Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Helpful Information? Not all agree

Regulators' appetite for calorie counts is about to extend beyond restaurants to thousands of other places that offer food, including airplanes, movie theaters and convenience stores.

Janet Adamy discusses federal government plans to expand the posting of calorie counts at restaurants to include thousands of other places, including airplanes, movie theaters and convenience stores. The expansion stems from provisions in the health-care overhaul enacted in March. The government wants calorie listings posted to make it easier for consumers to select healthier options, and the restaurant industry backed the move so it could avoid a patchwork of local ordinances that are developing.

So far, the expansion of the calorie counts beyond restaurants has drawn praise from nutrition advocates but push-back from industries that say the original legislation was never intended to hit them.

"People don't go to movie theaters for the primary purpose of eating," said Gary Klein, a vice president for a group representing theater owners. "Why aren't ballparks covered? You think the food served at ballparks is healthy?"

The health-care law said chain restaurants with 20 locations or more are required to post the caloric information on their menus. That requirement took effect when President Barack Obama signed the law, but the places that serve food aren't expected to begin complying until penalties kick in next year.

In preliminary guidelines released last week, the Food and Drug Administration said the scope of the law stretches beyond restaurants to encompass airlines, trains, grocery-store food courts, movie theaters and convenience stores that qualify as chains. Within grocery stores, the agency said, it is considering including salad bars, store bakeries, pizza bars and delicatessens. Stadiums aren't listed since they aren't chains.

For consumers, the change marks the next installment of nutrition labeling requirements that swept across the packaged food industry in the 1990s. About 20 cities or states have enacted or passed local ordinances requiring calorie postings on menus since New York City pioneered the requirement in 2008.

Health advocates say the change could be a powerful tool in fighting the obesity epidemic, a top initiative in Washington since first lady Michelle Obama made childhood obesity her signature cause in February.

"Everybody's going to be a little bit better informed, and that's a good thing," said Lou Sheetz, executive vice president at Sheetz Inc., an Altoona, Pa., convenience store chain with 380 outlets in six states.

The chain is preparing to post calorie information at kiosks where customers order food. "In all likelihood, it's going to have a negative impact on those items that had a higher calorie count than people thought," said Mr. Sheetz. But that will be offset by higher sales of healthier items, he predicted.

The early guidelines suggest grocery chains could have to post caloric contents for bulk foods sold in supermarket aisles, sandwiches assembled at the deli and fish sold at the seafood counter. Stores say it's nearly impossible to give useful information on calorie contents at salad bars because consumers determine their own portions.

Source: Wall Street Journal 8/31/10

Belly weight-loss wraps - Looks like hype to me

Wrap your flabby abs with the Belly Burner and sweat away the fat? Not so fast, say experts, who add that neoprene bands rid the body of water and make it harder to burn fat and tone muscles.

Searching for a shortcut to weight loss? If so, you're part of a long tradition. For at least 100 years, people have been wearing full-body rubber suits in hopes of melting away pounds. The idea is simple: Heat up your body, and you'll supposedly burn fat.

In these ab-conscious times, perhaps it's only natural that you can now buy weight-loss wraps specifically for your midsection. The best-known option is the Belly Burner, a snug neoprene band invented by celebrity trainer Bobby Waldron. The Belly Burner TV ad shows people wearing the band while pushing a stroller, walking in the park and lifting weights in the gym. You can buy it at many drug and department stores for about $20. (It's often sold in the As-Seen-on-TV shelves, along with the ShamWow! and PediPaws.)

Danskin, the dance wear company, makes a similar product called the Waist Trimmer Belt. It's made out of fuchsia neoprene and is sold online for about $13.


The TV ad for the Belly Burner says that the band "increases your thermal core temperature … accelerating the fat-burning energy needed to trim down those love handles." This claim is backed up with thermal images showing that the midsection does, in fact, get warm underneath the Belly Burner. The ad goes on to say that using the Belly Burner is the "absolute fastest way to get those fit and trim abs you've been dreaming about."

The ad also features a couple of celebrity endorsements, including this testimonial from comedian Carlos Mencia: "I started working out with the Belly Burner, and I literally went from a size 38 to a size 32. That's real." A caption explains that the drop in weight happened over just eight weeks.

In an e-mail, Waldron, the inventor of the product, said that "results will vary depending on level of activity. The Belly Burner should be used in conjunction with a fitness routine and a healthy eating regimen."

Claims made for the Danskin Waist Trimmer Belt are relatively tame. According to the package label, the belt will help you "shed excess water while you exercise." The Danskin website simply says that the belt "is designed to preserve body heat, promote water loss and provide extra back support during exercise." Danskin didn't respond to a request for comments.

Just like a rubber suit, a neoprene wrap around the belly will definitely make people sweat, says Pete McCall, a spokesman for the American Council on Exercise and a San Diego-based exercise physiologist and personal trainer. Depending on the intensity of the workout, he says, they could sweat a lot.

But McCall warns that there's a big difference between sweating and losing fat. In his opinion, the Belly Burner or any other neoprene wrap would actually make it harder to burn body fat and tone abdominal muscles. When a person wears a snug wrap around the belly, the muscles that normally support the midsection can relax, he explains, so they don't burn as many calories or get as toned as they would without the wrap. "That's why trainers are moving away from weightlifting belts. The only time I would have a client wear any type of belt is when they're coming off back surgery, and that would be under the guidance of a physical therapist or doctor."

Source: LA Times 8/30/10

Friday, August 27, 2010

A School Fight Over Chocolate Milk

MILK, that icon of purity, has been taking some hits lately.

By the time they are 11, children drink more soda than milk. The amount of milk consumed in America over all has fallen to about 20 gallons a year per capita, from 25 gallons in the early 1990s.

