Monday, July 28, 2014

Foods for better brain health

The brain is the most delicate and complex organ of the human body. Human brain is unique, electrochemical supercomputer which is far greater in complexity, speed and sophistication.   Isaac Asimov quoted, “The human brain then is the most complicated organization of matter that we know”. According to a saying, the brain is wider than the sky and deeper than the sea. The brain is the command and control centre of human body.  The brain is the seat of intelligence, emotion and memory.  The brain is the organ of one’s personality, character and intelligence. The brain receives, registers and processes information.   The brain initiates movements and behaviours. Neurons are the basic building blocks of the brain. The human brain contains more than one hundred billion neurons (nerve cells).  Each of the neuron has about 60,000 to 100,000 synaptic connections and has a total number of synaptic connections of about 1027 . The human brain is connected to 30,000 miles (50,000 kms) of nerves.  The neurons are arranged end to end and the neurotransmitters transfer signals across the gaps (synapses) of 0.02 to 0.05 microns. The brain is a dense web of interconnecting synapses. Neurons communicate using electrical impulses. The neurons actually make up less than a tenth of the cells in the brain. The other 90-98% by number is glial cells, which are involved in development and maintenance. The human being has the highest ratio of weight of the brain to the total body weight.  The human brain weighs about 1.5 kgs, about 2 percent of body weight. The brain requires 15 percent of the blood, 40- 50 percent of the oxygen supply and 25 percent of the calories we consume. A 15 sec blockage of blood to the brain will result in unconsciousness. The brain cells are sensitive to oxygen availability. The brain needs a well-balanced, low-cholesterol and low- saturated (animal – fat) diet.

Brain chemicals

Neurotransmitters are the chemicals in our brains that regulate our feelings and emotions. Different neurotransmitters perform different functions in the body. There are 183 currently known transmitters.The neurotransmitters are primarily synthesized in nerve terminals. The master neurotransmitters are serotonin and the catecholamine group which consists of dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine. Neurotransmitters are made from amino acids. For example epinephrine and dopamine are made from phenyl alanine. Serotonin is made from tryptophan. Amino acids are generally abundant in high protein foods such as dairy products, eggs, legumes, fish, meats, nut, poultry and soybeans. Amino acid therapy is the use of supplemental amino acids to help balance body’s normal supply of amino acids and should be undertaken under the supervision of a doctor.
Acetyl choline is a neurotransmitter that is believed to play a crucial role in memory. Gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) (natural tranquilizers) inhibits message transmission and helps to control brain overload. Serotonin is a neurohormone that acts on the overall operations of the brain. It is our natural anti-depressant and sleep promoter. It helps to control the general states of alertness. Catecholamines are our natural energisers and mental focusers.  Dopamine is a neurohormone that helps to control physical movement.  Endorphins are neurohormones (feel – good chemicals) that serve as a source of pleasure and reward as well as a means of reducing one’s awareness of pain and irritation.

Brain cell death

A process called oxidation destroys brain cells and creates free radicals as a by-product. Free radicals are killer molecules that kill cells including neurons and destroy neurotransmitters – which are the chemicals that transmit electrical messages from one brain cell to another.

Brain glucose

 The human brain is metabolically most active organ of the body.  It uses about 20-30% of a person’s energy intake at rest. Glucose is the brain’s sole source of energy.   The tight regulation of glucose metabolism is critical for brain physiology. The brain functions such as thinking, learning and memory are closely dependent on glucose levels and how effectively the brain utilizes glucose. If glucose becomes inadequate, neurotransmitters are not synthesized and communication between neurons breaks down.

Brain water

Human brain is very soft and composed of 80% water, which means that the most important requirement of good brain health is hydration. Dehydration causes shrinkage of brain tissue and expansion of fluid filled cavities in the middle brain. Dehydration can impair short term memory, visuomotor functioning and psychomotor functioning.  Extreme dehydration can results in delirium which causes confusion, inability to speak or think coherently, disorientation and hallucination. Dehydration is a major contributor to increased production of free radicals and premature aging.

Brain fats

The brain is composed of about 60% fat and brain cells is about 70% fat. The fats we eat directly affect the structure and substance of the brain cell membranes. About 20 % of the fat in our brain is made from essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.  The balance between omega-3 and omega – 6 fatty acids seems to be critical for the brain’s structure and function. Human brain has special requirement for fatty acids. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) accounts for up to 20% of total fatty acids in the grey matter and is the most abundant PUFA in the brain. DHA insufficiency affects membrane fluidity, serotonin transport, gene transcription, and inflammation and energy metabolism in the brain.  DHA exerts a neuroprotective action by preventing oxidative damage and inflammation.
Many nerve fibres are surrounded by myelin sheath, which speeds up the transmission of nerve impulses. Myelin is made up of various fats, fatty acids, phospholipids, cholesterol and protein. In fact 75% of myelin comes from fat. Choline enhances memory and promotes clear thinking.

Brain vitamins and minerals

The brain needs vitamins and minerals. B-vitamins help to maintain and build healthy brain cells. Vitamins B1, B6 and B12   play a valuable role for good brain health. Vitamin B1 (thiamine) helps in the conduction of electrical impulses within the brain.B6 (pyridoxine) is needed for the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which improves mood and B 12 (cobalamin) which is a constituent of the myelin sheath. Mineral ions such as sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium must maintain in critical balance.

Brain healthy foods

Physical exercise is most important food for the brain. Foods that have over 90% water content like grape fruit and water melon contain essential nutrients and electrolytes required to maintain proper hydration and optimal brain function.  Drinking beverages like coconut water and fruit juices effectively maintains optimal hydration and electrolyte balance.
Since glucose is the fuel for the brain, the blood glucose level has to be properly maintained. Complex carbohydrates are the best brain foods. Complex carbohydrates like whole grains, vegetables, beans or lentils – take longer to digest and slowly release potential energy.  Refined starch (white breads, white rice and pasta) impairs mental function.
Human brain needs oils and fats to function. Two essential fats especially critical to the brain are the omega – 3 and omega – 6 fatty acids. Foods high in omega- 3 fatty acids are important to maintaining brain health. Certain fish including salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, tuna, anchovies, white fish and sable fish are good sources of omega – 3 fatty acids. Bad fats (saturated fats) inflame the brain. Trans fat is labelled as potentially the risk for Alzheimer’s disease by almost 50%.
Vitamins B 1 can be obtained from whole grains, nuts, meat and eggs. Vitamin B6 can be obtained from eating fish, poultry, eggs, whole grains and nuts. Vitamin B 12 can be obtained from meat, fish, dairy products, eggs and yeast extract.
Foods rich in vitamin C, Vitamin E and beta- carotene appear to reduce cell damage including brain cells. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and straw berries. Vitamin E is found in vegetable oils (corn, canola, sun flower, soybean and olive oils), nuts and leafy greens. Beta – carotene is found in sweet potatoes, carrots, kale and spinach. Folic acid is an essential ‘brain food’, which is critical for normal nerve function. Folate works with approximately 20 different enzymes to build DNA. Folic acid is found in leafy green vegetables, bananas, orange, and straw berries.
Iron – rich foods improve mental alertness and energy levels. Lean sources of red meat, poultry, spinach, beans, dried fruits and whole grains are excellent sources of iron. Selenium is linked to balance of moods, which is available in whole grains, rice, meat and sea weeds.

