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Picture of Toronto homelessness emerging from research into Out of the Cold program

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Dennis Brooks says there are no warm places when you’re homeless. He should know. Originally from Glace Bay, N.S., Brooks, 54, was homeless in Toronto on and off for more than 20 years.

“Nobody’s experienced what we have, up and down these hard roads,” Brooks said while sitting in a church near Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue. “People have been beaten and beaten and beaten all our lives, like myself.”

During his homeless years, which ended this fall, Brooks says he drank too much, used drugs and was in and out of relationships. He was terribly lonely. He was assaulted. In summer, he would sometimes live in a tent. Mostly, though, he says he was careful not to mess with the wrong people.

He began to cry when he talked about all he has been through.

“Where do you draw the line?” he says.

Brooks is one of about 90 people who has taken part in a research project on homelessness being conducted by Dixon Hall, a non-profit, multi-service agency that provides programs and services to Toronto’s most vulnerable residents. A final report is to be released in the spring.

“I was asked how can I help the next guy,” Brooks says. “If I can change things, that’s good for me.” 

Nadia Jamil, principal researcher at Dixon Hall, says the research project was launched because the agency wants to understand why some homeless people use the Out of the Cold program year after year and why they prefer it to a more formal shelter system. (Kali Madej/ Dixon Hall)

Dixon Hall is aiming to deepen its understanding of the complex needs of homeless people who use Toronto’s Out of the Cold program. Its housing services department operates two emergency shelters, Schoolhouse and Heyworth House, and provides support to 16 Out of the Cold sites in Toronto.

Project 1st to interview Out of Cold users

Out of the Cold is a program offered by faith-based organizations that began over 30 years ago in Toronto as an emergency response to prevent homeless people from freezing to death in winter. The 16 organizations open their doors one night per week to the city’s homeless, providing a nutritious meal, a mat to sleep on and TTC tokens. 

The program, which runs from November to April, relies heavily on volunteers. Some sites provide clothing, a nurse on site and access to a client intervention worker. Dixon Hall has been supporting the program since 2003, sharing resources, client intervention workers and data co-ordination.

A man sleeps on a vent outside a Toronto hospital. A Street Needs Assessment published by the city includes an estimate of the number of people who sleep outdoors. (Doug Ives/Canadian Press)

In its 2017 to 2018 season, about 1,260 people used the program. A total of 27,150 meals were served and 18,262 tokens distributed.

The Innovative Solutions to Homelessness Project, which received a grant from Employment and Social Development Canada of $288,421, is the first formal one of its kind to interview Out of the Cold program users, according to Dixon Hall. It began in January 2018. 

Researchers have held four focus groups with 31 homeless people and conducted 75 one-on-one surveys in June and October. They have also given 70 cell phones to homeless participants to stay in touch with them as data is collected.

About 12 cell phones, months after they were handed out, are still in use. 

Participants include not only Out of the Cold program users, but also homeless people who use the city’s shelter system.

According to the city’s Street Needs Assessment, published in November, the number of homeless people in Toronto staying outdoors, in emergency shelters, and in correctional and health care facilities on the night of April 26, 2018 was estimated to be 8,715. 

‘Community of acquaintances’ exists in program

Nadia Jamil, principal researcher at Dixon Hall, said a picture of homelessness in Toronto is emerging from the research, but it is complex. Jamil said Dixon Hall launched the project largely to understand why a specific group of homeless people is using the Out of the Cold program year after year, and why they prefer it to the more formal shelter system. 

“Basically, within the Out of the Cold program, there is a sense of community that exists, even if it’s a community of acquaintances. It seems like guests look out for each other. They notice if somebody is missing,” she says.

First Interfaith runs its Out of the Cold program at St. Matthew’s United Church in Toronto. (Haweya Fadal/CBC)

According to preliminary findings, Out of the Cold program users report they prefer the faith-based organizations to shelters because they are concerned about hygiene, violence and theft at shelters.

As well, they are concerned that, when it comes to barring guests due to disruptive behaviour, practices vary from site to site. Some suggested that the Out of the Cold season could be extended and more sites available in the middle of the week to ensure there is more than one site open per night.

‘Hard to be in such close quarters with the same people’

Shelter residents, according to the preliminary findings, are fearful about losing their beds.

