Tuesday, July 31, 2012

More Americans have gluten problems than once thought; but for others, it’s just a food fad

It sounds like an unfolding epidemic: A decade ago, virtually no one in the U.S. seemed to have a problem eating gluten in bread and other foods. Now, millions do.

 Gluten-free products are flying off grocery shelves, and restaurants are boasting of meals with no gluten. Celebrities on TV talk shows chat about the digestive discomfort they blame on the wheat protein they now shun. Some churches even offer gluten-free Communion wafers.

“I don’t know whether there’s more people getting this or that more people are noticing” they have a problem, said the Rev. Richard Allen, pastor at Mamaroneck United Methodist Church, north of New York City.

 Or is it just another food fad?

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Retracting a Plug for Meatless Mondays

The message seemed innocuous enough, coming as it did from the federal agency tasked with promoting sustainable agriculture and dietary health: “One simple way to reduce your environmental impact while dining at our cafeterias,” read a United States Department of Agriculture interoffice newsletter published on its Web site this week, “is to participate in the ‘Meatless Monday’ initiative.”

Thousands of corporate cafeterias, restaurants and schools have embraced the idea of skipping meat on Mondays in favor of vegetarian options, an initiative of the nonprofit Monday Campaign Inc. and the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

 But by Tuesday afternoon, amid outraged Twitter messages by livestock producers and at least one member of Congress, the agency’s “Greening Headquarters Update” had been removed. “U.S.D.A. does not endorse Meatless Monday,” a spokeswoman said in a statement. The newsletter, which covered topics like the installation of energy-efficient lights on the Ag Promenade and recycling goals, “was posted without proper clearance,” the statement said.

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

The 10-Minute Workout, Times Three

“Every four years, the summer Olympics get people excited to exercise,” says Glenn Gaesser, a professor and director of the Healthy Lifestyles Research Center at Arizona State University, who oversaw a new study about exercise and high blood pressure that was inspired in part by the coming games in London.

 The streets and gyms fill with people who, fueled by stories of Olympic success, “run or work out for an hour or more,” Dr. Gaesser says.

But “within a few weeks, most people have quit” and resumed their sedentary lives. “We wanted to see if there were approaches to exercise that would fit more easily into people’s lifestyles, but still be effective” in terms of improving health, he says. Specifically, he and his colleagues hoped to determine whether breaking up exercise into small, manageable segments performed throughout the day would work as well as one longer, continuous bout.

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

McDonald's Food Has A Healthy Glow, At Least In China

Here in the U.S., McDonald's food is not usually considered all that healthy. But in China, it is.

 That's because Chinese consumers trust American brands more than their own, says Shaun Rein, founder of China Market Research, who studies Chinese consumer behavior. Rein says that in China, McDonald's is seen as providing safe and wholesome food.

 Rein talked with NPR's Linda Wertheimer about a new Chinese McDonald's ad campaign. The ad (see screen grab above) uses brightly colored vegetables and rain falling on tomatoes to reinforce McDonald's healthful image in China.

 "They wanted to use nice, healthy, looking food for the Chinese consumer because the Chinese are petrified of the food supply chain," Rein says. Rein reassures us that Chinese consumers know that much of the McDonald's menu is high in fat. And there's no denying that obesity is a growing problem in the China, as it is worldwide.

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Friday, July 27, 2012

The Countries That Work Out The Most (And Least)

As HuffPost reported Tuesday, The Lancet recently released a series of reports on the state of physical activity -- or, more accurately, inactivity -- around the globe. Among the results? One in 10 deaths is now attributable to inactivity. But to find out just how inactive we were, as a species, Brazilian researcher Dr. Pedro C. Hallal from the Universidade Federal de Pelotas, compiled answers to 155 population surveys from 122 countries.

