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 jalapeƱo 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

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

No Matter What You Call It - Sugar is Sugar

The makers of high fructose corn syrup want to sweeten up its image with a new name: corn sugar. The bid to rename the sweetener by the Corn Refiners Association comes as Americans' concerns about health and obesity have sent consumption of high fuctose corn syrup, used in soft drinks but also in bread, cereal and other foods, to a 20-year low.

The group applied Tuesday to the Food and Drug Administration to get the "corn sugar" name approved for use on food labels. They hope a new name will ease confusion about about the sweetener. Some people think it is more harmful or more likely to make them obese than sugar, perceptions for which there is little scientific evidence.

Approval of the new name could take two years, but that's not stopping the industry
from using the term now in advertising. There's a new online marketing campaign at and on television. Two new commercials try to alleviate shopper
confusion, showing people who say they now understand that "whether it's corn sugar or cane sugar, your body can't tell the difference. "Sugar is sugar."

Renaming products has succeeded before. For example, low eurcic acid rapeseed oil became much more popular after becoming "canola oil" in 1988. Prunes tried to shed a stodgy image by becoming "dried plums" in 2000.

The new name would help people understand the sweetener, said Audrae Dickson,president of the Washington-based group. "It has been highly disparaged and highly misunderstood," she said. She declined to say how much the campaign costs.

Some scientists have linked consumption of full-calorie soda — the vast majority of which is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup —to obesity.

But sugar and high fructose corn syrup are nutritionally the same, and there's no evidence that the sweetener is any worse for the body than sugar, said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The bottom line is people should consume less of all sugars, Jacobson said.

Need an Exercise Partner? Look at the Benefits for Older Adults!

Smart idea: Exercise can help build brain power — at any age

The link between learning and exercise is now well established. As school recess and physical education classes are being cut back or eliminated, families need to make exercise an after-school priority. Studies show adults can also gain brain power through exercise.

Substantial research has been done on the effect of exercise on budding intellects. The Journal of School Health published a study in 1997 showing that intense physical activity programs had positive effects on academic achievement. Even when the activity reduced the amount of time kids had for academics, exercise was found to increase concentration, reduce disruptive behavior and improve test scores.

New research reveals that the connection between learning and exercise is not limited to children. In a study published in a recent issue of the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, researchers found that after a year of exercise, adult subjects showed enhanced cognitive skills.

In this study, adult subjects followed an exercise program of moderate walking and stretching or toning for 40 minutes three times a week for one year. Before the study, all of the participants had been sedentary, each one reporting having done fewer than two 30-minute sessions of physical activity in the previous six months. After just one year of activity, however, the subjects — who ranged in age from 59 to 80 — had improved connectivity of important circuits in their brain and had mitigated declines in their brain function that are typically associated with aging. Furthermore, they showed improved performance on cognitive tasks.

These findings, which prove the link between exercise and improved cognitive function, should not be surprising. A high percentage of your brain is dedicated to coordinating the actions of your muscles. The concept of " aerobics" was born when astronauts doing mental training in the 1960s showed slower response rates the longer the missions ran. Dr. Kenneth Cooper, an Air Force physician, surmised that though the astronauts' tasks were almost entirely mental, their bodies' fatigue due to lack of fitness was dampening their brain function. To better the astronauts' brains, Cooper prescribed a program that required the astronauts to exercise large muscle groups in a rhythmic fashion — in a word, aerobics.

Since then, a veritable library of research has cataloged the correlation between exercise and cognitive function, including the Maastricht Aging Study, which recognized that among all age groups (from young folks to those 90 and older), those who were more active were faster in tests involving information processing.

Source: By Eric Heiden, Tribune Media Services, September 9, 2010

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Having trouble eating enough fruits and vegetables? You're not alone!