It’s even on shaky ground in the one place it has long seemed at home, the school lunchroom. To appease parents whose children can’t or won’t drink milk, a quarter of the nation’s largest school districts now offer rice or soy milk and almost 17 percent of all school districts offer lactose-free milk.

Most recently, chocolate milk has emerged as both villain and victim in a cafeteria drama that pits the milk industry, administrators and parents against one another.

For those who haven’t been in a school cafeteria lately, 71 percent of the milk served nationwide is flavored. In New York City, school food officials say fat-free chocolate milk fills nearly 60 percent of the 100 million cartons served each year. The rest is one-percent plain.

But chocolate milk can contain about twice as much sugar as plain low-fat milk. Milk is naturally sweet from lactose; flavored milk also contains cane sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, making it unwelcome in some cafeterias.

When students went back to school Monday in the District of Columbia, they were served only low-fat white milk. Berkeley, Calif., schools banned chocolate milk, and Florida school officials are considering it.

“There’s been a lot of pressure on flavored milk recently,” said Diane Pratt-Heavner of the School Nutrition Association.

Flavoring milk, some school officials and milk processors say, is the only way to get students to drink it. Milk provides a host of nutrients, including calcium, protein and vitamin D, which recent studies show is deficient in about three-quarters of teenagers and adults.

“It’s better for them to have some milk with some flavoring and a little added sugar than to go without milk,” said Ms. Pratt-Heavner, whose organization last month helped release a study that showed that elementary school children drank 35 percent less milk at school on average when flavored milk was removed.

The study, based on seven school districts, was paid for by the Milk Processor Education Program, a dairy industry group that supports the “Got Milk?” campaign, and conducted by Prime Consulting Group, whose clients include several large food companies.

Milk processors began a $500,000 campaign a year ago to defend chocolate milk from what they called “food activists” who believe it delivers too much added sugar. There is a lot at stake. The milk sold in schools accounts for 7 percent of all milk sales in the country.

The campaign has picked up in time for this school year. Posters featuring professional athletes promoting milk and chocolate milk for student athletes are ready for shipping to schools, and on Wednesday, the School Nutrition Association is offering its members a “Webinar” entitled “Keep flavored milk from dropping out of school.”

Dairy processors and some nutritionists are concerned that important nutrients are going down the drain instead of into children, said Ann Marie Krautheim, senior vice president for nutrition affairs at the National Dairy Council. “There is a vocal minority that is looking at flavored milk from one sole angle, which is the sugar content,” she said. “Parents need to consider the total nutrient package.”

People trying to make school lunch more nutritious say it’s outrageous to serve an eight-ounce drink that can contain more than five teaspoons of sugar — almost as much as a cup of soda or apple juice — and call it healthy.

“Saying we need to add sugar and flavoring to milk to get kids to drink it is like saying we need to feed kids apple pie if they don’t like apples,” said Ann Cooper, who runs the Boulder, Colo., school food program and a national Web site, chefann.com, aimed at reforming school lunch.

She’s not opposed to chocolate milk, but she is opposed to teaching children it is part of a healthy daily diet.

The Boulder school district banned flavored milk last year. To help keep consumption up, Ms. Cooper installed a dispenser that keeps the milk colder and is more fun, she claims, than grabbing a carton. And it saves money.

Like other nutritionists and pediatricians, she argues that too much milk can make a child too full to eat foods like greens, hummus and beans that offer nutrients found in dairy products.

Some parents simply want the schools to be working with them, not against them.

Jenny Evans’s children, who are 9 and 7, drink plenty of plain milk and eat a moderate amount of cookies, ice cream and the occasional piece of candy. But she objects to chocolate milk with added sugar as a staple at their school, the Garrison Union Free School in upstate New York.

“I don’t think sugar is good for my kids, but I want to be the one giving it to them,” she said.

But even parents who try to limit sugar in their children’s diets think chocolate milk on the lunch tray is worth the nutritional trade-off.

Amy Alexander’s children attend Montgomery County schools in Maryland. Her 11-year-old daughter has been boycotting milk altogether and her 7-year-old son won’t entertain much plain milk unless it is on his cereal.

And he hates vegetables, but he loves chocolate milk. At least that gives him some nutrition, his mother figures. But she asks him to limit himself to a carton every other day at school.

“I suspect he takes it every day, but I’m not there,” she said. Mostly, she doesn’t want her children to have issues around food.

“I don’t get the militancy around this,” she said. “Milk is milk.”

Personal Note: I tend to agree, if weight is not a problem, it is better to drink chocolate milk than no milk at all. Dr V

Black Rice May Be Cheap Source of Antioxidants

Blueberries and blackberries have high levels of antioxidants, which help the body deal with potentially dangerous cellular oxidation, but scientists say they've also found a cheaper source of antioxidants for consumers: black rice.

"Just a spoonful of black rice bran contains more health promoting anthocyanin antioxidants than are found in a spoonful of blueberries, but with less sugar and more fiber and vitamin E antioxidants," study co-author Zhimin Xu said in a news release from the American Chemical Society.

"If berries are used to boost health, why not black rice and black rice bran?" suggested Xu, associate professor at the food science department at Louisiana State University Agricultural Center in Baton Rouge. "Black rice bran would be a unique and economical material to increase consumption of health-promoting antioxidants."

The study authors noted that black rice bran could be used to boost the health benefits of breakfast cereals, cakes, cookies and other foods. It could also be added to beverages, and may serve as food coloring, allowing food manufacturers to avoid artificial colorants, the team said in the news release. The scientists explained that pigments in black rice bran extracts range from pink to black.

In the study, the researchers tested black rice bran grown in the Southern United States. Although brown rice is the most common rice variety produced worldwide, Xu said the study results suggest that black rice bran may be healthier than brown rice bran in terms of antioxidants.

