Apparently, I’m Boring

Is anyone else ever impressed by the amount and/or ridiculousness of spam they get in the comments section on their blog? I have to admit, it’s amazing the way you get messages comprised of snippets of text from your own post regurgitated back to you. Sometimes it’s even in complete sentences! Sometimes, though, it’s pretty random or even in, like, robot-Dutch. Other times it’s just weird.

Today a piece of spam told me I was boring. Nice.

So while I could adopt an “I’m rubber, you’re a robot” stance, I could also post some interesting things from around the web this week for you to check out. Have fun!

Also, I wanted to share a quick pic of yesterday’s lunch, which was delicious. Something tells me that egg-white veggie scrambles will be making a regular appearance in my kitchen-it’s the roasted eggplant and roasted broccoli, plus the addition of garlic and red pepper flakes that make it fantastic. I’m also loving toast with ricotta and heirloom tomato. 

Any interesting or fun news you want to share? Favorite meal lately? Do you ever get crazy spam? 

Do you need a health coach?

Okay, I know that throwing the word “coach” at the end of something makes it sound like a scam (life coach, anyone?), but I’m one of those people who believes that we could all use a little guidance sometimes. The way I see it, there’s no shame in having a guru, and a recent pilot study suggests that those looking to lose weight may actually be more successful when they have the assistance of a health coach—be it a behavior specialist or simply. Having someone to give feedback and hold them accountable is key to keeping many people on track with their healthy habits.

Would you work with a health coach to achieve a personal health goal? Why or why not?  

Trans Fat Content in Fast Foods Drops in NYC

Since trans fat restrictions were put in place four years ago in the area, trans-fat content in fast food in the NYC area has dropped, according to a new report conducted by the city.

As reported in this Reuters article, the average meal has gone from containing nearly three grams of trans fat to just half a gram.

Said Alice Lichtenstein, a nutrition science researcher from Tufts University in Boston, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, “It’s a small step forward.”

True, trans fat doesn’t have an effect on calories, but it’s still good news that consumers in the region are eating fewer of the unhealthy fat, which has been linked to heart disease risk.

Adds Lichtenstein, “We have to think about these changes within the context of the whole diet. This is one small change in the right direction. We need a whole lot more.”

Do you eat fast food? Do you think about trans fats? What are some other positive changes you’d like to see? 

Cancer group calls for study on sugary drinks, obesity

As reported earlier this week, the American Cancer Society is urging the Surgeon General to conduct a large-scale study of the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages on consumer health, highlighting the role these types of beverages play in the nation’s obesity crisis and the need for an action plan. The proposed study is being compared to the U.S. top doctor’s landmark report on the dangers of smoking that came out in 1964.

“An unbiased and comprehensive report on the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages could have a major impact on the public’s consciousness and perhaps begin to change the direction of public behavior in their choices of food and drinks,” American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network wrote.
What you like to see a major study on the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages on public health? What do you expect the findings would be? 

Cold-Activated Brown Fat May Help Fight Obesity

brown fat

Have you heard of brown fat—aka “good” fat? Naturally present in humans (particularly infants), brown fat consumes calories to generate heat. The catch? Researchers are still looking for a way to activate it in the body. Several studies have shown that it can be activated by cold exposure in a process called non-shivering thermogenesis, and now a recent study suggests that exposure to cold temperatures may indeed flip the switch.

Researchers at Joslin Diabetes Center tested 10 study subjects in three ways. They were each separately given injections of ephedrine (which has been used as a weight-loss drug), given injections of saline as a control, and made to wear “cooling vests” that had water cooled to 57 degrees pumped into them. After each intervention, the brown fat activity was measured using PET/CT scans.

Though brown fat activity was the same after the ephedrine and saline injections, after wearing the cooling vests for two hours, subjects’ brown fat activity was significantly stimulated.

Aaron Cypess, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant investigator and staff physician at Joslin and lead author of the study, noted that although both interventions —ephedrine injections and the cooling vests—did result in the same number of calories being burned, the stimulation in brown fat activity was only noted after wearing the vest.

Though the study was small, the results are encouraging and may offer a glimpse into a method of helping prevent or reverse obesity. Researchers hope that with these results, cooling vests and drugs that mimic the effects may not be too far off in the future.

I can’t help but wonder what would happen if someone wore a cooling vest at the same time as a pair of that fat-burning underwear from Japan…Sounds confusing, no?

Would you wear weight-loss clothing? 

Your New Favorite Beauty Tools: Fruits & Veggies

Another reason to eat the rainbow: Bonobos' famous nori rolls

I’m sure you’ve heard before that fruits and veggies will make you feel healthier, but a recent study shows that getting your daily dose(s) of produce can make you look healthier too.

Ross Whitehead, lead researcher from the School of Psychology at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, noted, “We found that within a six-week period, fluctuation in fruit and vegetable consumption was associated with skin-color changes.” The skin of participants who upped their intake (as opposed to those who lessened it) was judged to be more attractive at the end of the study, which was published March 7 in the online journal PLoS ONE.

Researchers credit the carotenoids—the yellow and red pigments in the fruits and vegetables—for adding a glow. Specific carotenoids studied included beta-carotene (found in carrots, yams, spinach, peaches, pumpkin and apricots, among other things) and lycopene, which is found in foods such as apricots, watermelons, tomatoes and pink grapefruits.