“It’s hard to be in such close quarters with the same people night after night,” Jamil says.

The shelter residents report they want more information about available services, to search more independently for housing, and more counselling available in house because they are sharing space with people who have mental health issues. They also want more affordable housing, assisted living and life skills development.

The city will set up three of these tented structures to help house members of Toronto’s homeless population. (Lauren Pelley / CBC News)

When it comes to barriers to housing, both groups report experiencing discrimination from landlords. Many Out of the Cold users report being uninterested in housing because they cannot afford it, they haven’t paid their taxes, they have bad credit, they have criminal records, buildings are unsafe, or they need more supports to maintain housing.

“We just need to remember that the homeless community is not a homogeneous community. There are so many diverse voices within it. Some people are just not interested in being housed,” she added.

Technology used to help, Freedom Mobile says

Freedom Mobile donated the Samsung cellphones, each with seven-month paid data plans. Participants who still have phones will be able to keep them but the paid plan will be discontinued.

The phones were in part meant to be a direct connection between homeless people and client intervention workers who could help them find housing.

A Freedom Mobile spokesperson says the company was pleased to help.

“We saw this as an opportunity to use technology to help individuals during a difficult time of year, and support our partners as they strive to find innovative solutions that create a better Toronto,” says Chetham Lakshman, vice-president, external affairs for Freedom Mobile.

Mayor John Tory helped to hand out Thanksgiving dinner this year at Good Shepherd Ministries, a charity in downtown Toronto for homeless people. (CBC)

Jamil acknowledges that the cellphones did not work out as planned. 

“A lot of the guests had difficulty around theft, around losing them, around people stealing them where they were staying, or some were broken, and things like that. Also, we don’t actually know what happened to some,” she said.

“This was also part of the research, testing whether technology can help build a bridge with such a marginalized, precarious community.”

‘Just listen to us’

For his part, Brooks, who still has the cellphone he was given, said he obtained housing with the help of Dixon Hall. On Oct. 1, he moved into a one-bedroom apartment in the east end where there are food banks close by.

“It feels good. It feels warm. And nobody can bother you.”

Asked what he would tell Toronto Mayor John Tory about being homeless, Dennis Brooks says: ‘Just listen. Just listen to us. We’re people.’ (Muriel Draaisma/CBC)

But he said it has been a journey. Having moved here when he was seven, he grew up in low income housing in the west end. His parents never really cared about him, he says. He failed every course he took in high school. At 18, he was homeless for the first time. A large part of his life was spent on the streets. He has held jobs and is talking about going back to school. He has a son, 28, who has a job and family in Oakville, Ont.

On Christmas Day, he plans to invite five of his friends over — “the boys”— who live in tents. “I got presents for everyone of them,” he says.

Asked what he would tell Toronto Mayor John Tory about being homeless, he said: “Just listen. Just listen to us. We’re not rich, we’re not poor, but we’re people.” 

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Researchers warn about the severe psychological distress caused by eating junk food

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(Natural News) Does junk food make you sad? While the current state of the American food industry is more than enough to make anyone feel depressed, new research from Loma Linda University demonstrates a link between junk-laden diets and psychological distress. Based on their findings, it appears that what you eat can and does affect your mental health — and that the prepackaged garbage peddled as “food” can have a seriously deleterious effect on your emotional well-being.

Even after adjusting for other external factors, the scientists found this relationship held steady: The more junk food a person ate, the more distress they reported feeling. When you consider the physiological effects junk food has on the body, it is no wonder that people report feeling like they are more distressed: They are in distress, they just don’t know it’s because of what the “food” they’re eating is doing to them on the inside.

Estimates suggest that the average American gets 60 percent of their daily calories from processed or junk food. Junk food consumption is a widespread problem here in the United States. Now, there are questions about whether or not junk food is a driving force in the plague of insanity (and stupidity) striking the U.S.

Scientists link junk food to poor mental health

Published in the journal International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition in early 2019, a study from Loma Linda University scientists finds a link between poor diet and poor mental health. Even after adjusting for external factors such as gender, age, education and income level, the association between junk food intake and mental illness remained.

