Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Does Food Act Physiologically Like a 'Drug of Choice' for Some?

ScienceDaily (July 19, 2011) — Variety is considered the "spice of life," but does today's unprecedented level of dietary variety help explain skyrocketing rates of obesity? Some researchers think it might.
According to ASN Spokesperson Shelley McGuire, PhD: "We've known for years that foods- even eating, itself- can trigger release of various brain chemicals, some of which are also involved in what happens with drug addiction and withdrawal. And, as can happen with substance abusers, tolerance or "habituation" can occur, meaning that repeated use (in this case, exposure to a food) is sometimes accompanied by a lack of response (in this case, disinterest in the food). The results of the study by Epstein and colleagues provides a very interesting new piece to the obesity puzzle by suggesting that meal monotony may actually lead to reduced calorie consumption. The trick will be balancing this concept with the importance of variety to good nutrition."

Studies have shown that many people become disinterested in a particular food when they are repeatedly exposed to it. This response, called habituation, can decrease caloric intake in the short-run. Conversely, when presented with a variety of foods, caloric intake can increase. The "food addiction hypothesis" purports that some people may overeat because they are insensitive to the normal habituation response and thus need even more exposure to a food to trigger a disinterest. However, there has been no rigorous research investigating whether healthy-weight and overweight individuals have different habituation responses, and little is known about what patterns of food exposure are most powerful in triggering habituation. To help close these research gaps, researchers studied long-term habituation in obese and nonobese women.

Their results, and an accompanying editorial by Nicole Avena and Mark Gold, are published in the August 2011 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Sixteen nonobese [BMI (in kg/m2) < 30] and 16 obese (BMI  30) women were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 groups: the "weekly group" participated in weekly experimental food exposure sessions for 5 wk, whereas the "daily group" were studied daily for 5 consecutive days. During each 28-min experimental session, subjects were asked to complete a variety of tasks after which they were "rewarded" by being given a 125-kcal portion of macaroni and cheese. Participants could work for as much food as they wanted. The researchers then evaluated total energy intake.

Whereas weekly food exposure increased total caloric intake by approximately 30 kcal/d, daily exposure decreased energy consumption by ~100 kcal/d. This supports long-term habituation in terms of caloric intake. Very few differences were found between how obese and nonobese individuals responded.

The authors concluded that reducing variety in food choices may represent an important strategy for those trying to lose weight. Moreover, having a person even remember that they have eaten a certain food recently may be effective in this regard. In their accompanying editorial, Avena and Gold compare physiologic components of the food addiction hypothesis to the body's addictive responses to drugs. They also ponder whether school-lunch planners and public health officials should note that diversity in the menu is not necessarily a virtue" but might instead "be associated with promoting excess food intake and increased body mass index." Provocative food for thought.

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Personalized Nutrition: New EU-Funded Project Changing the Way We Eat

ScienceDaily (July 19, 2011) — When the human genome sequence was launched in 2000, it introduced the possibility of personalization in health care. Such personalization can be applied to nutrition, a key health determinant, to create a diet tailored specifically for an individual, according to their individual physical and genetic make-up. Food4Me is a new, EU (FP7) funded project investigating the potential of this personalized nutrition.
Personalized Nutrition

Studies have shown that individuals respond differently to various nutrients. For example, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, the 'healthy fats' found in oily fish that are believed to protect against cardiovascular disease, have been found to be more beneficial in individuals with a particular genetic make-up (Ferguson et al., 2010). The point is, we are all different, and so the way we respond to our diet is also different. Such research suggests that blanket public dietary advice is not the most effective technique for improving public health.

Rather than applying overarching dietary guidance to the whole population, personalized nutrition sets the individual apart to consider their specific physical and genetic characteristics. This practice has been touted as the future of nutrition with significant potential to improve public health. The early promise has not quite lived up to this expectation however, and despite the efforts of numerous companies there has been limited success.

Food4Me will investigate the possibility of designing better diets based on a person's genetic make-up. A renowned group of experts will examine the application of nutrigenomic research (studies of the effect of food on gene expression) to personalized nutrition. How can we use our understanding of food and our genes to design a better, healthier and more individual diet?

Food4Me project

Food4Me, a 4 year project coordinated by Professor Mike Gibney of the Institute of Food and Health, University College Dublin (UCD), will consider all aspects of personalized nutrition; from investigating consumer understanding to producing technologies for implementation and investigating gene expression in response to diet. "In employing this holistic approach we hope to draw together cutting-edge research and instigate a significant step forward in the field of personalized nutrition," said Gibney.

A major component of the study is a large multi-centre human intervention study investigating the effectiveness of personalized nutrition. The study will offer participants differing levels of dietary advice; tailored to individual physical characteristics, individual genetic make-up, as well as advice with no personalization. Over a thousand subjects will be recruited from eight EU countries to take part in the study. Research to determine the effectiveness of personalized nutrition and develop appropriate technologies for its implementation will be supported by investigation of the public's needs and perceptions.

All results will be consolidated in the design of business and value creation models for the development, production and distribution of personalized foods. These will be tested throughout the project in order to consider the feasibility of future personalized nutrition approaches. Ethical and legal issues will also be assessed and will help shape the framework for the outcomes of the consumer studies, business models and human intervention research.

The data gathered in the project will feed into the development of services to deliver personalized advice on food choice.

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Stated Calories On Menus of Certain Restaurants Appear to Be Accurate Overall

ScienceDaily (July 19, 2011) — An examination of the calorie content of food from about 40 fast-food and sit-down restaurants in 3 states finds that overall the stated calories of items on the menus of the restaurants are accurate, although there was substantial inaccuracy for some individual foods, with understated calorie figures for those items with lower calorie contents, according to a study in the July 20 issue of JAMA.
"The prevalence of obesity in the United States increased from 14 percent of the population in 1976 to 34 percent in 2008, during which time both self-reported and per-capita energy intake increased. Reducing energy intake by self-monitoring or selecting foods with lower energy contents is widely recommended for the prevention and treatment of obesity. However, the feasibility of reducing energy intake using these approaches depends in part on the availability of accurate information on the energy contents of different foods," according to background information in the article. "Foods purchased in restaurants provide approximately 35 percent of the daily energy intake in U.S. individuals but the accuracy of the energy contents listed for these foods is unknown."

Lorien E. Urban, Ph.D., of Tufts University, Boston, and colleagues conducted a study to evaluate the overall accuracy of restaurant-stated energy contents and examine factors associated with the accuracy of stated energy contents of individual food items. Food from 42 restaurants, comprising 269 total food items and 242 unique foods, were ordered as a take-out meal and subsequently analyzed at a laboratory for caloric content. The restaurants and foods were randomly selected from quick-serve and sit-down restaurants in Massachusetts, Arkansas, and Indiana between January and June 2010.

Of the 269 food items, 108 (40 percent) had measured energy contents at least 10 kcal
(calories)/portion higher than the stated energy contents and 141 (52 percent) had measured energy contents at least 10 kcal/portion lower than the stated energy contents. Nineteen percent of foods contained greater than 100 kcal/portion more than the stated energy contents. The researchers found significantly greater variability in the discrepancy between the stated and measured energy contents in all foods from sit-down restaurants compared with all foods from quick-serve restaurants.

