The idea of retreating to nature when life gets too hectic is nothing new. For instance, this study suggests that negative ions in natural environments benefit those suffering from depression and anxiety and contribute to feelings of mental-wellbeing. But, for the first time ever researchers have deduced a specific dose of an urban nature experience to counteract the effects of stress. The researchers concluded that a 20-minute “nature pill” is sufficient to significantly reduce stress hormone levels.
“We know that spending time in nature reduces stress, but until now it was unclear how much is enough, how often to do it, or even what kind of nature experience will benefit us,” says Dr. MaryCarol Hunter, an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan and lead author of the research. “Our study shows that for the greatest payoff, in terms of efficiently lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol, you should spend 20 to 30 minutes sitting or walking in a place that provides you with a sense of nature.”
The study was published in Frontiers in Psychology. The researchers hope the finding encourages health practitioners to consider prescribing a “nature pill” before conventional treatments.
As GoodNewsNetwork reports, nature pills could be a low-cost solution to reduce the health effects associated with high stress levels which stem from growing urbanization and indoor lifestyles. Hunter and her colleagues wanted to provide evidence-based guidelines for prescribing a nature pill, so they designed an experiment that gives a realistic estimate of an effective dose.
Over an 8-week period, participants of the study were asked to take a nature pill with a duration of 10 minutes or more, at least 3 times a week. Before and after the nature pill, levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, were measured from saliva samples.
“Participants were free to choose the time of day, duration, and the place of their nature experience, which was defined as anywhere outside that in the opinion of the participant, made them feel like they’ve interacted with nature,” explained Hunter. “There were a few constraints to minimize factors known to influence stress: take the nature pill in daylight, no aerobic exercise, and avoid the use of social media, internet, phone calls, conversations and reading.
Building personal flexibility into the experiment allowed us to identify the optimal duration of a nature pill, no matter when or where it is taken, and under the normal circumstances of modern life, with its unpredictability and hectic scheduling,” she continued. “We also accommodated day-to-day differences in a participant’s stress status by collecting four snapshots of cortisol change due to a nature pill,” says Hunter. “It also allowed us to identify and account for the impact of the ongoing, natural drop in cortisol level as the day goes on, making the estimate of effective duration more reliable.”
After analyzing the data, the researchers concluded that a 20-minute nature experience is enough to significantly reduce cortisol levels. They also found that if you spend more time in nature (between 20 and 30 minutes), cortisol levels dropped at the greatest rate. Past 30 minutes, additional de-stressing benefits continue to add up, albeit at a slower rate.
“Healthcare practitioners can use our results as an evidence-based rule of thumb on what to put in a nature-pill prescription,” said Hunter. “It provides the first estimates of how nature experiences impact stress levels in the context of normal daily life. It breaks new ground by addressing some of the complexities of measuring an effective nature dose.”
Hunter and her colleagues hope that this study inspires further research in this area.
“Our experimental approach can be used as a tool to assess how age, gender, seasonality, physical ability and culture influences the effectiveness of nature experiences on well-being. This will allow customized nature pill prescriptions, as well as a deeper insight on how to design cities and wellbeing programs for the public,” Hunter concluded.
What are your thoughts? Please comment below and share this news!
This article was sourced from The Mind Unleashed.
A bite of your favorite chocolate bar can take off the stress for most people – studies have already looked into it – but research has shown that putting cocoa trees under stress can lead to better-tasting chocolate. In particular, drought and other weather conditions have more impact on cocoa production than how the tree themselves are grown. The report, published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, detailed the impacts that different cultivation methods have in the chemical composition – as well as the flavor – of cocoa beans.
Chocolate is the most famous derivative of the Theobroma cacao L. tree, commonly referred to as either cocoa or cacao. Studies have revealed that regular consumption of cocoa protects against inflammation and oxidative stress. In the central nervous system, cacao was shown to improve blood flow to the brain, which can protect against neuronal injury. When used topically, it protects the skin from damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) light.
However, cocoa, when consumed in chocolate, can have adverse effects on a person – including weight gain and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Scientists have been quick to point that there is still benefit in consuming moderate amounts of cocoa or dark chocolate.
There are two different ways of growing cocoa. The first method, called agroforestry, involves raising cocoa trees in mixed groves. This allows the plants to receive cool air, as well as vital shade, allowing for a low-stress environment. The other method involves planting trees in singular, “monocultural,” groves, to produce more yield. This exposes trees to elevated levels of stress. To counter this effect, trees produce antioxidants to react against the stress and minimize the damage. However, the increased amount of antioxidants also affects the quality of the beans.
To understand the process behind it, researchers sampled beans from five different cocoa tree farms in Bolivia. The samples were collected from both monocultural groves and agroforest settings and were gathered at the beginning and the end of the dry season. Before its analysis, the beans were fermented and dried.
The researchers found only minor differences in the chemical composition between beans that were cultivated in an agroforest and a monocultural grove – with beans from the latter having more phenols and antioxidant compounds.
What they found to be significant, however, was the effect that weather has on the beans’ chemical composition. During the dry season, the rise in temperature causes soil moisture around the trees to drop. This lead to an increase in antioxidant levels in the beans, as well as reduction of its fat content.
The authors of the study said that these factors, which elevate the stress levels of the cocoa tree, can add to the variability of the flavors of cocoa beans.
The results of this study challenge assumptions made by climate change proponents about the possible extinction of cacao trees. According to them, the trees will die out as temperatures increase, causing warmer and drier conditions that will make cultivation of the trees impossible.
To counter the effects of these so-called “conditions,” the study has proposed using a new technology called CRISPR, which uses genetic modification to “develop cacao plants that don’t wilt or rot at their current elevations, doing away with the need to relocate farms or find another approach.”
This also puts the study at a slippery slope, as genetic modification – aside from being controversial – has some potential risks for both people and the environment. The dangers associated include the increased cases of autoimmune diseases, gastrointestinal problems, and chronic diseases, as well as its impact in the ecosystems where it is grown, with it being able to withstand increased amounts of pesticide than those growing around it. (Related: GMOs are dangerous to our health, according to latest independent research.)
Originally published: https://www.naturalnews.com/2018-02-11-stressed-out-cacao-trees-nutrition-potent-chocolate-research.html
Author: Ralph Flores