Low zinc levels affect fertility: Women lacking in the mineral will struggle to conceive for up to three months, study finds

A study from Pennsylvania State University found that zinc deficiencies can cause infertility by inhibiting egg development

More than 80 percent of women in the US don’t get enough zinc, known as ‘the fertility mineral’

More than one in ten couples in the US struggle to conceive

Women who want to get pregnant should have their zinc levels tested three months in advance to detect deficiencies that could cause fertility problems, new research suggests.

Infertility is on the rise in the US with more than one in 10 couples in the US experiencing problems with conceiving.

A growing body of research suggests that women take more supplements including zinc, known as ‘the fertility mineral’ because of the large role it plays in regulating the reproductive system.

A study from Pennsylvania State University examined how low levels of zinc affect the often-overlooked initial stages of egg development, revealing that the harmful effects begin months earlier than previously thought.

Fertility research has exploded in recent years as more couples open up about their struggles to conceive and search for a solution.

One specific area of research that’s received a lot of attention is how micronutrients in the ovaries influence the development, viability and quality of egg cells.

Zinc is commonly thought of as the most important of those micronutrients.

More than 80 percent of women in the US have zinc deficiencies.

The mineral aids in regulation of hormones, cell division during the egg development process and maintaining a health environment within the ovaries.

The ovary is made up of about one million structures called follicles, which consist of one egg cell supported by layers of somatic cells.

Each month several follicles begin to mature, but typically one will be released in ovulation and have the chance to be fertilized.

Most of the current studies available focus on the group that begin to mature each month, known as the antral stage, which ends at ovulation.

In the study published Tuesday the researchers took a more novel approach and looked at the pre-antral stage, which refers to the period before the antral stage when follicles are still growing.

The pre-antral stage begins 90 days before an egg could be ovulated.

‘Previous studies showed that zinc levels are critical in the antral follicle, but no one had tested the effect of zinc deficiency on preantral follicle growth,’ said lead author James Hester, a graduate student in Integrative and Biomedical Physiology at Pennsylvania State University.

The researchers collected preantral follicles from mice and matured them in two different environments that mimicked that of the ovary during the maturation process, one with normal levels of zinc and one with deficient levels.

The most striking finding was that insufficient levels of zinc impaired the egg cell’s ability to properly divide, a necessary step before successful fertilization can occur. This defect persisted even after more zinc was introduced to the environment.

The zinc-deficient environment was also found to disrupt follicle cell growth, resulting in smaller eggs and fewer somatic cells, which are needed to support the egg.

Overall the findings revealed that low levels of zinc inhibited the body’s ability to produce eggs that would be able to become fertilized.

They also indicate that the harmful effects of zinc deficiency began much earlier than was previously thought, and were difficult to reverse.

Hester said these findings have wider implications for people using expensive and invasive in-vitro fertilization.

‘Interestingly, the [eggs] commonly used for IVF are collected from antral follicles, so any effects from preantral development have already occurred,’ he said.

Source: Daily Mail

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How bacteria are changing your mood

If anything makes us human it’s our minds, thoughts and emotions.

And yet a controversial new concept is emerging that claims gut bacteria are an invisible hand altering our brains.

Science is piecing together how the trillions of microbes that live on and in all of us – our microbiome – affect our physical health.

But even conditions including depression, autism and neurodegenerative disease are now being linked to these tiny creatures.

We’ve known for centuries that how we feel affects our gut – just think what happens before an exam or a job interview – but now it is being seen as a two-way street.

Groups of researchers believe they are on the cusp of a revolution that uses “mood microbes” or “psychobiotics” to improve mental health.

The study that ignited the whole concept took place at Kyushu University in Japan.

The researchers showed that “germ-free” mice – those that never came into contact with microbes – pumped out twice the amount of stress hormone when distressed than normal mice.

The animals were identical except for their microbes. It was a strong hint that the difference was a result of their micro-organisms.

“We all go back to that first paper for the first wave of neuroscientists considering microbes,” says Dr Jane Foster, a neuropsychiatrist at McMaster University in Canada.

“That really was very powerful for those of us who were studying depression and anxiety.”

It was the first hint of microbial medicine in mental health.

How could bacteria be altering the brain?

The brain is the most complex object in the known universe so how could it be reacting to bacteria in the gut?

One route is the vagus nerve, it’s an information superhighway connecting the brain and the gut.

Bacteria break down fibre in the diet into chemicals called short-chain fatty acids, which can have effects throughout the body.

The microbiome influences the immune system, which has also been implicated in brain disorders.

There is even emerging evidence that gut bugs could be using tiny strips of genetic code called microRNAs to alter how DNA works in nerve cells.

There is now a rich vein of research linking germ-free mice with changes in behaviour and even the structure of the brain.

But their completely sterile upbringing is nothing like the real world. We’re constantly coming into contact with microbes in our environment, none of us are germ-free.

At Cork University Hospital, Prof Ted Dinan is trying to uncover what happens to the microbiome in his depressed patients.

A good rule of thumb is a healthy microbiome is a diverse microbiome, containing a wide variety of different species living all over our bodies.

Prof Dinan says: “If you compare somebody who is clinically depressed with someone who is healthy, there is a narrowing in the diversity of the microbiota.

“I’m not suggesting it is the sole cause of depression, but I do believe for many individuals it does play a role in the genesis of depression.”

And he argues some lifestyles that weaken our gut bacteria, such as a diet low in fibre, can make us more vulnerable.

The microbiome

You’re more microbe than human – if you count all the cells in your body, only 43% are human

The rest is our microbiome and includes bacteria, viruses, fungi and single-celled archaea

The human genome – the full set of genetic instructions for a human being – is made up of 20,000 instructions called genes
But add all the genes in our microbiome together and the figure comes out at between two million and 20 million microbial genes

It’s known as the second genome and is linked to diseases including allergy, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, Parkinson’s, whether cancer drugs work and even depression and autism

It’s an intriguing concept – that an imbalance in the gut microbiome could be involved in depression.

So scientists at the APC Microbiome centre, at University College Cork, started transplanting the microbiome from depressed patients to animals. It’s known in the biz as a trans-poo-sion.

It showed that if you transfer the bacteria, you transfer the behaviour too.

Prof John Cryan told the BBC: “We were very surprised that you could, by just taking microbiome samples, reproduce many of the features of a depressed individual in a rat.”

This included anhedonia – the way depression can lead to people losing interest in what they normally find pleasurable.

For the rats, that was sugary water they could not get enough of, yet “when they were given the microbiome from a depressed individual, they no longer cared”, says Prof Cryan.

Similar evidence – linking the microbiome, the gut and the brain – is emerging in Parkinson’s disease.

It is clearly a brain disorder. Patients lose control over their muscles as brain cells die and it leads to a characteristic tremor.

But Prof Sarkis Mazmanian, a medical microbiologist from Caltech, is building the case that gut bacteria are involved.

“Classical neuroscientists would find this as heresy to think you can understand events in the brain by researching the gut,” he says.

He has found “very powerful” differences between the microbiomes of people with Parkinson’s and those without the disease.

Studies in animals, genetically hardwired to develop Parkinson’s, show gut bacteria were necessary for the disease to emerge.

