Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Foods that reduce hypertension

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health conducted two key studies which resulted in the development of a specific eating plan for people with high blood pressure. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) emphasises eating whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and low-fat dairy products, while limiting salt, fat, and sugar overall.
•Just one serving of blueberries a week can help cut your risk of high blood pressure. Blueberries, as well as raspberries and strawberries, contain natural compounds called anthocyanins that protect against hypertension.
•Having a bowl of breakfast cereal, especially whole-grain, high-fibre cereals like oatmeal, oat squares, bran flakes or shredded wheat, can reduce your chance of developing high blood pressure.
•Did you know that a baked potato is high in potassium and magnesium, two important minerals that can help fight high blood pressure? In addition, eat halibut, spinach, bananas, soybeans, kidney beans and plain nonfat yogurt.
•Eating low-fat dairy products can reduce a woman’s risk of developing hypertension. That’s the conclusion of a 2008 study of nearly 30,000 women with an average age of 54. The women who ate the most low-fat dairy products — yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese, frozen yogurt, skim or low-fat milk — were 11 per cent less likely to develop high blood pressure.
•Eating a one-ounce square of dark chocolate daily can help lower blood pressure, especially in people who already have hypertension, according to Harvard researchers. Dark chocolate is high in flavonoids, natural compounds that cause dilation of the blood vessels.
•Drinking a glass of  spinach, lettuce, cabbage, or carrot  juice can lower blood pressure within just a few hours. The nitrate in the juice has the same effect as taking a nitrate tablet, researchers found.
Sources: webmd.com; aarp.org
Culled from Punch

Know your blood pressure

Blood pressure is a measurement of the force against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood through your body. Hypertension is another term used to describe high blood pressure.

Blood pressure readings are usually given as two numbers — for example, 120 over 80 (written as 120/80 mmHg). One or both of these numbers can be too high.
The top number is called the systolic blood pressure. The bottom number is called the diastolic blood pressure.
•Normal blood pressure is when your blood pressure is lower than 120/80 mmHg most of the time.
•Hypertension is when your blood pressure is 140/90 mmHg or above most of the time.
•If your blood pressure numbers are 120/80 or higher, but below 140/90, it is called pre-hypertension.
If you have heart or kidney problems, or you had a stroke, your doctor may want your blood pressure to be even lower than that of people who do not have these conditions.
Control hypertension at home
•Eat a heart-healthy diet, including potassium and fiber, and drink plenty of water.
•Exercise regularly — at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day.
•If you smoke, quit — find a program that will help you stop.
•Limit how much alcohol you drink — one drink a day for women, two a day for men.
•Limit the amount of sodium (salt) you eat — aim for less than 1,500 mg per day.
•Reduce stress — try to avoid things that cause you stress. You can also try meditation or yoga.
•Stay at a healthy body weight — find a weight-loss programme to help you, if you need it.
Sources: National Library of Medicine; Medical Encyclopaedia
Culled from Punch

Staying slim at menopause

Oladapo Ashiru
Most women gain weight as they age, but it is not inevitable. How can you minimise weight gain after menopause? Step up your activity level and enjoy a healthy diet.
Have you noticed a few extra pounds padding your waistline? You may be in the throes of midlife expansion — a familiar complaint among women in their 40s and 50s.
During this time, you either gain weight or you find that maintaining your usual weight has somehow become more difficult. You also discover that the weight you gain tends to accumulate around your abdomen, rather than your hips and thighs. But you don’t have to accept weight gain as inevitable.
One of the foremost menopausal symptoms seems to be weight gain and change in the overall shape of your body. Though you may not be so happy about this, it is important to keep in mind that this weight gain is normal and is to be expected.  About 90 per cent of menopausal women gain some weight between the age of 35 and 55.
You may not necessarily have to blame yourself for this newly acquired weight, as research now shows that weight gain during menopause is caused by shifts in your hormones, rather than greedy eating. Take steps to prevent weight gain before it starts; and if you have already begun adding to your waistline, it’s never too late to reverse the course through proper diet and exercise.
Why mid-age ‘spread’
For most women, increases and shifts in weight begin during perimenopause — the years leading up to menopause. On average, women gain about a pound a year during this time, but changing hormone levels associated with menopause are not only necessarily the cause of weight gain. Ageing and lifestyle factors play a big role in your changing body composition. These include:
Exercising less: Menopausal women tend to exercise less than other women, which can lead to weight gain.
Eating more: Eating more means you will take in more calories, which are converted into fat if you don’t burn them for energy.
Burning fewer calories: The number of calories you need for energy decreases as you age because ageing promotes the replacement of muscle with fat. Muscles burn more calories than fat does. When your body composition shifts to more fat and less muscle, your metabolism slows down.
Early menopause: Women who have experienced early menopause or surgical menopause may experience more rapid and extreme weight gain. You will start to notice that the weight is not distributing itself as it used to. During menopause, you will begin to put on weight around your abdomen, instead of around your hips, thighs and rear.
People commonly refer to this as an “apple” shape, because the stomach area becomes rounder. You may miss your old “pear” shape that you had during your child-bearing years, but it will be harder and harder to redistribute your weight evenly around your body.
Genetic factors: Genetic factors may play a role in weight gain as well. If your parents or other close relatives carry extra weight around the abdomen, you may be predisposed to do so too.
Weight gain can have serious implications for your health. Excess weight increases your risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure and insulin resistance, which can lead to Type 2 Diabetes. These factors also put you at high risk of heart disease and stroke.
There are some very encouraging statistical data with regard to weight loss in menopausal women, which suggests that women who lose weight after menopause can reduce the risk of breast cancer.
It was found that weight gain during the menopausal years increases the risk of breast cancer. Women who gain weight in excess of 20 pounds increase their breast cancer risk by nearly 20 per cent; but women who lose 20 pounds after menopause reduce their breast cancer risk by as much as 23 per cent. Even smaller amount of weight loss after menopause leads to a modest risk reduction.
Real causes of middle age weight gain
Many women are quite shocked and frustrated when they begin to notice those extra pounds graciously provided by menopause. You may be eating and exercising exactly the same as you’ve always done but still can’t seem to maintain your weight. As you enter the early stages of menopause, maintaining weight becomes more and more difficult and losing weight becomes almost impossible. This is because of the fluctuation in your hormones.
Your body’s hormones have a direct impact on your appetite, metabolism and fat storage. This is why it is so difficult to control your weight during menopause, no matter what you do. Fluctuating oestrogen, testosterone and androgen levels will fight you all the way!
Hormones for weight maintenance
Oestrogen: Oestrogen is the female sex hormone that is responsible for causing monthly ovulation. During menopause, your oestrogen level declines rapidly, causing your body to stop ovulating. However, oestrogen also seems to play a big role in menopausal weight gain. As the ovaries produce less oestrogen, your body looks to other places for the oestrogen it needs. Fat cells in your body can produce oestrogen, so your body works harder to convert calories into fat to increase oestrogen levels.
Unfortunately, fat cells don’t burn calories the way muscle cells do, which causes you to pack on the unwanted kilos.
Culled from Punch

