Friday, August 31, 2012

Introducing Microgreens: Younger, And Maybe More Nutritious, Vegetables

We've come to accept the baby-fication of our vegetables – baby spinach, baby lettuce, and baby squash prized for their tenderness and cute size have all staked out territory in the produce section of many a grocery store.

 Now, growers (and a few inventive chefs) have decided we need vegetables that are even more juvenile than babies — seedlings so small, and so young, they're called microgreens. The advantages of these tiny leaves less than 14 days old are many, their proponents say. They make vibrantly hued garnishes to salads, sandwiches and soups. And whether they're spinach, pea, beet or purple mustard, microgreens are rumored to pack even more nutrients that their adult versions.

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Severe Diet Doesn’t Prolong Life, at Least in Monkeys

For 25 years, the rhesus monkeys were kept semi-starved, lean and hungry. The males’ weights were so low they were the equivalent of a 6-foot-tall man who tipped the scales at just 120 to 133 pounds. The hope was that if the monkeys lived longer, healthier lives by eating a lot less, then maybe people, their evolutionary cousins, would, too. Some scientists, anticipating such benefits, began severely restricting their own diets.

 The results of this major, long-awaited study, which began in 1987, are finally in. But it did not bring the vindication calorie restriction enthusiasts had anticipated. It turns out the skinny monkeys did not live any longer than those kept at more normal weights. Some lab test results improved, but only in monkeys put on the diet when they were old. The causes of death — cancer, heart disease — were the same in both the underfed and the normally fed monkeys.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Fifty and fit means fewer chronic diseases after 65

Here's a message that every one of those derisive "Turning 50?" birthday cards ought to carry: A new study finds that those who are most fit at midlife suffer the fewest chronic diseases after the age of 65 and boost the number of years they will live healthy lives.

It does not, alas, make them live much longer.

 Those are the findings of research published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine. It's based on 18,670 men and women who, at around their 50th birthday in 1984, were completely healthy as they underwent a battery of measurements and fitness tests at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, Texas. After these participants were enrolled at 65 in Medicare, the federal health plan for the seniors, the researchers tracked their health for a 10-year period up to 2010.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Food Waste Is Overwhelming. Here Are Five Things People Are Doing About It

The food world is buzzing today about the latest news on just how often we waste perfectly good food. And we admit, the statistics are pretty depressing.

 About 40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten. The average American consumer wastes 10 times as much food as someone in Southeast Asia — up 50 percent from Americans in the 1970s. Yet, 1 in 6 Americans doesn't have enough to eat, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And food waste costs us about $165 billion a year and sucks up 25 percent of our freshwater supply. 

That's all according to the report with the not-so-subtle title, "Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill," just released by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Child eating disorders on the rise

Swimming outdoors, playing with the family pet and enjoying an ice cream cone -- that is the summer life of a typical 9-year-old girl.

Not for Sarah Smith. As a child, Smith (whose name has been changed to protect her privacy) formed habits that would eventually lead her to develop both bulimia and anorexia nervosa, both of which she is still dealing with today.

Smith remembers her parents using food in a reward-punishment system. When she was good, she got treats; if she was bad, snacks were forbidden.

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Kids Ditching Full-Sugar Soda For Diet Drinks, Just Like Mom And Dad

Diet soda, once the soft drink of choice for adults watching their calories, isn't just for grown ups anymore. Increasingly, kids are getting their fix, too.

 In fact, consumption of diet drinks has doubled among U.S. children over a decade. About 1 in 4 of adults drink low-calorie or no-calorie sweetened drinks and foods. And for children: Six percent were consuming diet drinks in 1999-2000. This increased to 12.5 percent in 2007-2008. The findings were recently published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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Friday, August 24, 2012

30 minutes exercise 'better than an hour of training' for weight loss

Researchers concluded that 30 minutes of daily training was as “equally effective” at shedding the pounds as 60 minutes worth of sweating.

The University of Copenhagen study concluded that sweating for half the time was “enough to turn the tide” for obesity.

The research, published in the American Journal of Physiology, found those who ran, rowed, or cycled for 30 minutes a day lost an average 8lb over a three month period.

In comparison, men who pushed their daily training routine out for an hour lost two pounds less.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cartoon stickers may sway kids' food choices: study

Can Elmo make children like apples?

For children who turn up their noses at fruits and vegetables, slapping a cartoon face on a healthy snack may make those choices more appealing, according to a U.S. study.