 "In most countries, inactivity rises with age and is higher in women than in men. Inactivity is also increased in high-income countries," Hallal told The Telegraph. It's true that many affluent countries topped the ranking, though countries with great poverty, such as the Dominican Republic and Swaziland, also made it on the list. Also noteworthy were countries that are often associated with healthful lifestlyes: Japan, known for longevity and low cardiovascular disease rates, was in the bottom 25; Brazil, which is known for its strong sports traditions was also on the list; and several Mediterranean countries also associated with healthy eating and lifestyle were represented, including Italy, Spain and Portugal.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Oopsie babies? A third of U.S. births unintended, study finds

More than one-third of U.S. births between 2006 and 2010 were the result of unintended pregnancies, a new government report says. That means the overall rate of unintended births has not changed much since 1982.

The findings showed that in total, 37.1 percent of pregnancies in 2006 to 2010 were unintended; the rate in 1982 was 36.5 percent. The rate rose to 39.1 in 1988, before falling to 30.6 in 1995.

 Reducing the rate of unintended births is important because these births bring social, economic and health consequences for the mother and child, the researchers said. Women who become pregnant unintentionally have higher rates of delaying prenatal care, smoking during pregnancy and not breast-feeding. Studies show these births are also associated with poorer health during childhood, and poorer outcomes for the mother and the mother-child relationship, according to the report.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Inactivity 'killing as many as smoking'

A lack of exercise is now causing as many deaths as smoking across the world, a study suggests.

 The report, published in the Lancet to coincide with the build-up to the Olympics, estimates that about a third of adults are not doing enough physical activity, causing 5.3m deaths a year.

 That equates to about one in 10 deaths from diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and breast and colon cancer. Researchers said the problem was now so bad it should be treated as a pandemic.

 And they said tackling it required a new way of thinking, suggesting the public needed to be warned about the dangers of inactivity rather than just reminded of the benefits of being active.

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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Stressful Jobs Put Strain on Women's Hearts, Study Says

A new study found that women who rate their jobs as highly demanding and stressful were at an increased risk of heart attack, stroke or dying from heart disease.

 Heart disease is one of the leading killers of both men and women, and scientists have identified stress as one major risk factor that can damage the heart.

But Dr. Michelle Albert, one of the study's authors, said most of the previous research on stress and strain at work has focused on how they affect men's hearts. "We're all stressed out, but we're talking about strain or stress that's above and beyond the body's ability to handle it," Albert said.

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A Fresh Look at What School Menus Can Be

With the authority of a celebrity chef, Adam Fisher gestured toward the bushels of fresh basil, oregano and parsley sitting on the counter in front of him, as the crowd leaned forward.

 “We almost want to treat fresh herbs like we treat fresh flowers,” he commanded, speaking into a microphone clipped to his apron. “You want to snip off the ends, and ideally you want to store them in some water.”

 Mr. Fisher may not be some fast-talking TV personality, but he is a chef, a food supervisor for the Denver Public Schools, and he was giving a demonstration on how to whip up cafeteria food — in this case, cucumber and pasta salads — from scratch.

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Hot Or Not? Potato Board Tries To Un-Dud The Spud

It may not be obvious to the average shopper or diner, but the potato is an embattled vegetable. Yes, the simple spud, so ubiquitous, so unassuming, may be in need of a makeover.

 That's at least the view of the U.S. Potato Board, the organization responsible for marketing American potatoes here at home and abroad.

"The potato has been in a rut," Meredith Myers, spokeswoman for the U.S. Potato Board, tells The Salt.

 This week, the board gave the spud a star turn with a seven-course dinner in Washington, D.C., at an upscale restaurant in the tony Cleveland Park neighborhood.

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

F.D.A. Makes It Official: BPA Can’t Be Used in Baby Bottles and Cups

WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that baby bottles and children’s drinking cups could no longer contain bisphenol A, or BPA, an estrogen-mimicking industrial chemical used in some plastic bottles and food packaging.

 Manufacturers have already stopped using the chemical in baby bottles and sippy cups, and the F.D.A. said that its decision was a response to a request by the American Chemistry Council, the chemical industry’s main trade association, that rules allowing BPA in those products be phased out, in part to boost consumer confidence.

