FOOD FOR THOUGHT—NUTRIENTS FOR BRAIN HEALTH

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Your brain is powerful. You can even use it to think about how the brain itself works. Crazy, right? But this power doesn’t make your brain immune to factors that impact the rest of your body. Lifestyle and environment can affect your brain health. Luckily, there are nutrients for brain health shown to support cognitive function.
Lipids
For a long time, dietary fats (lipids) have been connected to brain health. Originally, lipids’ effect on the cardiovascular system was thought to facilitate that connection. But more recent research shows dietary fats have more direct actions on the brain.
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (like DHA from fish oil) normally make up cell membranes throughout your body. And like other saturated fat, they’re fundamental building blocks for your brain cells. That’s part of the reason fish is often called a brain food.
Flavonoids
The antioxidant effects of flavonoids are well-established in a test-tube setting. But these plant compounds—like cocoa, ginkgo, and grape-seed extracts—have more complex actions in the body that is continually being researched.
Some flavonoids show promising results in maintaining healthy brain function. Quercetin—a flavonoid that’s a major component of ginkgo biloba extracts—has been shown to maintain memory and learning abilities in some studies. Further research on the subject is needed.
B Vitamins
Adequate levels of the B vitamin folate are essential for brain function. The proof? Folate deficiency can lead to neurological disorders, like depression and cognitive impairment.
Clinical trial results have deepened the connection between folate and cognitive function. These studies have shown folate supplementation—by itself or in conjunction with other B vitamins (B6 and B12)—to be effective at maintaining healthy cognitive function during aging.
Other Nutrients
There are more nutrients for brain health. Here’s a short list of the other nutrients with researched roles in brain health:
Alpha lipoic acid has been shown to maintain memory and cognitive function.
Vitamin E, or α-tocopherol, has also been implicated in cognitive performance. Decreasing serum levels of vitamin E were associated with poor memory performance in older individuals.
Curcumin is a strong antioxidant that seems to protect the brain from lipid peroxidation and nitric-oxide-based radicals.
Several gut hormones or peptides—like leptin, ghrelin, glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP1) and insulin—have been found to support healthy emotional response and cognitive processes.
Energy Production
The brain runs your body. And it takes a lot of energy to literally be the brain of the operation. Healthy macronutrients are necessary to fuel your brain and provide the energy it needs.

The mechanisms involved in the transfer of energy from foods to neurons are likely to be fundamental to the control of brain function. Processes that are associated with the management of energy in neurons can affect brain plasticity.
Far-Reaching Impacts
Lifestyle and diet have long-term effects on your health. That means they are likely underestimated for their importance to public health—especially when it comes to healthy aging. But they’re important to your brain. The gradual and sometimes imperceptible cognitive decline that characterizes normal aging can be influenced by the nutrients you feed your brain through a healthy diet.
These impacts go beyond your life, too. Through epigenetics, you pass on traits to your children and their children. Newer studies back this up. They indicate that these nutritional effects on your brain might even be transmitted over generations by influencing epigenetic events.

Reference

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How Gadgets and Digital Screens Are Harming Your Child

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How Gadgets and Digital Screens Are Harming Your Child

The amount of time children spend watching digital screens is worrying. Children don’t seem to get tired of watching TV or playing with the iPad. This obsession with gadgets is a matter of concern, but the immediate worry is about its adverse impact on their vision.
Why gadgets and kids don’t mix well
Kids use gadgets for playing games, chatting, browsing or watching movies. The activity is usually so involving that they don’t take their attention off the screen. They also don’t pay attention to things like posture, screen distance, and brightness, which can adversely affect their vision and health.

Staring at electronic screens for extended periods causes discomfort. You suffer from dry eyes, eye irritation and find it difficult to focus for a while. Spending too much time in one posture can also result in neck and back ache. If you are finding it difficult to cope with screen time, imagine what your child’s eyes must be going through.
Digital screens have become an inseparable part of life. You can’t wish them away or keep kids away from them, but you can minimize their impact on your children. The first step is to understand what you are up against.

