Archive for July 2012

Mediterranean diet can help women get pregnant

Women wanting to get pregnant should eat a Mediterranean-style diet rich in avocados and olive oil but light in dairy and meat, an IVF conference has heard.Mediterranean diet can help women get pregnantNew research indicates a diet containing lots of monounsaturated fat – found in the fleshy green fruit, olive oil, as well as peanuts, almonds and cashews – can as much as triple the chance of success in women resorting to fertility treatment to conceive.

Specialists believe such a diet could help the majority of women wanting to get pregnant naturally as well.

By contrast eating lots of saturated fat, found in dairy products and red meat, appears to damage women’s fertility. High saturated fat intake has already been linked to lower sperm counts.

Dr Jorge Chavarro and colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health in the US, looked at how intake of different types of fats affected success of IVF treatment in 147 women, mostly in their 30s.

They found the women who ate the most monounsaturated fat had up to three times the chance of giving birth via IVF as those who ate the least.

Specifically the top third, who derived on average 25 per cent of their calories from monounsaturated fat, has three times the chance of success compared to the bottom third, who derived on average nine per cent of their calories from it.

However, those who ate the most saturated fat produced two fewer eggs suitable for test-tube fertilisation than those who ate the least – nine compared to 11.

Dr Chavarro said: “As far as the best fat profile is concerned, this is the fat profile that you would find in a Mediterranean diet.”

However, he cautioned that the study was very small and the findings needed to be replicated in larger numbers before firm advice could be issued. Nonetheless, he continued: “Even though we don’t know for sure if it will be of benefit, we do know it won’t be harmful.”

This was because numerous studies had shown Mediterranean-style diets to have a protective effect on health, particularly regarding heart disease.

The Harvard study also looked at the role of polyunsaturated fats, commonly thought to be healthy. They found that – perhaps unexpectedly – women with higher intakes of polyunsaturated fats tended to have lower quality eggs.

But Dr Jorge, a nutritionist and epidemiologist, explained there were different types of polyunsaturated fats – some that could hinder fertility and others that could help.

He said the women in the study tended to eat lots of omega-six polyunsaturates, found in corn and canola oils. He believed omega-three polyunsaturates, found in oily fish like salmon, were not harmful to fertility.

The study, presented at the annual meeting of the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) in Istanbul, was not big enough to tease out the differences between the two types, he added.

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Heart disease linked to low carb diets

Dieters who regularly eat a low carbohydrate, high protein diet are at greater risk of cardiovascular disease than those who do not participate in such diets.Heart disease linked to low carb dietsMore than 43,000 Swedish women were assessed over 15 years. Of those, 1,270 had suffered a “cardiovascular event”.

From a dietary survey published by the BMJ- Low carbohydrate high protein diet and incidence of cardiovascular diseases in Swedish women: prospective cohort study the researchers found that if women decreased their carb intake by 20g a day and increased their protein intake by 5g, they had a 5% increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

The amounts are relatively small – 20g of carbohydrates is the equivalent of a small bread roll and 5g of protein is the equivalent to one boiled egg.

The figures represent an additional four to five cases of cardiovascular disease per 10,000 women per year compared with those who did not regularly eat a low carbohydrate, high-protein diet.

The authors said that increasing the level of physical activity reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease, while increasing levels of smoking increased the risk.

“Low carbohydrate, high-protein diets, used on a regular basis and without consideration of the nature of carbohydrates or the source of proteins, are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease,” the authors conclude.

Such diets are frequently used to lose weight. They are favoured among many celebrities as a method to keep trim.

Colette Heimowitz, vice president of nutrition and education for Atkins Nutritionals, said that the study was “misleading”.

She said that long term adherence to low carbohydrate diets requires carefully considered food choices, which the Atkins diet teaches in all educational materials, published books and communications.

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Lack of sleep may cause obesity by affecting brain’s ability to choose healthy food

Two new studies that scanned the brains of people who have been sleep deprived have revealed their brains react differently when presented with choices of healthy and unhealthy food compared to those who have had adequate sleep.Lack of sleep may cause obesity by affecting brain's ability to choose healthy foodThe research showed that key areas of the brain related to reward were activated while activity in regions that control behaviour were inhibited.

The findings may help to explain the link between sleep deprivation and obesity.

Dr Marie-Pierre St-Onge, from Columbia University in New York who led one of the studies, said: “The results suggest that, under restricted sleep, individuals will find unhealthy foods highly salient and rewarding, which may lead to greater consumption of those foods.”

In her study 25 men and women of normal weight were asked to look at images of healthy and unhealthy food while in an fMRI scanner after five nights where their sleep was either restricted to just four hours or they were allowed to get up to nine hours.

