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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Why Eating Less May Make You Live Longer

Australian scientists have claimed that eating sporadically, like animals in the wild, could make people healthier and live longer.

Scientists know an extreme diet does not appeal to many people but say their discovery could lead to ways of mimicking its effects and pave the way for an "anti-ageing pill".

Evolutionary biologist Dr Margo Adler, who led the research, said that cutting back on food leads to increased rates of "cellular recycling" and repair mechanisms in the body.
Dr Adler, of the University of New South Wales in Australia, believes this evolved to help animals continue to reproduce when food is scarce. Their bodies adapt by recycling and reusing nutrients stored in the cells.

She said: "This is the most intriguing aspect from a human health standpoint. Although extended lifespan may simply be a side effect of dietary restriction, a better understanding of these cellular recycling mechanisms that drive the effect may hold the promise of longer, healthier lives for humans."

Low nutrient diet restores cells
Researchers have indentified pathways that respond to nutrients, and particularly protein, by dialling up cell growth rate and reproduction, and turning down some important cellular recycling processes.
"One of them is called autophagy, which is literally means self-eating. What they do is they allow the animal to recycle nutrients that are stored within its own cells," Dr Adler said.
"And so an animal that's dietarily restricted might increase its rates of cellular recycling mechanisms so that it can get more of its own stored nutrients, so it needs fewer nutrients from the environment."

However, she says the diet may allow the body to reproduce more in the short-term.
"But the benefit is that these cellular recycling mechanisms actually kind of clean up the cells and they reduce rates of cancer and reduce rates of cellular deterioration and so animals live longer and they have lower rates of cancer when they have higher rates of cellular recycling processes," she said.

Bottom line
Dr Adler says while the development of the drugs for human use is still a fair way off, further study of cellular recycling mechanisms may help find interventions for humans.
"The best suggestion is have a fairly low-protein diet, do exercise and you're probably doing well," she said.

In 2012, a study found that a low calorie diet can slow down ageing and ward off diabetes, cancer and dementia. Other studies have pointed to the need to cut food intake by about 40% to live 20 to 30% longer.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sweet News: Dark Chocolate May Prevent Obesity And Diabetes

If you’re going to munch on chocolate, choose dark chocolate. It’s something that has gained popularity as growing research points out the various health benefits of eating dark chocolate in moderation.

Antioxidants and flavonoids make it so good
Studies have shown that dark chocolate, which is rich in flavanols — a type of healthy antioxidant — can improve your cardiovascular system. Chocolate is also filled with other types of antioxidants and flavonoids, the latter of which are found in various fruits and vegetables. Flavanols are the main type of flavonoid in cocoa, and have been shown to improve vascular health by lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and heart, as well as boosting the clotting properties of blood platelets.

Not all chocolate is created equal

In fact, that strong bitter taste in really dark chocolate comes from flavanols. That’s why processed chocolate — which goes through plenty of steps to reduce that bitter taste — is sweeter and contains far less flavanols than pure cocoa.

How dark chocolate can help in weight loss?
Andrew P Neilson of the Department of Food Science and Technology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University led a mouse study where the researchers placed lab mice on a high fat diet rich in flavanols.
Lab mice were divided into various groups and given specific diets over a limited period of time. According to a result published in American Chemical Society’s “Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry”, it was demonstrated that flavanols known as Oligomeric Procyanidins (PCs) seemed to have a protective effect on health. Mice consuming a diet rich in PCs were able to maintain their weight and blood sugar low, even when the overall substance of their diet was high in fat.  

Oligomeric PCs appear to own the greatest antiobesity and antidiabetic bioactivities of the flavanols in cocoa. It promotes heart health, lowers blood sugar, and decreases body fat.

Oligomeric PCs helped in regulating blood glucose levels and hence, prove useful in treating diabetes. In the study, the mice eating a OPCs rich diet had the lowest fat mass and lower body weight at the conclusion of the study. Besides, they were least likely to develop impaired glucose tolerance and insulin resistance, all of this despite eating a high fatty diet.