However, it should be noted that the study was small, with only 35 participants (who were mostly white, which doesn’t show how produce intake might affect other complexions) and that it really only shows an association between the appearance of skin and fruit and vegetable intake, not a cause-and-effect relationship.

Still, it’s promising. Like you needed another excuse to add a side salad at dinner or top your breakfast with fruit…

What fruits and veggies are you loving lately? 

Arsenic in Baby Formula?

Brown rice syrup is often used as an organic alternative to high fructose corn syrup, but researchers suggest rice can be a source of inorganic of arsenic. Arsenic is toxic at high doses and may also damage the liver, skin, kidney and cardiovascular system with chronic exposure. Inconvenient, no? A recent sampling of brown rice syrup-sweetened products, including baby formula and cereal bars, has found arsenic levels exceeding US standards for bottled water.

Following a Consumer Reports analysis of arsenic levels in juice, researchers at Dartmouth College tested 17 baby formulas, 29 cereal bars and three energy shots that were purchased in the Hanover, New Hampshire area.

In the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, the team reported that of the two formulas that listed organic brown rice syrup as the main ingredient, one had a total arsenic concentration that was six times the federal limit for bottled water, which is 10 parts per billion.

Of the 29 cereal bars and high energy bars studied, the 22 with rice-based ingredients among the first five ingredients showed higher arsenic concentrations than comparable products without the rice-based sweetener.

While Brian Jackson, the lead researcher, told Reuters that eating a cereal bar every few days would probably not do much harm, that babies and toddlers should probably avoid formulas containing brown rice syrup until levels have been regulated, as it’s a source of arsenic that hasn’t been considered before.

The team said there is an “urgent” need for regulation in food,  as arsenic and its metabolites can become absorbed in rice through natural microbes as well as traces of pesticides in the soil. The FDA says they recognize that there may be trace amounts of arsenic in many foods and that it has expanded its surveillance of rice.

What do you think? Are you concerned? Should arsenic levels in food be regulated? 

Does (plate) size matter?

courtesy of Dietitians-Online

Health professionals often recommend smaller plates to people looking to eat less. While a lot of research has shown visual cues to be a major aspect of satiety, a recent study published in the recent issues of Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics suggested that eating off of a smaller plate may not necessarily lead people to eat less.

10 overweight or obese women and 10 women with a normal BMI were randomly assigned to have lunch using either a small (8.5-inch) or large (10.8-inch) plate and to serve themselves, eating until they were satisfied. This was done on two different days, using a different sized plate each time. Results showed no difference in energy intake due to plate size, weight status or plate size by weight status. Subjects ate the same amount regardless.

According to senior researcher Meena Shah, a professor of kinesiology at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, the overweight and obese women “reported lower levels of hunger and prospective consumptions before the meals and felt less full after the meals compared to normal weight subjects despite no difference in energy consumption between two groups. This suggests that overweight/obese individuals may have a lower ability to sense hunger and fullness than normal weight adults.”

However, it’s worth noting that this was a very small study, and the subjects were told to eat until satisfied. Had they been given a one-plate rule or  at least not known which size plate they were using, it might have shown more directly whether the , uh, size mattered.

Sorry, I just giggled a little.

What do you think—does plate size matter?

Do you think sugars should be regulated?

Earlier this week, British science journal Nature published a commentary called “The Toxic Truth About Sugar“, in which authors Robert Lustig, Laura Schmidt and Claire Brindis (all researchers at the University of California medical center in San Francisco) argue that “added sweeteners pose dangers to health that justify controlling them like alcohol.”

The paper details some of the specific ways in which increased sugar consumption has been linked to a rise in obesity and related non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease. It also goes into the ways in which sugar’s effects on the body can be similar to those of alcohol (by acting on the brain, for example, to encourage further consumption). By using alcohol and tobacco as two other substances that have been linked to disease and are now regulated, the authors make a case for doing the same with sugars. Continue reading “Do you think sugars should be regulated?”

Could secrecy be key to weight loss?

When starting out, let your morning your workouts be your little secret...

Just this morning I read an article about a couple that lost over 300 pounds together, but unfortunately, many people with an overweight or obese partner have a completely different experience. Family and friends, even when they say they want to be supportive, often resist the change, making it hard for that individual to reach their health goals.

This article explores a few other reasons why keeping a new diet or exercise plan to yourself may be a good idea.  Research performed by Dr. Peter Gollwitzer, a professor of psychology at New York University who studies how goals and plans affect cognition and behavior, describes what happens when we reveal our plans in his research paper, “When Intentions Go Public.”

One thing Gollwitzer found was that when announcing a plan, acknowledgment of the change made a person feel they had accomplished their goal, thus stalling the process of putting it into action.

He suggests that one way to avoid this effect is simply to “keep your mouth shut,” but go about making those positive changes and enjoying the benefits. However, it may be helpful to have one or two trusted people to whom you know you will feel held accountable so that you have someone to talk to.

Another reason many may feel more comfortable starting a new plan in secret is that, hey, if you fall off the wagon or take longer to meet your goal than planned, only you have to know.

I actually think this makes a lot of sense—I’ve always wondered why I tend to be secretive about plans and ambitions in my life, health-related and otherwise. I guess it may actually be a good thing.

What do you think? Do you like to share your plans or do you play it close to the vest? Have you ever wrestled with whether to tell someone about lifestyle changes you were making?