Essentials of brain health

1. Be physically active
2. Eat a healthy and balanced diet
3. Avoid saturated fats and caffeine
4. Listen to your body
5. Keep your mind active
6. Maintain good heart health and healthy body weight
7. Protect your head from injuries.
8. Calorie restriction can enhance learning and memory.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Leadership lessons from Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was the sixteenth president of the United States. He was born on the 12th of February 1809 in rural Kentucky (USA). He served as president from 1861 to 1865, during the American Civil War. During the Civil War, Lincoln was determined to maintain the "Union” of American States at any cost.  He fought the war bravely and declared, “A nation cannot exist half free and half slave.” He won the war and kept his country united. Almost all historians judge Lincoln as the greatest president of American history because of the way he exercised leadership during the war. Lincoln had very little formal education, but had a strong passion for books and self-learning. His primary means of education was schooling at home using borrowed books and the Bible. As a legislator, he had a reputation of eloquent opponent of slavery. Lincoln married Mary Todd in 1842 and they had four children.  He was elected as a president of the United States in 1860, re-elected in 1864 and served from March 4, 1861 until his death. As president, he built the Republican Party into a strong national organization. He is remembered for his character, his speeches and letters and as a man of humble origin whose determination and perseverance earned him the nation’s highest office. Lincoln is often admired for his Gettysburg address, which is considered one of the greatest speeches in American history. He is a symbol of racial equality. Lincoln was assassinated on the 15th April 1865. His life reveals not only dreams and desires but also his habits of strong direction, dedication and determination.

Leadership lessons

Focused ambition 
Lincoln had a desire to become a great orator. With this aim, he approached his teacher, Mater Graham. The teacher advised him to learn grammar. Lincoln borrowed a grammar book and memorized grammar day and night. Lincoln mastered grammar and attained his goal of becoming a best speaker of his time.
Lincoln kept his ambition focused on serving the people and winning their esteem. “Don’t worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition. “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.” ” (quoted by Lincoln).
Character as destiny 
 Lincoln possessed a well developed conscience and courage. He was morally superior. He said, “Character is like a tree and reputation its shadow. The shadow is what we think it is and the tree is the real thing.” Lincoln was fair, trustworthy, sincere, straight forward with sound moral principle. He even had the nickname “Honest Abe.” He also told, “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true.”
Courage and commitment 
 Lincoln possessed supreme will power: strength of mind. He is remembered for his courage and leadership, his peacefulness and compassion, his patriotism and devotion to his country. Lincoln said, “It requires more courage to dare to do right than to fear to do wrong.” He also said, “Live a good life. In the end it is not the years in a life, but the life in the years.”
Firm believer of hard  work 
 He acknowledged the power of hard work to achieve success.  He said, “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” Another occasion he said, “I am always for the man who wishes to work.”
Habit of persistence 
Lincoln is a great example of persistence. Persistence means never giving up and  to do requires self-discipline. He was defeated for the legislature and lost his job in 1832. He failed in his own business in 1833.In 1836, he had nervous breakdown. He bought for senate in 1854 and defeated miserably. In 1860, he was elected president of the United States. "Some day I shall be president" - Lincoln.
Political skills
Lincoln was a skilled politician. He was admired for his warm storytelling and jokes. He was a man of principle and ideas. Though he lacked a formal education but he was a voracious reader and note worthy biographer. Lincoln was naturally prudent and cautious but he took bigger political risks. He said, “Be with a leader when he is right, stay with him when he is still right, leave him when he is wrong.”
Delegation of responsibility and authority 
Lincoln delegated responsibility and authority. Lincoln knew the value of making requests and persuaded his subordinates to compromise on political/ administrative issues.  He said, “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them to real facts.” On empowerment, Lincoln said, “You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man’s initiative and independence.”
Power of democracy
Lincoln understood the power of democracy to govern people of any country. Lincoln described government as one of the people (instituted by content), by the people (operate as democracy) and for the people (protecting their natural rights). He also said, “The people will save their government, if the government itself will allow them.” He quoted, “ Public opinion in this country is everything.”

Quotes of Abraham Lincoln for reflection 

"I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice."

"A house divided against itself cannot stand."

"Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm."

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Health benefits of dietary fibres

Dietary fibre is considered to be an important ingredient of a healthy diet. The term “dietary fibre” was coined by Hipsley (1953) to denote indigestible plant cell wall material (CWM). In the olden days dietary fibre (DF) is referred to as roughage or bulk.  It is resistant to digestion and absorption in the human small intestine. It undergoes complete or partial fermentation in the large intestine. Fibre is thought to exert significant effect on faecal volume, laxation, intestinal transit time, flatus production, bacterial metabolism and output of short chain (or volatile) fatty acids(VFA). Fibres help us clean our digestive tracts("Your Body's Broom").  Plant cell walls are the major source of dietary fiber. The major fibres of foods are cellulose, hemicelluloses, β- glucans and pectins. Gums and lignin  are minor fibres of foods.  The recommended dietary allowance for fibre is 25 grams.


“Dietary fibre is the edible parts of plants or analogous carbohydrates that are resistant to digestion and absorption in the human small intestine with complete or partial fermentation in the large intestine. Dietary fibre includes polysaccharides, oligosaccharides, lignin and associated substances (Anon 2001, adopted by American Association of Cereal Chemists, AACC).

The dietary fibre hypothesis

Dietary fibre hypothesis was based upon the pioneering observations of physicians and epidemiologists (Burkitt  and Trowell 1975, Burkitt 1983).It is postulated that a high intake of fibre – containing foods is directly related to or is associated with a low incidence of many disorders and diseases common with a western lifestyle (e.g., chronic bowel diseases, diabetes, coronary heart disease, obesity and colon cancer). Dietary fibre intake is inversely associated with the risk of both cancer and adenomas.