The consequences of too much screen time
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average child spends about 8 hours a day watching electronic screens. Gadget use among kids increases with age. Although it cannot be said with certainty, research indicates that children spending too much time staring at screens are at higher risk of long-term vision problems. Apart from televisions and video games, most gadgets came in the last two decades. While the immediate effects on children can be observed, their long-term effects are unknown.
According to researchers, children who spend a lot of time with gadgets are likely to develop temporary myopia (nearsightedness). Fortunately, the effect is transient and the eyes recover a few minutes after they switch to a non-screen activity.
The effect of spending a lot of time watching screens is not limited to the eyes alone. Apart from symptoms like dry eyes, burning sensation, double vision and blurry vision, people also complain of headaches and posture-related problems like neck and back pain. Doctors now call this set of symptoms as “computer vision syndrome”.

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When people use electronic screens, they blink less. On an average, a person blinks about 15 times in a minute. Due to the high attention required while using an electronic screen, this rate can drop to less than 5 times in a minute.

Blinking is a natural mechanism that keeps the eyes moist, lubricated and clean. A lower blink rate causes dry eyes and irritation. The severity varies according to the type of activity and the level of engagement. A video game, therefore, creates more eyestrain because you have to constantly watch and respond to what is happening on screen. Desktop computers and wall-mounted televisions can make it worse because they make you look upwards. This makes you open your eyes wider and expose more surface area of the eye to evaporation.

Electronic screens can generate images with a lot of brightness and contrast and they can vary these images in a fraction of a second. They also reflect glare from surrounding light sources like lamps and windows. Your eyes have to frequently respond to changing light levels. Watching a screen that is too dim or bright compared to the surroundings also causes eye strain. Your eyes have to adjust when you switch from the screen to the surroundings. The frequent dilation and contraction of pupils results in eye fatigue.
Most modern gadgets come with LED screens because they produce clearer pictures and consume less power. The amount of blue light emitted by these screens is a matter of concern. LED screens emit a lot more blue light compared to LCD screens. Although research is limited, many optometrists suspect that blue light can cause irreversible damage to the retina. This can increase the risk of macular degeneration and cataract.
The macula is the central part of the retina and is crucial to good vision. Macular degeneration can make daily activities like reading and driving impossible. With age, the lenses of the eyes start to yellow. For adults, this provides a limited natural defense against blue light, but children are vulnerable. Blue light can also interfere with the biological clock and affect sleep.

Protecting children from the adverse impacts of electronic screens

If your child complains of burning eyes, you must review the amount of time they are spending with gadgets. Here are some tips that will help.

Limit screen time
Limit the amount of time your children spend watching TV. Limit other gadget time to an hour a day for small children and two hours a day for school going children. Break this allowance into two or three sessions to reduce eye strain.

Encourage children to play outdoors
Gadgets encourage sedentary habits which are bad for the body and mind. Encourage children to spend some time outdoors for activities that require them to move about and interact with other children. Playing outdoors with the dog or other kids is more fun than watching an animation movie for the umpteenth time. Spending time outdoors also exercises long distance vision and reduces the chances of myopia.
Don’t use gadgets as babysitters
Keeping your children busy with gadgets or TV may allow you to do whatever you want in peace, but it’s a bad idea. Instead, keep them occupied with healthier alternatives like creative toys, coloring books or storybooks.

Ensure that your child gets adequate sleep
Children should sleep for about 10 hours a day. Sleep allows the eyes to recover from strain.

Ask them to take regular breaks and blink often.
To prevent dry eyes, ask your child to blink two to three times whenever their eyes begin to hurt. Eye strain can be reduced by taking small breaks to look at something other than the screen. Most opticians advocate the 20-20-20 rule. Take a break every 20 minutes and focus on something about 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

Ensure that kids maintain the right distance from the screen
While using a computer or other personal device, the eye should be at least 20 inches away from the screen. Don’t let children sit too close while watching TV. If your child prefers to sit close to the screen, get his or her eyes tested to rule out myopia.

Don’t let them use gadgets in the dark or in sunlight
Kids may not pay attention to lighting conditions when they are engrossed in an activity. Discourage the use of gadgets in a dark room or in bright sunlight. Screen brightness should not be three times darker or brighter than the surroundings. If the device has an auto-brightness mode, enable it. This automatically adjusts screen brightness according to ambient light.

