Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Consumer Reports Insights: Health clubs harbor hidden dangers

Joining a health club can make it easier and more fun to exercise. But gyms and weight rooms can also present safety problems. Bacteria in poorly maintained pools can spread disease. Antibiotic-resistant staph infections can be picked up in crowded locker rooms and from heavily used exercise equipment. You can be injured or even suffer an exercise-related heart problem. Here's how to minimize those risks.

Skin infections

Staph infections, including those caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria, can spread through shared gym equipment, mats and towels. Infections tend to occur near a cut or scrape, and on certain body parts (the armpits, buttocks, groin and neck). They start off looking like a large pimple but can swell, become painful and produce pus. If they spread to your bloodstream, they can be life-threatening. Many clear up on their own, but seek medical attention if a fever develops or if the area becomes enlarged, red, tender or warm.

Use the alcohol spray or wipes that most gyms provide to wipe off equipment before and after use. Place a clean towel over mats used for doing sit-ups, stretching or yoga. Don't share towels with others. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based sanitizer. Shower after working out. If you have a cut or scrape, keep it covered with a clean adhesive bandage and don't use hot tubs or whirlpools.

Source: Washington Post.com 12/20/11

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Before You Lift a Weight, Get Some Advice

It seems unfair when people get hurt while trying to do something good for their bodies. But that is exactly what happened to nearly a million Americans from 1990 to 2007 when they sought to improve their strength and well-being through weight training — exercises done with free weights or on gym equipment called resistance machines.

To be sure, these injuries are less common than, say, those linked to running, cycling or competitive sports. But a national study, published online in March by The American Journal of Sports Medicine, revealed that these mishaps are on the rise and that they spare no body part, gender or age group.

The study covered 25,335 people aged 6 to 100 who were taken to emergency rooms with weight-training injuries. The research team, from the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, said that worked out to nearly one million such injuries throughout the country, an increase of 48 percent from the beginning of the 18-year study period to the end.

Men were injured in more than 80 percent of cases described in the study — hardly surprising since they are the primary users of weight rooms. But the study showed that weight-training injuries were rising faster among women, many of whom have only recently taken up the activity to help with weight control, bone density and overall ability to perform life’s chores.

In the study, sprains and strains to the upper and lower trunk were the most common injuries, and in two-thirds of cases, they resulted from people dropping weights on themselves. More than 90 percent of injuries were incurred using free weights, which were responsible for 24 percent of fractures and dislocations.

While people aged 13 to 24 had the greatest number of injuries, the largest increase occurred among those 45 and older, many of them people like me who want to delay or reverse age-related muscle loss and improve the quality of their later years.

In seeking guidance, he said, “don’t be afraid to ask about a trainer’s qualifications.

“Too Much of a Good Thing"

The most common cause of weight-training injuries, is trying to do too much — doing too many repetitions, using too much weight or doing the workout too often.

These practices can result in muscle injury and torn tendons and ligaments, as well as inflammation of the tendons and bursae (the cushionlike sacs around the joints) — all debilitating injuries that can discourage someone from returning to the gym. Lifting weights that are too heavy can injure the rotator cuff in the shoulder or strain the back.

Muscles get stronger when they are worked hard, developing microtears that are healed with protein-rich tissue. But when muscles are overstressed, the serious tears that can result are anything but strengthening.

In bench pressing, it is best to use a spotter to make sure the activity is done safely.

A second common cause of injury is poor technique, Mr. Reiff said. Improper alignment while lifting or using resistance machines can place unnatural or uneven stresses on various body parts. You must have respect for the equipment and know how to use it safely in relation to your size and abilities. The machines themselves can sometimes be a hazard, as Ms. Cleary discovered.

After an injury, it is critical to give the body the time and treatment it needs to heal before returning to weight-training. This does not necessarily mean totally abandoning a strengthening workout. If shoulders are injured, for example, legs can still be worked safely, and vice versa.

Source: Jane Brody, Washington Post 12/14/10

Monday, December 13, 2010

Worst Food in America?

These foods have earned their distinction not because of their taste but rather because of their nutrition profile.

Worst Breakfast
IHOP Big Country Breakfast with Chicken Fried Steak & Country Gravy
2,440 calories
145 g fat (56 g saturated)
210 g carbohydrates
5,520 mg sodium

Here’s the anatomy of a breakfast disaster: Take a 12-ounce steak, bread it, fry it, and then cover it with gravy. Then, on the side, drop three eggs and three buttermilk pancakes. Does it not occur to IHOP that this is actually three full meals that would weigh in at more than 800 calories apiece?

The Worst Food in America
Cheesecake Factory’s Bistro Shrimp Pasta
2,730 calories
78 g saturated fat
919 mg sodium
141 g carbohydrates

No restaurant chain exemplifies America's portion problem more than Cheesecake Factory, where the average sandwich contains nearly 1,400 calories—more than three full meals. But the Factory doesn't stop at elephantine portion sizes; combine that with heavy-handed application of cheap cooking fats and the result are dishes like the 2,580-calorie Chicken and Biscuits and the 2,460-calorie French Toast Napoleon. However, it’s this relatively healthy-sounding plate of shrimp pasta that earns this year's Worst Food in America crown from Eat This, Not That!, delivering to your system more saturated fat than you’d find in three packages of Oscar Mayer Center Cut Bacon.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Does It Make A Difference if I Eat Protein Before or After Exercise?

Eating protein after exercising may help rev up the body's muscle-making machinery, in both young and older men alike, a small study suggests.

The study of 48 men - half in their twenties and the other half in their seventies -- found that in both age groups, consuming a protein drink after exercise led to a greater increase in muscle protein, compared with downing the drink after a period of rest.

What's more, muscle protein increased at nearly the same rate in young and elderly men, the researchers report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

That suggests that, contrary to some researchers' speculation, older age may not impair the way the body digests and absorbs protein from food, according to the researchers, led by Dr. Luc JC van Loon of Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands.

The study has a number of limitations. Besides its small size, it did not look at actual muscle mass changes over time -- but only short-term changes in participants' muscle-fiber proteins after the protein drink. So it is not clear what kinds of gains older or younger adults might see from having their protein post-workout.

Still, the findings do suggest that exercising before consuming protein may help the body put those nutrients to greater muscle-building use, according to van Loon's team.

And for older adults, they write, exercise should "clearly" be considered as a way to boost muscle-protein buildup in response to food -- and, by extension, to support healthy aging.

The study included 24 older men with an average age of 74 and 24 young men with an average age of 21, none of whom regularly exercised.

The researchers randomly assigned the men to one of two groups; in one, the men rested for 90 minutes, followed by 30 minutes of exercise -- pedaling a stationary bike and performing light strengthening exercises. In the other group, the men spent those additional 30 minutes relaxing.

Afterward, men in both groups downed a drink containing 20 grams of protein, then had their blood levels of various amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) repeatedly measured. The researchers also took a small sample of tissue from each man's thigh muscle, right before the protein drink and 6 hours afterward, to measure changes in the amounts of protein in the muscle.

Overall, van Loon and his colleagues found, muscle protein increased to a greater extent in the exercise group versus the inactive group, and both older and younger men showed similar benefits.

It's well known that muscle mass tends to wane as people age, and some researchers have proposed that one reason may be that in older people, the body's muscle-protein production responds less efficiently to protein from food, and also to exercise.

However, the current findings suggest that this may not be the case.

"Effective dietary approaches are needed to prevent and/or attenuate the age-related loss of muscle mass," van Loon and his colleagues write.

Based on these findings, they conclude, it's possible that having protein after exercise allows for greater use of food-derived protein for muscle building, in young and old alike.

SOURCE: link.reuters.com/sax77q American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online November 17, 2010.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Weight Training

Resistance exercise such as weight training affects blood vessels differently than aerobic exercise and offers other cardiovascular benefits, finds a new study.

Researchers at the Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., compared blood vessel (vascular) responses to two types of moderate-intensity workouts: three sets of 10 repetitions of eight resistance exercises and 30 minutes of aerobic cycling.

There were significant differences in the vascular responses to the two types of exercises. Resistance exercise produced greater increases in blood flow to the limbs, while aerobic exercise reduced arterial stiffness, but without an increase in blood flow.

"Resistance exercise may offer greater benefits from the increases in blood flow to active muscles and could be implemented as a companion to an aerobic training program," wrote study leader Scott R. Collier, of Appalachian State University, and colleagues in a press release.

"The present study indicates that an acute bout of resistance exercise shows many favorable cardiovascular benefits and should therefore be considered as part of a daily exercise training program," the researchers concluded.

Source: November issue of Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Some Adults Unable to Benefit from Work-Outs

Recently, researchers in Finland made the discovery that there are those who just do not become fitter or stronger, no matter what exercise they undertake. To reach this conclusion, the researchers enrolled 175 sedentary adults in a 21-week exercise program. Some lifted weights twice a week. Others jogged or walked. Some did both. Before and after the program, the volunteers’ fitness and muscular strength were assessed.

At the end of the 21 weeks,some improved their strength enormously, some not at all. Others became aerobically fitter but not stronger, while still others showed no improvements in either area. Only a fortunate few became both fitter and more buff. As the researchers from the University of Jyvaskyla wrote with some understatement, “large individual differences” exist “in the responses to both endurance and strength training.”

Hidden away in the results of almost any study of exercise programs is the fact that some people do not respond at all, while others respond at an unusually high rate. Averaged, the results may suggest that a certain exercise program reliably will produce certain results — that jogging, say, three times a week for a month will improve VO2max (maximal oxygen capacity) or reduce blood pressure; and for almost any given group of exercisers, those results are likely to hold true. But for outliers, the impacts can be quite different. Their VO2max won’t budge, or it will fall, or it will soar.

The implications of such wide variety in response are huge. In looking at the population as a whole, writes Dr. Jamie Timmons, Ph.D., a professor of systems biology at the Royal Veterinary College in London, in a review article published last month in The Journal of Applied Physiology, the findings suggest that “there will be millions of humans that cannot improve their aerobic capacity or their insulin sensitivity, nor reduce their blood pressure” through standard exercise.

But what is it about one person’s body that allows it to react so vigorously to exercise, while for others the reaction is puny at best? One answer, to no one’s surprise, would seem to be genetics.

In other words, this issue is as intricate as the body itself. There is a collection of compelling data that indicate that about half of our aerobic capacity “is genetic,” Dr. Timmons wrote in an e-mail. “The rest may be diet,” or it could be a result of epigenetics, a complicated process in which the environment (including where you live and what you eat) affects how and when genes are activated. “Or it could be other factors,” he said. Although fewer studies have examined why people respond so variously to strength training, “we have no reason to doubt,” he said, that genetics play a similar role.

But none of this means that if you once took up jogging or weight lifting and didn’t respond, you should take to the couch. It may be that a different exercise regimen would prompt beneficial reactions from your particular genome and physiology, Dr. Timmons said. (Although scientists still have a long way to go before they can say, definitively, who needs what exercise, based on genetic and other differences.) In the meantime, Dr. Timmons stressed, even low responders should continue to sweat. Just as scientists don’t yet understand the complicated underpinnings of the body’s response to exercise, they also don’t necessarily understand the full range of exercise’s impacts. Even if you do not increase your VO2max, Dr. Timmons said, you are likely to be deriving other benefits, both big and small, from working out. Exercise does still remain, “on average,” he said, “one of the best ‘health’ treatments we have.”

Source: NY Times, 11/17/2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Do Slimming Patches Work?

Slimming patches stick on the skin like a Band-Aid. Marketers say the patches reduce cravings and speed metabolism, helping you to lose weight. Some doctors say there's no proof the patches work, and in recent years the Federal Trade Commission has charged certain companies with false advertising.

Slimming patches are being widely advertised on the Web and in some stores. The ingredients are typically a mixture of plants and natural ingredients, such as hoodia gordonii, a seaweed called fucus vesiculosus and guarana, a stimulant. The Slim Weight Patch, sold by Roduve Healthcare Solutions BV of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, contains a blend of ground seaweed, guarana and nine other ingredients the company's website says will "control your hunger cravings and speed up your metabolism."

Some obesity experts are skeptical of the patches. "There is no evidence that it works. I think you are wasting your money," says Xavier Pi-Sunyer, director of the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York.

Typically the patches are applied once a day, anywhere on the body that is clean, dry and hairless. Companies who sell the patches say the active ingredients are absorbed through the skin. Costs vary, but typically range from $15 to $40 for a month's supply.

The patches being marketed haven't generally been tested in rigorous clinical trials. "There is weak evidence that it affects the thyroid [which helps regulate metabolism] but evidence is lacking for its use in weight loss," says Catherine Ulbricht, co-founder of Natural Standard and senior attending pharmacist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Another issue is that even if the ingredients themselves do affect appetite and weight, there is no proof they are getting into the body via the patches, without well-designed clinical trials. "Just because a drug is effective when swallowed doesn't mean the drug is going to be effective when put on the skin," says Mark R. Prausnitz, director of the Center for Drug Design, Development and Delivery at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. To pass effectively through the skin, he adds, a substance must have a low molecular weight (which means it is very small) and must be oily. And once an ingredient is in the body, it may have a different effect when eaten compared with skin absorption, scientists say.

Source: Wall Street Journal 11/16

Looks like you might be able to save your money by passing this patch up and instead spend it on a gym membership.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Recovery From High Intensity Athletics

Most of us are pretty conscientious about preparing for an upcoming competition, special athletic event or particularly grueling training session. We build our stamina. We hydrate. We take on extra fuel. We get a little extra rest.

But how much attention do you pay to the hours and days after you finish that century ride, alumni soccer game or 20-mile training run? Do you collapse on the couch, spent, and indulge in a double cheeseburger with fries to celebrate your achievement and the extra calories you burned?

Experts and top athletes know that the energy and focus you put into your recovery will go a long way toward determining not only how you feel for the next few days, but how well you perform the next time. (Assuming there is a next time.) And that effort helps prevent injury.

"If you don't recover, you wind up getting into overuse syndromes" and suffering injuries such as stress fractures, says Karen Merrill, a master trainer for the American Council on Exercise, who recommends at least 10 minutes of stretching after a good workout.

While this knowledge has slowly seeped down to the rest of us - Gatorade now markets "before," "during" and "after" sports drinks - it's not as ingrained as pre-event regimens. And how to go about it is somewhat more confusing.

I learned this the hard way (seems like the only way for me) after I ran my first marathon in 2005. My wife and I scheduled a walking tour of New Orleans for the next morning. In theory I was doing the right thing: keeping those legs moving, gently, is the best way to recover from 26.2 miles of pounding. But I didn't know anything about post-race care and soon was having trouble walking down stairs on stiff quads and swollen feet. (I also ate a great post-race bacon cheeseburger. Which I don't regret.)

Here are a few things you might consider after your next tough outing.

Active recovery

You're exhausted, you're proud, you've earned a few hours with your feet up and the ballgame on. Don't do it. At least not right away. That burning in your legs while you were working so hard came from lactate, a byproduct of exercise. You want to keep your blood circulating well so your body can get rid of it as efficiently as possible, and you want to keep those tired muscles limber.

Distance runners, from high school on up, take cool-down runs right after competition. You should do something, too. Take a walk, do some yoga, slowly pedal an exercise bike. And by all means, stretch as much as you can as part of the cool-down.

Under no circumstances "should anyone just stop," says Lynn Millar, a professor of physical therapy at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Mich. Although conventional wisdom calls for stretching muscles while they're warm, Millar has found that some people need an additional, gentle stretching session later.

"It may be more important to do some of that stretching three hours later," she says. "That may help better at preventing that tightness or lack of range of motion."

In a small 2008 study of women rock climbers, French and Belgian researchers found that active recovery - in this case, pedaling a stationary bike - removed lactate more quickly than other methods and led to better performance when the women went back onto the climbing wall 20 minutes later.

Ice baths

Nothing feels better on sore muscles after a tough workout than a hot shower or, if you have access to one, a steaming whirlpool. Haven't we seen pro athletes doing this for years? Unfortunately, it may be the wrong way to go. It seems wherever you go now, someone is touting the benefits of an ice bath or, more technically, cold-water immersion.

It seems intuitive that cold would reduce the inflammation in overworked legs. Distance runners swear by the practice; they've been standing in buckets of icy water after races and workouts for years. An ice bath "constricts blood vessels and decreases metabolic activity, which reduces swelling and tissue breakdown," top ultra-marathoner Nikki Kimball wrote in Runner's World in 2008. (For ultra-wusses like me, Kimball notes that she wears a down jacket, a hat and neoprene booties and drinks hot tea during her 20 minutes in a 50- to 59-degree tub.)

This idea is not universally accepted, however. Kenneth L. Knight, a professor of athletic training at Brigham Young University who has spent his career studying cryotherapy for athletes, says there is no research to support or refute the effect of ice baths on inflammation, even if so many say it feels so good.

"There's no evidence that it's not good, but there's no evidence to support it, either," Knight says. "It's just out there."

In that 2008 study of rock climbers, cold-water immersion was the other method that researchers found helped maintain performance. (Passive recovery and electric stimulation were the ones that didn't pan out as well.)

Chocolate milk?

I don't have the space here to help you navigate the river of commercial post-workout beverages or foods that make similar claims about aiding recovery. I did check into one of the latest fads, chocolate milk, because so many people seem to be drinking it after workouts. Turns out it makes sense.

Nancy Clark, a registered dietitian and author of "Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook," says chocolate milk provides fluid, carbohydrates (sugar) to replenish your body's supply, protein to promote muscle healing and the sodium that you've sweated away. Plus, it gives you that sated feeling that other products may not. A small University of Connecticut study found that fat-free chocolate milk seems to protect muscles better than a carbohydrate recovery drink.