And when stool was transplanted from Parkinson’s patients to those mice, they developed “much worse” symptoms than using faeces sourced from a healthy individual.

Prof Mazmanian told the BBC: “The changes in the microbiome appear to be driving the motor symptoms, appear to be causal to the motor symptoms.

“We’re very excited about this because it allows us to target the microbiome as an avenue for new therapies.”

The evidence linking the microbiome and the brain is as fascinating as it is early.

But the pioneers of this field see an exciting prospect on the horizon – a whole new way of influencing our health and wellbeing.

If microbes do influence our brains then maybe we can change our microbes for the better.

Can altering the bacteria in Parkinson’s patients’ guts change the course of their disease?

There is talk of psychiatrists prescribing mood microbes or psychobiotics – effectively a probiotic cocktail of healthy bacteria – to boost our mental health.

Dr Kirsten Tillisch, at University of California, Los Angeles, told me: “If we change the bacteria can we change the way we respond?

But she says we need far bigger studies that really probe what species, and even sub-species, of bacteria may be exerting an effect on the brain and what products they are making in the gut.

Dr Tillisch said: “There’s clearly connections here, I think our enthusiasm and our excitement is there because we haven’t had great treatments.

“It’s very exciting to think there’s a whole new pathway that we can study and we can look and we can help people, maybe even prevent disease.”

And that’s the powerful idea here.

The microbiome – our second genome – is opening up an entirely new way of doing medicine and its role is being investigated in nearly every disease you can imagine including allergies, cancer and obesity.

I’ve been struck by how malleable the second genome is and how that is in such stark contrast to our own DNA.

The food we eat, the pets we have, the drugs we take, how we’re born… all alter our microbial inhabitants.

And if we’re doing that unwittingly, imagine the potential of being able to change our microbiome for the better.

Prof Cryan said: “I predict in the next five years when you go to your doctor for your cholesterol testing etc, you’ll also get your microbiome assessed.

“The microbiome is the fundamental future of personalised medicine.”

Source: BBC

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Junk food linked to arthritis: The bugs in your gut could be to blame for joint pain, research finds

  • Previously it was believed osteoarthritis was driven by stress on the joints from being overweight
  • The new study, published today by the University of Rochester Medical Center, suggests that gut bacteria – not weight – is the culprit
  • Balancing the microbiome with a prebiotic supplement reversed the symptoms
  • Junk food exacerbates arthritis and joint pain, new research has found.

The study shows that bacteria in the gut appears to be the driving force behind inflammation that leads to painful ‘wear and tear’ of the bones in overweight people.

Osteoarthritis was long assumed to simply be a consequence of undue stress on the joints, and that losing weight could prevent the condition.

But the new study, published today by the University of Rochester Medical Center, suggests that balancing gut bacteria with a prebiotic supplement reversed the symptoms in mice – even if their weight stayed the same.

Study leader Associate Professor Michael Zuscik said: ‘Cartilage is both a cushion and lubricant, supporting friction-free joint movements.

‘When you lose that, it’s bone on bone, rock on rock. It’s the end of the line and you have to replace the whole joint.

‘Preventing that from happening is what we, as osteoarthritis researchers, strive to do – to keep that cartilage.’

The researchers fed mice a high fat diet akin to a Western ‘cheeseburger and milkshake’ diet.

Just 12 weeks of the high fat diet made mice obese and diabetic, nearly doubling their body fat percentage compared to mice fed a low fat, healthy diet.

Their colons were ‘dominated’ by pro-inflammatory bacteria, and almost completely lacked certain beneficial, probiotic bacteria, such as the common yogurt additive Bifidobateria.

The changes in the gut microbiomes of the mice coincided with signs of body-wide inflammation, including in their knees where the researchers induced osteoarthritis with a meniscal tear, a common athletic injury known to cause osteoarthritis.

Compared to lean mice, the findings showed that osteoarthritis progressed much more quickly in the obese mice, with nearly all of their cartilage disappearing within 12 weeks of the tear.

Surprisingly, the researchers found that the effects of obesity on gut bacteria, inflammation, and osteoarthritis were completely prevented when the high fat diet of obese mice was supplemented with a common prebiotic, called oligofructose.

The knee cartilage of obese mice who ate the oligofructose supplement was indistinguishable from that of the lean mice.

Prebiotics, such as oligofructose, cannot be digested by rodents or humans, but they are welcome treats for certain types of beneficial gut bacteria, such as Bifidobacteria.

Colonies of those bacteria chowed down and grew, taking over the guts of obese mice and crowding out bad actors, such as pro-inflammatory bacteria.

That, in turn, decreased systemic inflammation and slowed cartilage breakdown in the mice’s osteoarthritic knees.

Oligofructose even made the obese mice less diabetic, but there was one thing the dietary supplement didn’t change: body weight.

Obese mice given oligofructose remained obese, bearing the same load on their joints, yet their joints were healthier.

Just reducing inflammation was enough to protect joint cartilage from degeneration, supporting the idea that inflammation – not biomechanical forces – drive osteoarthritis and joint degeneration.

Study co-author Professor Robert Mooney said: ‘That reinforces the idea that osteoarthritis is another secondary complication of obesity – just like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, which all have inflammation as part of their cause.

‘Perhaps, they all share a similar root, and the microbiome might be that common root.’

Though there are parallels between mouse and human microbiomes, the researchers said that the bacteria that protected mice from obesity-related osteoarthritis may differ from the bacteria that could help humans.

Now they plan to continue the research in humans.

The team hopes to compare older people who have obesity-related osteoarthritis to those who don’t to further identify the connections between gut microbes and joints.

They also hope to test whether prebiotic or probiotic supplements that shape the gut microbiome can have similar effects in older people suffering from osteoarthritis as they did in mice.

Study first author Dr Eric Schott, added: ‘There are no treatments that can slow progression of osteoarthritis – and definitely nothing reverses it.

‘But this study sets the stage to develop therapies that target the microbiome and actually treat the disease.’

Source: Daily Mail

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Piperine, Curcumin Complex Reduces Total Body Fat in Animal Study

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: http://www.nutritionaloutlook.com/herbs-botanicals/piperine-curcumin-complex-reduces-total-body-fat-animal-study

A new, independent study1 conducted by scientists at Jane Mayer U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Center for Aging at Tufts University (Boston) and Tohoku University (Miyagi, Japan) found that Sabinsa’s (East Windsor, NJ) BioPerine black pepper extract and Curcumin C3 complex work together to help modulate body fat accumulation in obese mice. Sabinsa says that the results from this animal study add to the company’s existing research highlighting the synergistic effects of piperine combined with curcumin.

Existing research suggests that specific dietary components found in spices may have a beneficial effect on metabolism, the study authors add. For the purposes of this study, the researchers focused on curcumin, the major polyphenol in turmeric (Curcuma longa), and piperine, the bioactive alkaloid in pepper. Curcumin is said to possess anti-inflammatory and anti-obesity properties, while piperine has been shown to increase curcumin’s absorption and bioavailability in the body. In addition, the two ingredients together may also help to attenuate inflammation.

In the study, the researchers mimicked the kind of caloric restriction regimen an obese individual might undertake to lose weight, including potentially accelerating the loss of body weight by combining the regimen with dietary bioactive compounds or drugs known to increase metabolism and weight loss.

