Saturday, October 29, 2011

Should Your Food Choices Be Dictated By Your Blood Type?

Should blood type guide your food choices?
Dietary advice has stamina but isn't worth its weight in salt, experts say.

While searching for relief from migraines and general malaise, a friend recently consulted a nutritionist who told her, matter-of-factly, that because she has Type O blood, she should be eating lots of meat and eliminating gluten, dairy and many grains. A Chinese medicine doctor she consulted confirmed the advice, saying, basically: Duh.

For someone who had hoped to go vegetarian — and who is among the 45 percent of people in the U.S. with Type O blood — the news was surprising.

But was it true?

The idea of eating according to your blood type became popular with the 1996 book "Eat Right 4 Your Type" (Putnam Adult) by Peter D'Adamo, a naturopath physician. The theory is that the genes behind blood type also are behind the expression of other proteins in our body, which relate to how we digest foods.

Type O's, having the oldest blood type, draw on our hunter roots and perform best on lean meats (including fish), fruits and vegetables, as well as with intense exercise, while gluten, some beans and dairy lead to weight gain, sickness and sluggishness, the theory posits. The proteins in legumes and dairy tend to cause inflammation in Type O's, goes the theory, so without meat it's difficult to fulfill their protein needs.

Rather than banning Type O's from being vegetarians, D'Adamo said, "a more helpful way of thinking is that people who are blood Type O may want to explore a more high-protein, lower-carbohydrate lifestyle in lieu of their current dietary choices, should they suffer from signs that they are not getting enough protein in their diets: digestive disorders, fatigue, low immunity or slow metabolism."

Meantime, people with blood Type A do best as vegetarians, B's are hardier omnivores and ABs are a combination.

Most nutritionists do not subscribe to eating by blood type because it is not backed by hard scientific data, said Marjorie Nolan, a dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

The evidence supporting the blood-type diet is based largely on anecdotes and research showing links between blood type and certain illnesses (for example, Type O's are more likely to have stomach ulcers). There have been no peer-reviewed studies published showing that different blood types perform better on certain foods.

D'Adamo says small-scale studies his team has conducted looking at improvements in digestive malabsorption may serve as templates for larger studies, but those will be expensive, complicated and time-consuming.

Dr. Michael Greger, founder of, said the premise of the blood-type diet is wrong: The blood-type system, which predates humans, is far more complicated than just ABO, he said.

"People crave individualized, personalized science, but this is pseudoscience," said Greger, a general practitioner specializing in clinical nutrition.

People who lose weight or feel better after starting the blood-type diet could actually be uncovering an allergy, or may just be eliminating junk food, Greger said.

While she applauds D'Adamo's marketing, Dr. Ingrid Kohlstadt, editor of the medical textbook "Food and Nutrients in Disease Management" (CRC Press) and an associate at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said the connection between blood type and susceptibilities is not strong enough to be meaningful from a medical or public health perspective. She said she would rather prescribe a diet according to a person's gum health, which is strongly associated with heart disease, than his or her blood type.

On the plus side, any of the four blood-type diets is healthier than how most Americans eat, Kohlstadt said.

Source:October 26, 2011|By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, Tribune Newspapers

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Inhalable Caffeine, Really?

Ever wish you could mainline your coffee? Well, here's the next best thing: AeroShot, a new product that delivers "inhalable" caffeinated puffs, and has got productivity-obsessed technophiles buzzing.

AeroShot's delivery system is a light, plastic inhaler that shoots lime-flavored puffs of powdered caffeine to the tongue, where they are instantly absorbed. Each inhaler contains three puffs, providing a total of 100 mg of caffeine — about as much as in a large cup of coffee.

The product also contains 100% of the recommended daily allowance of niacin, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. It's sweetened with stevia, an herbal sweetener that is up to 300 times sweeter than sugar and has no calories.

AeroShot was invented by Harvard biomedical engineering professor David Edwards, who previously created a no-calorie inhalable chocolate product called Le Whif. "I have a background in developing inhaled drugs and vaccines and I was fascinated about bringing that idea to a new way of eating," says Edwards. "That's how it began."

It took me a few tries to get the hang of using the inhaler (best to read the directions first and not to use it upside down!), but soon I got a dose of seriously sweet lime flavor and found my heart rate and mood lifted in that familiar, caffeinated way — but faster than with coffee. The dosing seemed slightly inexact — sometimes, the inhaler doesn't load the powder quite right — but when it worked, the effect was rapid.

"Frequently, the first time people do it, they laugh," says Edwards. "There's something funny about the act, how it happens in your mouth."

Since caffeine is a legal substance in foods, as are the included B vitamins, AeroShot did not require FDA approval. It will be sold as an energy supplement. The label says it is "not intended for people under 12, sensitive to caffeine, allergic to ragweed, taking medications, who are pregnant or who have a serious medical condition." It also warns against using more than three AeroShots a day.

So, what's the best and safest way to use caffeine? And does it really improve performance?

A 2010 Cochrane review of multiple studies of caffeine's effect on shift workers found that it did indeed reduce the number of errors people made in tasks like driving or operating a flight simulator. It also improved memory, reasoning, perception and attention, compared with placebo. Sadly for us writers, however, caffeine did not seem to affect verbal functioning or language skills, at least in the studies included in the review.

Other research suggests that frequent dosing, with about 20 mg of caffeine an hour, is an efficient way to counter the effects of sleep deprivation and improve brain processing speed. If you're using coffee, adding sugar may also help: one study found that it boosted performance more than caffeine alone.

As for the overall health effects of caffeine and coffee, that's been debated for years. On balance, the research seems to find more benefits than harms associated with drinking coffee, including reduced risks of Alzheimer's disease, diabetes and depression.

Is caffeine addictive? Certainly, it produces tolerance and withdrawal symptoms if it is stopped abruptly. But even though it is the most widely used drug in the world, few caffeine users exhibit signs of serious addiction — namely, compulsive drug-related behaviors despite negative consequences. That could be in part because caffeine is legal and easily and cheaply obtained. Or, it could be because the effects of caffeine use — especially in a hyperefficient society — are generally positive.

So, while previous products, like inhalable aerosolized alcohol, led to bans in multiple states, AeroShot seems more likely to garner praise (especially from employers — and editors).

The new product will hit stores in New York City and Boston in January,2012 and will be available online in several weeks, according to Edwards. The retail price is expected to be $2.99 per inhaler — cheaper than a Starbucks latte.

Source: Maia Szalavitz is a health writer at

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What Foods Are the Best to Eat Before a High-Stakes Test?

With test-taking season upon us, Sue Shellenbarger on Lunch Break looks at the latest findings from the science of studying. For students approaching SAT/ACTs, midterms and finals, which memory tricks work best and does cramming help?

Chiefly, testing yourself repeatedly before an exam teaches the brain to retrieve and apply knowledge from memory. The method is more effective than re-reading a textbook, says Jeffrey Karpicke, an assistant professor of psychological sciences at Purdue University. If you are facing a test on the digestive system, he says, practice explaining how it works from start to finish, rather than studying a list of its parts.

In his junior year of high school in Cary, N.C., Keenan Harrell bought test-prep books and subjected himself to a "relentless and repetitive" series of nearly 30 practice SAT college-entrance exams. "I just took it over and over again, until it became almost aggravating," he says.

