin had become widely available, and Banting and Macleod were awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine.

8 Amazing Breakthroughs Giving Us Hope

According to recent research, we’re not entirely sure how many diseases the label ‘diabetes’ covers. But no matter what causes our bodies to struggle with their blood sugar levels, it’s a serious condition that requires daily care.  Scientists have been working hard to find cures, new treatments, and better management techniques for the millions of people worldwide dealing with diabetes.

Here are a few of the latest developments you need to know about.

  1. Insulin producing implants made from stem cells

Clinical trials began last year for testing for ViaCyte’s PEC-Direct device; a credit-card sized implant containing insulin-producing cells derived from stem cells. Previous research had shown the implants could mature and function inside patients. Together with a cohort of volunteers who started testing in January, the new research should tell us soon whether the technology can help people with type-1 diabetes.

  1. Brand new beta cells

Type 1 diabetes develops when a person’s immune system wipes out insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. But it turns out that another type of immature beta cell has been hiding in our pancreases all along, and scientists think it might be possible to use these ‘virgin beta cells’ to restore the functionality of the pancreas.

  1. A common blood pressure medication

A drug on the World Health Organization’s list of essential drugs could have another purpose; blocking a molecule implemented in the autoimmune response that can give rise to type-1 diabetes.

Called methyldopa, the compound already has an important job treating high blood pressure in pregnant women and children. It’s left to be seen if it could help reduce the incidence of diabetes in some way, but the fact it’s already being used – rather than being stuck in the lab – makes for a promising find.

  1. A unique transplant

One woman with severe type 1 diabetes has spent a year without insulin injections thanks to an experimental transplant. Doctors implanted insulin-producing cells into a fatty membrane in the stomach cavity, and the success of the operation is paving the way towards more people receiving artificial pancreases.

  1. An extreme diet

A clinical trial conducted on just 298 volunteers in the UK last year found an intensive weight management program could put type-2 diabetes into remission for those who lose a significant amount of weight. The subjects were limited to roughly 850 calories a day for three to five months, consuming mostly soups and health shakes, before having more food introduced.

A similar study conducted on rats last year in the US also showed low calorie diets might help those who can stick to it reverse their condition.

  1. Glucose-monitoring contact lenses

Until we can nail down a cure, there will always been a need to monitor those messy blood glucose levels. Checking your tears for glucose using a smart contact lens, or monitoring your sweat with color changing ink, could be a whole lot less invasive than drawing blood. They’re not new ideas, but constant improvements in miniaturizing technology could mean these kinds of devices aren’t too far off.

  1. Loneliness could make us prone

While we can list a variety of genetic and lifestyle factors that affect a body’s growing resistance to insulin, there’s still a lot to learn. A study published late last year involving nearly 3,000 subjects aged 40 to 75 found there seems to be a significant relationship between social isolation and type-2 diabetes.

It’s not clear what the link might be, but having a few housemates or a local social group could make all the difference.

  1. Mexican cavefish evolved to be diabetic

While developing a resistance to insulin is bad news in humans, the pale, eyeless animal known as a Mexican cavefish evolved a new version of the insulin receptor that makes it harder for the hormone to bind.  This isn’t exactly a problem for the fish, which have also evolved other features to help it compensate. Studying its biology might help shine a light on how diabetes evolved in humans, and maybe even lead to new treatments.

  1. There is a gene for that (?)

By studying one family with rare blood sugar disorders, scientists have identified a gene mutation that can give rise to both high and low blood sugar. This discovery could lead to new treatments for diabetes.

Diabetes is a condition in which the body is unable to produce enough of the hormone insulin, or it cannot use it effectively.  As a result, blood sugar levels become too high.  It is estimated that around 30.3 million people in the United States are living with diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form, followed by type 1 diabetes.

One of the commonest forms of monogenic diabetes is maturity onset diabetes of the young, which accounts for approximately 2 percent of all diabetes cases in the U.S. among people under the age of 20;   but there are some rarer forms that account for just 1–4 percent of cases in the U.S. These are known as monogenic diabetes, and they arise from a mutation in a single gene that is passed down from one or both parents.  Such mutations impair the function of beta cells, which are cells in the pancreas that secrete insulin.

For this latest study, lead author Prof. Márta Korbonits — of the William Harvey Research Institute at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) in the United Kingdom — and her colleagues studied a unique family, some members of which had diabetes, while others had insulinomas, or insulin-producing tumors in the pancreas.

Notably, diabetes is characterized by high blood sugar levels, while insulinomas cause blood sugar levels to become too low. How can both of these conflicting conditions run in the same family?  According to Prof. Korbonits and team, a single gene mutation is to blame.