In an analysis of 10 percent of foods (n= 17) from both quick-serve and sit-down restaurants with the highest positive discrepancy between measured and stated energy contents, these foods had an average difference between measured and stated energy contents of 289 kcal/portion, and there was a similar discrepancy in a subsequent re-analysis of 13 of these foods (258 kcal/portion). "Considering the first and second sampling of the 13 foods together, the 26 foods had a mean [average] measured energy content of 273 kcal/portion higher than the stated energy content, representing a 48 percent discrepancy," the authors write.

"In addition, foods with lower stated energy contents contained higher measured energy contents than stated, while foods with higher stated energy contents contained lower measured energy contents."
The authors suggest that a reason why individual foods have inaccurate stated energy contents (especially in sit-down restaurants) may be poor quality control of portion size.

"The results of this study have implications for pending implementation of new legislation requiring more restaurants to document the energy content of their menu items," they write. "Although our study showed that stated energy contents in restaurants are relatively accurate on average, thus supporting greater availability of this information, projected benefits for preventing weight gain and facilitating weight loss are likely to be reduced if restaurant foods with lower stated energy contents provide more energy content than stated. Additional portion control in restaurants has the potential to facilitate individual efforts to reduce energy intake and to help resolve the national obesity epidemic."

Editorial: Calories Count -- But Can Consumers Count on Them?

The value of the law regarding labeling of caloric content can be enhanced considerably through effective public health education campaigns to facilitate its use, writes Linda Van Horn, Ph.D., R.D., of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, in an accompanying editorial.
"Primary prevention efforts could be markedly improved through better parental awareness of the caloric needs of their children and, ideally, the capacity to role model their own energy balance. Limited data document that adult consumers are often unable to estimate caloric differences across unlabeled food items; however, among those who read posted caloric contents, reduced caloric intake occurs. Prevention and treatment of overweight and obesity require change in the environment as well as in personal behavior."

"Just as balancing a budget can prevent debt, balancing caloric intake with output can prevent added pounds. However, U.S. residents seem to be struggling with both balancing acts. New, innovative, and effective approaches to teaching about energy balance and caloric control are greatly needed."

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Personality Plays Role in Body Weight: Impulsivity Strongest Predictor of Obesity

ScienceDaily (July 18, 2011) — People with personality traits of high neuroticism and low conscientiousness are likely to go through cycles of gaining and losing weight throughout their lives, according to an examination of 50 years of data in a study published by the American Psychological Association.
Impulsivity was the strongest predictor of who would be overweight, the researchers found. Study participants who scored in the top 10 percent on impulsivity weighed an average of 22 lbs. more than those in the bottom 10 percent, according to the study.

"Individuals with this constellation of traits tend to give in to temptation and lack the discipline to stay on track amid difficulties or frustration," the researchers wrote. "To maintain a healthy weight, it is typically necessary to have a healthy diet and a sustained program of physical activity, both of which require commitment and restraint. Such control may be difficult for highly impulsive individuals."
The researchers, from the National Institute on Aging, looked at data from a longitudinal study of 1,988 people to determine how personality traits are associated with weight and body mass index. Their conclusions were published online in the APA's Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
"To the best of our knowledge, we are the first to examine whether personality is associated with fluctuations in weight over time," they wrote. "Interestingly, our pattern of associations fits nicely with the characteristics of these traits."

Participants were drawn from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, an ongoing multidisciplinary study of normal aging administered by the National Institute on Aging. Subjects were generally healthy and highly educated, with an average of 16.53 years of education. The sample was 71 percent white, 22 percent black, 7 percent other ethnicity; 50 percent were women. All were assessed on what's known as the "Big Five" personality traits -- openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism -- as well as on 30 subcategories of these personality traits. Subjects were weighed and measured over time. This resulted in a total of 14,531 assessments across the 50 years of the study.

Although weight tends to increase gradually as people age, the researchers, led by Angelina R. Sutin, PhD, found greater weight gain among impulsive people; those who enjoy taking risks; and those who are antagonistic -- especially those who are cynical, competitive and aggressive.
"Previous research has found that impulsive individuals are prone to binge eating and alcohol consumption," Sutin said. "These behavioral patterns may contribute to weight gain over time."
Among their other findings: Conscientious participants tended to be leaner and weight did not contribute to changes in personality across adulthood.

"The pathway from personality traits to weight gain is complex and probably includes physiological mechanisms, in addition to behavioral ones," Sutin said. "We hope that by more clearly identifying the association between personality and obesity, more tailored treatments will be developed. For example, lifestyle and exercise interventions that are done in a group setting may be more effective for extroverts than for introverts."

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Friday, July 15, 2011

6 Things Never to Do to Lose Weight

6 Things Never to Do to Lose Weight

By Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD
WebMD Expert Column
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Whey Protein May Be Helpful for Weight Loss

Whey Protein May Be Helpful for Weight Loss

Study Suggests Whey Protein Offers More Weight Loss Help Than Soy Protein
By Brenda Goodman
WebMD Health News
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An Unhealthy Lifestyle Is Associated With Sexual Dysfunction

A new study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine reveals that several unhealthy lifestyle factors, such as weight problems, physical inactivity, high alcohol consumption, tobacco smoking, and hard drugs are associated with sexual dysfunctions in men. Additionally, an unhealthy lifestyle is more common in persons who are sexually inactive.

Researchers led by Associate Professor Morten Frisch, MD, PhD, DSc, of Statens Serum Institut, used nationally representative survey data from 5,552 Danish men and women aged 16 - 97 years in 2005 to study the association of lifestyle factors with sexual inactivity and sexual dysfunction.

Results found that a number of unhealthy lifestyle factors are associated with increased risk of not having a partner-related sex life by up to 78% in men and up to 91% in women. Among those who had a sexual partner, risk of experiencing sexual dysfunction was greater in men who lead unhealthy lives by 71% in those with substantially increased waist circumference and more than 800% in men using hard drugs. Women who used hashish had almost 3 times increased risk of anorgasmia (difficulties or inability to reach climax during sexual activity with a partner) compared to non-users.

"Hopefully our findings can be used in future counseling of patients with unhealthy lifestyles," Frisch concludes. "Knowing about possible negative consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle to one's sexual health may help people quit smoking, consume less alcohol, exercise more, and lose weight."

"There are many reasons for sexual dysfunction, including those over which you have no control, such as after cancer treatments, or following injuries," explained Irwin Goldstein, Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Sexual Medicine, "but lifestyle and recreational drug use are individual choices. Each person can modify lifestyle, especially diet and exercise and stop using recreational drugs that inhibit the sexual reflex, to be healthier thereby facilitating sexual function."

Full citation: Frisch et al. Associations of Unhealthy Lifestyle Factors with Sexual Inactivity and Sexual Dysfunctions in Denmark. The Journal of Sexual Medicine; See here.

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Improved Appetite Control And Satiety With Higher-Protein Diets

A new study demonstrates that higher-protein meals improve perceived appetite and satiety in overweight and obese men during weight loss.(1) According to the research, published in Obesity, higher-protein intake led to greater satiety throughout the day as well as reductions in both late-night and morning appetite compared to a normal protein diet.