Bottom line
Oligomeric PCs appear to possess the greatest antiobesity and antidiabetic bioactivities of the flavanols in cocoa, particularly at the low doses employed for the present study,” the researchers state. So before reaching for that bag of processed candy chocolate on the shelf, choose dark chocolate — the higher percentage of dark chocolate, the better.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Junk food makes you lazy, not just fat, study shows

Regularly chowing down into the succulent, high saturated fat foods — often main culprits of heart disease — can affect our physical and mental health more than previously thought. According to a recent study published in the journal Physiology & Behavior, eating junk food, not being overweight, makes people lethargic and fat.

“Overweight people often get stigmatized as lazy and lacking discipline,” said Aaron Blaisdell, leader of the study, and professor of psychology in the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) College of Letters and Science, and a member of UCLA’s Brain Research Institute, in a news release. Blaisdell and life scientists believe that the commonly portrayed idea in the media that people become fat because they are lazy, is false. High-fat diets have been known to cause metabolic and cognitive effects, often attributed to the diet’s high content of fat when compared to unrefined low-fat diets. However, little is known about the impact of refined versus unrefined food on cognition.

The study
Two groups of female rats were fed different diets by researchers at the University of Los Angeles for a six-month period. One group ate unprocessed foods such as corn and fish meal while the other ate a diet aimed to mimic junk food; high in sugar, and lower in nutrients.
While understandably the group eating the ‘junk food’ diet gained more weight than the other, they also suffered from fatigue and became more sedentary and less motivated- ie: more lazy. In fact, those rats fed junk food took twice as many, and longer breaks during tasks than the rats eating a healthy diet, even tasks which generated rewards.

What is even more concerning is that switching these rats back onto a nutritious diet at the end of six months for nine days didn’t seem to reverse their weight gain or their ‘learnt’ laziness.

Bottom line
This could suggest that while an occasional binge of bad food – say on holiday, will not have too much of a negative effect if you generally eat a good diet and lead a healthy lifestyle,
But those who eat a poor diet over the long term may actually become lazy and fatigued, as well as gaining weight and suffering the health consequences associated with being overweight.
The research shows that switching to a healthy diet in the short term, for example a fad or pre-holiday diet, is unlikely to be sufficient to reverse any of the side effects of a diet high in junk food.
Blaisdell said “We interpret our results as suggesting that the idea commonly portrayed in the media that people become fat because they are lazy is wrong. Our data suggest that diet-induced obesity is a cause, rather than an effect, of laziness. Either the highly processed diet causes fatigue or the diet causes obesity, which causes fatigue.”

With over 25% of Americans consuming fast food every day, according to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, and close to 50,000 fast food chains across the U.S., doctors must warn their patients about the serious complications of a high-fat diet. The efficient service, low prices, and casual atmosphere can become more than you bargained for when it comes to your health.

Sources: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/, http://www.medicaldaily.com/http://www.sciencedaily.com/, http://www.cbsnews.com/, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/

Monday, April 14, 2014

Planning to detox your body? Eat a handful of... Pringles!

According to a clinical trial led by University of Cincinnati researchers, a snack food ingredient called olestra has been found to speed up the removal of toxins in the body.
Results are reported in the April edition of the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.
The trial demonstrated that olestra—a zero-calorie fat substitute found in low-calorie snack foods such as Pringles—could reduce the levels of serum polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in people who had been exposed to PCBs.

Persistent Organic Pollutants and you
Every day we unknowingly ingest a multitude of pesticides, industrial pollutants and other unwanted toxic chemicals. These persistent organic pollutants (POPs), make their way into our fat cells and tissues. They build up over our lifetime because our bodies cannot get rid of them. 

