THURSDAY, Aug. 9, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Eating fewer calories is essential when you want to lose weight, but there’s growing evidence that the quality of those calories matters, too. Eating high-quality foods not only boosts weight loss, but also reduces your risk for chronic diseases.
High-quality foods are fresh or minimally processed. Think vegetables and fruits, whole grains, plant-based fats and healthy sources of protein. Fresh or flash frozen choices are best. If you need to buy canned foods, look for no-sugar, no-salt added varieties.
Lower-quality foods typically contain refined grains like white flour and various sugars. They’re usually processed and packaged, and high in saturated and/or trans fats — even though manufacturers are supposed to eliminate trans fats, the deadlines to do so have been extended.
One study showed just how strong the association is between low-quality foods and gaining weight. When people ate more foods like potato chips, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red and processed meats — and fewer vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts and yogurt — they put on nearly one pound a year. Unchecked, over time, those pounds can start adding up … to obesity.
Another study found that increasing the quality of fruit, meat, grains and dairy boosted weight loss after just 12 weeks.
To make the switchover easier on yourself, set an attainable goal of eating one new or different high-quality food at least once every week.
Yes, high quality can at times be more expensive, especially for fresh produce. But if you buy in season, whether at farmers’ markets or your local grocery store, you can usually get better quality fresh foods at lower prices.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has suggestions for making better food choices.
FRIDAY, July 27, 2018 (American Heart Association) — High-protein diets are everywhere, but not all protein is created equal. For heart health, experts say the key is moderation and choosing wisely.
“Very high intake of meat, especially processed red meat, is not good for overall health,” said Dr. Jyrki Virtanen, author of a recent study on protein consumption. “Those who are used to eating very high amounts of meat could consider moderating their intake.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recommendation for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight — or about 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. For a 155-pound adult, that’s roughly 56 grams. For a 190-pound adult, it’s about 68 grams. The USDA has a calculator to help determine a recommended daily allowance.
Virtanen’s study found middle-aged and older men who ate higher amounts of protein were slightly more likely to develop heart failure than men who ate lower amounts. He and his colleagues looked at data from 2,441 Finnish men over two decades and found 334 cases of heart failure. The results showed men who consumed the highest amount of protein had a 33 percent higher increased risk of heart failure than men who consumed the lowest amounts.
“More research on this topic is definitely needed,” said Virtanen, an adjunct professor of nutritional epidemiology at the University of Eastern Finland. “But our findings indicate that high protein intake may have some adverse effects on health, especially if the protein is coming from animal sources.”
Just what kind of protein is best for cardiovascular health is a question that’s evolved in recent years.
A study in November said eating a mostly plant-based diet was associated with a 42 percent reduced risk of developing heart failure for people with no history of heart disease.
The American Heart Association’s lifestyle recommendations for reducing cardiovascular risk emphasize a healthy eating pattern that includes:
Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, non- and low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry, fish, nuts, beans and non-tropical vegetable oils.
Limiting red and processed meat, sweets and sugary drinks.
Still, many people cling to the notion of eating lots of meat and protein, fueled in part by the enduring popularity of low-carb, high-protein diets such as Paleo, Ketogenic, Atkins and the Zone, said Jo Ann Carson, a dietitian and professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
“But if you use that very high protein diet to lose weight, typically the only way to keep that weight off is to continue to follow that dietary pattern, and there might be potential health issues there,” said Carson, chair of AHA’s nutrition committee.
“Probably the biggest problem with large amounts of protein is when it doesn’t leave room in your diet for antioxidant-rich and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables and whole grains,” Carson said.
In May, the AHA issued a new advisory recommending people up their intake of omega-3 fatty acids by eating one or two servings of non-fried fish or shellfish a week. Carson said fish was among “the good-quality proteins people should be looking for, including lower-fat dairy and plant-based proteins, like soy and quinoa.”
As people get older, their protein requirements typically increase, Carson said. But no matter their age, people confused about their protein intake should seek out an expert.
“I think it’s a good idea to work with a registered dietician, especially if you have a family history of heart disease,” she said. “They can tell you ‘This is a healthy diet’ or ‘You’re getting enough protein, but the rest of your diet needs work.’ Much more important than the amount of protein you eat is the quality of your protein.”
MONDAY, July 23, 2018 (HealthDay News) — For heart benefits, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, beans and grains remains the way to go, according to a new research review.
The review, by an American College of Cardiology (ACC) nutrition committee, examined the evidence on a few diet “hypes.”
