HEALTH NEWS: Prenatal Exposure to BPA Raises Childhood Wheezing; Early-life Nutrition and Long-term Effects; Exercise Improves Glucose LevelsMichael Downey July 1, 2011
PRENATAL EXPOSURE TO BPA RAISES WHEEZING RISK IN CHILDHOOD
A study has found that when pregnant women, especially those in their first trimester, are exposed to bisphenol A (BPA), their children have twice the risk of suffering from wheezing at six months of age. This would suggest, if confirmed by further research, a possible need for pregnant women to avoid BPA during pregnancy. (BPA has been used for over 40 years in the manufacture of many hard plastic food containers and in the lining of metal food and beverage cans, and is found on thermal paper, cash register receipts. Trace amounts have been found in foods from these containers, and some research has suggested negative health risks.) In 367 pairs of mothers and infants, a link between higher detectable levels of BPA in the urine of the pregnant mothers, and the reported incidence of infant wheezing, was found only among the youngest children. For example, there was no link found among children by three years of age. This study was presented in the May 1, 2011 session of the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, in Denver. It will be published in a future issue of a pediatric journal.
EARLY-LIFE NUTRITION MAY HAVE LONG-TERM METABOLIC EFFECTS
Researchers have determined that babies feeding on breast milk, high-protein formula, or low-protein formula exhibit various different metabolic effects and growth patterns with some showing up even at 15 days of age and others at three years, suggesting the possibility of life-long metabolic effects stemming from the very earliest dietary sources. Babies were divided into three groups and fed breast milk, a formula containing only 1.8 gm of protein per 100 kilocalories, or a formula containing 2.7 gm of protein per 100 kilocalories, respectively. At 15 days, breastfed babies showed lower blood insulin levels than formula-fed babies; but insulin differences disappeared by age nine months. At three years, high-protein formula-fed babies showed higher blood pressure and diastolic pressure (the lower number in a blood pressure reading) although within the normal range. The three-year study suggested formula feeding could have longer-range effects and that babies should be fed breast milk or formula that mirrors its metabolic effects. This study was presented on May 2, 2011 in Denver at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies.
STRUCTURED EXERCISE IMPROVES GLUCOSE CONTROL IN DIABETICS
A study has found that specifically placing Type II diabetic patients on structured exercise training, whether aerobic or resistance or both, is associated with reduced hemoglobin A1c levels, which indicate improved blood glucose (sugar) control, when combined with a dietary intervention. Also, greater total exercise duration per week was linked to a greater improvement in glucose control. (Persistently higher glucose levels in the blood are a defining characteristic of Type II diabetes.) In line with standard recommendations for diabetics, practitioners often advise diabetic patients to get more physical exercise and change their diet, but this new systematic review of all major, previous studies found that this produced a more modest glucose control benefit. Simple advice to exercise, without dietary advice, showed no benefit. Structured training duration of more than 150 minutes a week showed a 2.5 times higher glucose control benefit than training less than 150 minutes a week. Higher intensity exercise was not found to provide a further glucose control benefit. This study was published in the May 4, 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association and is available online now at https://bit.ly/ifMFaj with subscription or access fee.
GENOTYPES DO NOT VERIFY ETHNIC LABELS FOR RESEARCH PURPOSES
Researchers have found that individuals belong to genotypes, or genetic make-ups, that do not necessarily and significantly match the genotypes of others in the same, self-identified ethnic or racial group, suggesting that health research aimed at assessing the risks and remedy effectiveness within a particular, broad ethnicity have no meaning. State-of-the-art genetic technology was used to identify the genotypes of almost 1000 subjects who identified themselves as European American, African-American, or Hispanic. Individuals within each of the latter two groups exhibited genetic origins from diverse continental groups; in other words, members of one ethnic group did not always have basic, common origins or genotypes. These results could dramatically alter research on different risks and treatment effectiveness among different ethnic groups. If these groups are not consistent in genotype, research may shift to studying individuals with a common genotype, instead of a common ethnic label. Genetic markers may prove more effective at predicting disease risk in people with mixed genetic backgrounds. Although research is continuing, these results were released May 4, 2011 and will appear in a future issue of the journal, PLoS One. The full-text study is available online now at https://bit.ly/j4xCkx without cost.
CHILDHOOD TOXIN EXPOSURE CAUSES SIGNIFICANT HEALTHCARE COSTS
Researchers have concluded that, despite the reduction of childhood healthcare costs related to lead exposure and asthma, chemical factors in the environment were still responsible for major childhood healthcare costs, which represented as much as 3.5% of the entire U.S. healthcare budget in 2008. The study found that childhood exposure to toxic chemicals raises costs among children, related to lead poisoning, autism, asthma, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and cancer. The analysis also included indirect costs such as loss of productivity among parents of sick children. The report praised the past removal of lead from gasoline and paint, but suggested new chemicals may have taken their place in the environmental picture. The study on 2008 healthcare costs was just released by the journal Health Affairs and will appear in a future issue. It is available online now at https://bit.ly/iVplkT without fee.