Have intimacy, reduce high blood pressure risk


The story was told of a young man who was picked up dead in his car during a long traffic on the Third Mainland Bridge.
Other road users didn’t know that he had breathed his last; they just kept hooting at him to move on. When he still refused to move, someone got down from his car to see what was going on. Everyone was shocked to realise that the young man — an employee of a bank — had died. A post-mortem revealed that he died of high blood pressure.
Physicians say the actual cause of high blood pressure — also known as hypertension —is unknown. However, they say several factors predispose someone to having it, though many of them are totally preventable.
Clinical Biochemist and Products Manager (Diagnostics), New Heights Pharma, Mr. Olayinka Ebenezer, explains that when the underlying cause of hypertension cannot be determined, it is medically referred to as “essential hypertension.”
He, however, says essential hypertension has been linked to certain risk factors, such as family history, gender and advanced age.
He warns that someone who comes from a family where they have many hypertensive people is likely to become hypertensive sometime in life.
Physicians also warn that essential hypertension is greatly influenced by diet and lifestyle. “The link between salt and high blood pressure is especially compelling, as those who eat more salt than the recommended daily allowance are certainly likely to experience hypertension than those who don’t,” Nutrition Expert at the Mart-Life Detox Clinic, Lagos, Mrs. Idowu Ashiru, warns.
Other things that can cause essential hypertension include smoking, being overweight or obese, lack of physical activity, insufficient intake of potassium, calcium, and magnesium, too much alcohol consumption (more than one to two drinks per day), stress, diabetes, pregnancy, birth control pills containing oestrogen, being over 35 years old, too much fatty foods, sleeplessness, genetics, chronic kidney disease and adrenal/thyroid disorders.
Why hypertension is bad
Many people know that high blood pressure is bad, but they don’t know how bad it can be before it leads to heart attack, heart failure, stroke, kidney disease, and, more often than not, death. A cardiologist, Dr. Phillip Tiwalade, warns that hypertension  damages blood vessels and impairs their ability to work properly.
He notes that most of the time, there are no symptoms. He says, “For most patients, high blood pressure is found when they visit hospital or have it checked elsewhere. Because there are no symptoms, people can develop heart disease and kidney problems without knowing they have high blood pressure.”
The doctor stresses that if you have a severe headache, nausea or vomiting, bad headache, confusion, changes in your vision, or nosebleeds, you may have a severe and dangerous form of high blood pressure called malignant hypertension. “See your doctor without delay,” Tiwalade counsels.
Worse still, researchers at Johns Hopkins University, USA, say men and women with hypertension are twice as likely to experience sexual problems as individuals without high blood pressure.
The reason: “Healthy blood vessels are essential to sexual function, but high blood pressure damages blood vessels and impairs their ability to work properly. Hypertension leads to narrowing of the arteries because of plaque build-up.
“A link between high blood pressure and sexual problems is proved in men. Over time, high blood pressure damages the lining of blood vessels and causes arteries to harden and narrow (atherosclerosis), limiting blood flow. This means less blood is able to flow to the penis,” researchers say.
Physicians say for some men, the decreased blood flow makes it difficult to achieve and maintain erections — often referred to as erectile dysfunction.
High blood pressure can also interfere with ejaculation and reduce sexual desire, doctors proffer. They also say, sometimes, the medications used to treat high blood pressure have similar effects.
“In women, hypertension can reduce blood flow to the vagina. This may lead to a decrease in sexual desire or arousal, vaginal dryness, or difficulty achieving orgasm,” the researchers warn.
Those who have this problem are advised to see their doctor.
Sex therapy
For those who have normal blood pressure but are not involved in regular exercise routine, physicians prescribe “sex therapy” as a form of exercise that can keep hypertension at bay.
They are of the view that sex is a form of exercise which, when engaged in regularly, have so many benefits for the body.
Researchers from Scotland, who reported their findings in the journal Biological Psychology, submit that sex relieves stress and lowers blood pressure. The scientists insist that frequent intercourse was associated with lower diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number of blood pressure) in people who live together and have sex often.
Sex also boosts immunity, scientists tell us. Researchers from the Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, USA, say having sex once or twice a week has been linked with higher levels of an antibody called immunoglobulin A, which can protect you from getting colds and other infections.
Physicians say to reduce your risk of hypertension, lose weight. This is a tall order for many people who may find it hard to hit the gym right away. Not to worry, though, you can also achieve your goal right on your bed or couch.
President of the American Association of Sexuality Educators and Therapists, Dr. Patti Britton, assures that by engaging in just 30 minutes of sex, you can burn 85 calories or more. “Sex is a great mode of exercise. It takes work, from both a physical and psychological perspective, to do it well,” she notes.
Again, a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, reveals that frequent sex improves cardiovascular health. What this translates into, the scientists note, is that while having sex, the heart rate goes from 70 beats per minute to 150 — a good training for the heart.
A 20-year-long British study also shows that having sex thrice a week decreases the risk of heart attack by 50 per cent. “This is because, during sex, the breath is deeper, meaning a better oxygenation,” the researchers assure.
Researchers say the heart health benefits of sex don’t end there. They say having sex twice or more a week reduces the risk of fatal heart attack by half for men, compared with those who have sex less than once a month.
Finally, since hypertension is also associated with sleep apnea, physicians recommend getting more quality sleep of up to seven or eight hours a day. Sex plays a huge role here, too, we are told. Scientists say the oxytocin released during orgasm promotes sleep. In addition, getting enough sleep has been linked with a host of other good things, such as maintaining a healthy weight and blood pressure.
Culled from Punch