MAFA mutation uncovered

By analyzing the genomes of the family, the researchers were surprised to find a single mutation in the MAFA gene that was present in both the family members with diabetes and those with insulinomas.  The MAFA gene normally regulates the production of insulin in beta cells. A mutation in this gene leads to the production of an abnormal MAFA protein, which seems to be more abundant in beta cells than normal MAFA proteins.

The researchers were able to confirm the presence of the MAFA gene mutation in another family, which also had members with both diabetes and insulinomas.  Overall, the results indicate that a mutation in the MAFA gene may be a cause of both high and low blood sugar levels, but precisely how the mutation causes such conditions remains unclear.

“We believe,” explains first study author Dr. Donato Iacovazzo, also of the William Harvey Research Institute at QMUL, “this gene defect is critical in the development of the disease and we are now performing further studies to determine how this defect can, on the one hand, impair the production of insulin to cause diabetes, and on the other, cause insulinomas.”

These results — now published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences — represent the first time that a mutation in the MAFA gene has been associated with disease, and the researchers believe that they could pave the way for new treatments for common and rare forms of diabetes.

“While the disease we have characterized is very rare, studying rare conditions helps us understand more about the physiology and the mechanisms underlying more common diseases. We hope that in the longer-term this research will lead to us exploring new ways to trigger the regeneration of beta cells to treat more common forms of diabetes.”

– Study co-author Prof. Sian Ellard, University of Exeter, U.K.

Overall Numbers, Diabetes and Prediabetes

  • Prevalence: In 2015, 30.3 million Americans, or 9.4% of the population, had diabetes.
    • Approximately 1.25 million American children and adults have type 1 diabetes.
  • Undiagnosed: Of the 30.3 million adults with diabetes, 23.1 million were diagnosed, and 7.2 million were undiagnosed.
  • Prevalence in Seniors: The percentage of Americans age 65 and older remains high, at 25.2%, or 12.0 million seniors (diagnosed and undiagnosed).
  • New Cases: 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year.
  • Prediabetes: In 2015, 84.1 million Americans age 18 and older had prediabetes.
  • Deaths: Diabetes remains the 7th leading cause of death in the United States in 2015, with 79,535 death certificates listing it as the underlying cause of death, and a total of 252,806 death certificates listing diabetes as an underlying or contributing cause of death.

If your system seems to be handling sugar poorly, consider talking to a physician.  You can quickly find and connect with one in the largest ever healthcare ecosystem designed to vastly improve the relationship doctors and patients are meant to enjoy and find great value in….

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Sources

 

Diabetes: Surprising gene discovery could fuel new treatments

Published: Tuesday 16 January 2018 Written by: Honor Whiteman

 

8 Amazing Breakthroughs in Diabetes Research That Are Giving Us Hope

BY SIGNE DEAN & MIKE MCRAE

APRIL 02, 2018

 

 

 

How to Measure Your Blood Sugar – Mayo Clinic Patient Education

In this short video, a Mayo Clinic Certified Diabetes Educator introduces us to the equipment and walks us through the process of checking blood sugar levels for people with diabetes.

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The Basics: Signs of Diabetic Neuropathy

Don’t write off that tingling sensation in your hands and feet. If you have diabetes, it may be a sign of neuropathy.

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What Is Type 2 Diabetes?

Diabetes is when your body doesn’t process sugar the right way. But what does that mean exactly? When you have type 2 diabetes, your blood sugar level is too high. Here’s how it works.

Quiz: Myths and Facts About Type 2 Diabetes http://wb.md/2iCvBKv

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Type 2 Diabetes 101

Why is type 2 diabetes so devastating to the body?

Get reliable information about type 2 diabetes, tips from diabetes experts, and real-life stories about people living with type 2 diabetes.
http://diabetes.webmd.com/type-2-diabetes-tv/default.htm

Reviewed By: Varnada Karriem-Norwood, August 2012
SOURCES: National Diabetes Fact Sheet, 2007. C. Ronald Kahn, MD Vice Chair, Joslin Diabetes Center.
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Will We Soon Reverse Diabetes and Obesity with Gene Therapy?

New research shows that gene therapy can completely reverse markers of Type 2 diabetes and obesity in rodents.  If the theory holds, small alterations to our genes could soon repair metabolic disorders such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes in humans.

The prevalence of diabetes, or the total number of existing cases, is on the rise in the United States and globally.  According to recent estimates, over 30 million U.S. adults had diabetes in 2015.

