Category Archives: Health & Wellness

Health & Wellness

Desserts Have Greater Impact on Childhood Obesity Than Salty Food

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If you think that letting your child eat a slice of cake after meals won’t hurt, this recent study might make you think otherwise.

New research conducted by a team from the University of Michigan Health System discovered a possible link between desserts and childhood weight management, especially for those in low-income households. “Eating in the absence of hunger is associated with being overweight among older children, but this is the first time we’ve seen this link in children as young as toddlerhood,” said study senior author Julie C. Lumeng in a news item.

The findings were based on tests done on kids age 1 to 3 who were arranged to have no food intake for an hour, then fed a sufficient amount of food for lunch. Afterwards, the toddlers were offered two kinds of after-meal treats: sugar-based foods in the form of chocolate chip cookies, and salty food such as potato chips. There was no restriction as to the amount that the kids are allowed to consume. After successive opportunities of providing treats, they were taken out of the kids’ diets.

Results revealed a significant increase in the body mass index (BMI) of children who preferred sweets after lunch when they reached 33 months. In contrast, those who liked salty snacks did not show any obvious increase in BMI.

The study provides important information about the impact of snacking after meals, even at an early age. “The tendency to eat when you’re not hungry increases with age and could have lifelong implications for weight gain… We need to explore ways to target this drive to eat before children even turn three,” Lumeng added.

The study was recently published in the journal Pediatrics.


Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

People with Rheumatoid Arthritis Experience More Health Concerns When Smoking

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smoking cigarette

Tobacco consumption has long been known to cause destruction of the immune system, leading to several illnesses and disorders to develop. It is also one of the major causes of early death for people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and a new study recommends quitting smoking to cut the risk of early death.

According to a team researchers led by Deborah Symmons (professor of rheumatology and musculoskeletal epidemiology at the University of Manchester in England), the study offers essential proof that there is a remarkable drop in the statistics of early deaths in patients who stopped smoking and carry on year after year. Furthermore, the threat to the health of patients with RA who used to smoke is similar to those who have never puffed a cigarette in their lives. The only advantage if a person stops smoking is to increase life span a little and avoid further complications.

The analysis of Symmons and associates was based on the evaluated data of rheumatoid arthritis patients from the U.K., as reported in a news item. The researchers are hoping that their data could save more lives by raising awareness to patients and encouraging them to quit smoking.

People diagnosed with RA also face a high fatal risk due to accompanying complications like hypertension, cancer, heart diseases, lung diseases and different infections that easily attach to the patient.

Previous studies even points out that smoking plays a vital role in the expansion of rheumatoid arthritis, though this condition is not yet fully understood. The abnormal response of the immune system affected by factors like genes, hormones and environmental factor like smoking can lead to inflammation.

As it is, rheumatoid arthritis is both a painful and devastating condition, and smoking increases the risk of death in patients.


Health & Wellness

Free Breakfast Program in Public Schools Doesn’t Increase Obesity Risk

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public school classroom

Despite earlier assumptions that serving breakfast to public school students may do more harm than good, a recent study discovered that this practice didn’t affect the risk of obesity in children.

Some U.S. school districts have found classrooms to be effective venues for students to participate in the breakfast service. “Moving breakfast into the classroom is intended to encourage participation in school breakfast programs, particularly among students unable to arrive early, and to reduce the stigma associated with a trip to the cafeteria,” said study author Amy Ellen Schwartz in a news release.

The free breakfast program has been running in New York City since 2003, but the shift to serve them in classrooms started in 2007. According to the New York City Department of Education, there was a boost in the number of students participating in the program since it was transferred from the cafeteria to the classroom. From only 25 percent participation at the beginning of the program, it has now ballooned to 80 percent participation.

Fellow study author Sean Corcoran added that the motivation behind serving breakfast in classrooms does not exactly pan out as much as the school districts hope for. “While we find that providing breakfast in the classroom had large positive effects on participation in school breakfast programs, our analysis provides no evidence of hoped-for gains in academic performance, nor of feared increases in obesity,” Corcoran added. In other words, although the study confirmed that the breakfast program had no significant impact on student obesity rates, it didn’t lead to better scholastic performance either.


Health & Wellness

Fruit Drinks For Children May Have Too Much Sugar, Says Study

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drinking sweetened beverages linked to heart disease diabetes

Fruit juice boxes flood the groceries and parents are unaware that these boxes of liquid sweetness don’t really provide their kids with healthy doses of vitamins, but instead load them up with unacceptably high dose of sugar.

Fruit juice is camouflaged and is not always as it seems even if it’s labeled as “100% pure” because the production undergoes a process wherein most of the flavor has been removed. This then leads the manufacturer to add “flavor packs” to restore the flavor lost during the processing.

Researchers from the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society assessed sugar content of several fruit juice drink, 100% natural juices, and smoothies marketed specifically to children. According to the findings of the study as reported in a news release, close to 50 percent of the fruit juice products already contains at least 19 grams of sugar, which is already the daily recommended sugar consumption of a child.