Digital screens cause eyestrain and other related symptoms like vision difficulties and headache. Kids are more vulnerable than adults and spending too much time with gadgets can affect their vision. It is difficult to keep children away from gadgets, but you can take steps to minimize the adverse effects.

REFERENCE

PROBIOTICS MAY LESSEN THE SEVERITY OF UPPER RESPIRATORY INFECTIONS IN COLLEGE STUDENTS

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Certain probiotic strains are known to influence immune function and may help improve health-related quality of life (HRQL) during upper respiratory infections.

Recent research published in the British Journal of Nutrition shows that supplementing with the probiotic strains Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG® and Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. lactis BB-12® may help improve health-related quality of life during upper respiratory infections.
The study participants included 231 normally healthy college students living on campus in residence halls at the Framingham State University. The students were randomized to receive either a placebo or a probiotic powder containing a minimum of 1 billion colony forming units each of Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG® and Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. lactis BB-12®. The students completed The Wisconsin Upper Respiratory Symptom Survey-21 to assess HRQL during URI. Reporting of HRQL outcomes included self-reported duration, symptom severity and functional impairment of URI.
When compared to the placebo group, the average duration of URI was significantly shorter by 2 days in the probiotic group. The group on the probiotics also reported a 34% lower average severity score compared to placebo. The probiotics group also missed significantly fewer school days, although there was no difference in number of missed work days.
Although more research is needed to determine specific mechanisms involved and the possible cost-benefit of preventive supplementation, the combination of probiotic strains LGG® and BB-12® may be valuable tool in improving the health-related quality of life during exposure to upper respiratory infections.

Smith TJ, Rigassio-radler D, Denmark R, Haley T, Touger-decker R. Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG® and Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. lactis BB-12® on health-related quality of life in college students affected by upper respiratory infections. Br J Nutr. 2013;109(11):1999-2007.

 

from : Ask the Scientists

 

Crazy Effects of Caffeine To Your Body

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It’s said that America runs on oil, but if that’s true, then it walks on caffeine. Americans drink 400 million cups of coffee a day, and who knows how much tea, energy drinks, and other caffeine sources on top of that. Caffeine is actually a psychoactive drug—the most widely used in the world—and millions of people depend on it every day to wake up and get going…or simply just to be civil. People have gotten so used to the idea of coffee and tea as a casual pick-me-up when we start to slow down that no one really thinks about what’s actually going on when we slurp down that pint of java three times a day. As it turns out, caffeine can do some pretty crazy stuff to your fragile, puny body.

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Awake
Your brain produces a molecule called adenosine, which binds to receptors in your brain and slows down neural activity: it’s a natural process that’s thought to help you get to sleep at night but often makes you drowsy during the day. When you knock back that cup of joe in the morning, the caffeine is quickly absorbed into the blood and makes its way to the brain. There, it makes like a bad house guest and plops itself down in adenosine’s favorite armchair. But where adenosine makes you tired, caffeine doesn’t, and so every brain receptor that binds with caffeine is one that can’t make you tired. In other words, caffeine doesn’t have an agenda, and it called shotgun.

poop-effect

Poop
Caffeine has long been known to affect muscles, increasing activity and speeding contractions. And while that’s useful in an athletic sense, it’s useful in a more sedentary sense when applied to the intestines. Another theory is that caffeine increases the production of a hormone that stimulates the colon, which in turn stimulates the reading of newspapers in a locked room. But since researchers have reproduced the effect using decaffeinated coffee, that’s one theory that could probably use more fiber.

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Increased energy
Increased energy is one of many parallel side effects that caffeine has on the body. When adenosine is blocked from making connections in the brain, it just sort of wanders off and tricks the brain into a mild fight or flight response. This inevitably leads to adrenaline being released, which makes your heart beat faster and harder and causes sugar to be released into your bloodstream. A similar effect can be achieved by standing next to a dangerous wild animal, but it’s not quite as convenient.

