January 1, 2012
By Mike Adams
Did you know that cherries can lower levels of inflammation in the body drastically enough to actually alleviate arthritis symptoms and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes? It doesn’t even take a super-powerful extract to feel the effect; powdered cherries alone have produced dramatic results. In at least one study, powdered cherry consumption actually led to a change in the functioning of inflammation-regulating genes in mice.
Cherries are also well known to help reverse gout — a condition caused by too much uric acid circulating in the blood.
Like all dark-skinned fruits, cherries are high in antioxidants and other phytochemicals that promote human health in numerous ways. While sweet cherries may be more fun to eat, the most potent inflammation-fighting cherries are the tart variety. In addition to fighting inflammation and arthritis, cherries have also been found to fight gout, reduce body fat and lower levels of cholesterol.
Think it can’t get any better? Some tart cherries contain high enough levels of the hormone melatonin that they can actually help you fall asleep. Cherries are truly a miracle healing food!
January 10, 2012
By Anne Harding
Supersized portions and high-calorie dishes in restaurants are often blamed for contributing to America’s obesity epidemic, and for good reason. People tend to carry more body fat if they eat out frequently, and they tend to consume more calories and fat in restaurants than they do when eating at home, studies suggest.
Eating 200 or 300 extra calories in a restaurant once or twice a week may not seem like a big deal, but those calories can add up.
“The restaurant is a high-risk food environment,” says Gayle Timmerman, Ph.D., a nursing professor at The University of Texas at Austin who studies eating patterns. “There’s a pretty good chance if you eat out frequently you’re likely to gain weight over time.”
March 28th, 2011
By: Hilary Parker
A Princeton University research team has demonstrated that all sweeteners are not equal when it comes to weight gain: Rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same.
In addition to causing significant weight gain in lab animals, long-term consumption of high-fructose corn syrup also led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen, and a rise in circulating blood fats called triglycerides. The researchers say the work sheds light on the factors contributing to obesity trends in the United States.
“Some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn’t true, at least under the conditions of our tests,” said psychology professor Bart Hoebel, who specializes in the neuroscience of appetite, weight and sugar addiction. “When rats are drinking high-fructose corn syrup at levels well below those in soda pop, they’re becoming obese — every single one, across the board. Even when rats are fed a high-fat diet, you don’t see this; they don’t all gain extra weight.”
In results published online Feb. 26 by the journal Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, the researchers from the Department of Psychology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute reported on two experiments investigating the link between the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup and obesity.
The first study showed that male rats given water sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup in addition to a standard diet of rat chow gained much more weight than male rats that received water sweetened with table sugar, or sucrose, in conjunction with the standard diet. The concentration of sugar in the sucrose solution was the same as is found in some commercial soft drinks, while the high-fructose corn syrup solution was half as concentrated as most sodas.
The second experiment — the first long-term study of the effects of high-fructose corn syrup consumption on obesity in lab animals — monitored weight gain, body fat and triglyceride levels in rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup over a period of six months. Compared to animals eating only rat chow, rats on a diet rich in high-fructose corn syrup showed characteristic signs of a dangerous condition known in humans as the metabolic syndrome, including abnormal weight gain, significant increases in circulating triglycerides and augmented fat deposition, especially visceral fat around the belly. Male rats in particular ballooned in size: Animals with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained 48 percent more weight than those eating a normal diet.
“These rats aren’t just getting fat; they’re demonstrating characteristics of obesity, including substantial increases in abdominal fat and circulating triglycerides,” said Princeton graduate student Miriam Bocarsly. “In humans, these same characteristics are known risk factors for high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, cancer and diabetes.” In addition to Hoebel and Bocarsly, the research team included Princeton undergraduate Elyse Powell and visiting research associate Nicole Avena, who was affiliated with Rockefeller University during the study and is now on the faculty at the University of Florida. The Princeton researchers note that they do not know yet why high-fructose corn syrup fed to rats in their study generated more triglycerides, and more body fat that resulted in obesity.