"Research has shown that higher-protein diets, those containing 18 to 35 percent of daily calorie intake from dietary protein, are associated with reductions in hunger and increased fullness throughout the day and into the evening hours," said Heather Leidy, Ph.D., study author and professor in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the University of Missouri. "In our study, the two groups ate either 25 or 14 percent of calories from protein, while the total calories and percent of calories from fat stayed the same between the higher-protein and normal-protein diet patterns. "

During the study, Dr. Leidy and associates also conducted an eating frequency substudy in which the 27 participants on both normal- and higher-protein diets consumed either three meals or six meals per day. The researchers found that eating frequency had no effect on appetite and satiety on the normal-protein diet. However, subjects on the higher-protein diet who ate three meals per day experienced greater evening and late-night fullness than those who ate six meals per day.

Dietary Protein and Reduced Calorie Consumption

This study supports previous research that demonstrates higher-protein diets, including egg breakfasts, are associated with decreased calorie consumption. A study published last year in Nutrition Research showed that men ate roughly 112 fewer calories at a buffet lunch and 400 fewer calories in the 24-hour period following a protein-rich egg breakfast compared to a bagel breakfast. (2) Another study demonstrated that overweight dieters who ate eggs for breakfast lost 65 percent more weight and felt more energetic than those who ate a bagel breakfast of equal calories and volume. (3)

Protein: A Component of a Healthy Meal Pattern

Protein not only plays a role in weight management but is also important in muscle maintenance and the prevention of sarcopenia which is age-related muscle loss. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans highlight that healthy Americans can have an egg a day to help meet dietary protein needs, and eggs are included in the protein foods section of MyPlate.

"Americans should include dietary protein sources at every meal," says Serena Ball, MS, RD, registered dietitian, nutrition consultant and advisor to the Egg Nutrition Center. "The 2010 Dietary Guidelines and MyPlate education series highlight that protein is an important component of a healthy diet."

Give Eggs the Company They Deserve

Serena Ball suggests pairing protein-rich eggs with whole grains, fruits, vegetables and dairy for a complete, healthy breakfast. Some meal and recipe ideas include:
  • Cherry Tomato & Portobello Omelet with whole-grain toast, an orange and low-fat or fat-free milk
  • Mini Breakfast Pizzas on a whole wheat English muffin with sliced apples and yogurt
  • Basic Scrambled Eggs with low-fat mozzarella cheese and veggies along with fresh strawberries and a bowl of oatmeal made with low-fat or fat-free milk

(1)Leidy HJ, Tang M, Armstrong CLH, Martin CB, Cambell WW.The effects of consuming frequent, higher protein meals on appetite and satiety during weight loss in overweight/obese men. Obesity. 2011;19:818-824.

(2) Ratliff J, Leite JO, de Ogburn R, Puglisi MJ, VanHeest J, Fernandez ML. Consuming eggs for breakfast influences plasma glucose and ghrelin, while reducing energy intake during the next 24 hours in adult men. Nutrition Research 2010;30:96-103.

(3)Vander Wal JS, Gupta A, Khosla P, Dhurandhar NV. Egg breakfast enhances weight loss. International Journal of Obesity. 2008;32:1545-1551.

Egg Nutrition News Bureau
Edelman Public Relations

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Exercise May Help Regulate Body Weight By Influencing Gut Hormones Released Before And After Meals

Influecing levels of gut hormones released before and after meals, may be how physical exercise helps to regulate body weight, say researchers presenting to the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB) that is taking place this week in Clearwater, Florida, in the US.

We already know from previous studies that vigorous exercise like running increases sensitivity to leptin, a hormone secreted by fat cells that limits food intake.

Now, researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, suggest they have found more mechanisms that show the benefits of exercise in helping to control body weight.

They told the press that they studied levels of gut hormones released in rats after they ate a tasty meal. They did this both before the rats exercised in running wheels and also afterwards.

They found that after consuming a tasty meal, rats with a lot of running experience had higher levels of amylin in their blood. This pancreas-secreted hormone is known to inhibit food intake, slow digestion, and reduce the rate at which glucose enters the bloodstream.

These same rats also showed a faster rate of reduction of the hormone ghrelin after the meal. Ghrelin, an appetite stimulator, is secreted by the stomach and the pancreas and usually rises before a meal and falls afterwards.

And when the rats with a lot of running experience were given the hormone cholecystokinin (CCK), the researchers found they decreased their food intake more robustly than their sedentary counterparts. Among other things, CCK is a hunger suppressant secreted in the gut.

One of the researchers, Dr Nu-Chu Liang, a post-doctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins, said their findings suggest that exercise helps control body weight by modifying how meals release gut hormones that regulate food intake. It may also change people's sensitivity to these gut hormone signals.

Liang added "these findings suggest that both body and brain mechanisms are involved in the effects of exercise to modulate food intake".

A grant from the National Institutes of Health paid for the research.

Source: SSIB.

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Influence of water drinking on resting energy expenditure in overweight children

Interesting and exciting study here Folks :)

In 2003, German reserachers wated to see if drinking 500 mls of...
water would increase resting energy expenditure (calories) in normal weight individuals. After drinking 2 cups of water the resting energy expenditure increased by 30%, and this increase lasted for over an hour.
The same group conducted a similar study in 2007, but this time used overweight and obese subjects. After drinking 2 cups of water the REE was about 24%.

These increases amount to about 20-25 calories. So basically drinking 2 cups of water results in 25 calories burned even though water is a non-caloric beverage.

In the study above, Isreali reserachers wated to see if drinking water ( 10ml per KG) would raise REE in children with the average age of 9.9. The water did raise REE to the tune of 25% above baseline values, and this effect lasted for over 40 minutes.

" These findings reinforce the concept of water-induced REE elevation shown in adults, suggesting that water drinking could assist overweight children in weight loss or maintenance, and may warrant emphasis in dietary guidelines against the obesity epidemic."
In a study done in early 2010, drinking 2 cups of water (500ml, same as the study done in 2003 and 2007 above) before meals (3 meals per day) on a calorie reduced diet (1500 calories for the men, 1200 calories for thw woman) for 12 weeks resulted in 5.4 kilograms of fat lost.

Omega-3 Reduces Anxiety And Inflammation In Healthy Students

A new study gauging the impact of consuming more fish oil showed a marked reduction both in inflammation and, surprisingly, in anxiety among a cohort of healthy young people.

The findings suggest that if young participants can get such improvements from specific dietary supplements, then the elderly and people at high risk for certain diseases might benefit even more.

The findings by a team of researchers at Ohio State University were just published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity. It is the latest from more than three decades of research into links between psychological stress and immunity.

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have long been considered as positive additives to the diet. Earlier research suggested that the compounds might play a role in reducing the level of cytokines in the body, compounds that promote inflammation, and perhaps even reduce depression.

Psychological stress has repeatedly been shown to increase cytokine production so the researchers wondered if increasing omega-3 might mitigate that process, reducing inflammation.

To test their theory, they turned to a familiar group of research subjects medical students. Some of the earliest work these scientists did showed that stress from important medical school tests lowered students' immune status.

"We hypothesized that giving some students omega-3 supplements would decrease their production of proinflammatory cytokines, compared to other students who only received a placebo," explained Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychology and psychiatry.

"We thought the omega-3 would reduce the stress-induced increase in cytokines that normally arose from nervousness over the tests."

The team assembled a field of 68 first- and second-year medical students who volunteered for the clinical trial. The students were randomly divided into six groups, all of which were interviewed six times during the study. At each visit, blood samples were drawn from the students who also completed a battery of psychological surveys intended to gauge their levels of stress, anxiety or depression. The students also completed questionnaires about their diets during the previous weeks.

