Latest diet advice: Don’t fear fat

The key to dropping weight is to eat more good fats, claim experts.

For many, the first way to shed some pounds is to start eating a low fat diet, which means calorie counting and cutting out some of life’s most delicious foods.

However, in a new report by the National Obesity Forum and the Public Health Collaboration, it is asserted that a diet high in healthy fats can actually curb the obesity crisis as well as type-2 diabetes, which is fueled by people’s soaring waistlines.

“Eating a diet rich in full-fat dairy – such as cheese, milk and yogurt – can actually lower the chance of obesity,” the report states.

“The most natural and nutritious foods available – meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts, seeds, olives, avocados – all contain saturated fat. The continued demonization of omnipresent natural fat drives people away from highly nourishing, wholesome and health promoting foods.”

The work also suggests avoiding processed food labelled as low fat or similar claims should be avoided, as should sugar, and refined carbohydrates should be consumed in small amounts.

Authors have also called for a return to “whole foods” like meat, fish and dairy and claim full fat dairy can protect the heart.

Professor David Haslam, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, feels current dietary guidelines are deeply flawed.

“Current efforts have failed – the proof being that obesity levels are higher than they have ever been, and show no chance of reducing despite the best efforts of Government and scientists,” he sighed.

Co-author of the report, Aseem Malhotra added: “We must urgently change the message to the public to reverse obesity and type 2 diabetes.

“Eat fat to get slim, don’t fear fat, fat is your friend. It’s now truly time to bring back the fat.”

The report hasn’t gone down well with everyone though, with many from the scientific community slamming the advice.

“The claim that eating fat doesn’t make you fat is absurd. If you eat a lot of fat, you will get fat,” fumed professor Tom Sanders, of King’s College London.

5:2 diet gives same results as less calories overall

You may lose weight in the short-term while on the 5:2 diet, but it’s not more beneficial than cutting your daily calorie intake in a less restrictive manner, a new study has discovered.

The famous 5:2 way of eating sees people tuck into a normal amount of food five days a week, while cutting back dramatically for two days.

Researchers from Austin Health and the University of Melbourne looked into 24 obese male war veterans aged 55-75 for six months, setting them five counselling sessions with a dietitian over this period. While one group when on the U.K. generated 2:5 diet, eating just 600 calories two days a week, the rest cut their usual average of around 2,400 calories a day by 600 calories all week.

It was found that both groups lost body fat and girth, with the calorie-reduced diet group losing an average of 2.3 per cent of their body fat and shedding 6.4cm from their waistlines.

Meanwhile, those on the 5:3 diet came in at around 1.3 per cent and 8cm. After the six months, the mean weight loss of the former group was 12lbs, and 11.6lbs for the 5:2 participants.

“Compliance rates were similar for the two groups, but the 5:2 diet group reported being hungrier, especially early on in the study,” researcher Margie Conley told the Dietitians Association of Australia’s national conference in Melbourne.

“Interestingly, weight loss slowed at the three-month mark for both groups, which was when the dietitian follow-up tapered out, showing support may be the key element in continuing success.”

These findings don’t necessarily mean the 5:2 diet is a fad, but it goes to show that being healthier overall has the same results without the extremes.

Being busy keeps mind sharp

Though most of us complain when our schedules become too busy, new research suggests that being overbooked may actually be beneficial for the brain.

In a study undertaken by researchers at the Center for Vital Longevity at the University of Texas in Dallas, 330 healthy men and women aged between 50 and 89 were surveyed about their daily schedule. They then took part in a long series of neuropsychological tests to measure their cognitive performance.

Accordingly, the results indicated that at any age, and regardless of education, a busier lifestyle is associated with superior processing speed of the brain, working memory, reasoning, and vocabulary. Especially strong is the association between busyness and better episodic memory, being the ability to remember specific events in the past.

“We show that people who report greater levels of daily busyness tend to have better cognition, especially with regard to memory for recently learned information,” said lead author Dr Sara Festini.

One mediating factor accounting for the relationship between busyness and brain activity may be the new learning process, propose the researchers. They say busy people are likely to have more opportunities to learn as they are exposed to more information and encounter a wider range of situations in daily life.

However, Dr Festini and her colleagues warn that the findings don’t prove that “busyness” can make people smarter.

