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Healthy foods ensure a longer life

A new study has found that the leading causes of death are no more infectious diseases but chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer – which may be affected by food habits. Researchers investigated eating patterns of over 2500 adults between the ages of 70 and 79 over a ten-year period and found that certain diets were associated with reduced mortality.

By determining the consumption frequency of 108 different food items, researchers were able to group the participants into six different groups as per their food choices:

  • Healthy foods- 374 participants
  • High-fat dairy products- 332
  • Meat, fried foods, and alcohol- 693
  • Breakfast cereal-386
  • Refined grains-458
  • Sweets and desserts-339

‘Healthy foods’ group ate more low-fat dairy products, fruit, whole grains, poultry, fish, and vegetables, and lower consumption of meat, fried foods, sweets, high-calorie drinks, and added fat. ‘High-fat dairy products’ group had higher intake of foods such as ice cream, cheese, and 2 per cent and whole milk and yoghurt, and lower intake of poultry, low-fat dairy products, rice, and pasta.

End results indicated that ‘High-fat dairy products’ group had a 40 per cent higher risk of mortality than the Healthy foods cluster and the ‘Sweets and desserts’ group had a 37 per cent higher risk. No significant differences in risk of mortality were seen between the ‘Healthy foods’ cluster and the ‘Breakfast cereal’ or ‘Refined grains’ clusters.

The “results of this study suggest that older adults who follow a dietary pattern consistent with current guidelines to consume relatively high amounts of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry and fish, may have a lower risk of mortality,” said Amy L. Anderson at Department of Nutrition and Food Science, University of Maryland.

“Because a substantial percentage of older adults in this study followed the ”Healthy foods” dietary pattern, adherence to such a diet appears a feasible and realistic recommendation for potentially improved survival and quality of life in the growing older adult population.” The study will be published in the January 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association .

 

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Placebos may work – even when the patient knows

For most of us, the “placebo effect” is synonymous with the power of positive thinking; it works because you believe you're taking a real drug. But a new study rattles this assumption.Researchers at Harvard Medical School's Osher Research Center and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) have found that placebos work even when administered without the seemingly requisite deception.

Placebos—or dummy pills—are typically used in clinical trials as controls for potential new medications. Even though they contain no active ingredients, patients often respond to them. In fact, data on placebos is so compelling that many American physicians (one study estimates 50 percent) secretly give placebos to unsuspecting patients. Because such “deception” is ethically questionable, HMS associate professor of medicine Ted Kaptchuk teamed up with colleagues at BIDMC to explore whether or not the power of placebos can be harnessed honestly and respectfully.

To do this, 80 patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) were divided into two groups: one group, the controls, received no treatment, while the other group received a regimen of placebos—honestly described as “like sugar pills”—which they were instructed to take twice daily. “Not only did we make it absolutely clear that these pills had no active ingredient and were made from inert substances, but we actually had 'placebo' printed on the bottle,” says Kaptchuk. “We told the patients that they didn't have to even believe in the placebo effect. Just take the pills.”

For a three-week period, the patients were monitored. By the end of the trial, nearly twice as many patients treated with the placebo reported adequate symptom relief as compared to the control group (59 percent vs. 35 percent). Also, on other outcome measures, patients taking the placebo doubled their rates of improvement to a degree roughly equivalent to the effects of the most powerful IBS medications. “I didn't think it would work,” says senior author Anthony Lembo, HMS associate professor of medicine at BIDMC and an expert on IBS. “I felt awkward asking patients to literally take a placebo. But to my surprise, it seemed to work for many of them.”

The authors caution that this study is small and limited in scope and simply opens the door to the notion that placebos are effective even for the fully informed patient—a hypothesis that will need to be confirmed in larger trials. “Nevertheless,” says Kaptchuk, “these findings suggest that rather than mere positive thinking, there may be significant benefit to the very performance of medical ritual. I'm excited about studying this further. Placebo may work even if patients knows it is a placebo.”

This study was funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Osher Research Center, Harvard Medical School.