During the first phase of the study, researchers fed 47 mice a high-fat diet for 23 weeks to induce obesity. The mice were then divided into five groups. While one group continued to consume the high-fat diet ad libitum, the other four cohorts underwent a caloric-restriction program including a 10% reduction in food intake for 10 weeks, followed by a 20% reduction in food intake for 20 weeks. In addition, the mice were supplemented with either 1) 1 g/kg curcumin; 2) 50 mg/kg piperine; 3) 1 g/kg curcumin plus 50 mg/kg piperine; or 4) none of the above.

Researchers measured the mice’s body weight twice per week. Starting from week 23, the researchers measured the mice’s body weight once every two weeks using an animal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system (EcoMRI). They also recorded the mice’s body fat percentages, as well as the plasma inflammatory markers associated with obesity. The researchers also measured plasma curcumin metabolites and length of the liver telomeres, or the protective end-caps on the end of chromosomes. In addition to modulating energy expenditure and body fat metabolism, caloric restriction helps to regulate telomere length. Telomeres help to preserve the integrity of DNA. The study authors write that one of the factors indicative of cellular health is the length of the telomeres. Shortened telomeres indicate cellular senescence and aging.

At the end of the 53-week study period, all mice fed the high-fat diet had gained a significant amount of body weight, with up 49% of their total weight consisting of body fat. When the researchers restricted the caloric intake of the mice by 10%, weight gain stabilized, while the percentage of total body fat increased. When the researchers increased the caloric restriction by 20%, the mice did lose body weight, though the percentage of body fat remained significant. Neither curcumin, piperine, or the curcumin-piperine combination affected the rate of weight loss; however, the mice’s body fat percentage was reduced through supplementation with the curcumin-piperine combination.

The mice supplemented with the combination of curcumin and piperine also exhibited significantly reduced amounts of adiposity compared with the ad libitum group, but the groups that received curcumin or piperine alone did not demonstrate increased body fat loss. In addition, the mice given the combination of curcumin and piperine did see a decrease in some of the inflammatory cytokine markers associated with obesity, but curcumin and piperine had no effect on other inflammatory markers.

Finally, the researchers measured the telomere length in the livers of the obese mice. The caloric-restriction program alone was not effective in increasing the length of the telomeres, but the shortening of the telomeres was attenuated in the cohort supplemented with the curcumin-piperine combination. The researchers concluded that “when [a high-fat diet] regimen is subjected to [caloric restriction] immediately, telomere length is probably affected by oxidative stress. However, the inclusion of [curcumin] or [piperine] into the diet suppressed telomere shortening to some extent. This effect was further enhanced when [curcumin plus piperine] was included in the diet.”

Nagabhushanam Kalyanam, PhD, president, research and development, Sabinsa, elaborated on the study results in a press statement: “On the whole, it was concluded that this nutrient combination, curcumin-piperine, works well to reduce total body fat, reduces cellular aging as indicated by preserving telomere length, and enhance the [caloric restriction] effects for the prevention of metabolic syndrome by reducing the low grade chronic inflammation that always persists in obese conditions.”

Miyazawa T et al., “Curcumin and piperine supplementation of obese mice under caloric restriction modulates body fat and interleukin-1β,” Nutrition and Metabolism. Published online February 6, 2018.

Source: Nutritional Outlook

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: http://www.nutritionaloutlook.com/herbs-botanicals/piperine-curcumin-complex-reduces-total-body-fat-animal-study

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Tucking into RAW fruit and veg can boost your mood, appetite for life and ward off depression, suggests study (and here are the 10 most beneficial to eat)

Scientists discovered raw vegetables – and fruit – are better for mental health

Health campaigns focus on the amount of fruit and veg people should eat

The new study found the way they are prepared is also important to consider

Eating raw carrots and spinach can boost ward off depression because they contain more ‘essential’ nutrients, a study suggests.

Scientists found raw vegetables – and fruit – are better for mental health than those which are cooked, tinned or processed.

People who eat more raw fruit and vegetables also had improved levels of psychological wellbeing, including positive mood and life satisfaction, researchers discovered.

Health campaigns have traditionally focussed on the amount of fruit and vegetables people should eat, such as the five a day message.

But the new study, by researchers in New Zealand, implies that the way in which they are prepared is also important to consider.

Many people cook spinach and carrots, which is a major part of the traditional English roast dinner. However, fruits are often consumed raw.

Dr Tamlin Conner, from the University of Otago, led the study, which analysed the eating habits of more than 400 adults.

She said: ‘Our research has highlighted the consumption of fruit and veg in their “unmodified” state is more strongly associated with better mental health.’

This was compared to cooked, canned or processed fruit and vegetables, according to the study in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

This could be because cooking and processing of fruit and vegetables can cut their nutrient levels, Dr Conner suggested.

She said: ‘This limits the delivery of nutrients that are essential for optimal emotional functioning.’

Participants in the study were aged between 18 and 25 – the age group that has the lowest consumption of fruit and veg, on average.


Dark leafy greens such as spinach
Citrus fruits
Fresh berries

Their typical consumption of raw, cooked or processed fruit and veg were assessed, and they were quizzed on their mental health.

Other factors that can play a part on mental health were studied, such as exercise, sleep, chronic health conditions and overall diets.

The study showed that people who consumed more raw fruit and vegetables had lower mental illness symptoms, such as depression.

They also had improved levels of psychological wellbeing, including positive mood and life satisfaction, researchers found.

These mental health benefits were significantly reduced for cooked, canned, and processed fruits and vegetables.

Dr Conner said: ‘This research is increasingly vital as lifestyle approaches such as dietary change may provide an accessible, safe, and adjuvant approach to improving mental health.’

The study comes after a nutritionist told DailyMail.com that chopping vegetables before eating them boosts their nutrients.

Carly Feigan, New York-based nutritionist and owner of Head to Health, said slicing the veggies can release healthy enzymes that support digestion.


Raw food enthusiasts like Megan Fox praise the no-cook diet for requiring less calories to get more nutrients and feel fuller than they would from eating cooked meals, but nutritionists say that this isn’t necessarily the case.

Depending on the particular nutrients you are interested in – and the ingredients you hope to get them from – eating raw may be better for achieving some goals while cooking your food may boost your intake of other vitamins and minerals.

‘Some vegetables, you get more [nutrients] when they are raw, some when they are cooked, it really varies,’ says Keri Glassman, a New York City nutritionist.

DailyMail.com broke down the surprising nutritional differences (or lack thereof) between raw and cooked ingredients in a popular raw vegan recipe.



