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How to find Work-Life Harmony in the face of a pandemic

The month of January 2021 marks ten months since the announcement of lockdown in South Africa.
We have developed terms such as “new normal” however most people agree that adapting to this change has been very difficult. In this blog post I will write about finding work-life balance while facing pandemic.

Be Appreciative
Make a list of things that you are grateful for. This has to be done daily.
It is easy to skip this process as we are constantly bombarded by negativity whether through media, at work or within our families. But according to Neuroscience what wires together stays together. Hence our reality is shaped by what we constantly feed our minds.
So make your gratitude journal your friend. The best time to do this is at night after a busy day. It could be the best way to alleviate the negative energy absorbed throughout the day.

Read Something
None of us living in this century knows precisely how to live and survive a pandemic.
Luckily we have books that are full of content on how to overcome hardships. Reading about others can give us the courage to endure and feel more optimistic about the future.
Read one autobiography every other day. Share what you have read with someone (each one teach one) at work or school. So that those around you are also energized to face the future one day at a time.

By this time all of us have lost a loved one whether a colleague, a friend, or a family member. Life seems to be so overwhelming. It is easy to live your life “flexing”, trying by all means to be strong. However strength comes from being able to be vulnerable. We need to take some time off from work and get a head-space so we can properly grieve the loss of the loved ones. This is so important as it will allow us to move on properly and be productive again.

Workout daily
It is never about how many miles you can run or how many reps you can do. It is about getting your dosage of endorphins everyday. Working out not only keeps your body and mind healthy but it gives you a sense of accomplishment. It refreshes your mind and gives your life harmony in the mist of the pandemic.

This post is based on personal experience and research. Information contained is based on opinions and personal journals of the author.

Author : Mhlengi Ngcobo

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Startup Interview with CoffeeMM founder

CoffeeMM, a South African startup in the coffee business has been working with smallholder farmers in South Africa, Mozambique, Burundi and Zimbabwe to process their raw coffee for the retail market.

Besides connecting them to international markets and boosting their earnings, the startup has also assisted in creating a viable value chain. Mhlengi Ngcobo the founder and CEO discusses how exactly they do this and where he wants to take the business moving forward.
Read More

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10 coffee benefits

  1. Coffee keeps you hydrated Several studies show that coffee can be as hydrating as water. After studying the fluid levels in the bodies of 50 men who consumed 3-6 cups of coffee a day, a group of researchers at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom found out that this kind of “moderate” coffee consumption “provides similar hydrating qualities to water” .
  2. Coffee improves your physical performance Caffeine stimulates the nervous system, causing it to send signals to the fat cells to break down body fat, which released into the blood can be used as fuel. It also increases Epinephrine (adrenaline) levels in the blood.
  3. Coffee can lower the risk of colorectal cancer Coffee can lower the risk of getting colorectal cancer, also known as bowel cancer. The antioxidants present in coffee are found to have anti-carcinogenic properties thought to help reduce the inflammation responsible for some tumors. A study tested among 489,706 individuals of men and women found that those who drank 4-5 cups of coffee per day had a 15 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer. Another study concluded that coffee consumption has an inverse relationship associated with bowel cancer risk. The benefit is an observed 17% reduction of risk from those who drank four or more cups of caffeinated coffee a day and 21% decreased risk for four to five cups of decaffeinated coffee a day . Note that this is a large amount of coffee and it is unclear if lower amounts have a similarly positive effect.

4.Coffee helps relieve the symptoms of asthma The caffeine in coffee has beneficial effects on the pulmonary function of nonsmokers. It can help relieve the symptoms of asthma. A study noted that caffeine has the same effect in the body as theophylline (34). Theophylline is a bronchodilator drug. This means it can open up the lungs’ airways and thereby relieve the symptoms of asthma, such as breathlessness, wheezing, and coughing. Since coffee is rich in caffeine, drinking it regularly helps your pulmonary system functioning normally.