For noncompetitive athletes, Clark says, there are myriad ways to take in the same essentials in the 24 to 48 hours after a workout, from protein shakes to the small, low-fat meals you should be eating anyway.

In most instances, "the body will take care of it on its own" by signaling what it needs, she says. "Your job is to make sure there's food around."

Source: Washington Post; Lenny Bernstein Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Obesity Follows Into Adulthood

Obesity often follows the young into adulthood
People who were obese between the ages of 12 and 21 are seven times more likely than normal-weight or overweight peers to develop severe obesity by the time they reach their late 20s to early 30s, a study finds.

Some adolescent memories — prom dates, fashion choices, Facebook postings — tend to fade and, mercifully, disappear in the transition to adulthood. But a study released Tuesday finds that one increasingly common source of teen angst — obesity — has a cruel knack for following adolescents into their adult years, then tightening its grip.

The result not only confers profound health risks for teens whose excess weight follows them and accelerates into adulthood, it also spells a looming public health disaster in a country where almost 1 in 5 adolescents is obese, experts say.

By the time they reach their late 20s to early 30s, people who were obese between 12 and 21 are more than seven times more likely than normal-weight or overweight peers to develop severe obesity — defined as having a body mass index, or BMI, of 40 or more — according to the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Assn.

For women and for ethnic minorities, the likelihood of proceeding from adolescent obesity to adult severe obesity is particularly pronounced. Among women, 51.3% of those who had been obese when they were younger became severely obese adults (for men, the figure was 37.1%). Among African American women, 52.4% who had been obese in earlier years went on to become severely obese.

By comparison, 7.9% of all participants in the study, and less than 5% of those whose weight was in the normal range, became severely obese in adulthood.

The authors, epidemiologists based in North Carolina, estimated from their findings that 1 million Americans who were between the ages of 12 and 21 in 1996, when the study began, became severely obese adults. As they did so, they took on the increased risk of developing obesity-related conditions such as cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and musculoskeletal pain.

The report comes against the backdrop of evidence that the ranks of the severely obese — typically, those who carry at least 80 to 100 pounds of excess body weight — are rising faster in the U.S. population than those classified as moderately obese. Given the scarcity of solutions — drugs and diet-and-exercise interventions have proved less safe and effective than experts had hoped — the authors note that "prevention is critical."

For those already obese, the authors said, it is important to identify those at greatest risk of becoming severely obese and focusing weight-loss programs on them.

The investigation tracked 8,834 participants ages 12-21 at the study's start for 13 years. Because of the long follow-up, the study provides a clearer picture than most of obesity's progression in individuals of different genders, ages and ethnicities, said lead author Penny Gordon-Larsen, an epidemiologist with the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina.

In particular, the findings underline that for children who struggle with their weight, the transition to adulthood can be a particularly perilous crossing, Gordon-Larsen said.

Obese teens increasingly are steered toward riskier measures to avert future health problems, including bariatric surgery — a weight-loss intervention that grew sevenfold among teens between 2005 and 2007, according to a recent report. The authors of the JAMA study suggested such surgery may be justified because it "is the only treatment to have long-term success," albeit with "major potential complications."

Pediatric endocrinologist David S. Ludwig, director of Children's Hospital Boston's Optimal Weight for Life program, said the JAMA study emphasized the "critical importance" of treating childhood obesity early, before poor lifestyle habits can become deeply ingrained. Early obesity also "may produce changes in metabolism, hormones or the brain that oppose weight loss," Ludwig added.

At the same time, some experts in weight management across the lifespan said the study's usefulness was limited by its reliance on the BMI as the primary measure of an individual's healthful weight.

"I'm not a big fan of BMI, especially for kids," said Dr. David Heber, director of UCLA's Risk Factor Obesity Program. A rough measure of fat based on an individual's height and weight, the BMI can be useful for detecting population trends, but is often not the best measure of an individual adolescent's fitness or prospects of developing obesity-related health conditions, he said.

Instead, Heber prefers to measure an adolescent's fat and lean-muscle mass and calculate their relative proportions. "They'll tell you what your target weight should be," he said.

Source:Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times, November 9, 2010

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Overweight Children More Prone to Stress

Overweight children may be more stressed than those of normal weight, a report suggests today. Among 1,136 kids and teens ages 8-17 surveyed online in August, those of above-normal weight reported more health problems in the previous month.

Such problems, experts say, signal stress. Among them:

•Sleep problems, 48% (compared with 33% of normal-weight kids).

•Headaches, 43% (vs. 28%).

•Anger and fighting, 22% (vs. 13%).

"There are some good data out there that show connections between stress and being overweight," says Kathryn Henderson, a clinical psychologist at the non-profit Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University, which helped develop the weight-related survey section.

Compared with normal-weight kids, overweight children were more likely to report eating when stressed (27% vs. 14%) or taking a nap (26% vs. 15%). Kids and teens of normal weight who are stressed report more healthy activities, such as playing sports (21%, vs. 13% for overweight kids).

Henderson says all kids are fairly likely to cope by doing sedentary behaviors, "and in particular screen time. It might just be the go-to activity."

Calorie burning activity appears to be good for everybody, every day.

Overweight children show more signs of stress
By Sharon Jayson, USA TODAY Publication: Date: Nov 8, 2010

Monday, November 8, 2010

Hmm...Organic produce has no edge in nutrition over traditional

Organically grown produce may offer no nutritional benefits over traditional growth methods, according to a new study.

Published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the study reports new evidence that organically grown onions, carrots, and potatoes generally do not have higher levels of polyphenol antioxidants than vegetables grown with traditional fertilizers and pesticides.

“On the basis of the present study carried out under well controlled conditions, it cannot be concluded that organically grown onions, carrots, and potatoes generally have higher contents of health-promoting secondary metabolites in comparison with the conventionally cultivated ones,” stated the researchers, led by Pia Knuthsen from the National Food Institute at Technical University of Denmark.

The new study adds further confusion to the ongoing debate on whether organically grown fruit and vegetables are any more nutritious than their traditionally cultivated counterparts.

Organic vs Conventional: Controversial

The fundamental differences between organic and conventional agricultural systems are in fertilization strategy and soil fertility management, which in theory affect the nutrient composition in plants and provide healthier better tasting produce. However, previous studies on the nutrient content of organically and conventionally grown plants have generated contradicting results.

In 2009 an FSA review on the nutritional content of organic and conventional produce sparked controversy after it concluded that there are no differences. The research conducted at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine concluded that “there is no evidence to support the selection of organically produced foodstuffs to increase the intake of specific nutrients or nutritionally relevant substances.”

However, several smaller studies have since reported higher levels of certain nutrients in organically grown produce, including strawberries . In addition, a French review completely contradicted the findings of the FSA concluding that “organic plant products contain more dry matter and minerals – such as iron and magnesium – and more antioxidant polyphenols like phenols and salicylic acid.”

Knuthsen and colleagues pointed out that there are many reasons to pay a premium for organic food products, including improved animal welfare, environmental protection and better taste and freshness. However, they noted that the health benefits of organic food consumption are still controversial and not considered scientifically well-documented.

“The objective of our study was to compare the content of selected flavonoids and phenolic acids in organically and conventionally grown onions, potatoes, and carrots and to evaluate if the ability of the crops to synthesize selected secondary metabolites is systematically affected by growth systems across different growth years as well as geographic locations [and soil types],” stated the authors.

Nutritional value

The researchers reported that onions and carrots, showed no statistically significant differences between growth systems for any of the analyzed polyphenols over a two year growing period.

Organically grown potatoes fertilized with cover crops, were however observed to have a higher content of one polyphenol – chlorogenic acid (5-CQA) – compared to the conventional growth system.

No benefit?

The researchers concluded that, based on the results of their study, it cannot be concluded that organically grown onions, carrots, and potatoes have higher contents of polyphenols and related secondary metabolites, in comparison with conventionally cultivated ones.

“The ability of crops to synthesize selected secondary metabolites was not systematically affected by the growth system across different growth years and geographical locations,” they stated.

However, some commentators have previously pointed out that nutrition is not the main reason that many people opt for organics, stating that the avoidance of pesticides and consumer preference for produce grown using land-conscious practices account for much of the sector.

Source: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
Volume 58, Issue 19, Pages 10323–10329, doi: 10.1021/jf101091c
“Effects of Organic and Conventional Growth Systems on the Content of Flavonoids in Onions and Phenolic Acids in Carrots and Potatoes”
Authors: M. Søltoft, J. Nielsen, K. Holst Laursen, S. Husted, U. Halekoh, P. Knuthsen

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

No More Happy Meals in San Francisco

San Francisco's board of supervisors has voted, by a veto-proof margin, to ban most of McDonald's Happy Meals as they are now served in the restaurants.