Half the students received omega-3 supplements while the other half were given placebo pills.

"The supplement was probably about four or five times the amount of fish oil you'd get from a daily serving of salmon, for example," explained Martha Belury, professor of human nutrition and co-author in the study.

Part of the study, however, didn't go according to plans.
Changes in the medical curriculum and the distribution of major tests throughout the year, rather than during a tense three-day period as was done in the past, removed much of the stress that medical students had shown in past studies.

"These students were not anxious. They weren't really stressed. They were actually sleeping well throughout this period, so we didn't get the stress effect we had expected," Kiecolt-Glaser said.

But the psychological surveys clearly showed an important change in anxiety among the students: Those receiving the omega-3 showed a 20 percent reduction in anxiety compared to the placebo group.

An analysis of the of the blood samples from the medical students showed similar important results.

"We took measurements of the cytokines in the blood serum, as well as measured the productivity of cells that produced two important cytokines, interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFa)," said Ron Glaser, professor of molecular virology, immunology & medical genetics and director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research.

"We saw a 14 percent reduction in the amounts of IL-6 among the students receiving the omega-3." Since the cytokines foster inflammation, "anything we can do to reduce cytokines is a big plus in dealing with the overall health of people at risk for many diseases," he said.

While inflammation is a natural immune response that helps the body heal, it also can play a harmful role in a host of diseases ranging from arthritis to heart disease to cancer.

While the study showed the positive impact omega-3 supplements can play in reducing both anxiety and inflammation, the researchers aren't willing to recommend that the public start adding them to the daily diet.

"It may be too early to recommend a broad use of omega-3 supplements throughout the public, especially considering the cost and the limited supplies of fish needed to supply the oil," Belury said. "People should just consider increasing their omega-3 through their diet."

Some of the researchers, however, acknowledged that they take omega-3 supplements.

Also working on the research with Kiecolt-Glaser, Glaser and Belury were William Malarkey, professor emeritus of internal medicine, and Rebecca Andridge, an assistant professor of public health.

Source: Ohio State University

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High Levels Of Disease-Fighting Antioxidants Discovered In Two Species Of Neotropical Blueberries

One of the treats of summer - fresh, antioxidant-rich blueberries - has new competition for the title of "superfruit."

But at least the contenders are keeping the title in the family.

Researchers have found that two species of wild blueberries native to the tropical regions of Central and South America - the New World tropics, or Neotropics - contain two to four times more antioxidants than the blueberries sold in U.S. markets.

This finding is the result of an analysis of the compounds contained in neotropical blueberries grown at The New York Botanical Garden.

The study was conducted by Professor Edward Kennelly, a biologist at Lehman College in the Bronx who is an expert in medicinal plants, and Paola Pedraza, Ph.D., a botanist at The New York Botanical Garden whose specialties include South American blueberry species.

"No one had looked at this," Dr. Pedraza said. "The results are very promising."

For their study, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the scientists examined five species of neotropical blueberries. The two species that had the highest amounts of antioxidants were Cavendishia grandifolia and Anthopterus wardii.

"We consider these two species of neotropical blueberries to be extreme superfruits with great potential to benefit human health," Dr. Kennelly said.

Antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables have been associated with lower incidence of some chronic diseases and may help protect against heart disease, inflammatory ailments such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and even cancer.

Of the five neotropical blueberry species used in the study, four came from the Nolen Greenhouses for Living Collections and the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory at The New York Botanical Garden. One came from the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

Although these blueberries are wild species that are not currently commercially available, the scientists believe that they have the potential to become a popular food item or health supplement if their high antioxidant content becomes better known.

"I think it's just a matter of time until people start working on making them more available," Dr. Pedraza said.

More than 600 neotropical species are related to the "highbush" blueberries common to the American market. Several of them, including the two most promising species in Drs. Kennelly and Pedraza's study, are native to the high-elevation forests of the Andes Mountains, one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world.

The discovery that these blueberries have potential benefits for humans underscores the importance of preserving Earth's biodiversity, Pedraza said.

"There are so many things out there that could have an impact on our lives," she said. "That's why we should be worried about conservation in our country and in other countries because you never know when good things will come to light."

Stevenson Swanson
The New York Botanical Garden

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Once-a-Day Grapefruit Study Sees Marked Impact On Health Indicators

Eating one grapefruit every day for as little as two weeks can noticeably improve appearance and overall vitality, according to a new trial carried out in the UK.

As reported in The Grocer on Saturday 9th July 2011, the study asked 65 women to rate aspects of their appearance and overall wellbeing - including skin, hair and weight, concentration and energy levels - before and after incorporating one grapefruit into their food intake each day for a fortnight. The results included:

- Increased levels of concentration: those who rated their concentration as "excellent or very good" grew from 38.4% to 80% of participants

- More energy: those who rated their energy levels as "excellent or very good" increased from just 18.4% to 67.7%

- Better skin: 81.6% noticed an improvement in their skin during the two weeks

- Better hair: 72.3% noticed an improvement in the condition of their hair

- Weight loss: 58.5% lost weight during the 2-week trial

- 70.8% felt more comfortable with their body and noticed a change to their overall appearance

- 75.4% of those who took part in the panel said they would continue to eat grapefruit either everyday or most days

Justin Chadwick, CEO of the Citrus Growers Association of Southern Africa (CGA), said: "These are exciting results and provide further good reasons for people to eat more grapefruit.

"Our study is part of the CGA's ongoing efforts to find out more about grapefruit and its consumers, and to promote the great eating quality, varieties and quality of this fruit - and return this category to positive growth in the UK market."


- Opinion Matters carried out this study, which was commissioned by the South African Citrus Growers Association (CGA)

- The trial took place between 28th April and 6th June 2011

- The grapefruit campaign focuses particularly on the natural sweetness of modern varieties of grapefruit, particularly red variety Star Ruby

South African Citrus Growers Association

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Grape Seed May Ward Off Alzheimer's

Grape seed contains natural antioxidants called polyphenols that may help ward off Alzheimer's Disease, according to researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City who write about their findings in a paper about to be published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

Previous studies have suggested that the small soluble clusters of A-beta protein, called "oligomers", found in the brains of people with Alzheimer's, are what poison brain cells and cause the memory loss associated with the disease. They also have the same effect in mice bred to develop Alzheimer's.

Previous research has also shown that grape seed polyphenolic extract (GSPE) stops A-beta oligomers being formed in "test tubes", and it also reduces cognitive impairment and the characteristic brain degeneration seen in mice bred to develop Alzheimer's Disease.

For this study, Dr Giulio Maria Pasinetti, The Saunder Family Professor in Neurology, and Professor of Psychiatry and Geriatrics and Adult Development at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and colleagues, teamed up with researchers from the University of Minnesota, led by Dr Karen Hsiao Ashe.

For five months, theyy gave GSPE to transgenic mice bred to develop Alzheimer's Disease. After this time, they found the mice's brains had significantly reduced levels of A-beta*56, a specific form of A-beta oligomer previously implicated in the promotion of Alzheimer's disease memory loss. But levels of other A-beta compounds remained unchanged.

Thus they concluded that GSPE was a safe, low-cost intervention that can selectively lower levels of memory-impairing A-beta oligomer in live subjects, and "strongly suggest that GSPE should be further tested as a potential prevention and/or therapy for AD [Alzheimer's Disease]".