Most Americans Still Not Eating Enough Fruits, Veggies
No state has yet met the federal goals for consumption, CDC report finds

In 2000, the U.S. government set modest goals for the amount of fruit and vegetables people should eat, but a decade later the majority of Americans are not even close to reaching those thresholds, health officials said Thursday.

In fact, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2009, 67.5 percent of adults ate fruit less than two times daily and 73.7 percent ate vegetables less than three times per day. The goals of Healthy People 2010 were for 75 percent of people to eat at least two servings of fruit and 50 percent to eat at least three servings of vegetables every day.

"Over the last decade we have looked at behavioral intervention, like counseling to get people to include their fruits and vegetables," said report co-author Dr. Jennifer Foltz, a researcher in the CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. "But it's not so easy."

"In the next decade, we are going to work on making the healthy choice the easy choice," she said.

New programs will involve promoting gardening, farmer's markets and bringing more fruits and vegetables into schools and workplaces, Foltz said.

In addition, Foltz said there could be programs to help retailers increase the availability of fruits and vegetables through incentives like tax breaks as well as making it easier for low-income people to afford fresh fruit and vegetables.

Foltz noted that low-income Americans are more likely not to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables at affordable prices, which is why programs specifically targeted at this population are needed.

The report is published in the Sept. 10 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Despite efforts to increase healthy eating, over the past decade there has been a 2 percent decrease in fruit consumption and no change in the vegetable consumption, the researchers found.

No state has yet met the Healthy People 2010 goals, Foltz said. In fact only one state, Idaho, rose in the amount of fruits and vegetables ate while 10 states saw a decrease in fruit and vegetable consumption.

The 10 states where significant decreases in fruit and vegetable consumption were seen are Arizona, Kansas, Maryland, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and West Virginia, according to the report.

A diet rich in fruit and vegetables is an important part of keeping your weight under control and reducing the risk of heart disease, some cancers, stroke, chronic lower respiratory diseases and diabetes, the authors say.

Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St Louis, said that "as a registered dietitian I hear three main reasons as to why meeting recommended intake is so difficult."

These include accessibility of fresh produce and failure to recognize nutritional values of frozen or canned fruits and vegetables. Also, the time involved in preparing fresh vegetables and inconvenience of carrying fruits or vegetables for those needed fast snacks or meals, she said.

"Another factor that seems to impact purchasing fresh produce that is not clear in this report is the cost of fresh produce," Diekman said. "With economic changes the last several years, the slight differences in consumption based on household income might be an important factor for health-care providers to address."

Another expert, Samantha Heller, a dietitian, nutritionist, exercise physiologist and clinical nutrition coordinator at the Center for Cancer Care at Griffin Hospital in Derby, Conn., said that "it is common knowledge that fruits and vegetables are good for us."

Unfortunately it appears that less healthy foods are taking the place of vegetables and fruit in the diet of most Americans, she said.

"It is easy to fill up on fast food, junk foods, sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages. In addition, by eating these highly palatable foods -- those high in fat, sugar and sodium -- we alter our taste and mental expectations about how a food is 'supposed' to taste," Heller said.

"We end up craving these foods and the healthier fare is ignored. Thus, a sweet ripe peach does not taste very sweet to someone who just chugged a 20-ounce soda or ate a bowl of ice cream. The same with vegetables. The delicious taste of many vegetable pales in comparison with high-fat, high-sodium cheese burgers and french fries," she said.

Some simple ways to add more fruits and vegetables to your day include adding berries to your cereal or yogurt, throwing frozen vegetables into your soup and adding carrots, broccoli and mushrooms to your pasta sauce, Heller suggested.

Source:By Steven Reinberg,HealthDay Reporter,THURSDAY, Sept. 9 (HealthDay News)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Milk does a body good, especially athletes

LONDON — At the end of nearly every training session, Matt Whitmore downs a pint of milk straight from the bottle.

"I do it pretty religiously," said Whitmore, 25, a gym trainer in London. He first started drinking milk after exercise about 10 years ago when he couldn't afford expensive supplements or protein shakes. "Milk helps me recover faster and I feel great afterwards," he said. "And now, I hate to train without it."