Babies Given Antibiotics Before They Are 1 Are More Prone To Eczema

Babies given antibiotics before they are a year old are more likely to develop eczema, say British researchers.

After years of debate about a possible link, a huge study shows taking the drugs in the first year of life increases the chances of developing the skin disorder by 40 per cent.

Each additional course of antibiotics further raises the risk of eczema – which affects one in five children in the UK – by 7 per cent.

About 2.4million of the UK’s 12million children have been diagnosed with the disease, caused by an over-active immune system and resulting in dry and itchy skin.

Researchers from Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, King’s College London, the University of Nottingham and the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary reviewed data from 20 studies involving almost 293,000 babies and children.

Senior researcher Dr Carsten Flohr, of King’s College and Guy’s, said some previous studies had implied a link, but this was the first systematic large-scale review.

He said: ‘We found antibiotic exposure in early life may increase the risk of subsequent eczema by up to 40 per cent, with broad-spectrum antibiotics having a more pronounced effect. It’s a real effect.
 ‘Having antibiotics in the second year of life is less likely to be important, but we don’t have the studies to examine it.’

Dr Flohr recommended that antibiotics should be prescribed ‘with caution’, especially to infants with a family history of eczema or allergic disease.

But he stressed: ‘Doctors usually have good reason to prescribe antibiotics to infants.
‘The importance of this finding is to get a better understanding of the complex relationship between antibiotic use and allergic disease.

‘We need further research as determination of a true link between antibiotic use and eczema would have far-reaching clinical and public health implications.’

The latest research analysed 16 studies looking at a potential link between eczema and use of antibiotics in under ones and three more examining a possible link with exposure in the womb. One study looked at both, says a report in the British Journal of Dermatology.

Researchers found a ‘trend’ with prenatal exposure but insufficient evidence to make a link.
Eczema has no cure, but medical moisturisers called emollients can be used to keep the skin lubricated, backed up by steroid creams.

The proportions of children with eczema has risen from 3 per cent in the 1950s to 20 per cent today.
Rising allergy levels have several suspected triggers such as too-clean lifestyles, Caesarean births – which may affect immune systems – diet and the early use of antibiotics.
Nina Goad, of the British Association of Dermatologists, said: ‘Eczema is our most common skin disease.

‘The evidence is not conclusive and the researchers are not suggesting that parents should withhold antibiotics from children when doctors feel such treatment is necessary.
‘But studies like this give an insight into possible avoidable causes and may help to guide medical practice.’
—Dailymail London
Culled from Leadership

Friday, 14 June 2013

Hormonal contraceptives and you

Hormonal contraception is a method of preventing pregnancy by using substances that act on the female special system called the endocrine system. This is the system that controls both the monthly menstrual period and the monthly egg release called ovulation, which leads to fertilisation and conception.

These substances are the major hormones that control conception. They are oestrogen and progesterone. So, hormonal contraception could either be a combination of oestrogen and progesterone, or it could be progesterone only. The combination may be oral combined daily pill, injectables, skin patch or trans-dermal patch.

Progesterone only may be in form of daily pills called mini-pill injectables (two-monthly or three-monthly injectables) and it may also be in form of implants.

Implants are rod-like, long-acting progesterone that is applied under the skin of the forearm. The rods are inserted under the skin of the forearm and slowly release the progesterone substance for a period of three years or more, depending on the active ingredients.