Practice paid off. Mr. Harrell, now 19, was accepted at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, a college he's dreamed of attending since the third grade. He scored 1800 (out of 2400) on the SAT, up 50% from 1200 on the PSAT, a preliminary test during his sophomore year.

Taking pretests "felt like hard work," Mr. Harrell says, but seeing steady increases in his scores boosted his confidence. Practice tests also help with test-taking skills, such as pacing, says Paul Weeks, vice president of educational services for the ACT, which creates and administers college-entrance exams.

Repeated practice tests help master test format and pacing.

Sleep also plays a role in test performance, but in two unexpected ways. Review the toughest material right before going to bed the night before the test. That approach makes it easier to recall the material later, says Dan Taylor, director of a sleep-and-health-research lab at the University of North Texas in Denton. And don't wake up earlier than usual to study; this could interfere with the rapid-eye-movement sleep that aids memory, he says.

A common study habit—the all-nighter—is a bad idea. Although 60% of college students stay up all night at some point in school, the practice is linked to lower grades, says Pamela Thacher, an associate professor of psychology at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., based on a 2008 study of 120 students. It also impairs reasoning and memory for as long as four days.

Being Confident

Write down fears and anxieties before the test to free working memory and prevent distractions during the test.

To combat self-doubts (such as 'I'm bad in math'), remind yourself of proven personal traits and strengths that can propel you to success.

Practice in advance facing all the pressures you will face on exam day, such as driving to the testing center or visiting an unfamiliar testing room.

Test yourself by recalling broad concepts rather than trying to memorize facts or re-reading textbooks.

Before the test, envision yourself answering questions calmly and with confidence.

Everybody knows you should eat breakfast the day of a big test. High-carb, high-fiber, slow-digesting foods like oatmeal are best, research shows. But what you eat a week in advance matters, too. When 16 college students were tested on attention and thinking speed, then fed a five-day high-fat, low-carb diet heavy on meat, eggs, cheese and cream and tested again, their performance declined. The students who ate a balanced diet that included fruit and vegetables, however, held steady, says Cameron Holloway, a senior clinical researcher at the University of Oxford. The brain requires a constant supply of energy and "has only a limited backup battery," he says.

While many teens insist they study better while listening to music or texting their friends, research shows the opposite: Information reviewed amid distractions is less likely to be recalled later, says Nicole Dudukovic, assistant professor of psychology at Trinity College, Hartford, Conn.

In her research, college students categorized and made judgments about pictures of more than 100 items. Then, they were tested on a new mix of pictures and asked to recall which ones they had already seen and how they had categorized them; half the time, they were also asked to listen and respond to a set of rhythmic sounds. When the students were tested later, they were more likely to remember correctly what they had studied without distractions.

"Students do have this belief that they can do it all and they aren't really being distracted" by music or sounds from a noisy cafe, Dr. Dudukovic says. But while the sounds may "make them feel more relaxed," she says, they won't help them ace the midterm.

Bryan Almanza says he did poorly on the PSAT as a high-school sophomore because he didn't know how to prepare. He got too little sleep the night before and ate only a bowl of cereal for breakfast. On the test, some hard physics questions made him nervous and distracted, says Mr. Almanza, 18, a senior at Campbell High in Smyrna, Ga. "I'm going to fail," he remembers thinking at the time. A test-prep program at his school taught him to get plenty of sleep, eat a good breakfast and pace himself on the test. By staying calm, optimistic and focused, he raised his score significantly on the SAT.

Source: Wall Street Journal 10/26/11

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Teen Violence and Soda Consumption

RESEARCHERS in the United States have said they had found a "shocking" association - if only a statistical one - between violence by teenagers and the amount of soda they drank.

High-school students in inner-city Boston who consumed more than five cans of non-diet, fizzy soft drinks every week were between nine and 15-percent likelier to engage in an aggressive act compared with counterparts who drank less.

"What we found was that there was a strong relationship between how many soft drinks that these inner-city kids consumed and how violent they were, not only in violence against peers but also violence in dating relationships, against siblings," said David Hemenway, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health.

"It was shocking to us when we saw how clear the relationship was," he told AFP in an interview.

But he stressed that only further work would confirm - or disprove - the key question whether higher consumption of sweet sodas caused violent behaviour.

The new study was based on answers to questionnaires filled out by 1878 public-school students aged 14 to 18 in the inner Boston area, where Hemenway said crime rates were much higher than in the wealthier suburbs.

The overwhelming majority of respondents were Hispanic, African-American or mixed; few were Asian or white.

Among the questions were how much carbonated non-diet soft drink, measured in 12-ounce (355ml) cans, the teens had drunk in the previous seven days.

They were also asked whether they drank alcohol or smoked, carried a weapon or showed violence towards peers, family members and partner. What emerged, said Hemenway, was evidence of "dose response," in other words, the more soda was consumed, the likelier the tendency towards violence.

Among those who drank one or no cans of soft drink a week, 23 percent carried a gun or a knife; 15 percent perpetrated violence towards a partner; and 35 percent had been violent towards peers.

At the other end of the scale, among those who drank 14 cans a week, 43 percent carried a gun or a knife; 27 percent had been violent towards a partner; and more than 58 percent had been violent towards peers.

Overall, teens who were heavy consumers of sugary fizz were between nine and 15 percentage points likelier to show aggressive behaviour compared with low consumers, even when ethnicity and other confounding factors were taken into account.

This is a magnitude similar to the link found, in previously researched, with alcohol or tobacco. Hemenway said the study had included a couple of questions aimed at taking a children's home background into account, including whether the teen had taken a meal with his family in the previous days.

As it was only intended as a preliminary investigation, the questionnaire did not ask what kind of sodas the teens drank, he said. "This is one of the very first studies to examine" the question, said Hemenway.

"We don't know why (there is this strong association). There may be some causal effect but it's also certainly plausible that this is just a marker for other problems - that kids who are violent for whatever reason, they tend to smoke more, they tend to drink more alcohol and they tend to maybe drink more soft drinks. We just don't know.

"We want to look at it more carefully in following studies."

The study, published in a British journal, Injury Prevention, will revive memories of the "Twinkie Defence," a US legal landmark in which a killer successfully argued that his behaviour had been swayed by eating junk food.

The defendant in this case, Dan White, had been charged with homicide. His lawyer's successful pleading led to conviction of a lesser charge, of voluntary manslaughter.

Several studies elsewhere have established a link between very high sugar consumption and lack of social bonding or irritable and anti-social behaviour. Some diet research has also pointed the finger at the lack of micro-nutrients as a source of aggression, but this work is still in its early stages.

Source:Australian News 10/25/11

Friday, October 21, 2011

New Nutrition Label?

The nutrition label on the front of a box of cereal, a frozen dinner or any other food should be as quick and easy to read as the Energy Star label on a clothes washer or an air-conditioner, according to a study released Thursday that was requested by Congress.

In a report to federal regulators, the Institute of Medicine called for a simplified label that would go on the front of food packages and show the number of calories per serving and contain zero to three stars or checkmarks to indicate how healthful a food was.

“It’s simple,” said Alice H. Lichtenstein, a nutrition professor at Tufts University, who served on the committee that prepared the report. “It’s interpretive. People don’t need to look at numbers or do any calculations to figure out what they mean. Three stars are better than no stars.”