Researchers are giving scientific support to a view that Whitmore vouches for from experience: that milk may be just as good or even better than sports drinks for serious athletes recovering from exercise. The health benefits of milk - which has carbohydrates, electrolytes, calcium and vitamin D - have long been established. But for athletes, milk also contains the two proteins best for rebuilding muscles: casein and whey.

Muscles get damaged after an intense bout of aerobic exercise like running, playing football, or cycling. The casein and whey proteins in milk are precisely what the body needs to regenerate muscles fast.

Glenys Jones, a nutritionist at Britain's Medical Research Council, said milk's protein content makes it an ideal post-exercise drink. "Milk provides the building blocks for what you need to build new muscles," said Jones, who has no ties to the dairy industry.

She said sports drinks mainly replace lost carbohydrates and electrolytes, and don't usually have the necessary nutrients for muscles to regenerate themselves.

Experts have generally been divided over whether milk outperforms sports drinks. Dairy producers have been eager to break into the multibillion-dollar market, often sponsoring research into milk's athletic benefits that some call biased. So the debate continues, but milk has been getting a lot of attention.

In a study published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism in June, researchers found people who drank milk after training were able to exercise longer in their next session than people who had sports drinks or water.

"It's the form of the carbohydrate and the nutrients in milk that is most important," said Emma Cockburn, a lecturer in sports coaching at Northumbria University in northeast England who led the study, which was partially paid for by the dairy industry.

Cockburn advised athletes to drink milk immediately after working out. "The damage caused by exercise leads to a breakdown of the protein structures in your muscles, but that doesn't happen until 24 to 48 hours later," she said. If athletes drink milk right after training, then by the time it is digested, the milk's nutrients are ready to be absorbed by the muscles that have been hurt.

Drinking milk also may help athletes recover quicker if they are performing multiple times in a day. For people who can't stomach the idea of plain milk, experts recommend adding some chocolate or other artificial flavor. At the Beijing Olympics, six-time gold medallist Michael Phelps regularly downed a flavored milk drink in between races.

Scientists at Loughborough University have found low-fat milk is better than sports drinks for replacing fluids lost during exercise. Scientists suspect there may be two reasons for that. Not only does milk have a lot of electrolytes, but it is emptied from the stomach more slowly than sports drinks, keeping the body hydrated for longer.

Though the vitamins and proteins found in milk are present in soy milk or dietary supplements, experts say milk has better proportions of those nutrients.

Milk also may help athletes shed fat and build muscle. In a small Canadian study, experts found women who drank milk after lifting weights gained about 4.4 pounds (2 kilos) of muscle and lost about the same amount of body fat. Women who drank sports drinks put on about 3.3 pounds (1.5 kilos) of muscle but didn't lose any body fat.

"It may be that some of the components of milk - the protein, the vitamin D and the calcium - act in a synergistic fashion to promote fat loss," said Stuart Phillips, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University who led the research. Phillips has advised the Canadian Olympic Association about milk and the dairy industry paid for part of his research.

But some experts warned that drinking milk after exercise isn't for everyone. Catherine Collins, a spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association and a dietician at London's St. George's Trust, said while milk may be beneficial for elite athletes who burn thousands of calories a day during their intensive training, occasional gym-goers may be better off drinking sports drinks or plain water.

"If you're just a gym bunny trying to lose a bit of weight, water is probably sufficient after exercise," she said, warning that chocolate milk in particular could add unwanted calories.

At the Vancouver Olympics, dairy farmers trucked in about 85,000 extra quarts (80,000 liters) of chocolate milk. Canadian athletes won a record-setting 14 gold medals. "I don't know if the milk helped, but it can't have hurt," Phillips said.

Still, even those who promote milk as a recovery drink say it cannot entirely replace sports drinks. Because it is harder to digest, people should only drink milk after they are finished exercising, not during.