 But the new prohibition does not apply more broadly to the use of BPA in other containers, said an F.D.A. spokesman, Steven Immergut. He said the decision did not amount to a reversal of the agency’s position on the chemical. The F.D.A. declared BPA safe in 2008, but began expressing concerns about possible health risks in 2010.

 Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods at the agency, said the decision simply codified what the industry was already doing based on the preference of consumers and did not reflect concerns about the safety of BPA in baby bottles or toddler’s cups.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Couch Potato Goes Global

Last month, researchers affiliated with the World Health Organization and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine reported that, worldwide, people’s waistlines are expanding, with the total combined weight of human beings on Earth now exceeding 287 million tons. About 3.5 million tons of that global human biomass is due to obesity, a third of which exists in North America, although we account for only 6 percent of the world’s population.

 The study was widely publicized, especially after the BBC used its findings to develop a diverting online tool that lets users compare their biomass to that of people in other nations. (I learned that I have the B.M.I. of your average, middle-aged Eritrean.)

 The study, however, did not address possible underlying causes of the ever-growing weight of nations.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Some Athletes Reject High-Tech Sports Fuel In Favor Of Real Food

As the world's greatest athletes gear up for the 2012 Olympic Games in London this month, viewers like us are likely to see a spike in televised ads for sports drinks, nutritional bars, and energy gel — that goop that so many runners and cyclists suck from foil pouches.

 Powerade, in fact, is the official sports drink of the 2012 Olympics, and if it's true what these kinds of ads imply, processed sports foods and neon-colored drinks are the stuff that gold medalists are made of.

But sports nutritionists and pro athletes don't all think so. David Katz, physician and nutrition expert at the Yale University School of Medicine, says sports drinks generally aren't much better than sodas. "[Sports drink companies'] marketing is based on the gimmick that somehow this extra load of sugar and calories will turn you into an athlete," he says.

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Monday, July 16, 2012

More TV Linked to Larger Waists, Weaker Legs for Kids

The more television a child watches, even in the first years of life, the more likely he or she is to be thicker around the middle and less muscularly fit, according to a new study.

 Previous studies have linked lots of television with childhood obesity and other child health detriments, but this study's authors say their report is the first to relate how time in front of the boob tube affects a specific measure of physical fitness, their explosive leg strength, an important asset for sports like soccer, basketball and football.

 Caroline Fitzpatrick, the study's lead author, said the measure isn't just important for children who want to be athletes.

 "Explosive leg strength is an important measure of a child's overall physical fitness, their general muscular fitness," she said.

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Anxiety over fears may speed up aging in women

You may have heard that worrying can give you wrinkles, but a new study shows anxiety may actually accelerate aging in people on a molecular level.

 Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston looked at blood samples collected from more than 5,000 women between the ages of 42 and 69, who were part of the data pool from the long-running Nurses' Health Study that examines aging and disease in women.

 They were looking for the length of the women's telomeres, DNA-protein molecules that protect the tips of chromosomes within cells, guarding genetic information and stopping them from deteriorating. Studies have shown telomeres may be a predictive marker for aging and longevity.

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Weight-Loss Keys: Food Journals, Eating In, Not Skipping Meals

If you are trying to lose weight, adopting three key strategies will boost your chances of success, new research suggests.

 Keep a food journal, avoid eating out often and don't skip meals.

 "Greater food-journal use predicted better weight-loss outcomes, whereas skipping meals and eating out more frequently were associated with less weight loss," writes Dr. Anne McTiernan, a research professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle. In the new study, she and her colleagues looked at a wide range of behaviors and meal patterns to evaluate what works and what doesn't.

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Newly Identified 'Beige Fat' Cells Could Help Fight Obesity

Looking to slim down? Then beige is your color, at least as far as fat is concerned. 

Scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have isolated a new type of energy-burning cell known as "beige fat," which they say may have therapeutic potential for aiding weight loss and treating obesity in adults.

 According to a new report published in the journal Cell, beige fat is scattered in pea-size deposits beneath the skin near the collarbone and along the spine. But rather than storing excess calories in the form of jiggly thighs and a jelly belly as blubbery-and-prolific white fat does, this type of fat is a calorie burner.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Quitting smoking adds even more pounds than thought: study

Quitting smoking leads to an average weight gain of four to five kilogrammes (nine to 11 pounds) in the first year -- "significantly" more than previously thought, a study said Wednesday.

Most of the pounds are piled on in the first three months, a team of medical researchers wrote in the online journal bmj.com, as another group stressed that the health benefits of quitting far outweighed the risks of putting on weight.

For quitters who did not use nicotine replacement therapy, the average weight gain was 1.1 kilos at one month, 2.3 kilos at two, 2.9 kilos at three, 4.2 kilos at six months and 4.7 kilos after a year.

This was "substantially higher than the 2.9 kg often quoted in smoking cessation advice leaflets," wrote the team from universities and medical research facilities in France and Britain.

"Moreover, this mean weight gain is greater than the 2.3 kg gain that female smokers report being willing to tolerate, on average, before embarking on a quit attempt."

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Monday, July 9, 2012

For healthier kids, get a cat or dog, study suggests

Kids who grow up with cats or dogs tend to get fewer respiratory infections during their first year of life, according to a new study from Finland.

Researchers followed 397 children from pregnancy through their first year of life, and found that those living with dogs developed 31 percent fewer respiratory tract symptoms or infections, 44 percent fewer ear infections and received 29 percent fewer antibiotic prescriptions.

Contact with cats was also linked with fewer infections, but the effect was not as drastic as contact with dogs — for example, infants living with cats were 2 percent less likely to need antibiotics.

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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Bring back the tasty tomatoes

A new study in the journal Science reveals that when growers began breeding tomatoes for color, they were unwittingly breeding against flavor.

 When chicken farmers switched from using mostly corn feed to other grains, the chickens changed too. Their skin was white instead of yellow. For a while, poultry producers added color to the feed to make the chickens look the way they used to, but when skinless chicken breasts became a popular diet food, customers got used to the sight of white chicken and producers dropped the coloring.

 Food shoppers are finicky about the colors of their food, and the agriculture industry races to anticipate their desires. But sometimes the industry moves too fast. One example: tomatoes imbued with the deepest red color but, as a result, little flavor.

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Saturday, July 7, 2012

5 grilling mistakes that pose a danger to your health

Odd grilling mishaps have been making the news lately. Several people were injured from swallowing the bristles of grill brushes that became imbedded in their burgers and steaks, requiring surgical removal, according to a recent report from a Rhode Island hospital that saw six such cases. The report was published this week in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s journal.

 And did you hear about the guy from Stow who said he caught on fire back in May after spraying on sunscreen and then approaching his grill? Most likely, he sprayed the sunscreen on while standing directly in front of the grill, said Dr. Joshua Kosowsky, clinical director of emergency medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “The idea that you can be flammable just by wearing sunscreen that’s been on already is probably false,” he said, but any aerosol spray you use near a grill can turn into a blowtorch.

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Friday, July 6, 2012

At Movies and Beaches, Soda Industry Makes Its Case

Beachgoers who flocked to the Rockaways and Coney Island on the Fourth of July were able to wash down their hot dogs with any size sugary drinks they desired.

 But an airborne banner carried above the city’sbeachesdelivered a succinct message that those carefree days could be coming to an end: “NO DRINK 4 U.”

 The text-friendly banner, dragged by a tiny prop plane, came courtesy of New Yorkers for Beverage Choices, a group created by the American soft-drink industry to fight Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s proposal to restrict sales of large sodas in New York City.

