February 21, 2012
By Jacque Wilson
Editor’s note: This is the fourth story in CNN’s series exploring the issues surrounding childhood obesity.
(CNN) — Lyn McDonald is doing everything right.
After losing more than 80 pounds, she taught her kids how to control their portion sizes, shop at the farmers market, eat vegetables with every meal and avoid a lot of sugar.
Her efforts are working. At a time when approximately one-third of American children are overweight or obese, McDonald’s kids are at healthy weights.
So why is every day still a struggle for the blogger and mother of five?
‘Hard to be a little girl if you’re not’ School kids have easy access to snacks
“I have had to deal with teachers who hand out Skittles, candy bars, lollipops and giant frosted sugar cookies to the children in class … before 10 a.m.,” McDonald says. “I think this is setting kids up for failure and un-teaching the healthy habits I have instilled.”
The fact that doughnuts and cupcakes are given out as a reward after soccer practice or dance class is a paradoxical hurdle in the fight against childhood obesity. As doctors and parents struggle to encourage healthy behaviors, our sugar-filled, sedentary surroundings resist every step.
Think about it, says Dr. Stephen Daniels, chief pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Colorado. Every day kids are exposed to advertising about fast food instead of home-cooked meals. They’re surrounded by vending and soda machines at school. They have hundreds of channels on TV, own three video game systems and live in neighborhoods that were built without sidewalks.
February 6, 2012
By Rob Lyons
On Thursday, high-profile science journal Nature published a commentary by three academics, which argued that sugar is a toxin and that it should be subject to similar kinds of public-health interventions as alcohol. In other words, sugar should be taxed and restricted just like booze.
One of the authors, Robert Lustig, runs an obesity clinic at a children’s hospital, part of the University of California, San Francisco. His colleagues and fellow authors, Laura Schmidt and Claire Brindis, are researchers in healthy policy. Lustig has gained an online following since 2009 for a lecture entitled ‘Sugar: the Bitter Truth’. While Lustig’s tone is rather melodramatic, there does appear to be a growing body of evidence linking refined carbohydrates and a group of related symptoms – obesity, fatty liver disease, type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease – that come together under the broad umbrella of ‘metabolic syndrome’.
It’s certainly the case that these chronic diseases have increased in importance in recent decades (in part because of the decline of infectious disease). Consumption of refined carbohydrates – particularly sugar – has increased, too. America has a particularly sweet tooth; the average American consumes 131 pounds (about 59 kg) of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) per year, up from 113 pounds per person in 1966. A teaspoon of sugar weighs about 4g, so this amounts to 40 teaspoons per person per day. (And remember, that’s an average – some people are consuming considerably more.)
The UK has a pretty sweet tooth, too. A survey for the Food Standards Agency in Scotland in 2008 found that 17 per cent of children’s calorie intake was coming from ‘non-milk extrinsic sugars’ – that is, table sugar and sugar added to food. That adds up to about 20 teaspoons per child per day.
So, we have rising rates of diseases related to metabolic syndrome alongside increased sugar consumption. Sucrose (the kind used as table sugar) and HFCS are regarded as particularly problematic by many researchers because they are both mad up of two simpler sugars, glucose and fructose. Glucose induces the production of insulin and would seem, therefore, to be a reasonable suspect in problems of insulin resistance and diabetes, with knock-on effects to do with obesity. Fructose, though it sounds healthy because it is also found in fruit, is practically Public Enemy No.1 for some health researchers due to its effects on the liver and in relation to heart disease. Thus, some see the consumption of sucrose and HFCS as a dietary double-whammy that significantly increases the risk of a number of chronic diseases.
January 31, 2012
By Mike Barrett
“Keep eating high fructose corn syrup. It’s good for you, if you want diabetes.” –KTRN
While there is no perfect diet, people are starting to realize that many of the health complications they currently face are actually a result of consuming way too much sugar. More health experts are voicing their concern regarding the over-consumption of fructose, which has been pinpointed as America’s number one source of calories. New research mirrors what has been found in the past, connecting fructose to cardiovascular disease and an increased diabetes risk.
The researchers at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Health Sciences University analyzed 559 adolescents ages 14 to 18. What they found is that a high-fructose diet helps to perpetuate higher blood pressure, insulin resistance, fasting glucose, and other inflammatory factors which lead to heart and vascular disease.