In comparison, sports drinks like Gatorade have easily digestible sugars so athletes can chug it during events to get an instant boost.

Whitmore says it may be a tough sell to persuade people to swap their sports drinks or even water, for milk. "Most gym goers have very particular routines," he said, acknowledging he takes a bit of ribbing for his milk habit from his rugby teammates. "They call me the Milky Bar kid."

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Diet, exercise, rest, flu shots can help boost the immune system

Last school year was a particularly brutal one, minor-illness-wise, for many families, complete with runny noses, hacking coughs and the not-so-occasional stomach flu. So as we come to the tail end of a perfectly healthy, happy, snot-free summer and head back to school -- with all those germs! -- Moms have decided to go on the offensive. Their mission? To build up our immunity and prevent colds, viruses and infections as much as possible.

That can be a tall order, says Gerard Mullin, a Johns Hopkins Hospital internist and gastroenterologist. "The change of seasons weakens your immune system by draining your body's neuroendocrine system and stressing it with the changes in day and night and coldness and warmth, all of which makes you more susceptible to catching a cold or flu."

He notes that being forced back into crowded places such as classrooms doesn't help matters, nor do changes to bedtime and wake-up routines. "Going back to school and a stricter schedule, and not being able to hang out, sleep late and get up at 10: It's a new rhythm and a different world for kids," he explains. "Just like for the rest of us, not getting enough rest . . . plus dealing with the elements, the changing weather and stressors like school or work, can really hamper immune function."

But while it can be a challenge to boost immunity in this situation, it is possible, says Philip Tierno Jr., director of clinical microbiology and immunology at New York University's Langone Medical Center. "People tend to . . . take special supplements figuring, 'That will protect me,' " he says. "Well, no, your body is what you have to work on: You need to get your organ in perfect shape to be able to defend itself, because the normal body is well adapted to do that."

Experts agree that getting yourself into shape starts with good, balanced nutrition. That means avoiding processed foods, red meat and saturated fats; not overeating; and consuming produce and foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids, such as salmon, says Mullin, who is also a nutritionist.

"It's interesting that in the fall, root vegetables like yams and carrots, which are all very rich in Vitamin A and antioxidants, which play a huge role in immunity, come up in our diet," he explains. "If you focus on eating seasonal fruits and vegetables, you'll get all of the immune-boosting vitamins and minerals you need without having to think about supplements." He adds that a wide variety of mushrooms, including shitakes and even plain old white buttons, have also been proven to improve immune function. And since, according to Mullin, it has now been firmly established that the gut is the center of immunity, he suggests regularly eating yogurt with probiotics, which help maintain healthy gut flora.

In addition to urging people to eat their way to an optimal defense against colds, viruses and the like, NYU's Tierno, the author of "The Secret Life of Germs," offers these tips, which he says are all backed by research:

-- Get moving. Sedentary people are more likely than others to become ill. Exercise -- even just a half-hour to an hour of walking -- has been shown to keep you functioning and to boost immunity.

-- Stay rested. It's essential to get enough sleep -- ideally 7 1/2 to nine hours -- because proper rest helps the body repair injuries caused by stress, illness and invading organisms such as viruses.

-- Don't stress. Stress hormones can make you more susceptible to infection. So try not to get worked up over that resurgent rush-hour traffic and focus on maintaining a less confrontational and low-stress lifestyle.

-- Look on the bright side. Optimistic people tend to have a better immune response.

-- Drink up. If you feel a cold coming on, consume plenty of fluids. This helps keep your organ systems functioning optimally and is very important for proper immune response.

-- Avoid germs. Many people don't follow basic rules of hygiene. Tierno said it's important to wash or sanitize your hands frequently -- such as after using that germy shared pen at the supermarket -- and to steer clear of coughing, sneezing or otherwise obviously ill people.