Hormonal contraceptives include oral pills, sub-dermal implants, injectables, hormonal intra-uterine devices and vagina ring. Hormonal contraceptives work by inhibiting ovulation (preventing the release of egg) and may also inhibit fertilisation.

Combined contraceptives are very effective form of birth control, but they are associated with some risks of the cardiovascular system which include poor blood circulation or risk of blood clot. So, women with underlying factors for cardiovascular disease or those who are active smokers may not be advised to take combined contraceptives.

These types of contraceptives also increase the risk of breast cancer, though they may lower the risk of both the ovarian and endometrial cancers.

Progesterone-only pills may not be as effective as combined pills, but they are deemed safe for breastfeeding mothers.

Implants that are available at most family planning clinics include Norplan, Implanon and Jadelle. These are long-acting progesterone-only implants. Implanon consists of a single rod, and it is commonly prescribed in most centres in Nigeria.

Implanon is a sub-dermal contraceptive implant that is usually inserted under the skin of the upper arm. Though it is long-acting and effective for three years, it is reversible once it is removed.

Most common complaint among users is that of weight gain, which is due to increase in appetite. So, regular exercise and good dietary control will reduce the weight gain that is commonly associated with these hormonal contraceptives.

Skin patch is a trans-dermal patch applied to the skin. It releases oestrogen and progesterone slowly to prevent pregnancy. It is a very effective birth control.

Intra-uterine contraceptive is a device that is inserted into the womb to prevent pregnancy. It may contain copper or progesterone. It is a form of long-acting contraceptive and it is also very reversible.

Apart from the Copper-T intra-uterine device, we also have gold-containing intra-uterine device such as the Gold T IUD from Spain and Germany. Various varieties and shapes of intra-uterine devices are available, but the most popular in use is Copper-T, which may also serve the purpose of emergency contraception within the first five days of unprotected sexual exposure.

It can be used during breastfeeding, as it does not affect the woman’s hormonal system and fertility resumes immediately after removal. Some women may complain of increased menstrual pain or increased menstrual flow, though.
Intra-uterine device acts by preventing fertilisation. It may possibly prevent implantation as it is used as emergency contraception.

When hormonal contraceptives are to be prescribed, a detailed medical history of the woman is necessary, while comprehensive clinical assessment and laboratory investigations may also be necessary.

Emergency contraceptives or ‘morning after,’ also known as post-coital contraception, are control measures taken after an unprotected sexual exposure to prevent pregnancy. It may be in form of combined pills or progesterone-only tablet, such as Postnor.

The earlier the medication is taken, the lower the failure rate. In fact, it is better not to wait till the morning after.

Intra-uterine Copper-T device may also be inserted within the first five days of unprotected sexual intercourse, up till the first seven days to serve as an emergency contraception.

Sterilisation is any medical procedure that makes a man or a woman unable to reproduce. It may be surgical or non-surgical and may be for male or female. Sterilisation is a form of permanent contraception because reversal is usually difficult or even impossible. Example of sterilisation includes tuba ligation in female, whereby the fallopian tubes are tied and cut, making the transport of egg and sperm impossible.

A woman’s womb can also be removed surgically (hysterectomy) to prevent her from getting pregnant again.

Sterilisation for men could be in form of vasectomy, whereby the spermatic cords are cut; hence, preventing sperm from the testicles to be released to the female reproductive system for fertilisation. It could also be in form of castration, whereby the testicles are removed surgically.

Generally, African men are afraid of sterilisation because they believe it may be associated with impotence or childlessness when they reincarnate (i.e. when they are reborn in another life), which is not true.
Dr. Samuel Adebayo
culled from Punch

Dad’s stress affects sperm, offsprings’ brains

Sperm doesn’t appear to forget anything. Stress felt by dad — whether as a preadolescent or adult — leaves a lasting impression on his sperm that gives sons and daughters a blunted reaction to stress, a response linked to several mental disorders. The findings, published in a new preclinical study in the Journal of Neuroscience by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, point to a never-before-seen epigenetic link to stress-related diseases such as anxiety and depression passed from father to child.

While environmental challenges, like diet, drug abuse, and chronic stress, felt by mothers during pregnancy have been shown to affect offspring neurodevelopment and increase the risk for certain diseases, dad’s influence on his children are less well understood. The effects of lifelong exposures to dad on children are even more out of reach.

Now, a team of researchers led by Tracy L. Bale, PhD, associate professor of neuroscience in the Perelman School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and the School of Veterinary Medicine Department of Animal Biology, have shown that stress on preadolescent and adult male mice induced an epigenetic mark in their sperm that reprogrammed their offspring’s hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, a region of the brain that governs responses to stress. Surprisingly, both male and female offspring had abnormally low reactivity to stress.

This stress pathway dysregulation — when reactivity is either heightened or reduced — is a sign that an organism doesn’t have the ability to respond appropriately to a changing environment. And as a result, their stress response becomes irregular, which can lead to stress-related disorders.

“It didn’t matter if dads were going through puberty or in adulthood when stressed before they mated. We’ve shown here for the first time that stress can produce long-term changes to sperm that reprogram the offspring HPA stress axis regulation,” said Bale. “These findings suggest one way in which paternal-stress exposure may be linked to such neuropsychiatric diseases.”