VITAMIN D SUPPLEMENTS BOOST COPD REHABILITATION BENEFIT
A study has found that, among chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients who participated in a three-month respiratory rehabilitation exercise program, those who simultaneously received large-dose vitamin D supplementation experienced a significant boost in exercise capacity and respiratory muscle strength, compared to those who received placebos. (COPD is a progressive lung disease that includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and can involve chronic coughing or shortness of breath; it is exacerbated by a lack of exercise, which is common among sufferers, and rehabilitation programs aim to increase lung muscle strength and exercise capacity.) Although the U.S. RDA for vitamin D is 600 international units (IU) for those up to age 70, and 800 IU for those older, the researchers gave some COPD rehabilitation patients 100,000 IU monthly. Within three months, those patients significantly surpassed the others in lung strength and exercise capacity. Researchers suggested vitamin D supplements could boost the regular benefits of rehabilitation programs. Further study is needed to determine how vitamin D effects this benefit. This study was presented May 16, 2011 at the international conference of the American Thoracic Society in Denver. It is not yet available online.
HERBAL PASTE MAY PREVENT WORSENING OF LUNG DISEASE SYMPTOMS
Researchers have concluded that, for sufferers of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, topical summer use of an herbal paste traditionally known as Xiao Chuan, or XCP, may help prevent the worsening of COPD respiratory symptoms that commonly occurs in winter. (COPD is a lung disease that includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis and often includes shortness of breath and coughing.) By tradition, XCP, mainly comprised of the herbs Ephedra vulgaris, Asarum heterothropoides and Acorus gramineus Soland, has been used in China for a thousand years as a general remedy for breathing problems. But scientists tested its effectiveness in lessening common winter exacerbations of COPD symptoms by applying the paste to acupuncture points on the back of the neck of some participants, four times over eight weeks during July and August and monitoring subjects from November through February. During winter months, subjects given XCP experienced significantly less steroid use, significantly fewer episodes of shortness of breath, and improved quality of life compared to patients receiving placebo treatment. This study was presented May 17, 2011 at the American Thoracic Society international conference in Denver but has not yet been published or posted.
SLEEP APNEA LINKED TO FASTER CANCER GROWTH
Researchers have found evidence that the intermittent interruption in breathing that occurs in patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may cause greater proliferation of cancer cells, increased tumour growth, and more aggressive cancers. (OSA is a disorder in which patients regularly stop breathing for short periods during sleep, and it may affect as many as 5% of Americans, raising the risk of cardiovascular disease and lung problems.) Previous research had shown an association between continuous hypoxia, or shortness of oxygen, and cancer growth, but it was not known until now whether the intermittent hypoxia of OSA had the same effect. It is worth noting that the research focused only on melanoma cancer. The team suggested that if further research confirms these results, or worse, finds that the interruption in breathing can actually cause cancer in OSA patients in the first place, it will mean that the public health impact of untreated OSA may be far greater than ever suspected. This study was presented May 18, 2011 in Denver at the international conference of the American Thoracic Society.
CRUCIFEROUS VEGETABLES REDUCE RISK OF CARDIOVASCULAR MORTALITY
Scientists have found that, for both men and women, a greater consumption of fruits and vegetables may reduce both the overall risk of dying and the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease; and they found that a greater consumption of cruciferous vegetables in particular may reduce these risks even further and by as much as 22%. (The crucifer, or brassica, family of vegetables includes cabbage, broccoli, cress, cauliflower, Brussels sprout, and others.) However, increased fruit and vegetable intake was not found to have any significant effect on the risk of death from cancer. While those with highest cruciferous intake levels showed the greatest reductions in mortality risk, even those at the lowest intake level consumed a lot of crucifers; this is because the study used information on 134,796 Chinese adults in Shanghai, a population that regularly consumes a large amount of crucifers. The team suggested that increased intake of crucifers and other vegetables may promote longevity and cardiovascular health. This study was released May 18, 2011 and will be published in a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
ALPHA LINOLENIC ACID REDUCES DIABETES RISK
A study has found that the risk of Type II diabetes is lowered with higher consumption of omega-3 essential fatty acids specifically from non-marine sources, also known as alpha-linolenic acid or ALA; but is not lowered by increased consumption of omega-3 fatty acids from fish sources (eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA, and docosahexaenoic acid or DHA), by increased consumption of omega-3 from all sources, by increased consumption of omega-6 fatty acids, or by altering the omega-6:omega-3 dietary ratio. Only higher ALA intake reduced diabetes risk. Those consuming ALA in amounts that place them in the highest fifth of the ALA consumption range experienced a 21% reduced risk of developing Type II diabetes. (All of these fats are called essential fatty acids because they cannot be produced by the body. Seed oils, such as flaxseed oil, are rich in ALA, although their omega-6 content is often much higher.) The research was conducted on a 43,176 Chinese Singaporeans. Just released by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, this study will be published in a future issue of the journal but is available online now at https://bit.ly/mjzsZh with sub. or fee.
