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

Sleep Deprived Teens Crave Carbohydrates

Daytime sleepiness is associated with an increased craving for carbohydrates among teens, according to new research.

The study of 262 high school seniors in New Jersey found that their desire for carbohydrates increased with the severity of daytime sleepiness. The likelihood of having a strong craving for carbs was 50 percent higher among those with excessive daytime sleepiness.

The researchers also found that students with strong cravings for carbs were more likely to have depression (34 percent) than those with little or no desire for carbohydrates (22 percent). Students with major depression were nearly three times more likely to have a strong craving for carbohydrates.

"This is one of the first studies in a high school population to show a linear relationship between carbohydrate craving and sleep deprivation," principal investigator Dr. Mahmood Siddique, a clinical associate professor of medicine at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey, said in an American Academy of Sleep Medicine news release.

Sleep plays a major role in regulating appetite and metabolism, Siddique noted in the news release.

"This study is important given the rising epidemic of obesity among teens as well as increasing metabolic syndrome and diabetes among young adult populations," Siddique said. "This study highlights the importance of diagnosing sleep deprivation as a risk factor for obesity among young adults. Those who are depressed and sleep-deprived may be at special risk for obesity."

The study was to be presented Tuesday at SLEEP 2011, an Associated Professional Sleep Societies meeting in Minneapolis.

Most teens require a bit more than 9 hours of sleep a night to feel alert and well-rested during the day, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Research presented at meetings is considered preliminary until it is published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Source: Health Day 6/16/11

Monday, June 13, 2011

Dads More Lenient With Fast Foods

Lenient fathers are more likely than mothers to influence childhood obesity because they allow their kids to eat at fast-food restaurants frequently, according to a new study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

"Dads who think that dinner time is a special family time certainly do not see a fast-food restaurant as an appropriate place for that special family time, so this means that his kids are spending less time in those places. Dads who have no trouble eating food in a fast-food restaurant are going to be more likely to have kids who do so," said Dr. Alex McIntosh, AgriLife Research sociologist.

Researchers at Texas A&M University conducted a 15-month study to examine parents' use of time and how that impacted meal choices and the choice between fast-food and full-service restaurants. The researchers also asked children in these families to keep a record of what they ate and whether it was at home or out.

"To our surprise, it was father's time spent at fast-food restaurants—not mother's time spent there—that was associated with kids' time spent in a fast-food place." McIntosh said, noting fathers also need to know more about nutritional content of fast food in order to raise healthy, well-adjusted children.

They also found mothers who are neglectful and those who are highly committed to their work were more likely to allow their kids to eat at fast-food restaurants.

The current study seems to affirm one that appeared in the December 2010 issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, which noted parents need to be better empowered to be good role models and help their children eat healthy diets.

Apples Top "Dirty Dozen"

The apple industry faces a potential public-relations headache in the wake of federal testing that found pesticide residues in 98% of America's second-most-popular fresh fruit, the highest rate among the produce screened by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in a yearly survey.

In the vast majority of cases, residues of the 48 different pesticides the USDA found in its sampling of apples—the nation's most widely consumed fresh fruit after bananas—were within amounts that federal regulators consider safe to eat.

But the department's study has prompted the Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based consumer-advocacy group, to put conventionally raised apples at the top of its latest "Dirty Dozen" list.

That list, which identifies the fruits and vegetables the group says are the most contaminated with farm chemicals, is slated to be released today (June 13, 2011).

The USDA also found pesticide residue on more than 90% of samples of six other types of produce: grapes, strawberries, cilantro, potatoes, oranges and spinach. Before testing, laboratory workers washed the samples under cold water for 10 seconds to mimic the way consumers were expected to handle the foods at home.

The Environmental Working Group, which says it uses USDA and other government data to compile its lists, isn't advising people to stop eating those foods. "The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure," said Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst at the group.

Still, the group's guidance can steer consumers away from crops that rely on insecticides, fungicides and weed killers.

Produce farmers, including apple producers, have long criticized its lists, saying they stir needless doubts about foods that comply with federal standards and whose growers are doing nothing improper.