Pasinetti told the press that:

"Since naturally occurring polyphenols are also generally commercially available as nutritional supplements and have negligible adverse events even after prolonged periods of treatment, this new finding holds significant promise as a preventive method or treatment, and is being tested in translational studies in Alzheimer's disease patients."

Red wine also contains a lot of grape-derived polyphenols.

However, Pasinetti and colleagues emphasized that before we can use these polyphenols, we first have to identify a biomarker of disease that would identify who might be at high risk for developing Alzheimer's.

"It will be critical to identify subjects who are at high risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, so that we can initiate treatments very early and possibly even in asymptomatic patients," explained Pasinetti.

But he also said patients who are already in the first stages of the disease may also benefit from early intervention with such a treatment.

Funds from the National Institutes of Health helped pay for the study and Pasinetti is a named inventor of a pending patent application related to the study of Alzheimer's disease, and would benefit from a share of the proceeds should a license be granted.

"Grape Seed Polyphenolic Extract Specifically Decreases A[beta]*56 in the Brains of Tg2576 Mice."
Peng Liu, Lisa J. Kemper, Jun Wang, Kathleen R. Zahs, Karen H. Ashe, Giulio M. Pasinetti
JAD 2011, Volume 26, Number 4, IN PRESS

Additional source: The Mount Sinai Hospital / Mount Sinai School of Medicine (via EurekAlert!).


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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Women With Binge Eating Pay More Attention To Ugly Parts Of The Body

This German study found evidence that both binge eaters (BE) and nonbinge eaters (NBE) have a bias towards ugly body parts, which might explain overweight individuals' body dissatisfaction. More importantly they found that BE look at ugly body parts even longer and more often than NBE.

In a study published in a recent issue of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics by a group of German investigators, a new characterization of women with binge eating disorder emerges.

Body dissatisfaction is markedly increased in individuals with binge eating disorder (BED). Because body dissatisfaction is considerably higher in binge eaters (BE) compared to overweight nonbinge eaters (NBE), the Authors of this study hypothesized that BE would be characterized by increased visual attention to the most ugly body parts compared to NBE.

The female participants were 26 BE and 18 overweight NBE. Even though study inclusion required control participants to have a BMI>25, the BMI was higher in BE than NBE. The participants were told that they were going to watch photographic depictions (omitted face) of themselves and of a control person, while the size of their pupils was going to be measured.

After calibration of the eye tracking device, they started watching the pictures. The pictures were arranged in 2 blocks; each block contained 4 different body perspectives (front/left/right/back) of the self picture and 4 of a BMI matched control picture. Each perspective was presented twice on the computer for 8 s each, once on the left and once on the right side of the screen. After the experimental procedure, the participants had to identify the ugliest and most beautiful body part of the self/control picture. Eye movements were measured by means of a 240-Hz Eye-Link Eyetracker equipped with View software.

The mechanism is based on determination of the center of the pupil and the corneal reflection by which eye movements are assessed. Both duration and frequency for the ugliest and most beautiful body part of the self picture and of the control picture were considered for the analyses.

The investigators found evidence that both BE and NBE have a bias towards ugly body parts, which might explain overweight individuals' body dissatisfaction. More importantly they found that BE look at ugly body parts even longer and more often than NBE. This effect is more consistent for self pictures compared to control pictures.

As gaze duration and frequency for self pictures in block 1 were moderated by the interaction of group X BMI and by BMI in block 2, future studies should further test the role weight has in BE with regard to selective attention to beautiful and ugly body parts. On the background of the ANCOVA results, it is possible that these findings are more related to obesity than BED.

To fully understand the influence of BMI and fully exclude its role as a possible confounder, replication with highly overweight and normal weight healthy controls would be necessary. It also remains unclear whether the bias found is a cause of BE's (or obese individuals') higher body dissatisfaction or whether BE's (or obese individuals') higher body dissatisfaction leads to the increased bias towards ugly body parts.

Further analyses concerning attention allocation to body parts should also consider the degree of psychopathology of BED in addition to the diagnostic criterion of BED and BMI as causal variables.

Sources: Journal of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, AlphaGalileo Foundation.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Is Obesity Contagious? Authors Explain How Obesity "Spreads"

Researchers out of Arizona State University recently published an article in the American Journal of Public Health titled "Shared Norms and Their Explanation for the Social Clustering of Obesity". It looked at why obesity seems to be common in some families and groups of friends.

Along the lines of the old saying, "Birds of a feather flock together," the study showed that people do cluster according to size, but few clues explain why. "Although inconclusive, this study has provided some important information about trends in obesity and the public health implications", according to co-authors Dian Griesel, Ph.D. and Tom Griesel of the new book, TurboCharged: Accelerate Your Fat Burning Metabolism, Get Lean Fast and Leave Diet and Exercise Rules in the Dust (BSH, 2011).

"Obese families and friends usually have two things in common: food choices and activity levels or more accurately, lack of activity. Obese parents tend to raise obese children. Obese family and friends hang out and eat the same kinds of detrimental foods and participate in the same kinds of detrimental habits," say the Griesel's.

Yet, it is interesting that most people do not want to be obese. Study participants revealed that if given the choice, they would select some pretty serious diseases like alcoholism, depression or herpes instead. In fact, 25.4% preferred severe depression and 14.5% actually preferring total blindness over obesity! So why are they stuck?

Does a rising frustration level from past dieting efforts result in permanent discouragement and a resolve to be fat? Or is "misery loves company," another "clustering" clue? The Griesel's say: "Obesity is not from lack of will-power but rather the result of bad diet and exercise advice. It is difficult to follow the usual prescription for 30-90 minutes of aerobic exercise 5-6 times per week. Add the usual recommendations of a reduced calorie, "balanced" diet based around the USDA food pyramid and you have a recipe for failure. Sugar is too often a prevalent ingredient in packaged and refined foods that are so often touted as 'healthy'. With the consumption of all these low nutrition manufactured foods, the body is left craving more in an attempt to make up for the deficit. Consequently an unhealthy cycle begins."

Source: Business School of Happiness

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Obesity Contributes To Poor Oral Health

Poor oral health has joined the list of knock-on effects of obesity, a recent study has concluded.

The study(1) revealed the deeper the periodontal pockets, the higher the proportion of subjects with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or over, a figure according to the World Health Organization(2) is generally considered as obese.

In 2008, 1.5 billion adults, 20 and older, were overweight. Of these, over 200 million men and nearly 300 million women were obese, a trend also reflected in the results of the study. Periodontal pockets are essentially food and plaque traps that irritate and decay teeth to the point the tooth will eventually fall out. The deeper the pocket, the greater the risk. During the inaugural National Childhood Obesity Week, Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, expressed his concern at the findings and encouraged doctors to take a greater role in tackling poor oral health.

Dr Carter said: "As almost one in four adults in the UK are classed as being obese, and gum disease is recognised as the major cause of tooth loss in adults, there is clearly a significant oral health risk to a large proportion of people.

"There has been much discussion about broadening the role of the dentist to check for illnesses such as diabetes, and when it comes to obesity, there is definitely a case for doctors relaying information on how their diet is directly affecting their oral health.