In Asia, black rice is most commonly used for food decoration, such as in noodles or sushi. One variety of black rice is known as "Forbidden Rice" because in Ancient China, it was only permitted to be eaten by nobles and no one else, according to background information in the news release.

The study results were scheduled to be released Thursday at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston.

Source:THURSDAY, Aug. 26 (HealthDay News)

The 10 Heathiest Ethnic Cuisines

It's dinnertime, and you're craving something with a little flavor. Maybe you'll grab Indian takeout or whip up a taco salad. But, uh-oh, these days it's easy to find yourself biting into the ethnic version of a triple burger and fries.

"We've Americanized dishes to the extent that they don't have their original health benefits," says Daphne Miller, M.D., author of "The Jungle Effect: The Healthiest Diets from Around the World -- Why They Work and How to Make Them Work for You."

Enjoy global cuisines in their purest state, on the other hand, and you get meals that are light, nutritious, and incredibly yummy. So we asked experts to rank the 10 healthiest cuisines and reveal what makes them good for you.

1. Greek

There's a good reason docs love the Mediterranean diet: Traditional Greek foods like dark leafy veggies, fresh fruit, high-fiber beans, lentils, grains, olive oil, and omega-3-rich fish deliver lots of immune-boosting and cancer-fighting ingredients that cut your risks of heart disease, diabetes, and other diet-related ailments.

In fact, eating a traditional Mediterranean-style diet is associated with a 25 percent reduced risk of death from heart disease and cancer, according to Harvard University research. And people lose more weight and feel more satisfied on this type of diet, which is rich in healthy fats, than on a traditional low-fat diet, another Harvard study suggests.

This cuisine also ranks high because of how it's eaten, says Miller, who is also an associate professor of family medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

"The Greeks often share small plates of food called meze," she says, having just a bite of meat along with low-cal, healthy Greek staples like fresh seafood, slowly digested carbs (beans, eggplant, or whole-grain breads), and small portions of olives and nuts.

If you're eating out, order grilled fish and spinach or other greens sautéed with olive oil and garlic.

"This dish gives you the anti-inflammatory combo of olive oil and greens with the blood-pressure-lowering effects of garlic," Miller says.

Danger zone: Unless you make it yourself and go light on the butter, the classic spinach pie (spanakopita) can be as calorie- and fat-laden as a bacon cheeseburger.

2. California Fresh

You don't have to live on the West Coast to reap the body benefits of the California style of cooking. California Fresh is all about enjoying seasonal, local foods that are simply prepared -- and that's a healthy style you can adopt no matter where you live, says supermarket guru Phil Lempert, a leading consumer trend-watcher.

Eating plenty of disease-fighting, naturally low-cal, nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables from a local farmers' market or farm is good for your body, and it's satisfying, says Frances Largeman-Roth, R.D., Health magazine's senior food and nutrition editor.

"Foods grown locally are going to taste better and may have more nutrients," she explains, while produce that's shipped cross-country after being harvested can lose vitamin C and folate, not to mention flavor.

And what should you whip up from your local riches? Chef Annie Somerville at Greens Restaurant in San Francisco serves orrechiette with mushrooms, broccoli rabe, Italian parsley, hot pepper, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese, or grilled veggie skewers over quinoa or couscous.

Danger zone: Relying on high-fat cheese to flavor veggie-based dishes is not a waist-friendly move, Largeman-Roth warns.

3. Vietnamese

Fresh herbs, lots of vegetables and seafood, and cooking techniques that use water or broth instead of oils -- these are some of the standout qualities of Vietnamese food.

"This cuisine, prepared the traditional way, relies less on frying and heavy coconut-based sauces for flavor and more on herbs, which makes it lower in calories," Largeman-Roth explains.

Traditional Vietnamese flavorings (including cilantro, mint, Thai basil, star anise, and red chili) have long been used as alternative remedies for all sorts of ailments, and cilantro and anise have actually been shown to aid digestion and fight disease-causing inflammation.

One of the healthiest and most delicious Vietnamese dishes is pho (pronounced "fuh"), an aromatic, broth-based noodle soup full of antioxidant-packed spices.

Danger zone: If you're watching your weight, avoid the fatty short ribs on many Vietnamese menus.

4. Japanese

When Miller was traveling around the world doing research for her book, she found that traditional Japanese cuisine -- especially the version eaten on the island of Okinawa, where people often live to 100-plus -- was superhealthy.

"Not only are Okinawans blessed with a diet rich in cancer-fighting fruits and vegetables, but they also prepare them in the healthiest way possible, with a light steam or a quick stir-fry," Miller explains.

They also practice Hara Hachi Bu, which means "eat until you are eight parts (or 80 percent) full," she says. These simple diet rules may be why people in Japan are far less likely than Americans to get breast or colon cancer.

Japanese staples that are amazing for your health include antioxidant-rich yams and green tea; cruciferous, calcium-rich veggies like bok choy; iodine-rich seaweed (good for your thyroid); omega-3-rich seafood; shiitake mushrooms (a source of iron, potassium, zinc, copper, and folate); and whole-soy foods.

"The soy that's good for you is unprocessed, not made into fake meat," Miller says. Think: tofu, edamame, miso, and tempeh, a nutty tasting soybean cake made from fermented soybeans.

Healthy choices the next time you visit a Japanese restaurant? Miso soup, which typically contains seaweed and tofu, or a simple veggie-and-tofu stir-fry.

Danger zone: White rice can cause a spike in blood sugar, so ask for brown rice, rich in fat-burning resistant starch (RS).

5. Indian

Say "Indian food," and you probably think of its aromatic spices, such as turmeric, ginger, red chilies, and garam masala (a mixture of cumin, cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon, coriander, and other spices).

