Paleo diet effective for weight loss

The popular Paleo diet plan is more effective for weight loss than previously thought, research finds.

A Paleo diet encourages consumption of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, nuts and eggs, and is based on foods presumed to be available to Paleolithic humans. Legumes, processed oils and dairy products are banned.

As part of research into the diet, experts from Australia’s Edith Cowan University (ECU) put 39 healthy women on either a standard diet or a Paleo regime for four weeks. Following the trial, lead researcher Angela Genoni said women on the Paleo diet lost an average of two kilograms (4.4 pounds) more over the period than the standard diet control group.

“While both groups lost weight over the period, the Paleo group lost an average of 4.3 per cent of their body weight over the testing period, compared to 1.6 per cent for the recommended dietary guidelines group,” she said, according to ABC News.

Those on the standard diet were asked to increase vegetable and fruit intake and whole grain products, reduce fat intake, and consume low fat dairy products.

“Advice was also given to reduce intake of discretionary food items, such as cakes, biscuits, sugary drinks and candy,” the report noted.

Researchers also compared the impact of the diets on cardiovascular health and found no significant difference between the two diets. But as the long-term health effects of eating a Paleo diet remain unclear, and despite the weight loss on a Paleo diet, they were careful not to advocate for any diet that cuts out whole food groups.

For instance, the researchers found that while the reduction in carbohydrate consumption did not impact on fiber intake in the Paleolithic group, significant reductions in thiamin, riboflavin and calcium levels were noted.

“Significantly, the Paleo diet markedly reduces the calcium intake relative to the (standard healthy guidelines) diet because it excludes all dairy products, which could have a negative impact on bone strength, particularly in older people,” Genoni said.

The researchers are planning further studies to investigate the impact of the Paleo diet on gut heath as well as to assess the impact of such diets over a longer term.

The study results were first published in the Nutrients journal.

Sweeteners may cause type 2 diabetes

Those who swap sugar for artificial sweeteners are more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, a new study has found.

While the sweet alternatives may contain less calories and aid weight loss, they have been linked to changing gut bacteria, which could cause glucose intolerance.

Data on 2,856 U.S. adults from the Third National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES III) was looked at, with participants noting down their diet in the last 24 hours. They were split into groups who consumed artificial sweeteners (aspartame or saccharin) and consumers of natural sugars (sugar or fructose).

From the results, it was discovered that those who ate artificial sweeteners – aspartame or saccharin – had a slightly higher BMI level (28 vs. 27), and these individuals were more likely to be women.

“Our study shows individuals with obesity who consume artificial sweeteners, particularly aspartame, may have worse glucose management than those who don’t take sugar substitutes,” Professor Jennifer Kuk, of York University in Toronto, said.

Sweeteners can be found in everything from fizzy drinks to chewing gum and yoghurt. Type 2 diabetes comes about when a person’s blood sugar level becomes too high, which in this case was measured by the ability to manage blood sugars using an oral glucose tolerance test.

Professor Kuk notes that the damage in health wasn’t found in those who consumed saccharin or natural sugars, suggesting that the obesity reduction from sweeteners isn’t enough to justify the health problems caused by them.

However, the expert notes things need to be checked further, adding: “More research is needed to better understand the weight-management benefits of artificial sweetener consumption over natural sugars against the potential increased diabetes risk, particularly for those with obesity.”

The study is published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.

Invest in your relationships

All of us need to seek comfort and support from others from time to time, whether we have a huge circle of friends or a few close confidants. As with many aspects of modern life, however, it is easy to dismiss what we all know will aid our general wellbeing.

New research released by the Mental Health Foundation to mark Mental Health Awareness Week (16-22May16) shows that people regard maintaining healthy relationships as the most important factor to their wellbeing than eating healthily, exercising or avoiding negative habits including smoking combined. However, 46 per cent of the 2,000 adults in the U.K. who participated in the survey also admitted they regret not investing more time in their relationships – a figure which alarmingly hits 50 per cent among men.

As part of their guide to investing in relationships, the Mental Health Foundation sets out several key ways people can stave off loneliness and create more supportive relationships which protect both the mind and body.

Give time

Make active attempts to schedule in time to connect with friends and family when possible.

Be present

It can be tempting to check your phone, social media messages or work emails when spending time with family and friends. But try to be present in the moment and be there for your loved ones by switching out of work mode wherever possible.

Listen

Actively listen to what others are saying in a non-judgmental way and concentrate on their needs in that moment.

