Tag Archives: healthy

You can now add pasta to your list of healthy diet foods, study suggests

Nowadays, people tend to blame carbohydrates for the obesity epidemic, but a new paper suggests that not all refined carbs — that are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream — make you fat. Pasta, for example, in spite of being a member of the refined carbohydrate family, has a low glycemic index (GI).

Via Pixabay/marker_photography

The glycemic index is the number that shows the effect of carbohydrates on a person’s blood sugar concentration. The glycemic index is usually applied in the context of the quantity of the food ingested and the amount of carbohydrate present in the food.

Another measure, the glycemic load (GL), factors this in by multiplying the glycemic index of the food in question by the carbohydrate content of the actual serving. For example, watermelons have a high glycemic index, but a low glycemic load for the quantity typically consumed. Fructose, however, has a low glycemic index but can have a high glycemic load if a large quantity is ingested. In other words, it’s not always tit for tat with these two parameters.

Researchers analyzed data from 30 randomized control trials involving almost 2,500 people who ate pasta, instead of other carbohydrates, as part of a healthy low-glycemic index diet.

“The study found that pasta didn’t contribute to weight gain or increase in body fat,” said lead author Dr. John Sievenpiper, a clinician scientist from the St. Michael’s Hospital’s Clinical Nutrition and Risk Modification Centre. “In fact, analysis actually showed a small weight loss. So contrary to concerns, perhaps pasta can be part of a healthy diet such as a low GI diet,” he added.

Participants involved in the trials ate on average 3.3 servings of pasta per week instead of other carbs, one serving of pasta meaning one-half cup of boiled pasta. At the 12-week follow-up, scientists observed that participants had lost 0.5 kilos on average.

Although pleased by the findings, researchers highlighted that these results are generalizable to pasta consumed along with other low-glycemic index foods as part of a low-glycemic index die

“In weighing the evidence, we can now say with some confidence that pasta does not have an adverse effect on body weight outcomes when it is consumed as part of a healthy dietary pattern,” said Dr. Sievenpiper.

I, for one, couldn’t be any happier. As a pasta lover, and a health freak, this news is incredible. The only thing left for me to say is ‘Buon appetito’!

The paper was published in the journal BMJ Open.

 

Researchers develop a pill that mimics the effects of exercising

Isn’t that great? If you’re as lazy as I am, this incredible news. Just imagine sitting on a couch all day and having rocking six-pack abs at the same time. Wow. But things aren’t that simple — well, not yet.

Via Pixabay/bosmanerwin

Scientists have been working on an “exercise pill” for quite some time. Studies conducted on mice show promising results, but FDA approval is still needed for the drug to be available to patients. Unfortunately, the FDA does not see the inability to exercise as a disease that requires treating.

Who really has the time now to exercise as much as the body needs? We’re constantly on the run, yes, but mostly metaphorically. We all know the tremendous benefits of working out on a regular basis, but let’s be honest: if we’re stuck in a stressful office environment, like a large part of the population is, where can we find the energy to work out at least half an hour each day? Or even the time? I’m not trying to make excuses for everyone. However, obesity rates are rising, and we should face the facts: our ancestors engaged in more physical activity than we do today. Our food is different as well — we mostly eat high-energy processed foods, not home cooked meals or fruits and vegetables from our own gardens.

Some would argue that lifestyle is a choice and that we are fully responsible for our health. I agree, but let’s take into the consideration that a healthy lifestyle is hard to maintain, with sugar addiction being one of our worst enemies.

Researcher Ronald Mark Evans, a biologist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, wanted to fight against obesity, so he and his team developed a drug that mimics the effects of exercise while eliminating the need to run a mile three times a week.

How does this pill work?

The compound, known as GW1516, or 516, essentially tricks the body to burn fat instead of glucose for energy; this typically takes longer for the body to do, as it prefers to use glucose first, then fat. The human body uses the same metabolic pathway when exercising: it preserves the sugar for the brain during periods of physical stress and signals the muscles to burn fat instead.

 

Ali Tavassoli, a professor at the University of Southampton, has also been studying similar effects using a drug known as compound 14.

Compound 14 changes the body’s metabolism by affecting the functionality of an enzyme called ATIC. By inhibiting this enzyme, researchers trigger a chain reaction that leads the cells’ central energy sensor to think it’s running out of sugar. In consequence, the cell’s metabolism and sugar uptake are fastened. Its developers think that if Compound 14 was successfully tested on humans, it could help substantially in the fight against obesity, which affects more than a third of the U.S.’s adult population.