These distinctive flavors do more than perk up your favorite curry: They may actually protect against some cancers. And turmeric and ginger help fight Alzheimer's, according to recent studies. Researchers point to the fact that rates of Alzheimer's in India are four times lower than in America, perhaps because people there typically eat 100 to 200 milligrams of curry everyday.

Turmeric, a main ingredient in curry, may have anti-inflammatory and healing properties; its benefits are now being studied at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Other good-news ingredients in Indian cuisine include yogurt and lentils, a fiber-and-RS all-star that has significant amounts of folate and magnesium, and may help stabilize blood sugar. Lentils are often combined with Indian spices to make dal, usually served as a side dish.

"A vegetable curry with dal is a great choice at an Indian restaurant," Largeman-Roth says.

Danger zone: Avoid anything fried, like samosas (pastry puffs) as well as heavy curries made with lots of cream and butter.

6. Italian

The Italian tradition of enjoying a leisurely meal is good for digestion. But what really makes this cuisine a winner is its star ingredients: tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, oregano, parsley, and basil.

"Studies have shown that the lycopene in tomatoes may help protect women from breast cancer," Miller says.

One of the best ways to get cancer-fighting lycopene is in cooked tomato products: a half-cup of tomato sauce has more than 20 milligrams. Plus, garlic and traditional Italian herbs provide vitamins A and C. And olive oil helps lower cholesterol, fight heart disease, and burn belly fat.

Notice that melted cheese isn't on that list of power Italian staples: Italians typically use Parmesan or another hard cheese instead, grated in small amounts for a big flavor boost.

Danger zone: Americanized dishes like double-cheese pizza or gooey lasagna tend to be loaded with fat and calories, Largeman-Roth says.

7. Spanish

Our judges applaud the Spanish tradition of eating tapas (small plates of food): "I love the idea of being able to sample little portions of tasty, healthful foods and making a dinner of it," Largeman-Roth says.

The Spanish eat tons of fresh seafood, vegetables, and olive oil -- all rock stars when it comes to your weight and well-being. Superhealthy dishes to order: gazpacho (full of cancer-fighting lycopene and antioxidants) and paella (rich in fresh seafood, rice, and veggies).

Danger zone: Avoid fatty sausages and fried items, which can show up on tapas menus in the United States.

8. Mexican

Forget those high-fat, calorie-stuffed options at many popular Mexican restaurants: Authentic Mexican cuisine can be heart-healthy and even slimming, our judges say. In fact, a Mexican diet of beans, soups, and tomato-based sauces helped lower women's risk of breast cancer, a study from the University of Utah found.

And the cuisine's emphasis on slowly digested foods like beans and fresh ground corn may provide protection from type 2 diabetes.

"Slow-release carbohydrates have been shown to lower blood sugar and even help reverse diabetes," Miller says.

Danger zone: It can be easy to overeat rich queso dip; keep fat and calories in check by portioning a little out of the dip bowl.

9. South American

With 12 countries within its borders, South America has a very diverse culinary repertoire. But our judges applaud the continent's traditional diet of fresh fruits and vegetables (including legumes) along with high-protein grains like quinoa. In fact, a typical South American meal of rice and beans creates a perfect protein, Largeman-Roth says.

While some parts of South America are famous for their huge steaks, a healthier option (unless you share the steak with friends) is ceviche. This mélange of fresh seafood boasts a variety of healthful spices and ingredients, from cilantro and chile peppers to tomatoes and onions.

Danger zone: Brazilian or Argentine restaurants often have fried items like sausage, yams, and bananas. If you're trying to lose pounds, steer clear or split an order with the table.

10. Thai

Can a soup fight cancer? If it's a Thai favorite called Tom Yung Gung, the answer just might be yes.

Made with shrimp, coriander, lemongrass, ginger, and other herbs and spices used in Thai cooking, the soup was found to possess properties 100 times more effective than other antioxidants in inhibiting cancerous-tumor growth.

Researchers at Thailand's Kasetsart University and Japan's Kyoto and Kinki Universities became interested in the soup's immune-boosting qualities after noticing that the incidence of digestive tract and other cancers was lower in Thailand than in other countries.

Many common Thai spices have feel-great benefits, our judges point out. Ginger aids in digestion, turmeric is an anti-inflammatory, and lemongrass has long been used in Asian medicine to help treat colds and ease tummy troubles.

Danger zone: When you're eating out, avoid soups with coconut milk because they're high in saturated fat (and calories).

Source: CNN/Health.com 8/25/10

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Phys Ed: Does Music Make You Exercise Harder?

For a study published last year, British researchers asked 12 healthy male college students to ride stationary bicycles while listening to music that, as the researchers primly wrote, “reflected current popular taste among the undergraduate population.” Each of the six songs chosen differed somewhat in tempo from the others.

The volunteers were told to ride the bicycles at a pace that they comfortably could maintain for 30 minutes. Then each rode in three separate trials, wearing headphones tuned to their preferred volume. Each had his heart rate, power output, pedal cadence, enjoyment of the music and feelings of how hard the riding felt were monitored throughout each session. During one of the rides, the six songs ran at their normal tempos. During the other rides, the tempo of the tracks was slowed by 10 percent or increased by 10 percent. The riders were not informed about the tempo manipulations.

But their riding changed significantly in response. When the tempo slowed, so did their pedaling and their entire affect. Their heart rates fell. Their mileage dropped. They reported that they didn’t like the music much. On the other hand, when the tempo of the songs was upped 10 percent, the men covered more miles in the same period of time, produced more power with each pedal stroke and increased their pedal cadences. Their heart rates rose. They reported enjoying the music — the same music — about 36 percent more than when it was slowed. But, paradoxically, they did not find the workout easier. Their sense of how hard they were working rose 2.4 percent. The up-tempo music didn’t mask the discomfort of the exercise. But it seemed to motivate them to push themselves. As the researchers wrote, when “the music was played faster, the participants chose to accept, and even prefer, a greater degree of effort.”