“Adolescents consume the most fructose so it’s really important to not only measure the levels of fructose but to look at what it might be doing to their bodies currently and, hopefully, to look at cardiovascular disease outcomes as they grow…A unique aspect of our study design is that we took into account the fructose released from sucrose during digestion along with the fructose found in foods and beverages…Because sucrose is broken down into fructose and glucose before it arrives at the liver for metabolism, it is important to consider the additional fructose from sucrose when determining the overall health effect of fructose.” said Norman Pollock, co-first author of the study published in the Journal of Nutrition.
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!
October 31, 2011
By Ethan A. Huff
If you were to ask any random person on the street today if trans fats are bad for health, he or she would most likely respond in the affirmative. But a new study out of the University of Alberta (UA) in Canada clarifies a common misunderstanding about trans fats — natural, health-promoting, ruminant trans fats are far different from the synthetic, health-destroying, industrial trans fats found in many processed foods.
In many countries, including in the US, there is no differentiation made between natural and industrial trans fats — they are all labeled in the same ingredient category on food packaging, and are all considered harmful. And researchers allege that this error needs to be changed, noting that people can actually benefit from the consumption of natural trans fats.
Spencer Proctor, a researcher in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science and director of the Metabolic and Cardiovascular Diseases Laboratory at UA, and his colleagues arrived at this conclusion after conducting an in-depth review of different types of trans fats. They found that ruminant trans fats found in meat and dairy products have a vastly different fatty acid profile than industrial trans fats like hydrogenated vegetable oil.
The natural trans fats found in organic, pasture-based animal meat and dairy products can actually help reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and cancer, while industrial trans fats found in various processed foods lead to conditions like high cholesterol and coronary heart disease.
“A change in how trans fat information is presented on nutrition labels would be a huge step forward,” said Proctor. “Right now, in Canada and the US, a substantial portion of natural trans fats content is included in the nutrition label trans fats calculation, which is misleading for the consumer. We need a reset in our approach to reflect what the new science is telling us.”
The study confirms what a previous one published by Flora Wang, another UA researcher, found back in 2008 — far from harmful, natural trans fats actually help to reduce the risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and diabetes
October 17, 2011
By: John Phillip
Researchers from the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Calabria in Italy publishing in The FASEB Journal report that resveratrol blocks the effect of estrogen and can help to prevent the malignant growth of breast cancer in women. The grape/red wine derivative has been the subject of numerous scientific studies in recent years and has shown promise in lowering risks from cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. Scientists also believe the protective nutrient may extend healthy lifespan by directly influencing mortality genes known as SIRT. Health-minded adults will want to include resveratrol from natural food sources or supplementation to reap the numerous health benefits.
To design their study, researchers used several breast cancer cell lines expressing the estrogen receptor to test the effects of resveratrol. They exposed the different cells to a solution containing resveratrol and compared the results to cells left untreated. They found an important reduction in cell growth in cells treated with resveratrol, while no changes were seen in untreated cells. Further experiments determined that this effect was caused by a critical reduction in estrogen receptors caused by the administration of resveratrol.
Resveratrol Supplementation Suppresses the Growth of Malignant Breast Cancer Cells
This finding is the first of its kind as it relates specifically to the effect of resveratrol on a particular cancer cell line. The team was able to conclude that resveratrol is able to counteract the malignant progression of breast cancer cells by inhibiting the growth and spread of hormone resistant cancerous cells. This has important implications for the treatment of women with breast cancer whose tumors eventually develop resistance to hormonal therapy.
A peer review board examining the study data concluded “scientists haven’t finished distilling the secrets of good health that have been hidden in natural products such as red wine.” It is important to note that in this body of research, resveratrol only demonstrated an effect on malignant cancer cells and exerted no effect on non-cancerous cells.
While the authors cautioned that people should not go out and start using red wine or resveratrol supplements as a treatment for breast cancer, the finding strongly indicates that the plant-protective compound should be considered as a component in an overall plan designed to prevent the devastating disease. Nutrition experts recommend a supplemental intake (from a purified, organically derived source) of between 50 and 250 mg per day for optimal health benefits.
October 12, 2011
The Huffington Post
By: Catherine Pearson
Genetic variations play a major role in determining susceptibility to cardiovascular disease but that doesn’t mean biology is necessarily destiny when it comes to heart health.
A new study shows eating a healthy diet can mitigate the risks conferred by a common variant of heart disease, suggesting people may be able to compensate for certain genetic shortcomings.
In the study, published Tuesday in the journal PLoS Medicine, researchers focused on several DNA sequence variations on chromosome 9p21, which they call “one of the most robust genetic associations for cardiovascular disease.”
They found that a diet rich in raw fruits and vegetables helped mitigate the risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attack conferred by those alterations.