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Tomato juice helps stop osteoporosis

Tomatoes are rich in cell-protecting antioxidants. Antioxidants are known cancer-fighters, such as prostate and breast cancer. And now lycopene – one of the antioxidants found in tomatoes – is being linked to reduce risk of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a degenerative bone disease, usually developing in old age, especially in post-menopausal women.

But the new study at the University of Toronto in Canada, says drinking tomato juice may help stave off osteoporosis. Published in the journal Osteoporosis International, scientists claim consuming 30mg of lycopene from tomato juice (about two glasses) is enough to help prevent osteoporosis. For the research, experts restricted a group of post-menopausal women, ages 50 to 60, from consuming anything containing lycopene for one month, then the study participants were split into four groups for four months. Groups were given either a 15mg lycopene supplement, a glass of tomato juice naturally containing 15mg of lycopene, a gourmet tomato juice with 35mg of lycopene, or a placebo.

After four months, results showed supplementing with lycopene raised serum lycopene, compared to the placebo group. The women consuming lycopene had significantly increased antioxidant capacity, decreased oxidative stress, and decreased bone markers for osteoporosis.

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Almonds can fight diabetes

Here is another reason to make the tasty almonds a part of your daily diet. The humble tidbit nuts that combine tons of essential nutrients in one delicious package are an effective weapon in fighting type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, claims a new study. According to researchers, almonds added to the diet have a favorable effect on blood cholesterol levels and insulin sensitivity, two vital risk factors that can trigger diabetes and heart problems.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Michelle Wien, Assistant Research Professor in Nutrition at Loma Linda University’s School of Public Health stated, “We have made great strides in chronic disease research from evidence of effective treatment to evidence of effective prevention. “It is promising for those with risk factors for chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, that dietary changes may help to improve factors that play a potential role in the disease development.”

In a bid to assess the impact of almond enriched diet as a prescription for physical wellness, the researchers conducted a study. The focus of the study was to analyze the effect of the humble nut on the progression of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The investigators enrolled a group of 65 adults comprising 48 women and 17 men with pre-diabetes in their mid-50s. The study subjects were split into two groups. As a part of the study, one group was assigned to almonds while the second formed the control group. The control group followed a diet recommended by the American Diabetes Association (ADA).The group assigned to almonds conformed to a similar diet but also added 20 percent calories from almonds. All the participants were asked to consume the same amount of calories from carbohydrate-containing foods, such as pasta, bread, and rice. However, those consuming the almond-enriched diet reported a lower intake of carbohydrate-containing food items.

After a period of 16 weeks, the investigators compared the insulin and cholesterol levels of both the groups. It was noticed that people consuming almond-enriched diet exhibited marked improvement in their insulin sensitivity and a dramatic reduction in LDL cholesterol as opposed to those eating the nut-free regular diet.

The study was conducted at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. The findings of the research are published in the ‘Journal of the American College of Nutrition

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Good diet never grows old

Older adults who eat a healthy diet tend to live longer than those who indulge in desserts and high-fat dairy products, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. With the projected doubling of our older population by 2030, what people put on their plates may be even more important.

For 10 years, researchers followed the eating habits of 2,500 healthy seniors aged 70 to 79. They found people who ate ice cream, whole milk and other high fat-dairy items had a 40% higher risk of dying during the decade of study than those who ate a healthful diet. People who ate sweets such as doughnuts, cakes, and cookies had a 37% higher risk of dying in that same 10 year study period.

The seniors were placed into one of the following 6 dietary categories depending upon what they ate: 1) Healthy foods 2) High-fat dairy products 3) Meat, fried foods and alcohol 4) Breakfast cereal 5) Refined grains and 6) Sweets and desserts. The people with the more healthful diets not only lived longer they also reported having a better quality of life, for a longer period of time than others.

“Our study and several previous studies suggest that it may be important what people eat at any age and that people can perhaps increase their quality of life and survival by following a healthy diet,” explains lead author Amy Anderson, Postdoctoral Researcher with the University of Maryland's Department of Nutrition and Food Science.

