In Pictures: The Art of Plating

Study: Nature-based Activities Can Improve Mood and Reduce Anxiety

Outdoor nature-based activities are effective for improving mental health in adults, including those with pre-existing mental health problems, a new study has found.

Green spaces

The research – led by the University of York – showed that taking part in outdoor, nature-based activities led to improved mood, less anxiety, and positive emotions.

The study found that activities lasting for 20 to 90 minutes, sustained for over the course of eight to 12 weeks, have the most positive outcomes for improving mood and reducing anxiety.

Gardening and exercise were among the activities associated with mental health benefits. Engaging in conservation activities was also reported to make people feel better, as did ‘forest bathing’ (stopping in a forest to take in the atmosphere).

Large gains

Nature-based interventions (NBIs) support people to engage with nature in a structured way to improve mental health.

As part of the study, researchers screened 14,321 NBI records and analysed 50 studies.

Lead author of the study, Dr Peter Coventry from the Department of Health Sciences, said: “We’ve known for some time that being in nature is good for health and wellbeing, but our study reinforces the growing evidence that doing things in nature is associated with large gains in mental health.

“While doing these activities on your own is effective, among the studies we reviewed it seems that doing them in groups led to greater gains in mental health.”

However, the study found there was less evidence that outdoor activities led to improved physical health. The research suggests that there needs to be more appropriate ways to measure the short and longer-term impact of nature-based activities on physical health.


The paper – published in SSM – Population Health – also argues there is a need for substantial, sustained investment in community and place-based solutions such as nature-based interventions, which are likely to play important role in addressing a post-pandemic surge in demand for mental health support.

“One of the key ideas that might explain why nature-based activities are good for us is that they help to connect us with nature in meaningful ways that go beyond passively viewing nature”, Dr Coventry adds.

Source: University of York

Character Food of Sumikkogurashi Café in Japan

As You Age, Your ‘Microbiome’ Changes

Denise Mann wrote . . . . . . . . .

The key to eternal youth may lie in our guts.

Advancing age seems to change the makeup of the microbiome in the small intestine, and in the future, it may be possible to tweak this bacterial milieu and boost longevity, new research suggests.

The gut microbiome is made up of trillions of microorganisms and their genetic material. The diversity of these organisms is believed to play a role in promoting health and well-being.

With normal aging, the bacteria in the small intestine shift from microbes that prefer oxygen (aerobic bacteria) to those that can survive with less oxygen (anaerobic bacteria). There is also an increase in coliform bacteria in relation to other organisms with advancing age, the study showed.

The new study is observational and not designed to say how, or even if, these changes affect aging. “We don’t have correlations here in terms of cause and effect,” said study co-author Dr. Ruchi Mathur. She is an endocrinologist and director of the Cedars-Sinai Diabetes Outpatient Treatment & Education Center in Los Angeles.

For this study, the researchers looked at microbial changes that occur in the small intestine with chronological age, medication use, and diseases in people aged 18 to 80.

The small intestine is located further up the digestive tract and is about 20 feet long. “It is where really cool stuff happens. It’s more metabolically active and may play a greater role in human health and diseases than the large bowel,” Mathur said.

Previously, the same team mapped the microbiome of the entire gastrointestinal system and noted pronounced differences along the digestive tract.

When researchers compared bacterial populations in the small intestines based on age alone, the oldest individuals in the study had a more significant shift from aerobic to anaerobic bacteria and a greater proportion of coliform bacteria compared with their younger counterparts.

Coliforms can become too abundant in the small bowel with age and exert a negative influence on the rest of the microbial population. “They are like weeds in a garden,” Mathur said.

The number of medications a person took and the number of diseases they had were associated with other changes in bacterial diversity in the small intestine. “Certain microbial populations are influenced more by medications, while others are more affected by certain diseases,” she said. “We have identified specific microbes that appear to be only influenced by the chronological age of the person.”

If future studies validate these findings, treatments targeting the bacterial changes linked to aging alone may help prolong life. “If we can tease out the organisms that increase with chronological age, we can develop specific targets to manipulate them and see if we can make changes in longevity,” Mathur said.

The next step is to see if the findings hold in people aged 80 to 100, she said.

Many people take probiotic supplements to help reset the balance between good and bad bacteria in their gut to improve their health. But “it’s way too early to consider taking probiotics to manipulate the bacteria in the small intestine,” Mathur said.

The findings were published in the Cell Reports.

“This study helps further our understanding of the gut microbiome and what happens to it during the aging process,” said Dr. Elena Ivanina, director of neurogastroenterology and motility at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

More research is needed before drawing any conclusions about how the gut microbiome affects longevity. The study results start a conversation that someday may lead to anti-aging and metabolic therapy through microbiome modulation, said Ivanina, who has no ties to the new research.

Source: HealthDay

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Sage Sausage and Jack Cheese


2 sage/herbed sausages (about 14 ounces), either pork, turkey, or vegetarian
6 ounces shredded Jack or medium Asiago cheese
1-2 tablespoons (about 2 ounces) freshly grated aged cheese such as Parmesan, locatelli Romano, or dry Jack
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2-3 teaspoons sour cream
pinch of cumin seeds
tiny pinch of turmeric
dab of brown mustard
pinch of cayenne pepper or a few drops hot pepper sauce
8 thin slices whole-grain (such as wheatberry, sunflower seed, or sprouted wheat) bread
2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1-2 Moroccan-style preserved lemons, rinsed well and sliced into slivers or chopped
1-2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


  1. Roughly dice the sausages, then brown them quickly over medium heat in a small nonstick skillet. Remove from the pan, place on paper towels, and leave to cool. Leave the pan on the stove and turn off the heat.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the 2 cheeses with the green onions, sour cream, cumin seeds, turmeric, mustard, and cayenne pepper. When the sausage is cool, mix it into the cheese.
  3. Pile 4 slices of the bread with the cheese-and-sausage mixture, then top with a second piece of bread. Pat down well and press lightly but firmly so that the sandwich will hold together.
  4. Reheat the pan over medium-high heat and add about half the olive oil and garlic, then push the garlic to one side and add 1 or 2 sandwiches, however many the pan will hold. Cook until lightly crisped on one side and the cheese begins to melt. Turn over and cook the second side until it is golden brown. Remove to a plate and repeat with the other sandwiches, garlic, and oil. You may either discard the lightly browned garlic or nibble on it; whichever you do, remove it from the pan before it blackens as it will give a bitter flavor to the oil if it burns.
  5. Serve the sandwiches right away, piping hot, cut into triangles, and sprinkled with the preserved lemon and chopped parsley.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Greilled Cheese

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