SLIGHTLY LOWER FAT INTAKE MAY REDUCE DIABETES RISK
Researchers have found that, even without any resulting weight loss, a modest reduction in dietary fat alone may significantly increase insulin secretion, increase glucose tolerance, and increase insulin sensitivity – indicators of a decreased risk of diabetes type two. Participants were placed on one of two diets with only minor differences in the content of fat and carbohydrates. These diets were eucaloric, meaning their calories were tightly controlled so that body weight would not change during the eight-week study. In addition, during analysis, the team took into account even minor, short-term fluctuations in body weight. One diet was 55% carbohydrate and 27% fat and the other was 43% carbohydrate and 39%. The lower-fat diet produced better insulin sensitivity even without weight loss. Further study is needed to determine the exact mechanism involved, but these results suggest that an upper limit of dietary fat of about 27% might lower the long-term risk of Type II diabetes. This just-released study will be published in a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
GLOBALIZATION OF FOOD SUPPLY RAISES DISEASE RISK
Researchers have found that the increasing importation of food from developing nations is raising food-borne illness risks due to much lower standards in these countries for sanitary food production. Importing foods can move diseases from areas in which they are indigenous to areas where they have never existed. In a number of developing countries, raw human and animal sewage is routinely used to treat soils and aquaculture ponds. Contaminants, many linked to fecal matter, are frequently found in imported foods. However in the U.S., due to mushrooming imports, only 1% of imported food is FDA-inspected. Eighty per cent of fish and seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, much of it from Asia where fish are fed raw sewage. In Thailand, chicken coops – containing up to 20,000 birds – are suspended over ponds so that farmed shrimp and fish can feed directly off the bird droppings. Crops are often grown on tiny lots where farmers are under pressure to use unapproved chemicals or misrepresent methods, suggested the report. Presented May 23, 2011 in New Orleans at the general meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, this study has not yet been published or posted online.
PROCESSED MEAT CONSUMPTION RAISES RISK OF STROKE
Scientists have concluded that people in the highest fifth of processed meat consumption have a 23% greater risk of stroke than those in the lowest fifth of consumption, but that people in the highest fifth of fresh red meat consumption do not have significantly increased stroke risk relative to those in the lowest fifth of consumption. Those consuming the most processed meat also showed an 18% greater risk for cerebral infarction, compared to people consuming the least. (Cerebral infarction is a type of stroke in which a blood vessel in the brain becomes blocked or develops a leakage, either of which results in a loss of blood flow to, and death of, a part of the brain.) Red meat consumption has been implicated in several diseases, but information on its link to stroke has been limited until now. The study followed 40,291 men aged 45 to 79 who had no history of cardiovascular disease at the beginning of the research. Released June 8, 2011, this study will be published in a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
WELL-TIMED PRENATAL VITAMINS REDUCE AUTISM RISK
Researchers have concluded that taking prenatal vitamins for three months before becoming pregnant and one month after getting pregnant lowers the risk of having a child with autism, especially for genetically susceptible mothers and children. (Prenatal vitamins are supplements that are recognized by health organizations as increasing the likelihood of a healthy newborn.) Mothers of autistic children were 4.5 times more likely both to have genotypes linked to greater risk of having autistic children, and to report not having taken prenatal vitamins during the three months prior to, and the first month of, pregnancy. Taking prenatal supplements after the first month of pregnancy had no effect on the risk of having an autistic child. Researchers suggested that folic acid, which is synthetic vitamin B9, and other B vitamins in prenatal vitamins might help protect against deficits in early fetal brain development, even among the genetically susceptible. Due to possible inaccuracies involved in interviewing women years after giving birth, the team stressed the need for further research. This study will be published in the July, 2011 issue of the journal Epidemiology, and is available online at https://bit.ly/jAVqh9.
YOGA MAY HELP RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS PATIENTS
A small study has found that rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients who completed 12 sessions of Raj yoga, one of the gentler styles of yoga combining exercise and breathing techniques, showed significant improvements in their scores on two separate questionnaires measuring disease activity and health. The researchers used three common measurement systems to judge the effects on the 47 RA patients, 26 of whom took part in the Raj yoga sessions: the disease activity score (DAS28), the health assessment questionnaire (HAQ), and the quality of life scale (QoL). Significantly higher scores were seen in the DAS28 and the HAQ, but not in the QoL scale. Researchers suggested that a longer period of yoga may produce significant further improvements in RA patients. Two separate studies found improvements in QoL for fibromyalgia patients taking part in gentle yoga involving postures, breathing techniques, and meditation, and one showed a reduction of anxiety, a common symptom of fibromyalgia. (Fibromyalgia is a long-term disorder that causes intense pain all over the body.) These studies were presented May 26, 2011 in London at the annual congress of the European League Against Rheumatism.