Analytical fibre fractions

Total fibre – it is the aggregate amount of fibre in a food product. In other words total fibre is the sum of dietary fibre and functional fibre.
Functional fibre – it consists of isolated or purified nondigestible carbohydrates that have beneficial physiological effects in humans. It is also referred to as “isolated” or “novel” fibre. Cellulose, chitin, beta glucans, gums, inulin, oligofructose, fructoligosaccharides, lignin, pectins, psyllium, and resistant starches are forms of functional fiber when added to foods. 
Crude fibre (CF) - It is the residue of plant food left after extraction with solvent, dilute acid and dilute alkali (Williams and Olmstead, 1935). Crude fibre is only 1/7 to ½ of total dietary fibre.
Total dietary fibre (TDF) - refers to total amount of nondigestible (unavailable) material naturally occurring in foods and mainly of plant origin and it includes fiber from foods such as whole legumes, vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts, undigested products, and undigested biosynthetic polysaccharides, whereas crude fiber is the material that in chemical analysis remains after vigorous treatment with acids and alkalies (Mehta and Kaur 1992).

Kinds of dietary fibres

Dietary fibres are usually classified as soluble or insoluble based on their solubility. Plant foods contain both types of fibres in varying amounts, according to the plant’s characteristics.
Soluble fibre (SF) –It partially dissolves in water to form gel like texture. It helps to slow down digestion. It can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Soluble fibres are found in oats, rye, barley, legumes (peas, soybeans, and beans), fruits (berries, plums, avocados, bananas) vegetables (broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, onions) and nuts (almonds).
Insoluble fibre (IF) – It does not dissolve in water and passes through the gastrointestinal tract without being changed. It has positive water-attracting properties that help to increase bulk, soften stools and shorten stool transit time.  Whole – wheat flour, wheat bran, corn bran,  nuts, seeds,  beans and vegetables such as cauliflower, green beans and potatoes are good sources of insoluble fibre. Insoluble fibres are gut –healthy fibres which are metabolically ferment in the large intestine (“the colon’s portion”) and can be prebiotic.

Chemical composition of dietary fibre

Dietary fibre is made up of 3 components.  The largest component consists of polysaccharides or plant fibres such as bran, pectins from fruits and vegetables, various gums and beta-glucans  from oats and rye. The second – largest component is lignin, which is made up of polyphenylpropane molecules and found in stalks and stems of plant products. The third component includes resistant starches and nondigestible oligosaccharides. The heterogeneity of dietary fibre is the primary reason for the diversity of its physiological effects.
The non-digestible fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) fibres help keep the digestive tract healthy by nourishing and promoting friendly bacteria (Bifidobacteria, Lactobacilli).  These microbes use some of the "prebiotic fibres,” in the food as fuel for their own growth, and through their own metabolism produce molecules called short-chain fatty acids (SCFA). SCFA production by these microbes has been associated with a decrease in cancerous colonic cells, reduction of serum cholesterol, and maintenance of healthy blood sugar levels and healthy intestinal tract cell walls. Natural food sources of FOS include onions, garlic and asparagus. FOS helps to heal irritable bowel syndrome by exerting a regulatory action on bowel movement.

Recommended dietary intake

The American Dietetic Association (ADA) recommends an intake of 20 to 30 g fibre/day for adults. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends an upper limit of 40 grams of dietary fibres a day. Experts hypothesize that primitive diets contained between 80 and 250 grams of dietary fibre/ day (Sobolik 1994, Dreher 2001), whereas the mean dietary fibre intakes of the present are only 13 – 18 g/day (Institute of Medicine, 2002). The average daily intake of fibre in the United States is about 12g/day. The average daily intake of dietary fibre in the United Kingdom is around 12g/day in both men and women. In the developing tropical countries, the dietary fibre intake of people eating rice as a staple food (India, China, South America) are similar to Western intakes. Dietary fibre intake in the Asia – Pacific region and in most industrialized nations in Europe are also far below the recommended levels (Galvin et al 2001). The adequate intake (AI) of total dietary fibre for children, adolescents and adults was set to 14 g dietary fibre / 1000 kcal by the Institute of medicine, National Academy of Sciences, USA. The National Cancer Institute recommends an intake of 20 – 30 g fibre/day because it helps to reduce the risk certain types of cancer.

Food sources of dietary fibre

All plant – based foods contain mixtures of soluble and insoluble fibre.  Legumes, whole grains and nuts are generally more concentrated sources of fibre that fruits and vegetables. Eating fresh fruit is better than fruit juice because most of the fibre in fruit is damaged when it is squeezed to make juice. It is better to get fibre from natural foods rather than from fibre tablets, power or other supplements. There is no fibre in fish, meat, shrimps, eggs and milk.
Foods high in soluble fibres
Oats, barley, oat bran, psyllium husk; Legumes –peas, beans lentils; fruits-apple, orange, passion fruit, pear; carrots, broccoli.
Foods with insoluble fibres
Brown rice, rice bran, whole wheat, wheat bran; seeds and nuts; green leafy vegetables, cabbage, tomato; fruits – cherries, grapes, melons, prunes, berries.

Health benefits

Dietary fibre intake provides many health benefits. Because dietary fibre retains its ‘bulk’ as it moves through the digestive system, it creates a sense of fullness and satiety.   The promotion of satiation, lower calorie intake, and more feelings of fullness play a positive role in preventing obesity. Dietary fibres even control the rate of digestion. Dietary fibre decreases the absorption of macronutrients and minerals.
Being indigestible and hydrophilic, dietary fibres add to the bulk of stool and soften it. It improves large bowel function and elimination (“Nature’s laxative).   High fibre intakes promote bowel health by preventing constipation and diverticular disease.  Dietary fibres positively modulate the colonic microflora and increase colonic fermentation.  The production of volatile short chain fatty acids is used by the microflora to derive energy or for inhibiting pathogens. Viscous fibres such as those found in oats and legumes can lower serum LDL cholesterol levels and normalize blood glucose and insulin responses.
Dietary fibres bind to bile salts and they are valuable in the treatment of recurrent gall stones. The binding of dietary fibres with bile acids is integral to cholesterol homeostasis and fat absorption. Dietary fibre tends to absorb the intestinal toxins or carcinogens that build up in the large intestine and carries them out of the body.
High fibre intake is recommended (20-30g/day) in irritable bowel syndrome, haemorrhoids, diabetes mellitus and hypercholesterolemia. High fibre intake has a 40% lower risk of heart disease. Some researchers found that increasing fibre intake decreases the body’s need for insulin.