For shoppers who can't or don't want to pay the premium prices charged for organic produce, the group publishes a list of the conventional crops it says offer the lowest exposure to pesticides. The revised "Clean 15" list, which it is also issuing Monday, is topped by onions, sweet corn, pineapples and avocados.

Congress ordered the USDA to survey the levels of pesticide in food annually following the 1989 Alar controversy involving apples.

Apple sales sank after a broadcast on the CBS news-magazine program "60 Minutes" linked Alar to health risks, and the pesticide was banned from use on food.

In years when the USDA has included apples in its surveys, which began in 1991, pesticide residues have been found in a high percentage of the samples.

Conventional growers use chemicals extensively in their orchards to ward off blemishes that can hurt the appearance, and thus the value, of their crop.

Fungicides, meanwhile, are routinely applied to apples because the fruit is often stored for several months before reaching consumers.

The U.S. Apple Association, which represents the $2.2 billion industry, has long complained about the "Dirty Dozen" list, which ranked apples No. 4 last year and celery as No. 1.

"It's a headache. …It implies that something terrible is going on," said Mark Seetin, the trade group's director of regulatory affairs. "But growers are doing nothing illegal. They're just trying to keep their apples fresh and nutritious."

The Environmental Protection Agency uses the USDA survey to help calculate the amount of pesticides in the American diet which, in turn, guides the federal government's decisions about whether and how farmers can use these chemicals. Excessive exposure to pesticides can cause health problems, such as an increased risk of cancer.

Tracking the prevalence of pesticide residue in the food supply over time is difficult, in part because the USDA changes the crops it screens from year to year. In its latest study, 57.4% of 11,811 samples of 21 different types of food had pesticide residue, the vast majority at levels the government considers safe to consume.

DDT continues to show up in food even though it was banned in the U.S. in 1972. The insecticide persists for a long time in soil, getting into grass eaten by cattle or the bottoms of ponds. Minuscule amounts of one degraded form of DDT was found by the USDA in 65% of the survey's catfish samples and 24% of its samples of beef fat, albeit at levels below those considered unsafe by regulators.

Source: Wall Street Journal,

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Best Weight Loss Diets

Best Weight-Loss Diets
The best diet to lose weight on is Weight Watchers, according to weight-loss experts who rated the diets below for U.S. News. The Jenny Craig diet program and the Raw Food Diet come in close behind. Some other diets outperform these for fast weight loss, but long-term weight loss is more important for your health.


Weight Watchers Diet
(3.8 out of 5.0)
This popular points-counting diet helps dieters drop pounds—and keep them off. In experts' ratings, Weight Watchers bested all other ranked diets for both short-term and long-term weight loss. But that doesn't guarantee it will work for everyone. Its average rating of "moderately effective" for long-term weight loss reflects the difficulty dieters have staying on the wagon, even when using the best weight-loss diet available.


Jenny Craig Diet
(3.5 out of 5.0)
As a weight-loss diet, Jenny Craig outranked nearly all of its competitors. Experts appreciated, among other aspects of the program, the value of the emotional support provided by its weekly one-on-one counseling sessions. A few experts, however, questioned whether dieters can expect to keep the weight off once they're weaned from the diet's prepackaged, portion-controlled foods. Though not factored into its ranking, Jenny Craig's cost is relatively high.


Raw Food Diet
(3.5 out of 5.0)
The raw food diet can deliver both short- and long-term weight loss, experts concluded, since raw foodists typically eat fewer calories than other people. But the restrictive and labor-intensive diet certainly isn't for everyone.


Volumetrics Diet
(3.4 out of 5.0)
Volumetrics helps dieters drop pounds—and keep them off. It scored well in both the short- and long-term weight loss categories, comparable to or better than many other diets. Because it focuses on satiety, or the satisfied feeling that you’ve had enough, it’s “more likely to be successful” than other diets.


Slim-Fast Diet
(3.3 out of 5.0)
Slim-Fast claims dieters will drop one to two pounds a week. Experts awarded the program relatively high scores for short-term and long-term weight loss, indicating their optimism the pounds will stay off, too.