Eating healthy meant including more low-fat dairy products, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, poultry and fish in the diet as opposed to meat, fried foods, sweets, highly sugared drinks and other fatty foods. The healthy group got only 3% of their calories from high-fat dairy products such as cheese and ice cream, for example, while the high-fat dairy group got 17% of their calories from these foods. The healthier group also ate fewer sweets with only 6% of their calories coming from these treats compared to 25% by those in the desserts group.

The study noted that in the past century, the leading causes of death were from infectious diseases. Now people are dying from chronic illnesses such as heart disease and cancer, which are often tied to what we eat.

“I think this research is important, especially now with the baby boomers entering these older age groups. So if people have a higher quality of life and survival , if they're healthier, this can reduce the cost of health care and improve people's daily lives in general,” says Anderson.

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Meal replacements may not help teens keep weight off

A new study at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia found that meal replacements like shakes, bars and prepackaged entrees aren't a good long-term solution for obese teens. For the new study, researchers randomly assigned 113 obese teens and their families to different diets for a year. One group of teens ate self-selected low-calorie meals not exceeding 1,300 to 1,500 total calories per day. The other group ate meal replacements (three SlimFast shakes and one prepackaged entree), along with five servings of fruits and vegetables. Four months into the study, participants in second group were randomized to a second-phase diet: some were put on the low-calorie self-selected diet, while the rest stayed on meal replacements.

At the four-month mark, all participants had lost weight, but the teens on meal replacements lost more — a 6.3% reduction in body mass index (BMI) versus 3.8% for the low-calorie group. But by the end of the one-year study, many participants had regained much of the weight they had lost, resulting in no significant differences in weight loss between the groups: on average, the teens had reduced their BMI 3.4% since the beginning of the study.

The results underscore one of the many difficulties of dieting: keeping the weight off long term. Many dieters regain weight because they can't stick to rigid eating programs for long: one-third of the participants in the current study dropped out before its conclusion. The monotony of the meal-replacement diet couldn't have helped either: teens in the meal-replacement group started out drinking SlimFasts 5.6 days a week (in Month 2); by the end of the study, they were only able to tolerate the shakes 1.6 days each week.

“The potential benefit of (meal replacement) in maintaining weight loss was not supported,” the researchers concluded. So for those of you who are gearing up to begin a weight-loss program in the New Year, it helps to remember that austerity isn't the best strategy long-term. Focus on variety — both with your diet and your exercise regimen — and manageability instead. A regular visit with Nastaran can ensure that you stay on track and keep the weight off long term.

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Diogenes: Has The Secret To Preventing Obesity Been Discovered?

Diogenes: Has The Secret To Preventing Obesity Been Discovered?

Throughout the project, the families received expert guidance from dietitians and were asked to provide blood and urine samples.

Diogenes: The five diet types

The design comprised the following five diet types:

  • A low-protein diet (13% of energy consumed) with a high glycemic index (GI)*
  • A low-protein, low-GI diet
  • A high-protein (25% of energy consumed), low-GI diet
  • A high-protein, high-GI diet
  • A control group which followed the current dietary recommendations without special instructions regarding glycemic index levels

A high-protein, low-GI diet works best

A total of 938 overweight adults with a mean body mass index (BMI) of 34 kg/sq m were initially placed on an 800-kcal-per-day diet for eight weeks before the actual diet intervention was initiated. A total of 773 adult participants completed this initial weight-loss phase and were then randomly assigned to one of five different diet types, where 548 participants completed the six-month diet intervention (completion rate of 71%).

Fewer participants in the high-protein, low-GI groups dropped out of the project than in the low-protein, high-GI group (26.4% and 25.6%, respectively, vs. 37.4%; P = 0.02 and P = 0.01 for the two comparisons, respectively). The initial weight loss on the 800-kcal diet was an average of 11.0 kg.