Fiber 3.6 g

Vitamin C 7.6 mg

Potassium 410 mg


Fiber 2.3 g

Vitamin C 2.8 mg

Potassium 183 mg



Vitamin C 0.1 mg

Magnesium 0.9 mg

Potassium 8.3 mg


Vitamin C 0.4 mg

Magnesium 9.7 mg

Potassium 70.5 mg



Fiber 4.8 g

Vitamin A 1,134 IU

Vitamin C 162.4 mg


Fiber 10.4 g

Vitamin A 4,828 IU

Vitamin C 202.4 mg

Source: Daily Mail

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Brain-Boosting Supplement Ingredients

The advancing worldwide prevalence of cognitive decline and dementia is a global health concern. World Health Organization (WHO) estimates from 2013 suggested that more than 35 million individuals worldwide were living with dementia; the WHO noted it expected that number to almost double every 20 years, reaching 115.4 million by 2050.1

Dietary and nutritional factors impact cognitive status and likely contribute to these staggering numbers. Studies, for instance, show that dietary protocols such as The Mediterranean Diet may benefit cognitive health. Moreover, a recent review led by Arrigo Cicero from the University of Bologna (Bologna, Italy) looked at studies published between 1970 and 2017 and concluded that the use of herbs and phytochemicals for delaying the onset of cognitive decline shows significant promise.2

Nutrition and diet can play a significant role in helping to support cognitive health. Some recent studies investigating the effects of herbs and nutrients on cognition are summarized here.

1. Mavrodaris A et al., “Prevalences of dementia and cognitive impairment among older people in sub-Saharan Africa: a systematic review,” Bulletin of the World Health Organization, vol. 91, no. 10 (October 1, 2013): 773-783

  1. Cicero AFG et al., “Botanicals and phytochemicals active on cognitive decline: the clinical evidence,” Pharmacological Research. Published online Dec 28, 2017.

Vitamin D Enhances Visual Memory
Epidemiological studies have previously found an association between vitamin D and cognitive health. To assess the effect of vitamin D supplementation on cognitive function in a healthy population, Jacqueline Petterson of the University of Northern British Columbia (Canada) conducted an intervention study.3

In the randomized trial, 82 healthy adults from British Columbia were asked to supplement with high-dose (4,000 IU per day) or low-dose (400 IU per day) vitamin D3 for 18 weeks. All participants had vitamin D levels ≤100 nmol/L (≤40 ng/ml) at baseline. Cognitive performance was assessed with the Symbol Digit Modalities Test, verbal fluency, digit span, and the CANTAB computerized battery, a validated digital cognitive function test developed at the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom).

According to researchers, serum vitamin D levels increased significantly more in the high-dose vitamin D group than in the low-dose group. Improvements in visual (non-verbal) memory were also noted with high-dose vitamin D supplementation. In those with baseline vitamin D levels <75 nmol/L (<30 ng/ml), the high-dose vitamin D supplement led to highly significant improvement. No such improvement was noted in the low-dose group, indicating that vitamin D supplementation is important for aspects of higher-level cognitive functioning.

3. Pettersen JA., “Does high dose vitamin D supplementation enhance cognition?: A randomized trial in healthy adults,” Experimental Gerontology, vol. 90 (April 2017): 90-97

Spearmint Bolsters Working Memory
A proprietary extract of spearmint that is high in polyphenols, including rosmarinic acid, was recently investigated for its effects on cognitive health. In a study led by Kelly Herrlinger from ingredients firm Kemin (Des Moines, IA), researchers aimed to evaluate the benefits of the extract, branded Neumentix, in adults with age-associated memory impairment.4

In the double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 90 adults with an average age of 59.4 years were divided into three groups: one group received a placebo while the other two received either 600 mg or 900 mg per day of the Neumentix spearmint extract for 90 days. Cognitive assessments included the validated Cognitive Drug Research (CDR) system, while additional evaluations included the Leeds Sleep Evaluation Questionnaire (LSEQ) and the Profile of Mood States (POMS) ratings scale.

After 90 days, significant benefits were seen in the group taking 900 mg of spearmint extract daily, including improved quality of working memory and spatial working memory. Additionally, 900 mg/day of the spearmint extract led to significant improvement versus placebo in the LSEQ, specifically as related to the “ease of getting to sleep” parameter. These results suggest that the Neumentix polyphenol-rich spearmint extract may be beneficial for those with age-associated memory impairment.

4. Herrlinger KA et al., “Spearmint extract improves working memory in men and women with age-associated memory impairment,” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, vol. 24, no. 1 (January 2018): 37-47

Omega-3s for Mild Cognitive Impairment
The importance of omega-3 fatty acids—and particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)—for brain development is widely known. Several epidemiological studies support the benefits of higher omega-3 intakes for brain-health maintenance. However, the clinical effects of omega-3 supplementation are less clear.

Researchers from Zhengzhou University (Zhengzhou, China) recently conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in 86 adults with mild cognitive impairment in which individuals received supplements containing 480 mg DHA and 720 mg EPA daily, or a placebo, for 6 months.5 Changes to cognitive function were assessed using the Basic Cognitive Aptitude Test (BCAT).

Based on the parameters assessed, omega-3 supplementation led to statistically significant improvements in total BCAT scores, perceptual speed, working memory, and spatial imagery efficiency, but not in mental arithmetic efficiency or recall. The results indicate that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation may be beneficial in supporting cognitive function in individuals with mild cognitive impairment.

5. Bo Y et al., “The n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids supplementation improved the cognitive function in the Chinese elderly with mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind randomized controlled trial,” Nutrients, vol. 9, no. 1 (January 10, 2017)

Lutein and Zeaxanthin
The macular carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin are well-known for their eye- and macular-health benefits. However, recent studies have shown that these carotenoids are important for more than just the eyes. Two trials led by Lisa Renzi-Hammond and Billy Hammond from the University of Georgia (Athens, GA) suggest that lutein and zeaxanthin supplementation can support several aspects of cognitive function in both young and mature adults. The studies were conducted on Lutemax 2020, an ingredient from OmniActive Health Technologies (Morristown, NJ).

In one randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, researchers included 51 healthy young adults aged 18-30.6 Participants were asked to supplement with 10 mg of lutein plus 2 mg of zeaxanthin daily, or a placebo, for one year. Macular pigment optical density (MPOD) and cognitive function using the CNS Vital Signs computerized test battery were assessed every four months. MPOD levels significantly improved over the course of the year compared to placebo, and the team found corresponding significant improvements in spatial memory, reasoning ability, and complex attention, indicating the benefits of supplementation for cognitive function in a young population.

In a second, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 62 adults with an average age of 73 were randomized to supplement with 10 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin daily, or a placebo, for a year.7 Researchers noted significant improvements in MPOD, and the CNS Vital Signs assessment showed significant improvements in complex attention as well as cognitive flexibility. In the male participants, significant improvements were additionally seen in composite memory, suggesting that supplementation with lutein and zeaxanthin is beneficial for enhancing aspects of cognition in this population as well.

6. Renzi-Hammond LM et al., “Effects of a lutein and zeaxanthin intervention on cognitive function: a randomized, double-masked, placebo-controlled trial of younger healthy adults,” Nutrients, vol. 9, no. 11 (November 14, 2017)

Source: Nutritional Outlook

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Botanical harmonisation: Progress sluggish as plants remain in wilderness

REFIT – the EC’s rolling programme intended to review and simplify regulation governing nutrition profiles, plants and their preparations last saw the light back in June 2017.

Here, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), including micro-enterprises, were asked for their input and experiences in complying with legislation. The consultation was supposed to run for eight weeks.

Like most of the nutrition industry, Luca Bucchini, managing director for Hylobates Consulting, a firm specialising in regulatory consulting in the food sector, does not know where the Commission is on this.