Past epidemiological studies suggest that germ cells — sperm and eggs — are more susceptible to reprogramming during the slow growth period of preadolescence. Therefore, in this study, in order to examine the effects of paternal stress, male mice were exposed to six weeks of chronic stress, before breeding, either throughout puberty or only in adulthood. Examples of stress include sudden move to another cage, predator oder (fox urine, for example), noise, or a foreign object in the cage.

Male mice are ideal for such an experiment because they do not participate in offspring rearing, meaning any external factors outside of germ-cell formation are essentially eliminated.

Researchers found that offspring from paternal stress groups displayed significantly blunted levels of the stress hormone corticosterone — in humans, it’s cortisol — in response to stress.

To understand the neural circuitry in the offspring, the group also examined changes in gene expression in certain brain regions involved in stress regulation: the paraventricular nucleus and the bed nucleus of stria terminals. They found an increased expression of glucocorticoid-responsive genes in the PVN, a change that supports a possible mechanism whereby increased negative feedback sensitivity may be explained.

The researchers also looked at a series of microRNAs (miRs) in the sperm that uniquely contribute to post-fertilisation gene expression to examine the epigenetic mechanisms of transmission to the next generation. In both groups of stressed dads, there was a significant increase in expression of nine miRs. These miRs may be targeting the stored maternal messenger RNAs in the egg at fertilisation, so that dad’s sperm can regulate some aspect of early development to inform his offspring about the environment, according to the authors.
Source: sciencedaily.com

Using essential oils

Essential oils have a plethora of amazing uses for everything from pampering yourself to cleaning and helping with various ailments. An essential oil is an aromatic liquid extracted from leaves, twigs, berries, bark, wood, root, flowers, citrus peels, or other plant matter. They are not actually oily, but have more of a water-like feel.

Though essential oils are natural, they are very concentrated and should be used with caution.

Treat acne: Use a dab of tea tree oil on the blemish.

•Soothing foot bath: Add 5-8 drops of peppermint or rosemary oil to a large, hot foot bath to relieve pain and stimulate circulation. To control perspiration and odour, add two drops of cypress oil.

•Massage: Use a light carrier oil like vegetable, sunflower, or walnut as a base for  massage oil. Add a few drops of peppermint for sore muscles, ginger for your lower back and joints, or avocado oil for a luxurious foot bath.

•Calming bath: There’s an essential oil for almost any ailment. One way to reap the beneficial benefits is to add 5-10 drops of your oil of choice to a warm bath. For deep relaxation, try five drops of lavender, one drop of Roman chamomile, and one drop of neroli. Another option is to make your own bath salts by adding 1/4 to one teaspoon of essential oil for every one cup of either sea salt, Epsom salt, or baking soda.

•Combat hair loss: Add a few drops of rosemary essential oil to a dollop of shampoo or conditioner to increase circulation to the scalp.

•Congestion: Add a few drops of peppermint oil to a bowl of hot water and breathe in the steam to fight congestion. Eucalyptus also works well.

Insomnia: In a spray bottle, mix a few drops of lavender oil to water and spritz on your pillow before bed.

•Headaches: Mix a small amount of peppermint oil to a carrier oil, apply to fingertips and massage temples. If peppermint is too strong, add lavender for extra calming properties.

PMS: Dilute rose otto or geranium essential oil in a carrier oil and apply to neck and shoulders, or add the oils to a warm bath.
Source: care2.com

Investment opportunities in soya bean production

Soya bean also referred to as “meat of the field” or “meat without bones” is an annual antioxidant-rich legume with high protein content.

It had been a popular food crop in Asian countries like Korea, China and Japan since ancient times but was introduced to the United States in the 19th century from where it has received deservedly unprecedented global attention.

The US initially adopted it as a forage crop until the 1920s when the Soil Conservation Service stimulated its increased cultivation in cotton plantations as a means of replenishing the fertility of soils depleted by cotton cropping.

Increased production triggered advances in soy processing technology, propelling soya into a major economic crop ranking only after corn and wheat.Today, the United States produces over a third of the world’s soya beans.

Soy is one of the food products that have bounced Brazil back to economic reckoning. Today, Brazil is one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of the commodity after the United States.

Over 80 per cent of the world’s soya bean crop is processed into meal and vegetable oil, and virtually all of that meal is used in the production of animal feed.  A negligible percentage of the soy meal is further processed into soy flours and proteins for food use.

Soya can be manipulated and flavoured to produce a meat-like texture to simulate meat products like chicken, sausage, beef, and so on which can be used as filling for many fast foods like sausage rolls, hamburgers and so on.

In bakery, Soy proteins increase water absorption and help improve shelf life through moisture retention.

Soy oil dominates world oilseed trade. 95 per cent of the oil is consumed as edible oil; while the balance serves as industrial raw materials in the production of paint, varnish, linoleum, and rubber fabrics, cosmetics including soaps, creams, and massage oils, etc. It also readily finds application in the production of biodiesel.

Of all the benefits of soya, it is most cherished for its nutrient value as a vegetarian alternative to animal proteins.

Health experts posit that children fed on soy milk suffer less from ear infections than those fed with cow milk because soy is less likely to cause allergies that cause inflammation of the Eustachian tubes in young children.

Also, as red meats, eggs and other animal products become more unpopular amongst middle agers and senior citizens, soya comes in as a low cholesterol replacement.