Be listened to

Share how you are feeling, honestly, and allow yourself to be listened and supported.

Recognize unhealthy relationships

Being around positive people can make us happier. However, our wellbeing can be negatively affected by harmful relationships leaving us despondent. Recognizing this can help us move forward and find solutions to issues.

Make your relationships resolution

The Mental Health Foundation is encouraging people to make a relationship resolution this week (ends22May16). Those who sign up on their website will receive a text on New Year’s Eve to check their progress and prompt them to continue their efforts into 2017.

Cut potatoes, cut high blood pressure risk

Potatoes are one of life’s greatest comfort foods, and whether you have them mashed, baked or fried, a helping of spuds really rounds a meal off nicely. However in recent years we’ve cut back on the humble potato because of waistline worries, culling carbs wherever possible. But new research suggests that as well as being a diet disaster, eating too many potatoes can also result in high blood pressure. In fact scientists from Boston’s Harvard Medical School said eating potatoes four times a week could be putting people in harm’s way.

The team, who published their results in the British Medical Journal, looked at data from three large American studies that had taken place over 20 years, involving 187,000 men and women. Women were found to have a slightly higher risk than men, but both sexes had an 11 per cent increased risk of high blood pressure if they consumed potatoes four or more times a week, compared to those who ate the food source less than once a month.

The risk got even greater in those who specifically ate fries four or more times a week, jumping up to 17 per cent.

However those who regularly tucked into crisps weren’t affected, though salt intake wasn’t measured.

The team concludes it’s all to do with the high glycaemic index of starchy potatoes, which quickly turns into sugars in the body, making blood sugar levels spike. Over time this can lead to severe problems including stroke, dementia and heart disease. High blood pressure can cause blood vessels to become damaged and weakened, and can also cause blood clots in the arteries leading to the brain, blocking blood flow.

“These findings have potentially important public health ramifications, as they do not support a potential benefit from the inclusion of potatoes as vegetables in government food programmes, but instead support a harmful effect that is consistent with adverse effects of high carbohydrate intakes seen in controlled feeding studies,” study authors said.

Replacing potatoes as often as possible with non-starchy vegetables is advised.

Make your break from booze easy

After a heavy weekend, or seven nights of drinking while on holiday, you may have decided to take a break from alcohol and give your body a well-needed rest.

It’s a tough feat though as you work out how to avoid the booze train in social situations, or after a stressful week at work. That’s why we’ve got some tips on how to make the process easier for you, as well as enjoyable.

See it as a challenge

If it’s not Dry January, you’re not pregnant or not ill, people may quiz you on why you’ve decided to do such a thing – especially with summer arriving soon. Don’t be afraid to tell your friends and family that you’ve set yourself a challenge, and that you need their help in completing it. Keep your response to ‘You’re not drinking?!’ brief, and if someone offers to buy you a beverage be confident in ordering a soft drink or coffee – you’ll feel better in the morning!

Make non-boozy plans

Not all your social events have to take place in a bar. When the weather is nice why not meet a friend in the park for a catch up, or stop by that exhibition you’ve wanted to see for months? Not only will you forget about your non-drinking regime, but you’ll feel a lot more cultured too. And if you’re single, you may even strike up an interesting, sober conversation with a potential beau. No beer goggles here!

Remind yourself of why you stopped

Whether you’ve quit for good or are taking some time out, during moments of weakness remind yourself of the reasons why you came to that decision. List them out, say them aloud or talk to someone else about them for reassurance. While at it, replace your drinking with something else that will benefit you personally. For example, use the time and money you used to put into buying alcohol into a gym class or sign up to an evening course.

Slip ups don’t mean failure

Everyone is prone to weaknesses, so if you do happen to have a sip or two while trying to go dry, don’t beat yourself up about it. Brush off your slip up, recover from it and move on – it’s not the end of the world!

How to stay healthy while traveling

While most of us love a relaxing holiday or travel abroad, one of the downsides to racking up those frequent flier miles is that it is harder to sustain healthy habits.

With routine abandoned, food in abundance and less access to the gym, the motivation to pound the pavement and burn off those extra calories typically goes out the window.

But with the summer travel season just around the corner, we’ve compiled some top tips to staying healthy while traveling.