“The Commission should propose a regulatory solution to the health claims regarding the botanicals conundrum, which either recognise tradition or the processing of claims via current procedures, which run the high risk of rejection.​

“Regulation also has to be determined on quality of plants, with a positive list of plants that can be used across the EU.​

REFIT difficulties​

Bucchini comments on the difficulty in predicting the Commission’s next move made more difficult by competing stakeholders from different Member States; the interests of consumers, both in safety and product availability; and the European economy’s growth.

“There are also legal issues, as there are limitations in how you can modify existing legislation,”​ he adds.

“I can only predict what is less likely to happen – that is an outcome in which all claims for botanicals are banned, and very restrictive measures are put in place for botanicals are enacted.​

“This is likely to face defiance in some Member States, as in the case of botanicals. In addition, there is no scientific or consumer protection case for going down that route. ​

“On the other hand, the status quo, with the Court of Justice ever more likely to weigh in, and the fragmentation of the EU market, is not sustainable.”​

Differing conclusions ​

Recent EFSA opinion of hydroxyanthracenes​​ additionally demonstrates how difficult it is to define botanical’s role in food supplements and traditional herbal medicine.

While the European Medicines Agency (EMA) gave a cautious nod​​, EFSA came back with a negative opinion on the same plant.

“I think EMA started from the tradition, and the fact that these products have been on the market for a long time; so, given uncertainty in the data, experts were hesitant to take a major negative decision against tradition,”​ Bucchini said.

“EMA’s panellists are generally selected by Member States, so they may be more aware of the impacts of their decision. They felt they needed more evidence for a negative outcome. ​

“EFSA’s experts had no such concerns at all. But of course this is not acceptable, also under EU law (regulation 178/2002): the opinions must be reconciled.”​

Vitamins and minerals​

Along with hydroxyanthracenes, the other notable example of dividing opinion are those for vitamins and minerals.

Scientific assessment by the Member States has resulted in very different maximum levels. For example, EFSA has found betaine safe at 400 milligrams per day (mg/day).

However, the Scientific Committee of the Spanish Agency for Consumer Affairs, Food Safety and Nutrition (AECOSAN) were proposing a safe level of 1500 mg/day​​ – a figure already authorised in Italy for food supplements since 2013.

“In general, given the different regulatory contexts, authorities have tended to ignore each other’s assessments,”​ said Bucchini.

“EFSA has decided on novel foods; Member States have kept their views for substances which were not novel.​

“Germany’s BFR has been more insistent in a dialogue with EFSA, but this has happened more in fields other than nutrients.”​

BELFRIT influence

While the Refit consultation remains mired in regulatory limbo, the delay in proceedings begs the question as to the role of Belgium, Italy and France’s BELFRIT project – the countries’ regulatory answer to a botanical common standard.

The project now totals approximately 1000 herbal substances, all assessed and approved by a scientific committee.

While France follows a comparable list of approved botanicals, Italy and Belgium refer and adhere to the list.

It’s important to note that while the outcomes of the project are not legal in any EU country, any decision the Commission makes in the future will have to contend with the weight and influence the BELFRIT project carries.

“It is hard not to see BELFRIT as the basis of any future EU legislation, with perhaps some of the plants expunged for safety concerns,” ​said Bucchini.

“BELFRIT is alive, but it is not fully successful on two counts: first, to include further countries; second, to gain legal acceptance throughout the EU through mutual recognition as the de facto standard.​

“It has almost created almost a single market in France, Italy and Belgium. If the REFIT ends with few results, BELFRIT will continue to work for some Member States.”​

Source: NutraIngredients

The post Botanical harmonisation: Progress sluggish as plants remain in wilderness appeared first on Herbs and Helpers.


Crisis Intervention Specialist Careers

The word “crisis” pops up in the media everywhere today, from internet news to television broadcasts, on the headlines of newspapers to the home next door. While research reports that most people consider themselves happy, unfortunately, many people do not lead balanced lives. When crisis strikes – either mental, physical, or social – people are sometimes pushed past their threshold of endurance. They may lack the tools and/or the abilities to handle a situation in which they find themselves.

It’s when these unfortunate events occur that a crisis intervention specialist steps in. Those who specialize in crisis intervention are tasked with providing assistance and resources for people who cannot provide for themselves during a critical event. It’s a noble, fulfilling career, but students considering crisis intervention as a job should decide carefully whether it’s for them. It’s a high-intensity job with the potential for working long hours, encountering difficult situations, and running the risk of significant burnout.

Before you decide, take into account a number of factors, including the job description and the type of knowledge necessary to perform it successfully. An understanding of both salary and hiring prospects, as well as the specific educational requirements necessary to earn a degree to obtain employment in in this field, will also help in making the best decision.

What Is Crisis Intervention?

To understand the role of a crisis intervention specialist, it’s essential to know exactly what constitutes a crisis. Certified Trauma Specialist Jeffrey T. Mitchell, Ph.D., explains that a crisis is an “acute emotional reaction to a powerful stimulus or demand. A state of emotional turmoil. Three characteristics of crisis: The usual balance between thinking and emotions is disturbed; the usual coping mechanisms fail; there is evidence of impairment in the individual or group involved in the crisis.”

Moreover, crisis is not merely an external incident. If an individual experiences difficult circumstances but is able to respond effectively to them, it’s not considered a crisis. On the other hand, if a person undergoes a traumatic event – death, war, injury, or a significant emotional disturbance, for example – but cannot deal with it, and, as a direct outcome, demonstrates psychological unbalance, this person has experienced a crisis.

Crisis intervention is when someone steps in to provide immediate assistance to help remedy a crisis situation. Typically, crisis intervention addresses the underlying emotional and psychological elements that caused the event in an attempt to help affected individuals restore their equilibrium and return to a state in which they have the ability to cope. In some situations, the crisis requires a physical response as well; for example, if someone suffers a severe physical injury or experiences a natural disaster in which aid relief is critical, intervention calls for a physical reaction. However, the primary focus in crisis intervention is a response to an emotional occurrence.

What Does a Crisis Intervention Specialist Do?

A crisis intervention specialist’s is a type of counselor and their primary role is to help a patient’s psychological response to a specific situation. Crises are typically short-term in nature, usually lasting no longer than a month, but during those four weeks, the individual will need a higher level of care during the acute period, which usually gradually tapers off. That does not mean, however, that the effects of the crisis do not persist, which is why crisis intervention counselors require specific training to help minimize the long-term emotional damage.

A crisis intervention specialist may consult with clients in their own personal offices or travel to schools, offices, or areas in which a traumatic event has occurred to help affected people respond to a crisis. They may also train others in crisis intervention and coordination of services to help individuals receive the care they need. When necessary, they may refer affected individuals for long-term counseling if it’s clear that a brief amount of counseling will not be enough to address the emotional trauma.

