Research by the University of Reading has found that couples with children have a poorer diet than those without. On average, statistics showed that childless couples ate 2kg more fruit and vegetables than families over a fortnight. The results formed part of a study that looked at the uneven distribution of unhealthy diets in the population. It also showed that regional variation in the demand for fruit and vegetables is pronounced, with the highest demand in London and the South East and the lowest in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Professor Richard Tiffin, Director of the Centre for Food Security at the University, said: “There are clear distributional implications for dietary health that arise from these patterns of consumption and also for the health of children. They suggest that targeted interventions are necessary in order to reduce the incidence of diet-related health problems in the future.” The study revealed that the presence of children in a household leads to a lower level of demand for fruit and vegetables and meat, and an increased demand for milk and dairy, cereals and potatoes.
The results also emphasised the role played by low incomes and socio-economic circumstances in poor dietary choices. Comparing an unemployed individual with an otherwise identical individual living in a household of two, the former consumed over 3kg less fruit over a period of two weeks. Similarly, for two identical households, a difference in income of 10 per cent can be expected to lead to a difference in demand for fruit and vegetables of around 500g.
Professor Tiffin said: “Our results imply that households which have a higher level of expenditure will tend to consume proportionately more meat and more fresh fruit and vegetables. Households in London and the South East have higher levels of fruit and vegetable consumption while it is reduced by the presence of children. “The dietary components that we have analysed have important implications for policy-makers in tackling diet-related chronic disease, which represents one of the most significant public health challenges of the 21st century.”
The paper, 'The demand for a healthy diet: estimating the almost ideal demand system with infrequency of purchase, by R. Tiffin (University of Reading) and M. Arnoult (Scottish Agricultural College), is published this month in The European Review of Agricultural Economics – http://erae.oxfordjournals.org/content/current
Researchers used the UK government's Expenditure and Food Survey (EFS) for 2003-2004. Participating households voluntarily record food purchases for consumption at home for a two-week period using a food diary. The sample is based on 7,014 households in 672 postcode sectors stratified by Government Office Region, socioeconomic group and car ownership. It is carried out throughout the UK and throughout the year in order to capture seasonal variations.
Researchers from the University of Hull and the Hull York Medical School have found dark chocolate has a significant effect on reducing the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). The research, published in Nutrition Journal, found that polyphenol rich chocolate eases the condition, with subjects noting significant improvements to their well-being. Chocolate is known to increase neurotransmitters like phenyl ethylamine, serotonin, and anandamide in the brain, but this is the first time that polyphenol rich chocolate in people with CFS has been studied.
Above: Professor Steve Atkin.
Subjects with CFS having severe fatigue of at least 10 out of 11 on Chalder Fatigue Scale were enrolled on the pilot study. Participants were given one of two types of chocolate, one with a high cocoa content and the other without.
Over an eight week period the volunteers consumed one type of chocolate followed by a two week wash out period and then another eight weeks of eating the other variety. The dark chocolate contained 85% cocoa solids with the alternative containing none. Each individual bar weighed 15g with each volunteer expected to eat three per day, and also told not to consume more or make changes to their diet.
Researchers also noted the weight of subject did not significantly alter despite consuming an extra 245 calories per day for two months.
Professor Steve Atkin who led the study says: “The significance of the results is particularly surprising because of the small number of subjects in the study. A further study is needed to see what the effects would be on a larger group of people, but this is potentially very encouraging news for those who suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.”
This latest finding follows recent research also carried out at the University of Hull and the Hull York Medical School where dark chocolate was found to help reduce the risk of heart attacks in people with Type 2 diabetes by increasing the amount of good cholesterol in the blood stream.
Cardiovascular and lung researchers at The Ohio State University Medical Center are the first to report a direct link between air pollution and diabetes. If the ongoing research continues to confirm this association, scientists fear human health in both industrialized and developing countries could be impacted.