High-fructose corn syrup and sucrose are both compounds that contain the simple sugars fructose and glucose, but there at least two clear differences between them. First, sucrose is composed of equal amounts of the two simple sugars — it is 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose — but the typical high-fructose corn syrup used in this study features a slightly imbalanced ratio, containing 55 percent fructose and 42 percent glucose. Larger sugar molecules called higher saccharides make up the remaining 3 percent of the sweetener. Second, as a result of the manufacturing process for high-fructose corn syrup, the fructose molecules in the sweetener are free and unbound, ready for absorption and utilization. In contrast, every fructose molecule in sucrose that comes from cane sugar or beet sugar is bound to a corresponding glucose molecule and must go through an extra metabolic step before it can be utilized.
This creates a fascinating puzzle. The rats in the Princeton study became obese by drinking high-fructose corn syrup, but not by drinking sucrose. The critical differences in appetite, metabolism and gene expression that underlie this phenomenon are yet to be discovered, but may relate to the fact that excess fructose is being metabolized to produce fat, while glucose is largely being processed for energy or stored as a carbohydrate, called glycogen, in the liver and muscles.
In the 40 years since the introduction of high-fructose corn syrup as a cost-effective sweetener in the American diet, rates of obesity in the U.S. have skyrocketed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 1970, around 15 percent of the U.S. population met the definition for obesity; today, roughly one-third of the American adults are considered obese, the CDC reported. High-fructose corn syrup is found in a wide range of foods and beverages, including fruit juice, soda, cereal, bread, yogurt, ketchup and mayonnaise. On average, Americans consume 60 pounds of the sweetener per person every year.
“Our findings lend support to the theory that the excessive consumption of high-fructose corn syrup found in many beverages may be an important factor in the obesity epidemic,” Avena said.
The new research complements previous work led by Hoebel and Avena demonstrating that sucrose can be addictive, having effects on the brain similar to some drugs of abuse.
In the future, the team intends to explore how the animals respond to the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in conjunction with a high-fat diet — the equivalent of a typical fast-food meal containing a hamburger, fries and soda — and whether excessive high-fructose corn syrup consumption contributes to the diseases associated with obesity. Another step will be to study how fructose affects brain function in the control of appetite.
The research was supported by the U.S. Public Health Service.
November 3rd, 2010
Medical News Today
According to a new study being published in Annals of Internal Medicine, the flagship journal of the American College of Physicians, lack of sleep may hinder a dieter’s ability to shed excess body fat.
Ten overweight but otherwise healthy adults on a moderate calorie-restricted diet were randomly assigned to sleep either 5.5 hours or 8.5 hours each night in a closed clinical research environment. After two weeks, researchers measured loss of fat and lean body mass. Compared to participants who slept 5.5 hours a night, the dieters that slept for 8.5 hours lost 56 percent more body fat. The dieters in the sleep restricted group had lost less fat and more lean body mass.
“These results highlight the importance of adequate sleep for maintenance of fat-free body mass when dieting to lose weight,” said Plamen Penev, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Section of Endocrinology, at the University of Chicago and lead author of the study.
While measuring fat loss was the primary objective of the study, researchers also assessed other factors including levels of hormones that affect the appetite and weight. In addition, participants in both groups were asked to report how much hunger they experienced during the study.
“Among other hormonal effects, we found that sleep restriction caused an increase in ghrelin levels in the blood,” said Dr. Penev. “Ghrelin is a hormone that has been shown to reduce energy expenditure, stimulate hunger and food intake, promote retention of fat, and increase glucose production in the body. This could explain why sleep-deprived participants also reported feeling hungrier during the study.”
The researchers conclude that even short periods of sleep deprivation can undermine efforts to lose weight. When restricting calories, dieters should consider obtaining adequate amounts of sleep to ensure that they retain lean body mass and lose fat.
July 15, 2010
By: S. L. Baker
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is hard to avoid if you eat processed foods — it’s used to sweeten soft drinks, candy bars, bread, salad dressings, fruit drinks and thousands of other items. But it’s worth the effort to read labels and avoid the stuff. The reason? Research has mounted over the past couple of years that HFCS may be just plain dangerous to health.
For example, researchers from Loyola University Health System have found women who drink at least two cans of HFCS-sweetened soda pop daily are twice as likely to show signs of kidney disease as those who don’t drink that many sodas (http://www.naturalnews.com/025582_s…). And although HFCS has been linked previously to the widespread rise in obesity, a new study has produced evidence showing exactly why fructose could be making people fatter than ever, starting in childhood.