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Stamina
The next useful side effect of caffeine consumption is achieved as a result of the increased blood flow. As the heart beats faster, more blood moves through your body and through your lungs, leading to increased oxygenation, which is of crucial importance during sustained exertion and allows the muscles to operate more efficiently and with less effort. Caffeine also stimulates the metabolism, which means you’re burning more calories when you’re doing nothing. Don’t get your hopes up for a weight loss shortcut though, because potential caffeine-based weight loss programs are a shaky proposition.

concentrate
Concentrate
As well as stealing adenosine’s seat, caffeine is something of an enabler to serotonin, dopamine, and other neurotransmitters that help the brain talk to itself. Norepinephrine is another neurotransmitter that’s produced in various parts of the body, and is especially good at speeding up brain function and improving concentration and memory retrieval. It also improves muscle function and efficiency. All very useful if you’re running from a sabre toothed tiger, as well as for getting that report finished by the deadline.

relieves-headache
No headache
Caffeine is a bit of a wonder drug, and it wears many hats. One of those hats has the word “vasoconstrictor” written on it (no relation to the boa constrictor). Often when a person is experiencing a headache, the blood vessels in their brain dilate. Caffeine directly counters this by causing blood vessels to constrict, helping to reduce the pain. Caffeine is often added to migraine medication since the combination of caffeine with aspirin and acetaminophen can improve pain relief by up to 40 percent—and increase drug prices by 140 percent.

addiction

Addiction
Unfortunately, for all the positive effects of caffeine on your body, there are a few negatives as well. As with many drugs, dosage is key. Almost anything, even water, can do you harm if taken to extremes, and that goes for caffeine as well. Most of the time, though, it’s not the excessive consumption that causes problems (at least not in the short term), but a sudden drop in consumption.

When someone consistently consumes high doses of caffeine, the brain adapts by creating more receptors for adenosine to bind to, creating a new normal. This effectively produces a kind of addiction (although not true addiction) since that person then becomes more susceptible to withdrawal symptoms if they cut back, including headaches, irritability, drowsiness, and difficulty concentrating, to name a few of the more pleasant ones. Raise your hand if that sounds like a your morning before you get your first cup of coffee. Then put your hand down and make a cup of coffee.

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Bulging tummy
Drinking too much coffee doesn’t just leave a bad taste in your mouth, it can also have a negative effect on your guts. Caffeine increases acid production in your stomach as well as stimulating the muscles in your bowel. This usually happens when caffeine is ingested on an empty stomach and can lead to rushed bathroom visits—though this seems to be an actual goal for some people, who pay for a coffee enema to achieve the same effective result.

insomia
Insomia
Although it can take as little as 15 minutes for caffeine to get to work after entering your body, it can take as long as six hours for your body to remove it again. And for all that time, you’re under its influence. That’s great if you take it at the beginning of a long shift, but not so good if you’re planning sleep any time soon. Because with all those extra hormones and neurotransmitters floating around your system, you’re unlikely to keep your eyes closed, and when you do finally fall asleep, it messes with your sleep patterns—resulting in less time spent in REM sleep. All this adds up to more fatigue, which equals more coffee, and the whole thing starts again. Caffeine sure picked an effective marketing strategy.

osteoporosis
Osteoporosis
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to spend a year on the international space station, caffeine holds the answer…at least to one of the less pleasant side effects of space travel. That’s because one of the things shared by astronauts and people who consume large quantities of caffeine is a loss of bone density. The people most at risk of this are the elderly of course, but it’s definitely a possibility for someone looking to be extra authentic for their astronaut cosplay

Tonight Is A Record-Breaking Supermoon – The Biggest In 68 Years

A supermoon rises behind Glastonbury Tor, Somerset in 2015. (Credit: Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

There will be an amazing spectacle tonight as the first supermoon in almost 70 years appears in the night sky. In fact, if you’re younger than 68 you have never witnessed this record-breaking supermoon in your lifetime.

Tomorrow morning, November 14th, the moon will be the closest it has been to Earth since 1948. It will appear 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than the average monthly full moon. Of course that’s dependent on hopefully viewing the supermoon without the obstruction of a cloudy night. Thankfully it appears most of the United States will remain mostly clear for tonight’s supermoon.

If you happen to miss the moon tonight, you’ll have to wait until November 25, 2034 so take some time to go outside tonight and witness the impressive moon.

What Is A Supermoon?