The average weight regain among all participants was 0.5 kg, but among the participants who completed the study, those in the low-protein/high-GI group showed the poorest results with a significant weight gain of 1.67 kg. The weight regain was 0.93 kg less for participants on a high-protein diet than for those on a low-protein diet and 0.95 kg less in the groups on a low-GI diet compared to those on a high-GI diet.

The children's study

The results of the children's study have been published in a separate article in Pediatrics. In the families, there were 827 children who only participated in the diet intervention. Thus, they were never required to go on a diet or count calories – they simply followed the same diet as their parents. Approx. 45% of the children in these families were overweight. The results of the children's study were remarkable: In the group of children who maintained a high-protein, low-GI diet the prevalence of overweight dropped spontaneously from approx. 46% to 39% – a decrease of approx. 15%.

Proteins and low-GI foods ad libitum – the way ahead

The Diogenes study shows that the current dietary recommendations are not optimal for preventing weight gain among overweight people. A diet consisting of a slightly higher protein content and low-GI foods ad libitum appears to be easier to observe and has been documented to ensure that overweight people who have lost weight maintain their weight loss. Furthermore, the diet results in a spontaneous drop in the prevalence of overweight among their children.

Citation: Thomas Meinert Larsen, Ph.D., Stine-Mathilde Dalskov, M.Sc., Marleen van Baak, Ph.D., Susan A. Jebb, Ph.D., Angeliki Papadaki, Ph.D., Andreas F.H. Pfeiffer, M.D., J. Alfredo Martinez, Ph.D., Teodora Handjieva-Darlenska, M.D., Ph.D., Marie Kunešová, M.D., Ph.D., Mats Pihlsgård, Ph.D., Steen Stender, M.D., Ph.D., Claus Holst, Ph.D., Wim H.M. Saris, M.D., Ph.D., and Arne Astrup, M.D., Dr.Med.Sc. for the Diet, Obesity, and Genes (Diogenes) Project, 'Diets with High or Low Protein Content and Glycemic Index for Weight-Loss Maintenance', N Engl J Med 2010; 363:2102-2113 November 25, 2010

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Mediterranean Diet prevents Diabetes

Could the Mediterranean diet actually help prevent diabetes? The Mediterranean Diet, which is rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats from nuts and olive oil, with moderate amounts of fish, low-fat dairy, and wine, and minimal red meat and processed meats, is considered to be an especially healthy eating plan.

Previous research conducted on newly diagnosed diabetic participants showed the diet did indeed help control the sugar spikes. The previous study found the mediterranean diet eating diabetics had better glycemic control. Furthermore, they had less needs for diabetes medications when adhering to the Mediterranean diet as opposed to a simple low-fat diet.

Recently, a team of researchers in Spain conducted a study using data from a large clinical trial to determine the effects of the Mediterranean Diet on preventing the onset of Type-2 diabetes. Participants were followed for an average of 4 years. Upon completion of the study, 54 participants had developed diabetes–but the split varied significantly among groups. The researchers found that the risk of developing diabetes was reduced by 52% among both groups of people who followed the Mediterranean Diet plans compared to the low-fat control group. In analyzing diet adherence, the researchers further noted that the closer an individual followed the Med-Diet plan, the lower their risk of developing diabetes. Interestingly, the weight of all participants did not change significantly throughout the study, nor did it vary significantly among the three groups.

The participants were divided in one of three groups: adherence to the Med-Diet with 1 liter per week of extra virgin olive oil, adherence to the Med-Diet with 1 oz per day of mixed nuts, or a standard low-fat diet as a control. No calorie restrictions were imposed on any of the groups. The two Med-Diet groups were instructed to increase fruit and vegetable intake, decrease meat intake, stay away from refined sweets and unhealthy fats such as butter, and consume red wine in moderation, if desired. The control group was given general instructions to lower overall fat intake. Baseline measurements and annual follow-up involved an oral glucose tolerance test and interviews to assess diet adherence.

Interestingly, the weight of all participants did not change significantly throughout the study, nor did it vary significantly among the three groups.