Avoid mindless eating on the plane

When traveling on long-haul flights it’s pretty easy to fall into the trap of mindlessly eating what is put in front of you, with food becoming a time occupier. In a blog post, nutritional biochemist and author Dr Libby Weaver encourages people to simply eat when they are hungry and not feel bad about turning down meals when offered by flight staff. She also advises people avoid coffee and alcohol, as these can dehydrate you further. Another good way to prioritize your diet is to pack your snacks ahead of time. While it may take a bit of extra planning, not only will you feel better when you land, you’ll avoid shelling out on bland airport meals.

Drink vegetable juices or smoothies

As soon as you land, grab a fresh vegetable juice to top your body up with added nutrition. If vegetable juice isn’t on offer, look for a fruit juice or smoothie which is high in vitamin C or citrus fruits, in order to support your immune system after draining air-conditioned flights. Food blogger Ella Woodward also recommends packing a travel blender when going on a trip so you can pick up local fruits and nuts, as well as some spinach and whizz up a quick smoothie each morning. It’s also a good idea to travel with a vitamin C supplement for a further boost.

Go for walks

When flying or on train journeys, it is import to move whenever possible, and simply walking up and down the aisles should do the trick. While sitting make sure you flex your ankles at regular intervals and moves your legs to keep the blood flowing. When you reach your destination, drop your bags and go for a quick tour around the town – this has the dual benefit of acclimatizing you to your surroundings and is a great way to incorporate movement.

Rest when you need it

While it is important to move and stay active when traveling long distances, rest is also vital. Dr Weaver suggests scheduling rest periods into your date, especially when on business trips, just as you would arrange any other appointment. Accordingly, when you get busy, you’ll always have that reminder when it is time for a break.

Do you know the ‘hidden’ symptoms of asthma?

While most people recognize wheezing as a sign of asthma, far fewer realize that chest pain or trouble sleeping may also indicate breathing trouble, survey results show.

A national survey in the U.S., has found that there are many misconceptions about the respiratory condition and many people are in the dark about some of its less obvious symptoms.

Commissioned by National Jewish Health, a leading pulmonary research center based in Denver, Colorado, the survey asked 1,002 adults across the country to identify potential signs of asthma.

While most correctly labelled shortness of breath and wheezing, more than one-third failed to identify persistent coughing as a symptom, and they fared even worse when it came to chest pain and trouble sleeping.

“A lot of people have asthma and don’t know it. Many adults do not have the traditional asthma symptoms, or they don’t have all of the symptoms,” said Dr David Beuther in a statement. “It’s not rare that your asthma doesn’t present like the textbook. It’s actually more common than most people realize. To the patient or perhaps the primary care provider, things that seem like a very unusual set of symptoms for asthma are actually quite common. That is why you often need a specialist to diagnose and treat it.”

Dr. Beuther said that in the U.S. one in every 200 adults are diagnosed with asthma every year. And while children with the disease might have more common symptoms, adults who develop asthma typically have some of the less recognized symptoms.

“As a pulmonologist, I see people with symptoms that aren’t yet defined like difficulty breathing, cough and episodes of recurring bronchitis. When we first embark on trying to figure out what that is, I often mention that one of the big three causes of chronic cough, for example, is asthma. And it’s more common than not that my patient is surprised to hear that a chronic cough or recurring bronchitis is actually asthma,” he explained.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8.6 per cent of children in the U.S., or 6.3 million, currently have asthma, compared to 7.4 per cent of all adults, or 17.7 million. In the U.K., around 5.4 million people are currently receiving treatment for asthma.

While there is no cure for asthma, there are a number of treatments that can help control the condition.

Ways to wake up without coffee

A ringing alarm clock spells dread in the morning whether you have to get ready for work or something more relaxed.

And while many of us rely on caffeine to help get us going, if you’re looking to cut back on your consumption or have never been a big fan of the beverage’s acquired taste, check out some other ways to help invigorate your sleepy mornings.

Find the light

In a new AsapScience video, researchers explain that it is important to “find the light” in order to properly wake up your body. This can be achieved by opening curtains, having a quick step outside or using an illuminating alarm clock to slowly fill your bedroom with light if you need to get up before sunrise. Exposure to light is an important part of waking up, as it helps your body produce less melatonin, a hormone secreted in the brain that plays a major role in regulating sleep.

Cold blast

A sure fire way to make you feel alive is by taking a warm shower and ending it with a blast of cold water. Experts have found that the shock of a cold shower can increase your metabolic rate and can cut down on feelings of fatigue. While this may seem a little harsh at first, perhaps try getting clean with warm water, then gradually turning the temperature down a notch for the final minute.