In those who had less sleep, the reward centres of the brain were more active when shown pictures of unhealthy food compared to those who had more sleep.

When they were shown pictures of healthy food this area of the brain did not activate.

Dr St-Onge, who is presenting the research at the annual conference of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society, added: “This may suggest greater propensity to succumb to unhealthy foods when one is sleep restricted.

“Indeed, food intake data from this same study showed participants ate more overall and consumed more fat after a period of sleep restriction compared to regular sleep.”

The second study, also being presented at the conference, looked at 23 healthy adults after a normal nights sleep and a night where their sleep had been restricted.

After each night, the participants were asked to rate how much they wanted food items shown to them while inside a fMRI scanner.

Stephanie Greer, who conducted the work at the sleep and neuroimaging laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, said sleep deprivation impaired the activity in the frontal lobe of the participants brains – an area critical for behaviour control and making choices.

She said they failed to see any activity in areas of the brain associated with reward in this study.

She said: “It seems to be about he regions higher up in the brain, specifically within the frontal lobe, failing to integrate all the different signals that help us normally make wise choices about the food we eat.”

She added that if people cannot make the right choices about what food to eat after suffering from poor sleep, it may explain why other studies have found a lack of sleep is risk factor for obesity.

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Obese women more likely to become pregnant if they lose weight research suggests

Obese women who are trying to conceive should try dieting before immediately turning to IVF treatment as women who lost weight were three times more likely to fall pregnant new research suggests.Obese women more likely to become pregnant if they lose weight research suggestsHalf of the women who lost weight became pregnant within a year compared with just one in seven of those not on a strict diet, the first randomised trial of its kind has shown.

The research being presented at the European Congress on Obesity, in Lyons, France, is believed to be the first to randomly assign obese women undergoing fertility treatment to a strict diet for 12 weeks or to receive only information about healthy eating.

Of the 49 women in the trial, conducted by Dr Kyra Sim, The Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise and Eating Disorders at the University of Sydney, Australia, the women on the diet lost more than 14lbs or 6.6kgs and their waist measurement dropped by an average of 3.6 inches or 9cm compared with just under 4lbs or 1.8kgs and 1cm for the women not on the diet.

The women who dieted needed fewer cycles of IVF to fall pregnant, saving on average £5,865 per pregnancy.

Dr Sim said: “A weight-loss intervention, incorporating dietary, exercise and behavioural components, is associated with significantly better pregnancy and economic outcomes in a group of obese women undergoing assisted reproductive technology.”

In many areas the NHS will not fund IVF treatment if the woman is overweight or obese as it is known that this makes fertility treatment less successful and riskier, however women are still able to pay privately.

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Curry’s ability to fight cancer to be researched

A chemical found in curry is to be tested for its suggested ability to kill bowel cancer tumours in patients.Curry's ability to fight cancer to be researched Curcumin, which is found in the spice turmeric, has been linked to a range of health benefits.

Studies have already shown that it can beat cancer cells grown in a laboratory and benefits have been suggested in stroke and dementia patients as well.

Now a trial at hospitals in Leicester will be investigating giving curcumin alongside chemotherapy drugs.

About 40,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK each year.

If the disease spreads around the body, patients are normally given a combination of three chemotherapy drugs, but about half will not respond.

Forty patients at Leicester Royal Infirmary and Leicester General Hospital will take part in the trial, which will compare the effects of giving curcumin pills seven days before starting standard chemotherapy treatment.

Prof William Steward, from Leicester University, who is leading the study, said animal tests combining the two were “100 times better” than either on their own and that had been the “major justification for cracking on” with the trial.

He said: “Once bowel cancer has spread it is very difficult to treat, partly because the side effects of chemotherapy can limit how long patients can have treatment.

“The prospect that curcumin might increase the sensitivity of cancer cells to chemotherapy is exciting because it could mean giving lower doses, so patients have fewer side effects and can keep having treatment for longer.

“This research is at a very early stage, but investigating the potential of plant chemicals to treat cancer is an intriguing area that we hope could provide clues to developing new drugs in the future.”

Joanna Reynolds, from Cancer Research UK, said: “By doing a clinical trial like this, we will find out more about the potential benefits of taking large amounts of curcumin, as well as any possible side effects this could have for cancer patients.”

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Calling someone ‘fatty’ could become a hate crime- nanny state MPs warn

Riciduling someone as ‘fat’ or ‘obese’ could become a hate crime under an idea being floated by a group of nanny state MPs.Calling someone 'fatty' could become a hate crime- nanny state MPs warnA report by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image recommends MPs should investigate putting “appearance-based discrimination” on the same legal basis as race and sexual discrimination.

Under the Equalities Act 2010, it is illegal to harass, victimise or discriminate against anyone on the basis of a number of ‘protected’ characteristics, such as their race, gender, sexual orientation, age, or disability.