The report was done at the request of Congress and submitted to the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Agriculture. It calls on the agencies to establish a uniform labeling system to replace the confusing proliferation of front-of-package labels greeting consumers on store shelves today.

Margaret Hamburg, the F.D.A. commissioner, has said she wants to improve front-of-package labels, but the agency is not expected to move quickly on the institute’s recommendations. The F.D.A. said it was continuing to assess the topic.

The report is the latest salvo in a long battle over labeling involving food companies, public health advocates and regulators. At stake is how nutrition information is presented and how it might affect the way consumers spend their money.

The Grocery Manufacturers of America, an industry group that represents major food companies, brushed aside the report’s findings and said its members would go ahead with their own labeling plan, called Facts Up Front.

Under that plan, labels show the amount of various nutrients in grams or other units and, in many cases, the percent of a recommended daily value for each nutrient that they supply.

“We have a road-tested, ready-to-roll front-of-pack system that is already in the marketplace,” said Scott Faber, a vice president of the food makers’ group. “We should not keep consumers waiting. We should provide them more nutrition information on the front of their packages now.”

Critics say that the industry’s label can be confusing to consumers, burying them in a blizzard of numbers that can be hard to understand.

The institute modeled its recommendations on the easy-to-interpret Energy Star symbol that appears on many appliances to show they have met government standards for energy efficiency.

“I really don’t know a whole lot about appliances and kilowatts, but when I see the Energy Star on a stove I want to buy, I know it’s energy-efficient and that’s all I need to know as a consumer,” said Ellen A. Wartella, a professor of communication and psychology at Northwestern University and the chairwoman of the committee that wrote the report.

Under the plan recommended in the report, a food could earn up to three stars or checkmarks — one each for falling below a threshold amount for sodium, added sugar or saturated and trans fat.

If a food contained an excessive amount of any one of those nutrients, however, it would get no stars at all.

Some sweetened foods, including sugary soft drinks and candy, would automatically receive zero stars.

Source: William Neuman, New York Times: 10/20/11

Monday, August 15, 2011

hCg Diet Makes a Comeback

Among the hundreds of drastic and unproven weight loss plans, the controversial hCG diet may take the cake.

Discredited by researchers in the 1970s, the near-starvation diet restricts followers to 500 calories a day for six weeks. At the same time, dieters regularly inject themselves with human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG, a hormone taken from pregnant women's urine. Proponents say the hCG curbs hunger pangs, makes it easier to stay on a very low-calorie diet — and even releases stored body fat from trouble spots like the belly, hips and thighs.

Followers of the hCG diet acknowledge that the severe calorie restriction feels like a "forced death march." Both supporters and critics agree that evidence is scant to show the hCG works any better than a placebo. Meanwhile, safety data are lacking on long-term use of hCG for weight loss.

"Starving yourself is never a good idea," said Pieter Cohen, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, who criticized the hCG diet this year on "The Dr. Oz Show." "Injecting yourself with ineffective hormones is an even worse idea."

Yet, the long-discredited diet is making a comeback, and the renewed interest has spawned a cottage industry for products that haven't been tested for quality, safety or efficacy, including drops and sprays.

What's also different this time around is that though the hCG diet still exists largely in the realm of alternative medicine practitioners and Internet hucksters, it's also making inroads in integrative clinics headed by medical doctors, where it's offered as part of a "medically supervised" weight loss plan. At least one physicians group is offering hCG training to doctors. And wellness centers and medical spas also tout the hCG diet as the long-awaited magic bullet.

Dr. Mehmet Oz fueled interest in the diet — and appalled some medical colleagues — by featuring anecdotal success stories on his TV show. Whenever scientific studies show something doesn't work, "yet you have real human beings saying they tried it and it works, I get curious," explained Oz, who called the diet "portion-control shock therapy."

There's no question that men and women do lose weight on the diet — as would anyone who eats 500 calories a day. The pounds melt off quickly, and the instant gratification can be intensely motivating to the patients, who have often exhausted most other options. And because so few obesity treatments are successful, some proponents say the anecdotal evidence shouldn't be dismissed.

"If it was as simple as reducing calories and increasing exercise, we'd all be thin," said Nikol Margiotta, who directs the Longevity HCG Diet at the Raby Institute for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern, which is not part of Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Margiotta is a naprapath, a health care practitioner who treats connective tissue disorders using nutrition and hands-on therapy.

On the hCG diet, "there's a focus, a single-minded drive that comes over you," said Margiotta, who went on the diet herself and said she lost 22 pounds in five weeks. "The problem is that you get addicted to the weight loss."

Still, the bulk of research has found no evidence that taking hCG brings about weight loss or fat redistribution, reduces hunger or improves mood. Since the 1970s, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has required labels to state that the hormone "is not an effective adjunctive therapy" for weight loss.

If dieters lose weight on the regimen, the effect is from the ultralow-calorie diet, most studies have concluded, and the hCG is a placebo.

"Unfortunately that placebo comes with other potential harms," said Dr. Melinda Ring, director of the Northwestern Center for Integrative Medicine and Wellness. "In human and animal studies, hCG injections have been associated with many problems, including excessive stimulation of the ovaries, elevated leptin, insulin and cortisol."

One common side effect of the hCG diet is hair loss; calorie restriction starves the body of essential nutrients, though the diet's proponents believe the body gets the calories it needs from existing fat. HCG can also increase the risk of blood clots, headaches, irritability and fatigue.

In men, hCG stimulates testosterone production, which is why hCG is considered a performance-enhancing substance for athletes. But for a woman of childbearing age, hCG taken by injection, nasal spray or orally could generate antibodies that put future pregnancies in danger, said Dr. Rasa Kazlauskaite, an endocrinologist and preventive medicine expert at Rush University Medical Center who specializes in weight gain.

Taking hCG, she said, "may immunize yourself to your own pregnancy," said Kazlauskaite. "You could still get pregnant, but you could potentially have an antibody to the hormone that is needed to maintain the pregnancy," she said. "The longer you use hCG, the higher the chance you could get the antibody."

Source:August 14, 2011|By Julie Deardorff, Tribune reporter

Latest in Running Shoes

Running shoes used to be all about cushioning, period. But with the recent emphasis on form and injury prevention, trail running, ultra-running and barefoot running, shoe choices have exploded. The alternatives seem endless: minimal shoes, maximum shoes, super-cushioned shoes, no-cushion shoes. Here's a sampler of some standout designs for different categories of runners.

Hoka One One Bondi B: Designed to reduce the cumulative damage of ultra-running, One Ones offer a lineup rarely, if ever, seen in a running shoe: an oversized, 2-inch-thick pile of cushioning, a relatively flat rise from heel and forefoot (40 millimeters, one-third that of normal running shoes), lightweight (10.5 ounces in size 9) and no medial posts, high-density foams or other stability devices.

Likes: It's like running on a cloud — extremely comfortable and shock-absorbing. Although I normally run barefooted or in minimalist shoes, I found that these were conducive to a soft forefoot landing and fairly stable (probably due to the extra-wide bottoms). The plush cushioning is particularly effective in reducing impact on long descents, which are staples of ultra-running races.