Soy distinguishes itself as a protein plant that contains all eight amino acids essential for human health. It is therefore very useful in the production of food fortifiers and other products that enhance immunity.

Soya bean are one of the few plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids which have been found useful in the dietary reduction of risk as well treatment of malnutrition, heart disease and cancer.

Soybean was introduced into Nigeria in the early 1900s while export started in 1947.  On the global scene, trade in soya beans holds a lucrative promise as the market is currently practically dominated by a few countries, leaving room for new entrants like Nigeria; if we are willing to utilise our comparative advantage in this area.

2007 figures placed Nigeria as the 11th largest producer of soya, 35th of cattle, and 36th in pork production and 41st in poultry.

Obviously, the nation has advantage in soy production that can be scaled up to a competitive level to immensely benefit the economy.

The Federal Institute of Industrial Technology,Oshodi,which pioneered the processing and utilisation of soya beans into various food products, says the processing technologies are available for adoption by interested investors.

The Director-General of the Institute, Dr. Gloria Elemo, says, “FIIRO is investigating the use of soybeans in the formulation of a nutrient rich food beverage suitable for people living with HIV/AIDS. This is intended to help manage the course of the disease in affected people.”

The production of concentrates and isolates, which is in high demand in contemporary industry, though capital intensive, is direly needed to catapult the nation into the big time.

According to Dr. Augustine Okoruwa during Soy Summit 2010, the nation should take advantage of the versatility that soya offers as an affordable, nutritious food and food supplement as well as feed meal with the potential to spawn ample business opportunities both in its production and processing value chain.

This would usher economic empowerment to both rural and urban poor as well as spur establishment of both small and medium scale industries; thereby enhancing the quality of life in the nation through enhanced nutrition and wealth creation.
 by Jennifer Abraham
Culled from Punch

Educate your children on money management

Children are not born with “money sense.” Children learn about money by example and experience, beginning at a very tender age. Parents are significant influence on what and how children learn about money. It is never too early to start teaching sound money management skills. Begin teaching basic principles of money as soon as children can understand  that money is needed to buy the things they enjoy. 

Much of what your children learn about money is not from the conscious efforts you make to teach money management. Children are great imitators. Children pick up your values, attitudes, and money habits by watching and listening to you. In fact, you do not have to say anything to pass along money attitudes, habits, or decision-making styles. 

If you shop with a list, your children will probably shop with a list. If you always spend money before it is earned, you may have a hard time teaching children to save. Children learn from observing you and others in the supermarket, post office, bank, toy store, mall, even at home and so on… Many parents are amazed at what children have learned about money through observation. 
hildren need financial knowledge. At a time when kids are just starting to learn the facts of life, they also should be learning about their finances. Instead of a simple allowance, many kids are being given credit cards by their parents. Let the kids understand the valuable lesson in life that things can change in a second. 

Finally, parents need to lead by example, even if that means cleaning up their own financial act, it’s like smoking and telling your kids not to smoke. Always educate your children the basic principles of finance, money management and help them to ensure that they develop a healthy relationship with and toward money, also allow them to recognise their unlimited opportunity to build and manage their personal wealth.
culled from Businessday 

10 misconceptions about retirement security

Retirement is one of the most important financial goals for most people. Unfortunately, many workers and retirees have an incomplete or misleading picture of how much they need to save, how to invest their savings effectively, and how to make their money last as long as they live. Clearing up common misconceptions about retirement is essential so that you can fulfill your dreams of a comfortable retirement.

A joint project by LIMRA International, the Society of Actuaries and Matthew Greenwald and Associates identified the following 10 ways in which Americans lack a realistic understanding of retirement saving.
Saving too little - Most people haven’t tried to estimate how much money they will need for retirement and those who have tried to do the calculation often underestimate their income needs.

Not knowing when retirement will occur - Many workers will retire before they expect to, and before they’re ready.

Living longer than planned - As individuals manage their own retirement funds, they may not understand that life expectancy is a very limited planning tool. In fact, some retirees will live long beyond their life expectancies, with a substantial risk of outliving their savings.

Not facing facts about long-term care - Many people underestimate their chances of needing long-term healthcare. Relatively few people either own long-term care insurance or can afford to self-insure an extended long-term care situation. Trying to self-insure against long life - Although people may find guaranteed lifetime income attractive, in practice they usually choose to receive retirement plan benefits in lump-sum form. They pass up opportunities to get a lifetime pension or annuity, failing to recognise the difficulty of self-insuring their longevity.

Not understanding investments - Due to the growth of the workplace retirement savings plans, workers are now largely responsible for managing investments for retirement. However, many workers misunderstand investment returns, expenses, and how each investment vehicle works.

Relying on poor advice - Many retirees and pre-retirees indicate a strong desire to work with a financial professional, yet fail to see this guidance.

Not knowing sources of retirement income - Workers often don’t understand what their primary sources of income will be in retirement. They may be surprised and disappointed when they try to live on the income that is actually available. Failing to deal with inflation - Inflation is a fact of life that workers may deal with through pay increases, but after retirement few people can increase their income to keep pace with the cost of living.

Not providing for a surviving spouse - Many married couples fail to plan for the eventual death of one spouse before the other.

Identifying these common misconceptions is an important first step. If you recognise yourself in any, or many of these scenarios, take corrective action right away. Get an accurate estimate of your retirement income needs, identify your sources of income after retirement and understand your investment and distribution options. Take the time to educate yourself in areas of personal finance and retirement planning.