A crisis intervention specialist needs an array of knowledge types and abilities to perform successfully in this role. These include, but are not limited, to:

  • Understanding the typical effects of grief and loss
  • Knowing which social services are available to different individuals
  • Coordinating services with multiple government or aid organizations
  • Compassionate listening skills
  • Ability to guide a patient in a calm, professional manner toward making healthier choices without rendering judgment
  • Understanding of the progression of the emotional states following trauma
  • Assessing a crisis effectively in the earliest, most-critical stages
  • Maintaining a network of other specialists to whom you can refer the patient for ongoing care once the immediate crisis has passed
  • Organizational skills
  • “People” skills – the ability to relate to a variety of personality types in people from all walks of life
  • Willingness to work long and/or difficult hours
  • Understanding how environment impacts a person’s emotional state
  • Recognizing emotional disturbance versus true crisis
  • Handling multiple cases at once
  • Communicating information and ideas to others effectively
  • Performing assessments

Many events or experiences can cause a trauma. Individuals with severe depression, anxiety, or stress may be suicidal. In other cases, the person may need assistance in moving past a severe medical incident or mental breakdown. In all instances, the crisis intervention specialist must have the ability to tailor his services to meet the specific crisis of the individual in need.

Specialists must be aware of the typical responses to trauma, including guilt, disorientation, uncertainty, poor concentration, physical symptoms (sweat, heart rate, vomiting), apathy and depression, hypersensitivity, and more. Some individuals may stop eating or sleeping, while others will appear normal, but experience difficulty in processing and expressing their emotions.

Principles of Crisis Intervention

A number of principles form the bedrock of crisis intervention theories and practices. One of the most important, explains G.S. Everly, Jr., is to avoid attempting an intervention too early: “Premature intervention may not only waste valuable intervention resources, but may serve to interfere with the natural recovery mechanisms of some victims. Crisis intervention services should complement and augment natural recovery and restorative mechanisms, not interfere with such mechanisms.”

Other principles on which a successful crisis intervention response should include are as follows:

  • Simplicity: The response should be as simple as possible to avoid exacerbating the situation.
  • Brevity: The response should be brief, keeping the intervention within a one-month window or less.
  • Innovation: When necessary, the intervention must adapt to the surroundings.
  • Pragmatism: The response should be based on a common-sense attitude.
  • Proximity: The response should take place within the vicinity of the crisis, not from a remote office or facility.
  • Immediacy: Gathering resources and meeting with affected individuals should occur quickly.
  • Reliability: Those in crisis should feel as though their needs will not only be addressed immediately, but also on an ongoing basis while the crisis runs its course.
  • Understanding: The individual in crisis should receive help in understanding what’s happening, why it’s happening, and what to do about it.
  • Problem-solving: The specialist should provide the patient with the tools necessary to help him cope on his own once the crisis has passed.

Crisis Intervention Specialist Salary & Employment Outlook

A crisis intervention specialist is classified as a “social and human services worker.” Average salary, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $31,810 per year, which translates to roughly $15.29 per hour. However, the BLS lists a high-school diploma as the minimum degree necessary to enter the field; however, crisis intervention specialists typically need at least a bachelor’s degree (discussed in more detail below). An advanced degree, combined with a rise in wages with tenure in the field, means a degree-holding crisis intervention specialist with several years in the field will likely earn a higher salary.

Job outlook for professionals in this field shows positive growth. Jobs are increasing at a rate of 16 percent, which is much faster than average. Between 2016 and 2026, the BLS projects available jobs to increase by an additional 63,900 positions.

Crisis Intervention Jobs & Job Description

Crisis intervention specialists may work in a variety of settings, including schools, workplaces, refugee camps, mental hospitals, medical hospitals, clinics, in their own office – or in multiple settings on a rotating basis. State agencies and nonprofit organizations often employ crisis counselors, though these positions typically require a higher level of education than others.

Jobs in the crisis intervention field include telephone crisis specialists; counselors who work specifically with government institutions (FEMA, for example); domestic abuse counselors; counselors at police departments; sexual assault intervention specialists; and more.

In any type of position, as a crisis intervention specialist, your role is to help people in crisis who have experienced difficulties in navigating the challenges they will face in the days, weeks, and months to come. Duties include counseling one-on-one with patients, documenting their situation and progress, working with other professionals involved in the case, helping procure services by working with other agencies, and more.

The typical duties and responsibilities of a crisis intervention specialist include:

  • Providing critical resources and support to individuals in crisis
  • Collecting data and using it to make informed decisions regarding individuals and populations
  • Coordinating legal intervention, outreach, referrals, services, and more
  • Assessing patients to determine their needs
  • Providing crisis management services during the acute stage, then tapering off as the individual, as a result of counseling, learns coping mechanisms and regains control of her life
  • Following up as required
  • Maintaining communication with family members, medical providers, government agencies, and other stakeholders
  • Handling time-sensitive calls and emails, even during off-hours
  • Analyzing data from surveys and notes
  • Maintaining financial records
  • Organizing patient data and maintaining files
  • Communicating, both orally and in written form, with other members of a team to improve program efficiency or overall crisis intervention success
  • Disseminating information to others who need it
  • Adding to the overall discourse in the field with research, reports, publications, and more
  • Providing individuals in crisis, family members, and the surrounding communities with information as to the nature of the crisis, why it’s happening, and what it means for them
  • Conducting briefings and workshops
  • Training and licensing others in the field

Before accepting a position, prospective crisis intervention specialists should ask in-depth, detailed questions as to what the job entails. Some people are able to deal with long hours in difficult environments; others are not. Similarly, witnessing abuse and helping the individuals involved may evoke a compassionate response in some, but horrify someone else to such a manner that he becomes incapacitated and ineffective. It’s important that the candidate understands his own nature and abilities and have a clear idea as to what each job requires before accepting the job. Otherwise, the result may be rapid burnout or worse.

In any case, it’s crucial that the intervention specialist plans time off to rest, relax and recharge. Even those who love their jobs may burn out in such a demanding field. It’s much easier to avoid rapid burnout by making time for an appropriate amount of self-care and downtime.

Crisis Intervention Specialist Degrees & Education

The first step in obtaining a good position in crisis intervention is to earn a bachelor’s degree. Typically, students choose majors such as psychology, sociology, women’s and gender studies, social work, or education. With a bachelor’s degree, you can work in the field of crisis intervention, but you will not able to work one-on-one with patients. Individual intervention counseling requires a master’s degree in psychology or social work.

After obtaining a bachelor’s degree, you may wish to earn a master’s in counseling or psychology, both of which will enable you to work with patients on an individual basis. An advanced degree also enables you to work on more interesting cases in a wider variety of settings. As a specific major, crisis counseling is typically offered at the master’s level (and sometimes at the bachelor’s level), a degree that provides a firm foundation for becoming a crisis intervention specialist.

Some specialists may choose to earn a Ph.D., which requires not only that they understand the basic tenets of the field, but that they meaningfully contribute to the overall body of knowledge in some way through publication in peer-reviewed journals and the like. A doctorate can advance your career even further and make it easier to obtain employment as a crisis intervention-training instructor or in academia.

Crisis Intervention Licensing & Certification

No formal licensing or training requirements exist to become a crisis intervention specialist other than those normally required for licensure to work in the field. For instance, if you plan to find employment in a facility that offers therapy, in a larger organization, or work out of your own office to provide individual crisis management sessions, you must first obtain a license.