“This particular variant, 9p21, has been shown to play a role in heart disease, which diet overcame,” Dr. James Engert, a professor in McGill University’s departments of medicine and human genetics and one of the study’s authors, told The Huffington Post.
“That’s not suggesting that diet is going to overcome all variants,” he continued. “But for all intents and purposes — in this case — it suppressed the susceptibility.”
The flip-side was true, too: Diet also played a role when it came to compounding risk. People who had two risk alleles, the highest genetic risk, and ate a diet heavy in meat, fried food and salty snacks had nearly twice the risk heart attack.
Engert cautioned that the new study did not explain exactly how the interaction between environmental and genetic factors works. He said that further research is necessary in order to unlock exactly what is happening at a mechanistic level.
But he said the new study is nonetheless promising from a public health perspective. Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. It has long been known that there are many modifiable risk factors for heart disease, including diet, exercise, not smoking, stress and poor hygiene. The new study offers the tantalizing suggestion that by controlling those, people may have even more control over their heart health than previously thought.
“I would have thought that harboring a 9p21 variant would be hard to overcome,” said Dr. Nehal Mehta, director of inflammatory risk in preventive cardiology at the University of Pennsylvania. “This is eye-opening because it says that even if you have a predisposition to a disease, lifestyle makes a big difference. The effect can be overcome by having a good diet.”
Mehta said that future research should look more closely at the role of other non-genetic factors, like smoking and exercise, and the possible impact they might have on various genes known to increase susceptibility.
In the meantime, Mehta said the new study underscores the importance of taking charge of one’s health.
“It always come down to the same thing — diet and exercise,” he said. “if you have a predisposition to a disease, lifestyle makes a big difference. Genes are not dooming.”
July 6th, 2011
By: J.D. Heyes
There are a number of proven natural alternatives to reducing your risk of heart attack, but one of the most effective to do that, new research has shown, is through meditation.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, meditation through the continuous repetition of a mantra, can reduce high blood pressure, thickening of the arteries and cholesterol. Researchers say it can even help protect against diabetes.
“This is a seminal finding,” said Dr. Norman Rosenthal, of the NIMH.
“The prevention of heart attack and stroke and actual lengthening of lifespan by an alternative treatment method is exceedingly rare, if not unprecedented,” he said. “If Transcendental Meditation were a drug conferring so many benefits, it would be a billion-dollar blockbuster.”
The reason why meditation is so effective, say researchers, is because it is a primary catalyst in reducing stress, a condition known to create or contribute to a host of medical problems.
Scientists and researchers from the Medical College of Wisconsin followed 201 African-American men and women who averaged 59 years old and who had been suffering with arterial narrowing for nine years. Half the group received instruction in Transcendental Meditation in combination with their regular treatment, while the other half was given advice on modifying their diets and exercise regimens.
Those who meditated did so for 20 minutes twice a day.
The study found that those who meditated were 47 percent less likely of dying or of having a heart attack or stroke, compared with those who were treated traditionally.
Participants who were especially enthusiastic about the meditation or who experienced higher-than-normal stress levels, the end results were even more dramatic, researchers said.
“These findings are the strongest documented effects yet produced by a mind-body intervention on cardiovascular disease,” said Prof. Theodore Kotchen, co-author of the study. “The effect is as large or larger than major categories of drug treatment for cardiovascular disease.”
Added co-author Dr. Robert Schneider: “This study builds on previous research findings showing that the Transcendental Meditation program reduces high blood pressure, high cholesterol, insulin resistance, psychological stress, and atherosclerosis, and takes it to the next step – lower rates of death, heart attack, and stroke.”
Though the study was limited to African-American participants, the researchers said there is no reason not to expect similar results for all people.
May 23rd, 2011
By: T.M. Hartle
Recent research has identified daily use of aspirin or other NSAID’s with a significant increased risk of erectile dysfunction. The association of aspirin and other NSAID’s with erectile dysfunction began with a small study in Finland. The results seen in the Finland study were affirmed in a larger study conducted by Kaiser Permenente Los Angeles Medical Center. The results of these two studies contradicted commonly held beliefs about the cause of erectile dysfunction.
Researchers believed that erectile dysfunction was caused by inflammation, and they had the assumption that anti-inflammatory drugs would have a beneficial effect. Kaiser researchers studied more than 80,000 men and found that daily use of aspirin or other NSAID’s was associated with a 22% increase in the risk of erectile dysfunction. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs were used regularly by 47% of the men in the study. Nearly 30% of the men regularly using NSAID drugs reported moderate to severe erectile dysfunction. Increased risk of ED was seen even after adjusting for known risk factors.