This study reinforces prior study results suggesting that the Mediterranean Diet – even without weight loss – may be protective against Type-2 diabetes. The researchers suggest that future studies should focus on the Med-Diet’s effects on younger people, and point out the possible benefits of the Mediterranean Diet as an effective intervention against complications of Type-2 diabetes.

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New Diet: Imagine It!!!

New Diet: Imagine It!!!

Dieters often try to avoid thinking about the foods they crave, but maybe that's the wrong approach.Imagining yourself biting into a luscious piece of chocolate cake – thinking about the way it smells, the creamy texture of frosting on your tongue – may make you eat less of it, a new study suggests. This finding challenges age-old conventional wisdom that tells us thinking about goodies increases our cravings and ultimately our consumption, according to a study from Carnegie Mellon.

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Drawing on research that shows mental imagery and perception affect emotion and behavior, the research team – led by assistant professor of social and decision sciences Carey Morewedge – found that repeatedly imagining indulging in a treat decreases ones desire for it.

“These findings suggest that trying to suppress one's thoughts of desired foods in order to curb cravings for those foods is a fundamentally flawed strategy,” Morewedge said in a statement.

The researchers conducted five experiments in which 51 people were asked to imagine themselves doing a series of repetitive actions – including, in one experiment, eating different amounts of M&Ms. A control group imagined putting coins into a washing machine.

Subjects were then invited to eat their fill of M&Ms. Those who had imagined eating the most ultimately ate fewer candies than the others. Subsequent experiments confirmed the results.

The researchers say their results, which were published in the December 10 issue of Science, could have wide-ranging effects.

Says Morewedge: “We think these findings will help develop future interventions to reduce cravings for things such as unhealthy food, drugs and cigarettes, and hope they will help us learn how to help people make healthier food choices.”

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As womens depression drops so does the excess weight

Treating obese women's depression may help them lose weight, a new study suggests. Although researchers couldn't determine which condition may cause the other, obesity and depression frequently strike together. Obese women who saw their depression lessened in a treatment program also lost more weight than women whose depression didn't improve or worsened, researchers said.

“I expect that the relationship between depression and physical activity goes in both directions,” said study researcher Dr. Gregory Simon, a senior investigator and psychiatrist at Group Health Research Institute in Seattle. “Increased physical activity leads to improvement in depression, and improvement in depression leads to increased physical activity.” “You can't prove which came first.”

The researchers evaluated 203 women, ages 40 to 65, who had an average body mass index of 38.3 at the study's start, and found that obesity increased a woman's risk of depression by 50 percent to 150 percent.

Participants were then split into two groups: one focused only on helping the women lose weight, and the other also treating the women's depression. The researchers held 26 group treatment sessions over 12 months, and checked in on the women six, 12 and 24 months after the study began.

Of those whose depression had loosened its grip — as measured by a small drop on a test called the Hopkins Symptom Checklist depression score — 38 percent had lost at least 5 percent of their body weight. Of those whose depression scores stayed the same or increased, 21 percent lost that much weight.

While the study's purpose wasn't to make recommendations about exercise, Simon said, it's advisable for people suffering from depression to seek more opportunities for physical activity. “There certainly is evidence that exercise alone is an effective treatment for depression, whether you're overweight or obese or not, or even if you're a normal weight,” he said.

The study was unusual because it focused on the sometimes-overlooked link between depression and obesity, without focusing solely on the role of weight loss, said Robert E. Thayer, a psychology professor at California State University in Long Beach who has researched how people regulate their moods with food and exercise.

“These findings suggest that, like other negative moods that motivate eating as a kind of self-medication, depression is no exception,” said Thayer, who was not involved with the study. “It's a useful addition to the scientific literature.”

Simon said future studies could focus on learning which antidepressants — many of which can bring on weight gain as a side effect — contribute most to that situation. “Losing weight can certainly have a positive effect on people's moods,” he said.

The research was published in the November/December issue of the journal General Hospital Psychiatry.

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