Some disadvantages of high fibre intake

Some people experience abdominal cramping, bloating or gas, when they suddenly increase their dietary fibre intake.  Too much of fibre intake may lead to malnutrition and decreased absorption of minerals. Another  disadvantage of foods rich in fibres is that they contain a large amount of phytic acid. Phytic acid hinders the absorption of calcium, zinc and iron.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The art of mindful eating

Eating is an activity that plays a central role in our lives. We eat food for getting energy and the building blocks of various body chemicals. Mindful or conscious eating involves setting an intention before we eat, becoming aware of the process of choosing what to eat and eating consciously with a full attention. Mindful eating helps to reduce cravings, controls portion sizes, enhances the eating experience, and improves digestion and overall health. Mindful eating fosters concentration and helps break emotional eating habits. “The quality of one’s life depends on the quality of attention” writes Deepak Chopra in Ageless Body, Timeless Mind.

Meaning of mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention (or attention training or attention regulation). Mindfulness is practiced by paying attention on purpose non-judgementally and with a welcoming and allowing attitude. It means turning toward present- moment experience based on three human qualities: patience (Invitation to wait for a mindful response), openness (opening one’s senses to the flow of experience) and compassion (feelings of empathy).Mindfulness is not always easy to achieve or to sustain. Practicing mindfulness requires effort and patience. Mindfulness is an opportunity for anyone to discover the inner space, stillness and simplicity that are our natural heritage as human beings.

Steps in eating with awareness

1. Start small- choose one meal each day and try to focus on mindful eating of the meal.
2. Do nothing else while eating –avoid any distractions and pay attention to the meal.
3. Observe the food – notice its shape, colour and texture and appreciate its appearance.
4. Honour the food – express gratitude to be worthy to receive the food.
5. Focus on each mouthful – think about the flavour, texture and even sound of food in your mouth.
6. Chew the food – chew your food slowly and thoroughly.
7. Taste the food – notice the sensations of sweet, salty, sour or bitter.
8. Swallow your food – sense your body being nourished by the food.
9. Engage all six senses during eating – feel its aroma, shape, colour, texture and taste.

Benefits of mindful eating

1. Reduces overeating
2. Increases enjoyment of food
3. Improves digestion.
4. Being satisfied with small portions.

Types of foods

Calorie – dense foods – these foods are rich in calories and deprived of valuable nutrients. It is best to minimize your daily consumption. Examples include fried foods (French fries, potato chips), foods high in fats (red meats, cheeses) and foods high in refined sugars ( candy, white breads, refined pastas).
Nutrient – dense foods – these foods are packed with rich nutrients and decrease the feeling of hunger. Fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains are excellent examples of nutrient - dense foods. These foods are loaded with dietary fibers.
Empty – calorie foods – empty calories are the calories from solid fats and added sugars in foods and beverages. These foods add to total calories but provide no vitamins and minerals e.g., soft drinks, candies, cookies, fatty meats and stick margarine. Reduce the intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars.

Fiber – rich foods – dietary fiber is a vital component of a healthy diet. Fibre is a diverse group of compounds including lignin and complex carbohydrates that cannot  be digested by human enzymes in the small intestine. Fibre tends to absorb toxins that build up in the large intestine and carries them out of the body. The American Dietetic Association (ADA) recommends an intake of 20 to 30 grams fibre/ day for adults from a variety of food  sources. All plant – based foods contain mixtures of soluble and insoluble fibre. Legumes, whole grains and nuts are generally more concentrated sources of fibre than fruits and vegetables. High – fibre intakes promote bowel health by preventing constipation and diverticular disease.

The 2000 dietary guidelines  with “A-B-C” or

 “aim-build-choose sensibly” steps:

Step A : 1. Aim for a healthy weight; 2. Be physically active each day.
Step B : “Build a healthy base” with the following:
1.       Let the food pyramid guide your food choices.
2.       Choose a variety of grains daily especially whole grains.
3.       Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables daily.
4.       Keep food safe to eat.
Step C : “Choose sensibly” through the following:
1.       Choose a diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol and moderate in total fat.
2.       Choose beverages and foods that limit your intake of sugars.
3.       Choose and  prepare foods with less salt.

4.       If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.

Quote for personal reflection

Mindful eating...

"Mindful eating is not a diet. There are no menus or recipes.
 It is being more aware of your eating habits,
 the sensations you experience when you eat and
 the thoughts and emotions that you have about food.
 It is more about how you eat than
 what you eat."      - Susan Albers.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Health benefits of functional foods

Food is made up of chemical compounds called nutrients. The six basic nutrients include proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and water. Different foods contain different amounts of nutrients. Most foods contain all three energy providers (carbohydrates, fats and proteins) as well as vitamins, minerals (body regulators), water and other substances. The amount of energy a food provides depends on how much carbohydrate, fat and protein it contains. Food and nutrition play a great role in maintaining and improving overall health. Healthy and balanced nutrition develop our immune system to prevent illnesses as well as contributes to the health of all parts of our body. The benefits of good nutrition can be found in our physical and mental health because a healthy diet provides adequate energy, promotes good sleep and prevents illness. All food is essentially functional as it provides energy and nutrients (nutritional function).Different foods have different tastes (sensory function). However functional foods (healthy foods) perform specific ‘physiological function.’

What are functional foods?

Functional food is any fresh or processed food claimed to have a health – promoting or disease preventing property beyond the basic function of supplying nutrients. Functional food is defined as “any modified food or food ingredient that may provide a health benefit beyond the traditional nutrient it contains" (American Dietetic Association 1995). Functional foods provide essential nutrients necessary for normal maintenance, growth and development and/or provide other biologically active components that impart health benefits or desirable physiological effects.Fruits and vegetables contain many different phytochemicals which reduce risk for cancer and heart disease. Polyphenolic compounds in purple grape juice support normal, healthy cardiovascular function. Sulforaphane in broccoli reduces cancer risk. Tomato is rich in lycophene, a compound that may reduce prostate cancer risk. Soy protein reduces cholesterol levels. Omega-3 fatty acids in fish or flaxseed reduce risk of heart disease and strengthen bone joints. Garlic has sulfur compounds that reduce risk for cancer and heart disease. Oats and oat-containing foods, with soluble fiber beta glucan, reduce cholesterol level. Yogurt and fermented dairy products contain probiotics which may improve gastrointestinal health. Catechins in black and green tea reduce risk of cancer.

Kinds of functional foods

Functional foods can be whole or fortified foods, enriched, or enhanced foods or dietary components that may reduce the risk of chronic disease and provide a health and physiological benefit beyond the traditional nutrients it contains.
Conventional foods are the most basic of the functional foods because they haven't been modified by enrichment or fortification; they're still in their natural state. Most whole fruits and vegetables fall into this category because they're rich in phytochemicals such as lycophene and lutein as well as other beneficial compounds. E.g., "Diets rich in whole grain foods and other plant foods and low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers.”