  1. Coffee lowers risk of liver cancer Studies show that coffee drinkers have a significantly lower risk of developing liver cancer than non-coffee drinkers. A study presented earlier this year at the American Association of Cancer Researchers’ annual meeting held in San Diego found that people who drank several cups of coffee a day have up to 42 percent less risk of developing liver cancer than people who drank coffee occasionally or not at all (40). The researchers didn’t discover how, but they attribute this significant health benefit of coffee to the many active compounds in it that can aid in the prevention of cancer development.
  2. Coffee lowers your risk of prostate cancer According to a study published online in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, men who drank several cups of coffee a day had up to 60 percent lower risk of developing prostate cancer than non-coffee drinkers. Another research by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center scientists led by Janet L. Stanford, Ph. D., found that men who drank four or more cups of coffee daily experienced reduced risk of prostate cancer recurrence and/or progression by 59% percent as compared to those who drank only one or fewer cups per week.
  3. Coffee protects against estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer A study shows that women who drink at least five cups of coffee a day are 57 percent less likely to develop estrogen rece ptor-negative breast cancer than women who don’t . Estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer is one kind of breast cancer, which is characterized by patients’ lack of estrogen receptors. Estrogen receptors are the proteins in cells that help regulate the activity of certain genes when activated by estrogen. Coffee contains some plant-based chemicals that can act as estrogen. Coffee also contains a phytochemical that helps decrease one’s risk of estrogen-receptor negative breast cancer.
  4. Coffee lowers the risk of stroke in woman In a 2011 study, among 34,670 women who participated found that those who drank more than one cup of coffee per day had about a 25 percent lower risk of stroke than women who drank less than a cup or none at all . A 2009 study showed that women who drank 4 or more cups of coffee a day had 20 percent less risk of having stroke than women who drank less than 4 cups . This data suggests that drinking little or no coffee at all can contribute to increased risk of stroke in women so long-term and moderate amount of coffee consumption can modestly reduce that risk.
  5. Coffee lowers stress (possibly just by smelling it) When you’re feeling stressed at work, you could make yourself feel better by taking a big whiff of a cup of coffee before drinking it. By examining the brain of some sleep-deprived rats, a group of researchers at the Seoul National University discovered that those who were exposed to coffee aromas experienced changes in their brain proteins tied to the stress they were experiencing and alleviated it . The aroma study focused primarily on stress related to sleep deprivation. Nevertheless, numerous studies published show that coffee has stress reducing effects. A research titled “Hypertension” published in 2005 showed that the blood pressure of coffee-drinkers is not as affected when faced with stressful situations. There may not be much effect for non-habitual drinkers of coffee but habitual drinkers there is a reduced stress-induced response.
  6. Coffee fights depression Coffee lowers the risk of developing depression and dramatically reduces the risk of suicide. A study done by the Harvard School of Public Health determined that drinking between two and four cups of coffee can reduce the risk of suicide in men and women by about 50 percent; and about 20 percent reduction from risk of being depressed compared to those who drank less or decaffeinated were observed by the National Institute of Health. The proposed reason is because coffee acts as a mild antidepressant by aiding in the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline.


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Decreased Alzheimer Risk

Drinking Coffee may Reduce Your Chances of Developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s

Approximately 500 billion cups of coffee are consumed worldwide each year.

A new study out of the Krembil Brain Institute, part of the Krembil Research Institute, suggests there could be more to that morning jolt of goodness than a boost in energy and attention. Drinking coffee may also protect you against developing both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

“Coffee consumption does seem to have some correlation to a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease,” says Dr. Donald Weaver, Co-director of the Krembil Brain Institute. “But we wanted to investigate why that is — which compounds are involved and how they may impact age-related cognitive decline.”

Dr. Weaver enlisted Dr. Ross Mancini, a research fellow in medicinal chemistry and Yanfei Wang, a biologist, to help. The team chose to investigate three different types of coffee – light roast, dark roast, and decaffeinated dark roast.

“The caffeinated and de-caffeinated dark roast both had identical potencies in our initial experimental tests,” says Dr. Mancini. “So we observed early on that its protective effect could not be due to caffeine.”

Dr. Mancini then identified a group of compounds known as phenylindanes, which emerge as a result of the roasting process for coffee beans. Phenylindanes are unique in that they are the only compound investigated in the study that prevent – or rather, inhibit – both beta amyloid and tau, two protein fragments common in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, from clumping. “So phenylindanes are a dual-inhibitor. Very interesting, we were not expecting that.” says Dr. Weaver.

As roasting leads to higher quantities of phenylindanes, dark roasted coffee appears to be more protective than light roasted coffee.