Although the number has been relatively steady in the past few years, rates of newly diagnosed cases among children and teenagers have increased sharply.  And, worldwide, the situation is even more alarming; the number of people with diabetes almost quadrupled between 1980 and 2014, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Now, new research brings much-needed hope of curing this metabolic disorder.  Scientists led by Fatima Bosch, a professor at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) in Catalunya, Spain, have successfully reversed the disorder in rodents.  Prof. Bosch and her colleagues achieved this using gene therapy, a technique that introduces new genetic material into cells to create beneficial proteins or to offset the effects of malfunctioning genes.  The findings were published in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine.

Using the FGF21 gene to reverse diabetes

Prof. Bosch and team designed two mouse models of obesity and type 2 diabetes. One was diet-induced, and the other one was genetically modified.  Using an adeno-associated viral vector as “transport,” the team delivered the fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) gene.

This gene is responsible for encoding the FGF21 protein, which is seen as a “major metabolic regulator” that stimulates the absorption of blood sugar in adipose tissue.  By delivering this gene, the researchers stimulated the production of the protein, which caused the rodents to lose weight and lowered their insulin resistance — a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Additionally, the mice lost weight and the treatment reduced the fat and inflammation in their adipose tissue.

The fat content, inflammation, and fibrosis of the rodents’ livers were completely reversed, with no side effects. In turn, these improvements increased insulin sensitivity.  These beneficial effects were noted in both murine models. Also, the team found that administering FGF21 to healthy mice prevented age-related weight gain and led to healthy aging.

Gene therapy was used to alter three tissue types: liver tissue, adipose tissue, and skeletal muscle.  “This gives a great flexibility to the therapy,” explains Prof. Bosch, “since it allows [us] to select each time the most appropriate tissue, and in case some complication prevents manipulating any of the tissues, it can be applied to any of the others.”

“When a tissue produces FGF21 protein and secretes it into the bloodstream, it will be distributed throughout the body,” adds Prof. Bosch.

First reversion of obesity, insulin resistance

Study co-author and UAB researcher Claudia Jambrina explains that their findings are particularly significant given that “the prevalence of type 2 diabetes and obesity is growing at alarming rates around the world.”

The team also says that delivering FGF21 as a conventional drug would not yield the same benefits as gene therapy; firstly, the drug would have to be administered periodically for long-term benefits, and secondly, its toxicity would be high.  Using gene therapy, however, is free of side effects, and a single administration is enough to make the mice produce the protein naturally for several years.

“This is the first time that long-term reversion of obesity and insulin resistance have been achieved upon a one-time administration of a gene therapy, in an animal model that resembles obesity and type 2 diabetes in humans.”

First study author Veronica Jimenez, a UAB researcher

“The results demonstrate that it is a safe and effective therapy,” she adds. The next steps will be to “test this therapy in larger animals before moving to clinical trials with patients,” notes Prof. Bosch.  “[The] therapy described in this study,” she concludes, “constitutes the basis for the future clinical translation of FGF21 gene transfer to treat type 2 diabetes, obesity, and related comorbidities.”

Statistics and facts about type 2 diabetes

Diabetes mellitus, or diabetes, is a disease that causes high blood sugar. It occurs when there is a problem with insulin.

Insulin is a hormone that takes sugar from foods and moves it to the body’s cells. If the body does not make enough insulin or does not use insulin well, the sugar from food stays in the blood, resulting in high blood sugar.

Diabetes is a key health concern worldwide. In the United States, the rate of new cases rose sharply from the 1990s, but it fell between 2008 and 2015, and it continues to fall, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Diabetes Report, 2017. Meanwhile, the number of adults living with diabetes continues to rise.

The most common of diabetes is type 2. According to the CDC, 90 to 95 percent of people with diabetes in the United States have type 2. Just 5 percent of people have type 1.

Key facts

Diabetes is at an all-time high in the U.S. The CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation states that 1 percent of the population, which is about a half of a million people, had diagnosed diabetes in 1958.

In 2015, around 9.4 percent of the population in the U.S. had diabetes, including 30.2 million adults aged 18 years and over. Nearly a quarter of those with the condition do not know they have it.

Between 1990 and 2010, the number of people living with diabetes more than tripled, and the number of new cases doubled every year.

Figures suggest that the incidence is levelling off and may even be falling, but it remains unclear whether this will continue as other factors come into play, such as the aging population.

The risk of developing diabetes increases with age.

The CDC report that 4.0 percent of people aged 18 to 44 years are living with diabetes, 17 percent of those aged 45 to 64 years, and 25.2 percent of those aged over 65 years.

Causes

Type 2 diabetes is thought to result from a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors.

The exact cause is unknown, but risk factors appear to include:

  • excess body fat
  • high blood pressure or cholesterol
  • having a close family member with the condition
  • a history of gestational diabetes
  • higher age

As obesity has become more prevalent over the past few decades, so too has the rate of type 2 diabetes. In 2013, more than 1 in 3 people in the U.S. were considered to have obesity, and over 2 in 3 were either overweight or had obesity.