By: Jeremy Vohwinkle
Culled from Businessday

Friday, 7 June 2013

Habits that affect bone health

Without the bones, the human body will just hang like a damp cloth. This is because bones give the body structure; and they also protect internal organs by ensconcing them in cage-like structures that shield them from damage.
Again, the body stores calcium through the bone, providing the body with the muscles it needs to move. Calcium also helps the nerves to carry messages between the brain and every body part.
Experts advise that we take steps to build strong and healthy bones during childhood and adolescence, and as we age, there are also steps one must take to protect them and keep them in top health.
In men, physicians say, bone mass peaks around age 20, after which subtle bone mass loss sets in, worsening as the decades fly by. Scientists say eating calcium-rich foods and getting enough vitamin D are some ways to prevent bone mass loss and ensure bone health for life.
The Resident Doctor at St. Augustus Family Hospital, Ijanikin, Lagos, Dr. Tunde Awofisayo, says men’s bone loss is almost always due to testosterone deficiency.
As for women, the doctor says being female puts you at risk of developing osteoporosis and broken bones. This, he says, is because women tend to have smaller, thinner bones than men.
Again, he says, oestrogen — a hormone in women that protects bones — decreases sharply when women reach menopause, which can cause bone loss. “Within five or seven years after menopause, a woman can lose up to 20 per cent of her bone density. This is why the chance of developing osteoporosis increases as women age,” he says.
He, however, assures that contrary to what many people think, osteoporosis is not necessarily an inevitable process of ageing, and that there are steps individuals can take to prevent, detect, and treat the disease. “You are never too young or old to take care of your bones,” he counsels.
He explains further that bones grow continually over an individual’s lifetime, sequel to a natural process called remodeling. Here, old bone cells slough off and new bone cells grow to replace them. “But to make new bone, your body needs plenty of calcium and vitamin D,” Awofisayo warns.
He notes that bone density loss is not just associated with calcium deficiency, but also due to an insufficient intake of other nutrients such as magnesium and vitamin D3.
He counsels, “In order for calcium to help maintain healthy bones, adequate amounts of vitamin D3, zinc, magnesium, manganese, and other nutrients should be available so that calcium and phosphorus can be incorporated into the bone matrix.”
Now, what are the ‘habits’ that we unwittingly maintain and which impact negatively our bone health? The first is sedentary lifestyle, Awofisayo says. “Many people cannot take a flight of stairs, but would rather use the elevator. When you climb the stairs, you not only exercise your heart, you also exercise your bones.”
Stressing the place of physical exercise in maintaining bone health, Awofisayo says people who are physically inactive have a higher risk of osteoporosis than do their more-active counterparts.
Another habit that can rid the bone of its health is smoking, experts say. Research studies identified smoking as a risk factor for osteoporosis and bone fracture. Indeed, scientists say the longer you smoke and the more cigarettes you consume, the greater your risk of fracture in old age. Worse still, they warn, smokers who have a fracture may take longer to heal than non-smokers, while they may experience more complications during the healing process.
Indeed, authorities at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases warn that significant bone loss has been found in older women and men who smoke; and that exposure to secondhand smoke during youth and early adulthood may increase the risk of developing low bone mass.
The scientists also warn that compared with non-smokers, women who smoke often produce less oestrogen and tend to experience menopause earlier, which may lead to increased bone loss.
Closely related to smoking is alcohol intake. Experts warn that regular alcohol intake increases the risk of osteoporosis, possibly because alcohol can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb calcium.
In terms of dietary style, doctors warn against too much salt intake. Awofisayo says, “Salt deprives the body of calcium. The more salt you eat, the more calcium you will eject from the body when you urinate. Sticking to a low-salt diet can help you keep more calcium to strengthen your bones.”
Culled from Punch

Improving your tech manners

The proliferation of technology throughout the office has created a work force that needs some brushing up on its P’s and Q’s.

Pamela Eyring, president of the Protocol School of Washington, said data shows that today’s employees are more committed to their gadgets than they are to each other. Recent research found that mobile device etiquette breaches at work are up by 51 percent from three years ago, while nearly 70 per cent of Americans say they witness poor cellphone etiquette at least once every day.

It’s people, not iPads, that workers need to get along with to succeed in business, Eyring said.
“Our industry is in a growth mode because people realise the best investment of time and money is in people — not machines,” she said. “Machines are necessary and valuable, but we have to be smart about how we use them.”

Here are tips for improving business etiquette around the office:

Be all in: Employees should pay attention in business settings and not place their smartphone or tablet on the table. In addition, the phone should be turned off before going into a meeting, dining room or networking event. For those expecting an important call, make sure the phone is on vibrate, alert people beforehand and then excuse yourself when you get the call.

Don’t text and talk: Texting while talking to someone says you’re not interested in the other person and that can be a deal-breaker, resulting in the loss of a potential client or valued vendor.  If texting is a must, excuse yourself and find an isolated spot to work.

Email etiquette: Busy people get upward of 200 work emails a day and need time to respond. Allow 24 to 48 hours for a reply and give people the benefit of the doubt. If they don’t respond, perhaps the email inadvertently went to the person’s junk mail box.  It’s also time-consuming to open and read unnecessary emails. 

