Grilled Pork Chop with Watercress Salad

Ingredients

1 tsp fennel seeds
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp brandy (optional)
small handful finely chopped parsley
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
4 (150-g each) pork chops
2 large handfuls watercress sprigs
2 ruby grapefruit
pinch each sea salt and black pepper

Method

  1. Place fennel seeds and brown sugar into a mortar or spice grinder and grind until well combined.
  2. Transfer to a large bowl, and add lemon juice, brandy (if using), parsley and 2 Tbsp olive oil, and stir to combine.
  3. Place pork chops in this marinade and turn until well coated. Allow to marinate for about 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, place watercress in a medium bowl.
  5. Using a sharp knife, remove the skin and pith from the grapefruit. Remove segments by cutting between the membranes (hold grapefruit over the watercress to capture any juice). Add grapefruit segments to the watercress. Drizzle with the remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss well.
  6. Heat grill to low and cook pork chops for five minutes on one side. Turn over and cook for seven minutes more.
  7. Remove from heat, cover with foil, and allow to rest for five minutes. Check they are cooked through.
  8. Place a pork chop on each of four plates and spoon the watercress and grapefruit salad on the side.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Best Health magazine

The Anatomy of Pain

Grimacing, we flinch when we see someone accidentally hit their thumb with a hammer. But is it really pain we feel? Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig and other institutions have now proposed a new theory that describes pain as a multi-layered gradual event which consists of specific pain components, such as a burning sensation in the hand, and more general components, such as negative emotions. A comparison of the brain activation patterns during both experiences could clarify which components the empathic response shares with real pain.

Imagine you’re driving a nail into a wall with a hammer and accidentally bang your finger. You would probably injure finger tissue, feel physical distress, focus all your attention on your injured finger and take care not to repeat the misfortune. All this describes physical and psychological manifestations of “pain” — specifically, so-called nociceptive pain experienced by your body, which is caused by the stimulation of pain receptors.

Now imagine that you see a friend injure him or herself in the same way. You would again literally wince and feel pain, empathetic pain in this case. Although you yourself have not sustained any injury, to some extent you would experience the same symptoms: You would feel anxiety; you may recoil to put distance between yourself and the source of the pain; and you would store information about the context of the experience in order to avoid pain in the future.

Activity in the brain

Previous studies have shown that the same brain structures – namely the anterior insula and the cingulate cortex – are activated, irrespective of whether the pain is personally experienced or empathetic. However, despite this congruence in the underlying activated areas of the brain, the extent to which the two forms of pain really are similar remains a matter of considerable controversy.

To help shed light on the matter, neuroscientists, including Tania Singer, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, have now proposed a new theory: “We need to get away from this either-or question, whether the pain is genuine or not.”

Instead, it should be seen as a complex interaction of multiple elements, which together form the complex experience we call “pain”. The elements include sensory processes, which determine, for example, where the pain stimulus was triggered: in the hand or in the foot? In addition, emotional processes, such as the negative feeling experienced during pain, also come into play. “The decisive point is that the individual processes can also play a role in other experiences, albeit in a different activation pattern,” Singer explains — for example, if someone tickles your hand or foot, or you see images of people suffering on television. Other processes, such as the stimulation of pain receptors, are probably highly specific to pain. The neuroscientists therefore propose comparing the elements of direct and empathetic pain: Which elements are shared and which, by contrast, are specific and unique to the each form of pain?

Areas process general components

A study that was published almost simultaneously by scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences and the University of Geneva has provided strong proof of this theory: They were able to demonstrate for the first time that during painful experiences the anterior insula region and the cingulate cortex process both general components, which also occur during other negative experiences such as disgust or indignation, and specific pain information — whether the pain is direct or empathic.