The researchers of the Kaiser study stated that the regular use of NSAID medications and resultant erectile dysfunction risk was ‘above and beyond what would be expected due to age or other conditions.’ Regular users of NSAID drugs were 2.4 times more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction than men who used them infrequently or did not use these drugs. Researchers controlled for age, smoking, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and other conditions that may contribute to erectile dysfunction and the association between NSAID’s and erectile dysfunction remained. Researchers are now left with more unanswered questions and have indicated more research is needed.
Generally erectile dysfunction is associated with cardiovascular problems, increased inflammation, and decreased circulation. Researchers believed that through the use of NSAID’s and a reduction in inflammation improvements would be seen. At the conclusion of the study researchers offered several theories for the results found. One theory stated that while NSAID’s improve blood flow there may be other pathways that these drugs inhibit leading to increased erectile problems. In the wake of conflicting understanding of the interaction of medications and erectile dysfunction recent research has found dietary factors that can reduce the risk.
A recent study in the International Journal of Impotence Research sheds light on dietary factors involved in erectile dysfunction. Researchers found that intake of fruits and nuts were associated with a reduction in erectile dysfunction risk. The ratio of monounsaturated fat in comparison with saturated fat consumption was also associated with reduced risk. Researchers concluded that the adoption of a healthy diet could potentially prevent the development of erectile dysfunction. In the face of side effects from medication and health problems that increase the risk of reproductive dysfunction in men, dietary and lifestyle changes provide an avenue of protection for those willing to take responsibility for their own health.
March 14th, 2011
By: Megan Heimer
Recently, every major media outlet reported on the “Northern Manhattan Study” which linked diet soda to strokes and vascular disorders. This study consisted of 2,564 individuals over the age of 40 who were followed for ten years. The results of the study showed that those who drank diet soda daily increased their risk of stroke by 48% and vascular disorders by 61% compared to those who did not drink diet soda. These media reports were also quick to point out that the study was preliminary, largely unsupported and lacked biological evidence; they explained how diet soda could possibly cause strokes, but it was not cause to change nutrition or dietary advice. However, it’s not hard to see how one famous ingredient in diet soda could be to blame.
Aspartame is just one of the many harmful ingredients found in diet soda. Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that is 200 times sweeter than sugar. This sweetener is dangerous because it is not stable in a liquid solution, and it consists of methanol which breaks down into formaldehyde and diketopiperazine – two neurotoxins known to wreak havoc on the nervous system. In addition, isolated aspartic acid and phenylalanine, two other components of aspartame, react with the breakdown of methanol, become toxic, and dangerously increase phenylalanine levels in the brain. The approval of Aspartame by the FDA in 1981 was controversial and highly opposed even by those on the panel because studies showed that aspartame produced seizures and brain tumors in lab animals. In one report, six out of seven monkeys fed aspartame-laced milk for a year developed seizures after every feeding, and the seventh one died.
In 1994, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a report which showed that 75% of all adverse reactions reported through the FDA’s Adverse Reaction Monitoring System were due to aspartame. Per the FDA, only about 1% of the population reports a problem with something they consume. Thus, in 1994 alone, it is estimated that there were actually one million adverse reactions due to aspartame products with 39% of the complaints coming from diet soda. Prior to 1994, the Center for Disease Control reviewed many aspartame complaints consisting of neurological, gastrointestinal, and allergic reactions.
In addition, the 1994 “Official FDA Document” listed 92 symptoms associated with aspartame consumption, including 290 people who reported seizures and convulsions after consuming a product containing aspartame. Because this number is estimated to reflect only 1% of the actual number, the true number of seizures in 1994 could have been as high as 28,710. Today, adverse effects continue to rise as people increase their consumption of diet soda.
A vast amount of scholarly research has been conducted since the 1980′s linking aspartame in diet soda to various conditions including: aspartame poisoning, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, birth defects, tooth decay, dehydration, obesity, seizures, strokes, cardiovascular disease, eczema, sleeping problems, hair loss, muscle tremors, heart palpitations, memory loss, high blood pressure (another leading cause of stroke), chronic fatigue, menstrual problems, loss of libido, and joint pain.
These questions remain: Why are the studies, physician and consumer complaints, and research regarding the toxicity of this diet soda ingredient being overlooked, covered up, and brushed aside? Could it be because the truth about aspartame could discourage consumers from drinking diet soda, resulting in billion dollar losses? Or, could it be that aspartame research is funded largely by those with a stake in this money-making industry? Regardless of the answers, there is 30 years of extensive research linking aspartame to strokes and vascular disorders. Is diet soda worth the risks?