“We now have even more compelling evidence of the strong relationship between air pollution and obesity and type II diabetes,” said Dr. Sanjay Rajagopalan, section director of vascular medicine at Ohio State's medical center and principal investigator of the study. The latest study builds upon previous research from Rajagopalan's team implicating air pollution as a major adverse risk factor for cardiovascular effects, high blood pressure and acute coronary syndromes.
Researchers found that exposure to air pollution, over a period of 24 weeks, exaggerates insulin resistance and fat inflammation. The results of the study are available online in the current issue of Circulation. “The prevalence of obesity has reached epidemic proportions with 34 percent of adults in the U.S., ages 20 and over, meeting the criteria for obesity,” said Rajagopalan. “Obesity and diabetes are very prevalent in urban areas and there have been no studies evaluating the impact of poor air quality on these related conditions until now.”
Type II diabetes, a consequence of obesity, has soared worldwide with a projected 221 million people expected to suffer from this disease in 2010, a 46 percent increase compared to 1995.
In the Ohio State research, scientists fed male mice a diet high in fat over a 10-week period to induce obesity and then exposed them to either filtered air or air with particulate matter for six hours a day, five days a week, over a 24-week period. Researchers monitored measures of obesity, fat content, vascular responses and diabetic state. The air pollution level inside the chamber containing particulate matter was comparable to levels a commuter may be exposed to in urban including many metropolitan areas in the U.S.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the four most common pollutants emitted into the air are particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. Air pollution is commonly the result of industrial emissions, power plants and automobile exhaust.
“This study provides additional guidance for the EPA to review air pollution standards,” says Rajagopalan. “Our study also confirmed a need for a broader based approach, from the entire world, to influence policy development.”
Dr. Qinghua Sun, first author of the study, is leading an international effort to understand the effects of urban air pollution in Beijing, where the impact of recent stringent measures on air quality during the Olympics is being monitored in another controlled experiment. Researchers at the University of Michigan and the New York University School of Medicine participated in the study. Along with Rajagopalan and Sun, other Ohio State researchers involved in the study were Peibin Yue, Jeffrey A. Deiuliis, Thomas Kampfrath, Michael B. Mikolaj, Ying Cai, Michael C. Ostrowski, Bo Lu, Sampath Parthasarathy and Susan D. Moffatt-Bruce.
Funding from the National Institutes of Health supported this research.
The scientists looked for three nucleotides in breast milk (adenosine, guanosine and uridine), which excite or relax the central nervous system, promoting restfulness and sleep, and observed how these varied throughout a 24-hour period.
“You wouldn't give anyone a coffee at night, and the same is true of milk – it has day-specific ingredients that stimulate activity in the infant, and other night-time components that help the baby to rest”, explains Sánchez.
The benefits of breast milk
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says breast milk is the best food for the newborn, and should not be substituted, since it meets all the child's physiological requirements during the first six months of life. It not only protects the baby against many illnesses such as colds, diarrhoea and sudden infant death syndrome, but can also prevent future diseases such as asthma, allergies and obesity, and promotes intellectual development.
The benefits of breastfeeding also extend to the mother. Women who breastfeed lose the weight gained during pregnancy more quickly, and it also helps prevent against anaemia, high blood pressure and postnatal depression. Osteoporosis and breast cancer are also less common among women who breastfeed their children.
The paper directly compared findings from two separate studies: 'The Diets of British Schoolchildren' conducted by the Department of health (DH) in 1983 (Department of Health 1989); and the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) from 1997 (Gregory & Lowe, 2000).
Gibson's analysis found that total sugar intake averaged at 115g/day in 1983, compared with 113g/day in 1997. Allowing for exclusions of low and high energy reporters, intake levels were 122g/day (1983) and 127g/day (1997), showing a marginal and insignificant increase over the study period. Contrastingly, mean body weight increased significantly during the period of the DH and NDNS surveys, showing a rise of 1.9kg for 10-11 year olds and 3.4kg among 14-15 year olds. BMI increased from 17.9 to 18.6 units in the younger group, and 20.2 to 21.3 units in the older group. According to these calculations, the prevalence of being overweight (plus obesity), as defined by the International Obesity Taskforce (IOTF) cut-offs (91st percentile) rose from 13% to 21-22% between surveys. Gibson concluded that the slight increase in consumption of total sugars did not account for the significant increase in BMI, equivalent to 2-3 kg over the review period.