“Living a busy lifestyle appears beneficial for mental function, although additional experimental work is needed to determine if manipulations of busyness have the same effect,” she said in a statement.

The research is part of the Dallas Lifespan Brain Study, one of the most comprehensive studies of age-related changes in cognition and brain function in adults currently underway in the United States.

Director of the Dallas Lifespan Brain Study, Denise Park, said she was hopeful the findings would spur further investigation into the topic.

“We were surprised at how little research there was on busyness, given that being too busy seems to be a fact of modern life for so many,” she said.

The study was first published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

Diabetic mothers more likely to have overweight babies

Diabetic mothers are more likely to have babies who will be fat, new research has found.

Experts at Imperial College London looked at 42 tots whose mums had gestational diabetes and 44 babies from healthy mothers, using MRI scans to compare levels of body fat. These readings were taken not long after birth, then again when the little ones were 10 weeks old.

While there was no difference between the groups during the first scans, after 10 weeks the babies whose mothers had diabetes held 16 per cent high body fat volume than those who didn’t.

Scientists believe this is may be because of the baby’s metabolism in the womb, or due to the differences in the composition of breast milk in those women with diabetes as most of the tots in the experiment were breastfed.

Up to 18 per cent of women giving birth in England and Wales are affected by gestational diabetes, the NHS estimates, with the condition usually developing after 28 weeks during the final trimester. While it disappears when the baby is born, the mothers are more likely to get Type 2 diabetes later in life if they had the condition.

Women with gestational diabetes who are overweight or obese can increase the risk of miscarriage, premature labor or stillbirth.

“Gestational diabetes is becoming more and more common, and babies born to these mothers are at increased risk of developing diabetes when they grow up,” Dr Karen Logan, lead author of the study, said.

“Therefore we need to understand what effects maternal diabetes has on the baby.

“This new study suggests diabetes in the mother can trigger changes in the baby at a very early stage.”

Professor Neena Modi, from the department of medicine at Imperial and president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), also noted: “We found no differences in body fat at birth. However by 10 weeks of age, the babies born to mums with diabetes had accumulated about 16% more fat even though they were predominantly breastfed.

“The importance of this unexpected finding is that the beginnings of obesity are apparent in early infancy in babies born to mothers with diabetes indicating that research targeted at methods to reduce excessive fat deposition in these babies is urgently needed.”

Findings were published in journal Diabetes Care.

Apple juice can help kids get through stomach flu

Apple juice can be just as effective as electrolyte solutions when treating children with stomach bugs, researchers claim.

In small children, the treatment of gastroenteritis usually focuses on replacing fluids lost through diarrhea or vomiting. However, kids often don’t like the taste of electrolyte solutions and they can often be relatively expensive.

Accordingly, University of Calgary researchers have looked in to how the use of diluted apple juice and other fluids may be an alternative to electrolyte solutions given to children suffering from a level of dehydration.

The researchers studied 647 children ages six months to five years old who came to the emergency department with mild dehydration from stomach flu. Half of the group was given half-strength apple juice followed by their favorite drink, while the others received an apple-flavored electrolyte solution.

Twenty five per cent of the children who drank the electrolyte solution still needed intravenous (IV) fluids or other additional treatment, compared to only about 17 per cent of the kids who drank apple juice and their favorite drink.

Results shows that two-year-olds and older children responded best to apple juice, but even the younger group did a little better with apple juice than the electrolyte solution.

“These results challenge the recommendation to routinely administer electrolyte maintenance solution when diarrhea begins,” the researchers said in their analysis.

However, lead author Stephen B. Freedman noted that apple juice isn’t always appropriate and the method to treat dehydration should be evaluated on a case by case basis, taking into consideration those with moderate to severe dehydration or those at risk for electrolyte abnormalities or other significant medical conditions.

The study was first published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Why the sun is good for our bodies

Good news sun worshippers, research from around the world has concluded that a dose of sunny weather really is good for us.

While it’s well known that sun exposure without SPF can result in skin cancer and badly aged skin, researchers from various global institutes have found a whole host of good reasons to get in the summer spirit.