OLIVE OIL MAY REDUCE RISK OF STROKE IN OLDER PERSONS
Scientists have found that older people who regularly consume olive oil both as cooking oil and as salad dressing have a 41 per cent lower risk of having a stroke than those who never use olive oil. The study followed 7,625 people aged 65 and over for five years. The team also looked at blood levels of oleic acid – an indirect and as-yet-unvalidated biological indicator of olive oil intake – and found that those in the highest third of oleic acid blood levels had a 27 per cent lower chance of having a stroke. Previous research showed olive oil is linked to a reduced incidence of cardiovascular risk factors, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and high cholesterol. In these cases, and in the current study, there is insufficient proof that any component in olive oil affects these risks; it is possible, for instance, that olive oil makes other healthy food choices such as salads or cooked vegetables taste better, thus increasing consumption of healthier foods. This study was released June 15, 2011 but will not appear in print until a future issue of the journal Neurology. It is available online now at https://bit.ly/j9Cyym with subscription or fee.
REGIONAL AIR POLLUTION LINKED TO RESPIRATORY DISEASES IN INFANTS
Researchers have concluded that higher levels of fine particulate matter, a type of air pollutant, in the areas surrounding some hospitals is associated with a greater cost for infant hospitalizations for bronchiolitis, a type of viral lung infection with symptoms similar to asthma. Few studies have looked at the link between air pollution and infectious respiratory illness in children. The team calculated that hypothetically, reducing the average level of fine particulate pollutant in the U.S. to just 7% below the annual standard level would result in an annual saving of $15 million in healthcare costs.
The study was based on hospitalization data between 1999 and 2007 for children between one month and one year of age. This just-released study will appear in a future issue of the journal Health Affairs and is accessible online now at https://bit.ly/mwnVey without fee.
SLEEP LOSS DECREASES TESTOSTERONE, INCREASING HEALTH RISKS
A small study has concluded that young men who sleep less than five hours a night for eight days experience an average reduction of 10 to 15 per cent in their testosterone levels, with the lowest levels occurring between 2 pm and 10 pm, and that these lower levels increase the risk of low-testosterone-related health effects. (Testosterone levels very gradually diminish with age, about one to two per cent per year, but especially low levels can cause symptoms such as reduced bone and muscle mass, as well as decreased energy, erectile dysfunction, mood problems, fatigue, sleep disturbance, and low sex drive.) The men in the study, whose average age was 24, were rigorously screened to rule out any endocrine, psychological, or sleep problems. They slept 10 hours a night for three days, then five hours a night for eight days, and testosterone was measured after each phase. Also, the participants reported reduced mood, vigour, and sense of well-being, worsening with each day of the reduced sleep phase. This study was published in the June 1, 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Associations. It is accessible online now at https://bit.ly/iNYIFs with subscription or fee.
SEVERAL DEFINED DIETARY PLANS REDUCE RISK OF STROKE
Researchers have found that three of the four defined dietary patterns studied reduce the overall risk of stroke significantly, and that all four diets lower the risk of ischemic stroke. The research divided 40,681 volunteers according to adherence to four dietary types: Health Eating Index 2005 (HEI-2005), Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), Greek Mediterranean Index, and Italian Mediterranean Index. Only the HEI-2005 diet did not reduce the overall risk for stroke, and the Italian diet had the greatest impact, lowering the overall risk of stroke for those in the highest third of adherence by 53 per cent over those in the lowest third. Only the Greek diet did not lower the risk for ischemic stroke, and the Italian diet had the greatest ischemic impact, lowering the risk of ischemic stroke for those in the highest third of adherence by 63 per cent. Only the Italian diet produced a hemorrhagic stroke risk reduction, which was 49 per cent lower for those in the highest adherence third. This just-released study will be published in the July 2011 issue of the Journal of Nutrition, but it is available online now at https://bit.ly/mtMpVm with subscription or fee.
MINANTS OF OVERALL USE OF RESTAURANTS BY CHILDREN STUDIED
To a striking degree, children ranging in age from 9 to 15 spend more time in, and more frequently use, fast-food and full-service restaurants if their fathers frequently visit and spend time in these restaurants, according to a new study. (About half of the food budget of Americans is currently spent in restaurants. Food prepared away from home is strongly associated with food that is higher in calories, saturated fat, and sodium.) The researchers also found that greater time spent in restaurants was linked to more time spent in cars, and to both parents maintaining regular daytime working schedules. The study suggests that parents, and especially fathers, should consider setting better eating examples for their children by making better food choices, and by more often eating at home, making dinner at home a family ritual. (Dietary behaviors, such as eating away from home, have been shown to remain fairly stable from childhood into young adulthood.) This study was published in the May-June 2011 issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. It is available online at https://bit.ly/mOegnV with subscription or fee.
BAKED OR BROILED FISH LINKED TO LOWER HEART FAILURE RISK
A study has found that consumption of five or more weekly servings of broiled or baked fish may lower heart failure risk by 30 per cent, while one weekly serving or more of fried fish may increase heart failure risk by 48 per cent. The researchers found heart failure risk was reduced further when the fish was dark, such as salmon or mackerel, compared to when the fish was tuna, or light fish such as sole or cod. Despite earlier studies, the team did not find any lower heart failure risk with increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids, or alpha-linolenic acid (ALA); and while frying increases trans fatty acid (TFA) content, no link was found between TFA intake and heart failure risk. The finding may not be one of cause and effect because those eating more baked or broiled fish were more likely to be older, heavier, less active, diabetic, and smokers, and to eat fewer fruits and vegetables. All participants were women. This study was released May 24, 2011 but will not be published until a future issue of Circulation: Heart Failure. It is available online now at https://bit.ly/kFgKgh without charge.