However, because very few schools offer a program or degree dedicated solely to crisis intervention, many specialists choose to earn certifications, which also help them advance in their careers. A certification proves that the candidate possesses an additional level of expertise beyond an existing, more general degree. Crisis intervention specialists may earn certifications in intervention assessment and treatment, clinical stress management, nonviolent crisis intervention, crisis and trauma counseling, intervention theory, treatment planning, and more.

Many jobs offered through nonprofits, the government, and the private sector offer opportunities for continuing education, which is an ideal time to earn extra certifications and expand future opportunities.

See the AIHCP website for further information on certification options.

Source: careersin

Dance/Movement Therapist Careers

For some people, the ability to think clearly and the ability to move freely are intertwined. Sitting for hours at a desk, with no sound to distract you and no reason to get up and move around is helpful for some learners, but absolutely sabotaging to the success of others. The fact that every person is wired slightly differently, and that everyone thrives in different environments is what makes the world an interesting place to live.

Dance movement therapy is based off of the well-known principals regarding the benefits of movement for the health of the whole body, including mental and physical well-being. Movement in any sort of physical activity stimulates the production and release of endorphins, which are chemicals travel through the bloodstream and enhance feelings of happiness and euphoria. Endorphins can also reduce stress, stabilize your mood and improve problem solving ability, which is why taking a walk to clear your head really does work.

Goals and Objectives of Dance Movement Therapy

Dance movement therapy uses physical activity to improve mental and physical health through strategic movements that are designed to improve intellectual, emotional and motor functions of the body. This is a form of expressive therapy, which means that similarly to writing and painting, dance movement therapy provides the individual with the ability to convey emotion in a non-verbal means. In fact, the core purpose of dance movement therapy is to improve an individual’s ability to understand their emotional process and connect movements with emotions in a way that will improving coping skills during periods of emotional distress.

Dance movement therapy is a form of movement psychotherapy, and is very different from just a traditional dance class. While any sort of exercise class can stimulate endorphin production and may help you to feel more clear headed due to the physical exertion that you exhibited during the workout, dance movement therapy utilizes elements of psychotherapy during the exercise routine to provide benefits for mental health alongside the physical benefits of the aerobic activity.

Practicing Dance Movement Therapy

During a dance movement therapy session, the therapist is in the room with the dancer and both individuals are dancing to communicate and express emotion. The poses, movements and fluidity of the dance is designed with the client in mind, and are designed to particularly support the individual. During the session, the therapist will respond to movements, assess body language, interpret nonverbal behavior and emotional expressions, and then use all of this information to respond to the client. Throughout all of this, movement is a key component of the process.

Movement is the primary tool by which the therapist will observe, evaluate, and implement therapeutic intervention during this type of psychotherapy model.

Common interventions utilized during dance movement therapy include:

  • Mirroring: This is the process of matching and echoing a person’s movements, so that the individual can see their own actions, as if they were looking in a mirror. This is an exercise in validation for the individual.
  • Movement metaphors: Occasionally a movement psychotherapist will bring in a prop to help physically and expressively demonstrate a particular emotion or event that is being considered during the therapy session. A common example of this would be if an individual struggled with accepting and then ultimately waived a white flag, a symbol for emotional surrender.

Common Health Issues Addressed by Dance Movement Therapy

Dance movement therapy is considered a useful therapeutic option in the building of a variety of emotional skills. These skills include learning how to develop and trust in yourself, encouraging you to be more empathetically present in any given moment. The ability to respond authentically and truthfully as you interact with friends, family, and colleagues is also typically improved through dance movement therapy, as is learning how to translate nonverbal movements into emotional insights.

Dance movement therapy is especially helpful in situations in which verbal communication creates a barrier in helping an individual gain emotional insights or reach a place of mental and emotional peace.

Common mental health concerns that can be supported with dance movement therapy include:

  • Anxiety concerns, including social anxiety and phobias
  • Depression
  • Eat disorders
  • Sleeping disorders, especially stress-induced insomnia
  • Autism
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Personal history of trauma

Dance movement therapy is considered an ideal form of mental health counseling for children, especially young children who are not yet comfortable with verbal communication, and who may be unable to share verbally true indication of their mental, physical, or emotional health.

The Career of the Dance Movement Therapist

Dance movement therapy is a career that requires constant development of new skills. There is no standard office environment involved in this type of psychotherapy. There is no couch, no desk, often no chairs of any sort. There is no office building, no quiet nook in a busy metro-center. This form of psychotherapy breaks apart from many of the norms of other forms of mental health counseling and their traditional environments. Instead, dance movement therapy requires a studio.

It is possible to engage in dance movement therapy in any environment that allows space for movement, including a school gym, a community center, or a private dance studio. The counseling process does require privacy, so working in a public space is not encouraged. It is important that the individual feels safe and secure in the therapy setting, and public and oversized venues do not allow for this. It is best practice for the therapist to have their own venue where the client can visit them.

Most dance movement therapists create a schedule that works to their needs. Appointments will depend upon client availability, and the length of a session will depend on the issues being addressed during that time, and your agreed upon appointment. Dance movement therapy is physically taxing, so long appointments are often not ideal as fatigue may prevent greater breakthrough, but in some circumstances longer exchanges are warranted.

How to Become a Dance Movement Therapist

Dance movement therapy requires many of the same credentials as a traditional mental health counselor. This is because the core of the profession is the same as any other psychotherapist. The objective of the dance movement therapist is to emotionally connect with the client, and to provide emotional support and guidance through mental issues and concerns.

However, in addition to traditional mental health counseling training, dance movement therapists go through additional credentialing steps so to be able to practice this specific form of psychotherapy. This credential is only awarded at the graduate level. This means that practitioners must have completed their bachelor’s degree and completed at minimum a Master Level’s degree in psychotherapy or mental health counseling in order to practice dance movement therapy. In addition, independent states typically have their own credentialing requirements that must be met to offer any sort of mental health counseling.

There are two primary paths to becoming credentialed in dance movement therapy. These include:

  • Completing an ADTA (American Dance Therapy Association) approved graduate program with the Registered Dance / Movement Therapy (R-DMT) credential.
  • Completing the alternate route to R-DMT certification through an independent process of training, coursework, fieldwork and internship. The alternative R-DMT option is only available to candidates who have previously completed a graduate program in mental health counseling.

The ADTA only approves graduate programs that fully comply with their credentialing requirements, which includes all of the components required in the alternate certification route. This includes in-depth training in dance-specific therapy methods, fieldwork and internship.

In addition to the above credentials, dance movement therapists who are going to work with children or adolescents have additional requirements that they must meet. The Board of Directors of the American Dance Therapy Association have set the following guidelines in place for individuals who wish to offer dance and movement therapy to those under 18.

Additional requirements include shown aptitude and transcript of completed coursework in the following areas:

  • Applications of dance and movement therapy with children
  • Cognitive, social and psychological development
  • Movement behavior and nonverbal communications
  • Family systems theory
  • Development through the lifespan
  • Multiculturalism and diversity

Dance movement therapists can practice with a standard licensure with the R-DMT distinction, but it is recommended that all therapists strive towards completion of board certification by the American Board of Dance Movement Therapists.

Approved Graduate Programs in Dance and Movement Therapy

Dance and movement therapy programs at the graduate level are designed to educate students in the subjects of psychological theory and history, human growth and development, multicultural perspectives, group process, psychopathology, behavioral research, and also psycho-diagnosis and assessment skills. Specific education in dance movement therapy theoretical practices, as well as expressive and communicative aspects of dance, verbal and non-verbal behavior are also essential.