Rehydrate

If you’re not a morning person, have two glasses of water right after you wake up. It will boost your blood pressure to normal levels, and it’s better than having your first coffee on an empty stomach. Drinking water before eating anything is also a good way to purify your internal system, remembering that 70 per cent of the human body content is water.

Listen to music

Listening to music can increase blood pressure, release dopamine throughout the body to activate positive feelings and make your pupils dilate. Set up an a.m. playlist packed with your favourite energising tunes and play it while getting ready. Researchers suggest listening to upbeat music when you’re making breakfast and turning to Bach concertos or Handel’s Water Music when you can’t concentrate on your commute.

Drink orange juice

Sipping orange juice can also give you a boost in the morning as the citrus fruits are rich in flavonoids. Flavonoids have been linked to slowing cognitive decline from aging, with orange juice also said to increase alertness and brain function. Orange juice also has impressive vitamin C content, with each serving giving a significant portion of the daily recommended value. Vitamin C is responsible for forming collagen, the protein required to produce ligaments, blood vessels, scar tissue, skin and tendons.

Get active

Researchers suggest doing physical activity first thing in the morning can help make you more alert, as it increases blood flow and provides more oxygen to the brain. Heading outside for a morning run may be the last thing you want to do while lying comfortably under the covers, but lacing up your sneakers and doing a burst of exercise, for as little as seven minutes, will release endorphins that’ll boost your mood and energy levels.

Drinking really does make you happy

The sun’s out, it’s Friday and what do we want to do? Head straight to a beer garden of course. Well good news lager lovers and prosecco pros – drinking alcohol does make you happier. Yipee! The rush of good feelings is only short term though, so don’t get too carried away just yet.

Researchers from Britain’s University of Kent and University of Sussex focused on how people’s happiness and drinking change over time, publishing findings in Social Science and Medicine.

The team used two experiments to get their results; the first involved a test group of 30 to 42-year-olds, and using traditional survey methods they looked at how often the participants drank and changes in mood. For this group, no relationship was found between drinking and long-term happiness, however it was discovered that when someone was suffering from an alcohol problem there was a negative impact.

The second study yielded completely different results, and relied on an iPhone app to collate findings. This test group attracted a younger age group, and it was concluded that there was a “strong and consistent” relationship between happiness levels and drinking. But these good feelings only happen in the moment, and are not long lasting.

Study authors Dr Ben Baumberg Geiger and Dr George MacKerron hope their work will influence how governments review the cost-benefit analyses of alcohol regulation.

The findings come hot on the heels of the latest prosecco news. It was widely reported that because of the increased popularity in the Italian sparkling wine and a rain-affected growing season in 2014, there may be a shortage of the fizz. However after a bumper harvest of grapes used to make the trendy tipple, it’s expected that production will be up 50 per cent.

Obesity could be contagious

Obesity may be something that can be caught by another person in a similar way that a contagious bug is spread, scientists have found.

A new study conducted by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute found that an imbalance of bacteria in the gut can lead to a number of conditions, including obesity, irritable bowel syndrome and even allergies. For the first time in history, experts have found evidence that traces of bacteria can survive outside the anatomy, suggesting it could be passed between people. If this gut microbiome has a negative impact on the other person’s body, the problems mentioned above could manifest themselves.

Researchers at the institute found that a third of gut microbiota in a healthy person produced spores – a form of bacterial hibernation which allows some to remain dormant for long periods of time – that can survive in open air. Microbiota transmission had not been considered before now, and means that some health issues and diseases could be passed on rather than passed down through genetics. Around two per cent of an individual’s body weight is linked to bacteria, meaning obesity could be caused by it.

“Being able to cast light on this microbial ‘dark matter’ has implications for the whole of biology and how we consider health,” Dr Trevor Lawley, group leader at the Sanger Institute, said.

“We will be able to isolate the microbes from people with a specific disease, such as infection, cancers or autoimmune diseases, and study these microbes in a mouse model to see what happens.

“Studying our ‘second’ genome, that of the microbiota, will lead to a huge increase in our understanding of basic biology and the relationship between our gut bacteria and health and disease.”

Scientists can now work on a tailor-made treatment with niche beneficial bacteria, as it was always too difficult to study bacteria before now due to it being sensitive to oxygen. Now, they can be cultivated in a laboratory.

Dr Lawley and his team are hoping to create a pill with this new knowledge. Findings were published in Nature.