“It’s the first time anybody’s investigated how phenylindanes interact with the proteins that are responsible for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s,” says Dr. Mancini. “The next step would be to investigate how beneficial these compounds are, and whether they have the ability to enter the bloodstream, or cross the blood-brain barrier.”

The fact that it’s a natural compound vs. synthetic is also a major advantage, says Dr. Weaver.

“Mother Nature is a much better chemist than we are and Mother Nature is able to make these compounds. If you have a complicated compound, it’s nicer to grow it in a crop, harvest the crop, grind the crop out and extract it than try to make it.”

But, he admits, there is much more research needed before it can translate into potential therapeutic options.

“What this study does is take the epidemiological evidence and try to refine it and to demonstrate that there are indeed components within coffee that are beneficial to warding off cognitive decline. It’s interesting but are we suggesting that coffee is a cure? Absolutely not.”

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Coffee and Cancer

Coffee and Cancer: What the Research Really Shows

Researchers have been investigating the links between coffee and cancer for decades. But there is still a lot they don’t know. In 2016, an expert panel convened by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) – the arm of the World Health Organization that is responsible for assessing whether certain substances cause cancer – could not conclude that drinking coffee is carcinogenic based on the current evidence available.

And now the coffee-cancer connection is in the news again. A California court ruling last week about a coffee warning related to a chemical formed during the roasting process (called acrylamide) has raised questions among consumers.

So, what do coffee drinkers need to know? In this interview, American Cancer Society researchers, Susan Gapstur, PhD, and Marjorie McCullough, ScD, provide insights into what studies to date really show when it comes to coffee and cancer, and discuss what other research is still needed.

  1. What does the research show about the link between coffee and cancer?
  2. Numerous studies have shown that coffee drinking is associated with a lower risk of dying from all causes of death. However, associations with cancer overall or with specific types of cancer are unclear. In 2016, an expert working group convened for the International Agency for Research on Cancer Monographs Programme reviewed the world’s body of human and laboratory research on coffee drinking and cancer risk, and they found the evidence of carcinogenicity of coffee drinking to be “unclassifiable”.

They also found that coffee drinking is not a cause of female breast, pancreas, and prostate cancers, but may reduce the risk of uterine endometrium and liver cancers. The evidence was judged to be inadequate for other cancer types. Reasons for the lack of convincing evidence included inconsistent results across studies and issues with data quality.

Additionally, because smokers also tend to be coffee drinkers, it is difficult to completely account for tobacco use in studies of coffee and strongly tobacco-related cancers. These issues can be addressed by examining risk in non-smokers, or with detailed statistical adjustment for smoking. For example, early research suggested that coffee increased the risk of bladder cancer, but the true causal factor was later found to be smoking.

  1. And, what about research into whether coffee is associated with a lower cancer risk?
  2. Recent studies find that coffee may lower the risk of several types of cancer, including head and neck, colorectal, breast, and liver cancer, although the potential beneficial effects of coffee are not completely understood. Hundreds of biologically active compounds including caffeine, flavonoids, lignans, and other polyphenols are found in roasted coffee. These and other coffee compounds have been shown to increase energy expenditure, inhibit cellular damage, regulate genes involved in DNA repair, have anti-inflammatory properties and/or inhibit metastasis, among other activities. There is also evidence that coffee consumption is associated with lower risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, which have been linked to higher risks of colorectal, liver, breast and endometrial cancer incidence and/or mortality.
  3. What is acrylamide and what do we know about its link to cancer?
  4. Coffee can contain acrylamide, a chemical that is also used in certain industrial processes and has been commercially available since the 1950s. In addition to coffee, acrylamide is also found in French fries (frying causes acrylamide formation), toasted bread, snack foods, like potato chips and pretzels, crackers, biscuits, cookies and cereals, and in tobacco products. Acrylamide is classified by IARC as a “probable carcinogen,” based primarily on genotoxicity experiments in animals. In 2002, Swedish scientists discovered that acrylamide could be formed from asparagine (an amino acid) and sugar during high-heat cooking. This discovery led to intensified research into the association between acrylamide intake from diet and cancer risk in humans. In 2011 and 2014, two large studies summarized the evidence in humans and found no association between dietary acrylamide and risk of several cancers.
  5. What is the bottom line when it comes to coffee – should people be worried about drinking it?
  6. Overall, it seems that there may be health benefits to coffee drinking, but the risks remain unclear.