ONE THIRD OF ALL FOOD SUPPLIES WORLDWIDE WASTED
A study has found one third of all food produced in the world is lost or discarded, representing an overall waste of about 1.3 billion tonnes of food annually. The report was commissioned by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. To help ease the crisis of having to produce more food on limited land to meet the needs of a growing world population, the FAO suggests that this overall waste be reduced dramatically. The report found that total food wastage was roughly equal between the developing and industrialized countries and that the former was mainly due to crop failures and poor infrastructure, while the latter was chiefly the result of retailers and consumers discarding perfectly edible foodstuffs. Fruits, vegetables, tubers and roots were the foods most often wasted. The report suggested that consumers are frequently encouraged to buy greater food portions than they need, and that consumers are willing to buy safe food that falls short of standard appearance standards. This FAO commissioned this study for Save Food! – the international food congress held May 16-17, 2011 in Dusseldorf. The full report is now available online at https://bit.ly/myKlWn without fee.
TWO NATURAL COMPOUNDS, WHEN COMBINED, FIGHT COLON CANCER
A study has concluded that two grape compounds, one found in the skin and another found in the seed, work synergistically to force colon cancer cells to self-destruct while not harming healthy cells, making the whole seeded red or purple grape a perfect colon-cancer-fighting food. Scientists have known that the grape skin compound resveratrol may prevent colon cancer cells from growing; and that compounds in grape seed extract do the same. However, this is the first research to show that, working together, the skin and seed compounds destroy colon cancer cells. Precise dosages required to fight a specific colon cancer case might be delivered via supplements that have been coated with pectin, a substance (a polysaccharide) often extracted from citrus fruits. Pectin is not digested in the upper gut but is broken down in the colon where the grape supplement becomes available. Research is needed to determine whether these compounds also kill cancer stem cells; if cancer stem cells are left behind, colon cancer is more likely to recur. Published in the June 1, 2011 issue of Frontiers in Bioscience, this study is available online now at https://bit.ly/iWGv9S with subscription or fee.
USDA WILL DUMP FOOD PYRAMID
A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) communiqué indicates that in response to longstanding criticisms, the USDA will replace the controversial, 19-years-old Food Pyramid on June 2, 2011 with a clearer Food Plate. The Food Plate will be divided to clarify relative portions of different food groups. A small circle might appear next to the plate representing dairy, such as milk or yogurt. The 1992 pyramid was meant to suggest smaller portions for foods at the smaller peak of the pyramid, but many people viewed peak items as most important; also, many criticized the pyramid for ignoring the insulin impact of some high carbohydrate foods. Delayed change resulted in alternative pyramids. The nonprofit group Oldways developed pyramids for the Vegetarian Diet, Mediterranean Diet, Asian Diet, and Latino Diet, available at https://bit.ly/iGEUN4, https://bit.ly/kAKRGO, https://bit.ly/m6V96x, and https://bit.ly/m3TDSk, respectively. Harvard University released its Healthy Eating Pyramid, which includes vitamin supplements and exercise, online at https://hvrd.me/iurrj3. The Healing Foods Pyramid 2010 was released by University of Michigan Integrative Medicine at https://bit.ly/lu6wqe. The Food Plate will likely appear June 2, somewhere on the USDA site, which is at https://1.usa.gov/lmzXHI
LOWER-CARB DIET REDUCES BELLY FAT
Researchers have found that – compared to a lowered-fat diet – a diet that includes a modest reduction in carbohydrates and a slight increase in fat results in a four per cent greater weight loss, a greater loss of fat tissue versus lean, and an 11 per cent greater reduction in visceral or deep belly fat, changes that lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke, and coronary artery disease. All participants lowered calorie intake by 1000. However, the control group adopted a standard weight loss diet in which carbohydrates, fat and protein comprised 55, 27, and 18 per cent of total calories, respectfully. The test group adopted a diet in which carbohydrates, fat and protein made up 43, 39, and 18 per cent of total calories, respectfully, and contained low-glycemic foods, which do not cause excessive blood sugar spikes. The belly reducing effect was found among whites, but not among blacks; whites have a greater amount of deep abdominal fat and may benefit most from trimming fat in this area, the researchers suggested. This study was presented June 5, 2011 in Boston at the annual meeting of The Endocrinology Society. It has not yet been published or posted.