Modified foods have been enriched, fortified or enhanced with nutrients or other beneficial ingredients. Calcium fortified orange juice, folic acid enriched breads and margarine enhanced with plant sterols are functional foods that have been modified. Energy drinks that have been enhanced with herbs such as ginseng and guarana, as well as other potentially controversial foods, also fall into this category.

Fortified foods are foods that have nutrients added to them to boost the levels that are naturally present or to restore nutrients lost during processing e.g., white bread enriched with vitamins and minerals. Super fortified foods include orange juice with Echinacea or salad dressing with PUFAs. A food that is rich in a particular nutrient or some bioactive substance is called super foods.

Dietary supplements are defined as any product (other than tobacco) that is intended to supplement the diet and contains one or more of the following: a vitamin, mineral, herb or other botanical; an amino acid or metabolite; an extract; or any combination of the previously mentioned items. It is not represented as a conventional food or as sole item of meal/diet; and labeled as a dietary supplement. E.g., Calcium, vitamin D, and osteoporosis: Adequate calcium throughout life, as part of a well-balanced diet, may reduce the risk of osteoporosis e.g., sodium and hypertension: Diets low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure, a disease associated with many factors.


A nutraceutical is a bioactive material isolated or purified from foods that is generally sold in medicinal forms not usually associated with foods. Stephen DeFelice, founder of the Foundation for Innovation in Medicine coined the term “nutraceutical” in 1979. Nutraceuticals are naturally – derived, bioactive (usually phytochemical) compounds that have health promoting, disease preventing or medicinal properties (Lachance and Saba2002).A nutraceutical is claimed to have a physiological benefit or provide protection against chronic disease. Thus, nutraceuticals are more correctly defined as parts of a food or a whole food that have a medical or health benefit, including the prevention and treatment of disease. The difference between a nutraceutical and functional food is that nutraceutical refers to nearly any bioactive component that delivers a health benefit, commonly in supplemental form and functional foods are only in food form e.g., linumlife is a lignan extract of flax which may protects prostate health. Fenulife is another product of fenugreek galactomannon that controls blood sugar. Marinol with mega 3 –fattyacid, DHA and EPA may protect heart health. Nutraceuticals can be prepared by manipulating the diet to get maximum level of active components or by combining food ingredients rich in nutraceuticals or by fortifying food with active ingredients or by fermentation of food products. Concentration, time and duration of supply of nutraceuticals influence human health. By manipulating the foods, the concentration of active ingredients can be increased. Diet rich in nutraceuticals along with regular exercise, stress reduction and maintenance of healthy body weight will maximize health and reduce disease risk.
Medical foods
Generally medical foods and dietary supplements are not considered functional foods. Medical foods refer to a food formulated to be consumed or administered internally while under the supervision of a physician. Medical foods are not regular foods. They’re orally administered dietary products formulated for the management of diseases for which specific nutritional requirements have been established. Medical foods may be used to treat diabetes, obesity or heart disease. Some medical foods were designed for the unique nutritional needs of patients with inherited metabolic disorders. Medical foods are specially formulated and processed for partial or exclusive feeding of a patient orally or by enteral tube. It can be used for patients with limited/impaired capacity to ingest, digest, etc. Medical foods used for managing metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease are designed to improve lipid profiles and blood sugar levels, combat insulin resistance, and support favourable changes in body composition (i.e., increased lean body mass). These products generally have a low glycaemic index and often contain folic acid, vitamin B6, and soy fibre, nutrients that help normalize serum homocysteine levels, a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease. In addition to these nutrients, medical foods promoting cardio-metabolic health may contain formulated blends of plant sterols, dietary fibre, herbal extracts, and soy protein. Axona® (caprylic triglyceride) is marketed as for dietary management of Alzheimer disease. Limbrel® (flavocoxid™) is marketed for osteoarthritis.

  Natural functional foods

Fiber is a functional food because it may reduce the risk of chronic disease and provide a health and physiological benefit beyond the traditional nutrients it contains. There are three physiological effects of dietary fiber that currently have sufficient scientific evidence to be recognized as characteristics of dietary fiber—a positive effect on laxation, attenuation of blood cholesterol levels, and/or attenuation of blood glucose levels; increasing the water-binding capacity of the feces, and softening stools. Dietary Fiber consists of non-digestible carbohydrates and lignin that are intrinsic and intact in plants. The fiber in oat meal can help reduce the risk of heart diseases.

Blueberries are often referred to as a natural functional food/super-food. Blueberries contain anthocyanins (flavonoids), the antioxidant pigments and various phytochemicals possibly having a role in reducing risks of some diseases, including inflammation and certain cancers. Researchers have shown that blueberry anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, resveratrol, flavonols, and tannins inhibit mechanisms of cancer cell development.

Herbal tea extracts is regarded as functional dietary food supplements due to their significant content of total polyphenols. These bioactive substances have significant radical scavenging capacity. Consumption of a diet rich in polyphenols has been linked with a reduced risk for cardiovascular diseases and certain types of cancer. These dietary natural antioxidants strengthen the endogenous antioxidant system by reducing oxidative stress and the risk of toxic diseases.

Soybean is in use for more than 5000 years in China and South East Asia as food. "Soybean is a treasure box of functionality." Dry soybean contain 36% protein, 19% oil, 35% carbohydrate (17% of which dietary fibre), 5% minerals and several other components including vitamins. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved in 1999 a health claim for use on food labels which stated that daily diet containing 25 g/day of soy protein, which is also low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease. Modest reductions in serum LDL cholesterol levels have been achieved with soy intake, especially for subjects with hypercholesterolemia. The major effects of soybean soluble fibres on serum lipoproteins appear to be related with bile acid binding and with a decrease in the reabsorption of bile acid. Soybean contains several components with anticancer activity, such as, isoflavones, protease inhibitors, phytosterols, saponins, phenolic acids, and phytates.

Honey contains about 0.5% proteins, mainly enzymes and amino acids (General Tonic). Fructose is the main sugar in most honeys. Three main honey enzymes are diastase (amylase), decomposing starch or glycogen into smaller sugar units, invertase (sucrase, glucosidase), decomposing sucrose into fructose and glucose, as well as glucose oxidase, producing hydrogen peroxide and gluconic acid from glucose. Honey contains a number of trace elements(chrome, manganese and selenium, sulphur, boron, cobalt, fluorine, iodine, molybdenum and silicon).Long term ingestion of honey (sweet medicine)can improve gut and gastroenterological health, improve the immunological reaction towards infections and cardiovascular health.