The interplay of exercise and music is fascinating and not fully understood, perhaps in part because, as a science, it edges into multiple disciplines, from physiology to biomechanics to neurology. No one doubts that people respond to music during exercise. Just look at the legions of iPod-toting exercisers on running paths and in gyms. The outcry when USA Track and Field banned headphones in 2007 at sanctioned races like marathons was loud and pained (and the edict widely ignored until it was revised last year). The neurologist and author Oliver Sacks has talked about personally experiencing the elemental power of music after he injured his leg mountain climbing and had to push himself slowly down the slope with his elbows. He told an interviewer: “Then I found the Volga Boatmen song going through my mind. I would make a big heave and a ho on each beat in the song. In this way, it seemed to me that I was being ‘music-ed’ down the mountain.”

Just how music impacts the body during exercise, however, is only slowly being teased out by scientists. One study published last year found that basketball players prone to performing poorly under pressure during games were significantly better during high-pressure free-throw shooting if they first listened to catchy, upbeat music and lyrics (in this case, the Monty Python classic “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”). The music seemed to distract the players from themselves, their audience and from thinking about the physical process of shooting, said Christopher Mesagno, a lecturer at the University of Ballarat in Victoria, Australia, and the study’s lead author. It freed the body to do what it knew how to do without interference from the brain. “The music was occupying attention that might have been misdirected otherwise,” Mr. Mesagno said.

In fact, it’s music’s dual ability to distract attention (a psychological effect) while simultaneously goosing the heart and the muscles (physiological impacts) that makes it so effective during everyday exercise. Multiple experiments have found that music both increases a person’s subjective sense of motivation during a workout, and also concretely affects his or her performance. The resulting interactions between body, brain and music are complex and intertwined. It’s not simply that music motivates you and you run faster. It may be that, instead, your body first responds to the beat, even before your mind joins in; your heart rate and breathing increase and the resulting biochemical reactions join with the music to exhilarate and motivate you to move even faster. Scientists hope to soon better understand the various nervous system and brain mechanisms involved. But for now, they know that music, in most instances, works. It eases exercise. In a typical study, from 2008, cyclists who rode in time to music used 7 percent less oxygen to pedal at the same pace as when they didn’t align themselves to the songs.

But there are limits to the benefits of music, and they probably kick in just when you could use the help the most. Unfortunately, science suggests that music’s impacts decline dramatically when you exercise at an intense level. A much-cited 2004 study of runners found that during hard runs at about 90 percent of their maximal oxygen uptake, a punishing pace, music was of no benefit, physiologically. The runners didn’t up their paces, no matter how fast the music’s tempo. Their heart rates stubbornly stayed the same, already quite high, whether they listened to music or not. That result, according to a 2009 review of research by Costas Karageorghis and David-Lee Priest, researchers who have extensively studied music and exercise, is likely due to the ineluctable realities of hard work. During moderate exercise, they write, music can “narrow attention,” diverting “the mind from sensations of fatigue.” But when you increase the speed and intensity of a workout, “perceptions of fatigue override the impact of music, because attentional processes are dominated by physiological feedback.” The noise of the body drowns all other considerations. Even so, about a third of the runners in the 2004 study told the researchers that they liked listening to the music, especially at the start of the run. It didn’t increase their speed or make the workout demonstrably easier. But it sounded nice.

And that result, obvious as it seems, may be the ultimate lesson of how and why music is effective and desirable during exercise, says Nina Kraus, a professor of neurobiology at Northwestern University in Illinois, who studies the effects of music on the nervous system. “Humans and song birds” are the only creatures “that automatically feel the beat” of a song, she said. The human heart wants to synchronize to music, the legs want to swing, metronomically, to a beat. So the next time you go for a moderate run or bike ride, first increase the tempo of some insidiously catchy Lady Gaga downloads (or Justin Bieber or Katy Perry or whatever reflects the current popular taste in your household), and load them on your iPod. “Our bodies,” Ms. Kraus concluded, “are made to be moved by music and move to it.”

Source: Gretchen Reynolds, New York Times 8/24/10

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Could Drinking Water Before Meals Help You Lose Weight?

Close the diet books and skip the pills. The latest weight-loss trick may be as simple as gulping a couple of glasses of water before you eat.

A new study found that middle-aged and older adults who drank two cups of water before each meal consumed fewer calories and lost more weight than those who skipped drinking water.

Researchers divided overweight and obese men and women aged 55 to 75 into two groups: one group was told to follow a low-fat, low-calorie diet; the other group was told to follow the same diet and to drink two cups of water before breakfast, lunch and dinner.

After 12 weeks, those who drank water before meals had lost 15.5 pounds, compared to 11 pounds for the non-water drinkers, a nearly 30 percent difference.

The researchers got the idea for the weight-loss program from their prior research, which found that when middle-aged and older adults drank water before meals, they ate between 75 and 90 fewer calories at the meal.

What they weren't sure about, however, was if water drinkers would compensate by eating more throughout the rest of the day, said senior study author Brenda Davy, an associate professor in the department of human nutrition, foods and exercise at Virginia Tech. But after 12 weeks of dieting, that didn't happen.

"Drinking more water is a pretty simple strategy that may be helpful to people trying to lose weight," Davy said. "We're not saying, 'Drink more water and the body fat will melt away'. But for people who are trying to lose weight and trying to follow a low-cal diet, it's something they can do as part of that."

The research was to be presented Monday at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston.

One of the most vexing issues with dieting is how difficult it is to keep the weight off long-term, Davy said. After the 12 weeks were up, Davy and her colleagues have continued to follow the participants.