 Don’t hit “reply all” unless it’s absolutely necessary everyone listed needs to read the reply.

Keep voice messages short: Good communicators get to the point quickly. Aim for a voice mail message that is no longer than 30 seconds. It is important to state your name clearly and confirm the phone number you prefer they call.

Choose the right communication: E-mail is the preferred method of communication because it’s easily accessible, but don’t be afraid to ask someone if they prefer texting.  Of course, a difficult conversation requires picking up the phone or, better yet, talking in person.

Keep private conversations private: Don’t talk on the phone while in the restroom or hallway — you never know who may overhear you.  Additionally, since you never know who may be within earshot, don’t talk about sensitive work issues when eating out with friends or family.
culled from Punch

Getting the right workers for your small business

After putting in a lot of effort to establish a business, it is only fair that you get something in return for your labour. The expectation for many people is patronage, which can lead to profit and growth for the business.
It is a reasonable expectation, especially as many people have confessed that getting funds to convert an idea into a business in Nigeria is easier said than done.
However, the truth, according to experts and surveys, is that not many small business owners go on to convert their businesses into successful ones. Some of them, rather than make profit, end up with failed businesses and huge debts.
This is attributed to many factors, one of which is the employment of people who are not suitable for the business.
According to experts, many small business owners are more concerned with cash flow for their business, to the detriment of human capital.
By paying little attention to their recruitment processes, they often end up employing the wrong people. Even when they get the right people, they fail to properly manage them.
This mistake has huge implications for businesses as the human capital is a crucial factor for businesses. This is because employing the wrong personnel does not just cost the business time and money, it can make it fail.
Stressing the importance of the right personnel to an organisation, the President and Chairman of Council, Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria, Mr. Victor Famuyibo, recently said, “When you look at the typical organisation, regardless of whether it is in the private or public sector, you can make the best investment for them in equipment – hoping to deliver on productivity, you can invest in the best IT solutions for you finance and logistic departments; you can have all of these under one roof, but if you don’t have the right people – if your selection, the reward or motivation of people has not been properly put in place – all your efforts will be wasted.”
It is for this reason that business development managers as well as human resource experts urge businesses to do all they can to ensure that they employ the right people.
To do that, the following tips will be helpful.
Know what you need
According to experts, one of the problems small businesses have is that they do not know exactly what they need. Some may create vacancy for an office assistant only to employ one and realise that they would have been better off getting a driver. To worsen the situation, some would covert the office assistant into a driver. With jobs being hard to come by, some people in such situations have grudgingly accepted such changes, knowing they are not qualified. Several of such people, do not only fail on the job they cause a lot of problems for their employers. For instance, many companies have found themselves in trouble because vehicles belonging to them have been involved in fatal accidents.
This is why you should ensure that in declaring a vacancy, you know exactly what you need and that there is a clear job specification. Once that is done, you will be able to determine the skills needed for the job and what you expect of whoever is employed to get it done.
Embrace research
Before you employ someone, experts say there is the need for you to carry out some form of investigation about the potential employee. Beside the information in the resume submitted, there is the need for you to run some background check on the person. In doing this, it is important for you to get in touch with referees provided. Many employers do not bother about this and it sometimes leaves them with little information about their employees. When there is trouble, they have nobody to reach out to for help.
It is not enough to have each employee provide you with the names and contact information of three referees, it is important that you get them to attest to the character and capability of the person in question. According to experts, where referees are evasive in filling out reference forms, it could be a warning sign. Through your investigation, you will be able to determine if the potential employee would fit in your organization.
Do not take interviews for granted
More entrepreneurs are getting to realise that great certificates or degrees, do not automatically mean an individual can get the job done. As a result of this, the interview process is assuming a more important role in the recruitment process. Experts say it is not wise for you to decide to employ someone because he or she performed excellently in a written test, thereby making the interview a formality.
The interview should be taken seriously and used to make sure that the candidate is really suited for the job. This means you need a clear process for the interview. You also need to have specific attributes you will be on the lookout for. Ask questions about their experiences – successes and failures – and key lessons they have learned over the years. The interview is a great opportunity for you to have a glimpse into the character and values of the person you are about to hire and you should seize it.
Don’t wait for applications
When there is an opening in your company, instead just putting a notice on a board, sending bulk SMS, or places an advert online or in a newspaper and then waiting for people to apply, experts say you may be better off scouting for the suitable candidate. In the past, and even, now companies were known to reach out to higher institutions in their quest to fill positions meant for fresh graduates. They can get the best students or interested ones from these institutions and then train them for the task ahead.
 With declining educational standards and millions of unemployed people out there businesses are not too keen on this approach. They prefer to higher people that will fit in seamlessly.
Scouting for such employees can be done using the social media as well.
Experts say with many people posting details about their private and professional life on these platforms, employers can easily scout candidates to fill positions where there are vacancies at minimal cost. This is because rather than go through the traditional recruitment process, they can just ‘sieve’ through profiles and reach out to the right people on the Internet.
On sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook, thousands of people are advertising their talent and qualification and small businesses, which may not have the financial might to engage a recruitment agency to fill vacancies, can take advantage of this.
These are not all you need to take into consideration when recruiting but they sure would help, according to experts. The most important thing you have to bear in mind is that if you employ the wrong people, you risk losing your business. So, take your time and get it right.
Culled from Punch