Dislikes: Expensive; questionable durability due to the typical breakdown of foam cushioning and lack of hard rubber on the sole; and inherent imbalance. Though its thick cushioning theoretically cuts injuries by greatly reducing shock, it also reduces road feedback and balance, increasing the potential for long-term joint strain. Also, the huge cushion encourages heel striking.

Price: $169. (866) 732-9144;

The bubble shoe

MIzuno Wave Prophecy: Wild-looking, complex "wave plate" design for heel-strikers that replaces a normal shoe's midsole foam with two molded, varying-density plates arranged in four plastic, see-through, shock-absorbing suspension arches.

Likes: Effective and durable. The wave plates absorb shock as advertised, and the lack of foam to break down portends a long life for the shoe. The wide toe box is very comfortable. The fairly low front end provides decent ground feel when compared with the Hoka One One.

Dislikes: High cost and weight — 13 ounces in size 9. The tall heel (13/8-inches) encourages the high-impact heel strike the design is meant to minimize.

Price: $199. (800) 966-1211;

Barely there sandals

Invisible Shoes Connect: Minimalist, economical running sandal for wannabe barefoot runners that is made of a thin, cupped rubber sole pre-punched with two reinforced ankle holes and an intricately threaded lace. After September, it comes with a free hole puncher.

Likes: An almost-barefoot feel, but with some protection. The 4-mm-thick sole (about 5/32 inch thick, including lugs) of soft, pliable rubber provides barefoot-like balance, letting you feel every contour in the road or trail but without the momentary stabbing pain of a sharp pebble. It's so light — 4.3 ounces in size 9 (compared with about 6.5 ounces for a Vibram Sprint) — that you hardly feel it. The slightly cupped, curved-up toe and heel zones keep feet from catching on the ground; the soles can be custom trimmed with scissors. I ran a 5K in them and appreciated the extra protection (and speed) over the course's rougher sections.

Dislikes: Requires you to measure the length of your foot, punch your own big-toe hole and tie your own laces — a potential challenge for some. Misplacing the do-it-yourself hole punch could mean a waste of money. The company will send you a customized pair for an extra $15.

Price: $24.95; $29.95 for the thicker-soled, 6 mm Contact model. (800) 499-8880;

The original alternative

Nike Free Run +2: A barely changed version of a transition-to-barefooting shoe that was first created in 2004 to mimic the injury-fighting benefits of barefoot running. To encourage a soft forefoot landing and tactile ground feel, it features a low profile (3/8 inch at the ball of the foot and an inch off the ground in the heel) and a soft, flexible foam midsole/sole segmented by deep cuts.

Likes: Better-than-average ground feel and comfort. That's due to the low forefoot positioning; a stunning flexibility that allows the shoe to be rolled up like a pill bug; a reinforced, sock-like upper; and an asymmetrical lacing system that's said to reduce pressure over the top ridge of the foot. Solid rubber sole patches under the big toe and heel keep the sole from wearing out too fast.

Dislikes: For a "barefoot" shoe, it carries a major flaw: a too-tall heel that encourages you to heel strike.

Price: $90. (800) 344-6453;

Source: Los Angeles Times, Ray Wallock. Wallack is the co-author of "Barefoot Running Step by Step."

Friday, August 12, 2011

No Scientific Evidence for AAKG

A Baylor University study has found that a popular nutritional supplement that is marketed to lead to greater muscle strength through increasing blood flow to the muscle does not increase blood flow as claimed on the bottle.

In recent years, various nutritional supplements have been developed containing arginine-alpha-ketoglutarate (AAKG), which is alleged to increase nitric oxide production thereby resulting in "vasodilation," the widening of blood vessels and increased blood flow to the muscles. The AAKG supplement-enhanced blood flow to working muscles during resistance exercise is alleged to provide increased muscle strength than just exercise alone.

The Baylor researchers studied the effects in 24 men of seven days of AAKG supplementation using the nutritional supplement NO2 PlatinumTM on arterial blood flow in the arms after a single bout of resistance exercise. The results showed that seven days of AAKG supplementation had no significant impact on blood movement or increased brachial artery blood flow in response to a single bout of resistance exercise.

"We did see a slight increase in blood flow but those effects can only be attributed to the resistance exercise and not to the supplement," said study author Dr. Darryn Willoughby, associate professor of exercise, nutritional biochemistry and molecular physiology at Baylor. "The data appear to refute the alleged supposition and manufacturer's claims that 'vasodilating supplements' are effective at causing vasodilation, thereby resulting in increased blood flow to active skeletal muscle during resistance exercise. Furthermore, we specifically demonstrated that a single bout of resistance exercise increases vasodilation, arterial blood flow and circulating nitric oxide levels, but that the AAKG supplement provided no additive, preferential response compared to a placebo."

The study appears in the August edition of the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.

Source: Medical News Today, 8/11/12

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Got Milk?

Government regulators have threatened to crack down on a popular sports drink they say is mislabeled as "milk," a move welcomed by the dairy industry, which has long objected to the name soy milk and others like it.

Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration took the unusual step of sending a formal warning letter to the makers of Muscle Milk, a fortified drink that athletes consume after intense workouts.

The FDA says the name "Muscle Milk" is misleading, even though the product's label says it "contains no milk."

An allergen statement on the package says "this product contains ingredients derived from milk," including whey.

But the disclaimer is in smaller type and is less prominently displayed than the words "Muscle Milk."

The June 29 warning letter gave CytoSport Inc., the makers of Muscle Milk, 15 days to address numerous mislabeling issues with specific corrective actions. Otherwise, the company could face product seizures or legal action.

CytoSport did not return a Journal Sentinel call. But on its website the company says it is "proactively and openly addressing the FDA's labeling concerns."

"Concerns like this have been raised before when the dairy lobby complained that other industries or products like Soy Milk, Almond Milk, Coconut Milk and Rice Milk are using the name 'milk' in connection with a product other than fluid dairy milk, all of which appeal to lactose intolerant consumers just as Muscle Milk does," CytoSport wrote.

The FDA would not answer questions about its Muscle Milk investigation, but a formal warning letter is considered a serious matter.

No barnyard connections

At the heart of the dairy industry, Wisconsin has a stake in the fight over the name "milk."

The industry believes that products shouldn't be called "milk" unless they come from a dairy cow.

"Something that calls itself Muscle Milk and in very fine print says it contains no milk, is playing very fast and loose with the rules. That is the basic concern," Galen said.

"We are seeing all these iterations of traditional dairy products that have no connection with a barnyard at all. That's why we have really renewed our push to get the FDA to do something," he added.

It annoys dairy producers to see something like soy milk sold alongside cow's milk in the grocery store.

Even "hemp milk," made from hemp plants, has a carton similar to regular milk.

"We have told the FDA that if something is going to be sold in the grocer's dairy case, it needs to be properly labeled," Galen said. "A lot of people don't have time to ponder the ingredient labels."

Sales of soy-based foods have exploded in recent years to become a $1 billion industry, according to the Soyfoods Association of North America.

Consumers aren't mistakenly buying soy milk or other dairy food substitutes, if they really wanted cow's milk, said Nancy Chapman, Soyfoods Association executive director.

"The most important thing to recognize is the American public is not confused with the fact that soy milk does not have dairy in it," she said. "Soy milk has been around for a very long time. People select it very specifically as an alternative to dairy products."