In 1995, obesity affected 15.3 percent of Americans, and in 2008, the figure was 25.6 percent. From 1998 to 2008, the incidence of diabetes increased by 90 percent.

Although the link between obesity and diabetes is well known, the reasons they are connected remain unclear. A report in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism asks why obesity does not always lead to diabetes, given the established link between the two conditions.

The same report notes that the location of body fat appears to play a role. People with more fat in the upper body area and around the waist are more likely to get diabetes than those who carry their body fat around the hips and lower body.

Diabetes and ethnicity

Rates of diabetes vary between ethnic groups.

There may be a combination of factors, including:

  • genetics
  • health conditions
  • lifestyle
  • finances
  • environment
  • access to healthcare

The CDC’s National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2017, found that, among people aged 20 years and over, diabetes affects:

  • 7.4 percent of Non-Hispanic whites
  • 8.0 percent of Asian Americans
  • 12.1 percent of Hispanics
  • 12.7 percent of Non-Hispanic Blacks
  • 15.1 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives

Why diabetes is serious

Diabetes can have serious health consequences.

The ADA report that more Americans die from diabetes every year than from AIDS and breast cancer combined.

According to the CDC, 79,535 deaths occur each year due to diabetes. The number of fatalities related to diabetes may be underreported.

Why and how does diabetes damage the body and cause complications?

The ADA says:

  • Adults with diabetes are significantly more likely to die from a heart attack or stroke.
  • More than a quarter of all Americans with diabetes have diabetic retinopathy, which can cause vision loss and blindness.
  • Each year, nearly 50,000 Americans begin treatment for kidney failure due to diabetes. Diabetes accounts for 44 percent of all new cases of kidney failure.
  • Each year, diabetes causes about 73,000 lower limb amputations, which accounts for 60 percent of all lower limb amputations (not including amputations due to trauma).

Costs

Because of its high prevalence and link to numerous health problems, diabetes has a significant impact on healthcare costs.

The productivity loss for reduced performance at work due to diabetes in 2012 was 113 million days, or $20.8 billion, according to the ADA.

Diabetes cost the U.S. $327 billion in 2017, including $237 billion in medical costs and $90 billion in reduced productivity.

However, this number does not include:

  • the millions of people who have diabetes but are undiagnosed
  • the cost of prevention programs for people with diabetes, which are not counted under standard medical costs
  • over-the-counter medications for eye and dental problems, which are more common in people with diabetes.
  • administrative costs for insurance claims
  • the cost of reduced quality of life, lost productivity of family members, and other factors that cannot be measured directly

Because diabetes affects various parts of the body, the medical costs span different areas of specialty. The ADA report that:

  • 30 percent of medical costs associated with diabetes are for circulation problems that reduce blood flow to the limbs
  • 29 percent of medical costs associated with diabetes are for kidney conditions
  • 28 percent of medical costs associated with diabetes are for nervous system conditions

Despite its complications, people can manage their diabetes with a comprehensive plan that includes lifestyle changes and proper medical care. If they control their blood sugar levels well, many people with diabetes can lead full, active lives.

Difference between types 1 and 2

In type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. As a result, the body does not produce insulin, and people with this condition must take insulin by injection or pump every day.

Type 1 diabetes usually develops in children or young adults, but it can occur at any age. There is no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes, and there is no cure.

In 2011-2012, around 17,900 children under the age of 18 years received a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes in the U.S., or around 49 children each day. Type 1 diabetes affects around 1.25 million American adults and children.

People with type 2 diabetes may still have insulin in their bodies, but not enough for proper blood sugar control. Or, the body may not be able to use the insulin it has properly. As a result, blood sugar levels can become too high.

Typically, adults are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, but children can get it too. Certain factors increase a person’s risk of getting type 2 diabetes, including:

  • obesity
  • older age
  • a family history of diabetes
  • lack of exercise
  • problems with glucose metabolism

The annual relative increase for type 1 diabetes in 2002-2012 in the U.S. was 1.8 percent, but the annual increase for type 2 diabetes was 4.8 percent.

If diabetes or any other medical concern has you  running a little slow, join our ecosystem designed to support your well being.  Here, at HealthLynked, we are building a network that connects patients to physicians in ways never before possible for the purpose of Improving HealthCare.

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Adapted from:

[1]  Murrell MD, Daniel.  “Statistics and facts about type 2 diabetes.” Medical News Today. 12 June 2018

[2]  Sandoiu, Ana. “Type 2 diabetes, obesity may soon be reversed with gene therapy.”  Medical News Today, 12 July 2018