The general components signal that an experience is in fact unpleasant and not joyful. The specific information, in turn, tells us that pain — not disgust or indignation — is involved, and whether the pain is being experienced by you or someone else. “Both the nonspecific and the specific information are processed in parallel in the brain structures responsible for pain. But the activation patterns are different,” says Anita Tusche, also a neuroscientist at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig and one of the authors of the study.

Thanks to the fact that our brain deals with these components in parallel, we can process various unpleasant experiences in a time-saving and energy-saving manner. At the same time, however, we are able register detailed information quickly, so that we know exactly what kind of unpleasant event has occurred — and whether it affects us directly or vicariously. “The fact that our brain processes pain and other unpleasant events simultaneously for the most part, no matter if they are experienced by us or someone else, is very important for social interactions,” Tusche says, “because it helps to us understand what others are experiencing.”

Source: MAX-Planck-Gesellschaft

In Pictures: Character ‘Rascal’ Donuts

Prolonged Daily Sitting Linked to 3.8 percent of All-cause Deaths

Sedentary behavior, particularly sitting, has recently become a prevalent public health topic and target for intervention. As work and leisure activities shift from standing to sitting, increased sitting time is starting taking a toll on our bodies. A new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that sitting for more than three hours per day is responsible for 3.8% of all-cause mortality deaths. Investigators also estimate that reducing sitting time to less than three hours per day would increase life expectancy by an average of 0.2 years.

In order to properly assess the damaging effects of sitting, the study analyzed behavioral surveys from 54 countries around the world and matched them with statistics on population size, actuarial table, and overall deaths. Researchers found that sitting time significantly impacted all-cause mortality, accounting for approximately 433,000, or 3.8%, of all deaths across the 54 nations in the study. They also found that sitting had higher impact on mortality rates in the Western Pacific region, followed by European, Eastern Mediterranean, American, and Southeast Asian countries, respectively.

This type of information is crucial to evaluating the effect sitting has on our lives, especially in light of recent research that shows prolonged sitting is associated with an increased risk of death, regardless of activity level. Researchers now believe that periods of moderate or vigorous physical activity might not be enough to undo the detrimental effects of extended sitting.

While researchers found that sitting contributed to all-cause mortality, they also estimated the impact from reduced sitting time independent of moderate to vigorous physical activity. “It was observed that even modest reductions, such as a 10% reduction in the mean sitting time or a 30-minute absolute decrease of sitting time per day, could have an instant impact in all-cause mortality in the 54 evaluated countries, whereas bolder changes (for instance, 50% decrease or 2 hours fewer) would represent at least three times fewer deaths versus the 10% or 30-minute reduction scenarios,” explained lead investigator Leandro Rezende, MSc, Department of Preventive Medicine, University of Sao Paulo School of Medicine.

Studies are beginning to show us exactly how detrimental prolonged sitting is for our health, even when coupled with exercise; however, changing habits is a difficult proposition. “Although sitting is an intrinsic part of human nature, excessive sitting is very common in modern societies,” commented Rezende. “Sedentary behavior is determined by individual, social, and environmental factors, all strongly influenced by the current economic system, including a greater number of labor-saving devices for commuting, at home and work, and urban environment inequalities that force people to travel longer distances and live in areas that lack support for active lifestyles.”

The results of this analysis show that reducing sitting time, even by a small amount, can lead to longer lives, but lessening time spent in chairs may also prompt people to be more physically active in general. “Although sitting time represents a smaller impact compared with other risk factors, reducing sitting time might be an important aspect for active lifestyle promotion, especially among people with lower physical activity levels,” emphasized Rezende. “In other words, reducing sitting time would help people increase their volumes of physical activity along the continuum to higher physical activity levels.”

The public health burden of prolonged sitting is real. Accounting for 3.8% of all-cause mortality in this study, sitting is shortening the lives of people across the world. “The present findings support the importance of promoting active lifestyles (more physical activity and less sitting) as an important aspect for premature mortality prevention worldwide, and therefore the need for global action to reduce this risk factor.”

Source: EurekAlert!


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