It turns out that when the sugary stuff is present as children’s fat cells mature, fructose turns more of these cells into belly fat. Defined by a large waistline often dubbed a “spare tire”, abdominal obesity ups the risk of both heart disease and type 2 diabetes. What’s more, cells in both belly fat (visceral fat) and subcutaneous fat located below the skin were found to be less able to respond to insulin if they had been exposed to fructose. That means fructose could up the risk for metabolic syndrome, a precursor of type 2 diabetes, while spurring weight gain.
This research was just presented by lead author Georgina Coade, a PhD student at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, at the Endocrine Society’s 92nd Annual Meeting held in San Diego. “Our results suggest that high levels of fructose, which may result from eating a diet high in fructose, throughout childhood may lead to an increase in visceral (abdominal) obesity, which is associated with increased cardiometabolic risk,” Coade said in a statement to the media.
Coade and her research team studied biopsy specimens of both subcutaneous and visceral fat from 32 healthy-weight children who had not gone through puberty yet. Then they took preadipocytes (precursors to fat cells that have the potential to differentiate, or mature, into fat-containing cells called adipocytes) from the specimens and allowed these precursor cells to mature for 14 days in culture media containing normal glucose (the main sugar found in the bloodstream), high glucose or high fructose.
Next the investigators measured the activity of an enzyme dubbed GPDH and the abundance of the adipocyte fatty acid binding protein — both of which are found only in mature fat cells. The results showed that fructose caused fat cells to form more mature, visceral fat cells. In addition, the cells that matured in the fructose solution all showed a decrease in insulin sensitivity (the ability to successfully take up glucose from the bloodstream into fat and muscles) — and decreased insulin sensitivity is a characteristic of type 2 diabetes.
“Fructose alters the behavior of human fat cells if it is present as the fat cells mature,” Coade concluded. “We can maybe compare this (timing) to periods in children when they are making their fat.”
May 24, 2010
by Ethan Huff
Vitamin D is an amazing nutrient that protect the body from all sorts of diseases and problems. Researchers continually uncover new links between lack of vitamin D and disease, illustrating the fact that it is vital to good health. However recent studies have also found that most people are deficient in vitamin D.
A team of doctors from the McGill University Health Centre in Canada was surprised to find that about 59 percent of people evaluated were deficient in vitamin D and about 25 percent were severely deficient. Published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, the study is allegedly the first to illustrate a definitive link between vitamin D deficiency and an accumulation of fat in muscle tissue.
“Because it [vitamin D deficiency] is linked to increased body fat, it may affect many different parts of the body. Abnormal levels of vitamin D are associated with a whole spectrum of diseases, including cancer, osteoporosis, and diabetes, as well as cardiovascular and autoimmune disorders,” explained Dr. Richard Kremer, lead investigator of the study.
The main reason why people are generally lacking in vitamin D is because people spend much more time indoors than they used to. Especially with computers, people often spend their entire days inside cubicles where they are exposed to little or no sunlight.
Vitamin D is not produced in the body on its own. It is created when skin is exposed to sunlight. Some foods contain vitamin D, but in minimal amounts compared to what can be achieved from sun exposure. Most people also do not consume enough vitamin D-rich food to obtain adequate amounts of it.
The McGill study highlights an important link between vitamin D and obesity that, until now, has been largely ignored. Vitamin D deficiency contributes to decreased muscle and increased fat, which is a condition that is increasingly common in industrialized nations. Though diet also plays a role in obesity, it is striking to see vitamin D playing a role in the condition as well.
Perhaps the reason why vitamin D deficiency is linked to all sorts of serious diseases has more to do with the increase in visceral fat that it causes, which in turn leads to such health problems. This study seems to confirm that notion.
The best way to address vitamin D deficiency is to get more sunlight. But when this is not possible, particularly throughout the winter months when the sun is at a lower angle and the ultraviolet (UV) rays are at a minimum, supplementation with vitamin D is the next best option.