The measure will make San Francisco the first major city in the country to forbid restaurants from offering a free toy with meals that contain more than set levels of calories, sugar and fat.

The ordinance would also require restaurants to provide fruits and vegetables with all meals for children that come with toys.

"We're part of a movement that is moving forward an agenda of food justice," said Supervisor Eric Mar, who sponsored the measure. "From San Francisco to New York City, the epidemic of childhood obesity in this country is making our kids sick, particularly kids from low income neighborhoods, at an alarming rate. It's a survival issue and a day-to-day issue."

Just after the vote, McDonald's spokeswoman Danya Proud said, "We are extremely disappointed with today's decision. It's not what our customers want, nor is it something they asked for."

The ban, already enacted in a similar measure by Santa Clara County, was opposed by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who was vying to be lieutenant governor in Tuesday's election. But because the measure was passed by eight votes — one more than needed to override a veto — his opposition doesn't matter unless one of the supervisors changes his or her mind after the promised veto.

Under the ordinance, scheduled to take effect in December 2011, restaurants may include a toy with a meal if the food and drink combined contain fewer than 600 calories, and if less than 35% of the calories come from fat.
Over the last few weeks, the proposed ban caused a stir online and on cable television, with supporters arguing that it would help protect children from obesity, and opponents seeing it as the latest example of the nanny state gone wild.

Supervisor Bevan Dufty, whose swing vote provided the veto-proof majority, said critics should not dismiss the legislation as a nutty effort by San Franciscans. "I do believe the industry is going to take note of this. I don't care how much they say, 'It's San Francisco, they're wacked out there.' "

Proud, the McDonald's spokeswoman, said the city was out of step with the mainstream on the issue.

"Public opinion continues to be overwhelmingly against this misguided legislation," she said. "Parents tell us it's their right and responsibility — not the government's — to make their own decisions and to choose what's right for their children."

McDonald's is not the only fast-food chain to offer toys with children's meals, but because it is so prominent the company has become a key face of opposition to the ban.

Daniel Conway, spokesman for the California Restaurant Assn., bemoaned the ordinance's passage and contrasted it with San Franciscans' exuberant feelings after the Giants won the world series on Monday night.

"One day you're world champions, and the next day, no toys for you," Conway said.

He said the industry could respond in a number of ways to the ordinance. Some might continue to include toys but charge separately for them. Others might reformulate their meals so that they comply with the law. Restaurants might also simply stop offering children's meals altogether, he said.

Proud said the company does offer more healthful menu options, including apple slices that can be ordered with kids' meals instead of French fries.

The vote was held the same day that McDonald's reintroduced nationwide its McRib sandwich, a pressed pork patty that gets half its calories from fat and has a cult-like legion of fans.

Mar said it would lead the fast-food giant and other restaurants to provide more healthful food for kids. The ban, he said, was crucial to the fight against childhood obesity and the illnesses that go along with it, including diabetes and the risk of heart problems and stroke. The cost of fighting those diseases, he said, will be in the billions.

"It's astronomical how much it's going to cost if we don't address it," Mar said. "It's incredible the crisis that's going to hit us."


Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Can Soda Labels Be Trusted?

High-fructose corn syrup in soda has much more fructose than advertised, study finds

High-fructose corn syrup is often singled out as Food Enemy No. 1 because it has become ubiquitous in processed foods over about the last 30 years – a period that coincides with a steep rise in obesity. One of the primary sources of HFCS in the American diet is soda – in fact, many public health advocates refer to soda as “liquid candy.”

That nickname is more apt than advocates realized, according to a study published online this month by the journal Obesity.

Researchers from the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine went shopping in East Los Angeles and bought 23 cans and bottles of popular beverages. Then they sent them off to a laboratory in Massachusetts that used a technique called high-performance liquid chromatography to determine how much fructose, glucose and sucrose were in each sample. Each beverage was tested three times, and all samples were unlabeled.

Before we get to the results, let’s pause for a quick review on sugars. Fructose and glucose are simple sugars. Fructose is sweeter than glucose and has been shown to do more damage to your metabolism. Sucrose – better known as table sugar – is a 50-50 combination of fructose and glucose. The HFCS used in soda is supposed to contain no more than 55% fructose and 45% glucose, according to the Corn Refiners Assn. (Another popular formulation is 42% fructose and 58% glucose.) This slight difference is the reason why we here at Booster Shots frequently say that HFCS is just as unhealthy as “natural” sugar.

But it turns out that some of the stuff they put in soda isn’t HFCS, it’s RHFCS – Really High Fructose Corn Syrup.

The Keck researchers found that the sweeteners in Coca-Cola and Pepsi contained as much as 65% fructose (and only 35% glucose), and Sprite registered as much as 64% fructose (and 36% glucose).

“The type of sugar listed on the label is not always consistent with the type of sugar detected,” they wrote. “Considering that the average American drinks 50 gallons of soda and other sweetened beverages each year, it is important that we have more precise information regarding what they contain, including a listing of the fructose content.”

To make sure the high-performance liquid chromatography tests were accurate, the researchers also sent samples of pure fructose, pure glucose and pure sucrose. The test detected 9.9 grams of fructose in a 10-gram sample of fructose, 9.8 grams of glucose in a 10-gram sample of glucose, and 9 grams of sucrose in a 10-gram sample of sucrose.

The study included a few other surprises:

Mountain Dew had 13% less sugar than advertised on the label, and Dr. Pepper had 8% less.

Tested samples of Mexican Coca-Cola – which is supposedly made with cane sugar instead of HFCS – contained no sucrose, only fructose and glucose in a 52%-to-48% ratio.

17% of the sweetener in Red Bull was fructose, even though sucrose and glucose are the only sweeteners listed on the label.

We weren’t the only ones surprised by the findings. Here’s what nutritionist Marion Nestle had to say about the study Tuesday on her blog, Food Politics: "I’ve been saying for ages that the sugar composition of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is no different from that of table sugar (sucrose)."


Nestle continued: "At most, HFCS is supposed to be 55% fructose, as compared to the 50% in table sugar. Most foods and drinks are supposed to be using HFCS that is 42% fructose. A percentage of 55 is not much different biologically than 50, which is why the assumption has been that there is no biologically meaningful difference between HFCS and table sugar. This study, if confirmed, means that this supposition may need some rethinking."

The USC researchers pointed out that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows for some wiggle room on nutrition labels. Sodas are allowed to have as much as 20% more of a nutrient – including sugar and HFCS – than is indicated on the side of the can. Even Cokes and Pepsis with 65% fructose instead of 55% are only 18% higher than advertised.

Source: Karen Kaplan, Los Angeles Times, October 26, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

"Hitting the Wall"

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Marathon runners can train for months to condition for the big race, yet struggle to finish if they exhaust stores of carbohydrates too quickly, a phenomenon known as "hitting the wall."

A new formula by a marathon runner and student at Harvard and MIT gives elite runners and marathon enthusiasts a more exact way to calculate just how many carb calories they need to take to stay in the 26.2 mile race.

"About 40 percent of marathon runners hit the wall," said Benjamin Rapoport, a student in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, whose study appears in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Computational Biology.

Essentially, that means the runner has burned up all of the carbohydrates stored in his liver and leg muscles, forcing him to slow down dramatically as the body starts to burn fat.

"You feel like you're not going anywhere," Rapoport said in a statement. "You can't will yourself to run any faster."

He said many runners believe hitting the wall is inevitable, that it is just part of a marathon.

"That is not true at all," Rapoport, who has run 18 marathons, including a personal best of 2 hours 55 minutes at this year's Boston Marathon, said in a telephone interview.

"What I came up with was essentially a set of formulas," he said.

"People need to know really three things: how much they weigh, what their target marathon time is and their maximum oxygen intake capacity," he said. "That is a measure of a person's aerobic fitness."

Aerobic capacity, also known as VO2max, is a measure of how much oxygen the body can transport to the muscles and consume during aerobic exercise.

Measuring exact VO2max requires a treadmill stress test at maximum effort, but an informal way to estimate aerobic capacity is to divide your maximum heart rate by your resting heart rate and multiply by 15, Rapoport said. To find your maximum heart rate, simply subtract your age in years from 220 beats per minute.

The result, he said, is a number that tells runners how many excess carb calories they need to take in before a race.

He said many runners also supplement their stored carbohydrates by taking gels and sports beverages as they are running, but a runner can carry much more fuel in their legs and liver, if they know the right amount.

Until now, runners have had to guess at what that was. The new calculator will make that easier, Rapoport said.

Rapoport has built an online calculator to help runners estimate their aerobic fitness pace and race goals which can be found at endurancecalculator.com/ .

"It's my gift to my fellow runners," he said.

Source:Reuters News Thu, Oct 21 2010. By Julie Steenhuysen

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Whole Grains in the News Again!