"As well as recommending people brush for two minutes twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste and they visit their dentist regularly, the Foundation also recommends people cut down on how often they have sugary foods and drinks. By following these three key rules, you stand a much greater chance of having and keeping healthy gums, thereby reducing the risk of gum disease, tooth loss and decay."

Studies and experts have pointed to grazing and snacking as a possible cause in the rise of obesity. A team from the University of North Carolina(3) analysed data from food surveys carried out in the United States during the seventies, eighties, nineties and the last decade, and while obesity rose in each, increases in the number of eating occasions and portion size seem to account for most of the change.

Dr Carter added: "Snacking and grazing is becoming an increasing problem, particularly as people are working longer hours. The notion of 'desk grazing' might suffice short-term hunger, but it is considerably better for your teeth and general health if you eat three meals a day instead of having seven to ten 'snack attacks'. If you do need to snack between meals, choose foods such as cheese, breadsticks, nuts or raw vegetables."


1. Saxlin, T., Ylöstalo, P., Suominen-Taipale, L., Männistö, S. and Knuuttila, M. (2011), Association between periodontal infection and obesity: results of the Health 2000 Survey. Journal of Clinical Periodontology, 38: 236-242. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-051X.2010.01677.x

2. http://www.who.int/topics/obesity/en/

3. Duffey KJ, Popkin BM, 2011 Energy Density, Portion Size, and Eating Occasions: Contributions to Increased Energy Intake in the United States, 1977-2006. PLoS Med 8(6): e1001050. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001050

British Dental Health Foundation

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Elderly Women Benefit From Vitamin D

Giving vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) to predominantly elderly women, mainly in institutional care, seems to increase survival. These women are likely to be vitamin D deficient with a significant risk of falls and fractures. This is the key conclusion in a systematic review published in the latest edition of The Cochrane Library.

Up until now there has been no clear view on whether there is a real benefit of taking vitamin D. "A Cochrane meta-analysis published only a couple of years ago found that there was some evidence for benefit, but it could not find an effect on mortality. We were, however, aware that more trials had been published and wanted to assess the effects of vitamin D when you added all the data together," said Dr Goran Bjelakovic, who works at Department of Internal Medicine - Gastroenterology and Hepatology, at the University of Nis, in Serbia and at The Cochrane Hepato-Biliary Group at The Copenhagen Trial Unit in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The eight-strong international team of researchers identified 50 randomised trials that together had 94,148 participants. They had a mean age of 74 years, and 79% were women. "Our analyses suggest that vitamin D3 reduces mortality by about 6%. This means that you need to give about 200 people vitamin D3 for around two years to save one additional life," says Bjelakovic.

There were no significant benefits of taking other forms of vitamin D such as vitamin D2, and the active forms of the vitamin, alfacalcidol or calcitriol. However, the researchers point out that they could only find much less data relating to these types of vitamin D and so these conclusions should be taken with caution. "We need to have more randomised trials that look specifically to see whether these forms of vitamin D do or don't have benefits," says Bjelakovic. His team did conclude that alfacalcidol and calcitriol significantly increased the risk of hypercalcaemia, and vitamin D3 combined with calcium significantly increased the risk of kidney stones.

There have been reports and comments that taking vitamin D can reduce the risk of getting cancer, but this work showed no evidence that vitamin D reduced cancer-related mortality.

"Previous reviews of preventive trials of vitamin D have not included as much information and have not examined the separate influence of different forms of vitamin D on mortality. By taking data from a larger number of trials we have been able to shed much more light on this important issue," says Bjelakovic.

Jennifer Beal

Monday, July 4, 2011

Study Is The First To Document How Sleep Extension Affects The Performance Of Actively Competing Athletes

A study in the July 1 issue of the journal SLEEP shows that sleep extension is beneficial to athletic performance, reaction time, vigor, fatigue and mood in collegiate basketball players. The study is the first to document sleep extension and the athletic performance of actively competing athletes.

Results of objective measurements show that the mean total sleep time per night during sleep extension was 110.9 minutes longer than at baseline. Indices of athletic performance specific to basketball were measured after every practice to assess changes in performance. Speed during 282-foot sprints improved significantly from 16.2 seconds at baseline to 15.5 seconds after sleep extension, and shooting accuracy increased significantly by nine percent on both free throws and three-point field goals. Subjects also reported improved overall ratings of physical and mental well-being during practices and games.

"Following multiple weeks of sleep extension, elite athletes demonstrated improvements in specific indicators of basketball athletic performance including higher shooting percentages and faster sprint times," said lead author Cheri D. Mah, MS, researcher at the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory in Stanford, Calif. "Subjects also demonstrated faster reaction time, decreased levels of daytime sleepiness, and mood improvements."

The study involved 11 healthy students on the Stanford University men's varsity basketball team and was conducted during two basketball seasons from 2005 to 2008. Participants had a mean age of 19 years and an average height of about six feet and four inches. Eight of the players were guards, two were forwards and one was a center.

Total sleep time was measured objectively by actigraphy. The players maintained their habitual sleep-wake schedule for a baseline period of two to four weeks during the NCAA basketball season, sleeping for an average of less than seven hours per night. The following period of sleep extension lasted five to seven weeks, during which the participants obtained as much nocturnal sleep as possible with a minimum goal of 10 hours in bed per night. Objective mean total sleep time during sleep extension was nearly 8.5 hours per night.

Participants shot 10 free throws from 15 feet, making an average of 7.9 shots at baseline and 8.8 shots at the end of the sleep extension period. They also attempted 15 three-point field goals, making an average of 10.2 shots at baseline and 11.6 shots after sleep extension. The timed sprint involved running from baseline to half-court and back to baseline, then the full 94-foot length of the court and back to baseline. Reaction time, levels of daytime sleepiness, and mood were monitored using the Psychomotor Vigilance Task, Epworth Sleepiness Scale and Profile of Mood States.

Mah said that she was especially intrigued to find that sleep extension was associated with improvements in diverse basketball skills.

"It was interesting to note that sleep extension significantly improved different measures of physical performance in basketball from shooting percentages to sprinting times," she said.

According to Mah, an athlete's nightly sleep requirement should be considered integral to attaining peak performance in all levels of sports. She offered these tips to help athletes improve their performance by maximizing their sleep:
  • Prioritize sleep as a part of your regular training regimen.
  • Extend nightly sleep for several weeks to reduce your sleep debt before competition.
  • Maintain a low sleep debt by obtaining a sufficient amount of nightly sleep (seven to nine hours for adults, nine or more hours for teens and young adults).
  • Keep a regular sleep-wake schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same times every day.
  • Take brief 20-30 minute naps to obtain additional sleep during the day, especially if drowsy.
Mah presented preliminary results from this study at SLEEP 2007, the 21st annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, in Minneapolis, Minn. The results are consistent with similar research she has performed at Stanford involving men and women who compete in other sports such as football, tennis, and swimming.

Although this was not an industry supported study, Philips Respironics loaned actigraphy devices to the study investigators.

The study: "The effects of sleep extension on the athletic performance of collegiate basketball players."

Emilee McStay
American Academy of Sleep Medicine

Norway: No high-dose omega-3 adverse effects

By Shane Starling, 04-Jul-2011

Norwegian authorities have conducted a safety review of omega-3 forms EPA and DHA and found no adverse effects up to levels as high as 6.9g per day for certain conditions – a level far in excess of recent German recommendations of 1.5g/day.