The study itself did not confirm one way or another the effectiveness of vitamin D supplementation in reducing fat and increasing muscle, however tests have shown that supplementation does increase blood levels of vitamin D. Many people take vitamin D supplements to alleviate their deficiency and have experience good results.
Currently, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin D is between 200 and 400 international units (IU) per day, depending on age. Recent studies are showing that these recommendations are too low to maintain optimal health. Some are suggesting that these guidelines be updated to amounts upwards of 1,000 IU per day, including the Canadian Cancer Society.
On a typical summer day, 15 to 20 minutes of sunlight exposure will result in the skin producing about 40,000 IU of vitamin D. At this point, the mechanism that produces it shuts off in order to prevent the body from making too much.
With these levels in mind, many naturopathic doctors recommend supplementing with up to 10,000 IU a day or more. Many believe it is difficult to take too much vitamin D because the safe upper limits are much higher than previously thought.
Currently, the best form of vitamin D is D3, or cholecalciferol, because it is the precursor to the type created by the body from sunlight exposure. Vitamin D3 can be safely taken at amounts much higher than the RDA guidelines.
Safe tanning beds are another option for achieving optimal vitamin D levels without taking a supplement. Despite recent reports that they are unsafe and cause skin cancer, some tanning beds can be used properly and safely to obtain UV rays when regular sunlight is not an option. These beds use electronic ballasts instead of magnetic ballasts that emit electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs), which can cause cancer and other health issues.
Dr. Mercola, another trusted source of natural health information, has a helpful directory of healthy tanning locations across the country. There are also companies that sell these tanning beds for home use.
If you are unsure about your vitamin D levels and wish to consult with your physician, a simple blood test will determine your levels. Whichever route you choose to take, just be sure to get enough vitamin D. Your body will thank you.
January 13, 2010
By Joseph Brownstein
Public health officials have harped on actively taking steps to reduce obesity, but it seems for some genetically lucky individuals, reducing their body fat isn’t as important.
A new review published by researchers at the University of Oxford and Churchill Hospital in the United Kingdom suggests that people who carry their body fat in their thighs and backside aren’t just carrying extra weight, but also some extra protection against diabetes, heart disease and other conditions associated with obesity.
“It is the protective role of lower body, that is [thigh and backside] fat, that is striking. The protective properties of the lower body fat depot have been confirmed in many studies conducted in subjects with a wide range of age, BMI and co-morbidities,” the researchers write in the most recent issue of the Journal of Obesity.
“If you’re going to have fat, you’re definitely better off if you’ve got some fat in the lower body,” said Dr. Michael Jensen, director of endocrine research at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. “If you look at people who have primarily the pear shape, they’re healthy in all the ways that this fat behaves. It’s not just less heart attacks or less diabetes, it’s all these ways we think about fat as an important organ for our health.”
For years, researchers have looked into the idea that not all fat is created equal. People who carry their fat in their stomachs, also known as “apple-shaped” people, are said to have more problems from obesity than those who carry their fat in their hips
People who carry their fat in their thighs and backsides — otherwise known as their gluteofemoral region — appear to be in a similar class to those with fat in their hips.
“There’s a lot of evidence that shows that the fat depots are not the same in the body,” said Dr. Robert Kushner, a professor medicine specializing in obesity at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
He explained that the fat stored in the stomach is harmful because “it is more metabolically active,” sending fatty contents and messages throughout the body, whereas fat in the lower regions of the body tends to be more stable and release fewer cytokines, which have been implicated in the insulin resistance that can lead to diabetes.
“There’s a whole range of these hormonal markers that seem to be more preferentially released from the belly,” said Kushner.
Getting More Back
But it is unclear if the fat in the thighs and backside are better for you than simply being thin, experts say.
“If you’re a healthy thin weight, you’re going to be every bit as healthy as someone who has weight, but has all the weight in the lower body,” said Jensen.
But while lower body fat may be healthier than upper body fat, at this point people have little control over where their body chooses to store its fat, with spot-toning a myth and the only options coming from pharmaceutical side effects.
“You can’t direct or drive the fat in one part of your body versus another,” said Kushner. “For the average person on the street, it’s determined by genetics.”
He noted, however, that “One can develop, perhaps, medication to deposit in one area,” a possibility noted by the authors of the review who point out that it is one effect of some existing diabetes drugs.