Vegan Diet
(3.3 out of 5.0)
Going vegan gives you good odds of losing weight and keeping it off, according to experts. Veganism is also an effective weight-control method. But vegans must be “very committed,” as one expert put it, because forgoing all animal products can be challenging.

Atkins Diet
(3.2 out of 5.0)
In keeping with its emphasis on helping dieters shed pounds fast, the Atkins program rated well for short-term weight loss but was judged by experts as less impressive over the long haul. On balance, it came out slightly ahead of the middle of the pack.

(3.1 out of 5.0)
With an emphasis on healthful, filling foods that don’t pack lots of calories, the government-developed Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) drew reasonably good ratings from experts, despite not having been designed as a weight-loss diet. They judged it to be about as good for short-term weight loss as for long-term weight loss.

Eco-Atkins Diet
(3.1 out of 5.0)
Experts regarded Eco-Atkins as much more effective for short-term weight loss than for long-term weight loss. It “may be difficult to consistently adhere to,” one expert said, because it is largely a “do-it-yourself diet.”

Mayo Clinic Diet
(3.1 out of 5.0)
Among weight-loss plans, the Mayo Clinic Diet tied with DASH and Eco-Atkins. While needed evidence is lacking, experts' ratings reflect their believe that Mayo, if followed, could deliver modest weight loss, both short- and long-term.

Mediterranean Diet
(3.0 out of 5.0)
As a weight-loss plan, the Mediterranean diet didn't overwhelm the experts, but it’s not built to be one. It is up to the individual to keep watch over the scale.

Ornish Diet
(3.0 out of 5.0)
Experts deemed the Ornish Spectrum plan to be OK, but not great, for people searching specifically for a weight-loss diet. Its greatest strengths lie elsewhere.

South Beach Diet
(3.0 out of 5.0)
South Beach helps dieters drop pounds—fast. But our experts felt it’s less likely that they’ll actually keep the weight off long-term. We found little research indicating that the diet is sustainable or that it helps dieters maintain weight loss over the long haul.

TLC Diet
(3.0 out of 5.0)
Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) isn't designed to be a weight-loss diet. But if sensibly followed, it can produce weight loss, experts said, because it's a fundamentally sound approach to eating. One plus: It requires no extreme measures such as shunning carbs or meat.

Vegetarian Diet
(2.9 out of 5.0)
For weight loss, the vegetarian diet is slower off the starting line than most alternatives. But it gains back some ground over the long haul, beating out about half the field on long-term weight loss. Although vegetarianism isn’t designed to be a weight-loss plan, building in a calorie restriction and filling the menu with healthful foods could help dieters shed some pounds.

Medifast Diet
(2.7 out of 5.0)
Medifast landed near the bottom of the pack for overall weight loss. While dieters will likely drop pounds quickly on Medifast, most experts felt they’d regain the weight. The diet's relatively low ratings for long-term weight loss pulled it down in the ranking.

Nutrisystem Diet
(2.7 out of 5.0)
Nutrisystem also earned better ratings for short-term weight loss than for long-term weight loss. Experts were doubtful dieters could keep off the weight once they graduate from prepackaged meals and transition to cooking on their own again.

Zone Diet
(2.6 out of 5.0)
Experts weren’t convinced that the Zone diet helps keep weight off over the short or long term. While it “provides a dose of dietary discipline,” one said, portions are small, and the diet requires a lot of work, which can make adhering to it difficult.

Glycemic-Index Diet
(2.5 out of 5.0)
The glycemic-index diet doesn’t have much potential as a weight-loss diet, according to experts. It premise of favoring "good" carbs over "bad" hasn’t been scientifically validated, and dieters won’t have enough guidance to drop the pounds and keep them off, they concluded.

Paleo Diet
(1.9 out of 5.0)
If weight loss is the goal, the Paleo diet will likely disappoint, in the judgment of our panel of experts. While they gave it slightly higher scores for short-term weight loss than for long-term, on the whole it was the least effective for weight loss of all 20 diets they reviewed.

Disclaimer and a note about your health.