No serious adverse effects at high doses of omega-3s, conclude Norwegian authorities
No serious adverse effects at high doses of omega-3s, conclude Norwegian authorities

The Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety (VKM) surveyed dosage levels and effects for a host of conditions including bleeding times; lipid peroxidation; inflammation and immunity; glucose metabolism and gastrointestinal disturbances.

After surveying the literature, they found that adverse effects were not present below 6.9g for bleeding times and concluded: "no tolerable upper intake level could be established."

“Overall, the report supports the assertion that normal intakes of EPA and DHA are safe, and even at the higher pharmaceutical dosages in use today, only minor issues have been observed,” said omega-3 trade group, the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED).

Other negative effects were referenced in selected trials at 3.5g for lipid peroxidation; 5g for certain inflammation markers and 6g for gastrointestinal issues.

No need for an upper intake level

“Negative health effects regarding gastrointestinal function, including abdominal cramps, flatulence, eructation, vomiting and diarrhea, have been reported, but seem to be associated with intake of an oily substance and not ascribed specifically to EPA and/or DHA,” the VKM report concluded.
“Based on the reviewed literature, it is not possible to identify clear adverse effects from EPA and/or DHA, which can be used for setting tolerable upper intake levels.”

Of ALA it said: “In the studies investigating ALA, no negative health effects have been observed. Intake of ALA from linseed oil and margarine up to 8g/day in addition to the contribution from a Western diet has not shown any negative health effects and it is therefore no rationale to set an upper tolerable intake level for ALA.”

But it said omega-3 health benefits were down to EPA and DHA, not ALA directly.


Zinc Prevents Diabetes Damage

In type 2 diabetes, a protein called amylin forms dense clumps that shut down insulin-producing cells, wreaking havoc on the control of blood sugar. But zinc has a knack for preventing amylin from misbehaving.

Recent research at the University of Michigan offers new details about how zinc performs this "security guard" function. The findings appear in the July 8 issue of the Journal of Molecular Biology.

Amylin is something of a two-faced character. In healthy people who have normal levels of zinc in the insulin-producing islet cells of the pancreas, amylin actually pitches in to help with blood sugar regulation, says Ayyalusamy Ramamoorthy, a U-M professor of chemistry and of biophysics in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. In fact, an analog of amylin called Symlin is used in conjunction with insulin to manage blood sugar levels in diabetics.

This good behavior on amylin's part comes about because zinc acts like a security guard at a rock concert, whose job is keeping fans from turning troublesome and destructive. In molecular terms, zinc prevents amylin - also known as Islet Amyloid Polypeptide (IAPP) - from forming harmful clumps similar to those found in Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's and various other degenerative diseases.

But in a zinc-starved cellular environment of someone with type 2 diabetes, amylin has no watchful guard to rein it in. It's free to clump together with other amylin molecules in the molecular equivalent of a gang.

The clumping ultimately leads to the formation of ribbon-like structures called fibrils, and because fibril formation has been linked to a number of human diseases, it was long assumed that fibrils themselves were toxic. But accumulating evidence now suggests that the actual culprits may be shorter snippets that assemble in the process of forming full-length fibrils. For this reason, it's important to understand the whole aggregation process, not just the structure of the final fibril.

Ramamoorthy and colleagues are trying to better understand exactly how zinc interacts with amylin, in hopes of finding ways of treating or preventing type 2 diabetes and other diseases associated with aging. In earlier work, they showed that when zinc binds to amylin, at a point near the middle of the amylin molecule, the amylin molecule kinks, which interferes with the formation of toxic clumps. In the current work, they show that the binding of zinc in the middle makes one end of the amylin molecule, called the N-terminus, become more orderly.

"This is significant, because the N-terminus is very important in clump formation and amylin toxicity," Ramamoorthy said.

In addition, the researchers found that before amylin can begin forming fibrils, zinc must be rousted from its nesting place. This eviction is costly in energetic terms, and the sheer expense of it discourages fibril formation. And because a single zinc molecule can bind to several amylin molecules, it ties up the amylin in assemblages that, unlike certain other aggregations, are not intermediates in the pathway that leads to fibril formation.

A Woman's Diet Prior To Pregnancy Affects The Health Of Her Future Offspring

Poor maternal diet before conception can result in offspring with reduced birth weights and increased risk of developing type II diabetes and obesity.

This work, which is being presented at the Society for Experimental Biology Annual Conference in Glasgow on Saturday the 2nd of July, used an animal model to illustrate the importance of maternal diet even before pregnancy begins.

During the study mice that were fed a low protein diet for ten weeks before conception (but had a normal diet during pregnancy) gave birth to offspring that had lower birth weights, showed catch-up growth after weaning and increased insulin sensitivity.

These effects combined can lead to problems later in life. MSc researcher, Ms Anete Dudele, from the University of Aarhus, explains: "Low birth weight and catch-up growth is associated with enhanced insulin-sensitivity in young adults, this then deteriorates into insulin resistance and type II diabetes with increased age. There is also evidence that male offspring are more likely to develop obesity."

Humans and mice respond in the same way to poor diet during pregnancy; their offspring show low birth weights and increased risk of obesity, type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease. "If humans respond in the same way as mice to pre-conception diet as well then women should not only consider what they eat during pregnancy but also before pregnancy if they want to reduce the risk of their future children acquiring lifestyle diseases," says Ms. Dudele.

Cardiovascular disease is often associated with obesity and type II diabetes and future research by the team will determine whether offspring born to mothers who had poor pre-conception diets are predisposed to these types of problems as well.

Daisy Brickhill
Society for Experimental Biology

TV Food Advertising Increases Children's Preference for Unhealthy Foods, Study Finds

ScienceDaily (June 30, 2011) — Researchers at the University of Liverpool have found that children who watch adverts for unhealthy food on television are more likely to want to eat high-fat and high-sugar foods.
The study by researchers in the Institute of Psychology, Health and Society examined the food preferences of a group of 281 children aged six to 13 years old from the North West of England.
The children were shown an episode of a popular cartoon before being shown it again two weeks later. In each case, the cartoon was preceded by five minutes of commercials -- one set showing toy adverts and one showing mainly snacks and fast food. After each showing the children were given lists of various food items, both branded and unbranded, and asked what they would like to eat.

The study found that after viewing the food commercials the children were more likely to pick unhealthy foods. All the children chose more branded and non-branded fat-rich and carbohydrate-rich items from the food preference lists compared with those they chose after viewing the toy adverts. The study also found that children who watched television for more than 21 hours a week were more likely to be affected by the food adverts than those children who watched a lesser amount of television. These children also had a significantly greater body mass index than those who were less frequent viewers.

Emma Boyland, from the University's Kissileff Laboratory for the Study of Human Ingestive Behaviour, said: "Obesity in young children is now a major health concern around the world. Our studies highlight that there are global connections between advertising, food preferences and consumption. This is a beyond-brand effect, increasing children's selections of all unhealthy foods -- not just those shown in adverts.

"This study demonstrates that children are far more likely to eat unhealthy foods if they watch a lot of television. This suggests that it would be beneficial to reduce the amount of television that children watch. These findings also have implications for the regulation of television food advertising to children. A 9pm watershed should be introduced so that children are not exposed to high fat, high sugar and high salt food advertising during popular family viewing."