After one year, preliminary data shows that those who continued to drink water before meals not only kept those pounds off, but have even continued to lose a bit more -- about 1.5 pounds on average.

Yet pre-meal water chugging comes with one caveat: it may only work if you're middle-aged or older, Davy said.

Prior research has shown that in those aged 18 to 35, drinking water before the meal did not cause them to eat fewer calories at the meal, Davy said.

In older people, it takes longer for the stomach to empty, which may be why the water helps them feel fuller and less hungry, while in younger people, water begins leaving the stomach almost immediately, Davy said.

Barry Popkin, director of the University of North Carolina Nutrition Obesity Research Center, called the findings "promising." His research has shown people who drinks lots of water drink fewer sugary beverages, eat more fruits and vegetables and overall consume fewer calories throughout the day.

One culprit in the obesity epidemic is that Americans consume some 300 calories more a day in sugary beverages than they did 30 years ago, Popkin added. That includes soda, punch and fruit juices with added sugar, sports drinks and sweetened tea.

"If you drink some more water right before a meal and fill up a little bit right before, there is the potential you may reduce your food intake," Popkin said. "But what we're concerned with is encouraging people to drink water to replace all the caloric beverages we're drinking."

Another challenge to the water-before-meals weight-loss strategy is getting people to do it, said Carla Wolper, an assistant professor in the Eating Disorders Center at Columbia University and a research faculty member at the New York Obesity Research Center at St. Luke's Hospital in New York City.

"The question is, do people continue to drink the water in a non-study situation?" Wolper said. "We know there are a lot of simple things people could do to lose weight. Clinical trials have shown if people write down what they eat, they lost twice as much weight. Yet it's very hard to get people to write down what they eat. Or, if people would reduce portions just a little bit, they would lose weight. But people don't do it."

The same goes for drinking more water. Even seemingly small changes require commitment. "Changing a pattern of behavior is complicated, and requires time and energy," Wolper said.

Still, it could be worth a try, she added. "Unless people overload on water, it's harmless, inexpensive. And if over the course of the entire day, it reduces the amount of food people take in, then of course it's a good idea," Wolper said.

Dieticians often will suggest a non-caloric drink such as club soda with lemon, diet soda or tea to help resist the urge to snack after dinner, Wolper said.

Source: HealthyDay News 8/23/10

Monday, August 23, 2010

Bottled vs. brewed teas: Study reveals healthiest teas

Labels on bottled tea beverages are typically plastered with declarations of their rich antioxidant content. But a new study suggests, if you're looking for high doses of healthful antioxidants, you might be better off brewing your tea at home.

Many of the popular beverages included in the study contain fewer antioxidants than a single cup of home-brewed green or black tea, the researchers say. Some store-bought teas contain such small amounts that consumers would have to drink 20 bottles to get the antioxidants, also called polyphenols, present in one cup of tea.

"There is a huge gap between the perception that tea consumption is healthy and the actual amount of the healthful nutrients — polyphenols — found in bottled tea beverages. Our analysis of tea beverages found that the polyphenol content is extremely low," said study researcher Shiming Li, an analytical and natural product chemist at WellGen, Inc., a biotechnology company in North Brunswick, N.J., that develops medical foods for patients with diseases, including a proprietary black tea product that will be marketed for its anti-inflammatory benefits.

In addition, bottled beverages often contain large amounts of sugar that health-conscious consumers may be trying to avoid, Li said.

The study was presented Aug. 22 at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Boston.

Bottled vs. brewed
Antioxidants are substances that protect cells against damage from unstable molecules called free radicals. They may play a role in preventing a host of diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer's.

Li and colleagues measured the level of polyphenols of six brands of tea purchased from supermarkets. Half of them contained what Li characterized as "virtually no" antioxidants. The rest had small amounts of polyphenols that Li said probably would carry little health benefit, especially when considering the high sugar intake from tea beverages.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Red Meat and Woman's Heart Disease Risk

Women who eat a lot of red meat may be increasing their risk of developing heart disease, Harvard researchers report.

Substituting fish, poultry, low-fat dairy and nuts for red meat can significantly reduce that risk, however, the study authors suggest.

"This study is one of many showing a link between eating red meat, processed meat and full-fat dairy products, and heart disease," said Samantha Heller, a nutritionist and exercise physiologist.

It seems obvious that people should reduce their intake of meat and dairy foods. "But there are many people who feel it is almost impossible to give up or limit butter, steak, ham and cheese," she said. "Americans are also concerned with getting enough protein. However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention] says that most Americans have plenty, if not a surplus, of protein in their diet."

If people looked at this as a matter of simple swaps, it may be easier to make some healthy changes, she added.

"So, instead of a ham-and-cheese sandwich for lunch, have a peanut butter-and-banana sandwich. Jump in the Meatless Monday trend, and have whole-grain pasta primavera for dinner on Monday. Make Sunday's chili vegetarian, with lots of vegetables and beans. Try a veggie burger on a whole-wheat bun for your cookout. Swap cheese and crackers for low-fat cheese and apple slices," Heller suggested.

The report is published in the Aug. 16 online edition of Circulation.

For the study, a team lead by Dr. Adam M. Bernstein, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, collected data on 84,136 women, aged 30 to 55, who took part in the Nurses' Health Study over 26 years, from 1980 to 2006.

Over that time, there were 2,210 nonfatal heart attacks and 952 deaths from heart disease, the researchers noted.

Bernstein's group found that women who ate the highest amount of red meat were at the highest risk for heart disease. However, eating poultry, fish and nuts was associated with a lower risk of heart disease.