Turning the tables

CytoSport has never claimed that Muscle Milk is cow's milk, but the company says it modeled the sports drink after human mother's milk. That's because it contains similar "fast burning fats," according to the company.

While defending the name Muscle Milk, Cyto-Sport has attacked others with similar names.

In 2009 it filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against "Defense Nutrition," a California firm whose line of health supplements included a product called "Warrior Milk."

CytoSport has filed lawsuits when "competitors have looked for opportunities to unfairly benefit from Muscle Milk's recognition," the company said in a statement.

It bullied Defense Nutrition, said company owner Ori Hofmekler, author of nutrition books including "The Warrior Diet."

"They sued me, saying I had no right to use the name 'milk' because they were recognized for it, and that our product resembled theirs," Hofmekler said.

"I never agreed with this, but at a certain point we agreed to settle because we couldn't afford to fight them," he added.

Warrior Milk is now called Warrior Whey because it contains whey, a milk product.

Now that the FDA is pursuing CytoSport for its Muscle Milk label, Hofmekler said, "the bully is getting what he deserves."

Source:JS Online Journal 7/31/2011

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Subway Debuts Enriched Bread

Subway, the world's biggest food chain by the number of outlets, has just announced plans to start adding vitamin D and calcium to the bread it uses in its sandwiches, according to Nation's Restaurant News. One sandwich-worth of bread will now contain 30% one's daily value of vitamin D and 20% one's daily value of calcium, roughly the same as a glass of milk. The change affects all Subways' breads except English muffins and flatbreads.

More vitamins, overall, are probably a good thing. They certainly aren't a bad thing. And Subway has a track record of being relatively healthy, for a fast food chain. (Which is, of course, sort of like saying that The Idiot is relatively short, for a Dostoevsky novel.) But before we herald Subway as a beacon of healthfulness, we should take a moment to remember Michael Pollan's injunction against foods with health claims, and his warnings about the inefficiency of fortifying food. In Defense Of Food makes the persuasive argument that many nutrients are only beneficial to health when they work as part of a naturally occuring food complex. Vitamin D and calcium may not be as good for people without the other chemicals they accompany in milk.

Moreover, it's not even clear that Vitamin D is in short supply. Center for Disease Control data indicate that eight percent of Americans are vitamin-D-deficient, with 80-90% of Americans' vitamin D intake coming from sun exposure. So next time you're worried about not having enough D in your bloodstream, consider taking a long walk in the sun rather than ordering a $5 footlong.

Source: Huffpost 8/2/11

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Healthier Happy Meals!

Under pressure from health and children's advocacy groups, McDonald's Corp. is making changes to its famed Happy Meals.

The fast food chain will add a serving of fruit or vegetable to all of the meals, which are aimed at children, and shrink the portion of French fries.

The changes, to be announced Tuesday, will take effect in September in some markets and then roll out to all 14,000 McDonald's restaurants in the U.S. by April.

McDonald's said it first experimented with cutting fries entirely from the Happy Meals, but children and parents rebelled.

"People come to McDonald's and, first of all, they want the choice and the control to be theirs, but their expectation of a Happy Meal does include a fry," said Jan Fields, president of McDonald's USA. "When we did it without fries, there was a huge disappointment factor."

The new French fry holders in Happy Meals will contain 1.1 ounces of potatoes, down from 2.4. Apple slices will often be included as the healthful side dish, but it could also be carrots, raisins, pineapple slices or mandarin oranges, depending on the time of year and the region in which they're being served, Fields said.

Although subject to variation depending on what's ordered, the new meals will represent, on average, a 20% decrease in calories, the chain said.

Fields said Happy Meal prices will not go up as a result of the changes. But the chain has raised prices this year as a result of soaring commodity costs.

As the world's largest restaurant chain by sales, McDonald's has been under intense scrutiny for the nutritional quality of its food and its marketing to children. Critics have strongly challenged the chain's practice of selling kids' meals that include a toy, connecting it to the nation's obesity crisis.

Last year, San Francisco and Santa Clara County banned toys with meals at fast food restaurants if the meals didn't meet certain nutritional criteria. Similar legislation has been proposed in New York.

"We know we're a leader and we know we need to be part of the solution," McDonald's spokeswoman Danya Proud said. "But we can't be looked at as providing the only solution."

The business strategy for McDonald's is to make parents feel less guilty about feeding fast food to their children, so they'll become more frequent customers.

"People tell us they want to feel good about visiting us regularly, about the food options that we serve, and want to visit us even more often," Fields said.

McDonald's revamped its Happy Meal choices in 2004 by offering soda alternatives, such as 1% milk, with a meal of hamburger, cheeseburger or chicken nuggets and fries. It also offered an option of replacing fries with sliced apples served with low-fat caramel sauce.

In 2006, McDonald's began advertising a version of its Happy Meal that included chicken nuggets and the apple slices, marketed as Apple Dippers because of the caramel sauce. The result is that 88% of McDonald's customers know about the fruit option with Happy Meals, according to the company. But only 11% of kids meals are ordered with apples instead of fries.

In the revamped Happy Meals, the caramel sauce will not be offered.

Geeta Maker-Clark, a family physician at NorthShore University HealthSystem, described the changes as "really good steps."

"I applaud any move toward including more whole food into a heavily processed meal," she said. "Bringing a whole food into it shifts the pendulum toward something more healthy, and I applaud the decreased portion sizes."

Beginning next year, the company said it will include a nutritional message in any advertising, marketing or packaging materials directed at children.

McDonald's is also pledging to reduce by 15% the amount of sodium in its food. The company recently reduced sodium in its chicken nuggets by 10%, on top of a 13% reduction in sodium after the nuggets were changed from dark meat to white meat.

The chain said it will work toward additional reductions in sugars, saturated fat and calories by 2020 and has hired an unidentified third-party organization to report on its progress.

"This seems like good leadership in the industry and one that should help the brand maintain its leading position with young families," said David Palmer, an analyst with UBS. Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, a restaurant industry consultancy in Chicago, said that although McDonald's is clearly trying to strike a balance between nutrition and cravings, "consumer are going to chose what they want." And that usually means something fried.

Tristano said the estimate that 11% of customers ordering Apple Dippers for their children "sounds high."

"I think you're going to get a good reaction from kids who like apples," Tristano said of the new meal. "But ultimately I think we're going to see a good bit of apples wasted from kids who just refuse to eat them."

Source: LA Times 7/25/11

Monday, July 25, 2011

Exercise Leads to a Deeper Sleep

Exercise promotes the most rejuvenating component of sleep. Slow-wave sleep, also called Stage 3 sleep or delta sleep is the deepest stage of sleep from which it's hard to rouse an individual. We call this sleep "slow-wave sleep" because when we measure the brainwaves, quite literally the frequency of the waves is very slow, and the waves are very tall and deep.

While we don't always know why, slow-wave sleep is the special component of sleep. It is what gives us a sense of feeling restored in the morning and when we miss this sleep, we feel this in our joints and muscles – that familiar flu-like feeling of just not having had enough sleep.

In a recent study,athletes were exposed to a noise stimulus, not loud enough to wake the subject but enough to produce an interruption in the electronic architecture of their sleep. The changes in sleep architecture are measured by looking at brainwaves. We call these events EEG arousals: the person doesn't wake up but his or her brainwaves change. Anything can cause these events – snoring, a crying baby, pain, the sound of a telephone, even heartburn. In the study non-athletes (people who were identical in every way except for the fact they were not intense, habitual runners) were exposed to the same noise stimulus.