Changes in Specific Dietary Factors May Have Big Impact On Long-Term Weight Gain

ScienceDaily (July 3, 2011) — In a series of three separate studies looking at how changes in multiple dietary and other lifestyle factors relate to long-term weight gain, Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers found that modest changes in specific foods and beverages, physical activity, TV-watching, and sleep duration were strongly linked with long-term weight gain. Changes in diet, in particular, had the strongest associations with differences in weight gain.

The study appears in the June 23, 2011, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Prior research has often focused on methods for weight loss after obesity has developed. Less is known about factors linked to long-term term weight gain.

"An average adult gains about one pound per year. Because the weight gain is so gradual and occurs over many years, it has been difficult for scientists and for individuals themselves to understand the specific factors that may be responsible," said lead author Dariush Mozaffarian, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology at HSPH and Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), and Harvard Medical School.

The researchers evaluated changes in multiple specific lifestyle factors and weight gain every four years over 12 to 20 years of follow-up in three separate large cohorts, the Nurses' Health Study (NHS), the Nurses' Health Study II (NHS II), and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS). The final analyses included 50,422 women in the NHS, 47,898 women in NHS II, and 22,557 men in HPFS, all of whom were free of obesity or chronic diseases at the beginning of the study. Study participants gained an average of 3.35 lb during each four-year period, which corresponded to a weight gain of 16.8 lb over the 20-year period.

When relations of lifestyle changes with weight gain were evaluated, the findings were strikingly similar in all 3 studies.

For example, the foods associated with the greatest weight gain over the 20-year study period included potato chips (for each one increased daily serving, +1.69 lb more weight gain every 4 years), other potatoes (1.28 lb), sugar-sweetened beverages (1.00 lb), unprocessed meats (0.95 lb), and processed meats (0.93 lb). Of note, several foods associated with less weight gain when their consumption was actually increased, including vegetables (−0.22 lb), whole grains (−0.37 lb), fruits (−0.49 lb), nuts (−0.57 lb) and yogurt (−0.82 lb). Evaluating all changes in diet together, participants in the lower 20% of dietary changes gained nearly 4 lbs more each 4 years than those in the top 20% -- an amount equivalent to the average weight gain in the population overall.

For diet, focusing only on total calories may not be the most useful way to consume fewer calories than one expends, say the researchers. Other yardsticks, such as content of total fat, energy density, or sugars, could also be misleading. Rather, they found that eating more healthful foods and beverages -- focusing on overall dietary quality -- was most important.

The most useful dietary metrics for preventing long-term weight gain appeared to be:
  • Focus on improving carbohydrate quality by eating less liquid sugars (e.g. soda) and other sweets, as well as fewer starches (e.g. potatoes) and refined grains (e.g. white bread, white rice, breakfast cereals low in fiber, other refined carbohydrates).
  • Focus on eating more minimally processed foods (e.g. fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, yogurt) and fewer highly processed foods (e.g. white breads, processed meats, sugary beverages).
Such a more healthful dietary pattern could influence long-term weight gain in many ways, including, for example, through biologic effects such as changing hunger, insulin levels, or satiety, or by improving eating behaviors related to average portion sizes and patterns of foods and beverages consumed.

"These findings underscore the importance of making wise food choices in preventing weight gain and obesity," said Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at HSPH and senior author of the paper. "The idea that there are no 'good' or 'bad' foods is a myth that needs to be debunked."
The results also showed that changes in physical activity and TV-viewing influenced changes in weight. Also, those who slept 6-8 hours a night gained less weight than those who slept less than 6 or more than 8 hours.

Overall, the weight-changes associated with any one lifestyle change were fairly small. However, together they added up, especially for diet. "Small dietary and other lifestyle changes can together make a big difference -- for bad or good," said Mozaffarian. "This makes it easy to gain weight unintentionally, but also demonstrates the tremendous opportunity for prevention. A handful of the right lifestyle changes will go a long way."

Support for the study was provided by the National Institutes of Health and the Searle Scholars Program.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Sleep deprivation during a low calorie diet can result in reduced fat loss, and increased muscle loss. In the study discussed, subjects lost 6.6 pounds of bodyweight in 14 days following a lower calorie diet and sleeping only 5.5 hours per night, but of that 6.6 pounds lost, 75% was muscle. Watch the video to learn how you can increase fat burning and maintain, and even gain muscle.


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Eat Today, Pay Tomorrow - Lean Women Think Ahead

Being overweight is accompanied by changes in brain structure and behaviour. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences and the Integrated Research and Treatment Center Adiposity Diseases in Leipzig have shown that there are also differences between men and women. The research studied normal and overweight men and women, who took part in a game of luck. Their results showed that overweight women kept choosing the option that promised attractive short-term rewards but led to long-term losses. Men also consistently did the same regardless of their weight. Only the lean women demonstrated that they took the possible long-term consequences of their actions into account. An investigation of the participants' brain structure shows possible reasons for this. Men and women who are overweight show changes in brain regions that have been linked with the processing of rewards and feelings of satiety after eating. In the women who were overweight, additional changes were found in areas that are important for goal-directed control of behaviour. This new knowledge may help to tailor treatments of obesity specifically for each gender.

Being overweight is associated with profound, gender-dependent structural alterations in the brain. In men and women, changes are seen in brain regions involved in reward processing (orbitofrontal cortex and ventral striatum) and the regulation of hunger (hypothalamus) (top row). In women, Body Mass Index is associated with additional changes in regions that are important for impulse control (dorsal striatum; lower row).

In order to compare brain structure and impulsive behaviour in normal and overweight men and women, the researchers in Leipzig utilised a computerised card game commonly used in psychology, known as the Iowa Gambling Task. In this game, the participants chose between two decks of cards with differing risks and success rates. "In principle, this task mirrors the everyday trade-off between immediate reward from overeating and the negative long-term consequences this will have on one's body," explains Annette Horstmann, principle investigator of the study. Women who were overweight tended to select the more short-sighted option. They were much more likely to choose the deck of cards which led to higher short-term success but a negative outcome in the long term. While lean women learned to avoid the deck that led to long-term losses, the overweight women continued to employ the strategy that focused on immediate rewards. There was no difference in the behaviour of lean and overweight men, which was highly similar to that of the overweight women.

Using voxel-based morphometry, a form of MRI, the volume of grey matter in the participants' brains was assessed. In general, participants who were overweight had a greater density of grey matter in areas associated with reward processing. Likewise, the hypothalamus, a brain region known to be connected with the control of hunger and satiety, was much larger in overweight men and women. In contrast, areas associated with the cognitive control of goal-directed behaviour were significantly different between lean women and women who were overweight.

"The lack of impulse control which accompanies this is a further indication that obesity in otherwise healthy individuals should be classified as an addictive behaviour," says Horstmann. The same structural changes have been found in previous studies examining women with bulimia. This suggests that the differences in grey matter are not directly connected with being overweight but with the eating behaviour itself. Whether changed eating behaviour and the lack of impulse control cause the structural changes in the brain or vice versa remains to be established in future studies.

Horstmann A, Busse FP, Mathar D, Mueller K, Lepsien J, Schloegl H, Kabisch S, Kratzsch J, Neumann J, Stumvoll M, Villringer A, Pleger B. Obesity-related differences between women and men in brain structure and goal-directed behavior. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 2011 5:58. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2011.00058

Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences