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    Optimal Performance Blog

    The placebo effect - the power of expectations

    July 04, 2016

    A placebo is a fake treatment, a medical intervention that does not contain any physically or pharmacologically active substances with a direct ability to induce therapeutic effects. Yet, its effect is real. When you’re told that something is going to produce a specific effect on you, even though it does not really have the ability to do so, it is highly likely that you will feel it. And that is the reason why clinical trials use placebos as a control to accurately determine the efficacy of a drug.

    Although the placebo effect has been acknowledged since the 18th century, only recently has there been an interest in understanding how it works. The placebo effect is currently regarded as a set of complex psychological and neurobiological mechanisms built up from verbally induced expectations, from learning and conditioning processes, from social context, from previous experiences, and modulated by emotions, motivation and attitude.

    Vegan and Vegetarian Dieters: Are they missing out on meat?

    June 29, 2016

    With more people around the world turning to vegetarian and vegan diets, it’s important to understand both the health risks and benefits of following these diets (12). We appreciate the ethics. However, abstaining from meat and to a lesser extent, dairy, is a cause for concern because people may not be replacing vitamins and minerals that animal foods provide. Modern society have embraced animals as our primary source of vitamin D, vitamin B12, omega-3 essential fatty acids, protein and bioavailable iron, Research suggests vegans and vegetarians are at an increased risk for these deficiencies (1). Let’s take a look at each of these in detail to see if there’s a real risk and more importantly, solutions:

     

    Vitamin D

    Vitamin D is important for immune function, muscle contractions, and bone health. Vitamin D is primarily found in fish oil with smaller amounts in egg yolk, beef liver and cheese (3). We also synthesise vitamin D from sun exposure, but this depends on the amount of skin exposed, the time of day, where you are living and skin tone. For example, it only takes 15 minutes of sun exposure for very fair to medium fair skin tones to get their recommended daily dose of vitamin D, whereas medium to dark skin tones may need up to 2 hours of sun exposure (14).

    Many of us cannot achieve this daily recommendation from the sun alone and must consume dietary sources of vitamin D or supplements (2). Vegans are at a greater risk for deficiency and should try to consume mushrooms treated with ultraviolet light and fortified juice, almond, and rice milk (15). Vitamin D supplements come in D2 or D3 forms. D3 supplements are off limits for vegans because they are made from fish oil or from lanolin, which is made from sheep’s wool. D2 supplements are made from yeast or plants, and is the form found in most vegan and vegetarian supplements. However, research suggests D3 supplements may be more efficacious than D2 for increasing vitamin D levels (17). Luckily, scientists found a way to make a vitamin D3 supplement from a plant source called lichen, which is now available for purchase (16).

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