Eating whole grains instead of refined grains may have benefits for your waistline, a new study suggests.

Adults who ate three or more servings of whole grains per day, and limited their refined grains to less than one serving per day, had 10 percent less belly fat than those who did not follow this diet, study researcher Nicola McKeown, a scientist with the USDA Human Nutrition Researcher Center on Aging at Tufts University, said in a statement.

The findings held true even after the researchers accounted for other facts that may have influenced the results, such as the participants' smoking, alcohol intake, fruit and vegetable intake, percentage of calories from fat and physical activity.

The study involved 2,834 men and women, ages 32 to 83, who filled out questionnaires about their diet. The participants also underwent body scans to determine their fat distribution — researchers measured how much fat was around the belly, so-called visceral fat, and how much was found in other parts of the body under the skin, known as subcutaneous fat.

Visceral fat is thought to be worse for you than subcutaneous fat. Previous work has linked belly fat with the development of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms including hypertension, unhealthy cholesterol levels and insulin resistance, which can develop into cardiovascular disease or Type 2 diabetes.

However, eating lots of whole grains didn't have the same benefits if people also consumed a lot of refined grains as well. Those who ate more than four servings of refined grains per day did not show improvements in their visceral fat volumes even if they also consumed whole grains, McKeown said.

"This result implies that it is important to make substitutions in the diet, rather than simply adding whole grain foods. For example, choosing to cook with brown rice instead of white, or making a sandwich with whole-grain bread instead of white bread," McKeown said.

The researchers noted the study only shows an association, and future work in a larger, more diverse population will be needed to confirm the findings.

This study was funded by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, the USDA and a research grant from the General Mills Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition.

Source: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 11/2010.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Season of Your Birth May Affect Your Food Allergy Risk

The season in which babies are born could affect their susceptibility to food allergies early in life, new research indicates.

Finnish scientists studied just under 6,000 children born between 2001 and 2006 in southeast Finland. About 1,000 were tested for sensitization to food allergens up to the age of 4.

Researchers say the incidence of an allergic response to certain foods varied according to season of birth, ranging from 5% for infants born in June and July to 9.5% for those entering the world in October and November.

The study says 11% of children whose 11th week in the womb occurred during April or May were sensitive to food allergens as babies and toddlers.

Pollen has something to do with this, apparently, according to the researchers from the University of Oulu in Finland.

Readings of ambient pollen for the children born between 2001 and 2006 showed that levels of birch and alder pollen peaked during April and May.

The researchers conclude that children whose first three months of fetal development ended in April or May were three times more likely to become allergic to milk and eggs than kids in the same stage of development in November and December.

Slideshow: Are Your Allergies Out of Control?
Antibodies to Allergens
Previous research has shown that children born in the fall or winter are more prone to wheezing and eczema, and that they have higher levels of antibodies to allergies than kids born in spring and summer, the study researchers say.

The reason could be that fetuses start to produce antibodies to allergens around the 11th week of development and antibodies to specific allergens by 24 weeks of gestation.

An allergic type response apparently is necessary for a pregnancy to continue, and in some cases this continues after birth, according to the researchers.

The study is published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The population studied comprised all 5,973 children born between April 1, 2001, and March 31, 2006; records came from the Finnish Population Register Centre.

The researchers conclude that kids whose early gestational period falls in the pollen season for broad-leafed trees are “more prone to sensitization to food allergies than other children.”

They concede that the issue is controversial and say that 18% of all children tested had developed food allergies by age 4, and that this varied by season.

“We found a higher incidence of positive results in food allergy tests among children born in October or November than among those born in other months,” and that the “incidence of such results was particularly high and especially pronounced for milk and egg among children who had their 11th gestational week in April or May, the season during which the concentrations of pollen from birch and alder are highest in the area concerned,” which was in the southeast area of Finland.

The researchers say their study is the first to examine an association between environmental pollen concentrations during the first trimester of pregnancy and the incidence of a positive result in food allergy tests.
Source : WebMD 10/19/2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Another Reason To Eat Breakfast

People who reported skipping breakfast during childhood and adulthood had more risk factors for heart disease than their peers who ate morning meals throughout their lives, Dr. Kylie J. Smith of the University of Tasmania and her colleagues found.

Some studies have found that people who don't eat breakfast tend to have worse eating behaviors and are less active than people who do, while some research has linked skipping breakfast with weight gain. There is also some evidence that people who don't eat in the morning are more prone to high cholesterol.

To investigate the long-term effects of not eating breakfast, Dr. Smith and her team analyzed data from the Childhood Determinants of Adult Health study, in which participants were surveyed in 1985, when they were 9 to 15 years old, and again in 2004-2005.

According to a report published online October 6th in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, children were categorized as not eating breakfast if they said they didn't eat anything before school, while adults were considered to have skipped breakfast if they didn't eat between 6 and 9 a.m.

Among nearly 2,200 study participants, about 1,400 didn't skip breakfast at either time point; 224 only skipped breakfast in childhood; 515 only skipped breakfast as adults; and 86 skipped breakfast in both childhood and adulthood.

The researchers found that people who consistently didn't eat breakfast had waists that were nearly 2 inches (or 5 centimeters) larger, on average, than people who ate breakfast as children and as adults. They also had higher insulin levels and higher levels of total and LDL cholesterol.

The researchers did not look at whether skipping breakfast had anything to do with developing cardiovascular disease, for example whether people were more likely to have heart attack or stroke. Nevertheless, the researchers conclude, "Promoting the benefits of eating breakfast could be a simple and important public health message."

Source:Am J Clin Nutr. Posted online October 6, 2010

Friday, October 8, 2010

Sweet Peppers and Weight Loss

Daily supplements of capsinoids - non-pungent compounds in sweet pepper – may boost weight loss by promoting energy use after a meal, suggests a new study from UCLA.

A daily dose of 9 milligrams of the capsinoid dihydrocapsiate was associated with a significant enhancement in energy expenditure after a meal, compared with a lower dose of 3 milligrams or placebo, according to findings published in Nutrition & Metabolism .

“In this small double-blinded, randomized, placebo controlled trial, we found that the consumption of a nonpungent capsiate supplement by overweight and obese subjects significantly increased post-prandial energy expenditure when combined with a high protein, very low calorie diet on an outpatient basis,” wrote researchers, led by David Heber MD, PhD, from the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of California at Los Angeles.

“The increase is estimated to be equivalent to an increase in daily energy expendtiture of approximately 100 kcal for a 100 kg individual,” they added.

The study supports the potential weight management actions of capsinoids, sister compounds to the more famous and more pungent compound capsaicin. While the ingredient has been reported to also produce thermogenic effects like capsaicin, capsinoids are not said to produce the gastrointestinal side effects of its more pungent relative.

The new study used Ajinomoto Inc’s dihydrocapsiate capsules of 1 mg. The FDA issued a GRAS letter of no objection to Ajinimoto in early 2009 for the company's capsinoid ingredient.

Study details

Dr Heber and his co-workers recruited 33 healthy men and postmenopausal women with BMIs between 27 and 35 kg/m2 who completed an outpatient protein-rich very-low calorie diet (VLCD) providing only 800 kcal per day.

The volunteers were then randomly assigned to receive one of two doses of dihydrocapsiate (3 mg or 9 mg) or placebo for four weeks. Metabolic rates after eating and at rest were measured by the UCLA researchers.

Results showed that, while resting metabolic processes were not affected, the high dose of dihydrocapsiate was associated with a statistically significant increase in energy expenditure after a meal.

“These data provide evidence for postprandial increases in thermogenesis and fat oxidation secondary to administration of dihydrocapsiate,” said the researchers.

“Further studies are needed to assess the impact of the predicted differences in energy expenditure related to dihydrocapsiate supplementation on weight loss and weight maintenance in free-living populations,” they concluded.

Market potential

The research taps into the burgeoning weight loss and management market, estimated to already be worth $7bn (€5.2bn) globally. With 50 per cent of Europeans and 62 per cent of Americans classed as overweight, the food industry is waking up to the potential of products for weight loss and management.

The slimming ingredients market can be divided into five groups based on the mechanisms of action - boosting fat burning/ thermogenesis, inhibiting protein breakdown, suppressing appetite/ boosting satiety (feeling of fullness), blocking fat absorption, and regulating mood (linked to food consumption).

Source: Nutrition & Metabolism
2010, 7:78, doi: 10.1186/1743-7075-7-78
“Effects of dihydrocapsiate on adaptive and diet-induced thermogenesis with a high protein very low calorie diet: a randomized control trial”
Authors: T.Y.A. Lee, Z. Li, A. Zerlin, D. Heber

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Kids Filling Up on Empty Calories

Nutrition experts have examined the diets of typical U.S. children and they don't like what they see: Almost 40 percent of the kids' calorie consumption comes from solid fat and added sugars.

These so-called "empty calories," mainly in soda, pizza and desserts, are fueling the obesity epidemic among young people and putting them at risk for developing weight-related illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease, the U.S. government researchers said.