Fish oil is one of the most popular functional ingredients containing high omega 3 fatty acid and are used widely for various purposes such as cardiovascular health, vision acuity, anti-inflammation, mother and child health. Fish oils are used for their anti-inflammatory and hypolepidemic (lowers blood triglyceride levels) effects. Essential Fatty acids, particularly DHA and EPA, are 10 to 100 times more concentrated in fats from marine sources such as fish than from terrestrial sources. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently allow omega-3 fatty acid supplements to bear the following qualified health claim: “Consumption of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease." Scientists recommend a daily intake of 2.0-4.0 gram fish oil containing about 25% Omega-3 or 30-60 gram of oily fish per day. Omega-3 fatty acids have shown benefits in rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythrematosus, Crohn disease, ulcerative colitis and immunoglobulin A nephropathy. There is also increasing evidence that diets high in fish may protect against the development of Alzheimer disease and prostate cancer.


Functional foods/foods for health are an important part of an overall healthful lifestyle that includes a balanced diet and physical activity. Health claims confirm a relationship between components in the diet and reduced risk of disease or health condition, as approved by FDA and supported by significant scientific agreement. The functional foods are thought to provide benefits beyond basic nutrition and may play a role in reducing or minimizing the risk of certain diseases and other health conditions. Examples of these foods include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fortified foods and beverages and some dietary supplements.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Holistic philosophy of personal wellness

Wellness is a choice of lifestyle marked by a balance of mind, body and spirit. It is a complex interaction that leads to quality of life. The term ‘quality of life’ (QoL) refers to the satisfaction of people with their lives, their physical, mental, social and emotional health and the nature of the environment in which they are living. Wellness is multidimensional and a holistic approach to personal health. Wellness is lifelong process of balancing physical, mental and social wellbeing and their interaction with the environment. Health literacy is important for a person to manage his health and prevent disease. Health literacy is defined as the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions (U.S Department of Health and Human Services, USDHHS 2010). The World Health Organization (WHO 1947, 2009) introduced a holistic definition of health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Our health and well –being are the outcomes of the constant interaction between the several natural dimensions of life and wellness. Wellness is a holistic approach by which one can achieve and maintain optimal health. Wellness is a full integration of physical, mental and spiritual well-being. The term fitness is sometimes used interchangeably with health or wellness. The scope of fitness includes health-related, skill-related and physiological components (USDHHS, 2000).


According to the National Wellness Institute (2007), “wellness is an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, more successful existence.”
According to Dunn (1959), “wellness is a state of health which comprises an overall sense of wellbeing and sees a person as consisting body, mind and spirit.”
Renger and co-authors (2000) defined wellness as consisting of physical, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual dimensions, and added environmental wellness to recognize the important impact of one’s surroundings.
Myers and Sweeney (2005) defined wellness as a way of life aimed at optimal health and well-being in which an individual integrates body, mind and spirit so as to live more fully within the human and natural context. Ideally, it is an optimal state of health and well-being that each individual is capable of achieving in all domains of his or her life (Myers, Sweeney and Witmer, 2001).
Adams (2003) has defined four main principles of wellness: 1) wellness is multi-dimensional; 2) wellness research and practice should be oriented toward identifying causes of wellness rather than causes of illness; 3) wellness is about balance; and 4) wellness is relative, subjective, and perceptual.

Wellness dimensions

Wellness is commonly viewed as having 7 dimensions or essential life areas such as physical, emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual, environmental and occupational.

Physical wellness –refers to wellness of the physical body. It is considered as an integral part of everyday wellness. Physical wellness encourages regular physical activities, proper nutrition and health care such as exercise or sports and personal hygiene. This type of physical activity discourages dependence on tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. Good nutrition is important for a health body and mind. Science has clearly determined that a lack of physical activity is detrimental to health. Physical wellness encompasses maintenance of cardiovascular fitness, flexibility and strength. A regular weekly programme of walking, jogging, cycling, aerobics, swimming, strength training and stretching exercises helps improve or maintain physical fitness.

Emotional wellness – reflects our ability to appropriately control and express our emotions. Emotional wellness helps us to cope and comfortable with our emotions. Emotional wellness implies the ability to express emotions appropriately, adjust to change, cope with stress in a healthy way, and enjoy life despite its occasional disappointments and frustrations. Emotional wellness involves attending to our own thoughts and feelings, monitoring our reactions and identifying obstacles to emotional stability. Emotional awareness and acceptance help diminish the emotional intensity of the situation and increase one’s ability to handle a situation productively.

Intellectual wellness – is the utilization of human resources and learning resources to expand knowledge and improve skills. It refers to one’s ability to analyse, synthesize and act on new information. Intellectual wellness refers to active participation in scholastic, cultural and community activities. Intellectual wellness represents a commitment to lifelong learning, an effort to share knowledge with others and development of skills and abilities to achieve a more satisfying life.

Social/ interpersonal wellness – involves interacting with people and the environment and having satisfying relationships. The social environment is created by the interaction of people and their relationships with one another.  It involves developing friendships, healthy sexual behaviours, the ability to interact comfortably with others generally works for harmony in personal and community environments. Social wellness means you have friends with whom you discuss your problems and with whom you spend time. Social wellness involves not only a concern for the individual, but an interest in humanity as a whole.

Environmental/aesthetic wellness – Environment is an essential dimension of wellness. Research shows that our health and well-being are influenced by everything around us, whether in the built or natural world. Safe air, land and water are fundamental to a healthy community environment. The environment can have a significant impact on levels of physical activity, and on physical and emotional health and well-being.

Spiritual wellness – is to possess a set of guiding beliefs, principles or values that give meaning and purpose to one’s life.  Spiritual wellness means working to achieve spiritual potential and find harmony in living. The spiritually well person focuses on the positive aspects of life and finding solutions to negative feelings from the organized religions. Many people find meaning and purpose in their lives on their own through nature, art, meditation or community service.

Occupational/ vocational wellness –involves creating a healthy and supportive work environment which recognizes personal satisfaction and enrichment in one’s life through work. It's better to develop functional, transferable skills through structured involvement opportunities than to remain inactive and uninvolved.  It's better to choose a career which is consistent with our personal values interests and beliefs than to select one that is unrewarding to us.