The researchers found that the athletes, despite being exposed to stimuli that clearly interrupted their sleep (as measured by changes in their brainwaves) woke up feeling refreshed. On the other hand, the average person who did not exercise in the same way woke up feeling terrible even though they were exposed to the same noise. What accounts for the difference? One reason may be that the athletes had more slow-wave sleep and this was somehow protective and resulted in a feeling of restoration in the morning.

Another benefit of exercise concerns its ability to speed up our metabolism and in the process elevate the body temperature deep in our core. We burn a lot of energy while engaged in exercise, even if we are just walking briskly and this energy generates heat. It takes the body hours to cool down by tiny degrees in order to return to our resting baseline. This cooling of our body temperature invites sleep.
This means that if you exercise at the right time you can fall asleep faster. The important thing is to make sure not to exercise too close to bedtime. If we do, it takes too long for the body's temperature to cool down and sleep actually takes longer to arrive. Plus we feel too energized to feel sleepy.

Our lives are more hectic than ever and to keep up and stay healthy we need to spend more time in slow-wave sleep. Finally, a growing number of innovative tools are available that can help measure, monitor and improve our sleep. Some of them even make sleep more fun.

Source: USA Today 7/22/11

Monday, June 27, 2011

Calories, Not Carbs or Protein Key to Weight Management

Curbing calories is the key ingredient for diabetics seeking to lose weight, and low-fat diets that are either high in protein or high in carbs are equally effective, researchers say.

"I think there are two key messages from this study," said study lead author Jeremy D. Krebs, a senior lecturer with the school of medicine and health sciences at the University of Otago in Wellington, New Zealand. "The first is that no matter what diet we prescribe, people find it extremely difficult to sustain the changes from their habitual diet over a long time. But if they are able to follow either a high-protein diet or a high-carbohydrate diet, they can achieve modest weight loss."

Krebs said this first message conveys flexibility and allows people to choose the approach that best suits them and "even to swap between dietary approaches when they get bored."

The second point "is that for people with diabetes, if they can adhere to either diet and achieve weight loss, then they do get benefits in terms of their diabetes control and cardiovascular risk," he added.

Krebs and his colleagues are scheduled to report their findings Sunday in San Diego at the American Diabetes Association meeting.

To compare the potential benefits of two popular dietetic approaches, the authors tracked nearly 300 overweight men and women between the ages of 35 and 75 who were on a new, two-year nutritional program.

To start, all the participants had a body mass index greater than 27, meaning they were moderately overweight, and all had type 2 diabetes.

The researchers randomly assigned the participants to one of two groups: a low-fat/high-protein group or a low-fat/high-carb group.

For the first half year, all attended twice-weekly group sessions led by a dietitian; for the following six months, sessions took place monthly.

Weight and waist circumference were measured at six months, one year, and two years. Kidney function and lipid (blood fats) profiles were also assessed throughout.

Food diaries indicated that total calorie intake went down in both groups. Ultimately, both groups lost a similar amount of weight and reduced their waist size in similar measure, the investigators found. And by the end of the two-year period, both groups had similar blood fat profiles.

Krebs and his colleagues concluded that their "real-world" experiment demonstrated that both approaches afford similar benefits, with the principal driving factor behind sustained weight loss being calorie reduction rather than either high-carb or high-protein consumption.

Lona Sandon, a registered dietitian and assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, said the observations were "not at all surprising."

"This is pretty consistent with other research out there that has conducted other long-term comparisons in the general population," she said. "In the first six months you might see a little better benefit from a high-protein approach. But long-term, the initial benefits from a high-protein diet seem to diminish over time, and the two diets end up being essentially equivalent," Sandon explained.

"The bottom-line is that the issue for weight loss is calories," Sandon added. "Not where those calories come from. You need to create an energy deficit to lead to weight loss, and that happens by decreasing those calories. That's just been shown again and again."

Experts note that research presented at medical meetings is considered preliminary because it has not been subjected to the rigorous scrutiny required for publication in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Source: 6/26/11 Health Day News

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Athletic Trainers Safe Weight Loss Statement

The National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA) issued a statement Monday of recommendations for coaches, players, and athletic trainers regarding safe weight
loss and maintenance practices for athletes. The group hopes its recommendations will help reduce a disturbing prevalence of eating disorders and unsafe weight-maintenance habits that affect up to 62% of athletes.

NATA's statement emphasizes the importance of a well-rounded diet to an
athlete's performance and weight maintenance, the dangers of unsafe practices to long-term health, and the need for including medical professionals when
deciding on a safe weight.

Former LSU gymnast Ashleigh Clare-Kearney addressed NATA members at their
annual convention Monday in New Orleans.Clare-Kearney, one of the most decorated
gymnasts in LSU women's gymnastics history, was the physical and emotional
exception in the gymnastics world during her career. At 5-foot-5 and 150 pounds, the
two-time NCAA champion outsized most of her fellow gymnasts who she says are
traditionally around five feet, 100 pounds.

Emotionally, Clare-Kearney's self-esteem and comfort with her weight were also
rarities in a culture she describes as "very high up there with sports like wrestling with the number of eating disorders and issuesof that nature relative to other sports."

"I definitely saw a lot of people who either didn't eat at all or ate and threw it up
because they were trying to fulfill this image …" says Clare-Kearney, who went on to
become an assistant coach at LSU after graduating in 2008. "They needed to
understand that food is fuel for your body and they were actually hurting themselves
You can't perform if you don't eat."

According to Paula Turocy, chair at the John G. Rangos Sr. School of Health Sciences at Duquesne University and chair of the group that wrote the NATA statement, the goal is to dispel common misconceptions that lead to unsafe weight maintenance practices like the ones Clare-Kearney described. Particularly dangerous is the idea that adjustments to an athlete's weight can be achieved quickly,says LSU senior associate athletic trainer Shelley Mullenix.
Source: USA Today 6/21/11

Food Choices Matter

If there was ever any suggestion that French fries are good for you, it’s now dispelled in stark detail. An analysis of data from three lengthy surveys that assigns actual pounds of weight gain to foods finds that fries, sodas and several other guilty pleasures are among the most potent waist expanders.

On the bright side, researchers attribute weight loss to eating yogurt, fruit, nuts and vegetables. The report appears in the June 23 New England Journal of Medicine.

“Conventional wisdom often recommends ‘everything in moderation’ with a focus only on total calories consumed, rather than the quality of what is consumed,” says study coauthor Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “Our results demonstrate that the quality of the diet — the types of foods and beverages that one consumes — are strongly linked to weight gain.”

Mozaffarian and his colleagues combined data from three long-term surveys conducted between 1986 and 2006 that included more than 22,000 men and nearly 100,000 women. The weight, diet and lifestyle information collected in those surveys enabled the researchers to calculate an effect for specific foods.

None of the participants was obese or had any serious medical problems at the study’s outset, and no one was asked to go on a diet. Starting with each volunteer’s weight at the outset, the researchers monitored any gain or loss at four-year intervals. On average, participants had gained 3.35 pounds at each four-year point.