Researchers, whose findings appeared in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, discovered that when elementary school students were offered apples and cookies with lunch, children were more likely to opt for an apple when it was branded with a cartoon sticker - such as one of the "Sesame Street" character Elmo.

 "If we're trying to promote healthier foods, we need to be as smart as the companies that are selling the less-healthy foods," said David Just, co-director of the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Program, who worked on the study.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Antibiotics Too Soon May Set Babies Up for Obesity: Study

Giving your baby antibiotics too early may increase their chances of being overweight in childhood, new research suggests.

 Specifically, infants exposed to antibiotics during the first six months of their lives are 22 percent more likely to be overweight between the ages of 10 months and 3 years -- though their weight tends to return to average by the time they are 7 -- according to a study published in the International Journal of Obesity on Tuesday.

 This effect on the child's body mass appears to be dependent upon the timing of the antibiotics. The exposure to antibiotics later in childhood -- while the child is between six months and 3 years old -- is not associated with increased body mass.

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Saving Lives In Africa With The Humble Sweet Potato

A regular old orange-colored sweet potato might not seem too exciting to many of us.

 But in parts of Africa, that sweet potato is very exciting to public health experts who see it as a living vitamin A supplement. A campaign to promote orange varieties of sweet potatoes in Mozambique and Uganda (instead of the white or yellow ones that are more commonly grown there) now seems to be succeeding. (Check out this cool infographic on the campaign.) It's a sign that a new approach to improving nutrition among the world's poor might actually work.

 That approach is called biofortification: adding crucial nutrients to food biologically, by breeding better varieties of crops that poor people already eat.

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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Largest-Ever Survey on Global Tobacco Use Issues Dire Warnings

Nearly half of all men and more than 1 in 10 women use tobacco in many developing countries, and women are starting to smoke at earlier ages, according to the largest survey to date on international tobacco use. If current trends continue, warns the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco could kill a billion people around the world in this century.

 The authors of the new study say the numbers call for urgent changes in tobacco policy and regulation in developing nations. While tobacco use is declining in industrialized countries, it remains strong — or is even increasing — in low- and middle-income countries, a trend the authors attribute to powerful pro-tobacco forces worldwide.

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Study: A Childhood Need for Immediate Gratification Predicts Adult Obesity

In what has become known as "the marshmallow test" of delayed gratification, researchers in the 1960s developed a novel way to measure self-control among children. Having recruited preschoolers from a university daycare, scientists presented each child with one marshmallow. They were then told they could either eat the one they had or wait an unspecified amount of time and be rewarded with an additional marshmallow. Various follow-up studies on delayed gratification have been performed on the results since the project's conclusion. This particular study attempted to determine what correlation, if any, existed between the self-control of the children at age 4 and the rate of obesity among the now adult participants.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Eating walnuts daily may improve sperm quality

Men who are attempting to make the step into fatherhood may benefit from a daily dose of walnuts.

 A new study from UCLA researchers and funded in part by the California Walnut Commission shows that men who ate 75 grams of walnuts - about half a cup - a day for 12 weeks were able to improve the quality of their sperm.

 Approximately 70 million couples deal with subfertility or infertility worldwide, the researchers stated. In 30 to 50 percent of those cases, the problem has to do with the man.

 Researchers asked 58 healthy men between the ages of 21 to 35 to eat half a daily dose of walnuts, while they advised another group of 59 men to avoid eating tree nuts. Most of the men snacked on the walnuts raw, but a few added them into other dishes including grinding them up into hamburgers or mixing them with applesauce and cinnamon.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Lab-grown meat gives food for thought

A burger grown in a laboratory. Sounds like science-fiction? Well up until very recently it probably was but now the prospect of lab-grown meat appearing on our supermarket shelves is closer than ever. 

Synthetic or test-tube meat involves taking a small amount of cells from a living animal and growing it into lumps of muscle tissue in the lab, which can then, in theory, be eaten as meat for human consumption.

 As well avoiding killing animals, scientists believe it could help reduce the environmental impact of meat production. 

The technology to create artificial meat has been around since the turn of the century -- NASA once looked into developing it for their astronauts -- but making an edible and commercially viable product has remained out of reach. It also remains to be seen whether consumers will accept it as an alternative to farm animal-based meat.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Study: Junk food laws may help curb kids' obesity

CHICAGO – U.S. laws strictly curbing school sales of junk food and sweetened drinks may play a role in slowing childhood obesity, according to a study that seems to offer the first evidence such efforts could pay off.