ON-AND-OFF DIETING HEALTHIER THAN NO DIETING AT ALL
A study has found that repeatedly switching between a low-fat diet and a high-fat diet results in greater health and a longer lifespan than not dieting at all. Many have suggested yo-yo dieting, with its repeated weight loss and gain, may more negatively affect health and longevity than simply remaining obese and not dieting at all; this belief might discourage obese persons from dieting. However, researchers divided study mice into three dietary groups: one fed a consistent high-fat diet; another alternating between a low-fat and high-fat diet, mirroring people who yo-yo diet; and a third group given a consistent low-fat diet. The high-fat group consumed more calories, weighed more, had greater body fat, experienced higher blood sugar, became pre-diabetic, and lived an average of 1.5 years. The health profile of the yo-yo diet group worsened during the high-fat phases but bounced back during the low-fat phases, and they lived an average of 2.04 years. Similarly, the healthy low-fat control group lived an average of 2.09 years. This study was presented June 6, 2011 at the annual meeting of The Endocrine Society in Boston. It has not yet been published or posted.
APPLE PEEL COMPOUND PREVENTS MUSCLE WASTING
Researchers have discovered that a waxy compound found in the skin of apples, ursolic acid, prevents the muscle atrophy that is common with aging and illness; and causes increased muscle size, decreased storing of fat, and reduced blood levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, and glucose (sugar). This suggests ursolic acid may be a therapy for age- and illness-related muscle wasting, as well as for other metabolic diseases. For 92 genes linked to muscle atrophy, scientists pinpointed what are known as gene-expression signatures. After comparing those signatures with the signatures of 1300 bioactive small molecules, they found the signature of ursolic acid to be the opposite of the atrophy-inducing genes. When ursolic acid was fed to fasting mice, it prevented muscle wasting; and when it was fed to non-fasting mice, it increased muscle size. Further research is needed to confirm this apple skin compound has the same effect on humans and to determine whether therapeutic levels can be attained by increased apple consumption or if ursolic acid supplements are needed. This study was published in the June 8, 2011 issue of the journal Cell Metabolism. The full text is available online at https://bit.ly/jbCyH2 without charge.
B VITAMINS MAY LOWER COLORECTAL CANCER RISK AMONG OFFSPRING
A rodent study has found that the offspring of mothers given supplemental vitamin B2, B6, B12, and folate, from prior to conception through weaning, are substantially less likely to develop colorectal cancer tumors and less likely to develop aggressive intestinal tumours. The diet of one group of mothers was supplemented with the B vitamins; the diet of another group included an adequate supply of B vitamins in food, but no supplements; and the diet of the third group included an inadequate supply of these vitamins. Tumour incidence was similar for both of the non-supplemented groups – including the group receiving adequate B vitamins through food – while the supplemented group showed much lower incidence. Of the tumours found in the non-supplemented groups, three times as many were found to be aggressive in the B-deficient group compared to the B-adequate group. It is not known whether these results can be translated to human mothers, and this would take many decades to determine. This study was released June 9, 2011 and will appear in a future issue of the journal, Gut. It is available online now at https://bit.ly/lQe1Ed with journal subscription or an access fee.
POLYPHENOLS IN BEER BOOST SEVERAL HEALTH FACTORS IN ATHLETES
Researchers have found that foods that contain substantial amounts of a variety of polyphenols, specifically nonalcoholic weissbier or wheat beer, have positive effects on the health of athletes, including a 20 per cent reduction in certain indicators of inflammation (leukocytes), a strengthening of the immune system when under physical stress, a one-third reduction in the risk of contracting a cold, and briefer and milder upper respiratory infections. (Polyphenols are compounds found naturally in plants in the form of pigments, flavours, or tannins, and many polyphenols have been linked with health-promoting and cancer-preventative properties. Many athletes have long suspected that nonalcoholic wheat beer boosts their health.) The team selected nonalcoholic Erdinger brand weissbier for the study, because it is commonly consumed by marathoners and tri-athletes, and it is rich in varied polyphenols (and vitamins and minerals), making it strongly representative of polyphenol-rich foods. The test group drank 1.5 litres of wheat beer daily for three weeks prior to running a marathon and for two weeks following the race. This study will be published in the January 2012 issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, and is not yet available for access.
COOLING THE BRAIN APPEARS TO ELIMINATE INSOMNIA
A study has found that continuously cooling the frontal cerebral area of the brain at night permits people with primary insomnia to fall asleep more quickly than those without insomnia and to achieve the same percentage of time spent in bed sleeping. (Primary insomnia is sleeplessness not attributed to any medical, psychological, or environmental cause.) A slower metabolism in the frontal cerebral part of the brain is associated with restorative sleep, while insomnia is linked to increased metabolism in this same region. A known way to reduce metabolic activity in this brain area involves using heat transfer to cool the brain in a process called cerebral hypothermia. Researchers supplied participants with a soft plastic cap that contains plastic tubes filled with cool circulating water. Insomnia sufferers wearing the cap fell asleep in 13 minutes, three minutes more quickly than non-sufferers; and slept 89 per cent of the time in bed, the same percentage as non-sufferers. Many insomniacs have long sought non-pharmaceutical remedies to insomnia to avoid negative side effects. Presented June 13, 2011 at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Minneapolis, this study has not yet been published or posted.