As well as skin creating vitamin D from sunlight, which is essential for healthy bones, scientists have also found sunshine allows the body to produce feel good chemical serotonin and also nitric oxide, which helps protect our cardiovascular system. Previous research published in the Environmental Science & Technology journal found that just five minutes of exercise outdoors can make you feel happier and less stressed.

It’s also been found that 20 to 30 minutes of early morning fitness in sunshine can help lower body fat. If you’ve been putting off joining a gym, then now is definitely the time to take your workouts outside.

As mentioned above, skin cancer and sunshine is a known link for those who lay in the sun, but were you aware that vitamin D can protect against colon, kidney and breast cancer? The US National Cancer Institute found people exposed to high levels of sunshine were less likely to die from breast and colon cancer, as well as bladder, womb, esophagus and stomach cancer. Make sure you’re wearing at least SPF 30 though when lounging around in the great outdoors, and take regular breaks in the shade.

Vitamin D also has positive effects on fertility, boosting levels of progesterone and estrogen and regulating menstrual cycles. As well as impacting the female sex hormones, sunshine also improves levels of testosterone, the male sex hormone.

Plus the wonder vitamin can improve memory, and protect against dementia. So what are you waiting for? The next time the sun breaks between the clouds, grab some SPF and get outside!

Middle-aged men without friends at risk of health problems

Men who lack a strong social network are more likely to suffer health issues like a stroke or depression, research has found.

Initiative beyondblue, which raises awareness for mental health problems like anxiety, found that males who are facing isolation and loneliness as they head into middle age are five times more at risk of dying from the problems mentioned above, as well as high blood pressure and heart disease.

They are also more prone to psychological distress, as they have no one to discuss their feelings and thoughts with. A report by beyondblue found 25 per cent of 30 men, aged 65, had no one aside from their immediate family to rely on. On top of this, 37 per cent reported not being happy with the strength and quality of their relationships, and often felt they weren’t supported or connected enough emotionally.

“Many men want greater openness with their friends and to be able to talk about personal problems, but admit they don’t always have the skills or tools to initiate these conversations, or understand how to respond when a friend opens up to them,” researchers shared.

Dr Stephen Carbone, head of the project, explained that social support is used as a protective mechanism against mental health issues like depression, and that it proves valuable in diffusing stressful situations.

While Dr Carbone notes it’s not every middle-aged man will suffer such grievances, he does believe they will do better in the long run with friends.

So why are friendships difficult as men get older? Issues such as expectations and cultural norms associated with masculinity were identified, though these do not provide a proper explanation.

“There are nuances below that, such as changes in family circumstances, or financial issues, or changes in work, or people moving away from where they grew up, or middle-aged men not keeping up with sport and losing contact with that group of friends,” Dr Carbone added on other aspects that may play a big part in this subject.

His words of advice: don’t stop making the effort. Social networks need to be kept alive by regular contact, even if the man in question is feeling sluggish and tired after a long day at work.

Another expert, Dr Elizabeth Celi, a psychologist and men’s mental health specialist, urges men to open up more too, and says that males should never compare their bonds to women’s.

Loneliness increases risk of heart attack and stroke

Lonely people are a third more likely to suffer an increased risk of a heart attack or stroke, according to new research.

British scientists from the universities of York, Liverpool and Newcastle examined data from over 181,000 people across 23 studies. Of all those individuals, 4,628 suffered from heart disease and 3,000 had a stroke, with experts finding a link between poor social relationships and incident cardiovascular disease.

They also noted the effect of loneliness is similar to that of work-stress or anxiety. People were 32 per cent more likely to have a stroke, and 29 per cent more prone to heart problems.

Scientists have long noted a correlation between being lonely and mental health and wellbeing, but this particular study is the largest to have shown the dramatic impact being alone has.

“Tackling loneliness and isolation may be a valuable addition to coronary heart disease and stroke prevention strategies,” authors noted of their findings, published in the journal Heart.

“Health practitioners have an important role to play in acknowledging the importance of social relations to their patients.”

Researcher Nicole Valtorta, of York University, stressed social isolation and loneliness shouldn’t be taken for granted like obesity and physical inactivity is, and hopes these findings will trigger more work to help the issue.

Dr Kellie Payne, from the Campaign to End Loneliness, further discussed the bigger picture of the problem.