Among the findings: Omega-3 fats and legumes (including beans, lentils and peas) have good evidence of heart benefits. Coffee and tea, meanwhile, are reasonable choices — just hold the cream and sugar. And full-fat dairy foods should probably be avoided.
Some other foods with purported heart benefits — including seaweed and fermented foods — might be good options. But little research has been done so far.
So should you eat nothing but legumes, fish and coffee? No, said Dr. Andrew Freeman, lead author of the review.
Studies try to examine individual foods or food groups. But in everyday life, “it’s the overall diet that matters,” said Freeman, who directs cardiovascular prevention and wellness at National Jewish Health in Denver.
“And the evidence supports a predominantly plant-based diet, without added sugars or processed foods,” Freeman said.
That means plenty of fruits, vegetables, fiber-rich grains, legumes and nuts, Freeman said. He stressed the importance of getting nutrients from “whole foods,” rather than supplements.
“Whenever we try to pull something out of a plant, we never do it justice,” Freeman said.
Angela Lemond, a registered dietitian who was not involved in the review, agreed.
“Supplements are just isolated nutrients, without the other beneficial food components created by nature,” said Lemond, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The review is in the July 31 Journal of American College of Cardiology. It’s the second one the ACC panel has done on “controversial nutrition trends.”
Freeman said many patients want to know more about the specific foods and nutrients that are heart-healthy.
“People are starting to realize that medications are great, but diet and lifestyle are critical, too,” he said.
However, there is a lot of conflicting information, and misinformation, out there. And, Freeman said, doctors usually have very little education in nutrition.
For the current review, he and his team looked at a few foods that patients often ask about.
They found that some had strong evidence of heart benefits. Legumes, for instance, can help lower blood pressure, blood sugar and “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Similarly, omega-3 fatty acids — from fish, or plant sources like flaxseeds and walnuts — may help lower heart disease risk when they are part of a healthful diet.
With dairy foods, the evidence is mixed. But the review found a number of studies suggesting that full-fat dairy products — which are high in saturated fat — can raise “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Freeman recommended avoiding full-fat dairy, while Lemond said low-fat, unsweetened dairy products can be healthy choices.
People also commonly ask about coffee and tea, said Freeman. His team found that in many studies, coffee lovers have shown somewhat lower risks of heart disease than nondrinkers. And they found no evidence coffee raises blood pressure or triggers heart arrhythmias.
Similarly, a large study of Chinese adults found that those who drank black tea every day had a slightly lower risk of heart disease than nondrinkers.
“Coffee and tea may be beneficial — but without the cream and sugar,” Freeman said.
However, the research can’t prove a direct cause-and-effect relationship. Also, people should pay attention to caffeine, Lemond noted. The recommended caffeine limit is around 400 milligrams a day — or, Lemond said, the equivalent of three 8-ounce cups of coffee.
Freeman’s team also looked at some foods that have been gaining popularity among the health-conscious: seaweed, and fermented foods such as kimchi, yogurt, kombucha and spirulina.
A few small studies suggest those foods can help people lose weight or lower their cholesterol, the review found. But there’s not enough evidence to recommend them for curbing heart disease risk, Freeman said.
He did cite two definite dietary “nos”: added sugar and energy drinks.
Energy drinks contain large doses of caffeine and caffeine-containing compounds. There is some evidence energy drinks can boost blood pressure or the blood’s tendency to clot — though that’s based on one small study.
Given the uncertainty, Freeman said, it’s best to avoid the drinks.
The American Heart Association has more on diet and heart health.
WEDNESDAY, July 18, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Having a late dinner and heading straight to bed may boost your risk of breast or prostate cancer, a new study suggests.
Spanish researchers analyzed data from 621 prostate cancer patients and 1,205 breast cancer patients, as well as 872 men and 1,321 women without these cancers.
People who ate their evening meal before 9 p.m. or waited at least two hours after supper before going to sleep had a 20 percent lower cancer risk than those who ate supper after 10 p.m. or those who ate and went to bed soon after, according to the study.
The research only found an association and does not prove late-night eating causes these cancers.
“Our study concludes that adherence to eating patterns [during the day] is associated with a lower risk of cancer,” said lead author Manolis Kogevinas, a researcher at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal).
The findings “highlight the importance of assessing circadian rhythms in studies on diet and cancer,” Kogevinas said in an institute news release.
If the findings are confirmed, “they will have implications for cancer prevention recommendations, which currently do not take meal timing into account,” Kogevinas said.
He added that the impact could be especially important in places like southern Europe, where people have supper late.
More research is needed to understand the findings, but co-author Dora Romaguera said that “everything seems to indicate that the timing of sleep affects our capacity to metabolize food.” Romaguera is a researcher at ISGlobal.
Though extensive research has probed links between types of food and cancer risk, little attention has been paid to how cancer risk might be affected by mealtimes and what people do before and after eating, the study authors said.
The study was published July 17 in the International Journal of Cancer.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on diet.
FRIDAY, June 8, 2018 (American Heart Association) — During the summer — and even year-round — our bodies crave water. There’s no way to live without it. But just how much do we really need every day to stay healthy?
The answer can get complicated.
“It’s hard to find an exact amount because it’s variable based on your age, where you live, whether it’s hot and humid, or cold and dry. Are you male or female, more active or less active,” said Ilyse Schapiro, a registered dietitian with nutrition counseling practices in New York and Connecticut.
Studies have shown that water keeps the mind and body healthy, transporting nutrients, removing waste, regulating body temperature and keeping the cells working.
Although the total amount varies by age, gender and body composition, our bodies are 55 percent to 78 percent water.
The Food and Nutrition Board at the federal Institute of Medicine offers an estimate on a healthy balance of water for adult men and women. It suggests men have about 3.7 liters daily. That’s about 15, 8-ounce glasses. Women should have about 2.7 liters, or 11 glasses.
But drinking water isn’t the only way to stay hydrated. Most people get about 20 percent of their water from food.
Dr. Michael Sayre, an emergency medicine doctor at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, said most people can — and should — listen to their body and brain.
“Your brain regulates that really well,” said Sayre, who teaches emergency medicine at the University of Washington. “In terms of preventing [conditions] like heat stroke, it’s generally people who ignored the signals they were thirsty or couldn’t respond to them because they were physically impaired, or they were in an environment where they didn’t have access to water.”
Dehydration can begin within just a few hours of heavy exercise or extreme heat. Often, it happens with little notice, and by the time a person responds to their thirst they already are behind on a healthy water balance. Fatigue, headaches, dizziness, sleepiness and dry mouth can all be signs of dehydration.
“Don’t let yourself get to that point of dehydration,” Schapiro said. An obvious way to tell is the color of urine.
“We don’t want to always talk about that, but it’s a good indicator,” she said. The clearer the color, the more hydrated a person is.
In many cases, medication and certain conditions such as diabetes or heart disease can impact how much water a person needs.
“A lot of high blood pressure and other types of medications tend to be diuretics,” which cause the body to lose more water, Schapiro said. “In those cases, people should work with their doctor to make sure they are paying attention to hydration and keeping a healthy balance.”
Sometimes, Schapiro said, people miss cues and mistake thirst for hunger. So, she counsels clients to keep a bottle of water at their side to drink from all day long.
“People forget to include water in nutrition,” she said. “People are busy and just not thinking about it. … If you are not well-hydrated during the day, you could be more likely to get a snack when you don’t need it.”
WEDNESDAY, June 6, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Vegan diets are hard for many people to stick with long-term, but studies show that this way of eating can translate to weight loss.
Vegan is the strictest type of vegetarian diet — you choose only foods from plant sources, such as vegetables, fruits and grains, and avoid all animal products.
In a small trial done in South Carolina, people who followed a vegan plan lost about twice the weight of non-vegetarians and even those who followed a more varied vegetarian diet.
People on a vegan diet often have a lower body mass index, eat the least amount of fat and the most amount of fiber, and get more macronutrients than those on other diets.
Yet it often takes extra effort to get enough protein and meet calcium needs. Despite the challenges, if you want to jumpstart your weight loss, a three-week vegan trial might just be what the doctor ordered, according to the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). And you might even use it as a transition to a less-meat-focused diet afterward.
As a way of life or to continue weight loss, you may find it easier to stick with a vegetarian plan that includes low-fat dairy, eggs and/or seafood. In fact, there are many variations, one of which might work for you.
Vegetarian by definition:
- Vegan: No animal products allowed — no meat, seafood, poultry, eggs and dairy.
- Lacto-vegetarian: Dairy allowed but no meat, seafood, poultry and eggs.
- Ovo-vegetarian: Eggs allowed but no meat, seafood, poultry, and dairy.
- Lacto-ovo vegetarian: Dairy and eggs allowed.
- Pesco-vegetarian: Fish and seafood allowed, but no meat or poultry.
- Semi-vegetarian: Mediterranean-style diet based on fruit, vegetables, fish and olive oil with small amounts of chicken, dairy products, eggs and red meat allowed once or twice per month.
Give one or more a try until you find the happy medium for you.
The PCRM has a step-by-step introductory plan for a vegan diet to help you try this healthful approach.
THURSDAY, April 26, 2018 (HealthDay News) — The so-called “Paleo” diet, which cuts out a number of food groups to bring about weight loss, has been around for several years now and at first blush may sound like just another fad.
But some recent scientific studies since the diet became popular have found that the regimen that makes up the diet’s requirements could have merit.
A Paleo diet requires people to eat foods similar to those available to humans during the Paleolithic period, which dates from 10,000 to 2.5 million years ago, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The diet typically includes foods that could be obtained by hunting and gathering — lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds — and limits foods that became common with the advent of farming, such as dairy products, grains and legumes.
This premise, however, is challenged by some experts who say that comparing modern conditions to those of our ancient ancestors is not realistic.
Nevertheless, one possible benefit is that the Paleo diet can improve risk factors for metabolic syndrome, a condition that can lead to diabetes, heart disease and other chronic illnesses.
One research review in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the Paleo diet did a better job of reducing waist circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol and fasting blood sugar than diets based on general health guidelines.
Another study published in the journal Lipids in Health and Disease involved people who already had metabolic syndrome. After just two weeks, Paleo dieters saw a greater improvement in heart disease risk factors than those who followed a mainstream health-oriented diet.
According to participants in yet another study, the Paleo diet can also be more satisfying than a very healthy Mediterranean-style diet.
It’s important to point out that, along with unhealthy salt, sugar and processed foods, the Paleo diet cuts out entire food groups, even good-for-you whole grains, as well as legumes and dairy. That could mean a nutrient shortfall.
Talk to your primary care provider if this is a diet you’d like to try. You might also need to work with a nutritionist to make sure you’re getting key vitamins and minerals.
For more on the Paleo diet, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
TUESDAY, April 3, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Lots of older men may think that feeling better and maintaining muscle is simply a matter of taking in more protein.
But a new study suggests that — for sedentary older men, at least — that just isn’t true.
“It’s amazing how little evidence there is around how much protein we need in our diet, especially the value of high-protein intake,” said study lead researcher Dr. Shalender Bhasin. He directs research in men’s health for the division of aging and metabolism at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
“Despite a lack of evidence, experts continue to recommend high-protein intake for older men,” Bhasin said in a hospital news release. “We wanted to test this rigorously and determine whether protein intake greater than the recommended dietary allowance is beneficial in increasing muscle mass, strength and well-being.”
So, the new six-month study tracked outcomes for 78 men aged 65 and older.
The investigators found that those who consumed more protein than recommended levels did not have increases in lean body mass, muscle performance, physical function or other measures of well-being, compared to men with normal levels of dietary protein.
One nutritionist who wasn’t involved in the study said the findings weren’t surprising.
“In the world of nutrition, many people consider extra protein to be a sort of magic bullet — whether it’s for weight loss, increased muscle size, decreased fatigue or general physical function,” said Stephanie Schiff. She is a nutritionist at Northwell Health’s Huntington Hospital in Huntington, N.Y.
But Schiff pointed out that “when we take in extra protein at levels above what our bodies will use, some of the excess turns to fat,” while other protein is excreted via the kidneys.
Too much protein in the diet might even be hazardous for people, especially those with already compromised kidney function, she added.
Schiff said that for men wanting to preserve or grow muscles, exercise is crucial.
“Protein is needed to build and preserve lean muscle mass, but to help build and preserve that muscle, resistance-training is also necessary,” Schiff explained.
Registered dietitian Sharon Zarabi agreed.
“This study was designed to test lean muscle mass and protein intake, when in fact, muscle mass is preserved through resistance-training [weightlifting],” said Zarabi, who is bariatric program director at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
“This study was also conducted on older men who did not change their exercise habits and were controlled for their physical activity,” Zarabi added.
“I think future studies should test the effects of muscle-building workouts and the effects of muscle mass,” she suggested.
“Exercise and resistance-training is ultimately what builds lean muscle mass and you will in turn need adequate protein intake to support the new muscle you are building,” Zarabi said.
The study appears in the April issue of the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
The U.S. National Institute on Aging offers advice on healthy eating.
TUESDAY, March 20, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Losing weight comes down to eating fewer calories than you burn.
But beyond that basic rule, studies done at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif., show that when you eat those calories could have an effect on your weight and your health.
Unlike our ancestors who went to sleep at a reasonable hour, people today often burn the midnight oil. If you’re also snacking well into the night, you might be thwarting your weight loss efforts.
Researchers compared the effects of a few different diets on two groups of mice. Those with access to a set amount of food for just eight hours a day were healthier and slimmer than those with access to the same number of calories but without time restrictions.
The researchers also tested that theory on a group of obese mice. When their food was limited to nine hours a day, they started losing weight, even though the overall number of calories they ate didn’t change. The same results were seen when they ate between 9 and 12 hours a day, even when the restrictions were eased on weekends, both of which are more realistic for people.
There’s also evidence that a shortened eating pattern could prevent obesity, so it’s an option to consider regardless of your current weight.
To test restricted eating for yourself, try cutting out all snacks after dinner, or have your last calories of the day no later than 8 to 12 hours after breakfast.
Remember that it takes time to change behavior, especially when the habit is taking a trip to the fridge before you turn in. It might help to stop eating one hour earlier each week until you reduce your eating “window” to that 8- to 12-hour limit.
The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics has tips to help you curb nighttime eating, the first step in shortening your eating pattern.
WEDNESDAY, Feb. 14, 2018 (HealthDay News) — If you worry about ever getting cancer, you might want to pass on the processed foods at your supermarket.
Every 10 percent dietary increase in packaged snacks, fizzy drinks, sugary cereals and other highly processed foods boosts the risk for cancer by 12 percent, new research suggests.
Breast cancer, in particular, was associated with greater consumption of mass-produced, ultra-processed foods, according to the study.
While these foods may taste great, they’re often loaded with sugar, salt and fat. They also lack vitamins, fiber and other nutritional value.
But nutritional value might not explain the observed heightened cancer risk, the French researchers said.
“Our results suggest that the lower overall nutritional quality of ultra-processed foods is not the only factor involved in this relationship,” said lead author Dr. Bernard Srour, of the University of Paris.
Exactly what it is about these foods or their packaging that might increase cancer risk isn’t yet known, said Srour, a biostatistician in the unit of nutritional epidemiology.
“Studies are needed to understand the impact of different dimensions of food processing,” he said. These should look at nutritional composition and different additives and contaminants, he added.
Marjorie Lynn McCullough, strategic director of nutritional epidemiology at the American Cancer Society, isn’t surprised by the new findings.
“This study supports what we have been recommending for a long time,” McCullough said. “This includes eating a mostly plant-based diet rich in vegetables and fruits and eliminating red meat, processed foods and sugars.”
In several developed countries, ultra-processed foods may make up as much as 50 percent of the daily diet, the researchers noted.
This includes convenience foods, such as mass-produced baked breads and buns, snacks and cookies — plus those staples of modern-day childhood, chicken nuggets and fish sticks, Srour said.
Also on the list: instant soups, frozen or ready-to-eat meals, commercially made desserts and products processed with preservatives other than salt — for example, nitrites.
Many of these items also contain hydrogenated oils, modified starches, colorants, emulsifiers, texturizers, sweeteners and other additives.
The new report was published online Feb. 14 in the BMJ.
The specific risks posed by any or all of these additives are difficult to untangle, experts said.
“We are a long way from understanding the full implications of food processing for health and well-being,” wrote Martin Lajous, co-author of an editorial accompanying the study. He is a faculty researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.
Some studies have linked highly processed foods to increased risks for obesity, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, but no firm proof exists, Srour’s team said.
Similarly, this study cannot prove that highly processed foods cause cancer, only that an association exists between the two, Srour added.
McCullough said the results should be interpreted with caution. “People eating more highly processed foods are eating fewer healthy foods,” she said.
A diet rich in processed foods is apt to increase weight, and increased weight is a known risk factor for several types of cancer, said McCullough, who had no role in the study.
For the study, Srour and his colleagues had nearly 105,000 French men and women, average age 43, complete at least two online dietary questionnaires.
The researchers also examined participants’ medical records.
To try to isolate the part foods played in cancer risk, the researchers took into account some well-known risk factors, such as age, gender, educational level, family history of cancer, smoking and physical activity levels.
Besides finding that risk for any cancer rose 12 percent with a 10 percent increase in ultra-processed foods, the researchers looked at several specific cancers.
They found an 11 percent increase for risk of breast cancer, but no significant risk for prostate or colon cancer.
In addition, other testing uncovered no significant association between cancer risk and less processed foods, such as canned vegetables, cheeses and freshly made bread.
Meanwhile, fresh and minimally processed foods were associated with a lower risk for cancer overall and breast cancer specifically, Srour said. Those foods included fruits, vegetables, rice and pasta, eggs, meat, fish and milk.
However, the study results should be confirmed by other large-scale studies in different populations and settings, Srour said.
For more on diet and cancer, visit the American Cancer Society.