 The results come from the first large U.S. look at the effectiveness of the state laws over time.

 Children in the study gained less weight from fifth through eighth grades if they lived in states with strong, consistent laws versus no laws governing snacks available in schools. Also, children who were overweight or obese in fifth grade were more likely to reach a healthy weight by eighth grade if they lived in states with the strongest laws.

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

School Lunch Milk Cartons Take A Hit In New Ad Campaign

Forget the school vending machine fights. An anti-cheese group says that innocent-looking carton of milk on lunch trays is the real culprit for our children's weight woes.

 The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit group known for bucking conventional nutrition wisdom, advocates for vegan alternatives to dairy. Earlier this year, it unleashed a campaign against milk-based products, showing people grabbing their excess fat and attributing the weight to cheese. Some folks called the campaign "obnoxious and offensive," but with the latest ad tactic, the group seems to have toned things down a bit.

 This time, PCRM is using wholesome-looking families to target school lunches. It wants to replace calcium supplied by milk (popularized for children's diets in order to stave off rickets) with beans, sweet potatoes and figs. Its latest initiative, just launched in the Washington, D.C., metro area, charges milk with unnecessarily upping the saturated fat content of student diets.

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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Most Americans still not getting enough exercise - U.S. study

More American adults are walking regularly but less than half of them exercise enough to improve their health, according to a federal study released on Tuesday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, based on a telephone survey from 2010, found that 62 percent of adults walk 10 minutes or more a week, up from 55.7 percent in 2005.

 However, only 48 percent of adults exercise enough to improve their health, which was up from 42.1 percent in 2005, the CDC said.

 The agency recommends at least 150 minutes per week of aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, which can lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression and some forms of cancer.

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Friday, August 10, 2012

From brain to mouth: The psychology of obesity

Everyone knows that people put on weight because they consume more calories than they burn. But as the medical community struggles to get a handle on obesity in the USA, a growing body of research is delving deeper to find out more about the psychology behind the numbers.

Although people might be inclined to think of nutritionists or dietitians, obesity is "one of the big common public health issues that falls right in the heart of psychology," says psychologist Paul Rozin of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Among a host of questions aimed directly at the psychology of eating are why Americans are eating more than they used to; whether some foods can really be addictive; and whether more people than in the past are genetically predisposed to pack on pounds.

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Looking for Fitness in a Glass of Juice

Many of the Olympians competing in London are juiced — though not in the colloquial sense that someone is doping. Instead, the juice these athletes are imbibing is literal, with beetroot juice and tart cherry juice two of the most popular choices. Growing numbers of elite athletes are turning to these natural beverages to provide what they hope will be a legal performance benefit.

Recent studies, however, raise questions about whether the athletes are necessarily receiving the benefits that they think they are and what that means for the rest of us who’d love to find fitness in a glass.

Beetroot juice, as the name implies, is created from the knotty parts of of a beet. Who first imagined that liquefying beetroots might improve physical performance is unknown. But he or she appears to have been on to something. In a series of studies in the past two years, beetroot juice has been found to enhance certain types of athletic performance. In a representative study published last year, for instance, cyclists who ingested half a liter of beetroot juice before a 2.5-mile or a 10-mile time trial were almost 3 percent faster than when they rode unjuiced. They also produced more power with each pedal stroke.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Buttered Popcorn Flavoring Linked to Alzheimer's

The flavorant that adds buttery taste to foods and a smooth feel to beverages may also trigger Alzheimer's disease, new studies suggest.

 The flavorant, diacetyl, already is linked to lung damage in people who work in microwave popcorn factories. This led many microwave popcorn makers to stop using diacetyl in their products. But now other workers exposed to diacetyl -- and possibly consumers as well -- may face another scary risk. 

University of Minnesota drug-design expert Robert Vince, PhD, and colleagues find that diacetyl causes brain proteins to misfold into the Alzheimer's-linked form called beta amyloid. Moreover, the popcorn butter flavorant can pass through the blood-brain barrier and can inhibit the brain's natural amyloid-clearing mechanisms.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Study finds that avoiding lies can improve your health

Honesty may boost your health, suggests a study that found telling fewer lies benefits people physically and mentally.

Each week for 10 weeks, 110 individuals, ages 18-71, took a lie detector test and completed health and relationship measures assessing the number of major and minor lies they told that week, says lead author Anita Kelly, a psychology professor at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. She presented findings at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, which ended Sunday. 