“If you can bring them a small molecule that can convey the benefits of training, you can really help a lot of people,” Evans told Washington Post. 

 

Researchers aren’t only developing this drug for those who don’t have time to exercise; the drug’s main target is people physically incapable of working out. Helping people with muscle-wasting diseases and movement disorders, the frail, the very obese and post-surgical patients is the team’s principal priority.

Alas, FDA doesn’t recognize “the inability to exercise” as a condition. So Evans decided to make them listen: he targeted 516 young people with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. He thinks this approach has the best chance to get FDA approval.

“This [disease] afflicts kids who can’t exercise and ultimately die of muscle wasting, often at a relatively early age, at 15 or 16,” Evans says. “It’s a disease with a large unmet medical need.”

The drug is now undergoing a small human safety study. Evans says the compound has “a potentially wide application,” including for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease, and for “people in wheelchairs.”

He also believes it could be crucial for patients who develop acute kidney injury — a potentially fatal side effect of cardio-bypass surgery that is often associated with irreversible organ damage.

“The organ or tissue changes its metabolic properties and begins to burn sugar, and because it happens quickly, it’s very hard to stop,” Evans says. “Our drug helps to draw the tissue back to a more healthy state, returning it from a chronic inflammatory damaged state. It soaks up sugar. If you do this carefully and quickly, you can override the damage response.”

Scientists admit that some problems might appear if the drug becomes available to the general population. There will be no way to control abuse. Even professional athletes might be tempted to take it in order to boost their performances. The experimental 516 already is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, according to Evans, and “I’m sure any [future] version of it will be, too.”

Evans concludes: “I like exercising, and that’s good enough for me. People are designed to move. But if they can’t, it’s not healthy to be sedentary. That’s why we are developing this drug. We are trying to take science out of the laboratory and bring it into the clinic in a way that can change people’s lives. If we can do that, it would be a game-changer.”

Students will eat at the salad bar — all it takes is marketing and some parental help

Thanks to a national health initiative, public schools throughout the US can now boast a salad bar aimed at promoting a healthier diet for their students. That’s half of the battle won — the other part is actually making the kids choose the salads over other food. A new study from the Brigham Young University identified the best way to promote the bar among students.

Image credits Pexels / Pixabay.

 

Lori Spruance, health sciences professor at the BYU, has been studying how well the salad bars perform in schools and found one simple trick to boost their popularity among students: marketing. She and her team found that teens are much more likely to eat from the salad bar if it was promoted through a solid marketing campaign — almost three times more.

“Children and adolescents in the United States do not consume the nationally recommended levels of fruits and vegetables,” Spruance said. “Evidence suggests that salad bars in schools can make a big difference. Our goal is to get kids to use them.”

Open bar

With roughly 4,000 new salad bars opened in public schools across the US through the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative, students have way more access to healthier food (and a wider range than previously possible) during lunch break — about 50% of high schoolers have access to a salad bar in school, as do 31% of middle school students and 31% of the kids in preschool.

For the study, Spruance and her team tracked students’ salad bar usage in 12 public schools from New Orleans. They tracked this usage through student-filled surveys and further tracked the school environment through personal visits.

Apart from the finding that marketing boosted the salad bars’ popularity among secondary school students, the team also found that girls were more likely to use the salad bar, and would do so more often, than their male counterparts. Also unsurprisingly, children who report preferring healthy food also said they go to the bar more often.

“The value of a salad bar program depends on whether students actually use the salad bar,” Spruance said.

“But few studies have examined how to make that happen more effectively.”

So what does a good bar make? The team lists information in school publications and newsletters, signage throughout the school promoting the salad bar, as well as a strong presence on the school’s website for the bar as successful marketing efforts. The team also suggests getting the parents in on the action, for example by reaching out to them through newsletters or parent-teacher conferences. Getting students used to healthy food at home made the single biggest difference in their choice of visiting the bar.

“It takes a lot of effort and time, but most children and adolescents require repeated exposures to food before they will eat them on their own,” Spruance said.

“If a child is being exposed to foods at home that are served at school, the child may be more likely to eat those fruits or vegetables at school.”

The full paper “Individual- and School-Level Factors Related to School-Based Salad Bar Use Among Children and Adolescents” has been published in the journal Health Education & Behavior.

Moderate Alcohol Consumption Could Actually Help Your Heart

A new study conducted by Harvard scientists concluded that moderate consumption of alcohol (moderate!) can lead to lower risk of heart failure. The study, which was conducted on over 14,000 men and women aged 45-64 found that a small drink every day is associated with a 20 percent lower risk of men developing heart failure and 16 percent reduced risk for women.