The parliamentary group, supported by the charity Central YMCA, has published a report, Reflections on Body Image, recommending “a review into the scale of the problem of appearance-based discrimination and how this would be best tackled”.

It goes on: “This may include exploring whether an amendment to the Equalities Act would be the most appropriate way of tackling such discrimination.”

Under the current act, people can and are prosecuted for verbal abuse if it is deemed serious enough.

The report found one in five people had been victimised because of their weight, and that most people were dissatisfied with their body image.

Girls as young as five worry about their size and appearance, the group reported, while appearance was the largest cause of bullying in schools.

Society should be more accepting of overweight or obese people, said Ms Prescott, who even questioned whether they should be told if they were carrying too many pounds.

However, numerous studies have shown that overweight or obese people consistently underestimate how fat they are, especially if most of the friends and family are of a similar size.

In addition, countless edipemiological reports unequivocally show that those who are overweight or obese at a young age are more likely to develop heart disease, type two diabetes, and cancer, and die at an earlier age, than those of a healthy weight.

Almost two-thirds of British adults are now either overweight or obese, as measured by body mass index (BMI), a proportion that is forecast to steadily increase in coming years.

The report also advocated compulsory “body image and self-esteem lessons” for those in primary and secondary school, which Ms Prescott said should start “in nursery”.

Other ideas include a tight code of regulation governing cosmetic surgery advertising, which has come in for sharp criticism in the wake of the faulty breast implant scandal.

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Cupcakes are the new crack cocaine

Sugar is one of many new addictive substances that are stealthily taking over our lives – and this white powder is a slow killer.Cupcakes are the new crack cocaine We think we like cupcakes because they are “retro” and transport us back to our childhoods. Nonsense. The nostalgia thing is an excuse. We actually like them because they allow us to mainline sugar.

Sugar is one of the substances and objects that are carving new patterns of addictive behaviour in a disorientated world. This behaviour is the subject of my new book, The Fix: How Addiction is Invading Our Lives and Taking Over Your World.

Along with prescription drugs, internet porn, computer games and dozens of other consumer items, we are forming an intimate relationship with sugary snacks that supplements and complements the “traditional” addictions to alcohol, gambling and illegal drugs.

These new objects of desire may not be drugs – though they have a drug-like capacity to stimulate the brain – but they mimic the addictive process of replacing the people in your life with things that yield guaranteed but short-term rewards.

Year after year, the West’s love affair with sugar intensifies. But we pay very little attention to our compulsive attitude to the stuff. This is partly because we don’t like to think about it – and partly because we’ve been misled into thinking that our consumption of saturated fat lies at the heart of obesity and eating disorders.

Increasing numbers of doctors think sugar does more harm to our arteries and our waistlines than fat. So does the restaurateur Henry Dimbleby, who runs the award-winning Leon chain of restaurants.

“Sugar is our number one eating problem – I think 40 per cent of the population has some sort of addiction to it,” he says.

“Watch what happens in an office when somebody walks in carrying a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. There’s a general squealing sound and everyone rushes over excitedly. You’d think someone had just arrived at a party with a few grams of coke. People descend on it in the same way.”

Is that because sugar is addictive? In February 2011, a team of researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, published a report in the journal Nature entitled “Public health: The toxic truth about sugar”. This dismissed the popular notion of sugar as “empty” calories. On the contrary, they were bad calories: “A little is not a problem, but a lot kills – slowly.”

We’ve known for years that refined sugar is also implicated in damaging the liver and kidneys and is the main cause of the worldwide spread of Type 2 diabetes.

“If these results were obtained in experiments with any illegal drug, they would certainly be used to justify the most severe form of retribution against those unfortunate enough to be caught in possession of such a dangerous substance,” writes Michael Gossop of the National Addiction Centre at King’s College, London.

But is sugar actually a drug? Gossop thinks so. As he puts it, if a casual visitor from another galaxy were to drop in on planet earth, he would assume that human beings were even heavier drug users than we already are.

Why? Because vast numbers of us ingest a white crystalline substance several times a day.

We become agitated if we run out of supplies, and produce lame excuses for why we need another dose. We say we rely on it for “energy”, but we’re deluding ourselves. The energy rush from sugar is followed by a corresponding crash: it’s physiologically useless. But it is strongly reminiscent of the ups and downs associated with, say, cocaine.

Evidence published by Princeton scientists in 2008 demonstrates that rats can get addicted to sugar in the same way that they get addicted to cocaine and amphetamines. In contrast, there’s no such damning data in the case of fat. You may have a deep love of Kentucky Fried Chicken and get fat as a result, but you’re less likely to eat it until you feel sick.


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