"When they went up in their lies, their health went down," says Kelly. "When their lies went down, their health improved."

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Monday, August 6, 2012

Use honey to calm coughing in kids

Over-the-counter cold remedies aren’t appropriate for young children -- the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against their use in children under age 6 -- because they’re not effective and may pose health hazards. So what to do for children whose incessant hacking prevents them from getting a good night’s sleep?

Honey may be the perfect remedy, according to a study published in Monday’s issue of the journal Pediatrics. Israeli researchers compared three different honey products against a placebo containing date extract on 300 children ages 1 to 5 with colds and found that giving two teaspoons of honey just before bedtime relieved the frequency and severity of coughing better than the placebo.

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Sunday, August 5, 2012

You Think Beauty Is Skin Deep? You're Not A Chiropractor

When the nation's chiropractors descended on Chicago for a weeklong convention in May 1956, they threw a beauty contest.

The judges crowned Lois Conway, 18, Miss Correct Posture. Second place went to Marianne Caba, 16, according to an account in the Chicago Tribune. Ruth Swenson, 26, came in third.

But this was no ordinary pageant.

"All three were picked not only by their apparent beauty, and their X-rays, but also by their standing posture," the Tribune reported. "Each girl stood on a pair of scales — one foot to each — and the winning trio each registered exactly half her weight on each scale, confirming the correct standing posture."

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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Exercise, meds both help depressed heart patients

(Reuters) - People with heart disease who are also depressed may get as much relief from their depression symptoms with regular exercise as with medication, according to a U.S. study.

 Researchers writing in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that of 101 heart patients with signs of depression, those who exercised for 90 minutes per week and those who started taking Zoloft both improved significantly compared to participants assigned to drug-free placebo pills. 

Pharmaceutical firm Pfizer supplied the Zoloft, known generically as sertraline, and placebos for the study, but researchers said the company was not involved with any other part of it.

 Alan Rozanski, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study, said exercise can be thought of as another "potent tool on the shelf" to fight depression in heart patients.

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Friday, August 3, 2012

Dieting vs. Exercise for Weight Loss

Two groundbreaking new studies address the irksome question of why so many of us who work out remain so heavy, a concern that carries special resonance at the moment, as lean Olympians slip through the air and water, inspiring countless viewers to want to become similarly sleek.

And in a just world, frequent physical activity should make us slim. But repeated studies have shown that many people who begin an exercise program lose little or no weight. Some gain.

To better understand why, anthropologists leading one of the new studies began with a research trip to Tanzania. There, they recruited volunteers from the Hadza tribe, whose members still live by hunting and gathering.

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Pets Can Help Autistic Children Learn to Share and Comfort Others

Some autistic people report feeling more strongly connected to animals than to other people, but a new study suggests that introducing companion animals to autistic children at the right time in life may help with human bonding, too.

 French researchers studied 40 children with autism and their families, examining whether the family had a pet and, if so, when the animal was acquired, and whether the presence or absence of a pet had any influence on the autistic child’s ability to bond. Most households with pets had either dogs or cats, but one family kept a rabbit, and another a hamster. Read more:

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Bloomberg’s Breast-Feeding Plan: Will Locking Up Formula Help New Moms?

There are lots of experts who have lots of opinions about New York City’s new plan to encourage breast-feeding in new moms by urging hospitals not to give them baby formula. Advocates praise the move as a way to limit the influence of formula manufacturers on new mothers. Skeptics wonder whether the policy will shame women who choose not to breast-feed.

 As for my sister-in-law, Rachel, who recently gave birth in a Manhattan hospital to her first child, she knows firsthand how nurses pushing formula can impact an inexperienced mother. After her C-section, a nurse offered to give her newborn a bottle “to make it easier on you.” Exhausted and uncertain, she agreed — even though she’d intended to breast-feed. “I was a new mom,” she said. “I didn’t know what I was doing.”

 Those are exactly the sorts of moms that Mayor Michael Bloomberg hopes to influence with his voluntary Latch On NYC initiative. When it goes into effect in September, nurses in participating hospitals will be instructed not to give formula to babies unless there’s a medical reason to do so or unless moms specifically request it (they’ll first have to listen to a mandatory speech about why breast is best). Formula will be locked away like medication, and staff will be required to sign it out, track its distribution and report those figures to the Health Department, which presumably wants to know whether the new policy will cut formula use citywide. Twenty-seven of the city’s 40 hospitals have agreed to participate.

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