These man-made compounds resist decomposition even in our environment, and research findings indicate that they have many more negative effects on us than previously suspected. The primary means of POP transport and human exposure are thought to be through the air, through the food chain (primarily in animal fats) and through our water.
When we eat foods that are contaminated with POPs (some are contaminated more than others, but most foods contain some quantity of POPs), they are digested, then stored in our fat cells—where it becomes difficult to get rid of them for a couple of reasons. First, POPs like fat, so they want to stay where the fat is. Second, if they are released from fat cells during weight loss they are reabsorbed into the bloodstream and eventually returned to fat cells in the body. In other words, POPs can get in, but they cannot get out. And since they are always coming in, we’re always going to accumulate more and more of them, which at some point can begin to cause serious problems.
POPs have been widely accepted as being associated with cancers, diabetes, neurological, and reproductive problems in humans and animals. Wikipedia has done a good job of citing sources and studies for those who would like more detailed information about POPs, including the “dirty dozen” listing of the most notorious offenders and related health effects.

Olestra to the rescue
Armed with information about POPs, the important question becomes: how can we rid ourselves of these almost “ungetridable” compounds? One simple answer: Fat-Free Pringles! Pringles, while not considered a “health food,” do contain the fake fat olestra, which has been found to stimulate the excretion of toxins from the body.
Twenty-eight residents Anniston, Ala., who had known high levels of PCBs participated in the yearlong study. Half of the participants consumed 12 Pringles a day made with vegetable oil, and the other half consumed 24 Pringles a day made with olestra. The serving sizes varied to control for calorie count. According to the results, the half who ate the olestra chips had a PCB rate of decrease of 8%, an eight-fold increase in the rate of removal prior to the study compared with those who ate the chips with vegetable oil, who had a 1% increase in the rate of removal.

The Olestra Detox Diet

 "Olestra's effect on PCB removal is apparently the result of solubilizing fat-soluble compounds like PCBs in the intestine and the solubilization reduces absorption of these compounds into the body," says Jandacek. The researchers note that fat-soluble pollutants such as PCBs are widespread and known to ascend the food chain, meaning that everyone tested has measurable levels.

Your prescription for reducing the amount of POPs in your body? Take 20 Pringles per day, exercise regularly, reduce your intake of foods containing animal fats and drink plenty of purified water.

Sources: http://medicalxpress.com/, http://www.sciencenewsline.com/, http://www.sciencedaily.com/, http://www.changemagazine.net/

Friday, April 11, 2014

Looking for an easy way to lose weight? Study shows exposure to bright light linked to significantly lower BMI

Wanna lose a few pounds? Get yourself out of bed as early as possible and bathe in the morning light for 20 to 30 minutes. Sure, you’re thinking, another ridiculous weight loss tip! But this one, believe it or not, is backed by science.

A new study from Northwestern University finds that the timing, intensity, and duration of your daily light exposure is linked to your weight. In fact, the researchers discovered that participants who had most of their exposure to even moderately bright light in the morning had a significantly lower body mass index (BMI) than those who had most of their light exposure later in the day. “Light is a powerful biological signal and appropriate timing, intensity and duration of exposure may represent a potentially modifiable risk factor for the prevention and management of obesity in modern societies,” wrote the authors in the conclusion of their study.

The study
Participants in the study -26 men and 28 women, with an average age of 30- were asked to log their mealtimes and sleep times and were asked to wear a wrist device that monitored their movements.
Those who were exposed to daily light above 500 lux in the early part of the day had lower BMIs.
Room light is between 150-500 lux while outdoor light is more than 1,000 lux, even on cloudy days.
“The earlier this light exposure occurred during the day, the lower the individuals’ body mass index,” wrote co-lead author Dr. Kathryn Reid. “The later the hour of moderately bright light exposure, the higher a person’s BMI.”

Significantly, the influence of morning light exposure on body weight was independent of a participant's physical activity level, calorie intake, sleep timing, age, or season. Plus, it accounted for about 20% of a person's BMI. “Our results suggest that the relationship between light and BMI is not simply a function of the accumulated minutes of light during the day, but more importantly the temporal pattern of light exposure above a biological threshold,” the authors wrote. 