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

High-Protein Diet Is Linked to Heart Risks

A low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet may increase the risk for cardiovascular disease, according to a large study in Swedish women.

 The study, published in the journal BMJ, was based on a random sample of 43,396 women ages 30 to 49, each of whom completed a dietary questionnaire. The researchers used the data to create a 20-point scale, with higher scores indicating a lower ratio of carbohydrates to protein.

 During an average of 15 years of follow-up, there were 1,270 cardiac events, mostly ischemic heart disease and strokes. After controlling for numerous risk factors, the researchers found that women had a 5 percent increase in cardiovascular events for each increase of 2 points on the scale. (That translates into a daily 20-gram decrease in carbohydrates and a 5-gram increase in protein.)

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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Picky Eater Who Came to Dinner

No one would touch it.

The offending object? A footlong loaf of bread, stuffed with savory cheese, purchased at a beloved Italian bakery and presented with pride at a recent potluck meal. “This bread is delicious,” I crowed.

The kitchen went quiet. You’d think I had offered up a bouquet of poison ivy. One guest said she was gluten free. Another didn’t consume milk products. The mood lifted only when someone else arrived with a large bowl of quinoa and lentils.

 It’s becoming harder for Americans to break bread together. Our appetites are stratified by an ever-widening array of restrictions: gluten free, vegan, sugar free, low fat, low sodium, no carb, no dairy, soyless, meatless, wheatless, macrobiotic, probiotic, antioxidant, sustainable, local and raw.

Though medical conditions like celiac disease and severe allergies have long relegated a small percentage of diners to rigid diets, more and more eaters outside this group appear to be experimenting with self-imposed limits, taking a do-it-yourself, pick-and-choose approach to restricting what they consume.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

When Ice Cream Attacks: The Mystery of Brain Freeze

If it hasn't happened to you, count yourself as lucky. For many people, eating ice cream or drinking an icy drink too fast can produce a really painful headache. It usually hits in the front of the brain, behind the forehead.

 The technical name for this phenomenon is cold-stimulus headache, but people also refer to it as "ice cream headache" or "brain freeze."

The good news is that brain freeze is easy to prevent — just eat more slowly. The other bit of good news is these headaches don't last very long — a minute at the outside. 

Jorge Serrador studies brain freeze headaches, not just because he wants to make the world a safer place for ice cream eaters, but also for what they can tell him about how and why the headaches occur. He's hoping that will lead to better ways to treat or prevent them.

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Monday, July 2, 2012

Chronic Pain May Depend on Emotional Reaction to Injury

Whether a person's injury will lead to chronic pain may depend on the level of communication between two parts of their brain, a new study finds.

According to the report, published in the current issue of Nature Neuroscience, brain regions related to emotional and motivational behavior seem to communicate more in those who develop chronic pain.

"For the first time, we can explain why people who may have the exact same initial pain either go on to recover or develop chronic pain," senior study author A. Vania Apkarian, a professor of physiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, said in a university news release.

"The injury by itself is not enough to explain the ongoing pain," Apkarian added. "It has to do with the injury combined with the state of the brain."

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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Midwife Mania? More U.S. Babies than Ever Are Delivered by Midwives

In other developed nations, midwives are routinely tasked with bringing new life into the world. Not so in the U.S., where delivery is largely presided over by obstetricians. But a new study finds that midwives are getting busier, delivering 8.1% of the country’s babies in 2009 — a record high.

 Slice the data differently and the proportion rises even further. Consider vaginal births only — midwives don’t do cesarean sections — and the figure rises to 12.1%, or about one of every eight deliveries, according to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

 “If this trend continues, it will bring us more in line with the rest of the world in giving midwives a central role in prenatal care and birth,” says study author Eugene Declercq, professor of community-health sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health. “Given that other countries have lower costs and better outcomes, it would be a positive thing for this country.”

 Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2012/06/25/midwife-mania-more-u-s-babies-than-ever-are-delivered-by-midwives/#ixzz1zBt9l2Mb