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Study leader Jim E. Banta, Ph.D., MPH, an associate professor at the school, says that their conclusions support the findings of previous research. To conduct their study, Banta and his team looked at data from the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS). The scientists used 240,000 phone surveys conducted by CHIS between 2005 and 2015, and included data on socio-demographics, health status and health behaviors.

“This and other studies like it could have big implications for treatments in behavorial medicine,” Banta said of the findings.

“Perhaps the time has come for us to take a closer look at the role of diet in mental health, because it could be that healthy diet choices contribute to mental health. More research is needed before we can answer definitively, but the evidence seems to be pointing in that direction,” he added.

The fact that scientists in the 21st century are only now just beginning to even consider the possibility of a relationship between nutrition and mental health is truly disturbing. Natural health practitioners have long been aware of the importance of good nutrition for total well-being, including mental state.

Is poor nutrition turning America insane?

Vitamin D deficiency is a well-known cause of depression. B vitamins, iron, selenium and magnesium also support good mental health and deficiencies in these nutrients can also cause depression and anxiety. There is a growing body of research which strongly supports poor nutrition as a causative factor not only in depression, but in other mental illnesses — including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, OCD and more.

For example, Dr. Banta notes that some research has linked high sugar consumption to bipolar disorder, while fried foods and processed grains are linked to depression. There is no ignoring the link between diet and disease — whether it is of the body or of the mind makes no difference.

Nearly 60 percent of the American population’s diet comes from disease-causing food, and it is hard not to wonder if obesity, heart disease and death aren’t the only problems being caused by junk food diets.

Are the increasingly insane leftists just running around in a nutrient-deprived, sugar-spiked frenzy? Whether you’re talking about the inanity of “social justice” score-keeping or the rapid acceptance of censorship to silence conservatives, it’s clear that the far left is missing a few bolts upstairs. A diet of GMOs, pesticides and toxic food additives will do that to you, though.

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Eat healthier to improve your physical and mental well-being

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(Natural News) The physical health and mental well-being of a person depend a lot on nutrition and the food that he eats. Diet also influences the risk of developing chronic diseases. While the relationship between physical health and diet is well-understood, little is known about how diet and its quality influence the development of mental disorders. In a recent study, researchers from the University of Regensburg in Germany investigated the behavioral effects of a Western diet on pattern separation – the process of keeping items distinct in memory. They discovered that a diet consisting of increased amounts of sugar and saturated fatty acids, reduced levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, and an increased ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids (Western diet) harms memory. The results of their study were published in the journal Food Science and Human Wellness.

The Western diet impairs pattern separation

In this study, researchers investigated the utility of spatial separation – a behavioral process associated with the hippocampus – in the assessment of dietary interventions and the behavioral effects of the transgenerational administration of a Western diet on pattern separation. Pattern separation is the process of keeping items distinct in memory and is mediated by the hippocampus. Previous studies have suggested that there is a relationship between hippocampal function and diet quality in both humans and animals.

To examine the association between them, the researchers used rats, feeding over seven generations a diet containing increased amounts of sugar and saturated fatty acids, reduced levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, and an increased ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids. This diet composition is characteristic of a diet known as the Western diet. The researchers administered it transgenerationally because previous studies have shown that interventional diets need to be implemented over several generations to induce behavioral effects.

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They compared the spatial pattern separation (or local discrimination) performance of these animals with that of rats fed a standard diet. For the test, they presented the rats two locations and allowed them to learn across trials to respond to the correct location. During spatial discrimination training, they designated a location as the correct one and rewarded the rats if they touched the correct location. They reversed the correct and incorrect locations every time the rats successfully got the correct ones nine times out of 10 trials.

The researchers found a separation-dependent difference between the standard and Western diet groups in the number of discriminations performed in the pattern separation task. The rats fed with a Western diet performed fewer discriminations. Rats with lesions in the dorsal hippocampus showed impaired pattern separation when the locations were close together but not when they were far apart. The researchers associated this impairment with hippocampal dysfunctioning. Their results align with previous studies which demonstrated that consumption of a Western diet impaired cognitive functions, damaged brain regions, and contributed to the occurrence of neurodegenerative diseases. Their results confirmed that pattern separation could be negatively affected by transgenerational administration of a Western diet.

The researchers concluded that spatial pattern separation can help detect the effects of dietary interventions and that the Western diet can impair pattern separation.