-- Get a flu shot. This is one of the simplest means of staying well, particularly for the very young, for older people and for those whose immune systems are compromised.

And what about supplements? While drugstore shelves are filled with a plethora of powders and products touting their immune-boosting benefits, the evidence on effectiveness is decidedly lacking.

Source: Washington Post 9/7/10 By Carolyn Butler

No Suprise: Walking, Cycling Linked to Healthier Weights

A new study confirms what seems obvious: people who live in communities where walking and cycling are common are less likely to be overweight or obese.

The researchers analyzed statistics about walking and cycling in 14 countries, and also studied data about walking and cycling to work in all 50 states and in 47 of the largest U.S. cities.

They found that the highest levels of walking and cycling among the countries studied were in Switzerland, the Netherlands and Spain, while the lowest levels were in the United States, Australia and Canada. Among U.S. cities, the highest rates of walking and cycling to work were in Boston, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Minneapolis and Seattle.

The researchers also found a connection between more walking and cycling and lower levels of obesity and diabetes, according to the report released online Aug. 19 in advance of publication in the October print issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

"It's really important to promote walking and cycling as safe, convenient and feasible modes of getting around on an everyday basis," lead author John Pucher, a professor who studies transportation at Rutgers University in New Jersey, said in a Center for Advancing Health news release.

He acknowledged that the link between higher levels of exercise and healthier weight may seem obvious, but said there is a need for scientific evidence to prove it.

"As obvious as it is, it's shocking that Americans don't want to do anything about it. It's amazing how unconcerned most Americans are about this," Pucher said.

Source:SATURDAY, Sept. 4 (HealthDay News)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Excercise Buliema Difficult To Detect

As a high school sophomore, Brett Zorich was a record-setting track star. Ultimately, however, her fiercest opponent turned out to be herself.

While experiencing a 5-inch growth spurt at 15, she fought to maintain the 100 pounds she carried as a 5-foot-2 freshman. And that's when she "got psycho," she says.

Zorich exercised more than two hours a day and restricted her calories. It was an obsession that turned into what experts call exercise bulimia. Her symptoms included amenorrhea (loss of the menstrual cycle), fatigue and depression.

"Looking back, I definitely should have been getting help," says Zorich, now 20.

There is such a thing as too much exercise. Up to 11 million Americans annually suffer from eating disorders, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. Of those diagnosed with bulimia, more than 80 percent of them use excessive exercise to control their weight, according to a 1999 study. Exercise bulimia, also known as compulsive exercise or exercise addiction, involves burning off calories through excessive exercise.

The disorder is often difficult to detect, especially in a society that praises fitness. So how do you know if you're crossing the line from fitness enthusiast to exercise bulimic?

Jackie Holmes, director and founder of Casa Serena Eating Disorders Program in Concord, Calif., has seen a steady increase in patients seeking care for exercise bulimia.

"I think it's always been there, but it's so much more pronounced now because of this intense push from the fitness craze that has hit the country," Holmes says. "There's been a shift from dieting, and everyone's gotten into being really fit."

The compulsion to exercise is not the only indicator of the disorder. It can be better understood by gauging the feelings someone relates to exercising, says Holmes.

"Someone who is healthy and just enjoys fitness may have an intense workout they do regularly but wouldn't mind changing it or skipping a day because of illness, injury, or something that takes priority in their life over exercise," Holmes says. "Someone with exercise bulimia would be extremely hesitant to make any changes and would suffer from guilt and anxiety if they were forced to miss the workout."

Zorich says she continued to run and exercise on a broken ankle and an injured hamstring. Both were caused and worsened by overworking, she says. Even after her coaches instructed her not to run with her injuries, she would sneak out of her house at night to go running. Track went from being a fun activity to what felt like an obligation or a chore.

"My love for the sport started to dissipate," she says.