Different Fat, But Better Fat?
While the review seems to indicate that having fat lower down can be a good thing, not all experts are convinced.
“I think that the article makes a fairly compelling point that there are likely differences between these two fat stores,” said Floyd Chilton, a professor of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C. “But I think it certainly falls short in making a convincing argument that one is protective and the other is the major source of the problem.”
Some of the measurements, he explained, were not performed in a way that would allow for a conclusive judgment. For example, he said a number of studies cited by the researchers used hip circumference to determine where fat was being stored.
Chilton noted that many of the diseases discussed by researchers of the study — including heart disease and diabetes — have been connected to inflammation in the body.
“Many of them are increasing in incidence at a very similar rate to the dramatic increase in obesity,” he said.
Getting the Skinny on Fat
While he is not yet sure that lower body fat can be said to be protective, Chilton said that recent years have shown that biomarkers have helped give a more nuanced picture of how the body regulates itself — and how conditions like obesity really affect the body.
He gave leptin as an example, a recently discovered hormone found to have a role in regulating appetite — and one that may be ignored by a more obese body.
“Leptin in particular is a fascinating one, because like insulin, people who are obese develop leptin resistance, where their brain is no longer responding to leptin,” said Chilton.
It remains to be seen how much doctors can change about what these biomarkers are doing.
November 06, 2009
By Todd Zwillich
As many as 100,000 cases of cancer could be prevented in the U.S. each year if Americans get rid of their excess body fat.
That’s according to estimates released by the American Institute for Cancer Research. The estimates suggest that heart disease, diabetes, and joint problems aren’t the only illnesses in which rampant obesity is causing havoc.
The group says overweight and obesity could be the cause of more than 6% of all the estimated 1.6 million cancer cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year.
A 2007 report from the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Foundation reviewed hundreds of studies and found what researchers called “convincing evidence” that obesity was tied to several cancers. Those included cancer of the esophagus, pancreas, and kidneys. It also included colorectal cancer and endometrial cancer (a form of uterine cancer).
Researchers also said it was “probable” that excess abdominal fat was a cause of breast cancer in postmenopausal women.
Experts took estimates of obesity’s influence on cancer and applied them to a breakdown of the approximately 1.6 million U.S. cancer cases per year.
The researchers estimate that excess body fat is the cause of 33,000 breast cancer cases each year, nearly one-sixth the total cases in postmenopausal women. Obesity could be to blame for nearly 21,000 cases of endometrial cancer and more than 13,000 cases of colorectal cancer per year.
Researchers stressed that the figures are only estimates, and that individual cancer cases can have many, inter-connected causes.
August 20, 2009
By David Gutierrez
Regular consumption of curry could reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, according to a study conducted by researchers from Duke University and presented at the annual meeting of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
“If you have a good diet and take plenty of exercise, eating curry regularly could help prevent dementia,” researcher Murali Doraiswamy said.
Researchers conducted experiments on the effects of curcumin, a biologically active ingredient of the essential curry spice turmeric.
“There is very solid evidence that curcumin binds to plaques, and basic research on animals engineered to produce human amyloid plaques has shown benefits,” Doraiswamy said. “You can modify a mouse so that at about 12 months its brain is riddled with plaques. If you feed this rat a curcumin-rich diet, it dissolves these plaques. The same diet prevented younger mice from forming new plaques.”
Amyloid plaques and nerve fiber tangles are thought to be among the causative agents of the brain damage that produces the symptoms of dementia.
A clinical trial is currently underway at the University of California-Los Angeles to see if curcumin has the same benefits in human Alzheimer’s patients as in mice. According to Doraiswamy, the evidence suggests that human beings would need to eat two to three meals of curry per week to lower their risk of dementia.
Because it would take more than 100 grams of curry powder to get enough curcumin to count as a clinical dose, scientists are exploring the possibility of developing a curcumin pill.
Doraiswamy warned, however, that even consuming massive amounts of curcumin could not compensate for a bad diet and sedentary lifestyle, two of the biggest risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease.
Previous research has shown that curcumin also improves the symptoms of cancer and arthritis, and may help suppress the growth of body fat.