During the same period, Gibson found that mean energy intake (EI) was 3% lower in 1997 than in 1983, mainly as a result of lower fat intake. This change in overall energy consumption meant that sugars represented a higher proportion of daily energy intake in 1997 (23.6% versus 22.3%), despite total sugar consumption remaining relatively static in comparison. The review surmises that the most likely cause for the increased BMI is a decline in energy expenditure.
In addition, Gibson's paper found that basal metabolic rate (BMR) increased by approximately 3% between surveys as a result of higher body weights, and it is estimated that EI in relation to basal requirements was even lower at 6%. Gibson found that the paradox of rising BMI, despite a 2-3% rise in BMR and an EI that is static or falling, pointed to declining energy expenditure as an important factor in the change.
The Gibson analysis showed that the key sources of sugars in the diet have changed with a marked shift away from table sugar and smaller falls in consumption of sugars through milk, biscuits and cakes, counterbalanced by a significant increase in sugars consumed in soft drinks and, to a lesser extent, fruit juice and breakfast cereals.
A conclusion of Gibson's reanalysis of data from the DH and NDNS studies, that consumption of total sugars remained relatively static during the period, providing an estimated 22% of energy, is supported by findings from a repeated cross sectional study of children's food and drink intake, conducted in Northumberland in 1989, 1990 and 2000 which looked at trends in children's food and drink intake.
Sigrid Gibson, the paper's author, said: “There are very few studies that have assessed trends in sugar intake over time and particularly over such an extended period. The findings of the reanalysis strongly contradict widespread assumptions that sugar levels in the diet are responsible for rising obesity levels. With dietary sugar intakes relatively static, and overall energy consumption showing decline, increased BMI levels cannot be attributed to sugar consumption.”
Curcumin, one of the principal components of the Indian spice turmeric, seems to delay the liver damage that eventually causes cirrhosis, suggests preliminary experimental research in the journal Gut. Curcumin, which gives turmeric its bright yellow pigment, has long been used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine to treat a wide range of gastrointestinal disorders.
Previous research has indicated that it has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which may be helpful in combating disease. The research team wanted to find out if curcumin could delay the damage caused by progressive inflammatory conditions of the liver, including primary sclerosing cholangitis and primary biliary cirrhosis.
Both of these conditions, which can be sparked by genetic faults or autoimmune disease, cause the liver's plumbing system of bile ducts to become inflamed, scarred, and blocked. This leads to extensive tissue damage and irreversible and ultimately fatal liver cirrhosis.
The research team analysed tissue and blood samples from mice with chronic liver inflammation before and after adding curcumin to their diet for a period of four and a period of eight weeks.
The results were compared with the equivalent samples from mice with the same condition, but not fed curcumin.
The findings showed that the curcumin diet significantly reduced bile duct blockage and curbed liver cell (hepatocyte) damage and scarring (fibrosis) by interfering with several chemical signalling pathways involved in the inflammatory process.
These effects were clear at both four and eight weeks. No such effects were seen in mice fed a normal diet.
The authors point out that current treatment for inflammatory liver disease involves ursodeoxycholic acid, the long term effects of which remain unclear. The other alternative is a liver transplant.
Curcumin is a natural product, they say, which seems to target several different parts of the inflammatory process, and as such, may therefore offer a very promising treatment in the future.
Source: Anna Baghdasaryan, Thierry Claudel, Astrid Kosters, Judith Gumhold, Dagmar Silbert, Andrea Thüringer, Katharina Leski, Peter Fickert, Saul J Karpen, Michael Trauner. Curcumin improves sclerosing cholangitis in Mdr2-/- mice by inhibition of cholangiocyte inflammatory response and portal myofibroblast proliferation. Gut, 2010; 59: 521-530