In addition, while the fruit juice boxes were labeled safe according to European law, the information is applicable to adult females with average built and active lifestyles. As a result, the nutrient content in these products may not be suitable for kids.

Likewise, since fruit juice is high in calories and sugar, obesity and cavity problems may arise in children. Being in liquid form, it can also give a feeling of fullness to children, so they become less likely to feel hunger for more nutritious foods and beverages.

Details of the study are published in the journal BMJ Open.


Health & Wellness

Portion Size and Calorie Content Influence Eating Habits in Children

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A team of researchers from the Department of Nutritional Sciences (NUTR) at Penn State University discovered how food preparations can affect the quality and amount of food that children eat.

Calorie consumption is a vital factor of the human diet, and striking a good balance is essential for healthier living. In the case of children, overall consumption of calories seems to be affected by the amount of food prepared in front of them as well as the calorie content of their meals. “In this study, we found that serving larger portions of food, along with higher-calorie-density options of those foods, led to the children consuming larger amounts of food and more calories overall,” study co-author Samantha Kling said in a news release.

For this study, the researchers enlisted the participation of 120 children in daycare centers. The youngsters — who were between 3 and 5 years of age — were provided specific lunch sets once a week within a six-week period. The meals were varied according to portion size from 100 to 200 percent, as well as caloric density (CD) from 100 to 142 percent.

One striking discovery was that the children weren’t able to distinguish between meals with low caloric content and those with high amount of calories. “There is a belief that young kids can self-regulate their food intake… This study shows those signals are really easy to override,” said study co-author Barbara Rolls.

The team believes that the study sheds light on the importance of proper food preparation in the eating habits of children. “With acceptable and readily available products, strategies to reduce calories can be easily implemented in homes and childcare settings, and can be strategically combined with changes in portion size by serving larger portions of lower-CD foods with smaller portions of higher-CD foods,” Rolls added. Of course, the participation of lawmakers and food companies could really make things a lot easier. “Policy makers and food producers need to provide the resources and products to help parents and caregivers counter pervasive influences.”


Health & Wellness

Too Much Salt Increases Fatty Food Consumption and Obesity Risk

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salt intake health risks

Long identified to be a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, salt recently figured in a new health risk: obesity.

This was revealed through a study by Australian researchers from Deakin University, after inferring that salt intake can influence the kinds of food that a person eats. To investigate the matter, the team asked the participation of 49 people between 18 and 54 years of age and without any health issues. The participants were given tomato soup portions with varying concentrations of fat (from zero to 20 percent) and salt (from none to 2 percent), which they tasted and scored according to their personal gustatory experience.

The study results showed that the respondents preferred salt concentration of 0.25 to 0.5 percent. Meanwhile, the fat content mattered little in terms of the pleasantness in the soup, as there was no significant difference for fat contents at 5, 10, and 15 percent. “We expected to find an increase in pleasantness in the 5% and 10% fat soups, but pleasantness did not differ between the soups with 0%, 5% and 10% fat,” the authors mentioned via a news report.

What’s more surprising was that the participants’ sensitivity to the taste of fat was only observed in soups without salt. In other words, the salt may provide some sort of masking effect to a person’s identification of fat content in food. “The strong effect of salt on pleasantness may indicate that salt is major driver of food intake of savory fatty foods, and reflects the challenge to reduce salt while maintaining palatability,” said the study authors.

On their next study, the research team enlisted 48 adult individuals from age 18 to 54 to take part in four lunch sessions where they were given meals of elbow macaroni with sauce in varying amounts of salt and fat. Results revealed that the participants ate 11 percent less food when presented with lunch meals high in fat and low in salt. In contrast, those who were served high-salt and high-fat foods ingested more food.

Researchers believe that this has something to do with how the human body responds to salt and fat. “High-fat and high-salt foods override our body’s ability to recognize when we are full and causes us to eat more energy. If we eat too much energy, we get fat. This high fat and salt combination is a toxic mix for our health,” the authors added. The research team recommends reducing salt intake in order to help the body shy away from fat.

Details of the study were published in the Journal of Nutrition and Chemical Senses.


Health & Wellness Pregnancy & Fertility

Proper Pregnancy Spacing May Reduce Obesity in Older Kids

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Planning the age gap between your children may help them avoid obesity, according to a recent study from the University of Michigan.

The study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, investigated a potential association between sibling age gaps and their obesity risk. Roughly 700 kids in the U.S. were monitored for weight profiles and their age gap with the next younger sibling, if any.

Results revealed that children who are 4 years old at the most when their next siblings get born have a lower risk of obesity. The association was most prominent for kids between age 3 and 4, with only 5 percent of this population becoming obese when then reach first grade. In contrast, 13 percent of children whose next younger siblings were born after they reached first grade were diagnosed with obesity.