How to make your diet healthier

A healthy diet can provide many benefits, the most important of which is the prevention of chronic diseases. Here are some things that you can do to make your diet healthier:

  • Eat slowly
  • Choose whole grains
  • Add probiotics to your diet
  • Increase your protein intake
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Avoid frying food and eating fast food
  • Take vitamin and mineral supplements
  • Try new and healthy recipes
  • Eat vegetables first before every meal
  • Eat fruits instead of drinking them
  • Exercise regularly
  • Stop drinking sweetened beverages
  • Get adequate sleep

Eating healthier and becoming aware of your nutritional needs will not only improve your physical health, but these will also benefit your mental and emotional well-being.

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Apples: Eat them to keep the doctor away – and boost stem cell therapy

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(Natural News) There is some truth behind the saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Apples are superfoods, and they are good sources of antioxidants that protect cells from oxidative damage and boost the immune system. They also contain dietary fiber, which is good for digestion and the maintenance of gut microbiota. But there is more to apples than just being healthy, antioxidant fruits. In a recent study published in the journal Nutrition Research, researchers from Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea showed the beneficial effect of apple extracts on the proliferation of adult stem cells. They also identified the possible molecular mechanisms underlying apple’s pro-proliferative effects.

Apple ethanol extracts can enhance the proliferation of stem cells useful for tissue regeneration

Tissue regeneration using adult stem cells (ASCs) has significant potential in the treatment of many degenerative diseases. It also provides a promising means of repairing chronic tissue or organ failure due to injuries, congenital defects, and aging. Stem cells are essential in regenerative medicine because they can be used directly in cell replacement therapies. However, studies on their application in clinical settings suggest that age negatively affects the proliferation status and differentiation potential of ASCs. This presents a possible limitation in their therapeutic use.

In the hopes of addressing this limitation, researchers turned their attention to the pro-proliferative activity of apples. Apples are rich sources of valuable phytochemicals that are known to be beneficial to human health. They possess anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and even anticancer activities. These antioxidants can help maintain human cells and protect them from harmful oxidation products. In addition, apples contain metabolites that could ensure longevity and increase the number of human cells in culture. (Related: Apples could hold key for increasing lifespan.)

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Because of this, researchers hypothesized that apple extracts might exert beneficial effects on ASCs. They obtained apple extracts using ethanol as the extraction solvent and tested these on human adipose tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells (ADSCs) and human cord blood-derived mesenchymal stem cells (CB-MSCs). They also used 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide and Click-iT 5-ethynyl-2?-deoxyuridine flow cytometry assays to evaluate the pro-proliferative effects of the extracts.

The researchers found that treatment with apple extracts promoted the proliferation of ADSCs and CB-MSCs. Apple extracts also induced the stepwise phosphorylation of p44/42 MAPK (ERK), mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), p70 S6 kinase (p70S6K), S6 ribosomal protein (S6RP), eukaryotic initiation factor (eIF) 4B, and eIF4E in ADSCs. p44/42 MAPK (ERK) is a signaling pathway involved in the regulation of cell proliferation and differentiation. Inhibition of this pathway results in cell apoptosis. mTOR is a key signaling node that coordinates cell cycle progression and cell growth. p70S6K is a cytokine that regulates cell growth by inducing protein synthesis. eIFs, on the other hand, are proteins or protein complexes involved in translation and protein biosynthesis.

The researchers also reported that apple extracts significantly induced the production of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) in both ADSCs and CB-MSCs. VEGF is a potent angiogenic factor, which means it promotes the formation of blood vessels. VEGF also plays a role in other physiological functions, such as hematopoiesis, wound healing, and development. IL-6 is a promoter of proliferation. The researchers further confirmed that the apple extract-induced proliferation of ADSCs under serum-free conditions is mediated by ERK-dependent cytokine production because when they pre-treated cells with PD98059, a specific ERK inhibitor, it inhibited the phosphorylation of the mTOR/p70S6K/S6RP/eIF4B/eIF4E pathway.

Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that extracts from apples are potent pro-proliferative agents, and the beneficial effect of apple extract on the proliferation of ASCs may overcome the limitation in their therapeutic use in tissue regeneration.

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