There is often a codependent disorder, such as being obsessive compulsive, associated with exercise bulimia, Holmes says. The codependent disorder could be completely separate from an eating disorder, such as anxiety, or could involve symptoms from a related eating disorder (anorexia or classic bulimia). However, someone suffering from exercise bulimia could use exercise exclusively and fail to show symptoms of other disorders.

Recovery from exercise bulimia isn't like some other addictions. Unlike an alcoholic who gives up drinking, it isn't realistic for an exercise bulimic to give up exercise for life.

When evaluating a person's recovery, professor James Lock, director of Stanford University's Child and Adolescent Eating Disorder Program, looks for normalized thinking as well as normalized behaviors. He says a normalized relationship with exercise is when exercise is done according to a schedule or desire to be fit, as opposed to being done in excess and in response to what a patient eats during the day.

"In someone who is exercising excessively, they would have to abstain from the behavior for about three months and then reintroduce it safely," he says.

Cynthia Bates, a yoga instructor and nutritionist, has been a recovered exercise bulimic for 15 years, yet she still has the occasional urge to slip back into unhealthful habits.

"I am tempted mostly when I start feeling out of control in my life, big changes are happening, I'm having difficulty in a relationship, or my job isn't going as well as I want it to," Bates says.

At the peak of her disorder, she was eating around 800 calories a day, with little or no fat in her diet, and exercising for 2 1/2 hours daily, she says.

Finally around 25, her life began to turn around. Though she didn't seek traditional therapy, she began to embrace healthy eating, yoga and a balanced lifestyle. Much of her initial recovery was inspired when she was teaching English in Japan. She found success in eating according to the macrobiotics diet, popular in Japan at the time.

Like Bates, Zorich never sought out professional therapy but says her coaches played a large part in her recovery. They kept an eye on her during the summer, advising her to mend her injuries.

Zorich now runs for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas track team. Though exercise is still a big part of her life, it comes with limitations.

"I don't get caught up in it," she says. "If I don't win, it doesn't break me like it used to."

Signs of exercise bulimia

Here is what to look for, according to Jackie Holmes, director and founder of Casa Serena Eating Disorders Program in Concord, Calif. She said most of her patients are between 15 and 35 years old, the majority of them women.

•Guilt if person has to miss a workout

•Amenorrhea (loss of the menstrual cycle)

•Anxiety and stress, including fatigue and depression

•A compulsive nature

•Bone loss

•Drop in protein levels

Source: Chicago Tribune 9/2/10

Sleep Deprived Teens May Eat More Fatty Foods

Teens who skimp on shut-eye eat more fatty foods, a new study suggests.

In the study, adolescents who slept fewer than eight hours on a weeknight consumed more of their daily calories from fat and fewer calories from carbohydrates than teens who slept eight hours or more.

The findings might explain why previous work has found a link between lack of sleep and obesity in teens. The results also underscore the importance of
sleep for this age group.

"It really adds to the growing body of literature that emphasizes the need for children and teens to get sufficient amounts of sleep every night as one of the key ways to promote health and prevent weight gain," says study researcher Dr.Susan Redline, a professor of medicine in the Division of Sleep Medicine at Brigham and
Women's Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Mass.

Redline and her colleagues examined the sleeping and eating habits of 240 teens ages
16 to 19. For five to seven nights, the teens wore a wrist device that measured their sleeping patterns at home. The device, known as a wrist actigraph, detects movement and can detect whether a person is awake or asleep.

The participants were also interviewed about eating habits over a 24-hour period, giving details about what, when and how much was consumed.

Adolescents who slept fewer than eight hoursa night consumed 2.2 percent more calories from fat and 3-percent fewer calories from carbohydrates compared with adolescents who slept eight hours or more. The results held even after the researchers took into account factors that might have influenced the association, including gender, age and race,and body mass index, or BMI, a measure of body fat.

However, the researchers note that their study only shows an association and cannot say for certain whether sleep loss did in fact cause the teens to eat more fatty foods.

Source: September 1, 2010 issue of the journal Sleep.