Image via Substance.com

Alcohol is generally regarded as unhealthy. However, alcohol has its benefits; in the Mediterranean diet, moderate consumption of red wine is indicated, and the Mediterranean diet is one of the best for the heart. Previous studies have also found that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with better memory later in life. This study found that alcohol itself can be good for the heart.

“The findings suggest that drinking alcohol in moderation does not contribute to an increased risk of heart failure and may even be protective,” said Scott Solomon, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and senior physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

A cocktail a day keeps the doctor away

The team defines “a drink” as one small (125ml) glass of wine, just over half a pint or a third of a litre of beer and less than one shot of liquor such as whisky or vodka. The participants in the study were divided into six categories:

  • abstainers
  • former drinkers, current abstainers
  • people who drink 1-7 drinks a week
  • people who drink 7-14 drinks a week
  • people who drink 14-21 drinks a week
  • people who drink over 21 drinks a week

During the study, almost 20 percent (1,271 men and 1,237 women) of participants developed heart failure. Out of those, the lowest rate of heart failures occurred in those drinking up to seven drinks per week and interestingly enough, the highest occurrence was in former drinkers. Men who drank between 1 and  7 drinks a week had a 20% reduced risk of developing heart failure compared to abstainers, while in the women, that risk was reduced by 14%.

A pint of beer a day might help your heart. Image via Cache Blog.

It’s quite possibly that the reason why former drinkers showed the highest rates of heart failure is that they had a medical reason to quite drinking in the first place. The sex difference seems statistically relevant, but it’s not yet clear why this happens.

“There are a number of different mechanisms by which the effects of alcohol on the heart may differ by sex,” write the researchers in their study. “Women have a higher proportion of body fat and absorb and metabolize alcohol differently than men, attaining higher blood alcohol concentrations for a given amount of alcohol consumed.”

The study was not raw, and scientists controlled, as much as possible, for other elements which may impact the results. They compensated for age, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or heart attacks, body mass index, cholesterol levels, physical activity, education and smoking,

“We did adjust our results to take account, as far as possible, for a variety of other lifestyle factors that could affect a person’s risk,” Solomon explained.

However, as we pointed out several times, correlation does not imply causation. The fact that moderate drinkers show a lower chance of heart failure does not necessarily mean that it’s the alcohol doing the good.

“It is important to bear in mind that our study shows there is an association between drinking moderate amounts of alcohol and a lower risk of heart failure but this does not necessarily mean that moderate alcohol consumption causes the lowered risk, although we did adjust our results to take account, as far as possible, for a variety of other lifestyle factors that could affect a person’s risk.”

Journal Reference:

  1. A. Goncalves, B. Claggett, P. S. Jhund, W. Rosamond, A. Deswal, D. Aguilar, A. M. Shah, S. Cheng, S. D. Solomon. Alcohol consumption and risk of heart failure: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. European Heart Journal, 2015; DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehu514

Researchers find cocktail that delays aging

rolloNobody wants to grow old, but at least at this point in our evolution, it’s unavoidable. Growing old however, is relative; it depends on your lifestyle, genes, etc. Recently, researchers from McMaster University claimed they have figured out a cocktail of ingredients that has a significant effect in delaying the aging process. Their findings were published in the latest issue of Experimental Biology and Medicine.

“As we all eventually learn, aging diminishes our mind, fades our perception of the world and compromises our physical capacity,” says David Rollo, associate professor of biology at McMaster. “Declining physical activity – think of grandparents versus toddlers – is one of the most reliable expressions of ageing and is also a good indicator of obesity and general mortality risk.”

The study found a formula consisting of complex dietary supplements that had absolutely remarkable effects in mice, increasing the activity of mitochondria cells, the cellular power plants, and making it “cleaner”. It’s “emissions” from these power plants that cause the aging process, and finding a way to control these emissions is one of the key elements in the ageing process.

Ingredients included vitamins B1, C, D, E, acetylsalicylic acid, beta carotene, folic acid, garlic, ginger root, ginkgo biloba, ginseng, green tea extract, magnesium, melatonin, potassium, cod liver oil and more. The administration method consisted of bagel bits soaked in this formula. The method showed promising results, and researchers are now working on making it more efficient, because the issue is more important than just delaying gray hair.

“For aging humans maintaining zestful living into later years may provide greater social and economic benefits than simply extending years of likely decrepitude,” Rollo says. “This study obtained a truly remarkable extension of physical function in old mice, far greater than the respectable extension of longevity that we previous documented. This holds great promise for extending the quality of life or ‘health span’ of humans.”