LONGER TV VIEWING LINKED TO GREATER DIABETES, CARDIOVASCULAR RISK
Researchers have concluded that the risks of both diabetes type 2 and cardiovascular disease are increased in accordance with a greater amount of time spent watching television (TV). The scientists analyzed eight prior studies including data on a total of 175,938 persons. The results showed that each additional two hours of TV viewing increased the risk of type 2 diabetes, fatal and nonfatal cardiovascular disease, and mortality by 20 per cent, 15 per cent, and 13 per cent, respectively. This kind of study cannot determine the cause of these associations, but it is possible that prolonged TV watching increases obesity levels, which are related to unhealthy dietary habits and low activity levels, both risk factors for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The average daily TV viewing time for Europeans and Australians is about three to four hours, while viewing time for Americans averages five hours a day. Previous research had associated greater time spent watching television with reduced exercise and unhealthy diets. This study was published in the June 15, 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association and is available online now at https://bit.ly/mBjKnX with subscription or fee.
SHELLFISH LINKED TO LOWER RISK OF DIABETES
Researchers have found an association, for women only, between higher consumption of fish and reduced risk of diabetes type 2, as well as an association for both men and women, between higher consumption of shellfish and reduced risk of diabetes. Previously, some experts had suggested that long-chain, polyunsaturated, omega-3 fatty acids, which are found mainly in fish, may be a factor in helping to prevent diabetes type 2, but this theory remains unresolved. This study reviewed the diets of 116,156 people and found that women in the highest fifth of fish consumption had an 11 per cent reduced risk of diabetes, while men in the highest fifth of fish consumption showed a lower risk that was not statistically significant. They also found that women in the highest fifth of shellfish consumption had a 14 per cent reduced risk of diabetes, while men in the highest fifth of shellfish had an 18 per cent lower risk. The team did not find a health risk linked to greater fish consumption. This just-released study will appear in a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It is available online now at https://bit.ly/kla0Uw with subscription or access fee.
SNACK-BASED, HIGH-FAT DIET RISKIER THAN SIMPLE HIGH-FAT DIET
A study has found that – compared to rats in most studies that are fed high-fat diets through the introduction of foods made from lard – rats fed a high-fat diet comprised of snack foods humans actually eat experienced higher consumption, greater weight gain, more tissue inflammation, and intolerance to glucose and insulin. The researchers suggested that, while rodent studies have often pointed to serious health risks resulting from a high-fat diet, even more severe health risks result from a high-fat diet in which the dietary fat comes from the so-called cafeteria diet, a lab research term describing the common Western diet of buffet-style access to junk food such as processed meats, cookies, and chips. The team found that test subjects fed the real-life cafeteria diet consumed about 30 percent more calories than those on a high-sugar, or regular high-fat diet, and were more prone to metabolic syndrome (a cluster of factors that increase the risk of coronary artery disease, stroke, and diabetes type 2). Published June 17, 2011 in the online issue of the journal Obesity, this study is accessible at https://bit.ly/lFVppQ free of charge.
FAT SUBSTITUTES PROMOTE WEIGHT GAIN
Researchers have found that synthetic compounds, such as olestra, used by manufacturers as fat substitutes to make low-fat versions of food items, interfere with the ability of the body to regulate food intake, causing inefficient use of calories and resulting in increased food consumption, greater weight gain, and more body fat. (Olestra adds the taste of fat but remains undigested by the body.) Rats fed a generally low-fat diet were able to consume fat substitutes without any negative effect. However, rats fed a generally high-fat diet – when also fed fat substitutes – gained more weight and body fat than those rats fed a generally high-fat diet that contained no fat substitutes. The underlying cause could be that, when accustomed to consuming fat, the body is metabolically primed by any fatty taste but then reacts negatively when no fat is subsequently digested. The report cautioned that studies on rats do not necessarily translate to humans; however, their body responses to food are very similar. This study was released June 20, 2011 and will appear in a future print issue of the journal Behavioral Neuroscience. It is available online now at https://bit.ly/ivP2BQ without charge.
REPORT FINDS PEOPLE BELIEVE CALORIE COUNTING IS TOO DIFFICULT
A study has found that – although 43 per cent of Americans are trying to lose weight, and a further 26 per cent are trying to maintain their weight – only 9 per cent keep track of calories consumed on a daily basis. (Past research suggests that people who pay attention to how many calories they eat lose more weight than those who do not.) The study found that 30 per cent cited calorie counting as being too difficult and only 5 per cent consistently try to balance the calories they consume with the calories they expend. Only 9 per cent could estimate accurately, the correct calorie intake for their height, weight, and physical activity. Taste was given as a main consideration for food purchases by 87 per cent; and 79 per cent pointed to price as a key consideration as well, an increase of 6 per cent over last year. A substantial 43 per cent reported their physical activity level as sedentary, an increase from 37 per cent a year ago. This study was released by International Food Information Council (IFIC), and the full report is available online now at https://bit.ly/lRmjI6 without cost.