“The effect of loneliness and isolation on mortality exceeds the impact of well-known risk factors such as obesity and cigarette smoking and this research helps to highlight yet further the need for loneliness to be treated as a serious public health issue,” she said.

“Loneliness is becoming a silent epidemic in our society. It’s the responsibility of our community as a whole to tackle it.”

Watercress extract helps detoxify carcinogens in smokers

An extract from watercress reduced the effects of carcinogens in smokers, lowering their risk for developing lung cancer, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh found supplements of an extract manufactured from the aquatic leaf vegetable, taken multiple times a day, reduced the activation of nicotine-derived nitrosamine ketone and increased detoxification of benzene and acrolein, all of which lowers the risk of lung cancer.

The study, presented at the American Association for Cancer Research’s annual meeting in New Orleans on Tuesday (19Apr16), suggests it may be possible for the increased risk for lung cancer caused by smoking cigarettes to be lowered or mitigated to an extent.

“Cigarette smokers are at far greater risk than the general public for developing lung cancer, and helping smokers quit should be our top cancer prevention priority in these people,” said Dr Jian-Min Yuan in a statement. “But nicotine is very addictive, and quitting can take time and multiple relapses. Having a tolerable, nontoxic treatment, like watercress extract, that can protect smokers against cancer would be an incredibly valuable tool in our cancer-fighting arsenal.”

For the study, Dr Yuan and his team enrolled 82 cigarette smokers in the randomized clinical trial. The participants either took 10 milligrams of watercress extract mixed in 1 milliliter of olive oil four times a day for a week or took a placebo. Each group of participants then had a one week “wash-out” period where they didn’t take anything and then switched so that those getting the placebo now received the extract. They all continued their regular smoking habits throughout the trial. In one week, the watercress extract reduced activation of the carcinogen known as nicotine-derived nitrosamine ketone in the smokers by an average of 7.7 per cent. It increased detoxification of benzene by 24.6 per cent and acrolein by 15.1 per cent, but had no effect on crotonaldehyde. All the substances are found in cigarette smoke.

Researchers also reported that for participants missing genes that remove the carcinogens and toxicants from the body, the effect was even greater.

Furthermore, Dr. Yuan warned that while eating cruciferous vegetables, such as watercress and broccoli, is good for people, they are unlikely to have the same pronounced effect as the extract.

Another clinical trial of hundreds of people will need to be held before the treatment can be recommended for smokers.

Reasons behind your bloat

Feeling bloated and not sure why? There are some reasons why you feel stretched and uncomfortable that you may not even know about, which Robynne Chutkan M.D has divulged to Mind Body Green as part of her new book, The Bloat Cure: 101 Natural Solutions for Real and Lasting Relief.

Caffeine is a culprit, as its diuretic effect (increasing passing of urine) may cause you to feel hydrated, triggering a slower movement of food through your intestines that leads to backups and bloating.

On top of this, caffeine is known to overstimulate the digestive system, which may result in bloat-causing spasms and side effects like stomach ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

So while coffee or cola may help you flush out liquids, you may want to cut down or cut it out completely if you suffer from regular bloating! Go for caffeine-free options and cut down slowly to allow your body to adjust.

Cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage, kale, broccoli and cauliflower, along with beans, are all packed full of healthy elements such as fiber. However, there’s also raffinose – a starch that your body struggles to break down and digest properly. Combine this with the bacteria in your colon; the raffinose is fermented to form methane, a chemical compound that transpires as bloating.

You don’t need to stop eating these veggies completely, and there are ways to make eating them less painful. Lemon juice drizzled over the top will help stimulate the digestive enzymes, and you should always soak dried beans overnight before cooking them. Don’t pile them up too high either as although they’re good for you, too many will leave you feeling tight.

Keeping on the topic of food, a drunken meal at 11pm is no good for bloating as your stomach’s muscular contractions are not as active at night as they are during the day. So after filling up on calories and carbohydrates and lying down, your body won’t be able to use gravity to help transport things down south. Cue the bloat, and extra acid reflux.

The key to this is simple; eat your largest meal earlier in the day when your tummy is still active, then reduce to a smaller, lighter portion by dinnertime. A curfew will also help with snacking and stick to water after a certain time to help hydrate your body before bed.