Potatoes stood out as a culprit. A single-serving bag of potato chips added to one’s daily intake tacked on 1.69 pounds over four years by this calculation. Potatoes prepared as boiled, mashed or baked, added about half a pound, while French fries larded on 3.35 pounds. A single sugar-containing soft drink per day tacked on 1 pound every four years. Butter, refined grains, desserts, processed or red meats, fruit juice, fried food or foods containing trans fats added somewhat less weight.

Other foods seemed to lower weight. Adding a daily serving of yogurt knocked off nearly a pound over four years, while adding a serving of nuts or fruit was associated with a loss of about half a pound each. An extra serving of whole grains, vegetables or diet soft drinks reduced weight slightly.

Changes in intake of dairy products other than butter and yogurt, whether low-fat or not, appeared to have little effect on weight.

A pound here and a pound there might not seem worth worrying about, but weight gain in middle age is often so gradual that people don’t notice it until they have already gained a substantial amount, Mozaffarian says. “These ‘small amounts’ are exactly what is causing the obesity epidemic,” he says.

Specifying which foods may lessen or prevent weight gain is highly practical, says nutrition scientist Christopher Gardner of Stanford University, who wasn’t involved in this study. “When you choose one of these foods, you choose not to consume something else,” he says. The strength of the study, he says, is that it demonstrates that “these are achievable differences because real, live people did them.”

Source: Science News 6/22/11

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Some Multi Vitamins Don't Live Up To Label Claims

A new review of popular multivitamins found that one in three did not contain the amount of nutrients claimed in their labels or improperly listed ingredients.

After testing 38 multivitamins for a new report published online this week, researchers at discovered that eight contained too little of specific nutrients, two contained more nutrient than claimed and three improperly listed ingredients. The good news: some of the best vitamins were also the cheapest.

"We found a wide range in the quality of multivitamins," said Dr. Tod Cooperman, president of the company. "Interestingly, the more expensive products didn't fare any better than those that are just a few cents a day."

While medications are closely overseen by the federal Food and Drug Administration, supplements like vitamins don’t get regular testing by any government agency. So there’s no way of knowing — outside of independent testing — whether a bottle of supplements contains what it’s supposed to.

The problems with quality control found by ConsumerLab don’t surprise Dan Hurley, a medical journalist and author of “Natural Causes,” a book on the supplement industry.

“That’s really pretty average for supplements. It’s a real crapshoot,” Hurley said. If a drug company had these kinds of lapses, it would be shut down, he said.

Although low levels of certain nutrients can be a problem, doses that exceed recommendations are especially worrisome. Several products evaluated by ConsumerLab, including some designed for children, had this issue. For the report, ConsumerLab used the recommended daily allowances and upper tolerable limits established by the Institutes of Medicine.

ConsumerLab is a Westchester, N.Y., company that independently evaluates hundreds of health and nutrition products and periodically publishes reviews. For this test, ConsumerLab purchased a selection of multivitamins and sent them, without labels to a lab for testing. If a problem was found, the product was sent to a second lab for confirmation.

ConsumerLab focused on some of the more important ingredients, such as folic acid, calcium, vitamin A (retinol and beta-carotene), zinc, and iron. Cooperman and his colleagues also looked to see how quickly vitamin tablets broke down in liquid. If a pill doesn’t break down fast enough, the body won’t be able to absorb as much of the various nutrients.

Among the supplements that had too little of a particular nutrient were Trader Joe’s Vitamin Crusade (just 59 percent of the vitamin A advertised on the label), Melaleuca Vitality Multivitamin & Mineral (just 42 percent of the touted vitamin A) and All One Active Seniors (less than 2 percent of the beta-carotene, 73 percent of the retinol and 49 percent of the vitamin A listed on the label).

Centrum Chewables had the opposite problem, with 173 percent of the vitamin A listed on the label. This is of particular concern because too much vitamin A can spell trouble.

“If you get too much vitamin A it can be toxic to your liver,” explained Dr. Michael Cirigliano, an associate professor of medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “People don’t realize that everything they put in their mouths is bioactive. Whether it’s baby aspirin or food, it has an effect on the body. People think that if you can get it without a prescription it’s safe — that’s baloney.”

One product, Alpha Betic, took twice as long as it should have to break apart in solution, found ConsumerLab. The supplement also contained less vitamin A than it should have.

Particularly worrisome were high levels of certain nutrients in some of the children’s multivitamins.

Hero Nutritionals Yummi Bears, if given to children at the suggested dose, would exceed recommendations by the Institute for Medicine for Vitamin A in youngsters aged 1 to 3. However, the multivitamins were found to be in compliance with the standards set by the FDA. ConsumerLab considers the FDA’s standards to be outdated.

ConsumerLab found almost no connection between price and quality. Many of the cheaper pills (prices ranging between $0.03 and $0.14 per day) passed all the tests, while some of the most expensive ones (priced as high as $1 per day) failed.

Among the supplements that passed testing were several very inexpensive options, such as Equate Mature Multivitamin, at $0.03/day, Kirkland Signature Mature Multivitamins and Minerals Adult 50+ at $0.03/day and Flintstones Plus Bone Building Support at $0.14/day.

ConsumerLab also tested several pet supplements, one of which, Pet-Tabs Complete Daily Vitamin Mineral Supplement for Dogs contained lead at unhealthy levels.

Ultimately the new report is a strong argument for more regulation of the supplement industry, both Cirigliano and Hurley said.

“People are using these products more and more,” Cirigliano explained. “There needs to be more regulation.”

Source: MSNBC 6/20/11

The New My Plate Message from the USDA

Food Allergies Affect 1 in 12 Children

One in 12 kids in the United States may have a food allergy, according to new findings based on an online survey.

The study, published June 20th in Pediatrics, also showed that more than one third of those kids had severe allergies, and that allergies were more common in minority kids.

Allergies are a particularly difficult chronic condition because kids can't escape food in any part of their daily lives, said lead author Dr. Ruchi Gupta, from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

"What I hope this paper will do is open this awareness to how common (food allergy) is and how severe it can be, and develop policies for schools and sporting events and any activities that kids participate in to make it clear that everybody is looking out for these kids," she told Reuters Health.

Previous studies have estimated that anywhere between 2 and 8 of every 100 kids in the U.S. has a food allergy.

But most of those reports are based on studies that asked participants many different health questions, including only a few related to allergies, Gupta said. Other studies have also looked at emergency room trips for allergic reactions, or evaluated doctors' diagnoses in medical records.

Gupta and her colleagues instead wanted to design a study focused solely on the rate and severity of food allergies. They surveyed a nationally representative sample of almost 40,000 U.S. adults who lived with a child under 18.

Those adults filled out an online questionnaire about allergies based on a single kid in their household, reporting whether or not the child had any signs and symptoms of a food allergy, had ever been diagnosed with an allergy by a doctor, and had ever had a severe allergic reaction to food.

The results, published today in Pediatrics, showed that 8 percent of kids had a diagnosed food allergy or convincing symptoms that indicated an allergy - almost 6 million U.S. kids, the researchers said. Kids were most commonly allergic to peanuts, milk, and shellfish.

What was interesting was not just how many kids had allergies, Gupta said, but how many of those allergies were severe - cutting off a kid's airway or causing blood pressure to drop.

"One of our big findings was that 2 in 5 kids who had allergies had a severe reaction or a life-threatening reaction," Gupta said.