Life style diseases and global wellness

Chronic diseases are the leading causes of death throughout the world.  Globally, of the 58 million deaths in 2005, approximately 35 million was as a result of chronic diseases. Deaths from chronic diseases are expected to increase by 17% over the next 10 years from 35 million to 41 million. Only 20% of chronic disease deaths occur in high income countries- while 80% occur in low and middle income countries, where most of the world population lives (WHO 2005).  Chronic diseases are responsible for seven out of every 10 deaths in the United States, killing more than 1.7 million Americans every year. Reports from the United States estimate that the population – attributable risk of physical inactivity is responsible for 12 % of type 2 diabetes and 22% of coronary heart disease as well as significant shares of other poor health conditions.   The estimate on Indian population in 2005 reported that chronic diseases accounted for almost 53% of all deaths and 44% of disability – adjusted life years (DALYs).In economically developed countries such as Japan, the United States, Australia and most of Europe, nearly 50% of the chronic disease burden is associated with 5 risk factors: tobacco use, high blood pressure, alcohol use, high cholesterol and overweight. But in the developing countries, deaths from chronic disease result from different risk factors: underweight, unsafe sex (causing HIV/AIDS), unsafe water and sanitation and indoor smoke from pollution.  Many chronic diseases could be prevented, frequently manageable through simple lifestyle changes.  The chronic disease threat can be easily overcome by using the existing scientific knowledge.

Effective wellness strategy

Stress management - Prolonged stress has an undeniable adverse effect on health. It can — and does — lead to illness. The ability to reduce and/or counter stress is critical in dealing with behavioural health problems, as well in promoting health and wellness. Yoga, meditation and deep breathing help reduce stress levels. It is advised to avoid over use of alcohol, caffeine, energy drinks, high sugar foods and stimulant drugs.  It is said by an unknown author that “The best cure for the body is to quiet the mind.”

Physical activity- Exercise and other forms of physical activity not only help maintain a healthy weight, but also help improve overall health and behavioural health — and reduce stress. John F.Kennedy said, “Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.”

Healthy nutrition- The quality and the balance of food in our diet has enormous impact on our health. Developing personal eating habits that promote better health is important for everyone, especially people who have health problems like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. During some chronic illnesses, eating healthy becomes vital to prevention and recovery.John Lubbock said, “Health is much more dependent on our habits and nutrition than on medicine.”

Restful sleep- The human body needs at least 8 hours of sleep each day to function at optimal levels, to repair and recharge. Long-term sleep deprivation is associated with many illnesses, including high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, and behavioural health problems. Thomas Dekker said, “Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.”

Community network and service - “Service to others” and “support network” are two sides of the same coin. We all need connectedness to survive. Service to others and support networks play a major role in initiating and sustaining personal wellness. Pearl S. Buck said, “To serve is beautiful, but only if it is done with joy and a whole heart and a free mind.”

Positive mental attitude- Personal hope that one’s life can be better encourages happiness and a sense of wellbeing. In fact, research has found that heart patients with optimistic recovery expectations are 30% less likely to die over the next 15 years than less optimistic patients, regardless of disease severity. Peter Sampson said, “What really makes you healthy in life is your mental attitude. If it affects you in a positive way, it’s worth it.”

A sense of meaning and purpose- Many people develop a sense of meaning and purpose through spirituality, ultimately converging a person’s beliefs and values. Patricia Ryan Madson said, “A life of meaning and value is achieved through purposeful action.”


Wellness is an active, lifelong process of becoming aware of choices and making decisions toward a more balanced and fulfilling life. Wellness places responsibility on the individual; it becomes a matter of self-evaluation and self – assessment. Wellness involves continually learning and making changes to enhance one’s state of wellness. Wellness is understood as a total person’s approach towards improving the quality of one’s health.  It is acknowledged that wellness is characterised by optimal physical health as well as psychological and social well-being and not by the mere absence of illness.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Maximizing learning abilities

Learning is a process of storage of knowledge (knowledge construction process) in our memory.  “Learning is a process as well as an outcome” (Zuber-Skerritt1992). Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience ( Kolb 1984).Learning is the major process of human adaptation. Learning is ‘sense making’. All learners are meaning makers. Learning is the process that underlies and gives birth to change. Change is the child of learning (Friedlander,1983).  Learning is a cognitive process of acquiring new skills, knowledge and attitude. Learning is repeated experience, modulated by attention and weighted by emotional relevance. Different people learn information in different ways. There are 4 requirements of learning: motivation, time, preparation and method. All human beings are born with an astounding capacity to learn, both in amount that can be learned in one domain and in the variety and range of what can be learned. Learning is a multi-step process such as acquisition, retention and retrieval. Learning is an ongoing and never ending process. It begins at the moment of birth and continues through an entire lifespan. Learning is the act of interpreting experience and the interpretation is based on the individual’s process of sense making.
There are 3 stages in learning such as registering the item, filing the item and retrieving the item. The learning involves techniques, motives, attitudes and definitions. Learning depends upon priority, intensity and duration. There are four elements that constitute successful learning.
1.       Wanting – motivation
2.       Doing – practice, trial and error
3.       Feed back – seeing the results; other people’s reactions
4.       Digesting – making sense of it; gaining ownership.
According to holistic learning theory, an individual personality consists of many elements such as the intellect, emotions, the desire, intuition and imagination. All require activation, if learning is to be more effective.

Basic views about learning

Learning is a natural process. The natural tendency of the brain is to learn, however not everyone learns in the same way. Learning is a social process. Students learn best in collaboration with peers, teachers, parents and others. Learning is an active process. Learning is an activity in which learners participate and are directly involved. Learners must be actively engaged in learning process. Learning can be either linear or non-linear process. Learning is a reorganization of knowledge structures. Mind is a wonderful parallel or serial processor. Learning is integrative and context –based. Learners themselves see relations and make connections. Teachers can help learners to make connections and to integrate knowledge. Learning is based on a strength model of student abilities, interest and culture.  Learning causes a relatively permanent change in the behaviour –attitude, interest or value.  The change may be an improvement of a skill or process. It may be a modification where old knowledge, skills and abilities or attitudes are adjusted to cope with new circumstances.

Characteristics of learning

Pedler (1997) identified 4 different aspects of learning. Students can learn about things. Students acquire and understand the knowledge. Students can learn to do things. Students acquire new skills, abilities and competencies. Students can learn to achieve full potential in their lives. Students want personal development involving intellectual growth and skill acquisition. Students can learn to achieve things together which Pedler calls collaborative enquiry – to do things together.

Learning- based changes in the brain

Learning takes place in the brain in three major stages:
 Some of the brain's 100 billion nerve cells (neurons) sprout branching fibres (axons and dendrites). All learning enters through our senses/emotions. This is the first stage of learning. As these neural fibres grow, they construct electrically and chemically activated connections (synapses) with other neurons and communicate, neuron to neuron, at these synapses. The  brain patterns and constructs mental maps of information. The brain actively binds ideas together through neural networking. This second stage of learning is more productive. As this neural growth continues, ever-more neural pathways and synaptic connections are constructed until there is a complex network of connections between many neurons for that particular object of learning. This is complex, high-level and in-depth learning. According to Jeannett Vosss and Gordon Dryden in their book ‘the learning revolution’ stated that learning to store information in patterns and with strong associations is probably the first step in developing our brain’s untapped ability.