The research team was surprised with the findings. “In the study… we did not have data that would help us understand the mechanism,” study author Dr. Julie Lumeng said in a news release. However, she points out one possible reason behind the link: more playing opportunities in the presence of similarly aged siblings. “Maybe you go to the park more… or maybe there is just more activity in the house,” Dr. Lumeng added. The association, although seemingly conclusive, was not a causality relationship — in short, the study doesn’t say that proper spacing between pregnancies will definitely cause a decrease in obesity risk in older kids.

Childhood obesity continues to be a global threat. In the U.S. alone, roughly one in every six kids are diagnosed with obesity.


Health & Wellness

Roughly Half of California Residents Found With Prediabetes, Says Study

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This bit of news doesn’t sound good for people of California: A new study says that about 13 million people in the state have prediabetes.

This figure represents about 46 percent of California’s population, according to a news report on a study from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. In addition to this statistic, about 9 percent — or 2.5 million people — are diagnosed with diabetes. “This is the clearest indication to date that the diabetes epidemic is out of control and getting worse,” according to the center’s executive director Dr. Harold Goldstein.

The study involved a review of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, particularly on fasting plasma glucose and hemoglobin A1c. This was combined with data from the California Health Interview Survey involving more than 40,000 people.

Results showed that about 33 percent of the young adult population (i.e. between age 18 and 39) have prediabetes. In addition, the rate of prediabetes in Pacific Islanders was highest on record at 43 percent of the population, followed by African Americans and American Indians at 38 percent each.

What’s more disturbing is that getting tested for prediabetes is not included in standard insurance policies, especially for people under 45 years old. “There are significant barriers not only to people knowing their status, but getting effective help… A simple blood test for diabetes should be covered by all insurers, as should the resources and programs that can make a real difference in stopping the progression of this terrible disease,” said lead study author Dr. Susan Babey.

Despite the seemingly grim findings, it’s not too late to fight diabetes. “If there is any hope to keep health insurance costs from skyrocketing, health care providers from being overwhelmed and millions of Californians from suffering needlessly from amputations, blindness and kidney failure, the state of California must launch a major campaign to turn around the epidemic of type 2 diabetes,” Goldstein added.


Health & Wellness

Study: Regular Water Consumption Improves Weight Management and Eating Habits

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water consumption benefits

If you drink water frequently and on a regular basis, you should be on your way to the pink of health. This was confirmed by a recent study, which looked into the effects of drinking water on major health signs.

A research team led by Ruopeng An of the University of Illinois revealed that people who increase their water intake by 1-3 cups a day may be able to enjoy lower energy intake by up to 205 calories and sodium consumption by up to 235 grams. The researchers arrived at this conclusion by asking participants of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 2005 and 2012 — collectively running up to 18,300 individuals — about their food and liquid intake on two random days within 1-2 weeks. From the data, the team calculated the amount of plain water that the participants ingested.

The results also showed that drinking more water ate less sugar by up to 18 grams, and less cholesterol by 21 grams at the most. “This finding indicates that it might be sufficient to design and deliver universal nutrition interventions and education campaigns that promote plain water consumption in replacement of beverages with calories in diverse population subgroups without profound concerns about message and strategy customization,” An said in a news release.

The study was published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics.


Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

E-cigarettes Help In Smoking Cessation For Some People, But Not Majority

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e-cigarette electronic cigarette smoke

The world continues to debate on the effects of electronic cigarettes, whether it’s an effective smoking cessation agent or a trigger that influences people to smoke traditional cigarettes more.

According to recent research from University College London, England saw between 16,000 and 22,000 individuals quitting smoking as a result of using e-cigarettes. While this may sound like good news, the results of the research team’s study may not be conclusive. “E-cigarettes appear to be helping a significant number of smokers to stop who would not have done otherwise – not as many as some e-cigarette enthusiasts claim, but a substantial number nonetheless,” said study author Robert West in a news item.

In 2014 alone, close to 8.5 million people in England at least 16 years old admitted to smoke. That’s roughly 19.3 percent of the population in that age range. More than 37 percent of the people who smoked thought about quitting smoking at least once in their life. Meanwhile, more than 28 percent of those who tried to stop smoking used electronic cigarettes. In totality, people who used electronic cigarettes as a smoking cessation strategy represented about 5 percent of those who tried to quit.

In addition, the study also investigated the effectiveness of e-cigarettes to help people quit smoking. Survey results showed that using e-cigarettes had a 50 percent success rate in curbing cigarette use. In other words, the researchers concluded that about 2.5 percent of smokers are able to quit smoking through the use of e-cigarettes.

As for the effect of e-cigarettes on people who have never smoked a cigarette in their life, the researchers pointed out that this is trivial. “Regular use of e-cigarettes by never smokers is extremely rare, and the decline in smoking prevalence in young people has been as great or greater than in previous years,” the researchers said.

[Image from via Flickr Creative Commons]