"Product reformulation alone is not sufficient -- the flow of empty calories into the food supply must be reduced," said dietitians Jill Reedy and Susan M. Krebs-Smith, from the U.S. National Cancer Institute's division of cancer control and population sciences in Bethesda, Md.

The findings are published in the October issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

The researchers examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and calculated solid fats and added sugars using the USDA MyPyramid Equivalents Database, according to a news release from the journal publisher and the American Dietetic Association.

The top sources of energy for 2- to 18-year-olds were grain desserts, pizza and soda, they found. Sugar-sweetened drinks (soda or fruit drinks) provided nearly 10 percent of total caloric intake. Half of the kids' empty calories came from these six foods: soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza and whole milk.

Energy sources varied depending on age. The top five sources of energy for toddlers (2- to 3-years old) included whole milk, fruit juice, reduced-fat milk, and pasta and pasta dishes. The top five choices among 4- to 8-year-olds also included pasta and reduced-fat milk, the investigators found.

Energy sources also varied by race and ethnicity, the dietitians noted. Among black children, fruit drinks and pasta and pasta dishes were the primary energy sources, while Mexican American kids' top sources included Mexican mixed dishes and whole milk. Blacks and whites consumed more energy from soda and fruit drinks than from milk, whereas Mexican American children obtained more energy from milk than from sugary drinks, the data showed.

Added sugar is especially damaging, according to Dr. Rae-Ellen W. Kavey, a pediatric cardiologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center, who wrote an accompanying commentary in the journal. Health consequences include accelerated atherosclerosis and early cardiovascular disease, Kavey said in the news release.

"Reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages should be considered a critical dietary approach to reducing cardiovascular risk in childhood," Kavey added.

A second study in the journal found that vending machines in middle schools attract students mainly to buy snacks and beverages, even if healthier choices are offered.
Source: FRIDAY, Oct. 1 (HealthDay News)

The value of sleep -- again!

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Getting too little sleep might prevent dieters from losing as much body fat as they otherwise would have, a small study suggests.

The findings, published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, add to evidence that sleep habits play a role in weight regulation. They also suggest that people embarking on a weight-loss plan may want to make sure they are catching enough shut-eye each night, researchers say.

The study included 10 overweight men and women who lived in a sleep lab for two separate two-week periods. During both, they were kept on the same calorie-restricted diet; but for one period, the participants slept for 8.5 hours per night, while during the other, they got 5.5 hours.

Researchers found that the dieters lost the same amount of weight under both conditions -- just under 7 pounds, on average. But during the sleep-restricted period, they mainly lost muscle rather than fat.

When participants got 8.5 hours of sleep, more than half of their weight loss came from shedding fat; when they got 5.5 of sleep, only one-quarter of their weight loss came from fat -- translating to a 55 percent reduction in fat loss.

Instead, the majority of people's weight loss during the sleep-restricted period came from lean body tissue, which refers to muscle and any other body tissue that is not fat.

"So they lost the same amount of weight, but the composition was different," said senior researcher Dr. Plamen Penev, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago.

Successful dieters always shed a certain amount of muscle, Penev noted in an interview, but ideally one wants to limit that loss in favor of shedding excess body fat. Insufficient sleep, the current findings suggest, might interfere with that.

The study has a number of limitations. Besides its small size, it also looked only at short-term weight loss. More research is needed to see how sleep duration might affect dieters' body composition over time, Penev said.

It's also unclear how well these findings from a tightly controlled sleep-lab setting might translate to the "real world," according to Penev.

Still, the findings do add to a body of research linking sleep habits to body weight. A number of studies have found that self-described "short sleepers" -- typically defined as those who get less than 6 hours of sleep each night -- tend to weigh more or gain more weight over time than people who get seven to eight hours of sleep per night.

Those studies do not, however, prove that sleep differences are the reason for the weight differences. Small sleep-lab studies such as the current one help researchers zero in on the effects of sleep itself.

Lab studies have suggested, for example, that sleep loss may alter people's levels of the "hunger hormones" leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is secreted by fat cells; low blood levels of the hormone promote hunger, while increases tell the brain that body is full and encourage calorie burning. Ghrelin is secreted by the stomach to boost appetite.

In their study, Penev and his colleagues found that under the sleep-restricted condition, participants reported greater hunger during the day compared with the 8-hour sleep condition -- even though they consumed the same number of calories during both periods. They also had higher blood levels of acylated ghrelin, one form of the appetite-boosting hormone.

This, Penev said, raises the question of whether, outside the tight control of the lab, the sleep-deprived dieters would have eaten more.

"The study suggests that if you are trying to lose weight by restricting your calories, it may be more difficult if you are sleep deprived," Dr. Shahrad Taheri, of the University of Birmingham in the UK, told Reuters Health in an email.

As for how much sleep is enough, "I don't think at this stage we can recommend a specific number of hours of sleep, as sleep is very individualized," said Taheri, who co-authored an editorial published with the study.

"But what we can do," Taheri added, "is pay more attention to our daily routines of eating, physical activity, and also sleep."

Penev agreed that there is no one-size-fits-all prescription for sleep. He suggested that people try to notice how much sleep they generally need to feel refreshed the next morning; for some people that may be 6 hours, for others it may be 8.

Both Penev and Taheri said that more studies are needed in real-world settings. According to Penev, a study might, for instance, follow patients at a weight-loss clinic to see how their typical sleep habits correlate with their weight-loss success.

As for why fewer hours in bed may cause the body to preferentially lose muscle over fat, Penev said he and his colleagues can only theorize. Their guess is that the extra waking hours increase the need for glucose (sugar) in the brain and other parts of the nervous system -- and they get that extra fuel from breaking down muscle.
Source:Mon, Oct 4 2010
By Amy Norton

3 1/2 lb weight gain forms 2.6 billion new fat cells!

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Researchers who persuaded slender volunteers to gorge themselves on sweets to gain weight said on Monday they have overturned the common wisdom that adults cannot grow new fat cells.

As they gained weight, the volunteers added new fat cells on their thighs, while fat cells on their bellies expanded, Michael Jensen of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and colleagues found.

"It sort of inverts the old dogma that we don't make new fat cells when we are adults," Jensen said in a telephone interview.

Doctors have long believed that, in adults, fat cells just get bigger and bigger when people gain weight.

Understanding why this happens on one part of the body and not another may explain why gaining weight in the lower part of the body does not appear to carry as many health risks as gaining belly fat, Jensen said.

"Those people who make new leg fat cells, it may be protecting them," he said.

Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Jensen and colleagues said they recruited 28 healthy men and women and fed them controlled meals, asking them to eat until they were more full than usual for two months.

The volunteers also agreed to have their body fat sampled.

To boost weight gain, the volunteers were encouraged to slurp milkshakes, chocolate bars and energy drinks.

In the two months the volunteers gained about 2 kg (4.4 pounds) of upper body fat and about 1.5 kg (3 pounds) of fat on the hips and thighs.

"We found that a gain of only 1.6 kg of lower-body fat resulted in the creation of 2.6 billion new adipocytes (fat cells) within eight weeks," Jensen's team wrote.

There were some unexpected findings.

"We thought the women would be the ones who gained on the thighs but it turned out it was pretty even on the two sides, to our surprise," Jensen said.

The volunteers shed their extra pounds easily, Jensen said.

"When you take normal, healthy weight people and you overfeed them and make them gain weight, almost as soon as they stop overeating the weight just falls off," he said.

"These were all people who never had a history of weight problems. Most of us have trouble when we gain it. We don't lose it so easily," Jensen said.

Jensen is unsure what the findings may mean for most Americans. More than two-thirds of the U.S. public are overweight or obese and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development says residents of most developed countries are catching up fast.

"Our next step is to try to understand better what are the genetic and environmental factors that cause the leg fat cells to be able to proliferate," Jensen said.

Scientists have learned that fat cells are not just passive storage facilities for extra calories, but produce hormones and other compounds with important biological effects. This may help explain why extra pounds raise the risk of diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

Source: Mon, Oct 4 2010
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Don't Let Excuses Rob You of Good Nutrition and Fitness

People say they don't have time to exercise. They don't have time to grocery shop and cook healthful meals. They don't have time to eat right. They don't have time to think about their weight.

The motivation for giving up your excuses is often right in front of your nose. For many people, it's as obvious as wanting to stay healthy for their spouse,
kids, grand kids, nieces, nephews and themselves.Some may have medical fears, such as diabetes or heart disease, or they may be approaching a landmark birthday.

The people who are most successful at changing their lives don't want to be the victim of their own excuses anymore and decide to take immediate action— even simple things, such as drinking water instead of regular soda, getting up earlier to walk
and using the nutrition information from their favorite restaurants.

People are "convinced they don't have time" for exercise or healthy grocery shopping but those are excuses, says author Bill Phillips.