Kinds of learners

Researchers and educators categorised learners into three types like lookers, listeners and movers. The lookers are visual learners who rely on the sense of sight, when absorbing information. Text, diagrams, photograph, charts, graphs and maps are all tools that aid visual learning. The listeners are auditory learners with a preference for sounds and words over information taken in by either sight or touch. The movers are tactile (kinaesthetic) learners preferring hands-on learning through both touch and movement. It emphasizes the need to touch objects and move one’s body.

Principles of learning (Svinicki, 1991)

If information is to be learned, it must first be recognized as important. During learning, learners act on information in ways that make it more meaningful by using examples, images, elaborations and connections. Learner store information in long – term memory in an organized fashion related to their existing understanding of the world. Learners continually check understanding, which results in refinement and revision of what is retained. Transfer of learning to new contexts is not automatic but results from experience to multiple applications. Learning is facilitated, when learners are aware of their learning strategies and monitor their use.

Categories of learning

Formal learning – takes place in educational institutions.
Non – formal learning – takes place outside and through the activities of civil society, groups and organizations.
Informal learning – is a natural accompaniment to everyday life.
Lifelong learning – is learning throughout life either continuously or periodically.
Life wide learning – can take place across the full span of our lives at any one stage in our lives.
Social learning – can take place in a social setting or context. Social interaction allows learners to relate or mirror their ideas, insights, experiences and feelings to those of others.

Kinds of learning systems

Natural learning system- the brain has natural learning systems such as emotive, cognitive, physical, social, and reflective.
Cognitive learning system – cognition interprets, stores and retrieves information via pattern and pictures. It establishes integrated circuits of knowledge and skills.
Physical learning system – it gathers information through all senses. It distributes information throughout the brain and the body. It converts inputs into action.
Social learning system – it governs interactions and communications with others. Team work and team accomplishment are integral to integrated system.  People works together in pairs or small groups to solve problems.
Emotional learning system – involves personal meaning and its relevance. It accelerates learning.
It empowers or energises or depresses or stifles all other learning systems. It manages a learner’s motivation, demeanour and creativity.
Reflective learning system – it weighs past, present, and future projections. It interprets verbal and non-verbal cues.  It is a monitoring mechanism and it metacognates information.

Learning tools

Knowledge dissemination tools – are systematic attempts to identify and distribute knowledge and ideas.
Instructional tools – teaching methods used to share knowledge and ideas.
Research and development tools – are designed to generate new discoveries through organized inquiry.
Diagnostic tools are designed to evaluate the learning that takes place in a learner.
Learning how to learn (individual learning) – may be defined as the capacity to build knowledge on their own. Learning is an individual process. It takes place inside an individual’s brain.

Kolb’s Learning cycle

Kolb's four-stage model is a simple description of the learning cycle which shows how experience is translated through reflection into concepts, which in turn are used as guides for active experimentation and the choice of new experiences. Kolb refers to these four stages as: concrete experience (CE), reflective observation (RO), abstract conceptualization (AC) and active experimentation (AE).

1.       Concrete experience (CE)–having a new experience of situation or reinterpretation of existing experience.
2.       Reflective observation (RO) – reviewing/ reflecting on the experience.
3.       Abstract conceptualization(AC) –formation of abstract concepts (analysis)by reflection and generalization (conclusion)
4.       Active experimentation (AE) – planning and trying out what one have learned.

Kolb’s learning style

Diverging (feeling and watching - CE/RO) -The people with diverging abilities are able to look at things from different perspectives. They prefer to watch rather than do, tending to gather information and use imagination to solve problems. They have broad cultural interests and like to gather information. They are interested in people, tend to be imaginative and emotional, and tend to be strong in the arts. They prefer to work in groups, to listen with an open mind and to receive personal feedback.
Assimilating (watching and thinking - AC/RO)
People with an assimilating learning style are less focused on people and more interested in ideas and abstract concepts.  They are more attracted to logically sound theories rather than approaches based on practical value. These people are important for effectiveness in information and science careers. In formal learning situations, people with this style prefer readings, lectures, exploring analytical models, and having time to think things through.
Converging (doing and thinking - AC/AE)
People with a converging learning style can solve problems and they prefer technical tasks. They  are less concerned with people and interpersonal aspects. People with this learning style are best at finding practical uses for ideas and theories. They can solve problems and make decisions by finding solutions to questions and problems. People with a converging style like to experiment with new ideas, to simulate, and to work with practical applications.
Accommodating (doing and feeling - CE/AE)
The Accommodating learning style is 'hands-on', and relies on intuition rather than logic. These people use other people's analysis, and prefer to take a practical, experiential approach. They are attracted to new challenges and experiences, and to carrying out plans. This learning style is prevalent within the general population.

Effective learning tips from theories of learning

1.       Learning involves both focused attention and peripheral perception. People learn best when solving realistic problems. Learning involves search for meaning and patterning. Learning is influenced by emotions, feelings and attitudes (Brain-based learning).
2.       Learning is based on neuro-sensation (smell, sight, taste, hearing and touch) and occurs in stages, steps or levels and is most effectively stored, recalled and utilized. Learning is strengthened by rich sensory, emotive and kinaesthetic association (Neuro-biological learning theory).
3.       Learning new knowledge is dependent on what is already known. New knowledge gains meaning when it can be largely related to a framework of existing knowledge (Meaningful learning theory).
4.       Verbal learning is most effective when accompanied by visual learning (Dual coding theory).
5.       Learning can be achieved more as a direct participation and reflection of every day experience (Experiential learning).
6.       Learning is centred around the need to find a solution to real problem (Action learning)
7.       Learning occurs more when actively searching for information (Discovery learning).
8.       Optimum learning occurs when the load on the working memory is kept to a minimum to facilitate the changes in long term memory (Cognitive load theory).
9.       A learner is able to use prior knowledge and experience to interpret the content. New information is compared to existing cognitive structures called schema (Schema theory of learning).  Learning is much easier if connections are made between ideas and facts.
10.   Learning can be maximised by learning of rule –based or information – based categories or exemplars or prototypes. (Category learning).
11.   Learners actively construct and reconstruct knowledge out of their experience in the world. Reflection and metacognition are essential aspects of constructing knowledge and meaning (Constructivist learning theory).
12.   If learning is to be effective, it should involve all aspects of an individual’s personality such as the intellect, emotions, the desire, intuition and imagination (Holistic learning theory).
"Our brain is best at learning what it needs to learn
  to survive, socially, economically, emotionally and physically."

"The capacity to learn is a gift;
  the ability to learn is a skill;
  the willingness to learn is a choice." -Brian Herbert.