A supermoon typically refers to the concurrence of two phenomena. One is when the moon is within 90% of its closest position to Earth in its orbit. Since the moon’s orbit is elliptical the moon during perigee is about 30,000 miles closer to the Earth than the apogee. The other phenomenon is syzygy, which is when the Earth, sun and moon all line up as the moon orbits Earth. When both a perigee and syzygy occur and the moon is located on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun we get a supermoon.

A supermoon sets behind the Statue of Liberty, New York in 2015. (Credit: Gary Hershorn/Corbis)

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Using Digital Devices Around Bedtime Can Disrupt Kids’ Sleep

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A new study discovers use of devices such as smartphones and tablets at bedtime more than doubles the risk of poor sleep in children.
Previous research suggests that 72 percent of children and 89 percent of adolescents have at least one device in their bedrooms and most are used near bedtime.
The speed at which these devices have developed — and their growing popularity among families — has outpaced research in this area, meaning that the impact on sleep is not well understood.
Researchers from Kings College, London reviewed 20 existing studies from four continents, involving more than 125,000 children aged six to 19 (with an average age of 15).
Their findings appear in JAMA Pediatrics.
Investigators discovered bedtime use of media devices was associated with an increased likelihood of inadequate sleep quantity, poor sleep quality, and excessive daytime sleepiness.

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Bedtime use was classified as engagement with a device within 90 minutes of going to sleep.
They also found that the presence of a media device in the bedroom, even without use, was associated with an increased likelihood of poor sleep.
One potential reason for this is that the “always on” nature of social media and instant messaging means children are continuously engaged with devices in their environment, even when they are not actively using them.
It is thought that screen-based media devices adversely affect sleep through a variety of ways, including delaying or interrupting sleep time; psychologically stimulating the brain; and affecting sleep cycles, physiology, and alertness.
Sleep disturbance in childhood is known to have adverse effects on health, including poor diet, obesity, sedative behavior, reduced immune function, and stunted growth, as well as links with mental health issues.
Dr. Ben Carter from King’s College London, said, “Our study provides further proof of the detrimental effect of media devices on both sleep duration and quality.
“Sleep is an often undervalued but important part of children’s development, with a regular lack of sleep causing a variety of health problems. With the ever-growing popularity of portable media devices and their use in schools as a replacement for textbooks, the problem of poor sleep amongst children is likely to get worse.
“Our findings suggest that an integrated approach involving parents, teachers, and healthcare professionals is necessary to reduce access to these devices and encourage good sleeping habits near bedtime.”

 

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Diwali Festival

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Diwali is the most significant religious festival among Hindus. Diwali, which is also known as Deepavali, is also known as the festival of lights. The festival spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil and hope over despair. At most places Diwali is celebrated for five days.

Diwali Origin and Significance
Diwali is historically a Hindu religion festival having its origin in the Era of Lord Rama or probably even before that at the time of churning of milky ocean when Goddess Lakshmi came out as the boon to the Gods and whole humanity.

Hinduism, being the oldest religion whose history goes back to thousands of years, it is not surprising that numerous legends are associated with Diwali. However all of them signify the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil and hope over despair.

Etymology 

Diwali (English pronunciation: /dᵻˈwɑːliː/)[4] or Sanskrit dīpāvali means “series of lights”,[23] and is derived from दीप dīpa “light, lamp”[24][25] and आवलि āvali “series, line, row”.[26] Diwali is also known as दीपोत्सव dīpotsava “festival of lights”.

The holiday is known as dīpavaḷi in Kannada: ದೀಪಾವಳಿ, Malayalam: ദീപാവലി, and Telugu: దీపావళి, dipawoli in Assamese: দীপাৱলী, dipaboli or dipali in Bengali: দীপাবলি/দীপালি, dipābali in Odia: ଦିପାବଳୀ, divālī in Hindi: दिवाली, dīvālī in Punjabi: ਦੀਵਾਲੀ, divāḷi in Gujarati: દિવાળી, Marathi: दिवाळी, and Konkani: दिवाळी, diyārī in Sindhi: दियारी‎, tīpāvaḷi in Tamil: தீபாவளி, Galungan in Balinese and Swanti in Nepali: स्वन्ति or tihar in Nepali: तिहार.