Phillips says when you give up your excuses, you take responsibility for your own life. "Most every transformation I've witnessed over the years was preceded by a dramatic increase of self-responsibility". Individuals have to accept the fact
that they need to "pilot" their own lives, he says.

Instead of using lack of time as an excuse, people have to schedule the time they need to exercise and cook healthful meals, just as they schedule a doctor's appointment, business meeting or lunch with a friend, he says. "There's always an
opportunity to make time."

Blatner says excuses can be overcome by thinking about them in a new way.

For instance, take the excuse that you don't have time to exercise.Think instead: It's possible to walk 10 minutes several times a day.

Or take the excuse that you don't have time to cook.Think instead: It doesn't take that much skill, fancy recipes or a lot of time to put together a quick healthful meal such as barbecue chicken on a whole grain bun and a simple salad Blatner says.

"You just have to get back to basics with real food."

Source: USA Today 9/28

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Duped By Sports Drinks?

Teens with healthy habits are more likely to drink sugar-sweetened sports and fruit drinks than sodas, suggesting that they perceive these beverage options to be consistent with a healthy lifestyle, a study shows.

Researchers say the findings point to the marketing success of heavily advertised drinks that, like sugar-sweetened soft drinks, are high in sugar and have little or no nutritional value.

In terms of health benefits, there is not much difference,” study researcher Nalini Ranjit, PhD, tells WebMD. “Public health advocates have focused their attention on soda, and somehow these drinks have not been on the radar.”

Active Teens Choose Sports Drinks
The study involved more than 15,000 eighth- and 11th-graders attending Texas middle schools and high schools.

Ranjit and colleagues with the Michael and Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living at the University of Texas School of Public Health asked the teens about their eating and exercise habits and their beverage consumption.

A total of 22% of the boys and 17% of the girls were obese. Close to four out of five reported drinking at least one sugar-sweetened beverage the previous day and just over one-in-four (28%) said they drank three or more sugar-sweetened beverages daily.

Teens who drank sugar-sweetened beverages, including sports and fruit-flavored drinks, had more unhealthy eating habits, such as eating fried meats and chips more often than fruits and vegetables. They also exercised less regularly and watched TV and played video games more than teens who did not drink sugar-sweetened beverages.

Teens who drank sports drinks but not soda were more likely to participate in organized sports or engage in other regular exercise than soda drinkers. They also ate more fruits and vegetables, drank more milk, and had healthier eating habits overall.

The study was published online today in the journal Pediatrics.

Sports Drinks vs. Water
Sports drinks contain less sugar than soda, but the amount is still significant, Ranjit says.

By one estimate, sugar-sweetened beverages account for between 10% and 15% of calories the typical teen takes in on a given day.

Ads for sports drinks feature superstar athletes and tout the beverages’ ability to restore electrolytes and rehydrate the body after strenuous physical exercise.

But Ranjit says water is just as good for hydration in most cases.

“Only people who are severely dehydrated due to diarrhea or some other reason really need this level of electrolyte replenishment,” she says.

University of Minnesota School of Public Health professor of nutrition Mary Story, PhD, RD, agrees, adding that most sports drinks contain little more than water, high-fructose corn syrup, and salt with some potassium and magnesium.

“All the casual athlete needs is water,” she says. “If a kid is exercising strenuously in really hot weather for more than 90 minutes, a sports drink may be needed. But how many American kids do this?”

Beverage Industry Responds
In response to the study, a leading trade group representing the non-alcoholic beverage industry issued a written statement noting that the research did not show a link between consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and weight, as measured by body mass index (BMI) scores.

The American Beverage Association statement also cited a recent government analysis showing a decline in the consumption of soft drinks and sports drinks among 12- to 19-year-olds.

“The beverage industry continues to change the beverage landscape for children and adolescents,” the statement says. “Starting in 2006, beverage companies removed full-calorie soft drinks from schools and replaced them with lower-calorie, smaller-portion beverage choices. As a result of this initiative, calories available from beverages in schools have been cut by 88%.”

Source: WebMD, September 28, 2010

Water Consumption Needs Improvement

Children in the United States are not drinking as much water as they should, and the deficiency can have far-reaching implications, a new study suggests.

"Even mild dehydration can affect physiological function, and cause fatigue, muscle weakness, headaches and dry mouth," said Samantha Heller, clinical nutrition coordinator at the Center for Cancer Care at Griffin Hospital in Derby, Conn., who was not involved in the study.

Impaired cognitive and mental performance are also linked to inadequate hydration, said Heller.

According to the study, published in the October issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, only 15 to 60 percent of boys and 10 to 54 percent of girls, depending on age, drink the minimum amount of water recommended by the U.S. Institute of Medicine.

Children obtain much of their water from sweetened beverages rather than plain old
H2O, the researchers found. And those who drink the most plain water consume fewer sweetened beverages and eat fewer high-calorie foods.

For the study, Ashima K. Kant from Queens College of the City University of New York and Barry I. Graubard of the U.S. National Cancer Institute looked at the water intake of 3,978 boys and girls, aged 2 to 19 years, who had been included in a national nutrition study from 2005 to 2006.

Included in their analysis was water itself, water in moist foods, and moisture in all beverages and nutritious drinks such as milk and juice.

The investigators found that water intake from all sources varied by age: 2- to 5-year-olds drank 5.9 cups a day; 6- to 11-year-olds got 6.8 cups, and 12- to 19-year-olds consumed 10.1 cups daily. Girls generally drank less than boys, Kant and Graubard noted.

Kids of all ages are more likely to drink beverages than water at mealtime, the findings suggest. More than two-thirds of water consumption was derived from beverages with main meals, while only one-third of the plain water was consumed with meals, the researchers found.

"Our results suggest age differences in the extent of water contributed by different sources to the diets of American children," the study authors wrote. "The quality of food selections reported in association with plain water intake was better than that reported with increasing beverage moisture, and the strength of these associations varied with age," they added.

"Efforts to moderate the consumption of sweetened beverages and promote plain water intake should not only continue to promote plain water for snacks but also should recognize the importance of replacing nonnutritive beverages at meal time with plain water," Kant and Graubard concluded.

As the children got older, consumption of plain water increased while intake of nutritive beverages, such as milk, decreased, the researchers found.

Water makes up 55 to 75 percent of total body weight, said Heller. "We cannot live without water for more than a few days because our bodies cannot store water. Thus, it is essential we replace the water our bodies lose every day."

Heller, a nutritionist and dietitian, advises starting children on water early.

"Give them water instead of sweetened beverages during the day and between meals," she said. To make it more appealing, put sliced cucumbers, oranges, lemons or strawberries in ice water, she suggested.

And if your child is hooked on sodas, she advised transitioning to seltzer or flavored seltzers instead.

Source:SATURDAY, Sept. 25 (HealthDay News)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

With high-calorie dishes, restaurant chains put obesity on the menu

Sometimes, American restaurants unveil menu items that are so gluttonous that they seem to be trying to stun the senses. This was the case earlier this year with KFC's much-discussed Double Down sandwich: two pieces of bacon, two slices of cheese and "Colonel's Sauce," with two thick filets of fried chicken functioning as the bun.

But compared with some chain restaurants' offerings, the 540-calorie Double Down is almost health food. Many meals offered at these eateries are much worse, nutritionally speaking.

Below is a list of dishes that in just one sitting provide close to or more than the 2,000 calories recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for an entire day's sustenance. They also mostly stomp all over the recommended daily intakes for sodium (no more than 2,400 milligrams), fat (65 grams) and saturated fat (20 grams) for someone on a 2,000-calorie diet.

"These chains don't promote moderation," Michael F. Jacobson, the executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said in May, when his watchdog organization gave its 2010 Xtreme Eating awards to nine "caloric heavyweight" meals. "They practice caloric extremism, and they're helping make modern-day Americans become the most obese people ever to walk the Earth."

Jacobson also expressed surprise that restaurants haven't started to alter their menus in advance of a new law that will require chains with 20 or more outlets to disclose calorie counts to diners. (The Food and Drug Administration hasn't specified when the regulations will take effect.)

"Restaurants are not in the business of making people healthy," says Washington dietitian Rebecca Scritchfield. "They're trying to make money, and salt and fat are cheap ways to make food taste better."

We asked Scritchfield to give us her take on these caloric heavyweights.

All of the nutritional information below comes from the restaurants' Web sites, except for the Cheesecake Factory's, which is courtesy of CSPI's Xtreme Eating awards. (The chain does not publish its nutritional information online.)

* * *

-- Quiznos large tuna melt sub sandwich.

The numbers: 1,520 calories, 101 grams of fat, 21 grams of saturated fat, 2,020 milligrams sodium.

Equivalent of eating: More than a stick of butter's worth of fat.