Our internal body clock
“Light is the most potent agent to synchronize your internal body clock that regulates circadian rhythms, which in turn also regulate energy balance,” explained Phyllis C. Zee, M.D., director of the Sleep and Circadian Rhythms Research Program at Northwestern. “If a person doesn’t get sufficient light at the appropriate time of day, it could de-synchronize your internal body clock, which is known to alter metabolism and can lead to weight gain.”
According to Zee, the crucial hours we should be aiming to see bright light are between eight 8am and midday. No need to overdo it though; about 20 to 30 minutes of this early light is enough to affect BMI.

It isn’t just people who get up late who are at risk of upsetting their metabolism. The fact that most of us work indoors in poorly lit environments also contributes to the problem. The results of the study showed 500 lux to be "the magic number"  in lowering BMI. This is about 200 to 300 lux higher than the artificial lighting provided in an average office.

Bottom line
The researchers believe that their findings could lead to a break-through in approaches to weight management, with the manipulation of light providing a whole new avenue in the treatment of obesity. In addition, lifestyle changes such as taking lunch breaks outside (weather permitting), could help get society in shape.  Zee suggests that we should cultivate a good relationship with our body clocks from a young age, and is convinced that improved lighting and outdoor breaks in schools could “prevent obesity on a larger scale”.

Sources: http://www.eurekalert.org/, http://www.medicaldaily.com/, http://www.independent.co.uk/, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Heart disease risk slashed by handful of beans - new study

They are one of our favourite convenience foods. And now it seems that adding a handful of beans, chickpeas or lentils to your diet every day can cut 'bad' cholesterol and slash the risk of heart disease. Researchers have found by eating one small serving a day of pulses, it is possible to cut low-density lipoprotein cholesterol by 5%. This would translate into a 5 to 6% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease.

All it takes it a daily portion of pulses - 4½oz, the equivalent of a small apple - said the report for the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
However most people eat less than half that a day. That's because legumes have been tied to flatulence, bloating and discomfort, although this side effect subsided after a while, said lead researcher Dr John Sievenpiper from St Michael’s Hospital, Toronto.

“Pulses are generally considered healthy, but they’re not traditionally part of current guidelines,” Sievenpiper said. “They have a lot of amazing things in them. They are a whole food, they have wonderful vitamins and minerals – magnesium, calcium, sticky fibres that lower cholesterol, plant protein, a low glycemic index,” Sievenpiper said. Consuming more pulses could also cut down on trans fats or processed meat because you’re reaching for plant protein over animal protein.

The study
In the research, Sievenpiper and research coordinator Vanessa Ha conducted a meta-analysis of more than 3,000 studies. They narrowed down their search to 26 studies that looked at any benefits pulses had to offer to 1,037 people over the course of at least three weeks.
The results showed that men had a greater reduction in their bad cholesterol levels than women. But the researchers said men's diets tended to be poorer and cholesterol levels higher, which was why they benefited more markedly.
Most of the trials involved people already on heart-healthy low-fat diets, which also produce a 5-10% reduction in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, said the researchers.

Bottom line
Oats, plant sterols in margarine, soy, nuts and other products offer the same benefits, yet pulses haven’t received the same FDA approval claims.
“Our study can hopefully influence those guidelines so they can potentially consider pulses alone as a viable way of lowering bad cholesterol and improving cardiovascular risk,” he said. That means official health organizations could approve and promote pulses to those with or at risk of heart disease. Beans, chickpeas and lentils could have labels that remind consumers of their cholesterol-lowering properties, too.