In fact, compared to one serving a day of red meat, women who ate one serving a day of other protein-rich foods had a:

30 percent lower risk of heart disease if they ate one serving of nuts.
24 percent lower risk of heart disease if they ate one serving of fish.
19 percent lower risk of heart disease if they ate one serving of poultry.
13 percent lower risk of heart disease if they ate one serving of low-fat dairy.
"You don't need to have hot dogs, hamburgers, bologna or pastrami," Bernstein said in a news release from the journal's publisher.

"Although this study included only women, our overall knowledge of risk factors for heart disease suggests that the findings are likely to apply to men as well," he added.

Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that "a number of prior observational studies have explored the complex relationships between various food types in the diet and the long-term risk of coronary heart disease."

While most studies have shown that fish intake is associated with decreased risk for coronary heart disease, the findings regarding red meat consumption and risk have been mixed. Some have shown no increased risk, others have found the risk is only associated with processed meat, and in others a relationship was seen only with total red meat consumption, he explained.

This new observational study of women found that higher intake of red meat was associated with higher risk of heart disease.

"However, it is important to acknowledge that this is an observational study, rather than a prospective, randomized clinical trial. Whether a shift in protein source in the diet would actually reduce coronary heart disease events remains to be demonstrated," Fonarow said.

Source:MONDAY, Aug. 16 (HealthDay News)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Proximity to Food an Issue in Weight Gain?

Dorm With Cafeteria May
Boost College Weight Gain

TUESDAY, Aug. 3 (HealthDay News) -- College
students who live in dormitories with dining halls
gain more weight than students who have to walk
farther for their meals, a new study has found.

The study included 388 freshmen in seven dorms,
including four that had on-site dining halls that
served three meals daily. All the students had access
to two campus gyms with state-of-the-art exercise

During the school year, females in dorms with on-
site dining halls weighed almost 2 pounds more
and exercised 1.43 fewer times per week than those
in dorms without dining halls. Males in dorms with
on-site dining halls ate about 1.5 more meals and
almost three more snacks per week than those in
dorms without dining halls, according to the report
released online Aug. 3 in the Journal of Adolescent

While living closer to a gym increased exercise
frequency among female students, there was no
proof that the distance they lived from a gym
affected weight gain, lead author Kandice Kapinos,
an assistant research scientist at the Institute for
Social Research at the University of Michigan,
explained in a news release from Health Behavior
News Service.

"This study confirms what we as public health
practitioners have believed for a while. Location is
not only important in real estate. It's also important
when it comes to health behaviors, and proximity of
food and exercise facilities influences our
behavior," Jeanie Alter, of the School of Health,
Physical Education and Recreation at Indiana University.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Early Cholesterol Screening Recommended

High Cholesterol in Youth Boosts Heart Risk In Middle Age
Your 20's is not too soon to start controlling your cholesterol, researchers say
By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, August 2 (HealthDay News) -- Young adults whose cholesterol levels are even slightly higher than normal are at greater risk of developing artery-clogging calcium deposits later in life, which can trigger hardening of the arteries leading to heart disease, a new study suggests.

This conclusion runs counter to the common assumption that modestly high cholesterol levels are nothing to worry about in young adults. Equally important, it argues that people need to start eating healthy and exercising early to prevent heart disease, the researchers say.

"You can't just ignore your cholesterol levels until you get into middle age. You have to be thinking about them and having a healthy diet and exercise regimen even early in life when you are at low risk for heart attacks," said lead researcher Dr. Mark J. Pletcher, an assistant professor in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco.

Pletcher recommends diet and exercise as a way to control cholesterol, because the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs such as statins in young adults is controversial. People should start having their cholesterol checked when they are in their 20s, he said, and they should start a healthy diet and exercise program at the same time.

The report is published in the Aug. 2 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

For the study, Pletcher's team collected data on almost 3,300 men and women 18 to 30 years old participating in the CARDIA (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults) Study. Participants in the prospective study -- recruited from four different U.S. cities -- were comprised of black and white men and women who were healthy when they enrolled. Over a period of 20 years, they had their low- and high-density lipoprotein (LDL and HDL) cholesterol and triglycerides levels measured repeatedly.

After 20 years, the researchers performed scans looking at coronary artery calcium, which is a measure of calcium deposits in the coronary arteries. The average age at the time of the scan was 45. Coronary calcium deposits -- a risk factor for heart disease -- were present in 17 percent of the participants, or nearly one in five.

People whose "bad" cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) was high when they were in their 20s were more likely to have calcium lining their coronary arteries after age 35, the researchers found. In a subset of participants without abnormal blood fat levels who were not taking lipid-lowering medicine, low levels of good HDL cholesterol were also associated with a higher risk of calcifications.

For example, 44 percent of those with an average LDL of more than 160 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) when they were young had plaque buildup in their coronary arteries 20 years later, compared with 8 percent of those whose LDL levels were less than 70 mg/dL, Pletcher noted.

Even a modest rise in LDL, as low as 100-129 mg/dL, was associated with a higher risk of atherosclerosis, the researchers said. Sixty-five percent of the young adults had LDL levels greater than 100 mg/dL, they added.

The study had some limitations, the researchers noted in the Annals of Internal Medicine. "Coronary calcium, although a strong predictor of future coronary heart disease, is not a clinical outcome," they wrote.

The researchers also wrote that "safety concerns [about cholesterol-lowering treatments] are rightly magnified when starting treatment early in life is considered." The findings, they said, "cannot provide evidence for the effectiveness or safety" of using cholesterol-lowering drugs, such as statins, during young adulthood, although they added that could be an area for further investigation.

"It is an active area of debate," Pletcher said, adding that new guidelines are expected next year that will consider the use of statins in young adults.

Although drug therapy might be useful, Pletcher added, "there is no firm evidence that treating people with statins during young adulthood is overall beneficial, because it would require treating people for 30 to 50 years before any benefit in terms of heart attack prevention would occur."

Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, a professor, medicine and director of the Ahmanson-UCLA Cardiomyopathy Center at the University of California, Los Angeles said that "it has been very well established that atherosclerosis begins in childhood and progresses during adolescence and young adulthood, resulting in more advanced lesions in middle-aged and older adults."

The atherosclerosis disease process begins with lipids accumulating in the artery wall and ultimately may result in more advanced lesions that rupture, leading to heart attacks, he said.

"These results and prior studies lend support for the public health strategy of beginning risk-factor control in youth and continuing it life-long through improved cardiovascular health behaviors," Fonarow said.

In terms of what can be done, Fonarow said that "lifestyle changes are the mainstay of lipid and other cardiovascular risk factor modification in youth."

Fonarow added that cholesterol-lowering drugs should be used only in young people who have very high cholesterol levels.

"According to current guidelines, statins or other cholesterol lowering medications should generally be reserved for pediatric patients with very high LDL levels, with careful assessment of the risks and benefits of drug treatment," he added.

For more information on cholesterol, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

SOURCES: Mark J. Pletcher, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor, department of epidemiology and biostatistics, University of California, San Francisco; Gregg C. Fonarow, M.D., professor, medicine, and director, Ahmanson-UCLA Cardiomyopathy Center, University of California, Los Angeles; Aug. 2, 2010, Annals of Internal Medicine.

Interesting Link Between ADHD and Food Choices

PERTH, Australia, July 31 (UPI) -- Australian researchers linked the "Western-style" diet -- processed, fried and refined foods -- and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Researchers at Perth's Telethon Institute for Child Health Research say a diet high in the Western pattern of foods high in fat, refined sugar and sodium -- is associated with more than double the risk of having an ADHD diagnosis compared with a diet low in the Western pattern.

The study, published in the International Journal of Attention Disorders, suggests teens eating what the researchers characterized as a healthy diet -- lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and fish and high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, folate and fiber -- provides mental health benefits and optimal brain function.

However, the researchers point out it is not clear if the healthy diet provides essential micronutrients needed for brain function -- particularly attention and concentration -- or if other substances in the Western diet -- colors, flavors and other additives -- may lead to an increase in ADHD symptoms. In addition, impulsivity -- a characteristic of ADHD -- leads to poor dietary choices such as quick snacks when hungry.

"We cannot be sure whether a poor diet leads to ADHD or whether ADHD leads to poor dietary choices and cravings," study leader Wendy Oddy said in a statement.

Oddy and colleagues examined the dietary patterns of 1,800 adolescents of whom 115 had been diagnosed with ADHD by age 14.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hydration Reminders

When Tour de France cyclist Cadel Evans wanted to press on after fracturing his elbow in a fall in Stage 8, BMC Racing Team physician Max Testa made the call.

Seeing no risk of permanent damage, Testa gave Evans the green light. "It was a stable fracture — small but very painful," he said. "Cadel is a super-tough guy, so he managed very well. He did as much as any human could do."

Dehydration, in Testa's experience, is another matter entirely. He says that when people are coping with intense physical exertion, dehydration is a serious risk.

"A hot environment is one of the most severe stresses an athlete can endure," says Testa, also an exercise performance physician in Salt Lake City. "Water has a high thermal capacity, so it's able to keep your temperature constant. For that reason, drinking water before, during and after exercise is more important than fuel."

Your organs and chemical reactions work only within a precise range of temperature. If you go above this ideal range and become hyperthermic (too hot), you may become dizzy, fatigued, winded. This can lead to cardiac problems, even death.

Selina Shah, a sports medicine physician at the Center for Sports Medicine at St. Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco, points out that water is also necessary for proper muscle contraction and for blood flow.

"Dehydration decreases blood volume," Shah says. "Your blood thickens, forcing your heart to work harder. Blood is shunted to your brain because it's the most important, then to the muscles you are utilizing for exercise, which means less flow to your GI — your gut."

When summer temperatures exceed your skin temperature, your body's ability to release heat is compromised. Humidity increases the challenge. When you perspire, sweat evaporates from your skin and cools your body. High humidity, however, prevents evaporation. When sweat drips off you, it's not evaporating — and not cooling your body. Thus, sweating and a flushed appearance while exercising are signs that you are mildly dehydrated. Once dehydration worsens, all those indicators stop functioning.

In hot conditions, says Testa, you can lose 2 to 3 liters of water per hour — almost twice what your stomach can absorb. Preventive hydration is key.

Drink fluids with and between meals and before exercise, but never more than two pints at a time.

Eat fruits and vegetables (they're 95 percent water).

Avoid caffeinated, alcoholic and carbonated beverages.

During summer exercise, drink 8-12 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes, less for very long-lasting activity.

After 30 minutes, replenish electrolytes, in particular sodium, which stimulates water absorption from your small intestine.

Drink at least 16 fluid ounces after exercise.

"Weigh yourself before and after exercise. Any weight you have lost is fluid loss and needs to be replaced," says Testa. "For every pound you lose during exercise, drink a pint of water afterward. Remember the old cooking adage: 'A pint is a pound the world 'round.'"

Shah, who works with several professional dance companies, cautions that you don't have to be riding in the Tour de France to become dehydrated. It can hit when you golf, walk, fish, sit in the sun on a boat, go to the beach on a foggy day, swim, exercise indoors without air conditioning, or couple physical activity with going in and out of air-conditioned gyms.

Source: Eric Heiden, M.D., a five-time Olympic gold medalist speed skater, is an orthopedic surgeon in Utah. He co-authored "Faster, Better, Stronger: Your Fitness Bible" (HarperCollins) with Max Testa, M.D., and DeAnne Musolf. Visit www.fasterbetterstronger.com.

Copyright © 2010, Tribune Media Services (7/31/10)