Sugar: the sweet devil

By |March 9th, 2016|Feature, Winter|

One-quarter of what you eat keeps you alive. The other three-quarters keeps your doctor alive,” says the hieroglyph on an ancient Egyptian tomb. I was reminded of this wisdom when I came across a paper in the British Medical Journal on how sugar consumption can be toxic. The paper by James DiNicolantonio, published in December, argues that excess sugar, not salt, is responsible for high blood pressure. Since heart disease often ensues as a result of high blood pressure, the paper argues that we should control our sugar intake if we want to keep hypertension and heart disease at bay.

Aashish Contractor, head of the department of rehabilitation and sports medicine at the Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai, is not convinced: “We need to take these results with a pinch of salt and I am not using this pun intentionally.” He says researchers sometimes try to negate the importance of one lifestyle modification when touting the benefits of another, to emphasize their point. It dramatizes the research findings, but it doesn’t necessarily give people an accurate picture. “I would say that both sugar and salt are important and I tell my patients to control the intake of both to keep blood pressure and heart disease in check,” says Dr Contractor.

Given that the process of making sugar from sugar cane was developed in India and is mentioned in the Atharva Veda, the consumption of sugar-laden foods is woven into our sociocultural fabric. No celebratory occasion is complete without a sweet offering and rationing sugar intake is tough. But ration it we must. Read More

Sujata Kelkar Shetty, PhD, is a wellness consultant and a clinical scientist trained at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, US.

Comments Off on Sugar: the sweet devil

Invest in real friendships

By |March 9th, 2016|Feature, Winter|

My close friends keep me grounded, help me stay centred, remind me of what is important and make me laugh, a lot. Good friends are a necessity, particularly in the times we live in. Our everyday lives are hectic, filled with physical and emotional stresses that we increasingly have to deal with in isolation. Social media has taken over our lives and while that means we are connected to more people and have more friends than ever before, we aren’t necessarily connecting with our friends meaningfully.

Saumya Pant, an assistant professor at Ahmedabad’s Mudra Institute of Communications (MICA), who is leading a social media study at the institute, says on email: “At MICA, we have been researching the wide use of Facebook by the youth in India. Our preliminary findings are reinforcing the value of relationships both online and offline. Our research suggests that it seems to be more important to have a few good friends instead of a large network of acquaintances since deep relationships provide a sense of security and foster higher self-esteem, keeping our hearts and minds healthy.”

Anjali Chhabria, psychiatrist and founder of counselling centre Mindtemple, Mumbai, agrees. She says on phone, “Interacting with an online friend via social media versus meeting a friend in person is like watching pornography versus engaging in the real thing.” In other words, talking to a friend in person or over the phone is qualitatively far superior to a social media interaction when it comes to the impact it has on your happiness and sense of well-being. Read More

Sujata Kelkar Shetty, PhD, writes on public health issues and is a research scientist trained at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, US.

Comments Off on Invest in real friendships

Money can buy you smiles…

By |March 9th, 2016|Feature, Winter|

There is a popular belief that the things that bring us happiness aren’t for sale. Songs have been sung about this, poetry written, and while it’s a lovely sentiment, it is wrong. Money allows us to buffer ourselves against daily worries and gives us more leisure time. It also allows us to control the nature of our daily activities and for us to have more meaningful work. Scientists have found that each of these is a necessary ingredient in the recipe for a happy life.

Yet researchers have also found that wealthy people aren’t that much happier than the not-so-wealthy. Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert and his colleagues Elizabeth Dunn and Timothy Wilson write in a paper titled “If Money Doesn’t Make You Happy, Then You Probably Aren’t Spending It Right”, published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology in March 2011, that the reason the correlation between happiness and money is modest at best is because people don’t know the basic scientific facts about happiness. Prof. Gilbert and colleagues have compiled principles on happiness that will help you spend your money in a way that enhances your emotional health. The paper compiled eight principles that are based on more than 80 studies in consumer psychology by Prof. Gilbert, Dunn, Wilson and many other researchers. Of those eight principles, five are presented here.

u Happiness often comes from spending money on experiences

Research shows that people are often happier when they spend money on experiences like vacations and concerts rather than things like clothes. Bangalore-based Talha Salaria, 35, corporate lawyer and founder of Lawyers At Work (LAW), agrees. “A couple of years ago I was wondering whether to gift my mother jewellery for her birthday (which my mother loves) or take her for a holiday to Singapore. Finally, just the two of us went for a holiday and had a fabulous time. Looking back, I sometimes wonder why I even thought about what now seems like an obvious choice.”
Some experiences are obviously better than others. Goa-based psychologist Arpita Anand says, “There are memories associated with experiences that continue to bring happiness long after the actual experience is over.” People are happier travelling to holiday destinations than travelling in a car to get to work. The key seems to be engagement—if you are engaged in what you do, you will be a happier person. Read More

Sujata Kelkar Shetty, PhD, writes on public health issues and is a research scientist trained at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, US.

Comments Off on Money can buy you smiles…
Load More Posts