The new year has a real arrived and so have a set of new year resolutions. Some people might be thinking of quitting smoking, others thinking of quitting alocohol, a few thinking of sleeping less and remaining still wondering about their resolution. Well, the things are simple. Instead of picking up a habit that you want to get rid off, pick up a habit that will make you healthier. Your health is your wealth. A good example is trying the variants of our favourite beverage – tea this year. You would be amazed to know that over 10 variants of tea exist in the world. Each of them have their owners health benefits and are consumed as a part of breakfast daily. They belong to different part so of the world and so are lesser known in India. But their ingredients can be easily found at the supermarket! You can make your healthy tea instantly and stay healthy this year. Likewise, there are many healthy habits to choose – doing Yoga regularly, using less social media, spending time with family etc. What’s your healthy resolution for the year?

For Alika Maunakea, documenting MA’O’s influence was a way to bring his expertise in epigenetics home to Waianae. He had already been involved with the MA’O board and leadership, and felt the farm was a good place to start, since Waianae is home to the highest concentration of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in the state. Residents also have higher rates of preventable diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and some cancers compared to many other parts of Hawaii. Epigeneticist Alika Maunakea of the University of Hawaii spearheaded a study that explores the connection between environment and human health. Maunakea credits his grandmother, Katherine Maunakea, a Hawaiian traditional health practitioner, for passing down the understanding that the environment is intertwined with health. Her mantra, “Ne huli ka lima iluna, pololoi ka opu. Ne huli ka lima ilalo, piha ka opu,” is painted across their front glass doors. In English, “When your hands are turned up, you will be hungry. “Aina (land) is part of your family, and taking care of the aina enables it to take care of you,” says Maunakea. Epigenetics, his speciality, examines the biological interaction between health and the environment.

His research resonates with the Hawaiian perspective of his ancestors. “It’s sort of an understanding and re-learning these ancient concepts, that environment connects to health through an interface on a cell and molecular level,” he said. Seedlings sprout at MA’O, which just bought another 236 acres near Waianae. Knowing that it would take time and funding to launch the study, Maunakea and Juarez began a conversation with interns a few years ago, pulling weeds alongside them to gain their trust. Offering a cash incentive for participation, the survey incorporated questions about socioeconomic status, anxiety, stress and diet. Researchers tracked changes in blood sugar control, weight loss or gut microbiome composition and also quizzed interns on how much their family members and friends influence them when it came to nutrition, exercise, career and life advice. Juarez has studied how social and economic networks can influence choices and behaviors, and knew that such networks have been shown to have an effect on obesity in white populations elsewhere in the United States. But this study could be the first to examine the power of relationships on health among Native Hawaiians, who experience a higher prevalence of obesity-related diseases such as diabetes.

  • Eat the food that is prepared for them
  • American Family Care
  • How can you get connected
  • Losing weight
  • Fry less, bake more
  • Market and pricing issues
  • 1 cup almond meal

“In Hawaii, we see even stronger relationships and influence that your friends have on obesity-related behaviors,” he said. “If we are able to pinpoint the important components of changing behavior to be able to decrease obesity, that’s huge. Among the 60% of interns who saw an improvement in blood sugar levels, early data shows signs of improved health and lowered risk for diabetes. Another 14.5% of the family and friend contacts they listed in their network saw improvement as well. Approximately one-fifth of participants also reported improved self esteem. However, body mass indexes remained relatively steady, with only 5% of interns seeing a decline in their BMI to a healthier level. Native Hawaiians have been studied many times before, but usually lose access to the data and findings of researchers. “Unfortunately, we call them ‘helicopter researchers,’ those who just come over, extract data, write the paper and never show up again,” said Juarez. “We love going back (to the participants) and telling them what the results of the study are.

Now, diabetes and gut microbiota are common conversation topics over meals at the farm, according to Maunakea-Forth, especially because MA’O interns were able to serve as co-researchers. As a student of nutrition and dietetics at Leeward Community College, 21-year-old Nanakuli native Kiana Tector quickly became a key liaison between the UH team and the MA’O interns. Kiana Tector, 21, was a key liason between University of Hawaii researchers and MA’O Organic Farms interns. “Making them understand the importance of their gut health was important,” she said. “They were like, ‘What can you get from my poop? Why do you need it? I read an article about how there’s actually stool sample transplants, so I asked them, ‘Do you want to need to do that? Or do you want to take care of it now? Tector also convinced her family to participate. After they got their blood results in April, they made some changes. “They immediately went home, cleaned the fridge and went shopping,” she recalled. “They bought things they knew from the farm that I had brought home before, like beets and carrots.

Maunakea and Juarez will lead a third recruitment in the coming weeks, and plan to submit their preliminary findings to a journal for publication. As data collection continues into the second year of the study, Juarez hopes the findings can be used by community organizations and health providers and insurers, especially when it comes to decisions about funding. Diseases such as diabetes can be extremely expensive to treat. This study could quantify how much is saved in medical costs by improving participants’ health. “That pilina (relationship) that we create with the land and with one another is automatically an asset,” Maunakea-Forth said. “It’s relatable to people in academic institutions and health insurers. Students help tend to more than 40 fruit and vegetable crops at MA’O Organic Farms in Waianae. This year, backed by community beneficiaries, the farm acquired 236 more acres in Lualualei Valley and is increasing its size 10-fold. Four times as many interns are expected to work at the farm over the next decade. A group from Oklahoma took notice of MA’O’s success and recently visited to learn more about how to develop partnerships that address health disparities. The group also helped plant the first 21 acres of the newly acquired land.

According to Dr Alka Sood, a family medicine physician with Penn State Health Medical Group ― Park Avenue in State College, children with obesity can face many social and health problems while growing up. “Children with obesity are more likely than their classmates to be teased or bullied and to suffer from low self-esteem, social isolation and depression,” Sood said. Therefore reducing the risk of childhood obesity is an important issue for improving a child’s health and happiness. Here Dr Sood along with Kara Shifler Bowers, a registered dietitian and a project manager for the Penn State PRO Wellness Center, offer expert tips on how parents can support their children to set healthy habits early on. Bowers advises parents to go ahead and make small changes around the house instead of discussing weight and health with the child directly. “Talking to children about weight has lasting consequences,” Bowers said. “Instead, implement an easy change like keeping a bowl of fruit available.


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