Expert evaluation: Grabbing a tuna sandwich for lunch sure sounds like a healthful decision, but not with this jumbo-size sub. "If someone hears 'tuna' and they think they should be eating more fish, they might think that's a good choice, but the portion is way too big," Scritchfield says. On top of that, "it's made with foods that have high calories, such as mayonnaise and cheese."

-- Chipotle's chicken burrito, filled with rice, pinto beans, corn salsa, cheese, sour cream and guacamole, accompanied by a side of chips.

The numbers: 1,750 calories, 79.5 grams of fat, 23 grams of saturated fat, 2,750 milligrams of sodium.

Equivalent of eating: The calories in more than nine chicken soft tacos at Taco Bell.

Expert evaluation: "There are lots of ways you can make that healthier," Scritchfield says. "My top recommendation is not to get cheese and sour cream but instead get guacamole because that has the heart-healthy fat and gives you the creaminess you're going for." You could also forgo the chips and save 570 calories.

-- Applebee's New England fish and chips.

The numbers: 1,910 calories, 137 grams fat, 24 grams saturated fat, 3,150 milligrams of sodium.

Equivalent of eating: The fat in almost a pound of cheddar cheese.

Expert evaluation: "If you really wanted this, I'd say split it and add some veggies," Scritchfield says. "And do not touch the salt shaker; it already has more than a day's worth of sodium in it."

-- Chili's Big Mouth Bites, four mini burgers topped with jalapeño ranch dressing.

The numbers: 1,930 calories, 31 grams of saturated fat, 4,400 milligrams sodium.

Equivalent of eating: The calories of around 25 eggs.

Expert evaluation: "These are interesting because they're sold as 'mini' burgers, but it's still a high-calorie, high-fat and high-salt meal because of what's on them," Scritchfield says.

-- Outback Steakhouse's full rack of baby back ribs served with Aussie fries.

The numbers: 1,936 calories, 133 grams of fat, 56 grams of saturated fat, 2,741 milligrams of sodium.

Equivalent of eating: The fat grams in 20 tablespoons of salad dressing.

Expert evaluation: "There is no color on that plate: no broccoli, no garden salad. Vegetables should be half of your dinner plate, and they're absent," Scritchfield says. Outback diners can substitute steamed green beans or seasonal veggies for the fries and slash about 200 calories and 15 grams of fat.

* * *

The mega-meals below could be shared, but Scritchfield says it wouldn't be surprising if they sometimes are consumed by just one person: "People envision what they're served as their portion."

-- Domino's bread bowl pasta.

The numbers: One bread bowl, which Domino's nutritional information counts as two servings, contains 1,340 to 1,470 calories, 48 to 56 grams of fat, 21 to 27 grams of saturated fat, 65 to 115 grams of fiber, 1,830 to 2,860 milligrams of sodium.

Equivalent of eating: The fiber in about 16 to 29 servings of oatmeal.

Expert evaluation: "If you get enough fiber, and 25 to 35 grams a day is the right amount, it helps keep digestion at a normal pace. But if you eat too much fiber, it actually gives you constipation," Scritchfield says.

-- P.F. Chang's China Bistro's double pan-fried noodles with a combination of meats. Although this is one entree, the company count it as four servings since it totals 36 ounces.

The numbers: 1,820 calories, 84 grams of fat, 8 grams saturated fat, 7,692 milligrams of sodium.

Equivalent of eating: The sodium in 70 tablespoons of blue cheese dressing.

Expert evaluation: "If four people shared this [as their entire meal], not only would the waiter be like, 'What are you doing?' but we'd leave dissatisfied," Scritchfield says. "They're breaking it down so their numbers look good."

-- The Greene Turtle's boneless wings, which includes 16 wings in "We Mean Hot" sauce, served with blue cheese dressing and celery sticks.

The numbers: 1,963 calories, 153 grams of fat, 30 grams of saturated fat, 10,877 milligrams of sodium.

Equivalent of eating: The sodium in 52 large orders of french fries.

Expert evaluation: "I thought there was a typo, that there's no way that has 10,000 milligrams of sodium, but sure enough, they do," Scritchfield says. "Salt is a flavor enhancer, but this amount is unnecessarily over the top." An order of 16 regular wings with "Kinda Hot" sauce contains 1,787 calories and drops the sodium intake to 6,819 grams.

-- Uno Chicago Grill's Chicago Classic deep-dish individual pizza, which is topped with sausage, tomato sauce and cheese.

The numbers: 2,310 calories, 165 grams of fat, 54 grams saturated fat, 4,920 milligrams of sodium.

Equivalent of eating: The fat in 45 strips of bacon.

Expert evaluation: Although Uno counts this smaller pizza as having three servings in its online nutritional information, Scritchfield says that when someone orders an "individual" pizza, they are likely to see it as a meal for one.

-- The Cheesecake Factory's pasta carbonara.

The numbers: 2,500 calories, 85 grams of saturated fat.

Equivalent of eating: The saturated fat in about five cups of half-and-half cream.

Expert evaluation: "Four adult men would have to share this entree in order to each stay within a day's worth of saturated fat," says Scritchfield.

Source:By Rachel Saslow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 21, 2010; HE01

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Noodle Promises No Carbs or Calories

What if you could eat pasta marinara and only count the tomato sauce? Or gobble a dish of mac and cheese and only worry about cheese calories?

A new brand of noodle, made with soluble fiber from a Japanese yam, promises to deliver exactly that using a no-calorie, no-carbohydrate, no-gluten, no-fat noodle called the NoOodle.

While it may sound like some sort of space-age franken-food, the shirataki yam (also called konyaku) noodle has been eaten by Asians for centuries. Still, it has taken America's growing concerns about gluten, carbohydrates, calories and diabetes to prompt a U.S. manufacturer to produce it here in a new line of heat-and-eat meals. Flavors include marinara and primavera, with chicken teriyaki and macaroni and cheese rolling out soon.

Composed mostly of water and glucomannan fiber from the yam, these noodles have been sold by Japanese companies for years to put in sukiyaki and hot pot. But American-produced Miracle Noodles and NoOodles, made from Asian-grown yams, are relatively new and aimed squarely at the Western market.

This month the NoOodle entrees have gone out to retailers across the country, along with the plain noodles that are making their way onto restaurant menus.

NoOodles creator, Terri Rogers, said she first heard about the noodles through a customer at her suburban Chicago restaurant, Lincolnshire Gourmet. She tried a packet and was so impressed that she started serving various preparations within months.

"I originally put them on the menu for my gluten-free customers," said Rogers who introduced them in May. "But then I sold about 300 in three days, mostly to women who wanted noodles with no calories or carbs."

Rogers' decision to manufacture and market them here as packaged meals, she says, brought together her passion for cooking and her experience in the wholesale grocery market.

Her prepared meals run from 30 calories for pasta primavera to 100 calories for a dish of pearl-like macaroni and cheese. But, Rogers says, "We're all about health, so we don't really see it specifically as a diet product."

Jonathan Carp, owner of California-based Miracle Noodle USA, says that he gets lots of mail from grateful "diabetics who have finally gotten their sugar under control with the noodle," but adds, "We really cater to the weight-loss market."

"Basically it's a filler that will expand in your stomach," says Carp, who plans to introduce packaged noodle entrees this fall. "So when you eat a dish that is mostly noodles they will make you feel like you've had a substantial meal. Satiety is a reflection of stress receptors in the stomach that respond to volume in the stomach."

Still, medical professionals remain somewhat skeptical. Although there have been some studies linking glucomannan to nominal weight loss, studies of the actual noodle are few and far between."The major benefit is that they take up space in your stomach," says Lawrence Cheskin, director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center in Baltimore. "But whether or not they are useful for weight loss remains to be proven. The studies are still mixed."

Hannah El-Amin, a registered dietitian and diabetes educator at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, says: "I would warn against building one's diet around the noodles because they provide minimal nutrition. … While these are fine as an occasional addition to an otherwise well-balanced diet, I would warn against considering them a dietary staple."

Kantha Shelke, a food scientist and consultant for the NoOodle, doesn't rule out daily consumption but agrees that the noodle should be eaten as part of a well-rounded diet.

"If you ate nothing but noodle every day, it would not be good," she said. "But if you ate it with a wide variety of other things, it would be helpful. If someone was watching caloric intake, fiber, or cholesterol and sugar, you could actually sneak 2 to 4 ounces into many meals."

While El-Amin acknowledges that the noodles "contain a good amount of fiber, which may help slow digestion and make you feel fuller as a result," she notes that "the benefits of fiber such as lowering cholesterol, lowering blood sugar and providing a sense of fullness are not unique to these noodles. This is also the case with other high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains."

One final note: Although the noodles are essentially flavorless, they are not odorless right out of the package. Consumers have described their smell as earthy or squidlike, but say that the odor disappears under running water. Their calamari-like texture also becomes more al dente when dry-fried in a pan.

Source: Monica Eng, Chicago Tribune Newspapers,September 15, 2010