Diwali Deity(s)
Various deities are worshipped and appeased during five days Diwali festivity. However Goddess Lakshmi, Lord Ganesha, Lord Kuber are the most prominent names which come to the mind when Diwali Puja is mentioned.

Lord Yamraj, God Dhanvantari, God Hanuman, Goddess Kali, Goddess Saraswati, Lord Krishna and Demon King Bali are other prominent deities who are worshipped during Diwali.

Diwali Date and Time
As per Amanta Hindu Calendar, five days Diwali festivity spans over two months.
Diwali begins – Krishna Paksha Trayodashi (28th day) of Ashwin (7th month)
Diwali ends – Shukla Paksha Dwitiya (2nd day) of Kartik (8th month)

As per Purnimanta Calendar
Diwali begins – Krishna Paksha Trayodashi (13th day) of Kartik (8th month)
Diwali ends – Shukla Paksha Dwitiya (17th day) of Kartik (8th month)

Diwali is celebrated as per luni-solar based Hindu calendar, its date(s) varies on Gregorian calendar and usually falls in mid-October and mid-November. Diwali Calendar lists all five days of Diwali festivities for 1000 years.

Diwali Festivals List
Day 1 – Dhantrayodashi
Day 2 – Narak Chaturdashi
Day 3 – Lakshmi Puja
Day 4 – Govardhan Puja
Day 5 – Bhaiya Dooj

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The third day of Lakshmi Puja is the most important day of five days festivities and most of the times this day is referred as Diwali Puja itself. Apart from above five festivals, the most famous festivals for which Diwali is known, Diwali Calendar lists several other festivals which are celebrated during 5 days Diwali festivities.

Diwali Observance
Numerous rituals are followed during Diwali. These rituals vary from state to state and within a state region to region. However,
cleaning and decorating homes usually by giving new whitewash or fresh paints,
buying new clothes and jewelry,
buying new household items either big or small,
preparing traditional home-made sweets,
worshipping numerous deities,
lighting Diya(s) and decorating home with blinking electric lamps,
bursting firecrackers,
trying Diwali remedies to gain wealth,
visiting relatives and family friends,
distributing sweets, dry-fruits and gifts,
calling distant family members, relatives and friends to exchange Diwali wishes are the most common activities during Diwali.
Diwali Regional Variance
Diwali celebrations are more extravagant in north Indian states. In South India like Holi, Diwali is a not as spectacular as that of North India. If one wants to enjoy spectacular fire-work at night then Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai are the most suitable metros to be in during Diwali.

Diwali celebrations are moderate in Chennai and Kolkata. In Chennai, Tamil Nadu, Narak Chaturdashi is more significant than Lakshmi Puja and in Kolkata, West Bengal, devotees worship Goddess Kali rather than Goddess Lakshmi on the third day of Diwali.

Diwali Public Life
Most of the public places function as normal during Diwali. On the eve of Diwali most restaurants, pubs, metro trains, buses, taxies, cinema halls and shops, emergency and critical services at hospitals function as normal. However, at most commercial places more than half of the staff would be on leave.

As most businessmen perform Chopda Puja and Lakshmi Puja on the day of Diwali, most shops and private offices are open due to this reason. Stock Exchanges in India, although being closed due to Diwali holiday, are opened only for an hour for Muhurat trading in the evening. Muhurat trading is a symbolic ritual which is considered auspicious among traders and getting performed for years now.

For most big and small businesses Diwali, like Christmas in western countries, is the peak season when maximum sales are record. Many Bollywood blockbusters are planned and released during Diwali.

However Diwali, being marked as Gazette Holidays, all government offices and closed. Most schools and colleges are closed during Diwali.

In recently years, in most metros, time limit has been imposed for displaying and bursting the firework to curtail the noise pollution and for those who want to sleep peacefully on the night of Diwali. At most places either 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. time limit is imposed for bursting the firework.

Diwali in other Religions
Diwali is historically a Hindu religion festival having its origin in the Era of Lord Rama or probably even before that. However, Diwali is also celebrated in Sikhism and Jainism but for separate reasons. Sikh celebrates Diwali as Bandi Chhor Divas and Jain celebrates it as a day to commemorate Mahavir.

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