It is the goal of all Dance/ Movement therapist programs to provide students with the following skillsets:

  • Awareness and proficiency in the basic principles, concepts and techniques necessary for the practice of dance/movement therapy.
  • Developed skills, knowledge and values basic to dance / movement therapy as a profession.
  • Knowledge of dance/movement therapy as a mental health profession within the broader context of society.
  • Knowledge of professional and ethical practice in the field of dance/movement therapy.
  • Methods for expanding knowledge in the field and improving the quality of practice.

These objectives are stated directly in the American Dance Therapy Association guidelines and bylaws, and only Master level courses with focus in these precise areas will provide the appropriate credentials for practicing dance and movement therapy in any capacity.

In addition, successful dance and movement therapy programs will focus on human anatomy, kinesiology, basic neuroscience, observation and analysis, and clinical applications of dance therapy with individuals, groups and families.

Source: careersin

The Mind-Boosting Effects of Exercise: How 30 Minutes Can Improve Your Mental Health

Exercise has been described as “free medicine” for a reason: it helps you maintain a healthy body weight, can reduce your risk of certain chronic diseases, and keeps your heart healthy. What many people don’t realize is that the benefits of exercise extend far beyond your physical health. Exercise is fantastic for your mind, too. If you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, or high levels of stress, exercise can transform your mental health. Plus, scientific research shows that any person — regardless of age, gender, or fitness level — can benefit from increased exercise. It’s all a matter of finding the exercise routine that fits into your life to maximize your mental health benefits.

Understanding the Common Roots of Mental Health Problems

In any given year, 18.5% of American adults experiences some form of mental illness, with depression and anxiety being most common. That’s 1 in 5 people, each and every year. Millions more suffer from chronic stress due to work, school, family difficulties, or other psychosocial problems. As a result, depression, anxiety, and stress are leading causes of disability and lost productivity for our society. On an individual level, these mental health problems can be profoundly distressing, affecting every aspect of your everyday functioning.

Scientists continue to research the links between depression, anxiety, and stress to understand their common underpinnings. A few things are clear. First, genetic factors place some people at higher risk for mental health conditions. Despite this, genetics do not explain 100% of the equation. A person might have genetic risk or a family history of mental health problems but not experience these difficulties him- or herself. Second, depression and anxiety share some common features. Both conditions are associated with negative emotional experiences, maladaptive thought patterns, and unhelpful behaviors that keep a person “stuck.” Finally, depression, anxiety, and stress share neurobiological underpinnings. In all of these conditions, levels of certain brain chemicals called neurotransmitters become disrupted.

Although nothing can change the genes you were given, exercise can alter your brain chemicals and tendency to get stuck in a pattern of unhelpful thoughts and behaviors. Understanding the mental health benefits of exercise can help you experience improvement in depression, anxiety, and stress.

Exercising is a Form of “Behavioral Activation”

One of the core components of cognitive-behavioral therapy for depression is “behavioral activation.” When you feel depressed, you may naturally find yourself withdrawing from activities you used to enjoy. Unfortunately, this reduces the amount of joy you get from life and can make you feel like you will be stuck in your depression forever. Behavioral activation combats this feeling of “stuckness” by helping you engage in value-driven activities. Exercise has many intrinsic values: it triggers an immediate mood boost, makes you feel as though you have accomplished something, and improves self-esteem. Thus, committing to exercise will help you begin to counteract unhelpful thoughts and feelings, pulling yourself out of the pit of depression.

Exercise Causes a Neurochemical Cascade in the Brain

Exactly how exercise improves depression and anxiety is not fully understood. Numerous studies in non-human animals have shown that physical activity boosts levels of norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. These neurotransmitters regulate a variety of brain functions. For example, norepinephrine is important for regulating sleep and wakefulness. As a result, exercise can help you get a good night of sleep and feel rested in the morning. Dopamine is the primary neurotransmitter for the brain’s reward system, meaning that boosting its levels gives you a natural “high” feeling. Finally, serotonin is a mood regulator that is disrupted in both depression and anxiety. Importantly, common antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications target each of these neurotransmitter systems. This means that exercise truly can resemble medicine — it has similar neurobiological effects as prescription medications for these mental health problems.

Aerobic Exercise Alters Your Emotional Regulation Brain Circuits

In addition to altering the levels of certain brain chemicals, exercise results in long-lasting changes to brain circuitry. Although the exact mechanisms underlying this change are unclear, animal studies show that exercise results in increased activity in the limbic system, the brain circuitry responsible for emotional regulation. Preliminary evidence in humans suggests the same. This means that exercising may result in long-term changes in the structure and function of brain circuits that govern your emotional responses. As a result, you may feel more emotionally steady and less prone to mood swings or exaggerated emotional reactions to setbacks.

Read more about PTSD if interested.

Exercise Inoculates You Against Stress

Researchers have studied the effects of exercise in people of all ages, from childhood through older adulthood. The overwhelming evidence suggests that frequent physical activity buffers against stress. Exercise stimulates alterations in the hypothalamic-pituitary axis (HPA) system, which is responsible for managing levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This is doubly good news, as high levels of stress and circulating cortisol have been associated with higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Thus, exercising now to lower your stress can have major payoffs later in life.

Mind-Body Exercises Have an Even Bigger Effect on Mental Health

Traditional aerobic exercises such as cycling, running, or swimming get a lot of attention for their mood-boosting powers. More recently, however, the spotlight has turned to mind-body exercises such as yoga, tai chi, or Pilates. These exercises combine physical movements with a meditative or mind-focusing component. This results in a mind-calming effect that has been shown to reduce levels of depression, anxiety, and stress. Although mind-body exercise should not completely replace aerobic exercise, it can be an excellent adjunct to aerobic and strength-training exercises.

What Kind of Exercise Counts? Maximizing Your Exercise Benefits

Let’s face it: when you’re feeling depressed or anxious, starting a new exercise routine is probably the last thing you want to do. The good news is that you don’t need to log huge amounts of exercise each day to see a mental health benefit. Starting small and building your way up is the best way to gain a sense of mastery and improve your mental health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults aim for a combination of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise and muscle-strengthening for two and a half hours per week – or 30 minutes of exercise 5 times per week. If that seems like a lot, don’t worry! You can harness the mood-boosting effects of exercise with just 10 minutes of aerobic activity at a time. Start today by aiming to get 10 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise. This means that your heart should be beating faster than usual, but you should not experience an intense level of physical exertion. Consider taking your pet for a walk, playing a game of tag with your kids, riding your bike around the neighborhood, going for a jog, or practicing yoga.

Once you have established a routine of spending 10 minutes exercising each day, it’s time to push yourself a bit. Whether you spend a 30-minute block of time or three 10-minute blocks exercising is up to you. Just choose an activity you enjoy and stick with it. Enlisting a friend to be your exercise partner is a great way to ensure that you keep your momentum. Soon, you may notice an improvement in your mood and anxiety, decreased stress levels, and long-lasting benefits for your overall quality of life.


Source: careersin