THE OVERWEIGHT AT GREATER RISK OF NUTRITIONAL DEFICITS
Researchers have concluded that, for several possible reasons, people who are obese or overweight appear to have a greater risk of experiencing suboptimal levels of vitamins and minerals – especially vitamin B12, carotenoids, folate, vitamin C and iron – and that, whether currently dieting or not, overweight individuals might prevent potential inadequacies and therefore, the risks of obesity-related chronic diseases, by taking a multi-nutrient supplement and emphasizing nutrient-rich foods. The reason for suboptimal nutrient levels among the overweight may be poor diet; higher nutrient requirements (due to size); obesity-caused changes to the absorption, excretion, or metabolism of nutrients; or a combination of these possible factors. Also fat-soluble vitamins become isolated within fat tissues. Dieting practices, bariatric surgery, and the use of anti-obesity drugs may compound the risks of nutrient inadequacy. Evidence exists that people with a higher body mass index (BMI) more commonly consume energy-dense, processed foods. Supplements among the overweight can improve blood fat profiles and insulin resistance. This study was released May 12, 2011 but is published in the June 2011 issue of the journal Nutrition Bulletin. It is available online now at https://bit.ly/jq8Eau with subscription or fee.
DIGESTIVE IRRITATION IN NEWBORNS MAY CAUSE LIFELONG DEPRESSION
A new study has found that short-term gastrointestinal irritation in the first days of life can permanently re-set the brain to a state of depression or anxiety, suggesting that digestive problems may actually be the cause of certain psychological disorders, and not the result of them as is commonly assumed. Because not all stomach upsets result in lifelong depressive or psychological disorders, the researchers speculate that the impact of gastric irritation may depend on when it occurs during the development of the genetic makeup of the affected person. Past research shows that individuals who suffer from functional dyspepsia (persistent or recurring pain in the upper abdomen), a group making up about 15-20 per cent of the population, are also more likely than others to be depressed or anxious. Conventional wisdom has held that stress hormones associated with altered mood cause digestive disturbances; however, the gut and brain are actually hard-wired together by the vagus nerve, which sends signals in both directions from the brain to the internal organs. This just-released study will not be published until a future issue of the journal PLoS One. It is available online now at https://bit.ly/iPmy4w without charge.
DID YOU KNOW…?
- Seventy per cent of the sugar found in chocolate milk was already there before the chocolate flavouring was added. An eight-ounce serving of the unflavoured white stuff holds 14 grams of sugar, while the same amount of chocolate flavoured milk holds 20 grams of sugar. Coca-Cola offers 27 grams of sugar. If the current move to ban chocolate milk from U.S. schools results in a switch to soda drinks, there will be a net increase in consumption of sugar, and a net decrease in calcium, protein and other nutrients.
- Today, the average American eats his or her weight in sugar every year. Typically, an individual consumes 50 teaspoons of sugar a day, often without realizing it. Most dietary sugar is hidden in processed and packaged foods.
- Bacterial cells living in and on our bodies outnumber our own cells by 10 to one. Research shows they can play a key but little-understood role in our metabolism. For example, mice lacking bacteria must consume 10 per cent more food simply to maintain their body weight.
- High heels are partly to blame for the arthritis problem that has become virtually epidemic in the U.K., according to a June 2011 study by the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists. One in four U.K. adults has a muskuloskeletal condition, and 60 per cent of arthritis cases are in the feet.
- Taking your vitamin D supplement with your largest meal of the day may boost its uptake by up to 56 per cent. This was the finding of a study in the April 2010 issue of the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. Adequate vitamin D levels are linked to a reduced risk of osteoporosis.
- The risk of an artery condition known as acute coronary syndrome is reduced substantially by taking 7500 steps a day, according to a 2011 study. Previous research found that the risk of diabetes type 2 is lowered substantially by taking 3000 steps a day five days a week.
- Abdominal fat is much riskier than fat reserves on other parts of the body. It is linked to as much as double the risk of early death, even if your overall weight is normal and your BMI is in the healthy range, according to a study in the November 13, 2008 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
- All bacteria and pathogens found on raw food are killed when the food item comes into contact with a copper surface, reducing the risk of cross-contamination and the spread of infection. Released June 2011, research at the University of Southampton in the U.K. found that bacteria, including new E. coli strains, die rapidly when placed on copper. This characteristic of copper is shared with the alloys brass and bronze.
- You can skip the chlorine bleach in your laundry by substitute a half-cup of lemon juice in the rinse cycle for normal-size loads. And you can replace your regular toilet bowl cleaner by using a mixture of tea tree oil and water; for rust stains, pour borax in the bowl and let it sit overnight.
- A substance found in cooked or processed tomatoes blocks artery-clogging LDL, or bad, cholesterol. This, in turn, appears to reduce the harmful oxidation of fats in the blood to almost zero within eight weeks, potentially reducing the risk of heart attack or stroke. This conclusion was presented to a meeting of the British Cardiovascular Society in June, 2009.
- Research suggests that low levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood of pregnant women may cause a lower birth weight in their newborns, relative to the newborns of pregnant women with normal glucose levels. A study in the March 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association speculated that lower blood sugar may be a cause of, and not simply a risk factor for, lower birth weight.
Michael Downey is a former columnist with Vitality Magazine.