"There are a lot of misconceptions of what allergies are," she added. "When you think of allergies, you don't think of life-threatening."

Severe reactions were more common in older kids, possibly because young kids with allergies are more likely to be monitored by parents to make sure they stay away from potential allergy triggers, Gupta explained.

She and her colleagues also found that black and Asian kids had higher chances of having a food allergy than white kids - but that they were less likely to have that allergy diagnosed by a doctor.

That disparity "needs to be addressed," Dr. Scott Sicherer, an allergy researcher at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, told Reuters Health.

"The family is saying that their child had convincing reactions and yet they weren't really evaluated to confirm that with a doctor," said Sicherer, who was not involved in the study.

"Is that because they're not getting the health care they need? Is that because there's not an appropriate amount of concern? I would be worried that the next reaction could be severe and they're not prepared for it."

While the findings can't show whether or not food allergies are on the rise, Gupta thinks that's the case.

"As a clinician, I see it a lot more," Gupta said. Sicherer agreed that he thinks food allergies are becoming more frequent, but said that researchers aren't sure why that is.

The next question, Gupta said, is whether there is something going on in the environment that is driving that increase.

SOURCE: Pediatrics, online June 20, 2011.

Boys As Young As 10 May Be Bulemic

Doctors said an increasing number of young boys are making themselves sick after eating to avoid being bullied about their weight, despite the condition traditionally being associated with girls.

Some are even developing the disorder – which can be fatal – because they want to be able to fit into fashionable "skinny" jeans, while others are using laxatives to get a similar effect.

There are 5,000 reported cases of boys aged below 16 in Britain suffering from eating disorders according to NHS figures, but the real figure is thought to be significantly higher because many cases are likely to be undocumented.

A separate study of 16,000 children in Taiwan, published in Britain in the Journal of Clinical Nursing, found that sixteen per cent of boys aged 10 to 12 admitted inducing vomiting to lose weight after being bullied, compared with just ten per cent of girls.

Dr Yiing Mei Liou, who led the research, said these were likely to be "sedentary" children who spend large amounts of time watching television, surfing the internet or playing computer games.

A third study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in America reported that four per cent of schoolchildren admitted having used laxatives in the past month.

A spokesman for Beat, the eating disorders charity, said bulimia is more common than anorexia but is harder to spot because sufferers' weight remains more stable.

The condition is most commonly developed in the late teens or early 20s, especially when other attempts to lose weight have been unsuccessful.

A number of celebrities and public figures have admitted to suffering from the condition, including former Labour minister John Prescott, who developed the eating disorder in his younger years.

A Beat spokesperson told The Sun the findings were "very disturbing", adding: "An imbalance or dangerously low levels of essential minerals in the body can significantly, even fatally affect the working of vital internal organs."

Source:The Telegraph (UK) 6/21/11

Summer Treats Not as Healthy as Some Think

Ice cream, frozen yogurt and snow cones may be favorite hot weather treats, but they don't offer much in the way of nutrition, a food expert says.

Some people believe ice cream is rich in vitamin D and calcium, but that's not the case, according to Suzy Weems, a registered dietitian who chairs the family and consumer sciences department at Baylor University and formerly headed the American Dietetic Association's legislative and public policy committee.

"It does have calcium along with vitamin D, vitamin A and some of the B vitamins to help with energy release, along with about 2.5 to 3 grams of protein -- not much, but more than none," Weems said in a university news release.

But ice cream is heavy in calories -- about 145 for a half-cup of vanilla and about 160 for chocolate chip, she noted.

Frozen yogurt has fewer calories -- 117 for a half-cup of vanilla -- and a little more calcium and protein, Weems said, but it's pretty much the same as ice cream in terms of health value.

Snow cones contain 90 calories per ounce of regular syrup, compared with 3.5 calories per ounce of sugar-free syrup, she said. One pump equals about an ounce of syrup.

Even snow cone syrups with fruity names are basically sugar plus water, offering little in the way of nutrition, Weems said.

Source: Healthy News 6/17/11

Friday, June 17, 2011

Teens Skimp on Exercise But Not Soda

Only about one in 10 U.S. teens is getting enough exercise and one in four has a soda a day, adding to concerns about obesity among American youth, government researchers said on Thursday.
A team at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked to see how many students were meeting targets for youth physical activity.
They found about one out of 10 U.S. high school students met U.S. targets for both aerobic and muscle strengthening activities set for the federal government's Healthy People initiative, a list of public health goals.
In a separate study, CDC researchers surveyed U.S. high school students and found that teens drink water, milk and fruit juice most often, but a quarter also drink at least one sugar-sweetened soda a day.
Both studies raise concerns about the health of U.S. teens, and call for increased efforts to get them moving more and consuming fewer sweet drinks.
In the beverage survey of more than 11,000 teens, the CDC said overall, roughly two-thirds of high school students drank at least one sugary beverage a day, including soda, sports drinks like Gatorade and other sweetened beverages.
CDC said the findings are worrying because studies have shown that sugar-sweetened beverages add calories to the diet and often are substituted for healthier beverage choices.
And among teens, specifically, sweetened beverage consumption can contribute to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome, a risk factor for diabetes, the CDC said.
In the physical activity study, CDC researchers analyzed data from a school-based survey of youths in grades 9 through 12 (roughly ages 14-19).
They looked to see how many students were meeting the 2020 Healthy People targets, which call for 60 minutes of aerobic activity per day, muscle-strengthening activity three days a week and weekly activities that combine both forms of exercise.
The report found that only 15.3 percent of U.S. high school students met the aerobic objective of an hour of exercise a day, 51 percent met the muscle-strengthening objective, but just 12.2 percent met the objective of combining both activities.
Boys were much more likely than girls and younger students more likely than older students to meet those targets.
The researchers said the findings "justify the need to improve and increase efforts to promote physical activity among youths," adding that public health efforts should focus on at-risk groups including females, students in upper grades and the obese.

Source: Reuters 6/16/11

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pressure to be Thin Can Result in Sleep Loss

Some people may lose sleep over the pressure to be thin -- especially young white girls who are being pushed by female friends to lose weight or stay skinny, according to a new study.

"There is a significant amount of research in other areas regarding pressure on adolescent females to minimize body weight, but this pressure as it relates to sleep health is a less-explored topic and its consequences are mostly unknown," said the study's principal investigator, Katherine Marczyk, a doctoral student in clinical health psychology and behavioral medicine at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. "These results are important as this discovery could be one of the first steps in this research," she explained in a news release from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

In conducting the study, which was to be presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Minneapolis, researchers asked 789 Texas middle-school students, all females and averaging 12 years of age, to describe how much pressure they felt to lose weight and be thin.

The girls also pinpointed the sources of this pressure, which included peers, family, friends and the media. Researchers then assessed the girls' quality of sleep to measure how this external pressure to be skinny affected how much sleep they got.

The pressure the girls felt to be thin from girlfriends as well as from the media significantly predicted sleep duration, accounting for 4.5 percent of the difference in how much sleep the girls got.

That discrepancy in sleep duration jumped to 6 percent among white girls (about 60 percent of the study's participants) who faced pressure to be skinny from their friends, the investigators found.

The study authors added that losing sleep could put young girls at risk for other health problems, including increased anxiety and depression.

Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Source: Health Day, 6/14/11