Urging people to eat more pulses, Dr Sievenpiper said: “We have a lot of room in our diets for increasing our intake to derive the cardiovascular benefits. As an added bonus, they’re inexpensive.”
Sievenpiper suggests that people could increase the cholesterol-lowering benefits by building their diets around these groups of foods. Have some oatmeal in the morning, nuts as a snack and bean salad for lunch, for example. Each food would take on about a 5% decrease in bad cholesterol.
“You could build a portfolio of foods that could actually give you cholesterol-lowering that could rival drugs. That’s how diet could have a benefit in terms of heart disease risk in a way that’s meaningful and comparable with [statins],” Sievenpiper said. “Pulses are a superfood as they offer a lot of different potential benefits for people,” he said.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Toss the Salt and Spice Up Your Life

Here's a crazy stat: only 3% of Americans consume the Institute of Medicine's recommended 1,500 mg or less of sodium per day (the upper limit, FYI, is 2,300). That's a bad thing, since high sodium consumption can raise blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
"It is difficult to adhere to guidelines for sodium intake because sodium is very common in the food supply," said Cheryl Anderson, Ph.D., of the University of California at San Diego School of Medicine's Division of Preventive Medicine. "To meet guidelines, it is recommended that Americans prepare and consume fresh foods instead of packaged or processed foods." Which, let's face it, is way easier said than done.

So a new study from Anderson and her team of researchers is promising: they tested out an intervention focusing on teaching participants to flavor their food using herbs and spices, and found that by the end of the study period, compared to a control group, the intervention group was taking in significantly less sodium.

The study
The study, which was presented at an annual conference hosted by the American Heart Association, followed 55 volunteers involved in a two-phase experiment spanning 24 weeks. At the start of the study, more than 60% of them had high blood pressure, and about 18% reported diabetes or weight problems.
For the first four weeks, all participants followed a low-sodium diet with foods flavored with herbs and spices. For example:
  • Meat flavored with a rub made from olive oil, coffee extract, cherry extract, smoke paprika and smokehouse pepper
  • Spreading olive oil flavored with garlic powder on unsalted bread before making grilled cheese
  • A marinade made with lime juice, black pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika, onion powder and honey
For the remaining 20 weeks, participants were either asked to lower their sodium intake on their own or partake in a behavioral intervention program designed to educate them on low-sodium eating. The sessions focused on ways to substitute salt with herbs and spices when cooking. Anderson and her colleagues found that, although sodium intake went up for both groups following the initial four-week intervention, those participating in the behavioral sessions ate significantly less salt over the 20-week period. On average, they consumed nearly 1,000 daily milligrams of sodium less than the control group.

"People in the intervention group learned problem-solving strategies, use of herbs and spices in recipes, how culture influences spice choices, how to monitor diet, overcoming the barriers to making dietary changes, how to choose and order foods when eating out and how to make low-sodium intake permanent," Anderson explained.

Spice it up - for better overall health
The results backup a number of other studies highlighting the benefits of bringing a more diverse range of spices into your cooking. One example is a recent paper from the University of Kentucky, in which researchers show that curcumin — a compound occurring in curry — may slow the growth of breast tumors.
With some development, the education model outlined in the study could prove a valuable tool for health officials working to sodium-related health complications like hypertension, osteoporosis, and kidney disease. "Given the challenges of lowering salt in the American diet, we need a public health approach aimed at making it possible for consumers to adhere to an eating pattern with less salt. This intervention using education and tasty alternatives to sodium could be one solution."
Large-scale interventions, including increasing access to fresh foods and whole grains, will likely be necessary to help people achieve lower sodium levels nationwide, according to Anderson.
"We need to be mindful of food access issues and how they are playing out for some of our most vulnerable citizens..." Anderson said. "Spices and herbs are a wonderful message, because from an access perspective, people can grow herbs and spices relatively cheap; people could get to them relatively easily if they have a supermarket somewhere close by. But we need to be mindful of how the message of ‘eat more herbs and spices’ reaches everyone, not just those of us who have more access or means."

 Sources: http://newsroom.heart.org/, http://www.medicaldaily.com/, http://www.self.com/, http://www.foxnews.com/